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D23: Why John Lasseter Was a Lot Like Andy in 'Toy Story'

Pixar filmmakers talk research, from "Finding Dory” director Andrew Stanton’s “near-drowning experience” to Pete Docter’s trip to South America for "Up."

Finding Dory Still - H 2013
Walt Disney Studios
"Finding Dory"

Research is a big part of Pixar moviemaking and helps to makes the animation and story authentic.

“Initially we are looking for sets, environments. Then, another trip might be more relevant to the characters. Often animators want to study movement," related Finding Dory producer Lindsay Collins during a Friday evening panel at Disney's D23 expo in Anaheim.

A team of filmmakers from Pixar Animation Studios shared their research experiences, from a trip to Scotland for Brave to simple in-house discussions about how they played with their toys.

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Andrew Stanton -- who won Oscars for Wall-E and Finding Nemo and is helming Pixar’s upcoming Nemo sequel, Finding Dory -- recalled that while making Toy Story, the filmmakers discussed their own habits to get ideas for the story. "[The character] Andy was John [Lasseter] -- that is how he grew up [caring for] his toys."

But Stanton admitted that he was a lot more like Sid, the character who would break his action figures.

The director also recalled getting his diving certification in Monterey while working on Finding Nemo a decade ago. He wanted to know what it felt like to be underwater, but called it a “near-drowning experience."

"I really don’t recommend [learning to dive] in Monterey; it's cold and murky," he said, getting a laugh when he added, “Learn in Hawaii or San Diego, where someone will meet you afterwards with a drink.”

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For Pete Docter, who won an Academy Award for directing Up and is next helming Pixar’s 2015 release Inside Out, a research trip to South America was critical in the making of his Oscar winner. “We started with a fantasy place, then realized that the story was that [Carl] missed out on real adventure. So we had to take him on the ultimate adventure. We found this place in South America -- but [we were light on] available details. To make it feel authentic, we had to go there.”

The panel also included Brave producer Katherine SarafianInside Out producer Jonas Rivera, and The Good Dinosaur producer Denise Ream.