When I first heard that Walt Disney Animation Studios’ BIG HERO 6 would be preceded by a short film called FEAST, I flashed-back to my horror days and John Gulager’s 2005 PROJECT GREENLIGHT creature feature of the same name. Aside from the title, the two have absolutely nothing in common, yet I couldn’t get the monster flick out of my head… until I saw Winston, the adorable little terrier at the heart of Patrick Osborne’s now-Academy Award-nominated short film about the love of a man as shown through the meals of a dog. So how did FEAST begin?
“You start by making a poster, so you can put a poster on your door and feel like you’re making a movie, because once there’s a poster it’s like a thing — for real,” said Osborne at a recent junked celebrating the in-home release of BIG HERO 6, on which FEAST will be forever-viewable for families everywhere. Ok, that’s taken out-of-context, so that’s not where it really started, but Osborne does point out that “You need to have your own personal in-studio advertising to get people pumped about what you’re working on.” That’s something I can personally identify with, as the once-writer of a few screenplays and comic books in my pre-Rock Father days, and Osborne is right – once that poster goes up in the office, you’re motivated. But for FEAST, it all started as a simple idea that was pitched along with several others through Disney’s internal system – one that 20-minutes after hitting the “submit” button, Osborne was called upon to pitch in-person – something he managed to push off for several months so he could refine the idea… an idea he’d forgotten about scribbling down once before, way back in 2006.
“A single person’s meals look different than one when you’re on a first date and are trying really hard — and a meal looks different when you’ve been dumped, etc. And there’s something to be said about ‘important’ meals as well, like weddings, birthdays and other celebrations that take place around the dinner table. It seemed like a cool thing to center a story on,” he explained while sharing some original artwork used in the development process. After documenting his own meals Instagram-style over a series of months, the narrative took shape as he focused on the dynamic between food centered in a picture, with all the adornments along the edges – one of which became a sketch of a dog, and that dog became the focal point of what just might be the ultimate foodie short that’s both not about food, but completely about food in one shot. Thankfully, an original thought of having Winston go the route of Bambi’s Mom was scrapped in favor of the positive arc that audiences have embraced.
With a background that includes making movies (“a lot of Iraq war movies,” he says) on VHS as a kid (another bit that hits close-to-home for yours truly), the journey to the Oscars for FEAST has seen Osborne serve as Co-head of animation in the early days of BIG HERO 6, preceded by work as an animator on WRECK-IT-RALPH, TANGLED, BOLT and more, along with supervising on another acclaimed short, the Oscar-winning PAPERMAN – all before the 51-week process from greenlight to completion on one of this year’s most heartwarming and unexpected love stories.
So where did the road to FEAST truly begin?
“My Dad was a toy designer at Kenner,” says Osborne. “I was a box model for CARE BEARS. He was Director of Design at Kenner through STAR WARS, CARE BEARS and STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, and I would always draw with him – using his expensive art supplies very liberally, and I remember getting in trouble for that. But my parents were very supportive of me, and going into art school is a risky thing. Some schools are worth it, and some aren’t.”
Looks like the Ringling College of Art and Design was well worth it.
And, speaking of toy design, Winston recently made the jump into the world of playthings, with the first run of plush dogs having sold-out through it’s initial release at Disney Store and becoming a sought-after collectible on the secondary market.
FEAST is available as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray and DVD releases of BIG HERO 6 (available February 24), and is available on Disney Movies Anywhere and Digital HD right now. See if it takes home Oscar gold when the 87th Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 22 at 7pm Eastern time on ABC.
Patrick Osborne photos by Ricky Middlesworth, ©Disney.