Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I love me my Pixar and I can't wait to see this short! Sounds great! Here's the pretty detailed review! Enjoy!!!
Hello Harry! I don't know how many of your readers are interested in Pixar shorts but I was lucky enought to have the director, Gary Rydstrom, of their new short called "Lifted" come to my school for a special advanced screening and panel session. It's soo fresh that the sound was off sync by about 3 frames and nobody outside of Pixar has really seen it yet. It's going to be screened at the Chicago International Film Fest on Saturday, but we got it first. Do you like laughing until your stomach feels like it's been pounded by the biggest bully in school? Then this is the film for yah! This is probably the funniest short out of Pixar I've seen. The audience of about 300 students/teachers/and alumni were rolling in the aisles. The director is a fan of silent films and with his background in sound, has a great knack for timing a story (and writing one!). It's so brilliant that to not spoil it, you really can't say anything about it. Think the best way to describe it is by saying its about a teenage alien going through "abduction school" and "spaceship driving school" tests at the same time. The director said the idea came to him while he was lying in bed one day.... The short begins at an llinois farmhouse at night surrounded by fields. Some guy's sleeping soundly in his bed. A light pours into the bedroom from the window and we see it's a spaceship "tracking-lightbeam". The classic alien abduction story is about to take place and it looks awesome cause it's Pixar doing it. So the guy's floating towards the window. Then he totally misses the window and bumps into the wall, pretty gently. Then a bit harder (guys still sleeping, listless, snoring). Then it seems to go ok, the guys on track again to the window before something goes horribly wrong and he's suddenly flung to the right and offscreen where there's a crash. Cut to the ship- little green gelatinous teenage alien with a backwards hat is sitting at this HUGE board with Millions and millions of little switches (oddly enough, it almost looks like a sound mixing board), all identical, and none marked. As he's touching switches on the board, he's being overseen by this huge gelatanous glob of an alien who doesn't give him a clue as to which switch to move (holding his notes and staring back like all driving instructors do)- which with a few select flips we learn move the "victim" in random directions with great sound effects and crashes against walls. The teenage alien aka "Stu" is looking at "Mr. B" for direction and isn't getting it. The short goes on with great character acting and appropriate sound effects as to the "victim" and some really great shots-including one where the "victim" gets stuck ass-first (plumber crack and all) in the window with each flick of the switch pulling him closer to the ship as Stu vents his frustrations at messing up on the board (and therefore victim is flung around house haphazardly with appropriate sound effects). Eventually Stu gets the victim in the ship---before accidentally becoming too confident and dropping him because he forgot to close the hatch all the way. Mr B, the instructor, saves the victim in time and taking over (with all the fantastic arm movements at the crazy flip-switch board to do this) puts everything back and all's well at the farmhouse, victim never knowing what happened. More great acting from the characters and Mr. B decides to give Stu a chance at controlling the ship. The farmhouse is lookin all serene and so the film ends...well not really as you hear a noise and then the ship comes crashing down straght onto the farmhouse and crushing into the landscape. The spaceship lifts up and floats off haphazardly, bottom half coated with dirt and the surrounded landscape. Lucky for the victim, Stu forgot to close the hatch, and he is perfectly safe in his bed, still sleeping soundly, surrounded by his crumpled home in a spaceship shaped crater. The director also showed us an alternate ending that got some great laughs, one that they changed. So you see that house again at the end after Mr. B the "driving instructor" sets everything right again. Then the student gets control of the ship (again). This time the crash on the house isn't as violent to put a crater around the bed, but more like an indentation. The ship floats off screen where the sound comes in- we hear a strange noise and a few "crashes" then the ship rolls SIDEWAYS almost crushing the bed, but leaving a line, camera cuts to wideshot of spaceship creating the connecting line on a crop circle. Audience REALLY liked this ending too. The director explained why he decided on the other ending, of just the crater, basically he didn't want to have the short end up to be about explaining cropcircles, more about this whole "driving-school test" thing. And he liked the crater ending better. Gary Rydstrom actually came to Pixar from an illustrious career in the live-action sound world (Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park among others), and this is a FANTASTIC film that he directed (it's pretty much his first time directing a major animated short). He talked to us for a while about the project, showing us some great behind-the-scenes stuff on the making of the short. Lots of great sketches and photos and things I wish I could have looked at longer. Seems Pixar's been pretty busy on the next few projects- they aim for one new short each year, and they always release a short with one of their films, which if you do the math, means that there will be a new Pixar film out every year (giving me a good reason to go to the movies at least once every year!). Gary talked about how Pixar doesn't aim for any particular market. When they make a film, they make films that they find entertaining (building a great story first). The new projects that they'll be releasing (he said) are all pretty different, not saying whether they will be delving into deeper territory that isn't very much for children. But he also didn't say that they won't. He also answered a question about 2-d (aka. hand drawn animation) saying that John Lasseter and everyone at Pixar are very big fans of traditional animation. Pixar and Disney are going to be bringing it back as the Disney and Pixar people don't want to see 2d die. So Disney will be bringing back the traditional animated faire, and Pixar's going to be doing the 3d stuff. They believe that some projects fit 2d animation (brought up Hayao Miyazaki at this point) while other stories are better for 3d. Disney and Pixar, though now owned under the same company, are operating as if Pixar is a seperate studio that does 3d while they work in their own studios on what sounds like it will be again be focused on 2d animation. "Lifted" had about five animators on the project and it took about 9 months (this is after the storyboards were set and timed which took 3 months) for them to finish it. You've really really got to see the acting and timing to fully appreciate this short. It is by far my favorite short by Pixar to date. Lots of things it reminds me of, most notibly Buster Keaton, Wiley E. Coyote shorts, and Steven Spielberg. Sorta like if they all got together one day and made a short with aliens and no dialog. It'll be coming out with Ratatouille and I can't wait to see it again! Well, if you feel you can use any of this, call me bluelily