Director Saschka Unseld Talks About the Innovation and Inspiration Behind Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella #MonstersUEvent

No compensation was received for this post. I was invited on a press trip to cover the film’s release and travel was provided.

As a single woman living in LA, I spent quite a bit of time alone, taking in the city’s sights.  I had all of the time in the world to leisurely explore and discover those places even the locals often overlooked.  As I sat with The Blue Umbrella director Saschka Unseld, I was reminded of what it was like to look at the world intently, taking in the beauty and seemingly insignificant details that give a city life.

The Blue Umbrella

On June 21st, Pixar will debut its latest short in front of Monsters University.  The story is simple: two umbrellas, one red, one blue, fall eternally in love. But what happens in this 6 minute short is nothing short of magical.  During Unseld’s time living in San Francisco, he would take walks through the city.  On one particular walk, he noticed an umbrella, thrown away on the side of the street. He took a photo of it with his iPhone and it stuck with him.  “You see this umbrella and it’s just an object, but it looks so sad…I wanted to tell a story with that (Unseld).”  As he explored all of the different ways he could tell this story, he thought about the cities he lived in where it rained a lot.  He thought about why he liked the rain so much and what that meant emotionally.  What he finally came to realize was that this story should be a love declaration to the rain…a love story between two umbrellas.


To help tell this love story, Unseld brought the city to life by animating inanimate objects.  When it rains, a city often becomes a different place and “I wanted the city, when it rains, to become a magical place where the umbrellas come to life” (Unseld).  These two ideas were eventually realized in The Blue Umbrella.  As you watch the short, pay special attention to the architecture as you’ll likely notice touches of New York, San Francisco, and Paris.

From the moment the first raindrop fell to the ground, I was captivated. I hadn’t actually heard much about the short, so learning that it was completely animated was quite remarkable .  Visually, The Blue Umbrella is whimsical and beautiful and utilizes new techniques in photorealistic lighting, shading, and compositing.  According to Unseld, new technical inventions are generally being used on every movie that is released, but with short films, “you can test something out without putting the production schedule of a feature into jeopardy.”

Saschka Unseld, The Blue Umbrella

Unseld’s creative approach often differed from those on his team. “A big struggle in the beginning was getting people to change how they work.”  Unseld loves the details in reality and was amazed at how much the artists and filmmakers were used to doing things in a more stylized, cartoony way. Having completed a photo series, Unseld explored those intricate details such as the cracks on sidewalk asphalt plates and the streak of black rubber on the side of a newspaper box from someone tying a shoe. There is so much complexity and beauty in the details you can see in a city, and Unseld used these details creatively to tell this story.


While the entire short is poignant and absolutely stunning, there are two stand-out moments that really resonate with Unseld. The first occurs as the film opens and those first few drops fall to the ground.  “It’s something you wouldn’t normally even stop for, but for me, it’s a beautiful moment” (Unseld). {spoiler alert} The second is when the blue umbrella gets hit by the bus and the scene cuts to black.  When we come back, we see the blue umbrella lying there…broken.  For Unseld this is the moment that ties back to the central idea that served as the origin for this story.

To read more about how The Blue Umbrella was created, visit Unseld’s blog Rainy City Tales 332.

The Blue Umbrella debuts in front of Monsters University this Friday, June 21st.

Images: Disney/Pixar, used with permission.


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