Today is our first day sailing aboard the beautiful Disney Wonder, and while our sea day weather is dreary, the excitement onboard is anything but. This particular cruise is the “maiden Pixar cruise” as John Lasseter – Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation Studios; Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering – referred to it this morning during his captivating presentation about Pixar, and the ship is decked out in bunting, Pixar logos, and concept art (more pictures will be posted in the coming days).
Having first experienced the Disney Cruise Line on my Disney Fantasy sailing five months ago, I was very curious to see how a smaller thirteen-year-old vessel would compare, and I’m very happy to report that this ship is very impressive. For sure, the Wonder is petite compared to the Fantasy, but the grandeur of the ships’ design is in full effect.
The layout of the ship is very similar to that on the Fantasy, and so she feels very familiar to my parents and I, like we’ve returned home. Of course, individual venue designs vary, but the art nouveau theming that is common between these two ships is handsomely applied here with Disney’s usual attention to detail. The Disney Magic and Disney Dream in contrast follow an art deco aesthetic.
While there will be plenty of time later to discuss the ship further, the specific appeal of this cruise is the Pixar presence onboard which is a big deal for me. I’m a huge Disney fan and Pixar fan by extension. For those who don’t know, Pixar – the once independent animation studio – is now a part of the larger Walt Disney Company. In fact, the idea for these Pixar cruises was hatched when John was on the Fantasy’s maiden voyage.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing John Lasseter on two occasions previously, once at Comic-Con and again at Disney’s D23 expo, but I have never had the opportunity to see him give a full two-hour talk presenting his personal Pixar story until this morning in the Walt Disney Theatre. John even brought his lovely wife on stage at one point to discuss her positive effect on the Pixar path and to explain how the signature green and purple colors of the Buzz Lightyear character from Toy Story represent his and her favorite colors respectively.
The presentation included photographs from Pixar’s history including one from John Lasseter’s class at CalArts that included fellow Pixar director as well as recent Mission: Impossible 4 director, Brad Bird, and even Disney Imagineer for the Disney Cruise Line, Joe Lanzisero. Unfortunately, I don’t have any images to show here from the presentation other than the title card as photos and video were prohibited.
Also, displayed was footage barely seen outside of the industry including Pencil Test, a short film directed by Nancy Lasseter and assisted on by John that was created to demonstrate the Quicktime video playback software introduced by Apple in the 1980s. John’s Academy Award winning student film, Nightmare, which still holds up amazingly well today as evidenced by the delightful laughter and applause from the audience, was also screened.
Beyond showcasing Pixar’s emphasis on story, character, and setting as the hallmark of great animated filmmaking, he went on to outline Pixar’s future film slate starting with Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters Inc. to be released in 2013. Later is The Good Dinosaur which was described as a sort of reversed “boy and his dog story.”
The focus on setting will be particularly important to Pixar’s following film which is currently untitled but will focus on the emotions of a tween girl as the characters of the film. And lastly, he briefly discussed a film about the Mexican holiday – Dia de los Muertos, or day of the dead – that the studio is working on that he said goes beyond skeletal design and showcases the connections between family members living and dead. It definitely sounds intriguing and original.
John concluded by giving us an exclusive treat with a clip from the upcoming rerelease of Monsters Inc. in 3D in December 2012, and the film looks great with added depth. Of course, this release itself is essentially a teaser for its prequel, Monsters University, to come next year. It’s a good time to be a Pixar fan!