Thursday, October 28, 2010

Visiting the Pixar Studios: the Best Part of Disney

Living in Northern California, it often feels like you're in the ugly step-child part of the state. Southern California has everything, from Hollywood, to beaches that aren't freezing cold, to Disneyland the the Disney Studios in Burbank.

Me with Luxo Jr. at the Pixar Studios. It was cheesy, but I wore
my Woody backpack and Disney family museum t-shirt. I had
to get into the spirit. 
Though the southern part of the state may have be flashier, the north doesn't lack in substance. We've got Apple's headquarters, the Disney Family Museum, and the best part of Disney's movie division, Pixar Studios in Emeryville, CA, just outside of Oakland. Step-child: maybe. Ugly: definitely not.

I was lucky enough this past August, through a friend of a friend who's now my friend, to get a tour of the parts of the Pixar studios that aren't off limits (AKA, everything that's not carpeted).

They were constructing a new building when I visited, so I didn't get to go through the glamourous front gates, but instead through the back. The first thing I saw when I got on the lot was a Tesla charging up. Pretty fancy.

I got my name tag, found a parking spot and made my way to the front doors of the studios. It was here I met my host, who pointed out to me the window of John Lasseter's office. I was window-star-struck, probably for the first time.

I was then taken into the building, which had a huge wide open hardwood-floored area. On the left and the right were the wings of the building where the people at Pixar got down to business, and where I was not allowed. I then went up the stairs to the second level, where concept art, models and various other things used to bring the ideas of Pixar's genius to the silver screen. It was striking to see the beautiful art, intricate models and complicated storyboards, most of them from the most recent release, Toy Story 3. I also caught a glimpse of Peter Sohn, the man who's face was Russel in Up's inspiration. The resemblance was glaringly apparent.

I was then shown the screening theater, where I have never seen a more vibrant picture and heard better sound, and I was only in there for a few minutes. It was then on to the hall of fame, where all the famous actors who have worked on the Pixar movies left their signature. Larry the Cable guy signs every time he visits.

After this, it was lunch time, where I had many delicious options to choose from. Pixar is known for its amazing chefs, and if that's not your thing, there's an always-open cereal bar. It's a big hit with the employees. Speaking of employees, all the interns were dressed up like 80's glam rock stars, adding to uniqueness of the experience.

Time for the gift shop, a small room filled with great, very affordable merchandise. I'm used to the high prices of Disneyland where the shirts are all $20, and that's a bargain. Here, I got 6 shirts, a couple of stickers and a handful of only-available-at-Pixar posters, all for around $60. The woman running the store and I struck up a quick friendship, as the atmosphere at the studios seems to breed friendliness.

My tour was over, and I had one last thing to do. Take a picture with the Luxo Jr. Statue.

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