What a perfect time to visit Pixar — right as the team puts the finishing touches on part three of the series that many would agree symbolizes "the heritage of the studio."
The most rewarding part about Toy Story 3 Blogger Day, without a doubt, would be meeting the great folks behind Pixar’s films. This post is the first in a planned series of transcripts from a couple of roundtable interviews conducted during this unforgettable experience. Here’s what happened when we met up with Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson.
I started by asking Darla how she felt as producer of Pixar’s first sequel in 11 years. She noted that the hardest thing was "making sure that [the studio stays] true to those stories and those characters." Darla also joked about being "the only girl in the room."
This next question was bound to come up. How has Lee Unkrich dealt with the pressure of continuing a story which is essentially John Lasseter’s baby. "It was very hard at the beginning," said the Toy Story 3 director, in fact he still remembers when Pixar’s head honcho asked him to helm the sequel.
Darla compared it to Lasseter "handing the keys to the car." In no time Lee became comfortable with the idea. After all, he "made those movies alongside John," Lee continued, "I’ve been there since the first Toy Story." but he admits "it’s still a weird thing… [even though] he knows the aesthetic."
Toy Story is in Lee Unkrich’s DNA as much as it is in Lasseter’s. For that reason, Pixar’s CCO is still involved, so there was "no tension." Lee remembers the days when Pixar made one film at a time with the group of original directors, so, as Darla notes, they got "a lot of old-school folks" to work on part 3.
As for picking those people, the number one quality that the duo was looking for was passion. In fact, Lee "didn’t know how people were going to react" so he was amazed when he got such great feedback from Pixar veterans and new employees alike. "There was only one person who had any reservations," without naming who, Lee continued, "he’s kind of a curmudgeonly guy anyway."
Even with such strong support, the team acknowledged the amount of dedication needed to make part 3 a reality. "It’s a long haul," Darla emphasized, "you have to love it." In fact, the process for most leads takes about four years. When asked about reservations, Lee said that there were doubts, "but at the end of the day we’re making a film that we want everyone to enjoy.. I want [it] to be true."
So would Pixar ever consider a fourth Toy Story film? "Who knows what will happen in the future," said Lee as he noted that he doesn’t run the operations in Emeryville, "but I will say that in setting out to make this we very much did try to tell a complete story, not only across the three [films] but within this film." The goal was to finish Woody’s story arc but Toy Story 3 also stands alone so that people new to the series can still enjoy it.
Now onto lighter questions. I just had to ask; what were Lee and Darla’s favorite childhood toys? Lee is a huge fan of The Six Million Dollar Man which "inspired Zurg" and can be seen in the form of a lunch box during Toy Story 3. He also likes Hugo Man of a Thousand Faces, "a puppet with soulless eyes."
Darla doesn’t have a particular favorite but she was "really into [stuffed] animals… and Hot Wheels." Since she couldn’t pin point a toy, I asked her who her favorite Toy Story 3 character was. Again, she was undecided, tying Peas-in-a-Pod with Trixie. "They’re neck-and-neck."
This concludes part one of our roundtable transcripts. Look out for more soon. There are some things we can’t talk about yet, so I may bring back some quotes from this particular interview for later use.