Pixar nabs honorary Golden Lion


In describing why Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter and four fellow directors at Pixar are being presented with an honorary Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 66th Venice Film Festival, festival director Marco Mueller isn't shy about making an analogy to the Renaissance.

"The term 'bottega' referred to the workshop of a painter," Mueller says. "In the history of renaissance painting, it happened many times that major talents like Raphael, Michelangelo and others who had become very important artists would train the next generation. I think of Lasseter and the younger filmmakers now also work in this way."

The award is not only unique because it honors this group -- and the company they created -- but also because it salutes animated movies, which have only rarely screened at the Venice festival. It also will be accompanied by the first presentation of major movies in 3D, with the world premiere of "Toy Story" and its sequel, which have now been converted to 3D.

Lasseter says that while 3D certainly enhances the viewing experience, it doesn't really change the films as much as one might imagine. "It doesn't change (them) at all," he explains. "In fact, I think it's more true. Basically we've always been making three-dimensional movies. We've just been looking at them with one eye closed. Within the computer it's always three dimensional when we were creating them.

"'Toy Story' was the first computer-animated film," he adds. "Now we can do so much more."

Lasseter will be accompanied in Venice by his fellow directors Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, who will all join together to present a master class on animation during the festival.

"It's an incredible opportunity," Lasseter says. "We get very lively when we get together and crack each other up. Its really fun. We've been working together since about 1990."

In addition to the world premiere of the 3D version of the first two "Toy Story" movies, there will be screenings of Stanton's "Finding Nemo," Bird's "The Incredibles" and the Italian premiere of Docter's recent hit "Up" in 3D.

There will also be the world premiere presentation of advance footage from "The Princess and the Frog," a new 2D animated film being made at Walt Disney Studios, which marks the studio's return to traditional hand painted animation.

"What's exciting about this award is that it's the first time the honorary Golden Lion has been given not only to a single filmmaker but to a studio," Lasseter says.