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See Steve Jobs Complain About Chevron

If you watch the documentary, “A Pixar Story,” tonight, you will see Steve Jobs complaining about “sheltering in place” at Pixar’s former Point Richmond location. Pixar insiders will tell you that a compelling motivation for Jobs to get Pixar out of Richmond was the specter of fires, explosions and gas releases from the nearby Chevron and General Chemical facilities.

A Pixar story: Documentary traces company's early days

By Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times

Article Launched: 04/22/2008 12:11:29 AM PDT

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR of "Toy Story" fame might have lofty aspirations of rocketing "to infinity and beyond," but the truth is he almost didn't make it off the launch pad.

In "The Pixar Story," an absorbing documentary that charts the rise of the Emeryville-based hit factory, we learn that Disney executives were so unimpressed with early rough renderings of "Toy Story" that they suggested pulling the plug on the project.

"It was our Black Friday, Black Monday, Black Tuesday," recalls Pixar creative guru John Lasseter. "I forgot what day of the week it was, but it sure was black."

As the film recounts, the plucky wizards at Pixar refused to give up. Instead, they frenetically worked around the clock for three weeks to completely overhaul the project at their former cramped headquarters in Point Richmond.

The rest, of course, is animation history. The computer-generated "Toy Story" revolutionized the art form and propelled Pixar on an unprecedented box-office winning streak that has included, among other standouts, "A Bug's Life," "Monsters Inc." and "Finding Nemo."

"Considering the incredible success they've had, it's easy to overlook all the struggle, the risk and sacrifice that went into those early days," says Leslie Iwerks, who wrote and produced "The Pixar Story." "They truly were visionaries."

With the painstaking care of a true fan, Iwerks, the granddaughter of Disney animation pioneer Ub Iwerks, whisks viewers across the Pixar time line while delving into the company's offbeat playroom culture and celebrating the evolution of animation itself.

The film, narrated by Stacy Keach, was made with the cooperation of Pixar, and it shows. Iwerks scores interviews with company principals Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and Lasseter, as well as George Lucas, Roy Disney, Tim Allen and Tom Hanks (the voices of Buzz and Woody) and others. She also had full access to a treasure trove of clips ranging from Lasseter's home movies and early concept art to classic scenes of Pixar gems.

If there's any gripe with "The Pixar Story," it's that it feels a little too cozy at times. Iwerks, for example, pretty much glosses over the company's often rocky relationship with Disney before becoming a member of Mickey Mouse's family in 2006. And, funny, there is no mention of how Pixar's box-office booty, while still very healthy, has been in steady decline since "Finding Nemo."

Still, anyone who loves animation and/or an inspiring story of wide-eyed space rangers chasing a dream, will find a friend in "The Pixar Story."

Reach Chuck Barney at 925-952-2685 or cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Also check out his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/tvfreak.


·  WHAT: "The Pixar Story"

·  WHEN: 10 tonight

·  WHERE: Starz

·  GRADE: B+
NOTE: Program will be preceded by airings of "Cars" (6 p.m.) and "Ratatouille" (8 p.m.)