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Pixar story artist Trevor Jimenez took his experiences growing up with divorced parents as the inspiration for his animated short Weekends, which has qualified for Oscar consideration and is on track to be in the awards conversation this fall.
The short, which Jimenez wrote and directed, recently won the jury prize and audience award in the shorts competition at the Annecy International Animation Festival, as well as honors at two additional Oscar-qualifying fests, the Warsaw Film Festival and Nashville Film Festival.
Set in 1980s Toronto, Weekends tells the story of a young boy shuffling between the homes of his recently divorced parents. It mixes surreal moments with the domestic realities of a broken-up family.
Jimenez says that he did a drawing 10 years ago of a child leaving his mother’s house and getting into the car with his father. “People responded to it. I thought maybe there was a possible film there, based on my own experiences,” he explains, adding that as others spoke with him about his drawing, he found there was a “universal feel.”
He hopes viewers are “able to connect with the characters in the film, both the parents and the kid. The confusion and how difficult it is to be caught between two people that you love. Also, parents are human, they have flaws and are going through their own experiences and restarting their lives. They are all finding their way.”
Jimenez worked on the film through Pixar’s “co-op program” that enables employees to work on their own creative projects.
“I did some early design work, and [co-worker] Chris Sasaki then got involved. I credit him for finding the look of the film,” said Jiminez. Sasaki served as the short’s production designer. “We wanted something with a muted color palette and loose quality; it feels rough and unfinished. That was the look that we experimented with. The dream-like parts we pushed more,” Jimenez explains. “As kids, things feel surreal because they are new, and I wanted to use that since there is no dialogue, to show his state of mind.”
The Canadian filmmaker also licensed music that reminded him of each of his parents. For instance, Jimenez remembered that his father would play Dire Straits’ 1985 album Brothers in Arms, and so he used the British band’s song “Money for Nothing” in scenes with the dad. Jimenez’s mom liked Beethoven, and for contrast he used piano music for scenes at the mother’s home.
Jimenez says he took a year off from Pixar to finish the short. He now is working on the untitled next film from Pete Docter, who was recently named Pixar’s chief creative officer with Jennifer Lee, succeeding John Lasseter.
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