Monday 12 September 2011

Interview: David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch

Recently I had the opportunity, via e-mail to speak to the author of the brilliant book, The Pixar Touch, David A. Price and he, very generously, agreed to do an interview with me. Following on from my review of the book, which charts the origins of Pixar, David, who featured my review on the book's website, agreed to answer some questions for me, about his book, his thoughts and feelings about Pixar and what's coming up for him; read on after the jump break for the interview.

A113Animation: For those of my readers who may not have read your book, tell us a little about it.
David A. Price: The Pixar Touch is a history of how Pixar became what it is today thanks to the vision and passion of Ed Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith, John Lasseter, and the others who staked their careers on Pixar in the early years, when computer-animated feature films were just a dream. The book starts with Ed Catmull’s days in grad school, continues with his building the future Pixar team at the New York Institute of Technology and Lucasfilm, and then tells how Pixar went from being a small computer hardware company to a cornerstone of the Disney empire.

I had help from a lot of insiders. In typical fashion, one person would lead me to another. One of the co-founders opened his old office files to me. Thanks to their support, I was able to get past the approved official story and tell what life was really like in the company’s early years. But I wasn’t digging for dirt, only for the truth, which many people have found inspirational.

 Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to write your fantastic book.
DAP: I wrote it partly because I’ve been a Pixar fan since before Toy Story. I saw an unfinished version of Tin Toy at a conference in the late 1980s and I was hooked. Also, when I started thinking about The Pixar Touch, I had just finished writing the 400-year-old story of the Jamestown colony in my book Love and Hate in Jamestown and was feeling ready to write about the present day again.

Before writing my books, I had done a lot of freelance writing for the Wall Street Journal and business magazines and I was a reporter for a couple of years for Investor’s Business Daily. I grew up outside Richmond, Virginia, where I’ve returned after living other places for 25-plus years.

A113: What has been the best thing about writing the book?
DAP: Without a doubt, it has been the chance to get to know some of the geniuses behind computer graphics and computer animation.

A113: What do you think it is that makes Pixar so special?
DAP: There are so many things, starting with the caliber of the creative people and technical people that it attracts. Top people want to work at Pixar and they’ll even take a salary cut to move there. But I think first and foremost, what makes Pixar’s work special is the so-called Brain Trust process, in which directors get notes from their peers—other directors and writers—rather than from generic creative executives who haven’t necessarily been in the same shoes.

A113: Did you buy anything from the Pixar store if you visited, if so what did you get?
DAP: I visited after hours, so I wasn’t able to buy anything from the store, eat Pixar’s free cereal, etc.

A113: What is your favourite Pixar film and why?
DAP: Toy Story will probably always be my favorite. The inventiveness, wit, and nuanced emotionality of that film are wonderful. But who knows, it might be my favorite simply because it’s the first one I saw.

A113: Which Pixar film are you most looking forward to?
DAP: After Cars, Cars 2, and Planes, I’m looking forward to Boats, followed by Trains and then Zeppelins.

A113: What is your favourite Pixar short film and why?
DAP:  Knick Knack is my favorite because I love its Looney Tunes feel. Mike’s New Car was great in the same way.

Oddly enough, I’m also drawn very much to Red’s Dream for the bleakness of its ending. I couldn’t cope with 90 minutes of it, though. It’s a real downer of a film.

A113: Who is your favourite Pixar character and why?
DAP: It’s tough to say with so many strong choices. I especially like Mike Wazowski, who I think of as Pixar’s George Costanza. I also like Bob Parr and Remy a lot. But I suppose my favourite is Woody, because he’s written with lots of appealing qualities, including his smarts and his sense of humor, and yet he’s also deeply flawed (especially in the first two films) in a human way.

A113: What lies on the horizon for David A. Price? What are you working on at the moment? As I hinted in my review, I would love to see a film version of the book, a la The Social Network. Any chance of that anytime soon?
DAP: I’m still exploring and researching a few ideas for my next book. From a writer’s perspective, Pixar is a hard act to follow, as you might imagine.

I’d love to see a film made from the book, too. At the same time, my experience with having my Jamestown book optioned by a very good studio—and then not seeing anything come of the project—has made me appreciate how improbable it is for any movie idea to become an actual movie. So all I can say for now is, if there’s a producer who wants to adapt The Pixar Touch, he or she knows where to find my agent.

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