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John Lasseter: Entertainer of the decade

The Pixar head honcho shares the story behind some of the company’s biggest hits like ”Finding Nemo” and ”Wall-E”

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Simply put, there has never been a filmmaking body in the history of Hollywood that has been as creatively and commercially successful as Pixar. This decade alone, the company’s seven feature films have been nominated for 25 Oscars and have pulled in $4.1 billion worldwide. At the heart of it all is John Lasseter, Pixar’s founding creative force and the chief creative officer for both Pixar and Disney animation. ”Every Pixar movie at one time was the worst motion picture ever made,” Lasseter, 52, insists. Here’s his team’s formula for getting it right.

Toil to Perfect the Story
One scene in Monsters, Inc. was redone ”about 30 times” before Lasseter was satisfied, and a major plot point in WALL?E was changed after the film’s first trailer had already hit theaters. ”It doesn’t matter whose idea it is, the idea that makes the movie better is always used.”

Tackle Technical Innovation
At the end of Andrew Stanton’s hour-long pitch for Finding Nemo, Lasseter, a longtime scuba nut, looked at him and said, ”You had me at the word fish.” So what if no one knew how to make a convincing underwater world with a computer? ”There’s a saying at Pixar,” says Lasseter. ”The art challenges technology, and the technology inspires the art.”

Take Creative Leaps of Faith
Be it a rat in a French kitchen, a robot on a barren Earth, or a 78-year-old tethered to a floating house, Pixar appears to have a mad obsession with shattering every convention of family-friendly filmmaking. ”Oftentimes, it feels like Hollywood thinks of the audience as the lowest common denominator,” says Lasseter. ”We always think that the audience is so smart they’ll be there for you — especially kids.”