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Pixar gives Ken Loach’s quest for editing tape a happy ending

The veteran director has refused to move to digital

Veteran director Ken Loach has found an unlikely ally to help complete what could be his final film: Pixar, the Disney-owned animation studio.

The acclaimed British director, who won the Palme d'Or for The Wind that Shakes the Barley, put out an appeal for film numbering tape, a pre-digital editing tool, to help complete his latest, and possibly last movie Jimmy's Hall.

His cry for help has been answered by a studio known for its state-of-the-art digital technology and responsible for films such as the Toy Story trilogy and Wall-E. They even added some of their artwork with the spools of tape, wishing him luck.

“We were delighted to know that Pixar is still in love with the same technology as us,” Loach told Screen Daily, the magazine that first highlighted his plight. “We've had a tinful of tape from a few other friends as well and we're very grateful.”

Film numbering tape was crucial to align sound and pictures for editors in the pre-digital era, who had to physically cut films together.

Loach, who has been making films since the 1960s including Kes and recently The Angels' Share, has refused to move to digital. Yet his stock of film numbering tape was close to running out, and without help would not have lasted beyond next week.

He publicised his plight last week, and said Jimmy's Hall could be the last feature film to use a flatbed editor.

“We're scratching around to find if some numbering tape still exists so we can identify the sound and picture so the film remains in sync,” he told the industry publication.

Salvation came from Marin County, California where Pixar Animation Studios is based. Steve Bloom, an editor at Pixar sent the studio's stock of numbering tape.

Bloom, who worked on the recent Monsters University, also enclosed a picture of the cartoon's stars Mike and Sulley in the editing room and a good luck card signed by nine Pixar editors.

Loach sent back a photograph of him and two editors in the pose sketched with the Monsters University characters.

The editing team now have all the numbering tape they needed after another editor, called Mary Finlay, brought in five more rolls.

Jimmy's Hall is about a communist agitator who has returned from New York in 1932, a decade after he was deported. He sets about re-opening the dance hall he had launched. The film is expected to be released early next year.