For 20+ years, stories and characters from Pixar Studios are ingrained in our American culture. Can you imagine a visit to a Disney park without seeing Buzz or Woody? How many times have you heard kids at a fish tank yell, “There’s Nemo! There’s Dory!” It’s now easier for kids to talk about their feelings because of Pixar’s INSIDE OUT. So when Disney invited me on a press trip to Pixar Studios to learn more about their latest film THE GOOD DINOSAUR, I couldn’t resist. Continue reading for a tour inside Pixar Studios and Archives – never previously opened to the press.
DISCLOSURE: I was hosted by Walt Disney Studios on an all expense paid trip to San Francisco, California including airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation, and meals to attend this press event and learn more about Disney’s films and shows. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
Entering the gated Pixar campus, it’s impossible not to flock to the larger than life “Luxo Jr. and Ball” icons from John Lasseter’s directorial debut in 1986. Of course, it’s also impossible not to stop for a “selfie” with the noted icons as well.
Steve Jobs purchased the computer graphics division from Lucasfilm in 1986, and established the company that would become Pixar Studios. The first building on campus is dedicated to Steve Jobs with an atrium decked with artwork for their latest film, THE GOOD DINOSAUR.
Steve Jobs designed the building himself, and intended its atrium to be a meeting/collision space, meant to draw people in with all the necessities in the center: café, mailroom, and bathrooms. [At one point the only bathrooms in the entire building were going to be located in the atrium, but they quickly realized that was impractical.]
Floor-to-ceiling banners of the dinosaur characters currently hang from the ceiling.
Note: the dinosaur Arlo (pictured above) is 18 feet tall, and would be “life-size.” The other dinosaur banners depict the animals smaller, as they would have to be taller than the Steve Jobs Building itself if actual size.
On the walls of the upstairs hallways, a concept art gallery is created during the production process of each film. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the space, but along the corridors you will find sculptures, models, pencil sketches, video demos, and more demonstrating each stage of the film-making process.
Wonder what happens to all this concept art after the film’s release? It heads down the street to the Pixar Living Archives – a space dedicated to gathering, organizing, and preserving all the materials used in the creation of Pixar movies. We were the first press group to ever receive a tour inside the Pixar Archives. Archivists and historians Christine Freeman and Juliet Roth gave us a fascinating peek at the materials – dating all the way back to the original storyboard drawings for Tin Toy by John Lasseter. For the longest time, Lasseter was the only artist employed at Pixar, and he designed everything for the studio. Tin Toy was completed in 1988, and was the first computer animated film to receive an Academy Award when it is named Best Animated Short Film of 1988.
Freeman went on to explain that the nugget of the idea in Tin Toy was expanded into Pixar’s first full-length computer animated film Toy Story. The Tin Toy character morphed into “Lunar Larry,” who eventually became Buzz Lightyear, and a ventriloquist dummy in the short evolved into Woody.
As the visual image of Buzz and Woody evolved, so did their personalities. Christine Freeman told us, “Woody was a real jerk,” but eventually softened to the Woody we know today.
The Pixar Living Archive contains over 5 million pieces of art in the gallery including drawings, paintings, models, and toys. Not all of the toys are recognizable either. The artists created their own “mutant toys” like a Hulk Hogan body with a CHiPs doll head stuck inside.
There’s so much creativity and a sense of collaboration inside Pixar Studios and Archives, and I was thrilled to get a chance to experience it. Seeing everything the artists put into their work, gives one a greater appreciation of the film.
However, all the technology in the world won’t replace a good story, and the artists at Pixar are all storytellers at heart. Disney•Pixar’s next story, THE GOOD DINOSAUR opens nationwide in theaters on November 25 – check out the most recent trailer below.