The sixth Pixar SparkShort, Loop premiered today (January 10) on Disney+. This beautiful film showcases the world of Renee, a non-verbal, autistic character — who is also voiced by a non-verbal autistic girl named, Madison Bandy. The film takes place during a camp canoe outing, with Marcus (the neurotypical character) struggling to find a way to communicate with Renee, ultimately finding the patience and understanding from within, do we see a beautiful moment of friendship blossom between the two in the form of a single second of eye contact.
As we know, Pixar leads with story, characters, and that indescribable ‘wanting to cry’ feeling, and Loop covers all those points and more. Written and directed by Erica Milsom, who has been with the studio for several years working on creating behind-the-scenes documentaries about Pixar. When Milsom was approached with the opportunity of joining the SparkShorts program as a director she was thrilled and, “excited to dive into the animated medium with artists who she had worked alongside for so many years”, as she noted in an interview with Animation Magazine.
The inspiration for Loop had come about as Milsom had always loved the connections she had made while she worked with people with disabilities as a job coach/vocational educator in her 20’s. “In the year before making Loop, I volunteered to teach a class on acting for the screen at a local Art Center called NIAD, which serves artists with disabilities of all kinds”.
“Through the course of my time there, I made some fun connections, but I also had some awkward moments where I didn’t know how to connect with the person next to me. Eventually, over time, we’d find a way to connect, often without words… but it wasn’t immediate, and it took effort on both sides”.Erica Milsom
Milsom noted that while researching the character development of Renee, she connected with other people within the studio who have children with sensory and communication differences, specifically calling upon her friend, the late Adam Burke. “As these conversations progressed, my friend Adam Burke and I discussed the storytelling potential that came with expressing the unique point of view of an autistic person, whose interpersonal mannerisms and sensory experiences were unique, could be a very rich experience in our medium. Adam’s child is on the spectrum, and we were both excited to see an autistic character on screen”.
The filmmakers also connected with autistic consultants who helped with the performance to ensure that Loop had an authentic and honest feel. “At all stages of the production, from the first script read-through to the next-to-last pass on animation and lighting, we had autistic partners giving notes and sharing their thoughts about the movie. And then we got to meet Madison Bandy, our voice actress, and her performance and personality lent so much to the character, as well”, noted Milsom to Animation Magazine.
FUN FACTS ABOUT ‘LOOP’
The past several days, director Erica Milsom has been sharing fun facts about Loop on her personal Instagram page. From the filmmaking process to the scenery that inspired the film’s setting, Milsom notes many fun details from Loop.
- Supervising Technical Director @dafeinberg was also D.P. for Lighting on #SparkShorts #Loop. When she heard my pitch for a story, set in water, featuring a distinct POV – defined by lighting, to be completed in 6 months… she didn’t bat an eye.
- Eight character animators created the performances you see in #Loop. Informed by our autistic allies & our actress, Madison, Anim Supe, @allimator, & team developed a gestural vocabulary that was unique to Renee.
- When I wanted to get into the characters’ passion for canoeing, I’d stop in @watersideworkshops and hang out with the kids and staff at the boat shop.
- The casting call for Renee went to agents and community-based organizations serving artists with disabilities all around the Bay Area. We met our actress, Madison Bandy, @creativegrowth in Oakland that same week.
- The setting for #Loop was inspired by Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. I rode my bike through the park on my way to work almost every day while writing and directing the film
- Head of story Matthias (@_tekkoman ) De Clercq boarded the first pass on #Loop’s 14-page script in just 8 days. His boards were charming & insightful about how kids would experience this journey.
- When I first imagined what Marcus would look like, I thought about how he’d wear his hat — just like @paulabadillaart, a friend @pixar. A few weeks later, Paul came on as Production Designer. His designs for both sets and characters brought the film to life.
- Loop’s title was created by hand by @lmeyer22. The use of the rainbow color scheme honors the wonderful work around neurodiversity and inclusion done by the autism community.
The production for Loop started on April 23 to September 28, 2018 (only five months, not including post-production rendering time) and there were a total of 54 crew members — including producers Krissy Cababa and Michael Warch. Be sure to share your thoughts on Loop with other Pixar fans in the Pixar Post Forum.
Pixar Post — Julie & T.J.