Thanks again to Silicon Prairie News and KANEKO for giving me the opportunity to write about Pixar’s Josh Cooley. If I could pick any other job than the one I have, number one on the list would be to be a creative at Pixar in some capacity. It was a treat to hear Josh speak Friday night, and then meet and talk with him the next day.

(I did interview Josh this past Saturday for twenty minutes. We talked more about Pixar and the creative process. The transcription from the interview will be posted soon. It will either be on Silicon Prairie News, or here on RamHatter.)

Here are some additional tidbits from the event Friday night, and my conversation with Josh the next day, that didn’t make the final edit of the post. (If you didn’t read the original post on Silicon Prairie News, click here.)

  • Josh shared about his fondness for the Muppets and Sesame Street. He jokingly added he is glad he has a kid since he can watch the shows without being the creepy guy watching Sesame Street.
  • When I talked with Josh on Saturday, we joked about going to the toy store to buy toys “for our kids” when really it’s for us. (He with Muppets/Sesame Street and me with Pixar.)
  • The footage Josh showed Friday night was amazing. I hope some of it sees the light of day. Pixar allows footage to be shown in these presentations, but not to be recorded in any way. I had to text my photographer (Jordan Green) during the talk to not shoot the right screen.
  • While the early 90’s story reel of Toy Story where Woody was a bully to the other toys was cool to see, I really liked seeing the storyboard from Monsters, Inc. of Sulley embracing Boo before they separated. I’d buy a print of that.
  • Some of the pics of the offices at Pixar were crazy. I think it was Pete Docter that has his office decked out as a mine shaft. Another individual has a hidden passageway behind a bookcase that leads to a bar. There’s a tiki office and one as a castle outpost. And then John Lasseter has wall to wall toys in his office. Awesome.
  • A number of the Pixar rooms are covered in sketches of each other from meetings. Josh showed a few that were drawn of him, including one where he is Wonder Woman.
  • One of the benefits with Pixar being located in Emeryville, CA, which is roughly 400 miles north of Hollywood, is that it allows Pixar to think outside the typical Hollywood box/mindset.
  • Josh shared some sketches that Joe Ranft put together about the storyboarding process. While the sketches were great, I enjoyed seeing some of Joe’s work. Joe Ranft died during the production of Cars and worked on a number of Pixar films.
  • Josh showed a picture of a couple that were dressed up as futuristic space travelers. He asked the audience to describe the image. (This was during the part of his talk where he said a single image can tell a story.) People said different things from “geeks” to “people that shop at Wal-Mart”. Josh then said they were his parents. They own and run a toy store in California, Cooleykatz Toys.
  • There’s a progression with animation. In one reel Josh showed, we saw a scene from Up from storyboard to final cut. Storyboard > Layout > Character > Animation > Cloth and Feather Simulation > Shading and Lighting
  • He shared a few gags that were written into Up that were cut because they killed the momentum or tone of a scene. One was the badge ceremony at the end where a boy achieves a poisonous badge identification badge, and the boy’s face is covered in various maladies. Another scene was Muntz ordering the dogs after Carl and Russell. The dogs take off, but they reach a closed door and sheepishly look back at Muntz who has to come over and open the door for the dogs.
  • When Josh pitched the idea about George & A.J., word got around Pixar and he ended up pitching it seven times in one day. Josh did it on his own while finishing up production on Up, teaching, and his wife was pregnant. There was no budget for it, and it’s why music and vocals are reused. It’s also why there it has a storyboard feel to it, but personally I like it. It stands out from the rest of the shorts that have come from Pixar and show how a simple image can convey a story.
  • The KANEKO audience laughed heartily when Josh showed George & A.J. during his talk.
  • Josh mentioned the work Courage to Create and “fertile indolence”. “Is there alone time with what you do so creative juices can do its job?”
  • During crunch times of a film’s production, the team will work weekends and all-nighters.
  • According to Josh, the Pizza Planet truck appearing in all the Pixar films started out by accident. Since it was in the first Pixar film, they had footage of it. So, in the next film when they needed a truck, they would just reuse some of the images from previous films. While it’s now an Easter Egg, among others, it wasn’t intended that way.
  • After the interview with Josh, on Saturday, he, Jacquie Scoones (KANEKO) and I talked a bit about how it’s almost necessary in kids’ films to have that one character they are somewhat scared about. This was brought on because of my three year old son wanting me to ask Josh if the character Frank was going to be in Cars 2. Some of the memories we have from our childhood are when we were scared or those emotional scenes. In fact, the first movie memory I have? Empire Strikes Back, right after Darth Vader has told Luke that he is his father. I remember Luke letting go and falling down the ventilation shaft and into the chute.
Josh was great to talk to, and I wish I had more time to ask him questions about his work. Hopefully there will be a next time.
Thanks again to the KANEKO staff. They were gracious and helpful throughout. Special thanks to Jacquie Scoones who set up the interview with Josh on Saturday.

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