Behind the Scenes of Pixar Animation Studios: Where the Magic Happens

Without doubt one of the most coveted workplaces in the world by animators, aspiring storytellers and producers, the Pixar Animation Studios, based in Emeryville, California, have become the headquarters of the crème de la crème of the creative people in the animated movie industry. And for good reason!

Birthplace of some of the most visionary films in the history of animation, such as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, or Inside Out (to name only a few), the studios make for the perfect example of a company that strives to help its employees to be constantly creative and connect in a healthy, spacious and exciting environment.

Want to get a little tour of Pixar’s stunning campus? Simply scroll down to get an exciting behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens!

It’s in 2000 that Pixar officially moved from a leased space in Point Richmond, California, to larger quarters of their own in Emeryville.

The Luxo Jr. sculpture – Pixar’s logo comes to life – outside The Steve Jobs Building, rededicated on November 2012, a little over a year after Jobs’s death.

Inside the entryway of Pixar’s headquarters.

Buzz and Woody made of Lego bricks welcome you to the studios.

Personally overseen by Steve Jobs himself in the late 90’s, the design of Pixar’s campus is meant to encourage employees to leave their office to mix and mingle. (It is said that Jobs initially proposed to only build one set of bathrooms in the middle of the building’s atrium so people won’t have a choice!)

The atrium is truly the heart of the studios as it offers a large space for co-workers to relax, exchange, or even have spontaneous meetings.

Offering almost every kind of cereal you could imagine, from Captain Crunch to Muesli, Pixar’s cereal bar is one of the most used and loved places in the building.

But don’t take our word for it:

Creativity is highly encouraged for employees who want to add a personal touch to their office space. Which can lead to very original results!

Chief creative officer John Lasseter probably has the most extravagant office, though!

Aside from his collection of more than 1,000 Hawaiian shirts, Lasseter also loves to collect toys, many of which are from Pixar films!

Every year, the studios run a musical event called Pixarpalooza where musicians from various departments perform for their co-workers, friends, and family members.

Pixar’s campus also includes a basketball court, an amphitheater, a volleyball court, a chef’s garden, a swimming pool, and a jogging trail!

Although they might look like a summer camp, Pixar’s studios are a hard-working place! From storytellers to animators, hundreds of employees spend many hours perfecting every detail of each new project (a Pixar film usually takes 4-5 years to complete, so try to imagine the amount of work!).

Every detail of a new movie is overseen by a team of experts (here, John Lasseter and Toy Story 3 director, Lee Unkrich).

Script table readings and feedback are essential parts of the movie-making process (above and below, Inside Out, Up and Monster Inc. director Peter Docter).

The process of animation is long and complex. Pixar’s animators choreograph the motion in each scene by defining key frames or poses. And nothing is overlooked. Not even shadows, lighting effects, or a single character’s hair.

Animators strongly believe in researching. Which means they are not afraid to go the extra mile to ensure they do their best work by putting themselves in real situations so the results look as realistic as possible.

For example, Pixar employees learned archery while working on Brave.

Who better than John Lasseter should we follow to get a clear idea of what a normal day at Pixar looks like? In the mini-documentary below, called A Day in the Life of John Lasseter, you’ll discover the real deal that is being a creative director at the studios, which involves a series of highly important decisions ranging from what Hawaiian shirt to wear depending on what’s happening that day, to how to deal with seemingly small issues that could actually have great consequences on a very tight schedule!