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  • Writer's pictureKelly Bishop

Inspired by Inside Pixar

The first season of Inside Pixar is titled; Inspired. Creative people are often asked how they find inspiration, and it's a difficult question to answer. There is no infinite pool of ideas that those in the industry can dive into for inspiration, although some would make it seem that way.

For many, however, creativity is what happens when you start to look at life in a different way. It's what happens when you start to delve into your own life to find the things that scare you and bring them to life. Each of the Pixar employees documented in Inside Pixar have their own inspirations, and not all of them are the typical happy-go-lucky you might expect.

Take Dan Scanlon, animator and director. He directed Monster's University and, having inherited those characters and that story, wanted to challenge himself to write something more personal. For Scanlon, that became Onward; The story of two young elvish boys who go on a quest to spend one last day with their dad.

From the synopsis, it's easy to believe that this is just something that was made up off the top of someone's head. However, on watching Inside Pixar, it's clear that Scanlon's personal experience with bereavement has played a huge part in the creation of this film. It's an excellent touch that the documentary filmmakers, Erica Milsom and Tony Kaplan, featured interviews with his family to tie the two elements together.

While discussing somewhat difficult inspirations, Inside Pixar introduces us to Kemp Powers and Steven Hunter. Both have directed or written films that have come from personal inspirations; in this case, Soul and Out.

For Powers, Soul was about creating an authentically black character in Joe. As a black man himself, around the same age as the central character, from New York, with a penchant for jazz, it's easy to see why Powers was so delighted to be brought into this project and why he was so desperate to find what was missing in Joe to make him more authentic. This is where the personal aspect appears as Powers couldn't see any way that Joe would be preparing for a big opportunity and not get his hair cut. An email later, the scene was written, and now Soul features a scene in a barbershop with rendered, natural, Afro-Caribbean hair.

With Steven Hunter, the story is even more personal. Out is a coming out story, with a gay protagonist. In his episode, Hunter details his own struggles with coming out, despite his incredibly supportive family, and wanting to make a film for the child he had been. Using the Pixar SparkShorts programme, Hunter created a beautiful short film that features not only elements of his own coming out story, but one that can be understood by the majority of the LGBTQ+ community. Minus the whole, switching body with his dog, situation.

On top of these incredibly moving stories of personal inspiration, Inside Pixar features two incredible women from the Pixar team. Deanna Marsigliese, character art director, and Jessica Heidt, script supervisor, are both crucial to the Pixar team and their inspirations come from needing new perspectives.

For Marsigliese, it came from the need to be away from a clean sheet of paper. Inside Pixar shows her on a visit to the Italian riviera as inspiration for Pixar's 2021 release Luca.

Fun fact- this documentary is the first glimpse we see of the aquatic creatures from the film. Marsigliese also documents how working with other mediums, rather than pencil and paper, can make her feel more creative, such as collages, or wire sculptures for Soul. Fashion is also a huge inspiration to her, leading to the costume design for a large number of extras in Incredibles 2.

Jessica Heidt's inspiration actually came from a more administrative point, rather than a focus on the creative. She had begun to count lines in scripts based on gender and found that in the first draft of Cars 3 90% of the lines were spoken by male characters. This was taken onboard and a number of the characters were changed. However, this meant a lot of manual work, as it was being presented at every milestone for the film. Josh Minor, from the tools department, along with Heidt and an intern, put together a programme that allowed for the script to be tracked by gender. This won Heidt a Russell, otherwise known as the Unsung Hero Award.

Overall, season one of Inside Pixar is a short glimpse into ways that our creativity can be forever expanding. You're never without an idea, you've probably just not stumbled headfirst into it yet. It's comforting to see, as a creative, that these people do struggle to come up with ideas, and not everything is perfect first time around. The documentaries teach us there is always a way to craft something new, especially in the environment you set yourself.

Inside Pixar is now streaming on Disney+


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