Interview with Jim Murphy (PIXAR)

IMG_5159On August 22, day two of the Hiroshima Animation Festival, PIXAR screened the world premier of their new short, “LAVA.” It is basically a cute love story, with the use of the word “lava” instead of love. Which makes sense, because the main characters are volcanoes. The director Jim Murphy called the two volcanoes Uku and Lele which go together “ukulele” which we hear throughout the film.

After the presentation, Kuana Torres Kahele, the Hawaiian singer who voiced the narrator and Uku the Volcano in “LAVA,” sang two of his songs. After the program, Jim Murphy, producer Andrea Warren, and Kuana Torres Kahele signed posters. Even the festival’s mascot, Lappy, got a signed poster! After the screening of the short, the presentation, and a long line of poster signing, my sister, Kira, and I had the priviledge of interviewing  the producer Andrea Warren and director Jim Murphy.


We learned a little bit more about some of their thought process in creating their characters and the creativity behind the short, including why they didn’t name the volcanoes in the short, and which words were used in the lyrics and why.

The audience doesn’t learn the volcanoes’ names during the short you don’t need their names to understand the story and song. The essence was there. Their names weren’t needed for the story, but were still something for the people working on the project to call the characters. However, though the names weren’t used in the movie, postcards depicting the friendly volcanoes are being made, with the words “Come visit Mauna Uku!” and “Come visit Mauna Lele!”

For those interested in going into animation, we also found out firsthand some important aspects on getting to work at PIXAR, and virtually any other animation studio.


The most important thing you can do to get into animation is work on your drawing and storytelling.

Other things that you should do and know about include:

  •  Become “a student of human behavior.” Learn how to see personalities and emotions through postures and the positioning of your characters. “Study how things move.”
  • Watch movies. “Learn the language of film and [be] able to draw it.”
  • You can use any program. If you like it and it is accessible to you, it is great software.
  • Work hard and be patient. You won’t know what you like until you do things you don’t like.
  • Make a portfolio of your work. Put effort into your portfolio, and send it in when you want to apply to a studio. Show a wide variety of what you can do.
  • Be confident!


Rina: For people who want to get into PIXAR, or get into animation, how would you recommend doing that?
Warren: Well I think it depends on what you want to do at PIXAR. There is actually a lot of different kinds of jobs. There is animation, and I assume that is what you are talking about. Well, Jim is an animator, so I will let you answer that.
Murphy: Yeah  I think that art… because with the art side, there are several different avenues…you would really need to draw a ton, watch a lot of movies, and figure out how different directors and filmmakers stage…
Warren: the camera…
Murphy: scenes…
Warren: different moments
Murphy: or how they close their shot
Warren: if there is one person talking or two
Murphy: just learning the language of film and being able to draw it. Or there is art. And art is actually designing the world, where the film takes place, or the characters. It’s fun, you just ask “What does this world look like?”  And you [also] have to understand color and light and composition and design…
Warren: [there are also] fun challenges, things like… “What does a monster factory that works on scream power look like?” It can look like so many different things, but the designers get to figure out things like that.
Murphy: And then if it is animation, then you want to become, well you want to work on your drawing. No matter what you do you want to work on your drawing. You want to work on your drawing because it is your way of communicating your ideas. So you want to work on your storytelling and drawing. In animation you want to become a student of human behavior.



Writing about Hiroshima for over twenty years. Co-founded GetHiroshima in 1999 and founded the sustainability-focused InboundAmbassador business in 2019. Monthly CleanUp and Seeking Sustainability event organizer, guide workshop facilitator, online content creator and tourism destination consultant. Passionate about promoting solutions in Japan for people and the planet.