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Thursday, November 16, 2017

My First Visit to Pixar Animation Studios!

my experience at pixar studios tour

Well guys, it happened. And this time I didn't wake up from a dream only wishing it had happened like all the times before (though if I didn't have these photos, I maybe would doubt myself). This past weekend, I had the completely and utterly surreal opportunity to visit THE Pixar Animation Studios—but not only that! I was invited to take part in a "friends and family" screening of Pixar's upcoming film Coco (releasing in the US on November 22nd). Yah, I had to pinch myself a few times just to check if I was awake.

Let's go back in time to last Friday afternoon...that's when the trip began. Things got real as I was driving to JFK airport to catch my flight and I spotted the Coco themed taxi billboard below. The timing for that was perfect.

pixar coco taxi new york

Made it to my gate in the nick of time! Took a direct flight to San Fransisco (which is just outside of where Pixar is located in Emeryville, CA) and was picked up by some incredible friends. 

pixar studios gym bag
visiting pixar studios

The Arriaga family were my generous hosts for the weekend and they all went above (or should I say "to infinity"?) and beyond to make me feel comfortable and at home. I literally still don't have enough words to thank them for helping me fulfill a lifelong dream and for taking such good care of me. I'm still so honored and humbled by the experience and will be always be "eternally grateful" to them. After just two days, we went from online acquaintances to family—I miss them tremendously already.

If the name doesn't sound familiar, Daniel Arriaga is a character/sets designer at Pixar (for Coco, he was the Character Art Director). Find out more about him and view his stunning work on his blog HERE and be sure to follow in on social media (Twitter & Instagram). He's one of the nicest guys of all time, so feel free to reach out and say hello! When you see his name in the end credits of Coco, please give him a cheer. He and his team deserve every bit of praise for their years and years of hard work, helping mold the film (quite literally) into what it is today.

can't fail cafe CA

On Saturday morning, we hit up a delicious little dive for breakfast called "Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe" (a local favorite of the Arriagas). It's at right around the corner from Pixar

rudy's can't fail cafe emeryville CA
can't fail cafe CA breakfast

Then this happened.  😱

visiting pixar studios coco 2017

Walking through the parking lot, toward the iconic giant Luxo lamp and ball and into the famed Steve Jobs building was an out of body experience. I kept thinking "I'm really at Pixar" and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. 

visiting pixar studios coco 2017

Lego Buzz and Woody greet you as you walk in! Howdy partners. 

pixar studios lego buzz and woody
visiting pixar studios coco 2017
visiting pixar studios coco 2017

Before our 12:30 screening of Coco began, I was able to soak in the main Steve Jobs atrium for a few minutes. Of course, per tradition, the massive room was decked out with decor and art based on their current film—this time obviously being Coco! Loved the colorful picado inspired banners.

And the next amazing thing that happened? I was able to meet, in person, some friends of mine who've I've gotten to know through social media/this blog! Tiffany W. (disneyminimalist on Instagram) and Kelly Bonbright (script supervisor at Pixar—Instagram HERE), it was SO fun to meet you both. I wish we could have had more time and snagged a pic together!

pixar studio store 2017

We all visited the Pixar Studio Store (another dream of mine come true) for a few minutes and I was able to get an idea of what I would want to purchase after viewing the film. This is the store I've mentioned countless times here on this blog—the one only open to Pixar employees and their friends and family (filled with all sorts of exclusive stuff)! I finally got to go in. Unreal.

pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017

Time for the main event!!

pixar studios 2017 screening room coco

Sorry things are a bit dark and blurry, but below is the Steve Jobs building screening room. I felt so honored to view the film in the room where the Pixar filmmakers review their daily work on screen! The picture and sound quality there is out of this world. I'm not usually a fan of 3D (which is how we viewed the film), but for Coco in this particular screening room, I was blown away by it!

By the way, if you ever make it to Pixar and view one of their films in this theater, make sure to look up when the lights dim. You'll notice the ceiling turns into the night sky—complete with shooting stars! Don't forget to "Oooooooooo" and "Awwwwwwww"...it's a tradition there that's been going on for years. 

pixar studios coco screening 2017
pixar studios coco screening 2017
pixar studios coco screening 2017

And here's something neat—Each attendee got a "friends and family screening" collectible trading card, each featuring a character from the film! I was lucky enough to receive Mama Coco.


Now as far as my full review of the film, I'm going to save that for a separate post. I will say though that it is absolutely INCREDIBLE. The animation is stunning, the story is so poignant, the characters are so much fun and the music is gorgeous. The character and set designs are all so special and unlike anything you've ever seen. And let's just say when we walked out of the theater, just about everyone  had the sniffles and were rubbing their eyes. Just get yourself ready for tons of heart, fun twists and turns and lots of emotion. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and cannot wait to see it again!  Every family needs to see Coco and I'm so excited to introduce mine to it.

After the film, I was able to enjoy more time in the Studio Store (and yes I wanted to by just about everything, but showed some restraint ;). Since the next screening of Coco had started, the place was completely empty! The Arriagas were able to show me around the rest of the building with some peace and quiet. It was so nice to to be able to take our time! Another huge thanks to them.

pixar studio store 2017pixar studio store 2017
pixar studio store 2017pixar studio store 2017

And yup, even the bathroom signs there were Pixarfied with character silhouettes.

pixar studios men's bathroom

Right now you'll find Coco concept artwork in just about every corner!

pixar studios coco 2017
pixar studios coco 2017
pixar studios coco 2017

Here's the famous "Cafe Luxo" where many of the Pixar employees eat their meals daily. Unfortunately it wasn't open this time around, but maybe one day I'll be able to eat my way around that epic cereal bar I've heard so much about.

pixar studios cafe luxo

Even the mail room deserved a photo! You know, they're always hiring there ;)

pixar studios mail room

A poster for a current "Pixar Science and Art Fair" going on this week there at the Studio.

pixar studios science and art fair 2017

Needless to say, Pixar has won a few awards. And it makes sense, since they're only the BEST animation studio EVER.

pixar studios trophy awards

This beat up Woody doll is there displayed in a glass case as it means something very special to John Lasseter. Years ago, Lasseter received this doll and a letter from a Disney World cast member which reads:

"...we had a young child about 6-year-old by the name of Caleb come into City Hall at Magic Kingdom Park. He brought us his well played with Woody doll. You see, his parents bought him a new one and he wanted his first one to have a great new home and to spend infinity and beyond with Buzz Lightyear. We felt it was appropriate to share him with you..."

pixar studios woody doll toy in case

The only area the public is allowed to tour on the second floor are the art galleries showcasing work from their latest films. No photos were allowed, but right now it's set up for Cars 3 on one side of the bridge and Coco on the other. It was so cool to see all the art and hand sculpted maquettes in person! Not to mention all the first hand stories that Daniel was able to share with me. 

pixar studios 2017

Me and Daniel are ready for Incredibles 2! It was super cool to be one of the first to see the brand new, yet-to-be released teaser trailer for the film in front of our screening of Coco!

pixar studios 2017 the incredibles

LOVE all the giant Pixar characters placed around! More to come...

pixar studios 2017 luigi and guido
pixar studios 2017 rainbow unicorn

We then hopped over to the Brooklyn Building, which is the newest of the buildings there on the Pixar campus (completed in 2011). This four-story building accommodates up to 900 artists and support staff and is organized internally as a small city (with a network of interior "streets" and other common gathering spaces—including a baseball lover's dream lounge which I got to pop into). This building didn't allow as many photos, but I took what I could get.

pixar studios campus 2017

Here I am with Bing Bong and Danny's son Adriel! Fun Fact: Adriel here was used as the main character reference for the design of Miguel in Coco! Even down to the mole on his upper lip. How cool right?

pixar studios 2017 bing bong

Hello. Name's Bruce.

pixar studios finding nemo bruce shark
pixar studios finding nemo bruce shark

Even Hank can be found camouflaging around on different walls! Like, come on. This is the coolest place ever.

pixar studios finding dory hank
pixar studios finding dory hank

Mike and Sulley use to have a more premiere location, but they've since been "banished" to the back of the building in a small room near the elevators. Poor guys! Their age is starting to show.

pixar studios mike and sulley
pixar studios tour 2017

We then walked around the grounds past the Pixar consumer products building, around the amazing lap pool and through the basketball court (complete with a massive Luxo ball graphic in the middle—now that's a court I would want to play some ball on). There's even a hammock! These guys know the right way to work hard and play hard.

pixar studios tour 2017
pixar studios tour 2017
pixar studios basketball courtpixar studios basketball court
pixar studios hammock

Over there in that little amphitheater is where Steve Jobs would hold outdoor company meetings! Back when when the majority of the employees could actually fit out there.

pixar studios tour 2017

And we're right back to my favorite spot out in front of the Steve Jobs building :)

pixar studios giant luxo lamp and ball
pixar studios giant luxo lamp and ball
pixar studios steve jobs building 2017

Well everyone, that concludes my first visit to Pixar Studios and my initial thoughts on Coco. It was everything I could have hoped for and SO much more thanks to the Arriaga family and everyone there who made me feel so welcome. It was the time of my life and a memory I'll never, ever forget. I look forward to hopefully returning there for future experiences!

I hope you all enjoyed my overview of my time at Pixar. Of course there was so much more that happened during the weekend, but I can only document so much here! If you have any questions on the experience or anything regarding the Pixar Studios campus, be sure to leave me a comment below or shoot me an email.

So long, Pixar. Till we meet again.

pixar studios steve jobs building 2017