Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hello, Luxo: My Pixar Adventure

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


CheekyGeek said...

Thanks for sharing. I saw your BF's post on MeFi. What a great great story. Have not yet seen WALL-E, but plan on it real soon!

Halcyon said...

That is such an awesome story!!!! Thanks for the smile. ((HUG))!

Alexis said...

Ditto, thanks for sharing! I love Coco's Pixar Wall-E Tale.

wren said...

You lead a charmed life, girlie!

Leigha said...

Ohmygod, Courtney, this is a fantastic story! I think I had the exact same reaction watching you, as you did watching Wall-E - SO CUTE.

sleeper78 said...

That is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

muscleyarm said...

Your true story is like a fairy tale with robots (the best kind). Hurray for Coco/Eda Cherry!

steve said...

What an excellent story! Thank you for telling it - and I gotta admit, Wall•E makes me a little sniffly, too. The movie is truly amazing... I couldn't help but love Wall•E and Eve, too.

powkang said...

much like the wall-e trailer made you cry, your story made ME cry.

decimus77 said...

Amazing story! I fell for WALL-E as soon as I saw him in the teaser trailer, too. There's just something about those eyes, his voice, his sweet and innocent personality. The movie is fantastic. Major kudos to Pixar, once again.

Patrick Skahill said...

That's really cool!!!

I'm going to see this movie again on Saturday, I can't wait!

Sharon said...

I HAVE to see this movie! I will bring tissues with me!

Nicholai said...

Courtney (crying as I type) your sweetness is so wonderful! I too am an "impulsive cryer". I cry when someone wins a gold medal in the olympics, at weddings of distant relatives, and simply when gentle kindness is spontaneously offered. Sometimes it might be about the privilege of witnessing what could be the most important moment in another person's life. Strangely, I never cry at funerals, even my own mother's although I cared for her deeply. Thank you for bringing out the sensitive crier in all of us.

Obscura Metaphoria said...

I just came accross your story thanks to pixarplanet, and like i just posted on your youtube video, its reactions like yours that made me want to be an animator.

It happened to me watching that teaser, so i know how it felt, and it made me realise just how powerful animation can be. Pixar are the greatest and if i can claim to have the smallest nugget of their talent, then i'll be a lucky guy.

sorry for the ramble.... im two thirds the way through an animation course, and honestly, you've just reminded me why i decided to go down this path and attempt to do what they do.

You absolutly deserve everything Pixar have done for you, cos if i was in that position, id be doing exactly the same.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Mike Mahaffie said...

Very cool story, it pumps up my desire to see the film. I still remember the first appearance of the little desk-lamp in a film trailer years ago. Pixar has been an adventure for us as movie fans and I'm heartened to have further evidence of how cool those folks are.

I found Max's telling of the story on MetaFilter and followed his link to your flickr account, checked your profile, and came here. Your parenthetical comments add just the right touch. Thanks!

Royal Subject to Change said...

what a great story! shows you have a kind heart and it also shows something so refreshing as it is to see Pixar being so generous and kind

Cristin McKee said...

Awesome story! Thanks for sharing!!! You made me all smiley and teary-eyed. What a great studio.

Eda Cherry said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such lovely comments!

iaminthebandroom said...

I dunno you, but I went from blog to blog to blog and here I am... I too have a special moment with pixar/dreamworks...
When I was 11, my dad was dating a lady who's son worked for dreamworks. He called her up one day and had us come down to test out some new games for them... Small soldiers and Neverhood. Not only did we get to keep copies of the games, but the people there were so nice and patient. I truly believe they are a great company. I'm so happy that they are still nice, (not implying that they wouldnt be, but sometimes these companies get very black and white and lose the innocent glow) =-)

riffle said...

What a great story.

I'm a bit mystefied as to exactly which trailer you're reacting to in the original clip from Oct 2007, since so many trailers/teasers/etc have been put up for Wall-E since then.

Is the original clip still up so we can see exactly what you're reacting to?

Regardless, thanks for posting this great tale.

Eda Cherry said...

This is the teaser trailer I am reacting to in my video.

Tim said...

I saw it on Thursday... It almost wrecked me it was so good.

Dadi Is Rev said...

This is 10 different kinds of awesome. Pixar dudes have so much of Walt's old storytelling mojo I now understand how the parent company was simply compelled to swallow 'em up.

And I got sniffly at the trailer too.

Nanette said...

I looooove this story! And I'm happy to see that you were so appreciative of their appreciation. :)

(Saw it posted on USA Today's Pop Candy.)

BIll Eccles said...

Well, I cried, too.

But not at the movie. Instead, I got all teary-eyed when I watched one of my sons, who is 10, absolutely ecstatic at the end of the movie. He was sitting there, cute as a button (a very large button), grinning ear to ear, clapping his hands in that excited sort of way that kids can and bouncing up and down in his seat. His joy was palpable, and I enjoyed participating in that glow.

Never mind the fact that we were sitting in the third row of the theater and couldn't quite take it all in. Never mind that the story is something of a tear-jerker (for my wife's student intern, anyway). And never mind that I enjoyed the movie tremendously.

No, the movie brought me an incredible joy indirectly, as I watched William express sheer joy at having seen the movie, I, too, got a little... or a lot, really... misty-eyed.

scrpbklvr75 said...

I took my 10 year old son to see Wall-E the day it came out and I'm so glad I did. I'm an easy crier so seeing someone else who cried over the little trailer makes my day. I found your blog through mentalfloss.com and I'm so glad I did! Next to Nemo this is now my favorite Pixar movie!

Chad Kerychuk said...

Long time Pixar fan. Their movies are some of the few that actually put a tingle in my spine, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and yes, even shed a small tear or two of joy.

The folks at the studio are nothing short of fantastic human beings and nearly unparalleled storytellers. Those who think they don't put more than most into their work are mistaken. Though I wasn't sold on the live-action elements of WALL•E, the robots were absolutely captivating and the simplistic love story stands up there with some of the best of all-time.

Your reaction to the trailer is no surprise and it's nice to read the follow-up from you guys.


Mandy said...

I seriously could not hold it together during Wall-E. I LOVED it so much :)

Splotchy said...

Great story. They don't get much better.

windycitycameraphile said...

Great story, sounds like the Pixar folks treated you awful nice! We took our 2 and 7 y.o. daughters, and their 8 y.o. cousin to see the Wall•E movie at a Drive In in McHenry, IL (yes, there still are Drive Ins!). The 7 and 8 year old watched it in one car, and enjoyed it, but I spent most of the night walking back and forth with the 2 year old to the concession booth... :(

We will have to buy the DVD when it comes out, since we all love the Pixar films! Just last night we were watching the DVD with all of the shorts (One Man Band, Mater and the Ghostlight, For the Birds, etc.). Very addicting!!

Patrick Roberts said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit," minus the cheesy 80's style of course... but i'm sure Pixar made a totally original story otherwise

Wonderfallz said...

I stumbled on your blog from another site. I too tear up at certain trailers and television shows, and stories like your Pixar adventure. Thanks for sharing a story that makes sensitivity seem a little less lame.

mthep said...

i was going on and on about this movie to a friend of mine at lunch today, and she forwarded me a link to your story. that is so lovely! just makes me love the movie even more :)

ladystardust said...

Wow - I googled "WALL-E cry" out of the blue this evening because I was just curious about what people are saying about this movie's ability to touch people. I took my 3 young children to see the movie last weekend. I was on the verge of tears many time during the movie but was sent over the edge when WALL-E lost his memory. Honestly, I could barely contain myself! So when I stumbled upong your story, Courtney, I totally got it. Enjoyed reading about your adventure!

Gonzalo Jiménez said...

Oh my God, this story is so incredible and inspiring, I'm so thankful that you shared it with the world.
I'm in the other side of the world, in Chile, and I loved Wall-E from the first teaser as you do. I got a headache of crying so much during the movie, and if I didn't knew in advance that Wall-E had a happy ending, my heart would have exploded in the endind scene.
In a world where crying is sorta' banned beacause people think is a sign of 'weakness', your bravery is a proof that showing your feelings and being real can be an enduring act of inspiration for people who create and makes things for others.
Biggggggest kudos in the world for you. I love you!, and be as you are forever... creators/world needs people like you.

Bernard said...

I just saw your video. Now I'm not sure whether to go to the movie or not...only kidding.

At least I'll know to bring some Kleenex with me.

I'm glad you had such a fun visit to Pixar, your inspiration must have meant a huge amount to them.

So where's the picture of the crew jacket? :-)

svensonsan said...

Lovely story - thanks for sharing this.

Nice to see how pixar cares about "users".

Crazy Working Mom said...

What an amazing story. I am so much like tou. I cry at just about anything I watch. I am a babbling idiot when it comes to films like this. It's amazing that they went so above and beyond for you guys! This is VERY cool! Thanks for posting this story. :)

Andrea said...

I have to say I didn't read your entire blog just the headline because I'm exactly the same!! I can't watch the movie without blubbing. Especially the scenes at the beginning, he's just such a happy chap despite being all alone in the world. And I never cry at anything for goodness' sake :p
Anyways beautiful movie hope it wins big at the Oscars :D

slinberg said...

No less wonderful a story with the passing of time. :)

Matt Blick said...

An amazing story. It really highlights how important encouragement is, even to the famous and successful artists