Albert Lozano discusses character design and art direction at USC.
April 14th, 2015
One of the few artists I keep somewhat in touch with is an artist named Ronnie. He’s co-directed a movie at Pixar, called Inside Out.
The character art director, Albert Lozano, came to speak at USC last month.
As he gave us his background, I was surprised it was not the usual checklist. He worked on South Park and I want to say he mentioned working at SPUMCO. The public perception of Parker and Stone and John K., frank to the point of goading, antagonizing or unpredictable, contrast the Disney and Pixar impression of general goodness and stability.
The contrast extends to the art. The visual minimalism of South Park and the SPUMCO rough on twos animation is kind of everything I don’t think of when I think of current Disney and Pixar.
Though the final concepts have a more Muppet-like look to them Mr. Lozano’s presentation included an early character lineup, a more iconographic approach. It reminded me of The Dot and the Line, a 1965 short animated at MGM under the direction of Chuck Jones. And that cartoon’s primary primary palette and geometric designs, with little in the way of squash and stretch, looks much like the work of De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian with a bridge of ornate mathematical graphing spirals and polygons.
If I may distill it down to this, the movie is an attempt to articulate why one of the filmmaker’s daughter was not the bubbly kid she was. The premise suggests some of Miyazaki’s territory, an Alice-ish tween ennui. Lewis Carroll captured the confusion and contradictions and dangers of the world through the eyes of a maturing girl, but I tend to view modern day variations with wariness. (For instance when it’s more a reflection of someone else’s expectations and disappointment of what a female should be.)
But if anyone at Pixar could answer the question with care, I’d trust Ronnie. From knowing his stories of Nina—Ronnie’s anima, a young woman with a flustered real life and chaotic dream world—and our own occasional conversations. (I commend the people who can stay friends with me; he seems to accept me for who I am.) I think he can tell the story from the inside out.
The diverse animation experience of Mr. Lozano also give reason to hope. He was quite polite after the screening, staying to chat with the fans and one sincere if socially awkward actress.