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  1. #1
    Peter Paltridge's Avatar
    Peter Paltridge is offline Steven Sword!
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    News Flash! John Lasseter WAS responsible for Brave Little Toaster!

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    CNN.com has an article on John Lasseter this week--written by Lasseter himself.

    The whole thing is a real treat, but what I found most surprising was the confirmation of something I've suspected for a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Lasseter
    Tron was made by a different part of the studio, unrelated to animation. This young live-action executive named Tom Willhite picked me out of the group because I kept talking to him about how we could use this new technology in animation. So he let me and a colleague put together a 30-second test, combining hand-drawn, two-dimensional Disney-style character animation with three-dimensional computer-generated backgrounds.

    I was so excited about the test, and I wanted to find a story that we could apply this technique to in a full-blown movie. A friend of mine had told me about a 40-page novella called "The Brave Little Toaster," by Thomas Disch. I've always loved animating inanimate objects, and this story had a lot of that. Tom Willhite liked the idea, too, and got us the rights to the story so we could pitch it to the animation studio along with our test clip.

    When it came time to show the idea, I remember the head of the studio had only one question: "How much is this going to cost?" We said about the same as a regular animated feature. He replied, "I'm only interested in computer animation if it saves money or saves time." We found out later that others had poked holes in my idea before I had even pitched it.

    In our enthusiasm, we had gone around some of my direct superiors, and I didn't realize how much of an enemy I had made of one of them. I mean, the studio head had made up his mind before we walked in. We could have shown him anything and he would have said the same thing.

    Ten minutes after the studio head left the room I get a call from the superior who didn't like me, and he said, "Well, since it's not going to be made, your project at Disney is now complete. Your position is terminated, and your employment with Disney is now ended."

    So, yeah, I was fired. But you have to understand, I never told anybody, because this was my identity. The only thing I'd ever wanted to do was work for Disney. I was so excited, and pushing, and I didn't play the political game. I was devastated.

    I now realize all this stuff happened for a reason. As I put together my pitch for "The Brave Little Toaster," I had started looking for people who could do computer animation. That led me to Lucasfilm, because they had this computer division that had some of the world's best computer scientists. I even went up to San Rafael and visited Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, the two guys who started the group.

    Ed and Alvy had approached Disney Studios to try get them interested in computer animation, without much success. But now they saw me inside the studio starting to talk seriously about making films with computers, and they got excited that finally Disney might be interested. What they didn't realize was that it was really just me pushing to try to get something going.

    Soon after I was fired, I went down to a computer graphics conference at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I'll never forget it. I saw Ed give his talk, and when he saw me he came up all excited and asked, "How's Toaster?" All I could say was, "It got shelved." I didn't have the guts to tell him I got fired. So he asked what I was doing next, and I told him I wasn't sure.
    And of course, then Wilhite went on without Lasseter, successfully sold the movie to a smaller company and it turned out to be halfheartedly released by a branch of Disney anyway. But that movie's concept, which looked ridiculous in 1987, could easily be made and respected as a Pixar film today. It feels very much like a Lasseter story.

    Though other Pixar veterans are in the credits for Brave Little Toaster, Lasseter was not among them. Now everything makes sense.
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  2. #2
    tb4000 is offline Banned
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    It all comes full circle.


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