There are countless details that are packed into every single pixel of a Pixar film — but, why does Pixar do this? Let’s dive in and discover all the dusty details with Sets Shading Lead, Ling Tu — Let’s explore the micro scuff marks on Buzz’s chest plate or how Gabby Gabby’s eyes are slightly changed from a normal Pixar character with Characters Shading Lead, Alex Marino.
Maybe we should also dive into all those wonderful Easter Eggs hidden throughout Toy Story 4 as Craig Foster (Graphic Arts Director) showcases some fascinating ways the crew paid homage to past Pixar projects. This led us to wonder if Toy Story 4 will contain the most Easter Eggs of any film ever made? Although not officially confirmed, there are hundreds of items hidden which represent EVERY Pixar film, so it just might be.
Read details of our visit to Pixar Animation Studios below, view some photos, and listen to the full interview (embedded below) as part of episode 66 of the Pixar Post Podcast.
DUST, WELDING & PLAYGROUND SCALE
Ling Tu (Sets Shading Lead) kicked off our session by exploring all the rich, yet often unnoticed, details her team populates on the screen. Why do they do this? Well, if everything looks as you’d expect (set locations like a carnival or tiny cracks in a porcelain character), your mind just accepts those things since it’s already so familiar to you — this way you can fully immerse yourself into the storytelling.
The other reason you’re seeing a lot of detail in Toy Story 4 is that you’re viewing things from a toy’s perspective. All those little bumps on wooden baseboards or dust accumulation are things you’d notice more if you were viewing things from ground level.
In one particular scene at a playground, Ling showcased the buildup of sand particles on the edges of the sandbox and even points out a sprinkler control box featured behind Woody. Those items are there to give a sense of how big the world is to a toy like Woody and Bo Peep. They even chose larger-style leaves to make the characters feel smaller (with the appropriate veins, bumps, and holes where insects would have eaten through the greenery).
One of our favorite callouts was how the carnival wall Buzz is zip-tied to (when he first meets Ducky and Bunny) has uneven wires and noted that the weld marks had to be hand-painted by an artist to give it that true look of a quickly fabricated piece. When she showed a straight wire mesh behind Buzz, it was so perfect that your eyes focused on it as if something was “off” with the scene..
ENHANCING CHARACTERS THROUGH SUBTLE CUES
Next up, Alex expanded on his role as a Characters Shading Lead, noting, “our challenge as character shading artists is to maintain the iconic look [of the characters that we know], but give them those subtle updates that help marry them with the beautiful new environments and characters that they’re going to meet.”
It’s all about believability — Buzz and Woody aren’t new toys and they should have subtle micro-scratches and wear patterns that not only help you understand that they’re plastic but add to the believability they’ve been loved and played with.
In Gabby Gabby’s case, they looked closely at dolls from the 1950s and how their hair was inserted into the doll’s head to make her look authentic to the time. Eyes for Pixar characters always have a very specific (highly appealing) look, but with Gabby Gabby being the film’s antagonist, they wanted to give her eyes a different look — if you look closely, she has a slightly more angular look to her iris design.
GRAPHIC DESIGN AND EASTER EGGS GALORE
Another element that the team went into was the detail of the graphics in the film. Craig dove into all the areas that he and his team impact the film — and it’s a lot. From the designs on t-shirts, signage, product labels, and more, it seemed like everything was touched by the graphics team at some level (especially in the antique store).
Interestingly, Craig noted that “Although Toy Story 4 is Woody’s journey, he’s uncomfortable during it, so I wanted to take out anything referential of his glory days, so there are no western-style fonts.” These subtle elements are what really sell the thought and passion that go into these projects. If a team wasn’t collaborating on this, it may have been a missed opportunity as we discuss further in our 1-on-1 interview later in the afternoon (audio included as part of the podcast embedded below).
Now, let’s dive into the Easter Eggs in more detail. Craig noted that there are some subtle and some really in-depth references to prior Pixar films in the movie — this is definitely one you’ll want to get the 4K Blu-ray for and pause it a lot!
The first one Craig discussed was a Victrola record player that Gabby Gabby interacts with, “we did a custom record label referencing Coco with Chalupa Records and De la Cruz’s songs.” There are also countless paintings throughout the antique store that find ways to honor the artists who worked on the film — there are Rembrandt-style oil paintings of employees or even Riley’s Dad from Inside Out as a conquistador (in a black velvet styling). We loved seeing the Angel Kitty painting from Toy Story That Time Forgot and the previously spotted dogs from Up playing poker with Charles Muntz.
Below are just a few of the other samplings that Craig filled us in on — the team said that since there was a very large antique store to fill and because of the historical nature of those stores, they thought it would be an ideal place to highlight the history of every prior Pixar film.
- Triple-Dent Gum as a 1940s gum advertising sign.
- Eggman movers (the moving van from Toy Story and tribute to Ralph Eggleston).
- Fat Cow Farms from Toy Story (on the milk crate in Sid’s room).
- The famed A113 (we won’t tell you where it is in the film just yet), but it’s a cool 1970s-inspired art sign.
- Papa Rivera’s Pure Pork Lard — a tribute to Producer, Jonas Rivera.
- 1950s Poultry Palace sign.
- PJ’s Pop from A Bug’s Life.
- Catmull Soda — a tribute to Ed Catmull.
- The town of Grand Basin (where the antique store is) was founded in 1886 (the 86 was a nod to Pixar’s year of incorporation, 1986).
- The Ellie Badge — the grape soda bottle cap used in Up.
- Ratatouille wine glasses
- A bear carving from Brave.
- A nod to the upcoming film, Onward.
Finally, in our 1-on-1 interview, I was also thrilled to see that the team offered a tribute to the late, Adam Burke, who sadly passed away in October 2018. The team hung one of his signature hats in the antique store as a nod in his honor.
Want to learn even more and hear from our conversation — listen to the full interview below.
00:00 — Episode 66 Kickoff
01:14 — Pixar Trivia.
03:24 — Love the Disney Parks, do you help plan your friend’s vacations, visit Destination Mouse to become an agent.
08:20 — The Final Toy Story 4 trailer is hitting on May 21, get ready.
12:32 — Want to watch Toy Story 4 early or catch a sneak-peek, here’s how.
18:14 — Bo Peep is coming to Disney parks this summer, get a look at her in-park design.
22:54 — What is happening with Pixar in New York City?
31:03 — Our interview with The Pixar team — It’s all in the details.
1:05:21 — After the interview discussion.
1:10:44 — 1-on-1 interview with Craig Foster and Ling Tu.
1:17:48 — Wrapping up the show.