April 28, 2009

There are nine bars at Pixar. The ones we saw were in the middle of makeshift shantytowns that look like those two-dimensional houses that encircle Old West sections of themeparks, except instead of nothing, the houses are filled with mad-genius animators. At least two of these animators' offices have secret passages that lead to swanky closet-sized lounges lined with photos of the Rat Pack and celebrities' signatures. When we walked by it on the tour, one of the bars was teeming with animators hooting and shaving each other's hairstyles into mohawks to celebrate the beginning of principal animation on "Toy Story 3."

When the lights go down in the main screening room, a skyful of stars appears overhead and two shooting stars streak across the fake sky. "Ooooh," go the Pixar employees in unison when the first star goes, practiced and ritualistic. "Ahhhh," go the Pixar employees along with the second. Their nonchalance is super-endearing.

There is a row of shot glasses perched on the windowsill of a room that houses their impossibly powerful computer rendering system. A sweat-drenched animator breaks off from the head-shaving ceremony to chase Donald down and geek out about 30 Rock. I see two people I know from New York who now work at Pixar and I do an awesome job of hiding my envy.

Three of my five favorite movies are Pixar movies and it is the kind of place that you would hope in the best of all possible worlds the things you love deeply come from. Everyone is sweet and open and great to talk to. Everyone seems benevolently obsessed with their work. I recognize several people from behind-the-scenes DVD featurettes and make no secret of the fact, because I supect, in part thanks to all the Muppets and guitars hanging from the walls, that I am in good and geeky company.

Towards the end of our tour I had a feeling I feel like you get less and less as you get older, which is, "Aw...soon this day is going to be over forever." It's the sort of feeling I'd get most acutely as a kid at Disneyland. When you go to Disneyland as an adult (or a cynical teenager) it doesn't quite cast the same spell because you see the pecuniary interests at work behind the whole thing and the veneer of "this is a place to feel like a kid" doesn't quite hold. But Pixar seems like this place where they have tempered the wonder of being a kid with the reality of being a grown-up and having to work. It seems like the Platonic ideal of the "cool office," where play enhances rather than distracts from the work, play is in fact necessitated by the sheer mind-busting intensity of the work, play infuses the work with life and joy that is impossible to manufacture. It is the sort of place where they bring filmmakers out to show their movies just for the fun of it in the middle of the day on a Monday, and then some of them go right back to work, and then some of them go shave their heads and hoot and holler in a mid-office Tiki bar and THEN go back to work.

We got to see the new short "Partly Cloudy" and three minutes of "Up." It was no surprise that they ruled.

Also I acted a fool up in the gift shop.

Thank you for having us, Pixar. It was one of the best days of my life.

Posted by DC at April 28, 2009 03:35 AM
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