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Cars - Darla K Anderson interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

PXAR producer Darla K Anderson talks about the challenge of producing Cars, as well as the delight of working with geniuses such as John Lasseter.

Q. Director John Lasseter is very enthusiastic about Cars. As producer, was one of your responsibilities trying to keep him in check?
A. [Laughs] The great thing about John is that he has unlimited energy and enthusiasm. He’s a genius, in my opinion. With some producers and directors, the director just goes off and it’s about ego, or any number of things. With John the hard thing is that all of his ideas are great – and they’re right. It’s uncannily not fair that someone can come up with all this great stuff. That means you’re going to want to do it. It’s not so much keeping him in check, it’s more about making all of his good ideas possible for him.

Q. The film was going to come out in October last year. Was that part of the reason for the delay – attempting to realise every idea?
A. The reason was that it felt like it was more of a summer release. We did the same thing with Finding Nemo. But I was glad to have the extra time – although we still got it done pretty much on time. I also didn’t know that we were going to postpone although once I found out I was relieved just in case we weren’t going to get done.

Q. How much of a challenge is realising John’s vision?
A. How it works is, when he says what he wants we don’t know how we’re going to do it. It’s been the same with all of our movies, with every director. They put out their vision and it’s always something really difficult in one way or another – which I guess is the fun of it.

Q. How involved were you all the way through?
A. I’m involved 100% with everything which is why it’s such a fun job. You’re involved with every facet of the movie. That covers such a wide breadth of disciplines, from doing the story with him, through to editorial, animation, layout, casting, composing, music, song – all of it. I also do all the deals and get clearances from all the car companies involved. I create the deals that make sense for the movie, so you have to be strategically far-thinking to be doing the business side of it as well.

Q. How much of the casting was John’s wish-list and how much was yours? Who decided to approach Paul Newman and Owen Wilson?
A. Those two were John’s. Paul Newman was the obvious choice for that part. I’m not sure exactly how it came about but we were all saying, “Wouldn’t that be cool?” The big question was whether he’d want to do an animated film. John was also keen on Owen Wilson as well. He and his boy had seen Shanghai Knights about 300 times. He loved his voice. John came from being an animator so he has always had an ear for these really interesting voices, timing and quick wit. With the other choices, I worked with the casting director and we bring in a lot of choices that we all listen to. We quote excerpts from movies and put them behind drawings and then all work on it together.

Q. As this is the 20th year of Pixar, what are you most proud of achieving during that time?
A. I’ve been there 15 years and it’s been such an interesting and amazing ride. There’s no way I could pick a favourite movie because I love them all and each one of them is my favourite for different reasons, sincerely. I’m really proud of the collective of people. It’s really astounding that people have been there for 20 years, since the Lucas days. I’m just proud of who they are, how we make movies, the level of competency. They’re all just so bright, they’re at the top of their field – there’s more PhDs and Academy Award winners at Pixar than in any other collective on the planet. It’s got to be really unique in that way. But also they’re very decent, kind, funny, wonderful people, so it’s just a pleasure to try to solve all these amazing problems with this calibre of human being.

Q. Do you continue to be amazed by what can be achieved in animation?
A. I do. People have been asking me what’s next and I don’t even know. We don’t think that way. We just think about the project and serving the project for the director. We don’t think about the technology. We have a huge technical department at Pixar trying to figure out things. But I am continuously amazed and this movie is just astoundingly gorgeous.

Q. You seem to always be one step ahead of other animated movies. Does that bring its own set of pressures?
A. Well it’s not part of our language. I don’t think we ever said this is going to be the most stunningly beautiful, complex and gorgeous film. We just say: “It’s got to be this for the story.” People ask if we’re competitive. Not really, we’re just focused on what’s in front of us and making sure that we’re doing the right thing for the director.

Q. But do you feel that the success of each Pixar film increases the challenge for the next one?
A. Absolutely. We have a little bit of dark humour about it. After we did Monsters Inc, we didn’t know how that opening weekend was going to be because it came right after 9/11. We weren’t sure that people would want to go back to the movie theatre again. But then it did well over the opening weekend and ever since then we’d someone saying: “And now the pressure’s on you…” We joke about it but we do feel the pressure. I mean I don’t want to be the first person behind a Pixar flop. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t know what an audience is going to connect to. All you can do is focus on doing your best. Right now, I’m a little bit nervous about the opening weekend – it’s only natural because we’ve worked really hard on what I have control of. I have bloody knuckles ensuring that everything is up there and now I just have to let it go. It’s like sending the kids off to college – you’ve done your best and now it’s up to them.

Q. Do you harbour any ambitions of perhaps directing a Pixar film yourself?
A. Not really. There’s a lot of producers who do but I love producing. But these guys are just so brilliant and I just super-love bringing their stories to life.

Read the review

John Lasseter interview

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