Tuesday, May 23, 2006

John Lasseter interview

The Pixar boss and now head of Disney's Animation studios tells his story to Fortune (via CNNMoney.com, May 17, 2006)

On design:
My older brother Jim, who passed away six or seven years ago, was a brilliant interior designer who studied Japanese design. What he loved about their approach is that they'll design something and then they take away until they can take away no more. We have adopted that same philosophy here in our films.
On innovation:
One day [Jim] said something that really hit me: "You know, what I think makes sense in fashion design is to take a really wild fabric and then make a classic pattern or piece of clothing with it. Either that, or you take a classic fabric and make a crazy pattern with it." He said if you design things that way, there is something familiar for people to relate to. But if you do both - take a crazy fabric and make a crazy pattern - people can't make any sense of it.
On how Disney almost turned Pixar into Dreamworks and its ilk - dark, edgy, cynical, non-Disney:

What was interesting is that Disney kept pushing us to make the characters more edgy. ... We soon realized this was was not a movie we wanted to make - the characters were so "edgy" they had become unlikable. The characters were yelling, they were cynical, they were always making fun of everybody, and I hated it.

When we told the Disney people, they were about ready to pull the plug, or at least move our entire story department down there to Burbank because clearly we didn't know what we were doing. But we asked them for one more chance to fix the story. So we called all hands on deck, stayed up all night, and redid the whole first act of "Toy Story" within two weeks.

When we showed it to Disney, they were stunned. That taught us a big lesson. From that point on, we trusted our instinct to make the movie we wanted to make. And that is when I started really giving our own people creative ownership over things, because I trusted their judgment more than the people at Disney.

On not making crap movies:
And so we're sitting there watching this film ... My little son - he was probably 6 at the time - was sitting next to me, and right in the middle of this dull section, he turns to me and says, "Dad? How many letters are in my name?"

I must have laughed for five minutes. I thought, Oh, man, this movie has lost this little boy. ...

And I thought to myself, If ever a child anywhere in the world leans over to their daddy during one of my movies and asks, "How many letters are in my name?" I'll quit.