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To Pixar and Beyond

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The author and Merida, both shooting for their own respective hands. Photo courtesy of Pixar.

Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to visit Pixar Animation Studios for a preview of the upcoming film Brave. Needless to say, it was exactly what I hoped it would be: Incredible(s).

We (assorted press/bloggers) were broken into groups (Clan Dingwall!) and sent on a whirlwind tour that included interviews with Mark Andrews (Director of Brave), Katherine Sarafian (Producer of Brave), a host of Pixar animators that worked on Brave, and also an interview with Enrico Casarosa who created and directed the Oscar-nominated short La Luna that will accompany Brave in theaters (we screened La Luna, and it was both sweet and breathtaking). However, all of those interviews and experiences are currently under embargo. Don’t worry, I’ll share everything before Brave opens!

What I can talk about is my visit to Pixar Animations Studios, and all the fun things that we were able to do.

We actually visited Pixar twice. The first night was for the aforementioned screening of the La Luna short and the first 30 minutes of Brave (plus dinner!), which is basically one-third of the entire movie. Turns out Brave isn’t quite complete yet. The story is locked (recently), but there is a lot of animation and rendering to be done. Even the portion we saw had lots of unfinished scenes, and the fact that it didn’t take away from the experience says a lot about the film. It’s going to be a good one, folks. Very good.

By the way, the theater at Pixar has the coolest ceiling I’ve ever seen. It is lit like the night sky, complete with shooting stars. If that was all they had shown in the theater it still would have been worth it.

Day Two

This is the courtyard outside the main building of Pixar (Fun fact — all of the Pixar buildings are named for parts of New York City.) Note the archery targets in the background.

To put the size of Luxo in perspective, consider that I am nearly 6’3″:

We were greeted by a piper, which seemed fitting. He played a bit in the Pixar Amphitheater and then led us like so many rats into the thick of things.

Once inside the main Pixar building you have to stop and catch your breath for a moment. It is deceivingly massive. The building was designed under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs and everything is perfect — he picked the colors for the bricks, influenced the architecture, and ensured that each nut and bolt were tightened by hand. It feels like a giant loft made from an airplane hanger. Along the back wall is this tapestry which plays its own part in Brave:

I’m just guessing, but it seemed roughly 10 feet high and twice as wide. I’ve been in smaller houses.

Remember the archery targets pictured earlier? Here’s the part they played:

Yes, we learned archery (from trained professionals). Yes, my form is fantastic. What can I say, I’m a natural.

We also took a course called Kilt 101, which among other things answered the age-old question, “what are you wearing under there?” Answer: “nothing.”

No, I did not get lessons in swordplay (or lightsabers come to think of it, what’s up with that?).

A good portion of the building was unavailable to us as they are working on upwards of six projects and didn’t want us sticking our big noses into them. Actual noses will vary.

However, we did get a pretty small, but highly informative tour with lots of insight into the culture of Pixar. There is art everywhere. Beautiful, wonderful art. Also, cool trivia — for instance, did you know that the title dish for Ratatouille was created for the film by Chef Thomas Keller of the popular (and expensive) French Laundry restaurant? Now you do.

I actually learned a lot about bagpipes (originated in the Middle East), archery (you don’t snap the bowstring, you roll your shoulder back), and kilts (they are wrapped eight times which makes them pretty warm no matter what you’re not wearing underneath).

More than anything, I learned what I want to be when I grow up. Pixar was, as I said at the beginning, exactly what I hoped it was — high expectations indeed. Walking through their doors I felt, for the first time ever in my 41 years, like I had found my calling. I was struck with such a powerful sense of creativity and being that it actually made my stomach hurt (but that could have been the Manhattans from the night before). That might sound corny, but it hit me hard. I’m mailing them my résumé.

And then we left for dinner and drinks and a night of fond reflection. Our laughter could light the city.


All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. I was Disney-Pixar’s guest for three days in San Francisco, and all expenses were covered. I can never thank them enough (but this post can’t hurt).

17 thoughts on “To Pixar and Beyond”

  1. That was really cool! Once I stopped and took Suzanne’s picture standing outside the gate. What? I made sure traffic stopped before I made her stand in the street! Can’t wait to hear more and see Brave!!!

  2. Reading about your love and admiration for Pixar made me smile. It really echoes my own feelings. In fact, I’m going to run out and send my resume to them too!

  3. I really LOVED your post! Wish I could have been there! Wish I worked at Pixar! Their movies makes me feel like nothing is impossible! Cheers from Sweden!

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