One of the great joys for many years when seeing a Pixar movie is not only the movie itself, but the original short film that play in front of the main feature. In some cases, these shorts are more memorable than the actual movies themselves. I have a feeling that may wind up being the case with Lou, the brand new short film from Pixar that will be playing ahead of Cars 3 this June.
Pixar decided to bring Lou to SXSW and treat some lucky audiences to the short before most of the world gets to see it when Cars 3 hits theaters on June 16. I was fortunate enough to catch it and Pixar has made some very memorable shorts, but this really ranks up there. Lou tugs at the heartstrings in the way only a Pixar project can and short film or not, it truly embodies everything we all know and love from the studio. Here is the short synopsis for Lou.
“When a toy stealing bully ruins recess for a playground full of kids, only one thing stands in his way: the ‘Lost and Found’ box.”
You may not know Dave Mullins by name, but if you love anything Pixar has done since the the year 2000, odds are he had a little something to do with it. Mullins has been working for the studio for nearly 17 years and in that time, he has put together quite the list of credits. He has worked on movies like Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Cars, Brave, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. He never worked as a director, but as an animator he made his mark on some of Pixar’s best work. With Lou, he had the chance to direct for the first time and after seeing it, like me, you’ll hope that Pixar hands him the reigns on a feature project because this dude knows what he’s doing.
When it comes to Lou, this was a very personal story for him and that shows on screen. I know Cars may not be the most beloved franchise in the Pixar canon, but I can safely say that seeing Lou is worth the price of admission when Cars 3 comes out. Dave Mullins is a talented dude he clearly loves what he does and that shows in his work and it shows even more when talking to him, which I was lucky enough to have the chance to do.
During SXSW, I sat down to have a quick chat with Lou director Dave Mullins along with producer Dana Murray. We talked about where the idea for this short came from, what all went into making it happen and what it is that makes Pixar so consistently excellent. Here is my conversation with a couple of fine folks from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios.
The short was amazing. I’ll be honest, I cried. That was one of my favorite things growing up. You’d get the VHS and you would always have the short in front of it. This I think ranks up there with the best. So can you maybe tell me where the idea came from and how this got started? Because it truly is fantastic.
Dave Mullins: It’s kind of a personal story for me. I grew up moving around a lot and I always had to make new friends and leave old friends behind and you would feel at these schools like you wanted to be invisible at times. Or you felt invisible because you just didn’t know everybody and just thinking about that idea I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a character that could hide in plain sight at a school?’ And then we found a lost and found box and it was like, ‘Wow! That would be really cool if there was a character inside of there.’ And when we think about a lost and found box, what they do. Their purpose in life is to collect things that are lost and give them back and the story kind of comes out of that character.
Was this inspired directly by Toy Story at all? Because it seems very reminiscent of that kind of idea
Dave Mullins: It fits in the canon really well, but no I wasn’t thinking about Toy Story at the time. I was just trying to find a character that was right for animation and that spoke to me personally.
There are certain brands that have this standard of excellence and Pixar is one of those brands that has this standard of excellence consistently and this seems to fit right in line with that. You’ve been there a long time but now as a director can you speak a little bit to what it is about Pixar that just consistently brings out this excellence?
Dave Mullins: I think it’s the partnership that we have. I mean, having Dana as my producer on the film. When you’re involved with people of such a high caliber. Everybody there is just so invested in the films and making the films great. We do not give up on story. We just kind of keep at it and there’s this great balance between all of these creative ideas that we have and then trying to get these films done. And the fact that that, working with Dana, she would make space for me to fail and she would protect me when things were going wrong and it’s those sort of partnerships and commitment to story that I think makes Pixar great.
Dana Murray: Yeah and our Executive Producers were Pete Docter and John Lasseter and so you know, they’re helping you along with these story notes and every time you’re showing it to them it just is getting better and better. So, that helped.
Dave Mullins: Yeah. Having John and Pete involved, yeah, that’s it. That’s a big deal.
Dana what’s your role? Because a director kind of wears all hats but as a producer where did you factor in? How did you sort of fit into the process?
Dana Murray: I mean, the obvious things that the producer takes care of are obviously schedule and budget. But you’re kind of dealing with the outward stuff in the studio and then also outwardly, outside of the studio and just kind of creating space for Dave so he could focus on the show and the creative, and making sure I’m fielding everything. Managerial priorities. That kind of thing.
Dave Mullins: I’d be like, ‘I want this!’ And she’d figure out a way to get it.
Dana Murray: Or not.
One thing that I find interesting is that a lot of times people use shorts to sort of springboard into a feature concept or something. But with these Pixar shorts, they’re very specifically meant to be a short. So what is it like as a filmmaker to go into something have to say to yourself, ‘I know this is a short. I’m working on a short.’ What is that like versus working on a feature?
Dave Mullins: For me the goal is to direct a feature someday but this is just telling this one story and I haven’t thought about it beyond this point. I just want to make this story amazing and that’s really the focus for me.
You can catch Lou in theaters on June 16, 2017, when it arrives with Cars 3. The short will also be included with the Blu-ray and DVD later in the year.