Pixar's winning streak built on smarts, stability

Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:44pm EDT
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - One critically applauded, audience-friendly hit movie might be the result of serendipity -- all the elements just somehow falling perfectly into place. Two or three more might represent an extraordinary streak of luck.

But Pixar Animation Studios has turned out nine winners in a row, the latest being "WALL-E," which opened during the weekend to $63.1 million and a collective chorus of critical hosannas.

So how does the Disney-owned studio do it? And what can the rest of the film industry learn from its example?

The conventional wisdom has long been that the Pixar wizards -- led by chief creative officer John Lasseter and president Ed Catmull -- simply put more care into crafting their stories than anyone else, and there's certainly truth to that. But a lot of other studios also spend years trying to get their scripts right, even if more often than not that means bringing on extra writers and second-guessing the whole process in an attempt to cover each and every bet.

What's different about Pixar is the confidence with which it tells its story.

A number of factors have contributed to that confidence.

- Stability: Andrew Stanton, the writer and director on "WALL-E," is nearly a 20-year Pixar veteran. He worked on the story for a short film, "Pencil Test," that played at the annual SIGGRAPH confab for computer graphics pros in 1988. Since then, he has worked on the screenplays for the "Toy Story" movies, "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc."; co-directed "Bug's Life" and helmed "Finding Nemo"; and lent his voice to characters in "Toy Story," "Nemo" and "Cars."

The original teaser trailer for "WALL-E" highlights the longtime, collective nature of Pixar's inspirations by recounting a 1994 lunch at which Lasseter, Stanton, Pete Docter and the late Joe Ranft sketched out ideas that would blossom into movies as various as "Bug's Life" and "WALL-E."   Continued...