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Monsters, Inc.'s Pete Docter: Telling Stories

interview by matthew webber

Week 1: Monsters, Inc.'s Pete Docter: Telling Stories
Week 2: Ziggy's Tom Wilson Jr.: Thinking Like a Greeting Card
Week 3: Luann's Greg Evans: Thinking Like a Teenager
Week 4: Fox Trot's Bill Amend: Thinking Like a Math Geek
Week 5: Marmaduke's Brad Anderson: Thinking Like a Dog

Nationally syndicated cartoonists and Hollywood animators visited Marceline, Mo., Sept. 18 to speak and draw for the sixth annual Toonfest. At this all-day festival, the artists discussed their craft, as well as the legacy of Walt Disney, who lived in this small town from 1906 to 1911. In individual interviews, the artists shared their ideas on art, creativity, and dreams while acknowledging Disney's influence.

This week, Pixar animator and the director of Monsters, Inc., Pete Doctor, explains how the best children's movies work because they tell good stories, and now the best stories are never just for children.

You mentioned something in your talk that I really liked about how stories are what's being told [in the best Disney and Pixar films]. How has Pixar been able to tell such good stories?

Pete Docter: Well, we hire good storytellers. And we do stuff, as I think I mentioned, for ourselves. We try to basically - I think anytime you start thinking, "I'm going to address this to 7-year-olds," or something, you're really kind of talking down to people. That's not going to come off very well. So we just try to make films for ourselves that we ourselves enjoy and have a good time watching and want to see, and I think that shows up on the screen.

You may have touched on this earlier, but how would you say that's similar to the way Walt Disney worked?

I think it's very similar. I mean, he never thought of himself as making kids' films. He never would talk down to anybody. He was just making films that he wanted to. There's some really great quote that I wish I could remember exactly, but he said, "We're not making films for kids, we're making them for the child, the unspoiled child, in all of us," or something to that effect, and that's really what we're trying to do as well.

Where do you see the future of Pixar? What are you going to continue to do? What stories are you going to tell?

Well, we're going to continue to do films that we want to do. We're starting to expand. We've got Brad Bird, I don't know if you've ever seen Iron Giant, but it's a great movie, and he's the director of The Incredibles, so as you see that, I think it's kind of expanding the palette of the type of films that we do. It's much more of an action-adventure-type of film, and hopefully that will just blaze the trail for even more diversity from our studio, with always the emphasis on story and character.

Issue 27, October 2004

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