Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Pixar Canada, and Beyond

The majority of the world was probably feeling elated yesterday afternoon; it was, after all, Friday. But I was feeling particularly gleeful - it's not everyday that you get to visit the satellite studio of one of the world's most beloved filmmaking companies.

Yesterday I had the absolutely incredible opportunity to visit the Pixar Canada studio in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, and it was a visit I'll never forget. The general manager and vice president of the studio, the wonderful Amir Nasrabadi, was kind enough to invite me for a tour around the facility, which has grown significantly since it opened in 2010. 

Let me start by saying that although it is a whole lot smaller than the central studio in Emeryville, it is in no way whatsoever less impressive. Complete with a staircase that connects the three floors, a spacious kitchen for employees to grab a bite or two, a screening room (which Amir describes as "the ultimate home theater"), a fitness center to keep Pixarians nice and healthy, a library with a gorgeous view of some of the local mountains, and a large outdoor deck fit to host some wicked parties, Pixar Canada has it all. However, as you may have guessed, quite a bit of construction had to be completed before the building could have any of these sweet features.

Much like its larger counterpart in California, at Pixar Canada "there is very little we don't allow" says Amir. Throughout the studio you'll find of all sorts Nerf guns on the employees' desks, waiting to be picked up and carried into battle, and I was even warned to keep my head up, for you never know when you might unexpectedly cross paths with a dart flying at 35 miles per hour. I even caught a glimpse of a single forgotten dart lying next to Sulley by the staircase (pictured above). Employees are also permitted to bring their dogs to work, and one even has a fish tank.

As you might expect, the Pixarians can decorate their work spaces in pretty much any way they like, much like in Emeryville. There were some insanely cool cubicles, it amazed me how creative these folks were, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised - they're Pixarians for crying out loud.

Photo credit: Evoke International Design

The library is one place that really stood out for me. It's extremely colorful, has some really comfy-looking spots to sit in, and a bookshelf containing pretty much every Pixar 'Art of' book there is, which the filmmakers can flip through at any time if they're in need of inspiration. Amir said that this was meant to be a space where a group of employees could sit down and have a small meeting about an issue they've had on their minds. And of course, you can't have a Pixar studio without some sort of hidden passageway somewhere (now that was awesome). The wallpaper behind the bookshelf (pictured above) has a really awesome pattern designed by the studio's creative director Dylan Brown, which has hidden silhouettes of various Pixar characters - you can spend quite a bit of time trying to find and name them all.

Pixar Canada as it appears from the outside

The architecture in the building is sensational. From the outside, it just looks like an everyday Vancouver office building, and at first glance there's nothing really remarkable or extraordinary about it. Once you step inside, however, your whole perception of the building changes instantly; that is, if you weren't already aware that the building is home to some of the most talented filmmakers in the world. In the interior, the studio is beautifully decorated with all sorts of indigenous wood from different parts of the province, and it makes for a truly gorgeous workplace bursting with inspiration. It might interest you to know that the building is also one of Vancouver's oldest buildings; the third or fourth one ever built, in fact, making it a heritage building. Several parts of the building, including brick walls and the industrial ceiling, remained untouched even while renovating. Why? They give the building such great character, and isn't that what Pixar is all about?

What made my day is when Amir told me I could draw something on Pixar Canada's own doodle wall, where employees and guests can come at any time and, well, doodle. I ended up doing a not-that-good little drawing of Buzz Lightyear, but I was overwhelmed to leave my own mark at the very place where artists and visionaries create such beloved works.

So far, Pixar Canada have worked on four different short films; Air Mater, Small Fry, Time Travel Mater, and Partysaurus Rex. While I obviously cannot say what the studio is currently working on, I can tell you that it is absolute brilliance and typical Pixar greatness, and when people see it they are going to be blown away. People of all ages will be able to take something out of it.

Bruce hangs out by the staircase, keeping an eye on the kitchen.

I was given an awesome little Pixar Canada goody bag filled with all sorts of cool items (a Partysaurus Rex t-shirt and the Pixar Shorts Collection - Volume 2 on Blu-ray to name a few) and left the studio, head swarming with feelings of awe and astonishment. Visiting a film studio is a great experience, but visiting a Pixar studio...well, it's something that can't really be put into words.

A huge thank you to Amir Nasrabadi for inviting me! Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@AmirNasrabadi)!


Anonymous said...

u gotta luv that pixar!!!

Anonymous said...

i read that pixar (emeryville) doesnt give tours, but i have read ur post on ur visit there. do they secretly give tours?

Anonymous said...

Brave got the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film! Go Pixar! There have been seven Golden Globe Awards in this catergory, and Pixar has taken six of them (Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, and Brave). The other one was The Adventures of Tin-Tin in 2011.

BenZ97 said...

Is the short in progress a Toy Story Toon on a Cars Toon?

Al said...

@ Anonymous #2: Maybe not necessarily "secretly", but while the studio is not open to the public, bloggers and the press are sometimes invited for tours.

@ BenZ97: Hahaha, I'm afraid I can't tell you. :P

Pixar Post said...

Today is the first time I've had a chance to read this - what a great write up! So happy for you that you got to visit! Congrats! - T.J.

Al said...

Thanks TJ! Appreciate it!!

Hannah said...

So exciting! I can't wait to see what they're coming up with! I think it's so cool that they let you know what they're creating. If you go again... BRING ME WITH YOU! ;)

minjeong Kim said...

I love Pixar!
so i just wanted to go to Vancouver to see a Pixar studio building but I'm supposed to go Toronto sad about that T.T
again i love Pixar :)