Pixar film editor looks forward to being special guest at Belfast Photo Festival

Currently working on the much-anticipated Toy Story 4, which will be released in summer 2019, film editor Torbin Bullock takes time out to share an insight into working at the award-winning Pixar animation studios with Jenny Lee, ahead of his visit to this month's Belfast Photo Festival

Film editor Torbin Bullock, who has worked on Pixar blockbusters including Toy Story, is the keynote speaker at the inaugural Capture Conference, launched by Belfast Photo Festival 

THE use of photography in music and film is explored in this month's Belfast Photo Festival, which celebrates some of the finest contemporary photography from Northern Ireland and further afield.

Brian Griffin’s POP presents a series of rare and previously unseen photographs of some of the most influential figures in the music industry between 1978-1987. A renowned album-cover photographer who has shot for Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop and Billy Idol's iconic Rebel Yell, Griffin's exhibition showcases alternative images captured during the photo shoots for classic LPs.

James Mollison’s body of work The Disciples, which will be presented as a large-format outdoor exhibition in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, is a highly entertaining take on contemporary music culture and the tribalism invoked by popular music stars.

Other off-theme exhibition highlights include Air of the Anthropocene by Robin Price, which explores air pollution, and Ready? OK!, a group exhibition of photographic works exploring race, religion, gender, sexuality, and politics in sport.

Torbin Bullock, a film editor at Pixar Animation Studios, who has worked on record-breaking box office hitsToy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc, Cars, Brave and Finding Dory, will make the trip from California to serve as the keynote speaker at the festival's inaugural Capture Conference on June 8.

The new event will include speakers from industries right across the creative spectrum exploring the use of photography in visual effects (VFX), virtual reality (VR), film, animation, gaming.

Bullock will also take part in a panel discussion on the use of photography in animation alongside Colin Williams, creative director at Sixteen South, whose latest show Claude is due to launch on Disney Junior, and Ruth Ducker of Brown Bag Films, whose credits includes CBeebies' Boj and Chuggington.

When Toy Story was released in 1995 it was the world’s first (CGI) computer animated feature film. Did you think it would become so popular and that you would now be working on Toy Story 4?

Working on that first Toy Story movie was the hardest, but also the most fascinating job I ever had. It was a good eight years of trying to push all the knowledge and technology we had to breaking point every single day, with no guarantee of success and just having faith in ourselves to make something new and fun. It probably wasn't until we were getting ready for our first audience preview we realised it was something special – but none of us had any idea it was going to be this iconic.

Who is your favourite character in Toy Story?

Rex. He has such a pure heart.

You voiced Gerald the sea lion in the 2017 movie Finding Dory. How did this come about?

It was super fun to play Gerald. Making any of these movies takes four years and for two and a half years we do a lot of storyboarding, with editorial lending our voices to the characters and getting all the mistakes, out of the way ahead of time. In the case of Gerald, my aim was simply to make my co-worker laugh. I made 20 minutes of Gerald noises, assuming that it would be replaced by a famous actor.

How did you land your job in Pixar in 1995?

I grew up in the film business as my dad was a film editor in the San Francisco area and I used to help him in the cutting room. I initially joined Pixar in my summer vacation to make money to go to college to do something else. It's hard to put into words the pioneering work Pixar was doing at the time. What everyone was making was so far beyond anything I had ever seen, so my three month job turned into a job for life because it's always been a case of me want to know what's going to happen next.

So what exactly does an editor do?

We take the best pictures and sound and make a movie look like a movie. After two years of recording our voices on storyboard sketches to see if the film is funny and makes sense, these images are recreated in three dimensional computer space and the actors are hired. Then we record a Tom Hanks or Tim Allen, we want them to add their creative force to whatever we are doing.

What is the biggest quality you need to be a film editor?

It is all about patience.

What is the secret of Pixar's success?

In Pixar you are trying to make something that the world will enjoy, but you have to start with just making your co-workers laugh. It's a highly educated and highly critical group, so if I can make the person in the next office think something is funny or interesting, the chances of it being funny for other people around the world increases exponentially.

Are Pixar still setting the standard for animation?

I think so. The core of Pixar's philosophy is: how do we keep making interesting engaging accessible films and stories that people want to see? There is a lot of great work happening out there in the world now and so a real challenge to continually push the envelope.

Are you looking forward to speaking at the Capture Conference in Belfast?

Absolutely. I am looking forward to reconnecting with people I worked with in the past in Pixar who are working there, but I'm also looking forward to meeting some of the people behind the great animation work that is going on in Ireland.

Are viewers in for a treat with Toy Story 4?

Of course. The only problem with making great movies is that every movie has to be as good as the ones before, so we are diligently working to create a film that is a worthy follow-up to Toy Story 3 that we are all very proud of.

Are Pixar planning to make Cars 4?

No comment.

:: Belfast Photo Festival will be hosting a special screen of Toy Story on Saturday June 9 at Belfast's QFT. This will be preceded by a Q&A with Pixar editor Torbin Bullock. For more information on this year’s festival, which runs from June 7-30, visit

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