On this day in 2008, Pixar held their wrap party for WALL•E. When it was released 27 days later, it became a smash hit. Movie goers and critics were surprised that an animated film, with 2 robots and almost no human dialogue during the first 30 minutes, could tell such a heartful and moving love story. It would end up generating over $521 million worldwide and winning numerous awards including the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
But there is a story within the WALL•E wrap party story that I think demonstrates one of the reasons we all love Pixar. This story starts with Courtney Mault. Courtney loved the WALL•E trailer. In fact, she loved it so much she would tear up and cry whenever she watched it. She ended up making a YouTube video of herself watching the trailer, which made the rounds and was even noticed by folks at Pixar. I won't recount the entire story here - her boyfriend blogged about it, and I wouldn't be able to do it justice. But in summary Pixar got a hold of her, sent her a crew jacket for Christmas and then a few months later invited Courtney to the WALL•E wrap party. As any sane person would, she of course accepted and was treated to a tour of the studio and attended the party. At the party, Andrew Stanton gave a speech thanking everyone for their effort on the film. During the speech he mentioned Courtney, how their trailer affected her, how it gave Andrew and the rest of the crew the confidence that they were on the right track with the film. Stanton asked Courtney to stand up and she was met with huge applause from the audience! After the screening, Courtney met Andrew, who thanked her for coming. She had her photo taken with Andrew by none other than Brad Bird! She spent the rest of the party being greeted by Pixar employees. It sounds like it was a very moving and thrilling experience!
I love this story! I love it for a couple of reasons. First, from a Pixar fan perspective it's just an awesome story. Can you imagine being personally invited to a Pixar wrap party? If that wasn't enough, to be introduced by the director, to be greeted by all the amazing artists that we admire?
I also love this story as it gives us insight into the people who work at Pixar. What causes Pixar to open up their studio to fans and other folks, to invite them to wrap parties and send them gifts? To be sure, there are multiple reasons, the others which will be covered in future posts. But for this post, to me, there is a trait shared by all the folks there that I think is worthy to be labeled as one of the reasons we love Pixar. I'm calling this reason #2: they appreciate people.
We have been told by John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton and many others that it's all about story. And what makes a great story are the characters, their interactions and relationships with the other characters. Pixar spends years working and re-working their stories, delving into the characters and how they would act and behave. The importance of interactions and relationships is ingrained into the Pixar culture. Even their building was built to encourage random interactions - Steve Jobs designed it to have services such as the dining room, mail room and even bathrooms in a single area. Jobs knew that by forcing employees into this area there was a greater chance for unexpected interactions, and out of these interactions might come a new idea, a new story idea, or a way to make a piece of software better.
I believe the people who work at Pixar love and embrace the concept
of building relationships. The few employees I have met have been
genuinely interested in me and my thoughts. Look how active Pixar
employees are on social networks such as Twitter. They really want to
know more about people, make an emotional connection with them. Out of
these connections and knowledge comes a better understanding of the
world, which helps them make better films.