Of the multitude of Pixar-related books out there, how do you know which one to pick up and spend your time reading? Or course reviews are subjective to the reader, but if I had to put my stamp on The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company by David A. Price, I would give it my stamp of approval for the quality of content and depth of the details.
Although The Pixar Touch was originally published in 2008, the great part about the book is that it’s not out of date because the history of Pixar is already set in the past. I’d strongly suggest checking it out if you’re interested in gaining more knowledge about the company that you love (at least I’m assuming so since you’re reading this post)!
We recently had the pleasure of having a question and answer session over email with David and are happy to present you with his responses below. Please note that any text in blue under each of Price’s responses are my additional thoughts based on his reply.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Q1 – The Pixar Touch was originally published in 2008 (with an update published in 2009) – since some time has passed and there have been a few more Pixar movies released, are there any plans for another update covering Wall-e (more in-depth details), UP, Toy Story 3 and Cars 2? Why?
A1 – I don’t plan to keep bringing the history into the present. My hope in writing the book was to tell the story of how Pixar was created and became successful against overwhelming odds. Whatever happens to Pixar in the future, I feel that the story I was telling came full circle when John Lasseter had his homecoming — in other words, when Pixar became part of the Walt Disney Co. in 2006.
I did go a little bit past that point with my coverage of Ratatouille, plus a shorter section on WALL-E in the softcover edition. But in a way, I believe I’d be subtracting from the story rather than adding to it if I kept putting in material on the latest movie.
NOTE from Pixar Post: I agree with David’s comments completely here – I asked the question to see if the book would continually be updated, but with a book that focuses so completely on the back-story of Pixar there really is no need since the film review are not the main spotlight of the book.
Q2 – John Lasseter has noted that “Pixar’s movies are never finished, they’re released” (meaning that they would constantly tweak their movies if they didn’t have a finish line associated with them) – that being said, what would you tweak if you could – what things would you have done differently or wish you could have pulled together for the release of the book?
A2 – I feel compelled to tweak, too! I smoothed out a couple of small things in the softcover edition. The only significant change I would make is in my coverage of the Monsters, Inc. lawsuits. I would make it more clear that lawsuits against studios are very common occurrences, although these particular ones were more problematic than most.
NOTE from Pixar Post: Interestingly, when David comments on the Monsters, Inc. chapter I couldn’t agree more – this is the one chapter that when I was done with it I definitely had some more questions that I wanted answers to.
Q3 – How long do you think it took you to completely research the stories for the book and what piece of information did you learn about the company or a key player that surprised you the most (and why)?
A3 – It took me a year full-time to research and write the book. I think the most surprising information, for me, might have been how close Steve came to selling all or part of Pixar to Microsoft while Toy Story was in production.
Q4 – There seem to be so many irreplaceable steps that got computer animation to the level it’s at today – what do you think was the most valuable component – Steve Jobs’ cash flow and drive, Ed Catmull’s programming genius, Lasseter’s guidance, and spirit – or was it something else?
A4 – Each of those people was equally indispensable, in my opinion. Ed contributed much more than programming: It was his dream of creating computer-animated feature films that kept the group together through some long and lean years. And John’s short films in the 1980s were really responsible for putting computer animation on the map as a storytelling medium.
Q5 – In the book, you mention that Raoul Servais reminds John Lasseter, “You can tell a story in ten seconds” – that obviously couldn’t be the case with your book since you’re telling the history of a company and its workers. How did you ever start to “pull back” on some of the information you were culling so you didn’t end up with a book the size of War and Peace?
A5 – I believe strongly in having too much research so that I can make choices about what’s relevant and interesting. After all my interviews and other research work, I ended up with a 101-page single-spaced chronological outline and a 44-page background outline. It might seem paradoxical, but having this magnitude of research helped me to keep the book’s length under control because it gave me the luxury of being merciless in deciding what to include.
RELEASES AFTER THE BOOK’S PUBLISH DATE
Q6 – In the book, you included a letter that Steve Jobs released to the annual shareholders of Pixar – in it he says, “Parents trust Disney-branded animated films to provide satisfying and appropriate family entertainment.” Do you think this statement embodies some of the uproar from parents regarding Cars 2 stating that it had too much violence? Did Pixar essentially break a treaty that parents had with Pixar by including more controversial scenes?
A6 – That’s interesting. I wasn’t aware of that controversy over Cars 2. I do think parts of Toy Story 3 were too intense for young children — not to say Pixar should have changed the movie, but they should have put the word out to parents somehow to live up to the trust that parents put in them.
YOUR THOUGHTS AND INSIGHTS
Q7 – One could argue that the “nine old men” made history at Disney Studios the same way that John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter have with Pixar – what happens when this crop of guys retire/move on from Pixar – will it be the equivalent of Walt dying that stalled the Disney Studios, or do you think there’s a proper foundation in place at Pixar to sustain their success after it’s leaders become the “new, four old men”?
A7 – Compared with Disney during Walt’s day and into the 1970s and 1980s, Pixar has been much smarter about creating a pipeline of future creative leaders. The shorts program is a great example of that.
The limiting factor is that even with a pace of one feature per year, there aren’t very many feature-directing opportunities to spread around. So it’s inevitable that some up-and-coming people over the years have taken their Pixar experience to other studios where they can direct features (cf. Doug Sweetland and others).
And bear in mind that it’ll be a while before we’re talking about the Four Old Men — Andrew and Pete are both in their forties!
NOTE from Pixar Post: There is no doubt that David is right that we at least have a lot more time with our Four Old Men seeing as they are in their forties – but I do really like his insight about some up-and-coming directors that might leave because they want to direct a film.
Q8 – What’s next for you – any new books or in-depth projects that you can update us on?
A8 – I do have a new book project that I’m excited about. It’s somewhat in the mold of The Pixar Touch and is even a sequel to it in a sense, although it isn’t about Pixar per se. The contract is still being worked out, so I can’t talk about it yet, unfortunately.
NOTE from Pixar Post: We’ll be eager to hear what the new project is – David, please let us know when you are able.
Q9 – Finally, for people that have read your books and are interested in staying in “Touch” with you, how can they do that – what are your user names on Twitter, Facebook, Website, etc?
Well, that’s the interview folks – if you haven’t, please support David and pick up a copy by clicking the link below…heck, you’ll even learn a lot about Pixar.
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View and purchase The Pixar Touch book on Amazon in paperback, hardcover, audiobook, and Kindle edition.