By Tara Beyhm-Berger
Who says there are no celebrities in Animation? We arrive at Pixar an hour early, the van is buzzing with excitement. We are about to meet some of the ROCK STARS of animation. To be granted a tour at Pixar is a privilege not extended to everyone, it’s a closed studio. But we are not just some shmoes off the street here, this is AWN’s Oscar Tour and the 200+ capacity theatre at Pixar is completely full, some of the industry’s finest are sitting in the aisle, waiting to see what and whom Ron has brought this year!
You can’t call the workstations at Pixar, cubicles, it’s a fascinating village, each station is highly decorated and thematic, some people have converted tool sheds to be their home away from home. We pass by one of the 9 bars in this bizarre neighborhood; it’s decorated like a ski lodge. We are told we just missed “battle of the bands.” The work hard, play hard mentally at Pixar is not just a cliché.
We are taken to animator Adam Burkes’s office, which from the outside is pretty standard looking. Adam points to a small door, a big vent actually, and tells us to crawl inside (think Being John Malkovich). We all give a nervous laugh at first then realize he’s serious. I’m a bit claustrophobic so I lag behind until I hear uproarious laugher from inside; I take a deep breath and enter “The Love Lounge.”
Being an Oscar nom, Javier is invited to add his name to the signed walls. There are 100’s of other notable “patrons” such as; Quentin Tarantino, Tom Waits, Nancy Cartwright, Sasha and Malia Obama.
Pixar spends a lot of time and resources devoted to research and development. On display is some of the development art for UP! It’s amazing to see the maquettes used for character development and some of the artwork created before and after research trips to the Amazon. Pixar spends years in development, a luxury not afforded to smaller studios and the folks from Kandor Moon are well impressed.
I thought we took a wrong turn and wound up in the Pixar toy store when actually, we were standing in John Lasseter’s office. There is not one shelf or table surface that isn’t covered with Pixar merchandise. On his walls are framed letters from fellow legends such as Chuck Jones and signed animation cells; including a very funny cell from the Brian Boitano scene in the South Park Movie. The cell has three construction paper cutouts of Brian Boitano; Trey Parker signed “Keep up the hard work, it will pay off someday.” From Matt Stone, “Don’t give up! Your dreams can come true!” Brian Boitano signed in the middle “Did someone say my name?”
Javier was star struck after meeting one of the founders and current president of Disney animation studios and Pixar, Edwin Catmull, who upon hearing Oscar tour was in the house, came to find us!