John Lasseter has a firm handshake. You see a guy in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and your first thought is this must be one of those free thinking who cares what the world thinks? I’m gonna wear what I want and dance to my own drum type people. But the handshake says differently. It sizes you up, puts you in your place. Tells you it belongs to a man who knows what he wants, who’s in complete and total control. This is what makes John Lasseter such a compelling figure: at once one of the leading creative minds in animation (Toy Story, A Bugs Life, Cars, Luxo Jr.), whilst at the same time the shrewdest of businessmen (Lasseter is the largest shareholder in Disney; Pixar is valued upward of 7.4 billion).
In the third of five interviews running this week (in conjunction with the release of Cars 2 on Blu-ray/DVD today), I speak ever so briefly with the big man himself – John Lasseter (I was only allotted two questions). Click through to watch as Lasseter explicates on the fish-out-of-water dynamics of the Cars series and what he finds so darn fascinating about inanimate talking objects.
Upon entering forth into the hallowed halls of Pixar, I was struck by a smudge of disappointment. Perhaps this was due to impossibly raised expectations – promises of the greatest wonder in the world, where people scurry around on roller-skates pegging each other with gumdrops. The reality that Pixar’s just a two-story office building was, well, …disappointing. Not until I began to look around at the details of my surrounding(s), did I appreciate the environment. The second floor walls are decked in Pixar related artwork, storyboards, lighting tests, co-worker memorabilia. In effect – becoming it’s own private art gallery. It’s the smartest means of employee motivation I’ve yet seen. The thought extends to the very design of the building – as originally Steve Jobs intended there to be only two bathrooms on the first floor. The intent was to force people out of their desks to interact with employees on either end of the building. Bathroom lines could then become a Mecca of thought sharing. Personally the idea of only two bathrooms split between over three hundred employees seems more like a macabre nightmare than product-producing ingenuity. Thankfully (for the employees) the two-bathroom-only thought was scrapped; but Job’s central thesis (i.e. a central hub for employee congregation/interaction) remains intact. In the middle of the first floor is a large atrium for employee mingling and such. But the true selling point of Pixar – to the right of the atrium: a small coffee stand where I could buy a large Chai Tea Latte for only a buck-fifty. That’s right – Pixar bought me off with a cup of tea. Did I mention it’s the most wonderful place on earth?
John Lasseter Interview Index
- Lasseter discusses what it is about “the Cars verse that gives itself to fish-out-of-water stories”
- Lasseter discloses what it is about personifying inanimate objects with humanity – be it cars, toys, lamps – that appeals to him. He also reminisces on his earliest animated Pixar short Luxo Jr.