Pixar's Ralph Eggleston on the Continued Importance of "Rough Sketch"

Photofest; Getty Images

For a Pixar and Moleskine collaboration, Eggleston talked to THR about the place paper and pen still holds in the studio that pioneered CG animation.

Pixar is the pioneer of computer graphics animation, but the company's roots are still firmly planted in the tradition of putting pencil to paper.

"A rough sketch means a lot around here. I would rather have a rough sketch with 50 images than five finished images with a lot of detail," said Ralph Eggleston, who has been with Pixar from the beginning, after starting there on Toy Story as an art director.

Eggleston has worked on numerous other films for the Disney-owned studio, including Finding NemoMonsters Inc. and Wall-E. He also directed the 2001 animated short For the Birds, which earned him an Oscar. Most recently he acted as the production designer on 2015's Inside Out.

"Our trade is pen and paper," explained Eggleston.

Many Pixar greats — from Inside Out director Pete Docter to Finding Nemo's Andrew Stanton to the chief himself, John Lasseter — all started with classic pen-and-paper animation.

"Right now I am working on a future project, and I am surrounded by newsprint. I really have taken to drawing with those super big, fat Sharpie pens because it forces me to not worry about detail. It forces me to work on the big broad values and shapes and ideas that I am trying to get across," Eggleston said.

Pixar and Moleskine have teamed up for a collaboration, pairing beloved Toy Story characters such as Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the Little Green Men with their classic notebooks. (This isn't the first cinematic partnership for the notebook manufacturer, having also had a line of Batman, The Hobbit and Star Wars-inspired collections.)

When asked about Pixar's earliest foray into feature CG animation, Eggleston recalled that the animation wasn't what stood out about that pioneering endeavor but rather the characters.
"I remember when Toy Story came out, people said, 'God it looks so realistic.' And I looked at it and said, 'Oh my god, are you kidding me?' What I have come to realize they meant was that they loved the characters, and they believed in the characters," said Eggleston.

Buzz, Woody, Mike Wazowski, Mr. Incredible, Dory, Wall-E — all the greatest Pixar characters first sprung to life on the page, each starting as a simple thought or a quick doodle. 

Eggleston surmised: "The detail is easy. The idea is hard."

See the Moleskine Toy Story collection below.