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When you walk through the door of the main building at Pixar Studios, it's hard to know where to look first. The spacious lobby puts some of Pixar's many great accomplishments within sight, wherever you look. There is a glass case full of awards (Oscars, Golden Globes, etc), but the accomplishments I'm referring to are the statues and artwork featuring some of the beloved characters from their films. In the case of Toy Story, it's two human-sized Lego statues of Buzz and Woody, which caught my eye the moment I stepped into the building. As a Toy Story fan, the Lego cowboy and space ranger were a welcoming sight. And I was that much more excited to see the new Pixar short, Partysaurus Rex, which is set to appear before Finding Nemo 3D, in theaters this Friday.
During my trip to Pixar Studios last month, I had the opportunity to screen Partysaurus Rex and also speak with director Mark Walsh and producer Kim Adams about the making of the short. Partysaurus Rex focuses on Toy Story's T-Rex toy Rex, who's determined to prove that he's not the wet blanket his fellow toys believe him to be. This leads to a bathtub party that quickly escalates into an all-out rave, with Rex in the middle of it all.
Not only does this new short allow us to check in with Bonnie's toys to see how they're getting on post-Toy Story 3, but it also shines a spotlight on Rex as a character, giving us the opportunity to see how he does when separated from the rest of the ensemble. Walsh spoke to us about the choice to go with Rex and to put him in an unfamiliar situation to see how he behaves. "I'm the kind of person that always wishes, when I came home from a party or something, that I had been more outgoing or I had been more whatever," he said. "You know, I think everybody's got their own personal insecurities, and Rex is very insecure. The idea of Rex trying to step outside of his comfort zone, to reinvent himself in a new - like if you're going to a new school or to a new town - to reinvent himself as something different than what he was. I thought that he would just be really fun to play with."
Exploring Rex as an individual character is one of the things Partysaurus Rex does really well. Another is the setting. Bath toys haven't really been explored in the Toy Story films, so the short has ample opportunity to explore bath time fun in a very Pixar way (humor, color and lots of bubbles). "For me as a kid, bath was the most fun of the day," Walsh told us. "Because you're in a giant hot tub with foam and your own toys. And you have to do it - they force you to do it. To me, I was like, this is amazing. It's awesome, right? I like bath time, and I always thought that would be an interesting culture because those guys don't have arms or legs."
As a T-Rex, Rex doesn't exactly have the best arms either, but I suppose having arms at all does put him at an advantage over, say, a rubber ducky. And speaking of duckies...
Producer Kim Adams pointed out that her daughter's two favorite things are music and bubble baths. There are likely to be plenty of other kids who have those two things high on their lists too. And many of us who have good memories of fun in the bathtub and rubber ducky moments. Of course, there's a rubber ducky featured in Partysaurus Rex, and he's voiced by Tony Cox, whose voice might be recognizable to people who've seen him in Bad Santa, Me Myself & Irene or any of his other feature or TV roles. From what Walsh says, Cox really got into the role, especially when it came to dancing. Walsh told us an amusing story about directing Cox for the rubber ducky part...
"I said, 'I just want you to pretend like you're having fun. Dance for a little bit. And he went on for about five minutes, in his seat, just like shaking and "Aw yeah, check me out, rubber ducky, baby!" And he went on and on, and it was so hilarious. I was like, 'We gotta use some of this.' So we added a spot in the movie where he says, 'Aw yeah, check me out,' and then I just left it open. And when I gave it to the animator, the animator added this like 'butt dance' that was actually similar to what Tony had been doing on the stage. For me, that's one of my favorite parts."
Cox is one more reason to look forward to Partysaurus Rex, which really is a great short, full of laughs, lots of bright colors and a fun little story that comes together nicely. The short is also evidence that there's still more story to tell with Toy Story. Walsh and Adams were tight-lipped about what might be ahead for Toy Story, but from the sound of it, there are some things in the works. "There's a lot of fun stuff in development," Adams told us. "The Toy Story characters are sort of like extended family, I think, for everyone at Pixar, so we all love to be in that world. It's an exciting place to be, especially for shorts because it can expand that world. Here's Bonnie's bathroom that we've never seen that before, and look at that whole group of friends. It's really fun."
Bonnie was introduced to us in Toy Story 3, but as that was really the wrap-up to Andy's time with the toys, we really only get a small sample of who Bonnie is as a child and how she plays with her toys. One of the things I loved about the start of Partysaurus Rex is that we get to see a bit more of the toys as they are in Bonnie's world. And that's something the people at Pixar can develop further with future Toy Story projects. Walsh said as much when talking about the character.
Bonnie is such a great child. You saw in Toy Story 3, what's great about her is that she has this wild imagination, which is what led us to try things like - in her playtime, not just showing her play Godzilla with Rex, but actually be in her point of view, to see Rex come out of the water like he's a giant sea serpent. She's a really fun character to own these toys and own these characters. I think as we continue to develop these ideas with Toy Story characters, that Bonnie's definitely going to be an intricate part.
He spoke of Bonnie being more imaginative with her playing and how intensely she plays with her toys. We saw a bit of that at the end of Toy Story 3, and it's part of what made that ending a bit easier to take, as well as emotional, knowing - even if they have to leave Andy - the toys are going to a child who will make the most of them. For those of us who loved the Toy Story films, Partysaurus Rex is not only a fun follow-up for the characters, but a great opportunity to see how they're doing in their new home. And Rex manages to show us that he's willing to live on the edge once in a while.
We also had the chance to see Finding Nemo in 3D and speak with director Lee Unkrich, as well as Bob Whitehill and Josh Hollander, who talked to us about the 3D production. Keep an eye out for that later this week! In the meantime, here are a few photos from Pixar's lobby...