Day & Night – Director’s Commentary

Day and Night Logo

Released in 2010 alongside Toy Story 3Day & Night features two characters filmed in both 2D and 3D animation. This film’s unique style and storyline still captivates me and continues to be one of my favorite Pixar short films.

Pixar Dan and Night Screencap

Director Teddy Newton began the film to make the audience think that they were watching a familiar cartoon they had seen a hundred times before. With that idea, Newton filled the frame with customary cartoon imagery only to break it into something unfamiliar. 

The original concept was to have a keyhole as the personality. So, Newton drew a pair of cartoon eyes on the keyhole and it could glance into itself – seeing a world within. But the novelty was limited as Newton wanted the character to be mobilized. That’s when Newton added legs to the character allowing him to move about his environment, revealing more of his landscape. This inspired the idea that the background could mirror his personal state.

Unlike other Pixar films, Day & Night had a big portion that was drawn by hand. These drawings were scanned into a computer and vectorized. There would be a team drawing at their desk and a team modeling sets into the computer – both teams had to basically eyeball each other’s work and hope that it would merge together harmoniously. 

The team was composing three films at once – the “Day” character, the “Night” character, and the two characters together in a single frame – and all of it was done with a single camera. “Believe me it was so hard, but I loved it!” said Sandra Karpman (Camera Polisher & Stereographer).

Not only did Newton want the landscapes to reflect the experiences that the characters were going through, but he wanted the sound to do the same. Originally the film wasn’t going to contain music – only natural sounds.  Eventually, the team did use music, but only music that stemmed from the “outside” world. Newton mentioned that Greg Snyder and Barney Jones provided the sounds for the film and Michael Giacchino provided the score.

I personally have two favorite parts of this film – one being the image shown above. The creativity of this shot (with night hanging off a cliff) is pure genius and continues to inspire me when I feel roadblocked with my creative ventures. In fact – this is one of my favorite Pixar film moments.

Day and Night Screencap

Day & Night was the first film at Pixar to be conceived around the thought of being in stereo sound. Newton mentioned that the stereo effects were deliberately played flat at the beginning of the film and it wasn’t until the characters became interested in each other that the depth became more evident.

Day and Night Screencap

The idea of the radio tower was something that Newton had from the very beginning. Years ago Newton recalled his mother owning an audio recording of Dr. Wayne Dyer performing one of his lectures and it seemed as though his words were catered to the theme of the film. Dr. Wayne Dyer would often speak of how people would often stay within their comfort zones instead of being open to new possibilities.

Day and Night Screencap

My second favorite part of this short is when the tower recording of Dr. Wayne Dyer states “The most beautiful things in all the universe are the most mysterious.” I feel that we can all reflect on that quote and take something from it.

Newton stated that many people have told him that their favorite part of the film is when “Day” and “Night” turn into each other. Newton does mention that they don’t really turn into each other, they are still who they are, “They are still the same person it’s just that the thing inside them has changed“. The characters come out of this experience seeing the world in a new way – now empathizing with the other’s worldview.

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