Newton, Reher and Wellins Talk Disney and Pixar Shorts
KR: Right. We had this one guy who was all over the place. Nobody knew who he was. He was a relatively new hire at Pixar. He was the only guy who knew how to use the ink and paint program. He did animation. He did rigging.
TN: He did everything.
KR: Nobody knew who this guy was! We were like, “Who?” He’d been hired, they didn’t have a spot for him so they put him on [Partly] Cloudy, then they still didn’t have a spot for him because nobody knew who he was, so they put him onto Day & Night. [everyone laughs]
TN: He did all the ink and paint by himself. One guy. The whole film!
KR: To answer your question about the story, Teddy worked with a story editor named Karen Paik. The two of them just kept working each one of the scenes. It forced them to say, “What does this mean, what does that mean, why is this like this?” They kept going through it. We had regular check ins with John and he would go, “Yah, I don’t get that part” or “This isn’t selling it. You need to think about this more.” [to Dean] Did you do regular check ins with John? Did you check in with other people at Disney?
DW: It was with John but not very often. It was every two to three months. I talked to him maybe 4 times.
TN: We saw him a little more than that.
DS: Everybody has a different trajectory into the business, different backgrounds and paths. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to be where you are now?
KR: You mean how I got so far on so little? [everyone laughs] I came in the finance door. I had worked on The New Adventures of Gumby and then The Nightmare Before Christmas. I came into Toy Story in the middle because the accountant hated Pixar and didn’t think it was ever going to be successful and that Toy Story was never going to get finished. And so I got in there and I wasn’t sure cg was going to have a future, that’s how dumb I was. [everyone laughs] So I came in as an accountant on Toy Story, then was a co-producer on A Bug’s Life and then I’ve been a development producer for the last 15 years. And I got to do some shorts.
TN: When I was a little kid, I always liked cartoons. Coincidentally, my father was re-modeling Richard Williams’ studio. He was a carpenter and he was hired to do this. I remember occasionally he’d bring back these pamphlets and write-ups of the studio. They were about all the people who were commissioning commercials from Richard Williams. I remember even as a kid, these pictures, they were so interesting to me. They would show all the drawings and how they went in motion. That was the first time I had really seen how cartoons were made and I became very interested. It pretty much stuck. Now and then I got interested in movies in general, but CalArts was a place where you could do both, art and movies, so that’s where I ended up.
DW: Same place. I started at CalArts.
TN: They say some high schools are feeder schools to Berkeley. Well I think that some schools are feeder schools to Disney and certainly CalArts is one of them.
KR: Wasn’t CalArts at one time called Walt Disney University or Disney U?
DW: Something like that. Yah.
KR: [talking to Dean] Did you like cartoons as a kid?
DW: I was always a Saturday morning Bugs Bunny guy. That’s what I lived for and certainly even now, it’s a huge influence on me. Chuck Jones, that sort of entertainment and comedy. My dad is an oral surgeon. Originally, I was actually taking the path of being an orthodontist all the way up to college. But I always drew pictures, I always liked animation.
KR: Your characters always had braces. [everyone laughs]