Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Pixar Touch Review - A (David A.) Price-less Look at the Building of The Animation Gurus of Our Generation

This is going to be the first of a different breed of A113Animation Reviews, namely a review of David A. Price's insanely detailed chronicle of all things Pixar, about the turbulent rise to the top of Pixar Animation Studios.

The first thing to say is that this book has been out for a while now, first published not long after Ratatouille's original theatrical release in 2007, now with an updated epilogue that covers the release of WALL E. The book literally touches on practically every single detail of Pixar's history... ever... this book is insanely, absurdly, completely-over-the-top-ly detailed. I'm a massive Pixar mark myself and have at times have completely immersed myself into everything Pixar for weeks on end, yet, nonetheless The Pixar Touch taught me a thing or two (to understate it a million fold), a very trivial example would be that I had no idea that Ed Catmull was a Mormon! Price's devotion to the source material is, simply put, exemplary; he obviously spent weeks and weeks and years and years fully devoting himself to every little morsel of Pixar, and it shows. The level of detail is one absent from any other documentary or book I've seen out there, even more spectacular considering that it's based on a very secretive company.

Another note of particular mention is the way in which Price has written this book, he doesn't go out of his way to glorify anything and he doesn't try to make things seem like more than they are, yet nonetheless he has you hanging of his every word as if it's a murder mystery. He does however, tell the story of Pixar in a very cut and dry way, he tells it just like it is without professional bias to anyone - Pixar or otherwise - and that's a very rare thing to see in a book like this. To illustrate my point the incidents regarding NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) and how Ed Catmull slowly syphoned off its staff (after he left NYIT and Alexander Schure to work for Lucasfilm) casts the Pixar co-founder in a rather unfavourable and ungrateful light, if Price can show one of the true visionaries behind Pixar this way, you should be able to glean a lot about his gritty honesty and that is a testament to the book.

However, sometimes telling it "like it is" makes some people seem very, very bad and there are 3 cases in The Pixar Touch that epitomise this: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs. Jeffrey Katzenberg comes across treacherous for his alleged theft of the idea of A Bug's Life and took it to DreamWorks and made Antz, merely to get one over on former boss Eisner. This and his micromanagement and megalomania make him come across very badly, saying that he is also shown to be extremely savvy and intelligent in business and described as one of the driving forces behind Disney hiring Pixar to make Toy Story in the first place. So definitely a mixed bag.
As previously mentioned Michael Eisner comes across absolutely terribly as a unrelenting tyrant who in the face of over whelming pressure against him refused to step down as Disney CEO, however the most surprising incident of someone coming across badly, is Steve Jobs. The Apple CEO who bought Pixar back in 1986, then the Lucasfilm Graphics Group, comes across as completely delusional and infuriatingly focused to the point of angering his employees (saying that the book does put over how patient Jobs was with Pixar, but also that just before Toy Story's conception he was contemplating selling Pixar). As aforementioned with Catmull, Price's depiction of one of the Pixar founders in a bad way is very brave in a book about Pixar.

In fact, the only head Pixar player shown as an innocent is the current CCO of Disney and Pixar animation, John Lasseter. Lasseter is merely shown to be, as we all already suspected, an ingeniously creative and gifted man. However, the fact that there is little bad connotations about Lasseter, may be down to the way the book is presented. This book is not simply a book about Pixar films, on the contrary the majority of the book focuses on the business side of the company. This book is sort of the business equivalent to the film oriented The Pixar Story documentary. Case in point is the fantastical detail that the book goes into on matters such as the two Monsters, Inc. lawsuits, it was completely unbiased and impartial and all that, but most of all it went into details that I simply had no idea about, and it made so much more of an interesting read.

On that note however, it occurs to me that there may be a film in here somewhere a la The Social Network (see the poster I made for just such a film above), if I loved The Social Network at a time when I loathed Facebook, then I may just die of happiness when watching a similarly themed film about my favourite company in the world. It's certainly interesting enough.

Another area of praise is, as hitherto stated, the impartiality, namely that Price doesn't sugar coat Cars. In other Pixar documentaries and books Cars is merely referred to as Pixar's 7th consecutive success, with little heed paid to the fact that many considered it to be a weak Pixar effort, The Pixar Touch fully acknowledges (some may say too much) this fact.

In conclusion, this book is fantastic, brilliantly detailed (far more so than the already fantastically detailed, The Art of Toy Story 3) and the dedication of David A. Price shines through abundantly. How apt that a book about arguably the most dedicated film company on the planet be made by such a dedicated author as such I give the book an overwhelming 10/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment