Animation Director Of The Year

ShoWest 2004’s animation director of the year Andrew Stanton, whose enormously successful “Finding Nemo” just won him an Oscar, tries to remind people that a hard drive isn’t the source of a Pixar movie’s success.

“There’s a stigma with the computer because it’s this technological beast of zeros and ones,” says Stanton, a 14-year Pixar vet. “With computer animation (some) think the human element is completely removed from the first impression. But it’s still this body of very talented people that can make or break whether or not you have a good movie.”

Stanton predicts that the expected wave of computer-animated films from studios hankering to match Pixar’s accomplishments will be a repeat of the lackluster glut of traditionally animated features that followed Disney’s reign of the early ’90s.

“There will be some surprises and some new blood, but the majority will crash and burn because the stories will suck,” says Stanton. “Look at the entire history of movies and you’ll see that the best story won.”

Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Pixar’s partner on five movies so far and two more under the current agreement, says Stanton’s personal magnetism, humor and heart help make him a total filmmaker.

“In my next life, I want to be his kid, because he’s got to tell the best stories at bedtime than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s what he enjoys,” Cook says.

Probably one of the most difficult aspects of an animation director’s job is keeping track of a lot of different elements at once.

“You have to compartmentalize everything,” says Stanton, who may not see how a sequence comes together until a considerable amount of time has passed. “It seems a luxury to me that live-action directors can have all the information in front of them combined at the moment when you say ‘Action.’ I never have that, so you have to have some level of insanity or clairvoyance, or both.”

Stanton’s already had his rest from “Nemo” hoopla. The day after the Oscars, he dove back into work. Laughing, he adds, “I will definitely be underground for years.”

But he says his Oscar acceptance speech was the truth: He’s in a once-in-a-lifetime environment at Pixar. “I hope it never goes away. I’m going to stay with it till it’s gone.”

A life in Pixar

Andrew Stanton on the major emotions behind the Pixar features he’s worked on.

  • “Toy Story” (1995, co-writer): “Sheer, utter bliss. One of the hardest movies we ever had to work, and we had no idea because we were so psyched.”
  • “A Bug’s Life” (1998, co-writer, co-director): “Pain. As we made it we had to figure out what the emotional core was, and I don’t recommend that.”
  • “Toy Story 2″ (1999, co-writer): “Surprise. Eight months before it was released we started from scratch, and it turned out to be one of the most satisfying experiences.”
  • “Monsters, Inc.” (2001, exec producer, co-writer): “Fun. I didn’t carry any of the burden. You can delude yourself that you know everything when you’re only giving advice every week.”
  • “Finding Nemo” (2003, director, co-writer): “Fear. I felt like Marlin in the middle of the whale’s belly. Nothing was going to work, but then the opposite happened and I was shot out of the whale. Amazing.”
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