Uku, the lead character in Pixar Animation’s new short film, is crusty and prone to eruptions, but with a warm core underneath.
Director James Ford Murphy says the movie isn’t about a man, it’s about a volcano. The seven-minute musical love story between two mountains — Uku and Lele — will premiere at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan in August. “I thought it would be so cool to fall in love with a place who’s also a character,” Murphy said in an interview. “I wanted to make Uku appealing and likable but also look like he’s been carved out of lava flows.”
The concept for Lava appears to be an homage to classic Disney shorts about anthropomorphic love like 1954’s Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet, and 1952’s Susie the Little Blue Coupe.
Murphy learned to play ukulele and wrote a love song, “Lava,” which appears in the film and is performed by Hawaiian recording artists Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig.
“This whole story has been an exercise in contrast,” Murphy said. “Volcanoes are so destructive, but they’re so creative. They’re so powerful in their eruptions but they’re so peaceful.”
“Lava” will open in U.S. theaters June 19, 2015, ahead of the Pixar feature “Inside Out.”
Pixar’s next full-length feature is entitled Inside Out and follows an 11-year-old girl named Riley who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco on the brink of her adolescent years. Her emotions become the characters as avatars — Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kailing), Fear (Bill Hader), Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).
The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.