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Interview with John Lasseter in Metro paper

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Interview with John Lasseter in Metro paper
« on: February 02, 2009, 08:57:50 PM »
I found a little interview with John Lasseter in the free Metro newspaper I got on the bus this morning, just thought I'd share with you all!

*Admins, move this if this isn't the right place for this, wasn't sure where to put it!* :D

Toying with our affections

The director who never grew up tells Larushka Ivan-Zadeh about how his lifelong Disney dream came true

As chief creative officer of Walt Disney, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and proud owner of a gold Blue Peter badge, John Lasseter (or 'John who?' as most readers will likely know him) is actually a very big cheese. Though it's fair to say that, as the visionary creator of Toy Story bounces towards me in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, his round red face blushing with genuine glee at my praise for his first Disney release Bolt 3D, this 52-year-old seems less like the most powerful movie mogul on the planet than a small, cheerfully coloured bouncy ball.

And who can blame him? As a child he dreamed of working at Disney, and now he runs it. It's a triumph all the sweeter given that they fired him for trying to take cartoons into a new CGI frontier after being blown away by the potential he glimpsed in Tron.

"Disney was then an executive-led hierarchy," Lasseter says with a shudder, as he recalls his time served there on Mickey's Christmas Carol in the early 1980s. "There were layers and layers of executives and each one of them gave mandatory notes. And you had to address so-and-so's notes before they'd take your stuff to the person above. When I came back to Disney [in 2006] the directors told me they felt like they'd lost their 'compass'. They were no longer thinking about making the best movie they could but: 'How can I please that executive?' I felt like my goal was to turn the studio around creatively; to be a true creative leader for all the creative folks within the studio. Because, as a film-maker-led studio, part of what makes a film so good is the fact that it's coming from the heart of the director."

'Creative leader' may sound like exactly the sort of exec-speak artists hate and 'from the heart' pure Hallmark schmaltz. But visit Disney's studios at Burbank and there's no doubting the genuine glowing love and artistic respect the animators there feel for Lasseter, who they regard as one of their own. And the results shine from the screen. Testimony to his mission statement - 'Quality is the best business plan' - Bolt (Disney) and WALL-E (Pixar) are nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year's Oscars. So what's the secret of his success?

"I always say that you have to do three things really, really well to make a great movie, especially a great animated film," explains Lasseter with the air of a cheery school teacher. "They are: tell a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seat so they can't wait to see what happens next; populate that story with memorable and appealing characters - even the bad guys should be appealing; and then put that story and those characters in a believable world - not realistic but believable. Because all the most expensive, wonderful animation in the world will never save a bad story."

Ah yes, the all-important story. That recent Pixar masterpiece WALL-E, like Ratatouille and The Incredibles before it, follows the path set by John Lasseter's directorial debut Toy Story, which was not only the first fully computerised feature animation but the first animated feature to be Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

And while he continues to take 3D cartoons to infinity and beyond at Pixar, Lasseter's vision for Disney is more traditional, involving a return to fairy tales and the kind of hand-drawn, 2D animation that made him first fall in love with cartoons.

As he shows me his Mickey Mouse watch, enthuses about his private steam locomotive and reminisces about his still-intact collection of Hot Wheels cars, it's clear he remains very much the five-year-old Lasseter who won his first award, from a Californian grocery market for a crayon drawing of a headless horseman. It's odds-on that in ten years time children will beg to go to Lasseter Land - and John will be first in line for the Buzz Lightyear ride.

Long may he never grow up.

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