In celebration of 25 years of Pixar magic, the top creatives from the studio sat down for an informal chat at the D23 Expo on Saturday. On hand for the event were John Lasseter, Jim Morris, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, Mark Andrews, Dan Scanlon, Pete Sohn and Ronnie del Carmen. Scheduled but missing from the panel was Lee Unkrich. The “nine young men” told stories about Pixar’s past and reminisced about their time with the studio. Each Pixarian was asked to recall their favorite memory while working at the studio. Some of the stories were new and some famiilar. From the first SIGGRAPH convention to the production of the first Cars film, each panel member had a great story to tell.
Below are some highlights of the panel. And while we wish to tell you a little bit about what took place, it is difficult to capture the essence, the humor and the animated performances. As much as I hate to say it, you had to be there!
- Lasseter credited George Lucas for hiring Ed Catmull in the early development stages of the studio.
- Lasseter said the parent lamp in the short Luxo, Jr. is a father but the character is based on his mother.
- Andrew Stanton recalled the scooter races at the old Pixar building. This was also recalled in one of the Studio Shorts from the DVD bonus features.
- Pete Docter says he stole old doors from the San Rafael studio space to make an animation desk. Lasseter caught him, asked what he was doing and then joined him.
- Mark Andrews (still in kilt from the big Walt Disney Studios panel a few hours prior) recalled Steve Jobs not liking his initial design for the ships in The Incredibles.
- Bob Peterson did a few of the character voices he has done for the Pixar films including Roz, Dug and Mr. Ray.
- Lily Tomlin was originally brought in to replace Brad Bird’s scratch track for Enda More in The Incredibles. Tomlin said she like Bird’s performance and that they should just use that – which they eventually did, much to the protest of Bird himself.
- Joe Ranft’s scratch track for Heimlich in A Bug’s Life was consistently the popular choice after several celebrity voices were auditioned – including celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck
- At the premiere performance of Up at the Cannes film festival in France, actress Tilda Swinton was the first to stand up and applaud the film.
- Pete Sohn was a student at CalArts when Lasseter did a presentation and showed the first Toy Story to the students.
- “This is my race!” – Sohn told a very touching story of how at the beginning of his time with the studio he realized this is where he belongs – these “animation geeks” are his people.
- At the request of the group, a very lively Andrews recalled a story meeting with Brad Bird and recreated his slow-motion pantomime of a guy with two hand grenades. This was hilarious, completely visual and impossible to recount here in words alone.
- Ronnie del Carmen recalled getting his first John Lasseter hug, in front of Steve Jobs no less.
Those were only a few of the highlights of this very entertaining panel. There were so many more highlights and hilarious stories not recounted here. It was like watching the ultimate bonus feature on a Pixar DVD, only live! The camaraderie between the group members was obvious and infectious. It was a lighthearted, funny and entertaining peek behind the curtain at this amazing studio. With this panel and the others at D23, Pixar really went out of their way to make this year’s D23 Expo something special. Offering such accessibility and insight into the studio is quite generous and I think it speaks volumes about not only Pixar the studio but of the great heart of its people. Their success is not only earned but well deserved. Here’s to the next 25 years!
UPDATE: Many have asked for some video footage from the panel. We’ll do you one better. Here is the entire Conversation With The Pixar Creative Team panel from this past weekend (courtesy of YouTube user mrdaps):