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Interview with John Lasseter

The Disney legend talks about Pixar’s latest movie, his love of Scotland, and his friendship with the late Steve Jobs.

He’s revolutionised animation completely since he began as a lowly animator at Disney in the 80s, overseeing every Pixar feature since “Toy Story” in 1995, which he directed. Now Chief Creative Officer of both Disney and Pixar, John Lasseter is the loud shirted guru of animated movies, bringing us Pixar’s latest summer blockbuster “Brave”.

Produced by Lasseter, it’s the tale of a young Scottish clan princess (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) whom looks to escape her fate by making a deal with a sinister witch, and is dismayed when this plan goes horribly wrong. “I was very excited about this because number one, it’s different to anything Pixar had done; and number two, it kind of seems like the rest of Hollywood animation studios had turned their back on ever doing sincere fairy tales again. I never understood that because I loved them, and the audience still loved them, and I thought ‘well great! If they’re not going to do it, Pixar will do its first fairy tale but we’ll do it ‘Pixar style’.”

Most of Pixar’s movies have taken place in America, why did he choose to make the new film in Scotland? “I’ve always loved Scotland- I travelled, as one of those American students in the summertime that you all probably get tired of, in the summer of 1979 when I had just graduated from CalArts (University)” he recalls. Lasseter even allowed the film’s Scottish cast (such as Kelly MacDonald and Robbie Coltraine) to add local slang (such as ‘numpty’ and ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma boab’) to make it sound more authentic to Scottish audiences. “It was funny because we started getting notes from different people in Disney saying ‘we don’t understand these words, we should probably change it so that they are words that everyone can understand’ and we were like ‘no, we love that because we don’t understand it, because we know that they are honest and true’.”

Finally, this release is tinged with sadness, being the first Pixar release since the death of Steve Jobs, one of the men whom helped found the company in the 1980s.  “We would talk all the time, he and I became like brothers” he explains. “One thing he said to me I’ll never forget… we were working on ‘Toy Story’ before he went back to Apple, and he said ‘you know, back when we were making computers at Apple, the life span of these computers would be at most about three years, in five years they were a doorstop.  If you do your job right , John, these movies can last forever’.”

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James Luxford
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