You probably remember being a kid and eagerly anticipating that favorite Christmas gift or some other holiday event. Sometimes the anticipation was almost as thrilling as the actual event. I’ve always taken a special delight in anticipating things to come.
I’m thinking back to another December. This was 1996, and we received a call to attend an afternoon meeting on the third floor of the Disney animation facility. As usual, December had been a slow month and many studio staffers were already on holiday. A top level meeting late in December seemed a bit unusual, but we all gathered in the upstairs conference room along with our animation boss, Thomas Schumacher to receive some truly exciting news.
Joining us for the meeting was a trio of guys from Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar had recently joined the Disney family as it were, and their first motion picture had surprised everyone by becoming a runaway hit. Now, we were joined by the producer of that film along with two of the animators. At the time, I knew little about Ralph Guggenheim other than his producer credit on the animated film, “Toy Story.” I would later learn of Ralph’s amazing credentials as a tech guru in Silicon Valley. He had been a part of George Lucas’ development team before the group was spun off to become a stand alone company called Pixar. Ash Brannon and Jimmy Heyward had animated on the first computer generated movie and they would be very involved with the upcoming project. Someone had come up with the brilliant idea of exploiting the digital assets already created for “Toy Story” and using them in a low budget sequel. Ash would take the helm as director, and we would pitch in as part of the story team. Why was this necessary, you ask? Well, Pixar was still a very small studio back in 1996, and the handful of artists up north were already deep in the production of their second CGI animated movie. “Would we be interested in pitching in,” they asked?
It didn’t take our little group long to make a decision. Especially after hearing the story pitch about Woody the Cowboy being abducted by a greedy toy collector. This story already had the creative team excited about the possibilities. Even compared to the already successful “Toy Story” this movie seemed epic in scope and we couldn’t wait to get started. Multiple Ideas began to fly around the conference room as we envisioned the trials and tribulations of Andy’s toys now charged with a rescue mission. “Hold on!” shouted Ralph. “Save those ideas for next year. We won’t be getting started on development of this motion picture until January. You’ll have plenty of time to pitch your ideas at Pixar Animation Studios."
This was my Christmas gift in December of 1996 and it was one of the best holiday gifts I ever received. And, like most Christmas gifts I knew I would have to delay my gratification. Of course, like most anticipated gifts I couldn’t wait to “unwrap my package.” I couldn’t wait to get started on development of what would ultimately become an amazing Pixar motion picture. However, I knew I would have to be patience. And that’s what makes this wonderful thing called, anticipation so sweet.