Event Recap: the Cartoon Art Museum’s 8th Annual Benefit at PIXAR Animation Studios


As a ‘nut’ about almost all things entertainment, it should come as no surprise that I am also a huge fan of PIXAR. Over the years, I’ve had some run-ins with several of their ilk.

Me, Producer John Walker, and Writer/Director Brad Bird (I supervised a sneak preview of "The Incredibles" with them in attendance)

John Lasseter & Me (I covered the World Premiere of Cars for JimHillMedia.com in 2006, and came face-to-face with John, and many others!)

Even though I had these little brushes with PIXAR super-geniuses, there was always one place that I wanted to go to: PIXAR’s studio in Emeryville, CA. Not being an animation or storyboard impresario, there were a few options, but one that made me take notice was the annual Cartoon Art Museum benefit that was put on every year at the campus.

For 2010, CAM offered two tiers: a $250 ‘fan’ experience (with access to the main building, their Studio Store, and a screening in PIXAR’s main theater with employee Q&A afterwards), and a $500 VIP experience (which included the ‘fan’ experience, plus the chance to visit PIXAR’s newly-completed Brooklyn building, and see their upcoming short La Luna 6 months early). Pining for simplicity, I chose the ‘fan’ experience.

My first step past security, and through the gates of PIXAR.

With the experience set to start at 11:00am, it was recommended that we arrive when the campus opened to us at 10:30am. I wasn’t sure where to enter, and assumed I’d have to walk up to the main security booth. luckily, one of the security guys waved me towards a side gate, where my name was checked off of a list, and I took my first step onto “Mt Olympus.”

I’ve had a couple dreams about being at PIXAR (most likely brought about from watching behind-the-scenes material), and found myself reaching out to some of the trees, seeking reassurance that I was actually there.

Me, pretending to be John Lasseter

Though a line was quickly forming, I couldn’t help but join in with several other people, taking pictures and marveling at the giant Luxo Jr, and his ball.

While we were waiting in line, a few of the CAM employees asked many of us how far we had traveled to be there (one guy came all the way from Ireland!).

Shortly afterwards, we got in line, and were allowed to enter early by a good 15 minutes! Soon, we had passed from the outside world-

(insert angelic choir here)

-into PIXAR’s main atrium!

After signing in, I quickly got in line for one store that I had to visit: The PIXAR Studio Store! There’s plenty of goodies that you can ONLY get at the store. Usually, the opening of the store is hit-and-miss (or so I’ve read). But inside, it was like a combination of the Emporium at Disneyland, and Black Friday…only every single person was polite or genial if we were shoving or bumping into each other. Enticingly, the store employees were wearing T-shirts with the logo for PIXAR’s next film, Brave. Sadly, we all found out they weren’t for sale yet. Even so, the staff was surprisingly helpful and very cheerful (they even allowed me to run out and back in when VISA froze my card, wondering why so much money was being spent in Northern California). The store was only going to be open for a set amount of hours, but when the demand was greater than imagined, they opened the store back up in the afternoon. Talk about World-Class Customer Service!

Once my shopping spree was done , I began to wander through ‘the house that Steve Jobs built.’ Though we didn’t receive non-disclosure agreements to sign, we were not allowed to take pictures on the second floor area (this was one of the major bummers for me, as I had worn my vintage Incredibles T-shirt, in hopes to get a pictures with the life-size statues on the second floor).

Some of the original art and signed posters up for auction.

Even so, there was plenty of stuff to keep me wandering to-and-fro. In the center of the atrium, were numerous original art pieces, art prints, signed film posters, and much more for CAM’s benefit auction. Some of the pieces were very tempting, but in the end, I passed (besides, I have plenty of signed PIXAR stuff of my own).

Other goodies to be found in the Atrium included:

The Cereal Bar, containing almost every kind of cereal there is.

Cafe Luxo, PIXAR's in-studio eatery

A display case containing almost all of PIXAR's statuesque accolades. I was very thrilled to see the Golden Globe award PIXAR received for Toy Story 2...when they won for Best Comedy/Musical (none of that kiddie-table Best Animated Feature crap)!

There were all sorts of fliers posted around the atrium for various in-studio events. A couple told of a PIXAR/Dreamworks improv contest (I'd pay money to see that!!), but this one was my favorite. Just check out the funny little things they did with the text!

Thanks to plenty of friendly PIXAR fans, I was able to get some pics of myself. Here they are:

For Toy Story 3's promotion, this human-sized display box was erected. It was still there, so, I decided to show what a 'Midwestern PIXAR Fanatic in Incredibles Attire with PIXAR Store accessories' looks like.

And for those of you who love limited-edition figures, here's the 'Midwestern PIXAR Fanatic in the throes of emotional turmoil' variant figure.

Sully has two Mikes to contend with now!

Luigi and Guido are as pleased to see me, as I am to see them (yes, I'm one of the few on this planet that has no problems with talking cars...as long as they don't try to kill me).

I had an ulterior motive for buying my three LEGO alien guys...I wanted them to meet these three guys standing around the Atrium.

Of course, we were all hoping to see and hear from PIXAR personnel, and filed into the Main Theater for a special showing of PIXAR’s animated short-subjects.

Cartoon Art Museum Board Member (and 18-year PIXAR veteran) Michael B Johnson welcomes us to PIXAR's Main Theater.

Our host Michael B Johnson had some fun little stories for us, from telling of his meeting with PIXAR co-founder Ed Catmull, and also reminding some in the audience just what films PIXAR made (for example, Shrek and Ice Age were not made by PIXAR). Michael then had a few words with several of the PIXAR staff, before we screened the shorts. The line-up included:

Eben Ostby – Modeler, Software Engineer, and Technical Director for Red’s Dream

William Reeves – Modeler, and Technical Director on Tin Toy

Andrew Jimenez – Writer, and Co-Director on One Man Band

Ronnie del Carmen – Director of Dug’s Special Mission

Teddy Newton – Director of Day and Night

Angus MacLane – Director of Small Fry

After the screening, our 6 PIXAR-IANS were out in the Atrium to meet-and-greet. One of the most interesting stories I overheard, was what a bunch of drunken artists and technicians did at a party, when they were next to large glass windows with rain and lightning outside. The answer: smoosh their faces against the glass, and observe the rate of falling rain, and the timing of the lightning flashes! Why can’t I attend drinking parties like that!?

Andrew Jimenez really liked my shirt (he was the Director of Photography on The Incredibles, after all!).

After the screening, I headed to the second floor, where along the walls and display rooms, were art pieces from Cars 2. I wish some of the people who claim PIXAR just made a cheap cash-in film could see the concept art and attention-to-detail that was on display. Concept art, background art, multiple designs for signage, and even 3-dimensional sculptures of several of the characters was plenty of proof to show the talent on hand. If there was a downside to the art, it had to do with how much of the art these days seemed to be done in digital. It’s definitely a long ways away from the blue-pencil and ink drawings I saw at the Pixar: 25 Years of Animation exhibit in Oakland in 2010.

Meeting other fans there, it was like a mini-convention. I talked “Disney” with two teenagers wearing Disneyland-themed Hawaiian shirts, did a two-man PIXAR line-reading with one kid (his Mom was amazed that I knew almost as many lines as her son!), and met a father-and-son from the Midwest too!

But of course, like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother said, “Like all dreams, well, I’m afraid this can’t last forever.” Eventually, the sunlight outside began to dim, the winning bidders had claimed their auction pieces, and several had already begun to move over to the Brooklyn annex for the VIP Experience. Even so, I just couldn’t ‘quit’ the atrium. I couldn’t just take one picture. I wanted more, and then it hit me: “I have an iPhone. Download an app for that!”

I found what I was looking for in an app called 360. Standing in one place, I then took the following picture (it’s a little crude, but I hadn’t had time to hone my craft just yet):

A 360-degree view inside PIXAR's atrium, courtesy of my iPhone, and the '360' photo-taking app.

Once outside, I dawdled around Luxo Jr, and his ball, watching others take pictures, and trying to take in as much of the Emeryville campus as I could. During the day, I kept running into Marvin Rosario, his sister Maricris, and their friend, Elora Lyda. In an amazing coincidence, our dinner plans coincided at the same place: Fenton’s Creamery (note: Fenton’s is where Carl, Russell, and Dug go to have some ice cream in the film, Up). The day wasn’t quite over for our little group, and we made plans to go there afterwards, as we headed off to our various modes of transportation, exiting through the entrance way that had seen the likes of John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Andrew Stanton, and many more pass in and out.

Ending a perfect day with a couple new PIXAR-obssessed friends: Marvin Rosario, Maricris Rosario, and Elora Lyda.

In the end, the experience was the high-point of 2011 for me. The things I saw, the people I met, all seemed to help ignite a creative part of me that I had shoved aside for much of the year. So far, 2012 has proven to be a very creative year in the first few months, and I can’t help but think this experience helped me back to the one thing that made me happy for so many years.

Regrettably, while I did spend a few days in the Bay Area, I did not find time to visit the Cartoon Art Museum. However, if you want to find out more about the Museum, as well as future exhibitions and charity benefits, just click on the logo below:


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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

One response to “Event Recap: the Cartoon Art Museum’s 8th Annual Benefit at PIXAR Animation Studios”

  1. Marina says :

    Awww^^ It must have been a great day 🙂 You look so happy^^ I envy you for seeing all that things and meet so many people from PIXAR 🙂


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