Lisa, her friend Tammy, Ellie, and an unnamed Googler and I had a wonderful visit to Pixar yesterday, hosted by former Googlers Matt and Tashana. The central exhibit outside of the main lobby was devoted to Toy Story 3, which unfortunately none of us had yet to get a chance to see except unnamed Googler.
Tashana was the production manager for Toy Story 3, so she answered all our geeky questions about the show, including:
What was the hardest part of the movie to do? It turned out to be the day care center cardboard box. We spent so many meetings discussing its attributes and spent so much time on it that the team thought we should make a T-shirt with just the cardboard box on it. I'm being a little facetious here. The garbage dump was also really hard to get right.
How many movies do you usually have in the pipeline at once? Do any of them ever get cancelled? There can be as many as up to 5 movies in the pipeline at once, and yes, some of them do get cancelled. It's rare, but it happens.
Do you ever have to redo movies because of story changes? Yes. It varies dramatically from movie to movie. Toy Story 3 was pretty stable, but Ratatouille, for instance, had a director change. The characters went from being able to walk only on two legs to being able to run on four as well, and that dictated changes everywhere.
Did you do the story first, and then try to get licensing rights for Toy Story 3, or did it go the other way around? We do the story first. For Toy Story 1, we tried to get rights to Barbie, but Matel refused. For Toy Story 2, they OK'd the scene. For Toy Story 3, they asked us to get more of Barbie in, because they realized it was good for the business. For toys that we designed, lawyers look through the design so as to avoid infringing on other company's rights. Cars, for instance was a headache because of all the stripes, logos, and other designs that showed up on the cars. We had to avoid any designs that could conceivably have started a lawsuit.
What about merchandising? Does Pixar do them in house? Disney has an entire department whose job it is to set up licensing and merchandising. That's what really pays our salary. For Cars, for instance, the merchandising revenue was $3B. John Lasseter took a personal interest in the toys produced from Cars, so for instance you can buy every character in the movie. That was a big help.
There was much much more, including character sketches, model packets, color keys, and other pieces of the process which wouldn't make sense without the exhibits. We were not allowed to shoot photographs of those, so I'm afraid you're going to have to pay a visit to Pixar yourself if you want all the details. On the drive home, Ellie, Lisa, and I resolved to watch Toy Story 3 when we got a chance, I think I definitely have to see The Incredibles again.