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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Pixar Story


On Wednesday I snuck out of work and went downtown with Ann Telnaes to see a documentary called "The Pixar Story". It was produced & directed by Leslie Iwerks, daughter of the great animator Ub Iwerks, and it was showing very briefly in DC to qualify for the Oscars. Ann and I were the only ones in the theater, maybe in the whole theater complex, so we could chat during the show. Ann trained as an animator at CalArts, the school that produced John Lasseter and she knew some of the people in the documentary.

Watching it I was struck by how dicey a business like Pixar can be, how close it is to the verge of collapse from one blockbuster to the next; Toy Story did spectacularly well, but then A Bug's Life had to do even better, and when Toy Story 2 almost fell apart and had to be redone the whole company almost fell apart with it. And Pixar's partnership with Disney was played as a somewhat atonal counterpoint to its ever-changing fortunes. Ann booed when some of the Disney executives were interviewed, especially when the subject was Disney's idiotic switch from 2-D animation to 3-D, when they let go animators with years of experience in classic animation. Now of course Lasseter's in charge of Disney animation so things have changed and We'll See. Disney's always been a company that can put a smile on your face and make you grind your teeth hard enough to loosen a molar at the same time.

It was an interesting film, very much a bouquet to John Lasseter, his cohort of geniuses and their story-telling skills. We bought a little Pixar stock years ago and haven't paid much attention to it, though they do send shareholders a nice poster every year, so maybe I've got a vested interest. I admitted to Ann that I choked up at the end of both Toy Stories and Ratatouille. But then I blubber when the laundry soap works in the TV commercials, just 'cause everybody is so happy about it.

2 comments:

here today, gone tomorrow said...

I saw a little kid dressed up as Buzz Lightyear over at Clarendon this Halloween - that's some staying power. Both "Toy Story" and "Ratatouille" rocked. The scene in the latter when the critic was slammed back to his childhood with just one bite of the ratatouille set me back in my chair almost as hard. I've never been able to see "Bambi" because of the blubbering factor...

richardcthompson said...

Yes! That was the scene that did it! He went from this awful, pompous jerk right into a little, woebegone kid in two seconds and you suddenly knew just how he felt. That's some awesome use of animation for story-telling. My younger daughter was Jessie the Yodelling Cowgirl when she was two; it's a perfect fit for her personality.