By John Tapley
With its long list of blockbuster films (three incarnations of Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., and Ratatouille to list some), it’s not surprising that Pixar remains one of the most creative and successful animation studios in the entire world. Their newest creation, Brave, continues their legacy of giving audiences an incredible film chock full of memorable characters, stunning 3D-animation, and light-hearted fun for movie-goers young and old.
The sword-and-sorcery story tells the tale of Merida, a Scottish warrior princess who finds herself creating an unfortunate situation, which only she can make right. Since its opening in June, the enchanted animated adventure has received strong reviews and has grossed over $750 million at the box office.
Pixar’s expert staff of producers, writers, and animators are known for their high-quality, strongly-detailed work and the camaraderie and focus to pull all the creative elements together. In their work, they often sink deep into the source material used for their films. In the case of Brave, writers heavily used Scottish and Celtic mythology to provide a background for Merida’s story.
Utilizing these same principles, the company crafted a smash success, Finding Nemo, in 2003. One of the highest-rated, most prolific animated films of all time, Finding Nemo is the story of a young fish’s journey through the oceans and his own maturation as he struggles against forces both internal and external. Along the way, the titular character and his protective father discover colorful characters, fearsome foes, and, ultimately, the virtues of trust and responsibility. For the creation of Nemo, it was fitting, then, for the production team to spend time exploring the underwater world.
This experience provided a wonderful opportunity to experience the majesty of the waves up close and personal, which granted visual inspiration. It also ran parallel to the movie’s strong morals: teamwork; trust; responsibility. To a diver, and a wandering clownfish, these principles aren’t just used to enhance one’s character - they are pivotal to survival.
After searching for many scuba instruction companies, the team at Pixar found one that fit just right: Seattle Scuba Schools. Instructor Craig Gillespie was chosen to guide the group into their first foray into the world beneath the waves. Gillespie spent weeks training the team at Pixar Studios, and although the creative crew often had difficulties arranging schedules which fit everyone’s needs, they studied vigorously and inquisitively. Craig noted the team’s intensity during the PADI Open Water course: they exhibited a level of motivation far surpassing the average student. And, to Gillespie, they displayed a degree of excitement, which has yet to be surpassed.
After their diligent work, Gillespie took the team out of the classroom and into the pool; their enthusiasm and curiosity followed. It was an exciting adventure to the team, most of which had not even considered scuba diving before the Nemo project. Despite getting accustomed to the gear, and other foreign aspects of diving, the team soldiered on and offered each other help and encouragement. The pool experience proved to be a remarkable success: all 27 Pixar members passed the program.
Finally, the crew was ready to plunge into the ocean and begin their search for Nemo. Although the weather at Monterey, California was less than hospitable, the group stayed diligent; their perseverance and dedication shined bright during the inclement conditions. After two days of diving, the team was prepared. To this day, Gillespie considers this the most exciting and inspiring experience he has enjoyed during his 30 years as an instructor and was honored to use his expertise to invigorate the talented staff.
In a touching, heartfelt move, which perfectly mirrored the parent-child bonds found in Nemo, Gillespie declined an offer from the team to watch the film at an exclusive private screening. Instead, he decided to enjoy the film for the first time with his daughter. “The first time I see this movie, there is absolutely no one with whom I want to see it more than with my six year old daughter,” Gillespie stated.
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