Storyboards and Other Junk

You never know what junk you’ll find when you start cleaning your garage. Often time there will be discarded sketches from films you’ve worked on, along with other flotsam and jetsam from years past. It’s quite amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over a period of years. If you’ve worked in animation as long as I have you’ll more than likely have a lot of junk. I remember grabbing piles of completed storyboards and hauling the whole lot into the trash bin. When people ask why I threw the stuff away I simply replied it was cluttering up my studio and I needed room to create more stuff.

I may have to offer my apologies for calling the material in the photograph, junk. They’re rough story sketches from my co-director on the Pixar film, “Monsters, Inc.” Actually, they’re very cool story sketches and if I recall correctly they were created by David Silverman. We were hurriedly scrambling to complete a sequence for the motion picture in the early days of production.  I still remember the production manager used the term, “aggressive” when referring to our work schedule. In would appear “aggressive” meant, work your ass off and complete this sequence in record time because we need to show it to John and Pete. Everything worked out, and we even churned out a bunch of funny stuff that never made it into the completed film. That’s the life of a story artist, as most of you well know. A good deal of what we do as story artists is never seen by anyone except the production team. Most of what we do is thrown away.

Our movie was undergoing a number of changes and we were still trying to figure things out. I love how people sometimes sue animation studios claiming a particular company “stole” their story idea. I often find this notion ludicrous because half the time we don’t even know what the damn story is. The idea of Disney or Pixar stealing somebody’s story is a joke because our storylines are often so fluid and ever-changing, the idea that we lifted somebody’s brilliant idea is frankly ridiculous. Much the same way Pixar fanboys come up with the wacky idea that we’ve weaved an over arching storyline throughout all the Pixar films. In any case, we were building a sequence on the Scare Floor where Mike (the little one-eyed green guy) was assisting bad guy Randle. By the way, Randle’s original name was, “Switch,” but there was a Disney film in production that had a character whose name sounded a little like, “Switch” so a change had to be made.

Looking at these discarded sketches brings back memories of a much smaller Pixar Animation Studios located up in grungy Point Richmond in Northern California. On the corner of "Stab me and Run," as Ken Mitchroney likes to say. The little studio that could was picking up stream and was destined to become an animation powerhouse. This was Pixar’s fourth animated motion picture and I told friends with confidence that the movie was going to be a hit. I honestly had no doubt. Oddly enough, the movie did lose out to DreamWorks, “Shrek” at Awards time. Yet, it was a good time to be at Pixar up in the Bay Area far from the influences of corporate Disney and the long arm of film marketing. Pixar Animation Studios was still a relative newcomer to the cartoon business and great animated movies were still to come.

Rough story sketches from "Monsters, Inc." We were still trying to figure things out.

Rough story sketches from "Monsters, Inc." We were still trying to figure things out.