The Blue Umbrella is a 2013 Pixar animated short film that will be released with the theatrical release of Monsters University. It is directed by Saschka Unseld and produced by Marc Greenberg. The score of the short is provided by Jon Brion, and includes vocals by Sarah Jaffe.
- "It is just another evening commute until the rain starts to fall, and the city comes alive to the sound of dripping rain pipes, whistling awnings and gurgling gutters. And in the midst, two umbrellas — one blue, one not — fall eternally in love."
Unseld said he conceptualized the story after finding an abandoned umbrella one rainy day in San Francisco, which led him to imagine its backstory. As inspiration for characters, Unseld and his colleagues took photographs of inanimate objects found in city streets throughout San Francisco and New York City, as well as Chicago and Paris.
The short opts for a photorealist design, unusual for Pixar. Unseld thought this was crucial in order to convey the atmosphere of the rainy city. To achieve this appearance, Pixar used new technologies, it did not use in previous films, like "global illumination", a simulation of how light is emitted and reflected off surfaces (and which will also be featured in Monsters University), and "deep compositing", the layering of images that hold three-dimensional data.
Unseld mentioned a notable difficulty of the short was figuring the appearances of the umbrellas' faces. He found that using a realist approach, like forming the faces with raindrops or imprinting them in the cloth was odd, and preferred a stylized appearance inspired by the look of early Disney animations.
A tumblr blog called Rainy City Tales 332 and run by Unseld, quietly followed the development of the short since February 2012, but always in an indirect fashion, never giving away the plot of the short or name of the producing studio.