DCA Film Club Week 4: Pete Docter's Next Door


23 April 2020

Welcome to week 4 of DCA Film Club! We'll be recommending great films to watch at home, before meeting in our Facebook group or your preferred social media to chat about the film using #DCAFilmClub!

DCA Film Club sees our Cinema Team talk about our favourite filmmakers by looking at their short films. We hope they will inspire you to go off and watch something else, be it online or at a cinema near you (when it reopens of course). You can read our Head of Cinema Alice's full introduction to DCA Film Club here.

This week, our Cinema Coordinator Michael Coull has chosen Next Door (1990) from filmmaker Pete Docter

Pete Docter is a name which might not be immediately familiar to a lot of people, but many of us are fans of his work, whether we know it or not. Docter is currently the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios, having been part of the so-called ‘brain trust’ of key creatives at the studio since the very first Toy Story, and has directed three of Pixar’s best-loved features in Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. What I love most about Docter’s work is that it always has a strong and dynamic sense of design, using shape, colour and movement itself to tell a story, and his three features display this beautifully.

"Many of us are fans of his work, whether we know it or not."

There is always a feeling that he is pushing animation in whatever direction his story requires, moulding it into something which is aesthetically beautiful but which seems richly familiar and immediately evocative. And of course, there’s that wonderful sense of humour; all 3 of his features revolve around a classic odd-couple friendship, and mine this well-worn trope not just for laughs, but also for exploring ideas of tolerance and celebrating (not simply overcoming) difference.

A self-confessed introvert and daydreamer, Docter tells of playing by himself at school and being so lost in his own world he failed to realise recess was over and that everyone had gone inside; a blunder which apparently happened more than once. He has talked openly about how, as an adult, he buries himself in his work, often to the detriment of personal relationships. It’s therefore not hard to see him reflected in both of the characters in this week’s Film Club selection, Next Door.

"The story is beautifully simple and immediately relatable..."

Next Door was Docter’s third short as director, completed in 1990 (when he was just 22 years old) as part of his education at The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and already bears many of his directorial hallmarks. The story is beautifully simple and immediately relatable; an adult curmudgeonly character tries to watch television while his neighbour, a young girl, plays outside his window, disrupting his routine. The story seems oddly prescient in these strange times as we all do our bit to stay indoors and unintentionally become more aware of the noise made by our neighbours in the process. It’s a film which is a soothing balm for this particular moment; one that illustrates and reminds us of that human connection so many of us are missing just now and which looks ahead to the times we can enjoy the company of our friends and families again.

Check out our film chat about Next Door in our DCA Film Club Facebook group (from Tuesday 28 April). Feel free share your thoughts and impressions with us at any time, along with your own must-watch movie tips - we'd love to hear from you!

Where to go next?

First, here’s a great video with Docter talking about Next Door:

Docter’s other student films are also available on Youtube:
Winter (1988) 
Palm Springs (1989) 

And there also similar videos where Docter talks about each short:
Docter talking about Winter
Docter talking about Palm Springs

We can’t recommend Docter’s features as director highly enough, all of which are available on Disney+ and should be available to rent or buy via various services:
Monsters Inc. (2001)
Up (2009)
Inside Out (2015)

He is also credited as writer on Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999) and WALL·E (2008).

The Pixar website has some great information and videos about their films – including some great insights into the making of Up.

A very short, but great, video essay about shape theory using Up and Inside Out as examples (also includes a spoiler for the end of Pixar’s Ratatouille!)

A nice video essay about how Docter uses shape and design in his films. 

Docter talking about Up in 2009 but also his approach to story and the collaborative nature of working at Pixar.

A 50 minute seminar delivered by Docter in 2015 called Inside the Creative Community: The Power and Process of Animated Film, which includes some insight into his early life.

An In Conversation With... from Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 where Docter talks about his career (some spoilers!)

2 short pieces which cover some of the same ground but have some nice anecdotes and insights: a piece from July 2015 where Docter talks about Inside Out and a piece with Peter Bradshaw in 2016 after Inside Out won the Bafta for Best Animated FIlm.

And finally, a brief article about Docter’s upcoming film, Soul (which was due to be released this June) and his new position as Pixar’s chief creative officer.

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