While it may be a bit of a stretch to dwell on the significance of the Cannes Film Festival embracing 3-D animation on its opening night, the debut of Pixar's "Up" offers a striking sense of cinematic validation to the emerging technology. In the wake of the recent success of "Coraline," Cannes seems to be sending a message about the power of the new medium, especially when placed in the hands of talented storytellers.
"Up," directed by Pete Doctor, is a grand visual spectacle on a big screen, pulling viewers into a striking three dimensional world and eschewing the sort of visual sight gags found in typical 3-D movies. Quite emotional at times, some viewers had to wipe tears from beneath their 3-D glasses today while experiencing the emotional story of an aging man and a young boy who set out on a dramatic adventure together.
Prior to the enthusiastic press screening this morning in Cannes, fest chief Thierry Fremaux stood on stage at the Debussy Theater with a small digital camera to welcome critics and journalists and snap a photo of everyone wearing their 3-D glasses.
"Up" is Pixar's 10th film and by all accounts marks a major shift for the acclaimed filmmaker-driven studio. "All our films will be made in 3-D in the future," Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter proclaimed during a post-screening press conference today in Cannes.
"3-D is a fantastic device to get the audience into the story that much more," Lasseter said today, "Within the computer, we are creating a 3-D environment. We've always made our films in 3-D, but we've just shown them in 2-D."
Lasseter reiterated the importance of character and story to Pixar, touting the work of animation auteur Hayao Miyazaki, but he was also quick to add that the company's mission is also to entertain a crowd.
"The reality is that audiences don't want to watch bad movies," Lasseter quipped, "whether they are animated or live action." And he saluted his mentor, famed Disney animator Ollie Johnston, who instilled in him a driving point of storytelling, "What's the character thinking?" Lasseter said he always returns to that question because if you can answer that, he noted, "That's what the audience will feel."
For Pixar, ten films in, the opening night slot in Cannes is a point of major pride, particularly for Lasseter. "To have our movie, 'Up', open the Cannes Film Festival is one of the greatest things that has happened to us in our careers," he said, "You have to understand what this festival means to a filmmaker, being one of the most presitgious film festivals in the world."