(Emeryville, USA) “The exterior windows of the building reflect our reflection. When you open the door, it is as if you entered through a mirror into a world of creativity. »
The building in question, the main campus of Pixar, is named after Steve Jobs, who headed California Animation Studios from 1986 to 2006.
Jeanette Marker, a longtime employee who is currently a production assistant on Inside Out 2, takes us on a tour of locations populated by characters like Woody, Buzz, Mike, Sully, and Edna. Throughout our walk, she recalls the impact of the co-founder of Apple in the creation of the premises of Pixar.
Since this is a working environment, it is not open to the public. However, La Presse had the chance to read it during a media event for the release of the film Elemental, in theaters since June 16.
“We moved in in November 2000 after four years of construction,” says our guide.
The visionary inventor bought Pixar from George Lucas in 1986 after leaving Apple – he would return there in 1997. The small studio had been around for a few years and specialized in special effects, but still had ambitions to produce films animation. After a few groundbreaking shorts—including Luxo Jr., featuring the iconic lamps and ball—the success of 1995’s Toy Story gave Pixar the means to realize its dreams.
Steve Jobs wanted Pixar’s new offices in Emeryville to do two things: “so that employees could be inspired by the outside world as well as the people they work with.”
Many architectural choices were made in order to realize his entrepreneurial vision. “To never forget life outside, the facade of the main building is entirely fenestrated. In addition, the brick path outside continues inside before becoming a wooden floor. The atrium, which takes up almost the entire ground floor, is intended as a town square that brings together the cafeteria, restrooms, café, lunch area, souvenir shop and cinema, lists Jeanette Marker. It’s very easy to stay within the four walls of your office when doing computer animation. We make films that tell the human experience, so you have to live it to do it well. »
Steve Jobs was so keen for his employees to meet and chat as often as possible that he initially suggested that a single toilet be set up in the entire building. “Not many people said no to Steve Jobs, but enough did to make sure we had enough toilets,” laughs Jeanette Marker.
A Parisian train station – the main building is split in two, like platforms – and the city of New York also inspired Steve Jobs in the development of the Pixar campus. “We are located on Park Avenue and the offices are organized in a quadrangle. The other buildings are named after New York neighborhoods: Brooklyn, West Village, Soho, Uptown, and Ellis Island,” our guide says. These house various divisions of the company: development teams, recording studios, archives and gymnasium. A swimming pool as well as soccer, basketball and beach volleyball courts are also available to employees.
Along with the adorable characters hidden throughout, the premises are decorated with gorgeous production designs, plenty of artwork, and 11 Oscars – those won for Animated Movie of the Year. Plants, trees and other vegetation green the property and provide fresh produce on the cafeteria menu. Last amazing thing we saw: one of the first 3D TVs in the world that doesn’t require glasses!
Peter Sohn, director of Elemental, has been an employee of Pixar for about 20 years. He started out on the Finding Nemo storyboard team. He held the same role for a few other films in addition to lending his voice to secondary characters, including Emile, of Ratatouille, before writing and directing a first short film, Partly Cloudy, then doing the same for The Good. Dinosaur.
During our stay in California, we asked him how one person can occupy so many different positions in the same company.
Bob Peterson, who wrote and directed Elemental’s prequel short, Carl’s Date, has been with Pixar since 1994. He started out in the old TV commercials division before joining Toy Story’s animator group. He, too, contributed storyboards to a few films and voiced characters, including Roz from Monsters, Inc. He also co-wrote Finding Nemo and Up, which he co-directed. We also met him in Emeryville.
“At Pixar, every project leads to another. If you’re part of the story development team, you don’t just draw scripts, you present your ideas. I believe that participating in the creation of the story is the best way to move on to writing or directing, believes Bob Peterson. Today, people are more specialized and wear only one hat. In the 1980s, my hats went to the sky, because I had to model the objects, animate them, write the story and everything else. Pixar allowed me to continue to do everything and still allows it. »
1. The Incredibles 2 (2018) US$1.243 billion (22nd all-time)
2. Toy Story 4 (2019) 1,073 milliard US (38e)
3. Toy Story 3 (2010) 1,067 milliard US (39e)
4. Finding Dory (2016) 1,029 milliard US (45e)
5. Finding Nemo (2003) 942 millions US (64e)
6. Inside Out (2015) 859 millions US (86e)
7. Coco (2017) 814 millions US (96e)
8. Monsters University (2013) 744 millions US (127e)
9. Up (2009) 735 millions US (129e)
10. The Incredibles (2004) 632 millions US (164e)