Disclaimer: Disney, Pixar and ABC invited me to San Francisco on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included special events and the opportuntity to tour PIXAR Headquarters. As always, all opinions are my own. Affiliate link in post.
The Heart of PIXAR
Woody. Buzz. Jessie.
Sulley. Mike Wazowski. Boo.
Nemo. Dory. Marlin.
If you are anything like me, these names conjure up emotions. They of course are some of the most beloved PIXAR characters ever created. Their stories have resonated with me all these years.
STORY – It’s a word I heard over and over while in San Francisco last month for an exclusive Cars 3 Event. It’s a word that fully describes the heart of PIXAR.
Every employee, from the most successful PIXAR director to one working behind the counter in the gift shop, understands the essence of PIXAR – Story.
One can feel it as you step onto the PIXAR campus. While you know before ever arriving that a visit to this legendary headquarters will be impressive, you might be surprised to find that the campus really does tell a story. A story of the characters it has created. A story of the characters yet to be. And a story of those who’ve changed the world of animation.
It wouldn’t be fair to be so moved by a location and not share with you. So follow along and tour PIXAR Headquarters with me.
When I first heard I was headed to San Francisco, I gasped. I couldn’t help myself.
For a life-long Disney and PIXAR fan, this was a pivotal moment. Those closest to me know why my love of Disney started at such a young age, and it has never wavered.
I’d been to Disney headquarters many times, but now I would be going deep into a creative heartbeat of the company, PIXAR! While PIXAR began as its own company (FUN FACT: It was part of Lucasfilm at one time), it has been owned by Disney since 2006.
Though I say San Francisco, in reality PIXAR Headquarters is located across the bay in Emeryville, California (just a quick ride away).
I was able to spend 2 days at PIXAR, but it’s those first few moments that I remember the best. It was the “pinch me” moment I’d been waiting for.
Along with 24 other bloggers and friends, we stared in awe as our shuttles pulled into the PIXAR Animation Studios lot. Thankfully, we were given a brief period of time just to shoot as many pictures as we wanted and take it all in.
None of the 25 of us had ever experienced this before. PIXAR does not offer tours to the public and I think we all realized this was an incredible opportunity. It was that and more.
As we were there in part to learn more about the upcoming PIXAR release, Cars 3 (due out June 16th), I marveled at the detailing on the roads. Do you see that Cars 3 logo that everyone who enters the lot drives over? It was a hint of the magic and storytelling that was to come.
Though we were in Northern California, it was just as you might imagine a California resort – picturesque.
Chilly Spring weather. Palm trees lining the walkways.
But then you’d spy something that would make this place stand out from any other…
You’d find PIXAR magic at every turn.
Down a bricked walkway leading to the main building, we quickly found the famed PIXAR logo and lamp, Luxo, Jr., from the short film directed by John Lasseter. Closeby was the PIXAR ball.
It was here that I realized I would never put my camera away.
And I never did.
The Steve Jobs Building
Just steps from the famed Luxo, Jr. and ball was the main building on the PIXAR campus, The Steve Jobs Building, named after the late entrepreneur, co-founder of Apple, and former CEO of PIXAR.
What goes on inside that building – pure magic!
And you get a little taste of that as you first step inside…
You are immediately greeted by some of your favorite PIXAR characters.
I decided to join The Incredibles. I’m still not sure what my superpower might be. Any suggestions?
Though I didn’t think I knew anyone in Emeryville, I was mistaken.
Friends were showing up around every corner. It was nice to run into such familiar faces. I had to say hello.
Life-sized Buzz and Woody here were completely made of LEGOs!
The atrium inside The Steve Jobs Building is impressive.
The large glass windows afford everyone on the inside to look out over the beautiful grounds (and the PIXAR logo). A gorgeous cafe offering employees and guests a wide assortment of food is right in the atrium.
PIXAR has certainly acquired their fair share of Academy Awards. Some of them were on display for all to see.
I spotted the Academy Awards for Inside Out and Brave – just two of their many Best Animated Feature Films.
I soon discovered that Cars 3 had taken over the Pixar campus.
It wasn’t just the clever placing of a logo on the street outside. In just about every seating area or play area (yes, the atrium had a ping-pong table), there were incredibly large murals depicting scenes from the upcoming movie.
It was clear that Cars 3 was the focus of PIXAR at the time.
We enjoyed a reception upstairs on the second floor, but alas, no photos were allowed, as this was FULL of Cars 3 photographs, drawings, and more. As the story can certainly change and be edited right up until the release date, we’re not allowed to talk about what we saw. BUT…it was magnificient!
No trip to PIXAR is complete without a trip to the gift shop.
Am I right?
Shhhh…I might have even shopped more than once.
This is from my first visit.
When you tour PIXAR Headquarters, you soon realize that the campus is more than just The Steve Jobs Building.
It consists of several buildings, each one named after a New York City borough.
So many of the details of this campus were specifically designed by Steve Jobs himself. He had an eye for detail, that was clear.
While I didn’t spot it the first night, I saw this little character on top of the Brooklyn Building when we went back the second time. See him on the roof? You know the movie, right? Finding Nemo of course!
Once inside the Brooklyn Building, where we attended a screening of ABC’s The Toy Box and interviewed one of the mentors on the show, PIXAR Creative Director of Consumer Products Jen Tan, I was met by another familiar face.
BING BONG! From Inside Out, of course! This guy’s story still brings me to tears.
Another larger than life mural found me, this time for a PIXAR princess, Merida.
Here’s what I loved most about walking around the building. While sometimes photographs were off limits, there were surprises at every turn.
Just in a quick walk to the restroom, I found Mike and Sulley, then soon realized that even in the flooring PIXAR created a story. From Wall-e to Squirt, there were images of PIXAR characters embedded into the tile flooring.
It’s easy to see how the environment at PIXAR encourages and inspires creativity in the employees.
Offices are decorated as ornately as one can imagine.
Basketball courts are PIXAR inspired.
Rocking chairs are positioned as to enjoy the lush greenery.
Hammocks (yes, I said hammocks) are hung between trees. Why not take a little nap? I mean, sometimes my best ideas come while resting!
PIXAR encourages its employees to have a healthy lifestyle and does all it can to help, from offering special classes to encouraging activity (there is a full-size Olympic pool on site – and there were people taking laps while I was there)!
The best surprise I discovered – Luxo, Jr. turns on at night!
Well played PIXAR. Well played.
That smile on my face. It’s real.
It’s real-er than real (if that’s a word).
While I can’t tell you anything YET, we did get an exclusive screening of the first 40 or so minutes of CARS 3! Yes, we did! You will not be disappointed…PIXAR has done it again.
Let’s take a sneak peek at the newest trailer, just released this week:
CARS 3 opens in theatres everywhere on June 16th!
You might want to read the best-selling book written by the co-founder of PIXAR, Ed Catmull, Creativity, INC.!
Follow along over the next few weeks as I bring you more from my trip to San Francisco and PIXAR for #Cars3Event! Here are some posts so far:
- The Toy Box – PIXAR Visit
- Born in China Screening & Review
- Puppy Dog Pals – Exclusive Interview
- I’m Going to PIXAR for Cars 3 Event
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