Questions for Ralph Answered...
I did a great interview with Ralph yesterday. Hopefully I will have the time to put it up soon. It just needs to be edited together. Ralph wanted to answer some of the questions on the site so here they are. Thanks for taking the time to do this Ralph. -Andrew
How are Pixar conceptual artists, character designers, and outside artists (like Peter de Seve) assigned to projects...does each film have a team, or do people contribute to different projects at the same time?
Each film calls for a different team of artists. It's like making a good soup; the right amount of all the right ingredients. Also, adjusting the spices!!! We have a fairly small group of rotating production designers, art directors, and sketch artists. Now that we're growing, our pool of talent is enlarging and we don't have to tug over artists as much. Outside artists are hired as films call for them. Some are hired for their specific style that might be right for a film, and others are professional stalwarts. That's the hardest thing to find--professionalism. I've engaged some terrific artists in the past whom I will hesitate using again due to their inability to communicate their needs, questions, and schedules. In terms of "conceptual artists" at Pixar, there is no such job. Anyone who does so-called conceptual art has to be willing to get their hands dirty and figure out how to put that image onto the screen. Visual development of our films is mainly developed by the artists who make the film.
I love your pastel lighting studies. What is the reason for the small dimensions (20" x 3" for instance)? Is that to get them down quickly like a thumbnail, or do you just like to draw tiny?
Thank you for the kind words about my work. I tend to work smaller because I'm not trained as a painter--I work intuitively. When I work larger, I tend to get lost in details that aren't important. I want THE IDEA, not the details--they're going to change. I really fell into art direction by accident. I love it--but I have no problem knowing that my strengths may lie somewhere in between being an artist and a manager. I like motivating people and helping figure out how to put our images onto the screen. The artwork I do is a means to and end...and that end is the audience who pays to see our films.
Working for Pixar where "story is king," are all of your art directions decisions motivated by what works best for the story or that particular scene, and are there ever times when what works best for the story conflicts with what is works best visually?
There is no difference. what works best visually is what works best for story. If the audience isn't visually understanding your story, you're hosed. Imposing a style on a film is easier to do, but at the risk of putting a visual barrier between the audience and their connection to the characters and/or story. If an audience member is thinking "That picture reminds me of..." they aren't paying attention to the film. If production designers (and cinematographers, and editors, and writers...) have done their job well--the audience shouldn't notice!!! They should just be wrapped up into the experience of the film.
How's THAT for irony?
I'd like you to ask Ralph Eggleston about the darkest hours he's encountered in creating these films and how he got through them.
The "darkest hours" of creating a film are the anticipation of completion; finishing the film and awaiting the audiences response. We all deal with this by doing our best to make the best films we can.
Some of the darkest personal hours of my experience at Pixar have been the loss of some of my co-workers, like the talented Dan Lee, Glenn McQueen, and Joe Ranft.