Wednesday, November 07, 2007

2007 IAF—The Pixar Story

Per the IAF program: Detailing the meteoric rise of the Bay Area-based juggernaut, The Pixar Story is a live-action documentary that illustrates the cross-pollination of expertise at the base of the pioneering company. In particular, the film traces the backgrounds and fortuitous intersection of John Lasseter (animator), Ed Catmull (scientist) and Steve Jobs (entrepreneur), which gave rise to one of the most successful film production companies in filmmaking history. Featuring candid interviews with these principals, along with George Lucas, Roy Disney, Brad Bird, Tom Hanks and many others, in concert with great historical footage of the early days at locations such as Pixar, CalArts, Disney Studios and the University of Utah's computer graphics laboratory, The Pixar Story offers a new perspective on the animation business for novices and experts alike. This special screening and reception will feature director Leslie Iwerks and an onstage discussion with a bevy of Pixar artists.

Although the version of Leslie Iwerks' documentary The Pixar Story that previewed in late July at San Diego's Comic-Con was well polished, it was not quite complete (even after six years in the making), with credits still in flux and clearances still pending on a few of the clips. Peter Debruge gave it a favorable Variety review anyway, describing it as a "rosy inhouse portrait" rightfully attributing Pixar's success to "savvy planning on the part of Lasseter ('talented artist'), Catmull ('creative scientist') and Jobs ('visionary entrepreneur')" and just as rightfully reminding of how remarkable that chance combination proved.

Kirk Honeycutt noted the same for The Hollywood Reporter when he reviewed it's official "world premiere" at this year's Mill Valley Film Festival: "The 'overnight' success of Pixar Animation Studios has seemed like such a smooth rocket, going further and further into the frontier of computer animation with each new film, that Leslie Iwerks' documentary about that ride, The Pixar Story, is a jolting reminder of what a risky business venture it truly was. An unstable combination of sheer determination, unending struggle, initial failures and gut instinct, it took an almost karmic combination of talent and fortuitous events to get that baby off the ground. Many, many people participated, but the film rightly zeroes in on John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and their entrepreneurial godfather and backer, Steve Jobs, who all but willed the Pixar success into reality."

And it really is a great, rousing, inspiring story, which Iwerks' documentary captures skillfully, letting you feel as if you're participating in the risks, the failures, the triumphs. With its wealth of clips, some of never-before-seen footage combined with more familiar scenes from the studio's award-winning films, I experienced a keen sense of just how much these films have impacted my own life over the years. Where did you first see Toy Story? Where did your first see Finding Nemo? Where did you first see Ratatouille? Clearly, from our many perspectives, we've all shared the same ride and, for all of us, movies serve as temporal markers—events—in our individual and collective lives.

Honeycutt relayed that Iwerks means to qualify the film for Oscar consideration and that she then hopes to secure a theatrical release. But the documentary's real value, he predicts, "will undoubtedly be as a DVD with expanded footage of the interviews and behind-the-scenes peeks that didn't make it into the 86-minute feature. This film will be an invaluable resource for film and animation historians, as well as multitudes of Pixar fans, from here to infinity and beyond."

Cross-published on Twitch.


Anonymous said...

The last name of the doc director caught my eye. I looked her up at IMDb and sure enough, Leslie Iwerks is the grand-daughter of animation pioneer Ub Iwerks.

Michael Guillen said...

That's exactly right, Peter. Nothing like keeping it in the family, eh?