As a child, he wanted to work for Disney.
Now he runs the place. And Pixar, too...
In a world exclusive interview, John Lasseter spoke to Total Film about George Lucas, Up, Toy Story 3 and how he's risen from a boy obsessed with silent movies to become the most powerful man in animation...
Pretty much as soon as you took over at Disney, you changed the name of the studio.
Yes, from ‘Disney Feature Animation’ back to ‘Walt Disney Animation Studios’, as it was when Walt made his films. Even the Mickey Mouse on the letterhead is from the original studio’s letterhead.
Is that to remind everyone of the heritage of the studio?
It’s the heritage but also it’s saying we’ve gotta make movies that are at this level. You know Walt Disney’s name is not only on the studio, but on every film up there and I take great responsibility in that.
Have you made a lot of changes at the studio already?
I just wanted to make this place a filmmaker-led studio. It was an executive-led studio, with movie ideas based upon marketing and, you know, toys, and all sorts of stuff.
Directors were worrying about how to address the notes from executives rather than thinking about the audience. We’ve got rid of all that now.
Arguably the first signs of change came with Bolt, which seemed to indicate some smarter decisions with character and plot.
Well, that is the beauty of our methodology. We do the storyboards and then the story reels [rough drawings synced up with a guide soundtrack] and we can work and rework, and rework the movie.
I’ll never let anything go into production that isn’t already working well in the story reel. Because no amount of great animation will save a bad story.
But presumably you can’t rework indefinitely. There are production schedules, budgets, release dates to take into account…
Yeah, but then you say, ‘What do you want it to be? On time and on budget and bad? Is that what you really want?’
It’s got to be about making the movie great, at all costs. That’s what we’ve always done at Pixar and that’s what we did here.
Next: The Early Years