Pixar's Lava

Director James Ford Murphy talks Pixar’s ‘Lava’

by W. Andrew Powell

Director James Ford Murphy knows how to sell his first short film, Lava, with just a song. He should, since that’s how he first pitched the film to Pixar, where he’s been an animator since working on A Bug’s Life in the late 1990s.

Last year, at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, Lava premiered in the festival’s first-ever Short Cuts International programme, and Murphy came to town to talk about his short.

“At Pixar, it’s an open-door policy for pitching short [film] ideas, but the only stipulation is that you have to pitch three ideas,” Murphy said. His only hope, however, was to only pitch ideas that he was really passionate about, and the kernel for Lava came from a visit 25 years before when he honeymooned with his wife on the big island in Hawaii.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Hawaii, and tropical islands… because there’s just something so lonely and beautiful and romantic about that,” he said.

After seeing the big volcano in Hawaii, he was “captivated” by the “power and beauty” of this natural phenomenon, and after hearing Israel Kamakawiwo?ole’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” ten years ago, he booked a trip to go back to Hawaii and bought a ukulele there during a vacation with his family.

Watch the interview with Murphy where he also performs some of the song that accompanies the film. Lava is in theatres now ahead of Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out.

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