October 27, 2014

Post 167: Inside (But Not Out) Pixar

Hi everyone! As you know, Pixar usually doesn't let anyone just come in. The only ways are you have to be a employee, know a employee, or get invited for a special event. But now, there is a new article that shows I great detail what it is like if you get a chance to go there.

Here are some of my favorite sections from the article:
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"We passed a restaurant and a trophy case filled with Pixar’s awards, including Oscars, postcards created by children, and a much loved Woody doll to our first stop–the studio store that overflowed with Monsters University merchandise. I eyed a pennant and a couple T-shirts, but what really made me smile was an open-the-flap children’s book illustrated with ink and pen drawings. Most storybooks from Disney and Pixar usually repurpose art from the movies and very rarely is anything new made. Not only were these new drawings, but they were also an original artist’s interpretation of the movie. While studying the book, a mother and her daughter were looking at some items close to me. I glanced up as the child reached across the table in front of us and my eyes locked onto the mother. It was the same woman as the night before, who thought I was a teenage hoodlum. She did not notice me at first, but when she raised her head her eyes rounded in surprise and her mouth dropped open. Her daughter was pulling on her arm towards a stack of stuffed Sully’s and Mike’s, but she ignored it in favor of confused blinks. I waved my hand, smiled, and purchased the book. I wish I knew what thoughts buzzed through her head as she watched me leave the store.

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Victor was curious about what I purchased and enjoyed the book as much as I had (it was new to him as well). He was curious who had illustrated it and after looking at the title page said it was someone he knew from Pixar. My eyes popped out when I heard that, because I did not think Pixar took active participation in merchandising. Talk about in-house care. Victor politely told us not to take pictures of anything he was about to show us as most of what he was showing us was under strict copyright protection.   Not wanting to offend Disney brass, so off went the iPad and cellphone as we trekked up the stairs to the second floor of the Steve Jobs Building.

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The entire floor was a museum to the Monsters University film. One can assume the idea behind this was to give the animators a place to sit down and be totally immersed in the movie world or it was set up after production for the press and other guests. The walls were covered with framed concept drawings and doodles of characters and places in the film, while model statues, used by animators to see how light and shadow play off the character’s angles and to see how they would actually look in a 3D world, were under glass cases. The model statues were surrounded by the concept art that led to their creation. It was amazing seeing how the artists conceptualized how a character should look and how the idea evolved into the final product. Different ideas were tested out as much as possible. Some of my personal favorites were the ouroboros librarian and the reference art for Dean Hardscrabble.

Another feature in the pseudo-museum was a tablet loaded with maps and information on locations in the Monsters University world. Victor mentioned in his class that computer animation requires animators to build worlds from scratch. Animators can then play around in these environments and I have always wanted to do to explore these places on my own. In Monsters Inc., I wanted to see what was around the corner of Mike and Sully’s apartment or what was in the alleyway behind Harryhausens and in Finding Nemo I want to know more about Marlin and Nemo’s neighborhood. DVD features can only take you so far and this tablet gave me the opportunity to visualize Monsters University in a life size landscape.

IMG_0408The only thing that was able to tear me away from the tablet (along with the Sesame Street rule of sharing) was Sherri Squibble’s living room from the movie. Sherri Squibble is Squishy’s supportive mother, who would make every sitcom mother proud as well as raise an eyebrow due to some of her odd habits. Everything was perfectly replicated down to the floral pattern on an armchair to the brick on the fireplace to the cross-stitched picture of a house. If I thought the tablet was great, the living room was fantastic. The tablet offered me the chance to get a scope of the monster world, but the living room had little details one cannot see on the screen even with an HD television and pause button. Pictures of Squishy as a child and other relatives paired with monster bric-a-brac gave the illusion that this living room did not belong to a human.
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Also on the second floor was a gallery for animators to display their personal art. Pixar not only sports talented animators, but these folks are also skilled in other traditional mediums. I sadly do not remember the artist’s name, but his or her exhibit consisted of candy still lives. Still lives are never the most exciting exhibits. They require a patient eye to sweep out the details and how the colors play with light and shadow. Candy, because of its many colors and shapes, was the perfect way to make them more intriguing. The artist’s simple use of color immediately caught my eye and drew me closer to inspect each painting, but before I could spend the next hour to absorb all the sweetness we were pulled away to explore the inner sanctum also known as the office area."

"A Bug’s Life was a financial success and it gave Pixar the funds to build the Steve Jobs building (the building we were currently in). When they were crunching numbers to purchase office furniture, it was discovered that cubicle walls were expensive. As an alternative, some brilliant genius noted that garden sheds at a local hardware store were cheaper.

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The sheds resembled a child’s playhouse more than a place to store tools. Each shed was roughly ten by fifteen feet with a window, a door, and roof. They fitted two people comfortably with room to stretch. Rather than have a bunch of dull, wood tool sheds in a large workspace, Pixar allows its employees to decorate their offices however they want. The studio unleashed a creative barrage as the animators attacked the sheds with fervor to transform the ordinary into the entertaining. One shed had been painted like a plastic dollhouse, another employee had transformed his shed into a medieval castle, and, my favorite was a jungle treehouse fort that someone had added a second floor to. Victor said the more elaborate an office was directly proportional to the amount of free time a person had–usually the workers who did not have families waiting at home.
Situated among the sheds were regularly built offices that were no less decorated with themes and props. Victor told us he had worked in a shed once upon a time, but was booted out of his workspace for one of the more traditional offices. While he took us to his little corner of Pixar, he was unable to let us see his personal domain, hinting that he had confidential material relating to Inside Out stored inside.   I could only imagine the concept art he was using for inspiration and wished there had been something on display for the new feature.

Most work places forbid their employees from partaking in alcohol while on the job, but Pixar takes the opposite approach by actually building bars within the studio. Victor’s office was actually next to one of the more easily accessible bars called Ye Olde Knife and Fiddle, which comes complete with bar stools, a booth, fake fireplace with a mounted gun over the mantle, and kitschy knick-knacks supplied by the animators. It reminded me of those family-friendly restaurant chains that decorate their walls with junk from thrift stores. Ye Olde Knife and Fiddle added attitude to the same theme with an aesthetic quality that bespoke of inside jokes and love for Pixar’s characters. There was a fist-sized hole in a wall that someone had framed. Victor told us that one of his co-workers had punched the wall when they had found out Disney bought Pixar. I guess not everyone was as pleased with the acquisition as I thought it made sense financially. There was also a portable tiki bar off to the side complete with a wooden tiki god that could have easily slipped into my backpack, but I am sure someone would have missed the little idol and I left him to stand guard over the bar. Someone suggested we pop open one of the bottles and share a drink, but sadly Victor pointed out that one of our group was not of legal drinking age. The kid flushed and looked sheepish, but we brightened the mood by heading off to see The Blue Umbrella." -Whitney Grace, Rotoscopers

Those were just two sections from the article, their is many more sections but if you want to see the full article click this link. Pixar is a wondrous place that wants to keep their plans for safety and doesn't want to show you everything just yet, so I understand why they barely let people in the company. But when "the cat is out of the bag" about one of their projects you can check on this site and see what Pixar has to offer in the future. See you soon!

Do you want to ever go to Pixar?

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