Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter and Ed Catmull shared Variety’s Creative Impact in Animation Award as part of the trade pub’s inaugural 10 Animators to Watch event Tuesday night at Siren Studios in Hollywood, feted by Variety and Nickelodeon. Dana Lamb of Cal State Fullerton was also presented with the Animation Educator of the Year award.
Meanwhile, here are the up and coming animators: Pixar’s head of story Josh Cooley (Inside Out and co-director of Toy Story 4); Disney vis dev artists Lorelay Bove (Big Hero 6) and Brittney Lee (Frozen); DreamWorks’ Thomas Grummt (How to Train Your Dragon 2); Warner Bros. Animation character designer Phil Bourassa (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis); Paramount Animation’s Dylan Brown (a former Pixar vet); Blue Sky’s Nick Bruno (Epic); Illumination’s Miguel Jiron (Despicable Me); the Layzell Brothers: Matt, who works at Nickelodeon (Sanjay and Craig), and Paul, a freelance illustrator; Disney Channel’s Daron Nefcy (Sailor Moon); and Timothy Reckart (Head Over Heels).
Lasseter talked about the importance of mentoring and nurturing and how he vowed to never stifle animators’ creativity after he was held back during his initial stint at Disney when he was prevented from exploring computer animation. Now he presides over two cultures at Pixar and Disney and they co-exist quite nicely. He’s even returning to directing with Toy Story 4, which is the franchise’s first rom-com, set for release June 16, 2017.
For his part, Catmull, who turns 70 on March 31, reiterated how he turned to physics after realizing that he wasn’t a good enough animator and managed to be the industry game-changer. We chatted about Pete Docter’s Inside Out, which he admits is very different for Pixar and for Docter, who is arguably Pixar’s most ambitious storyteller. Inside Out is a psychological take on memory and balancing joy and sadness in our lives. Stylistically, it goes in a more cartoony direction as well.
And Catmull boasted that Inside Out is the first Pixar film to be completed ahead of schedule and that both the Pixar Brain Trust and Disney Story Trust have been lauded by live-action screenwriters for embracing the best possible model for the craft.
Catmull also can’t believe that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Toy Story — time has just flown by. And each movie possesses its own personal story for Catmull. But in talking about memorable Pixar moments, he cited the end of Ratatouille and the opening of Up as remarkable examples of pushing storytelling. “You had no idea where Ratatouille was going and the prologue for Up was originally 20 minutes long,” he said. “We knew we struck gold.” However, they also knew the story couldn’t sustain Carl and Ellie’s sublime montage in its entirety so it got trimmed to a more manageable four-and-a-half minutes.
Catmull also took pride in the fact that the Oscar-winning Frozen also contained an unpredictable climax. Which is one of the reasons why Disney has reached parity with Pixar during the Lasseter/Catmull era.