Tuesday, July 1, 2008
It was fun playing ball with Luxo, Jr. at Pixar Studios!
AS SOME OF YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN, I'm pretty fond of Wall•E even though he makes me cry. Ever since I posted that video several months ago, the lovely folks at Pixar have been more wonderful to me than words can express. In fact, it's still a bit overwhelming for me to write about and I don't know where to begin. Luckily, my boyfriend wrote about it on Metafilter, so, with his permission, I'm just going to reprint it here. I've inserted my own comments in parenthesis within his writeup.
Here's a true story about how awesome Pixar is.
As some of you know, when the trailer first came out, my girlfriend, Courtney, burst into tears at the trailer. She was embarrassed but somewhat amused by this, as so she made a video of herself watching the trailer on her computer, knowing she would start crying every time that little robot said his own name.
After a few months, she started to get trickles of emails from people at Pixar who said they had seen her video and really appreciated it. It was all sort of under the radar -- mostly code monkeys, and they were sort of circumspect about the subject.
Then she got an email from one of the film's producers, saying they wanted to send her something for Christmas. She received a Crew Jacket and a nice note saying that the folk at Pixar had appreciated the film.
Then, last month, she received another barrage of emails from Pixar, again from producers (Not all were from producers). They were having the wrap party for Wall-E in San Francisco, and wanted to know if we wanted to join them. (In one of the emails, a woman concluded her email with "So, do you want to come party with us?" Ha! I didn't even look at my calendar before I replied YES! I was shaking from excitement so badly that I am glad I was at least able to type those three letters.)
They flew my girlfriend out and put us up in the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel, the same one featured in Bullitt (How cool is that!), at the top of Nob Hill. We met a few of the people who had contacted my girlfriend, all of whom were very nice, and some of whom she had gotten to be quite good friends with in the past six months. We walked over to a nearby Masonic Temple, which had been elaborately dressed to look like the interior of a spaceship, and then we settled into the the theater with a thousand of the people who had worked on Wall-E, as well as their families. (I'm pretty sure it was just employees +1 that night. I think friend/family viewings were on a different night, closer to the release date.)
Before the movie began, the producers and the film's director, Andrew Stanton, came out and gave a very heartfelt speech about the making of the film. They made it abundantly clear that, as far as they were concerned, this film was a collaborative act, and no part of it could
have existed without the imagination and labor of the people who made it. They were the real stars of Wall-E, Stanton told them, even if they are never seen on screen. (I had, at this moment, realized I was sitting in an entire auditorium of movie stars even though they themselves are never on screen.)
Then he said this: "Six months ago, when the first trailer for Wall-E came out, we were only halfway done with the film, and we weren't exactly sure how we were going to get it done. We were exhausted. And then, one day, a movie showed up on YouTube showing a girl watching the trailer for Wall-E. And every time she watched it, she would cry on cue. When we saw that, we knew we were on the right track." (I think I zoned out due to excitement after I heard the words You Tube. Glad Max was there with me to help me remember!)
Everybody in the theater laughed at this knowingly. (I was THRILLED by their reaction because, at this point, only a couple of people knew I was there in person. The fact that the Pixar crew reacted so positively to my video simply being mentioned was such a great experience. I could have gone home happy just at that point.)
"Well," Andrew Stanton said. "We invited Courtney here tonight." (I remember turning to Max with some crazy expression on my face. I should try to recreate THAT sometime. ha!)
A gasp went through the theater. I turned and looked at my girlfriend, who was gape-mouthed with astonishment. Andrew Stanton asked her to stand up*, and all one-thousand sets of eyes in the theater turned to find her, and thunderous applause broke out. Courtney stood, and, not knowing what to do, blew kisses to the assembled artists and
craftspeople who had made the film. (I can't describe how amazing it was to see an auditorium full of people -- a sea of faces -- turn all at once in my direction. The entire Pixar crew was applauding and shouting for me? That's crazy! It's true I blew kisses to the entire audience. I didn't know what else I could do to show my gratitude to everyone all at once.)
It was one of the most moving and astounding things she had ever experienced (True!), and I had ever witnessed, and Pixar had done it for no reason other than that her video had touched them and made them optimistic about the film they were making, and they wanted to repay her.
The movie began, as usual, with a short cartoon. The one that preceeds Wall•E is called Presto and is an immediate classic. It is Looney Tunes at it's finest. I laughed so hard, especially when that rabbit first points at his mouth... As usual, Pixar's comic timing is impeccable.
We went to talk to Andrew Stanton afterward. He recognized Courtney at once and embraced her (It was a bear hug and I loved it.), delighted she had made it. As we talked to him, Brad Bird, the Academy Award-winning director of Ratatouille, interrupted. Stanton introduced us (Brad Bird said, "Why didn't you cry at any of MY movies?"), and Brad Bird offered to take our photos. This is the photo he took. (I had a great conversation with Brad Bird about one of my favorite scenes in The Incredibles, where the little neighbor-boy in the Big Wheel says, "I don't know -- something AMAZING, I guess.")
For the rest of the evening, at the wrap party, people from Pixar came up to Courtney and talked to her excitedly, thrilled that she had been invited. (I was so happy to meet everyone, and I never got over the excitement of people coming up to me saying, "Are you Courtney?" Later I would find out that I was known around the studio as The Crying Girl.)
The next day, one of the Pixar employees who had befriended Courtney gave us a tour of the studio. Then we went home, unable to believe our experience.
Pixar has never tried to make use of this story for promotional purposes. They really did it exclusively because they were touched by Courtney's response to their trailer, and because they thought it would be nice, and because they thought it would be a treat to their
employees, who, from what I have seen, they treat with enormous respect."
If you read the comments on my video, you'll see that my reaction to Wall•E isn't all that unique. I am so happy that my video was able to lift their spirits in the middle of a very long process. I'd like to say that was my intention when I set up my camera that evening, but it wasn't. I put the video up because I was so amused by the fact that this little robot made me cry in just the few moments he was on screen in that first trailer.
I thought I'd be better about not being so emotional after I saw the movie, but I think I may be worse now that I have so many wonderful memories associated with it. I think I can handle it, though.
Definitely tears of joy, Pixar.
Go see Wall•E. I dare you not to fall in love with that little robot, or the entirety Pixar for that matter.
*I stood up. The audience did not. Andrew Stanton ask that I stand up so that everyone could see that I was there. I just want to make sure this is pointed out: I did not get a standing ovation. I've noticed this detail in articles going around. It's only a tiny factual mistake, but one I want to clear up nonetheless. I was happy to stand up for Pixar when Mr. Stanton introduced me -- they deserve the standing ovation, not me. I enjoyed seeing all of their faces turn toward me with giant smiles, their whistles and hollers, and clapping.
Update WCCO News Story
Update Wide Scramble in Japan