“I will warn you that what you’re about to see is an image of an extreme Tropical Nature. You may feel inspired to take a Hawaiian vacation, and we will not be held responsible for that.” — JAMES FORD MURPHY
Pixar’s animated short, LAVA, opens prior to the feature, Inside Out, this June. I’ve met with James Ford Murphy (Director) a couple of times and enjoyed listening to him speak affectionately about Hawaii, the people, culture, and I agree! You too, will be inspired to book a Hawaiian vacation!
Earlier this year at Pixar, James shared his inspiration behind the film, as well as his affinity for the tropical state. I too, was smitten by the Hawaiian bug when I visited with my daughter last year. It truly is a magical experience: lush vegetation, gorgeous beaches, a laid back environment with welcoming locals. I can see why people don’t want to leave, and completely understand why James dedicated his short film to it. Here are some cool facts I learned about Jim and LAVA.
Submit your Short Film ideas to Pixar!
Did you know that anyone can submit ideas for Short Films to Pixar? But you can’t just pitch one. You have to pitch 3 ideas. James has worked at Pixar for almost 19 years, but in his last role he was getting a little bored, and really wanted to reach out and try something new. “I’m gonna pitch 3 ideas of Short Films.” shared James. His only rule for himself was to create stories about things that he really loved and connected with emotionally.
Jim loves Hawaii
Ever since Jim was a kid he had a tremendous fascination with Hawaii and volcanoes. He was a huge Elvis Presley Fan especially since Elvis had a fascination with Hawaii. However, it wasn’t until James married that he visited to the big island for his Honeymoon. That’s when he really fell in love with Hawaii, Volcanoes, and particularly Hawaiian music.
He wrote the theme song, “I LAVA YOU”
When it came time for him to come up with an idea for a Short Film James thought, “Well, I have this love of Volcanoes and this love of Hawaii and Hawaiian music. What if I could write a song that makes me feel the way that song did when I first heard it, and feature it in a Pixar Short?” He wrote the song that you’ll see featured in the film. Plus, every single time James pitched the short, he would sing and play the ukulele.
James listed to Hula Music for an entire year, while pitching his idea.
“All I did was listen to Hula Music for a year because I pitched the idea that it would be sung by traditional Hawaiian Singers.” He searched and listened to every single singer that was available in Hawaii, and in doing so, he found out about a Music and Awards Festival called the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and Music Festival. It’s the GRAMMY Awards of Hawaiian Music held every May in Honolulu. James knew hat he had to be there, and this would be his opportunity to see, meet, and hear all of these wonderful musicians. James, along with Producer Andrea Warren left there blown away. He passionately shares, “Not only do we come away with the two musicians that you’ll hear in the film, but Kuana Torres Kahele from Hilo and Napua Greig from Maui, but we left with this new understanding. And, this new responsibility that dealt with this tremendous culture and this sense of Aloha that they speak of, and this sense of family, and this sense of place. And all these things were like, ‘Oh, my God, can we get all these things into the Film?’”
The singers grew up together.
It turns out that Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig actually grew up together. They were in Hula School together as kids. The friends call themselves Hula brothers and sisters. And some of the character’s designs are inspired by them as well. Napua has this really long hair and James thought it would be so cool to have that big Lava Rock flowing long hair with flowers. They both went to Hula School, so they’re both equally accomplished dancers and teachers, as they are singers and songwriters.
What are the names of volcanoes in LAVA?
Uku is the Lava Volcano and Leila is the Female Character. Together, they’re the Island of Ukulele.
James then treated us with a performance. Here are the words to the song.
“A long, long time ago, there was a Volcano living all alone, I never did see. He sat high above his bay watching all the couples play, and wishing that he had someone too. And from his lava came this song of hope that he sang out loud every day for years and years.
I have a dream I hope will come true, that you’re here with me and I’m here with you. I hope that the Earth, Sea, and Sky up above will send me someone to love.”
To me, this short film is about living out your dreams with the people you LAVA. =)
* I was invited on an all-expense trip hosted by Touchstone Pictures and Lucasfilms. Opinions are my own.