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Leslie Iwerks Talks Pixar Story

With the American Cinematheque presenting THE PIXAR STORY tonight (Dec. 11) at the Egyptian Theatre at 7:30 pm, director Leslie Iwerks spoke to AWN about her critically acclaimed documentary about the history of Pixar Animation Studios.

AWN: What did you learn about Pixar during the making of the doc?

Leslie Iwerks: Certainly a lot of the in-depth history about Pixar, including the trial and tribulation stories that haven't been talked about, which I pretty much focus on. So it was great to get a lot of the human stories and to understand how much hard work and tension went into these great films.

AWN: What do you think has been the secret to their success?

LI: I think primarily Ed [Catmull], John [Lasseter] and Steve [Jobs] have personalities that have been able to jell together. And, from a leadership standpoint, the three of them are not only an amazing fit, but it took a certain quality by each Pixar director to live up to. So I think quality not cutting corners, not doing anything half-assed and leaving their egos at the door, has led to their great success. And everyone helping each other -- there's a real collaborative feeling and freedom at Pixar.

AWN: What did Jobs call it: "Unplanned collaboration"?

LI: Just to get people meeting and sparking new ideas.

AWN: What was the most difficult challenge in making the movie?

LI: Probably the duration. The time it took was the biggest challenge. We weren't sure how much time it would take. We started in early 2002 and then it was on hold in 2004 and 2005 [when Pixar's relationship soured with Disney]. I worked on it a little bit off and on until the Disney purchase.

It was also such an overwhelming amount of material: 600 hours of footage, and choosing the clips and how the story needed to get shaped, figuring out who's story are we telling and how we were going to tell it. One of the key points was getting a lot of support from the Pixar directors. We got a lot of good input from them, but it took a lot of iterations.

AWN: Were you surprised by the Disney acquisition?

LI: A little. But it was a perfect third act for my movie.

AWN: What do you foresee at Walt Disney Animation Studios under Pixar's leadership?

LI: I get a sense with John and Ed that they will stretch it beyond traditional animation: I think they're excited about trying new stuff.

THE PIXAR STORY will screen at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the historic Egyptian in Hollywood (6712 Hollywood Blvd. between Highland and Las Palmas). Tickets are available on