Pixar’s “Up” at Cannes; Pete Docter Talks Faith and Filmmaking

I’m happy to see Pixar’s new film opening on the kind of platform that the studio deserves. Up is opening the Cannes Film Festival with a presentation in Disney Digital 3-D on Wednesday May 13th, 2009. That marks the first time an animated film has opened the festival. Wish I could be there.

Writer/director Pete Docter was interviewed in Radix (thanks to the CT blog for the link) back when Monsters Inc. was released. Here’s an interesting excerpt:

Radix: How would you say that being a Christian affects how you do your work?

Docter: Years ago when I first spoke at church, I was kind of nervous about talking about Christianity and my work. It didn’t really connect. But more and more it seems to be connecting for me. I ask for God’s help, and it’s definitely affected what I’m doing. It’s helped me to calm down and focus. There were times when I got too stressed out with what I was doing, and now I just step back and say, “God, help me through this.” It really helps you keep a perspective on things, not only in work, but in relationships.

At first you hire people based purely on their talent, but what it ends up is that people who really go far are good people. They’re good people to work with, and I think God really helps in those relationships.

Radix: I know you do a lot of praying, and that’s a big part of the artistic part of what you guys do.

Docter: Yes. You could probably work on a live-action movie that takes maybe six months hating everybody else and you’d still have a film. But these animation projects take three or four years, and it’s really difficult to do without having a good relationship with the people you’re working with.

Radix: Do you ever see yourself making a more explicitly Christian movie?

Docter: Not at this point. I don’t know that that’s really me. I don’t feel so comfortable with that. Even if you have a moral to a story, if you actually come out and say it, it loses its power. Not that we’re trying to be sneaky or anything, but you have more ability to affect people if you’re not quite so blatant about it. Does that make sense?

Radix: That seems right in line with what Jesus’ parables were too. He tended not to come right out and explain, “This is what I was trying to say.”

Docter: To me art is about expressing something that can’t be said in literal terms. You can say it in words, but it’s always just beyond the reach of actual words, and you’re doing whatever you can to communicate a sense of something that is beyond you.

That’s refreshing to hear, as I read through reviews of Cyndere’s Midnight where a couple of Christian book critics are scowling at me for “burying” my faith and refusing to make my themes clear. Personally, I like to let readers discover the themes by thinking for themselves. I like to tell a story and let the audience decide its implications about the world and faith. If I just tell them what it means, then I am presumptuously limiting what the story can convey, and I am depriving readers of the experience of coming to their own conclusions… and that’s the very act that makes a story “stick.” So I cheer once again for Pixar, whose films mean as much to me as any live-action films made for adults.

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