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What I Did On My Summer Vacation…


…or at least last weekend.

Due to a bit of uncharacteristic good luck, a trip back home last weekend led to a brush with Pixar. I had already decided to drive over to Winston-Salem when my BFF swingin’ Teddi Barra rang me up with the news that Pixar staffer David Park would be a featured speaker at the Reynolda Film Festival. Park was the Art Department Coordinator for Ratatouille and is currently the Animation Department Coordinator for WALL-E. Needless to say, I was in.

After getting up early on Saturday, we met up and headed over to Wake Forest for the festival. While sadly I don’t have any good documentation of the presentation, as it didn’t seem savvy to be snapping tons of pictures in a dark auditorium, I thought that I’d bring it all up here in case you, dear reader, ever have a chance to attend one of these talks. If you have the chance, be sure and go – it’s well worth it.

Park led off with a discussion of Pixar itself – its campus and its culture. His presentation provided us with a brief history of the company’s creation and culminated with an audiovisual tour of its Emoryville, California, campus. Both the technical and artistic halves of the company were discussed, with accompanying pictures and anecdotes from Park’s own experience. Needless to say, Pixar is an amazing place and I will shamelessly solicit tour offers from any of my readers from the domain. The tour of Pixar segued into a discussion of their core values which are well known amongst fans – the focus on story which is achieved through a constant, iterative process of collaboration.

To illustrate the process, Park walked us through the production of Ratatouille from its original concept to final rendering. While the actual animation process is not a mystery to any avid fan, it’s still fascinating to watch it play out from an insider’s perspective. Throughout the presentation, Park peppered his speech with little facts and stories from production that gave an insight that was missing in the film’s bare-bones DVD.

All in all, the presentation didn’t contain any earth-shattering revelations, but it was full of great art that I had never seen, and nice slice-of-life peeks into Pixar headquarters. It was highly enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their animation I.Q. One interesting tidbit: considering Pixar’s history of focusing on a new technological innovation in each new film, my companion Teddi asked Park what breakthroughs the company was introducing in WALL-E. Hedging a bit due to his NDA, Park said that all he could tell us was to watch how the camera moved. So – camera moves! Be prepared. I asked him what Pixar’s specific production contribution would be to its upcoming live-action co-productions (thinking of 1906 and hoping to get him to say something about John Carter of Mars), but Park said that it was too far out to know for sure about those issues.

So there you go, kids – my brush with Pixar. If their traveling roadshow ever comes to your town, be sure and catch it. I’ll now be quitting my job, packing my hobo sack and catching a boxcar to Emoryville. They can only pass me, sitting on the sidewalk outside the front gate, for so many days before someone lets me in, right?

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