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A Tour Of Pixar

Photograph: Alexander Chow-Stuart.
On Friday, December 9, 2011, we enjoyed a most wonderful tour of Pixar Studios, arranged by my good friend, independent producer and ex-head of 20th Century-Fox, Bill Mechanic.

We had lunch with one of Pixar's writers, Simon Rich, whose credits include four years at Saturday Night Live and several of his own novels, including the recently optioned, Elliot Allagash.

Simon was not only fascinating to talk to about writing for Pixar, but showed a genuine interest in talking to our seven year old son, Hudson, about his own forays into animation...and Hudson's love of The New Yorker for its covers and its cartoons, not to mention Hudson's absolute passion for Andrew Stanton's/Pixar's WALL-E, his favorite film of all time, and the one that has done most, in its truly wondrous, extraordinarily moving and breathtaking way, to shape his view of the world and the cosmos.

We were then treated to an incredibly illuminating (to riff on Pixar's iconic lamp, Luxo, shown outside the studio in the accompanying photograph) behind-the-scenes tour of Pixar's "heart" - a beautifully imagined building, created by the designer of the Apple Stores (Steve Jobs himself even had a hand in the central placement of the rest rooms, to encourage social contact), where Pixar's magic is mined and divined as a result of a huge degree of hard work...perhaps mixed with an equal amount of hard play (the animators were wearing kilts in celebration of the studio's Scottish-based, female-centered, rugged and mythical next animated feature, Brave).

We saw one of the massive banks of computers - a twinkling room filled with machines turning binary ones and zeroes into art - where the "rendering" of each frame of film is done: the time-consuming (it takes many hours for each frame) and laborious work, now done by computers, but in pre-Pixar days done by hand, that turns the mix of script, story, humor, characters, background sets and overall esthetic design into individual frames that will eventually transform into a magical, emotionally-stirring motion picture.

We were also treated to our own private screening of a beautiful new Pixar animated short, La Luna.

Many thanks to Grace Thompson, Development Associate, for giving us her time to show us around and answer our many questions with inordinate goodwill and expert knowledge.

We all learned a lot - I know I did! And Paradise and Hudson had a look inside the mythical magic Chocolate Factory. Paradise is especially happy with her plush pink pig (Hamm) from Toy Story, Hudson with his wooden automobiles from Cars.

It was a wonderful, fascinating and unforgettable day for us all. Many thanks to everyone involved, including Mary Coleman, Jim Roderick, Ann Totterdell - and Bill Mechanic!

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