The Blue Umbrella is one of Pixar’s latest highly anticipated animated shorts. They have become more and more famous for these short animated films, and this one does not disappoint. It appears before the new film Disney’s Monsters University, which releases in theaters June 21st. I got a chance to see the short during my press trip to Disney Pixar headquarters for the Monsters University film, it was breathtaking!
To me, The Blue Umbrella represents a silent love story of an unusual meeting in the busy city streets of New York. It’s cold and pouring outside, but that doesn’t stop the city from coming alive! The animators did such an amazing job of bringing the streets to life: drain pipes, mail boxes, pipes and gutters move about to the pitter patter of the rain drops falling. A happy little blue umbrella appears and spots a gorgeous red umbrella, who stands out from the rest of the crowd. He is smitten.
He looks for her as they separate, she goes further and further away. The Blue Umbrella catches a gust of wind and blows away. There is more, but you’ll have to wait until you see the movie to find out the ending! Such a cute and creative way to look at the rainy weather and hustle and bustle of a living, breathing city.
We got a chance to interview the director of The Blue Umbrella, Saschka Useld, and pick his brain a bit about the animated short. His creativity speaks for itself, read along about his inspiration and creative execution…
On the inspiration of different real cities:
There is clearly New York, because I went on two trips there to take photos. There is some of the characters, from the city characters out of San Francisco. They actually have all names because you couldn’t say, you know that weird metal thing in the 15th shot? So Lisa is two blocks down from where I live. And Lisa was part of a test I shot on my iPhone as well. During my pitch, I said the city comes to life, and everyone’s, like, yeah, okay. After the pitch I said, oh, by the way, when I said that, this is what I mean, and I showed a test I shot on my phone and animated on my computer at home. That was exactly the character two blocks down from me, and we kept that character. So that’s from San Francisco. There’s a building that is from a toy research trip. I looked through all the photos I had done from Paris at the time, and there is the building where you see just the rooftop with two windows being the eyes, and then the, the rain pipe being the mouth. So I think it’s mostly New York, San Francisco, and then a bit of sprinkled stuff.
On Pixar’s creative approach to bringing the city to life:
I think a lot of it was just approaching it differently. I love details in reality. For a fan I did a photo series of just sidewalk asphalt plates, and the way cracks one there, and they way they kind of, in some areas there’s more kind of these black dots from chewing gums, and on the side there’s something from a tree which probably stands 10 meters down the street. The complexity and the beauty of all these details you can see in the city. A lot of it was me and the team going on trips into the city and looking at all these details, like, on the side of a newspaper box there’s streaks of probably someone tying their shoelace, and then you have the streak of the black rubber from the shoe there. You put tiny details in there and there and there and stuff like this. It’s kind of like when you paint, you have certain mannerisms. It was getting rid of those mannerisms, and really having people look at those things. I think that made the… At least for me, that made a big difference between it looking like a normal Pixar film and looking so different.
On where the idea of using umbrellas came from:
The core of the story was… I was living here already since, like, four years or something. And it really rarely rained, and then finally it was raining. I went for a walk through the city, and I saw an umbrella someone had thrown away on the side of the street. I took a picture of it. That picture stuck with me and, I was thinking about stories I wanted to tell. You see this umbrella and it’s just an object, but it looks so sad, and it looks kind of so down and drenched. It’s a super sad sight. I wanted to tell a story with that. I thought about first the umbrella wants to get back to the owner, and it’s kind of a break-up story, like, someone broke up with you and you still want to be with that person, and I couldn’t find a happy ending to that. I abandoned that story, and then it became, the owner wants to move to somewhere where it never rains, and the umbrella doesn’t want to, but I couldn’t find a happy end for that either. And then I was thinking of why do I like the rain so much? It became me thinking about where I grew up it rains much more than here. I really like cities in the rain a lot, I think they become beautiful. The idea became, well, it should be a love declaration to the rain. The story should be, I want the movie to be, you love the rain. It’s about someone who loves the rain so much. It’s a love declaration to the rain, and I was, like, well, then it should be a love story. Like, that’s the only story that fits to a love declaration. It is a love story between two umbrellas.
Just wait until you see this short, you won’t even believe that it is completely animated! Pixar did an amazing job of making the city look so realistic. I love how the sounds of the city and the rain bring this love story to life. Be sure to catch The Blue Umbrella, opening in theaters June 21st preceeding the film Monsters University!
Disclosure: I am attending all events on behalf of Disney, I received no additional compensation. Everything I share about my experience is all mine.