08 October, 2011

Having Fun on The Jobs

the Pixar triumvirate: Ed, Steve, and John - photo from Pixar

In the spring of 1997 I had the good fortune to be finishing up from Pixar's storied "P.U." after months of drills and exercises to familiarize ourselves with their MENV software package, and the studio was kind enough to celebrate our class's graduation with a party outside the cafeteria at their old residence in the rabbit warren offices of Point Richmond (prior to our move across the road to Frogtown, which was prior to our move down to the Delmonte factory in Emeryville.) It was a beautiful late spring day, and we set up around some picnic tables. The idea was for us initiates to perform some skits in front of the rest of the staff (about 140 others at the time) to informally introduce ourselves and break the ice a bit. My partner in crime was fellow Canuck - and animator extraordinaire - Pete Nash. We loosely rehearsed a duet performance of us extolling the virtues of Canadians beyond our reputations as great animators; we wanted to demonstrate our country's superb cuisine and talent for music as well.

We hauled out and plugged in both a hotplate and an amp. While I gave a cooking lesson on a rasher of peameal bacon (not easy to find in the SF Bay area), Pete - decked out in grunge wig and sunglasses - wailed away on his Fender. It was a delectable melding of grease. Once the cornmeal edges had crusted up golden brown, I slipped the plate across to John Lasseter, who was seated at the nearest picnic table along with Pixar founder Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter. Without missing a beat John got up and deferentially skipped around with the plate of sizzling pink pork and set it in front of the card-carrying vegetarian Mr. Jobs. Steve of course would have none of this and insisted on passing it right back to John, with a certain gusto that implied if it ended up in Ed's lap it would not have mattered. Happily the flimsy paper plate held its integrity throughout the highjinks and the slab of sow never hit the grass.

This little episode confirmed for me that we were in the midst of some golden years. I saw here some very talented people gathering together to celebrate their company's growth and promise while ascending the crest of a wave that was bigger than anyone could know. Steve was in the midst of re-assimilating with Apple, and his "other company," Pixar, was gearing up to capitalize on the wild success John brought them with their first feature film. The opportunity for egos to dictate the tone of the day was huge, yet here they were playing hot potato with a sliver of Canadian bacon on this warm and sunny March morning, like a bunch of kids.

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