Next up was Toy Story 2. But wasn’t Disney’s initial plan to release it straight to DVD?
There was a business model for Disney, following Aladdin, of straight-to-DVD sequels but I always felt that if it was done right, Toy Story 2 should be a theatrical release.
I still think it stands as one of our absolute best movies. I think the depth of it surprised people - that it wasn’t just another ‘fun’ sequel, that there was some soul to the story, particularly with Woody’s storyline.
Most sequels are just part of the same old story being told again, which actually makes the original less interesting. And we always looked at The Empire Strikes Back and Godfather Part II, which are two sequels we held up as our model, because both expanded on the original. And that’s what we wanted to do.
To date, all the Pixar films have done well at the box office but none more so than Finding Nemo. What do you think was the key to its success?
Well for one thing it was truly universal. One of the things I learned after Toy Story and travelling around the globe doing publicity, and seeing the movies in different languages in front of different audiences around the world, is that we don’t make these movies just for the US.
We’ve seen our international box office grow as a percentage of our total box office through the years. Some of the movies, like Cars and Toy Story are kind of more American in imagery, but I think Nemo was very, very charming and appealed to women and girls as much as it appealed to men and boys.
So there was something there for everybody. And it was unusual, you know? No one had seen anything like that. And the underwater subject matter was perfect for our medium.
After a pretty intense run, you finally managed to take a break before Cars...
Yeah, that was back in the summer of 2000. I had pretty much worked straight since 1991 on Pixar’s first three movies. My wife said, ‘Be careful, one day you’re gonna wake up and your boys will be going off to college. You will have missed it.’
So I took the summer off, bought a motor home and we travelled the US, you know, just sort of getting lost and being together. I still think about it now, nine years later. And our boys still talk about it.
It was the highlight of my life because we were so close together. My boys had their mom and their dad to themselves 24/7 for two months. And you know, it was so much fun! We got so close as a family. It’s funny how you always long to kinda slip away and do that again.
With work being so fulfilling, it must be easy to let things slip at home.
I’d say that’s one of the hardest things of my job right now, to be honest, getting a balance. The demands on my time – with Disney and Pixar – are unbelievable. And I have a wonderful, talented, strong wife – she runs the family business, a winery, and a fantastic family...
But they do grow up so fast... When I was dropping my son off at college, as I was driving away all I could picture was the little blond-haired boy who loved this one slide in our garden – he wouldn’t do anything else.
The simplicity, and the joy of that... I’ll never forget. As I drove away from leaving him at college it felt like it had been only yesterday. I feel like I haven’t changed, you know. So as a father of five boys, I truly recommend that you enjoy the little things in life.
That’s really what the message of Up is - that the adventure of life is not particularly big, it’s the wonderful, everyday, simple things that make your life so special.
Next: Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2.