Lasseter-San, Arigato (synopsis - Page 4)

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8. September 13: Pixar Animation Studios

Miyazaki Day at Pixar

As Miyazaki had designed the buildings for Studio Ghibli, his own studio Buta-Ya and the Ghibli Museum, his first visit to the new Pixar studio held much interest. When he enters the vast glass-ceilinged atrium, he is presented with the sight of Spirited Away banners hanging from the rafters. Lasseter tells him it is "Miyazaki Day" at Pixar. It is the first time banners have been hung in the atrium, and Lasseter had Disney make them to measure.

Because the Pixar animators work alone at their computers, the building is designed to promote serendipitous meetings as much as possible, with the toilets, café and screening rooms located in the centre of the building. As the group tours the studio, they pass a small salt-water aquarium set up for the animators to study as they work on their latest film [Finding Nemo]. They wander along, passing the quirkily-decorated offices of the animators. One is decorated like a fairytale castle, another like an island in the South Pacific. One office has a big mural of a samurai biker girl, and Lasseter has Miyazaki sign the "Totoro" imitation-wood DVD player in the office as a surprise for the animator.

The most elaborate office is that of Andrew Gordon, who discovered an empty alcove adjoining his room, originally intended for the air-conditioning. It is decorated like a retro bar and lounge, complete with leopard-print walls. Miyazaki signs an empty space on the wall.

Suzuki notes that Miyazaki is not interested in high tech, but prefers old cars that retain "the warm charm of machines". Lasseter shows Miyazaki a tiny old 3-wheeled Messerschmitt car into which the two of them can barely fit, one behind the other. Some bonus footage is included of Miyazaki in Tokyo driving his own 3-wheel British open-wheeler, a "Tri-King" which has been under repair for several years.

Watashi wa Genki

They walk out to the open-air amphitheatre where Lasseter and Miyazaki sing the opening theme to My Neighbour Totoro. Sitting outside the studio, Miyazaki praises the studio building, which Lasseter contrasts with studios such as Disney which might be visually stunning externally, but which do not perform their function quite as well.

Miyazaki is shown into Lasseter's toy-lined office (upon whose floor stands a three-foot tall Totoro plushie), and Lasseter shows off his "Miyazaki Shrine" - a Totoro poster signed by Miyazaki during Lasseter's 1987 visit.

At this point, there is some historical footage tracing the relationship between Lasseter and Miyazaki. Firstly, a clip from Little Nemo where the nighttime flying bed scene seems to foreshadow a similar scene in Spirited Away. Miyazaki had first met Lasseter when he was in Los Angeles with Takahata, working on this film (which they later abandoned). The next clip is from a promotional tour to Los Angeles in 1999 for Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki is shown revisiting some of the places that held bad memories from his time working on Little Nemo, but recalls meeting Lasseter whose quiet diligence at the computer impressed Miyazaki, despite the latter's preference for hand-drawing.

Lasseter recalls seeing Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro in 1982, contrasting it with the less inspiring Disney films on which he was then working. Not only that, Lasseter recalls the environment at Disney as being less than encouraging for young animators with new ideas. He recounts the excitement and entertainment of watching a live-action film such as Star Wars, believing that animation could also provide the same experience. In this sense, Lasseter says he was deeply inspired by Miyazaki, whose movie provided confirmation to Lasseter of his belief in animation.

Suzuki narrates the tale of the pair's subsequent meeting in 1987, and clips of Luxo Jr. and Red's Dream are shown - even a video interview with Lasseter. Miyazaki recalls the language barrier caused by Lasseter's unexpected visit without an interpreter. Lasseter recounts how an ex-colleague of Miyazaki's took him to Studio Ghibli, where he marveled at the painted backgrounds. He tells of how he asked Miyazaki about the film then in production, and was shown a single cel of the Catbus - to the audible gasp of the interviewer. Suzuki then includes what he believes is Lasseter's favourite scene from My Neighbor Totoro: the bus-stop scene in the rain.


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