Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’  Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’ Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See The 10 Best Films Of 2007 The 10 Best Films Of 2007 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Exclusive: Jon Brion Scores Pixar's 'The Blue Umbrella' Short

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist January 29, 2013 at 2:24PM

While we first mentioned back in the summer of 2012 that producer and composer Jon Brion would be scoring what was then "the untitled umbrella short" for Pixar (to play ahead of this summer's "Monsters University"), it was never confirmed by the studio… until now. The short, now entitled "The Blue Umbrella" and set to have its worldwide premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival next month, is indeed scored by Brion. What's more, we got to talk to first-time director Saschka Unseld about the short and about working with the estimable talent that is Jon Brion.
3
The Blue Umbrella Jon Brion

While we first mentioned back in the summer of 2012 that producer and composer Jon Brion would be scoring what was then "the untitled umbrella short" for Pixar (to play ahead of this summer's "Monsters University"), it was never confirmed by the studio… until now. The short, now entitled "The Blue Umbrella" and set to have its worldwide premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival next month, is indeed scored by Brion. What's more, we got to talk to first-time director Saschka Unseld about the short and about working with the estimable talent that is Jon Brion.

Firstly, the short itself is stunning – just shy of seven minutes, it tells the story of a major metropolitan city ("like New York or Chicago" is how Unseld pitched it, refusing to specify one location) that comes to life in the rain. Grates start to smile, there's a spritely quality in the blinking of lights, windows seem happy, and two umbrellas – one blue, one red – fall in love with one another. It's a beautiful story, deeply profound and imaginative, and should be one of the studio's most memorable entries into their catalog.

Unseld pitched the idea after shooting some test footage that illustrated what he had intended. "Most of the story I just pitched verbally but I also showed two animation tests I had done on my free time," he explained. "One of them was kind of city characters singing – faces you see in the city that I thought could come alive and I animated that to a song by Sarah Jaffe, who interestingly ended up also being the vocal in the final film. And John Lasseter loved it and he especially loved the tests as well and from there it was picked up as a full-on short film production at Pixar."

The filmmaker is unique in that he comes from the more technical side of the Pixar divide and not from the story department, which is where most of the short film directors originate, but this gave "The Blue Umbrella" a freshness that you can definitely feel. It's the first Pixar film to be done in a completely hyper-real visual style, making it closer in look to "Blade Runner" than "A Bug's Life." This aesthetic choice was in place from the beginning, included in those initial tests. "That was the thing, in this test, that the moment the first blinking starts to happen, you feel it sort of surprise the audience," Unseld explained. "We all agreed part of that was because we didn't expect it. And if you had it stylized and cartoon-y, it would have taken away that surprise. That was the basis of, 'We should play this photo-real.' It should be – is this live action? Is this animation? And then have this magical moment of things coming to life."

And now on to the magical musical genius of Jon Brion – when you see the short you realize that there would be no "Blue Umbrella" without Brion. It is part of the short's genetic code, and the thing that really carries you through this amazing emotional journey. So it wasn't a huge surprise to know that he was there almost from the beginning. "We brought him in super early and that was partially to do with the change in the story that we had," Unseld explained. Initially, the city characters (the grates, windows, mailboxes, etc.) actually sang, sort of like the Enchanted Tiki Room. "For that we of course needed to bring in the music as early as possible, hashing out melodies and themes and how we could do vocal singing without lyrics." That, ultimately, proved to be the wrong move. "We felt like it was too much of a distraction from the main story of the umbrellas if they were all singing. We then put the music on hold until we had a more final version of the short and then went back to Jon so he could see the final picture and get inspired by those things and put the finishing touches on that." Brion's finished music is absolutely spellbinding, despite the somewhat difficult process.

When we asked Unseld what made him decide on Brion, as opposed to someone like longtime Pixar confederate Michael Giacchino, he was quick to point out a specific score that inspired his decision. "A big reason for me choosing Jon Brion was 'Punch Drunk Love,'" Unseld said. "The reason is that there is this beautiful collaboration between music and sound design and that is something I was really interested in." Brion also has a unique skill perfectly suited for short films. "He has this ability in creating these really catchy short melodies that stay with you. And that was something that we really needed for the short – a short is such a tricky thing, music-wise, because you need to change the emotion on a dime. Jon Brion's ability to have these four note melodies gives you the possibility to switch the emotions at such a quick speed. That was something that he talked about when we first met him."

In fact, the music was such a success that there's a possibility Disney will release it as a single. "We were thinking about it," Unsel admitted. "I guess it depends on the interest that there is. But every time we were in a review or watched it, everyone walks out with this melody in their head."

Unseld will now tour the short to various film festivals around the world before it gets its worldwide debut in front of "Monsters University" this summer, in a 3D-ized version ("you can push a lot of how much depth you want to see, so we re-imagine how those things will look in stereo," he said). After that he'll return to the studio, and looks forward to getting his "hands dirty" on a couple of projects that, of course, remain shrouded in mystery. "Monsters University" (and "The Blue Umbrella") hit theaters on June 21st. 

This article is related to: The Blue Umbrella, Pixar , Jon Brion


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates