Q: I saw Up in 3-D, and I loved it. But I was on an airplane recently and it was playing—
A: Oh, my nightmare! As we're making the film, I'm thinking, "Someday, there's gonna be a flight attendant standing in front of this, asking if you want milk or cream in your coffee, right during some crucial plot point." But I guess that's the way it goes.
Q: What live-action movies did you look to for inspiration while making Up?
A: The Station Agent, which was written and directed by Tom McCarthy. He is amazing at taking very complex stories and ideas and reducing them down to character-based interactions. His films just feel so comfortably simple, and yet they have a real, deep complexity to them.
Q: Adults love your movies. How do you think about your audience as you're developing them?
A: It sounds selfish, but we're making these for ourselves. Primarily, I'm really thinking adults. You want to have an emotional connection at some foundational level—even though these characters might be cars or insects or monsters, they have human problems. They have some emotional truth that resonates with our own lives. And as you go through, you arrange jokes and characters that work with animation. You may wind up appealing to kids, but underneath it all, we're trying to make this as deep and meaningful an experience as we can.
Q: I've heard people complain that Pixar movies feel emotionally manipulative. Is that something you worry about?
A: I mean, you want it to be as natural-feeling as possible, but that's kind of an inherent contradiction. Animation is created frame by frame. It is controlled—there isn't spontaneity. You're looking for ways to make it feel like the character's really thinking something as he's saying it. In Up, I tried to be as objective as I could in the way we shot the most emotional scenes. When Ellie passes away, it's just stated. It's not overly schmaltzy, with sad eyes and things—it's just presented.
Q: You have two kids—do they think it's cool to have an animation director for a dad?
A: I guess they don't really know any different. They're going to have a rude awakening when they have to get jobs and they realize not every one involves candy and riding scooters.