The Pixar Experience: The Coolest Work Culture EVAR

You know how when you find out the mechanics behind certain things, they tend to lose a bit of magic? Not the case when it comes to the creation of Disney/Pixar movies.

For most of us, animated movies are our first introduction into the world of film. We’re ushered into bright story lands where animals talk, wishes are granted, and thousand year old spells are broken. And we believe it. No, I don’t mean in a way that we suspect our own pet hamster might sew us a prom gown overnight–but for 74 running minutes we are immersed, enchanted, and on the edge of our collective seats.

The Wizard of Oz was just a dude with a loudspeaker and a fog machine when that curtain was pulled back–when the curtains are pulled back at Pixar Studios, you’ll be just as wide-eyed and charmed as you were during your first viewing of Finding Nemo.

On Thursday, 4/1/10 (no jokes!), Pixar pulled back the curtains and let an internationally diverse group of bloggers–myself included–inside the gates.

This is my Pixar experience. Part I, anyway.

Ir began on the evening of 3/31, when we were shuttled through the rainy streets of SF to Emeryville, CA where we took our seats inside a private theater. The lights dimmed, the ceiling lit up with stars–and right after one shot across the artificial sky (that still conjured a good amount of ‘ahhhh’s among us) we got to screen the unfinished version of Toy Story 3.

Unfinished how? Randy Newman had yet to score it and some scenes still needed to be lit, explained Lee Unkrich. Unfinished bits aside, the third installment was incredible. That’s really all I’m allowed to say. My lips are sealed until June–but I’d place my bets on you adoring this film.

They sent us home with gift bags (contents, all of the TS3 variety: yo-yo, diary, mug, t-shirt, action figure, 1 & 2 on DVD, a backpack and a Buzz Lightyear lego set.) My mind was already reeling about the excitement of the next day.

After a “Tea Time With Bonnie” breakfast and some necessary caffeination, animators Bobby Podesta and Mike Venturini began showing us around. One of the most interesting features of the building is how the kitchen/cafe/bathrooms are all situated smack in the middle (the atrium, they call it)–you literally can’t hole up at your desk all day. You have to run into people. You have to have conversations.

The Render Farm was one of the first private (no pictures) areas we were taken through–a massive glass case of computer-y business that works 24/7. Podesta explained that each movie takes about 12-20 hours to render; Cars took 100.

The hands-down coolest area of the entire place were the animator’s cottages. Back when I was taking my high-level classes in Organizational Communication, I did a report on Pixar, and all I could find were 2 thumbnail images of the highly-personalized nooks described. I’m not about to remedy that situation, because we weren’t allowed to photograph, either… but you guys, it was mind-meltingly creative and awesome.

Their goal is to authentically make their second home as eclectic, comfortable and well-lived in as possible. They can drill, build, paint, hang or purchase whatever will help them achieve that… an animatronic band of bears, for instance.

Some of the offices are sheds, decorated to look like little houses. One has a patio with a chair. Animator Angus McCain built green castle walls on the outside of his office, and INSIDE he has bins and bins FULL of toys. Mark Walsh has a fully outfitted tiki room and Andrew Gordon has a secret speakeasy behind one of his walls. We were allowed to take pictures of that:

There’s a live feed that looks in on a neighboring pod–if they want to order a drink, they can call the Incredibles phone and do so. They bring their honored celebrity guests in this little hideaway–most recently, Sarah Silverman. Suffice to say, I felt pretty damn special.

It made me wonder why so many offices are so stark and bland. If my office was a castle with a secret speakeasy and 8 bins of action figures? I might never leave. I do have a great view, a sweet lamp, Patrick Stump’s face and decent set of magic markers, but what it comes down to is… I need more toys.

I have so much more to tell you! Another blog coming soon.