Pixar studios is like some sort of work-life balance fantasy camp

features@beaufortgazette.comDecember 2, 2013 

Of course Pixar had to be promoting its latest movie, "Monsters University," the only one the Vrabel family hasn't seen.


A few weeks ago, we flew to California with two children. Now, if you look at a map of America, point to where we are, and then point to where California is -- at least until the next earthquake -- you will note that it's a very long flight. It's about as far as you can fly without flying overseas, which we are not prepared to do, because the 2-year-old would probably pee all over Italy and the 9-year-old would spend most of the trip talking to confused locals about his plans for a story that combines Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, 1967 Chevy Impalas (long story), the Starship Enterprise, Pearl Jam (also a long story) and, naturally himself (not a long story). It's a wonderful example of his expansive imagination as well as something that gets unbearably old when you don't talk about anything else. Ever. No, really. Ever.

But for being trapped in a flying cylinder for five hours (alongside a crop of considerably more obnoxious adults, I mean at least my 2-year-old knows when an overhead compartment is full already), the kids did great. Sure, they did great mostly because we anesthetized them with Apple devices for literally all of the trip, but if the FAA is going to allow that now, who am I to turn it down?

There were a lot of highlights to the San Francisco trip, including changing a diaper in Alcatraz and watching my son nearly tumble off of trails in Yosemite about nine million times, I mean come on, dude, those paths are marked for a reason. But the highlight for me, and maybe for the kids or whatever, was a brief little lunch tour of Pixar Animation Studios we got through a nice friend and his nicer friend. People are really nice out there.

The inside of Pixar is basically everywhere you've ever wanted to work in your life, only with more pool tables. Visitors from the outside aren't allowed in the parts where they're, you know, making movies. But everything else is like Work-Life Balance Fantasy Camp. Their cafeteria is decorated with "Monsters University" stuff. There are people playing soccer in the courtyard out front. There's a pool. There's a beach volleyball court. BEACH VOLLEYBALL COURT. There were people PLAYING BEACH VOLLEYBALL AT LIKE 11 IN THE MORNING, AT WORK. I know people play early by the Tiki Hut at Coligny in the summertime but they are NOT AT WORK. I think. Are they at work? I guess I've never really asked.

The walls are covered in concept art, rough drafts, sketches, clay mockups of characters in various stages of development. It's all themed around "Monsters University," which is naturally the one Pixar movie we haven't seen. If our host had asked about the names of the 350 other robots in "Wall-E" I'd have sounded like a genius, but noooooo we had to not see the movie they're promoting.

The 9-year-old zens out on stuff like this; his eyes step back a bit and he wanders around mostly wordlessly. (This happens a lot on trains, which is something that's cute when he's 9 and will be much less socially acceptable when he's 28.)

The 2-year-old, meanwhile, walked in and saw life-size replicas of two of the characters from "Cars," at which he wheeled around and gave us a look that said, "WHAT ELSE ARE YOU NOT TELLING ME ABOUT THIS PLANET?" I really cannot imagine what kind of electrical storms happen within the brain of a 2-year-old when two CGI movie characters unexpectedly materialize in the real world, but I have to imagine it's a lot of banging and clanging and some fireworks and the brain reprogramming itself to understand that everything it previously knew was wrong. Once or twice a day he still gives me a look that I'm pretty sure says, "No, really. Where is Mater?"

Oh, one more thing: Their cafeteria is amazing. It has locally sourced foods and environmentally friendly plates and the chefs are friendly and talkative and create unexpectedly delicious three-cheese tortellini. THREE-CHEESE TORTELLINI. It's been like 10 years since I've worked anywhere with functional VENDING MACHINES.

I'm basically making this sound like Pixar is a restaurant that occasionally makes movies, but seriously before you get all judge-y, I suggest you try their three-cheese tortellini. I mean, "Wall-E" is fine or whatever, but the sauce! It's like it was made by Ratatouille himself. Which, maybe it was? Apparently movies jump out into real life there.

Jeff Vrabel worries that securing the rights to that Percy Jackson/Harry Potter book is going to be a nightmare. Follow him at twitter.com/JeffVrabel and read more at www.jeffvrabel.com.


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