Producer Darla Anderson has Pixar to thank for launching her career in feature animation and for ruining her name.
For the 15-year veteran of the revered — and now Disney-owned — studio, being part of a collegial and creative atmosphere like Pixar can have its drawbacks. A series of spiraling practical jokes that started on “A Bug’s Life” eventually led to “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton naming the braces-wearing little “fish killer” in his movie after Anderson.
“That only turned out to be one of the biggest films of all time,” she laughs. “Next thing you know, I’m in Japan doing promotion for ‘Cars’ and people there tell me, ‘You seem pretty nice. So why are you a fish killer?'”
The producer of “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars” first got interested in CG animation in the ’80s while working on commercial production in Southern California. She was, she admits, the “only girl” at then-tiny computer animation festival Siggraph in the early ’90s when she first saw some of the short-form work of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter. Soon after, she decamped to Emeryville to take over Pixar’s commercial division.
While working on spots for Listerine and Coca-Cola, Anderson and her staff got roped into helping with the risky project that was taking up most of the rest of the staff’s time in the small office: “Toy Story.” (Anderson is listed as a “digital angel” in the credits.)
That experience, as well as her success with commercials, helped her land the job as producer on Pixar’s second movie, “A Bug’s Life.” She’s now working on her fourth: “Toy Story 3.”
As one of a handful of pre-“Toy Story” veterans at Pixar, Anderson also is part of a small group that provides guidance and feedback on every film in development. She is the only woman in the studio’s so-called “brain trust” that still guides Pixar.
“It’s critical that you and the director be joined at the hip, brain and heart,” she says of animation producing. “I’m there from the first editorial, story, budget and marketing meetings.”
Vocation: Producer at Pixar Animation Studios
Recent breakthrough: “Discovered cure for restless leg syndrome.”
Role model: Tina Fey
Career mantra: “Never say never.”
What’s next: “‘Toy Story 3’ and then become a co-host on ‘The View.'”