The Blue Umbrella – Berlin Film Festival Review

The Blue Umbrella Concept Artwork
Drawing by Director, Saschka Unseld

After the world premiere of The Blue Umbrella on February 12, we let our readers know that we were seeking a review of the event since we were not in attendance personally. Well, thanks to the generosity of Maryellen Atkins, she came through with an extremely thoughtful and amazingly written review that we are thrilled to share with our readers. Keep in mind that there is one small plot point that is revealed during the review so if you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you may want to skip reading the fourth paragraph of Maryellen’s review.

The Blue Umbrella Poster

The Blue Umbrella Premier at Berlinale
by: Maryellen Atkins

The big snowstorm that hammered the east coast last week prevented me from flying out to Berlinale on schedule. By the time I made it to Germany on Tuesday morning I had already missed the first screening of the world premiere of Pixar’s new animated short film The Blue Umbrella — fittingly at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Germany’s national center for contemporary non-European art.

I did however have the pleasure of catching the premiere on Saturday. I was only one of about four adults in the enormous line without a trail of children tagging along to see the Generation K+ Short films.

The Blue Umbrella feels like 3D animation all grown up, there were no large, glossy eyes, just photo-realism, with a touch of fantasy. The film has a mature aesthetic, moreso than the typical big animation studio production, probably because of the influence of its German director, Saschka Unseld. The characters embody anthropomorphism in the best way, with influences from traditional Pixar, like “Luxo Jr.,” but also strong influences from independent animations like “Lost Tribes of New York City” by Andy and Carolyn London and maybe “Fantasie in Bubblewrap” by Arthur Metcalf.

The film begins with one red and one blue umbrella in a sea of black on a crowded, rainy city sidewalk that looks to be New York City. This contrast is undeniable, and sets the stage for the sweet love story. Then the blue umbrella blows away from its carrier in a strong gust of wind, while all the other objects in the city, like the windows, doors, and rain gutters watch as this umbrella get swept away in the wind.

The filmmaker makes the deliberate decision to never show the person carrying the umbrella, allowing the audience to identify with the umbrella. There are a few shots where you catch a glimpse of the adorable coordinated red and blue wellies (rubber boots) peaking out from under the umbrella, but you would never quite see who is underneath.

At the climax of the story, one young child in the theater burst into tears and if you can elicit that type of emotion, I think you will have a successful film. I don’t want to give away the whole film, but this one has a nice poetic touch at the end.

Director Saschka Unseld described to me a shot that was originally conceived for the film, but in the end had to be cut because of technical difficulties. I found it enlightening, as a filmmaker, that even a large studio like Pixar has technical challenges that they cannot overcome. Unseld comes from the techical team at Pixar, and this films really highlights that.

The Blue Umbrella is beautiful, it is everything aesthetically and experimentally an audience could wish for in a 3D animated film. I am back on the east coast now, and appropriately it is raining today. All I need is my blue umbrella.

Maryellen Atkins is an animator, filmmaker, and producer from Newport, RI. The short film she produced, “Cahaya” by Jean Lee, also premiered at Berlinale. You can follow her on Vimeo: and on twitter: @atkinscgi

Saschka Unseld Pixar

Wow! I have read this review several times and I still can’t get over the pacing and detail that Maryellen includes – what a wonderful review and thank you again for sharing this with us Maryellen!

Comments 2
  1. Hey Maycee – we agree with some of your comments for sure. That's interesting that you talk about the attention to detail in the background though – so many other's have said that they really loved the dramatic shallow depth of field and dark backgrounds. That's totally fine that it didn't strike a chord with you in that area…but we love hearing the opposing views! 🙂 Pixar Post – T.J.

  2. The Blue Umbrella was charming and upbeat with some very creative uses inanimate objects as personalities. Visually stunning, but some poor choices of slow motion, and a some of the backgrounds stood out as not having careful enough attention to detail for a film that was going for high detail to contrast with the umbrella's faces.Maycee (Eureka Joe's)

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