Across Pacific & Asia

Friday, February 4, 2005


-- Interviews and Articles By and About Key Men and Women in the Entertainment Industry

By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE®

HOLLYWOOD, CA (ANS) -- EDITOR’S NOTE: This insightful article complements Dr. Ted Baehr’s new book SO YOU WANT TO BE IN PICTURES? It is available in a special section of  to everyone who buys the book. SO YOU WANT TO BE IN PICTURES? is a comprehensive book on movies that every Christian interested in becoming involved in the entertainment industry and every Christian who wants to redeem the entertainment industry (and the culture!) will want to read. It shows Christians how to use their faith to change the culture of Hollywood and how to develop their screenwriting, acting, directing, producing, and behind-the-scenes interests. Some of the best and the brightest people of faith and values in the entertainment industry share their secrets of how to make a great blockbuster movie!

Having set forth most of the steps in a production, let’s hear from one of the best what it is all about. In May 2003, everyone from toddlers to grandparents, and all those in between, lined up at the box office to purchase tickets for FINDING NEMO. From the very first scene, audiences were captivated by the breathtakingly beautiful, realistic animation and the heart-warming story of the love of a worried fish-dad for his son. The movie was the first “perfect” family movie ever to be made according to one Movieguide® reviewer – with no offensive elements in it, but rather an entertaining, captivating, hilarious story filled with memorable characters from the sea.

One of the most memorable characters was the turtle dad named Crush, with his hilarious “surfer-dude” accent. Little do some audiences know, however, that the man who voiced Crush was also the man who wrote and directed FINDING NEMO. Below Andrew Stanton shares with us some of his wisdom and experience in his exciting industry of animated filmmaking.

Find Your True Voice – Write it, Draw it, and Live It!
An interview with Andrew Stanton

Educate Yourself with the Best

Andrew went to school in Los Angeles at the California Institute for the Arts, or “Cal Arts,” as they say. “It was kind of a Fame school, where you could take dance, film, theatre, and all the arts. I attended the Character Animation Department branch of the film school, founded by Walt Disney himself. Here, I learned to draw Mickey like everyone else with simple pencil drawings. I stayed very focused and lucked out to get some good employment after graduation.”

Prior to his work with Pixar, Andrew did several years of bopping around to various agencies, employers, and free-lance projects, learning the business in many varied hands-on forums. “I had made some short student films that did well in local festivals. As a matter of fact, in one of the festivals, John Lassiter was showing his TIN TOY short. I got to know him and soon ended up working for him at Pixar.”

Find a Fabulous Company

When asked about his company, Andrew Stanton says it’s truly hard not to love Pixar. “This company is so unique. People don’t believe me. It’s like film school with all the teachers gone. We have the run of the place! It feels like you’re still in film school making things you’d like to do for your own pleasure, or your own family.” Andrew also appreciates the fact that Pixar is located outside of San Francisco, far removed from the rat race of Hollywood. “When we go home, there’s no one we socialize with in the movie business. It keeps us grounded, and it keeps our creativity fresh. When we go back to work on Monday, it still feels like a privilege to make a movie. Nobody here is jaded.”

Find a Creative, Cohesive Team

Most of the employees at Pixar attended the same school, Cal Arts, and most find that working at Pixar is very much like going to art school. “It’s a wild and expressive atmosphere, and we work as hard as we play. We know our people put in a lot of hours and that these guys don’t need pushing to give 200%. Everyone’s basically an artsy Type A personality – creative and driven.” Andrew believes that on every project, it’s all about the team.

Make Them All Your Favorites!

Andrew and his associates at Pixar do seem to give 200% on every project, and every movie has the look and feel of detailed professionalism. For that reason, it was tough for Andrew to decide which movie was his favorite.

“Oh, don’t ask me that!” he moaned. “It’s like picking your favorite child. My favorite movie is all five of the Pixar movies I’ve worked on.” (Thanks, Andrew… that narrows it right down.) Andrew started out in animation and worked into the story sector. He was the screenwriter on TOY STORY I & II, A BUG'S LIFE, MONSTERS, INC. and FINDING NEMO, the co- director of A BUG'S LIFE, and the director of FINDING NEMO, all of which bear his distinct mark in the areas of animation, humor, and style.


In the area of personal faith, Andrew has his own distinct style as well. “My personal view is that if you go into things on a pulpit or with an agenda in the creative world, it can easily get in the way of your creativity and quality. I’m more from the school of ‘practice what you preach,’ rather than ‘preach what you practice.” Be Christ-like in everything you do, not worrying about whether you’re furthering the cause. I just have a lot of faith that this happens to be my spiritual gift: family entertainment. I put a lot of trust in what my heart is telling me to do, and I go with my instincts – not second-guessing what the industry or my audience wants or doesn’t want.”

Resist People-Pleasing

One of Andrew’s top values is that the artist finds his true voice and doesn’t pander to the pressures of the industry. “If you’re out to people-please, to satisfy some imaginary public, its not your true voice, and people will sense that. Audiences want something of truth and value, something honest and personal, with a clear voice. It’s easy to fall into a trap if you come out here with a spiritual agenda. Just give it up to God and say, ‘OK, I’m going to go with something I’d like to see on the screen,’ and it’ll work.” Clearly, real live audiences can attest to the fact that it’s worked for Andrew and his team.

Let it Flow From Within

Many movie clubs throughout the nation have analyzed Pixar’s films, and some have pointed out that they use spiritual, allegorical truths and portrayals, such as the father in FINDING NEMO, who seems to represent the pursing heart of God for his lost children, and the little forgetful fish, Dory, who seems to represent a guiding angel. When asked about how intentional these portrayals were, Andrew thinks for a moment. “In FINDING NEMO I was being as honest as I could be, and I just wrote. Some of the truths in the movie were intentional, and some were not. Definitely the protagonist’s battle was to overcome fear by discovering faith, and certainly Dory represented the angel, or the helper who showed him how to let go and not be consumed by his worries. If you’re truthful (and entertaining) with these elements, then they capture the audience. People can see their own personality quirks through an animated creature, and that makes a movie so universally relatable.”

Character Counts

Throughout his experience in the industry, Andrew has found that honesty is the best policy, a character trait that’s hard to attain to in filmmaking, it seems. “Many things are not constructed around real honesty in this industry, but you have to risk your job and your seemingly existing friendships to say what needs to be said sometimes. It’s an art to know when to speak and when not to. I’ve never ever been in a situation at Pixar where I couldn’t say what needs to be said…. After a while, people trust that you’re always giving them the real answer.”

Andrew also values the ability to stand alone, when necessary. “Most of this industry is run like a monarchy. There’s a studio head, a boss, or a director with a big mandate. Someone’s king, and everyone else is running around doing whatever it takes to make the king happy. Well, it’s not about the king; it’s about making the best movie possible. That should be the basis of all decisions, not politics. People should ask, ‘Is this best for the movie?’ not ‘Is this best for me and my agenda?’”

Andrew is convinced that if people are always making decisions based on what’s best for the movie, it will be hard to go wrong. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a ton of people who think like that. Nobody’s going to get mad at you if you’ve made the movie better, no matter what you’ve done.”

Keep the Bar High

The people at Pixar work hard to keep their movies fun and entertaining – and question the use of offensive material. They even performed an experiment with FINDING NEMO – which was trying to write a movie without a villain. “It’s hard to come up with a villain that’s not cliché or melodramatic. I’m much more fascinated with real conflicts, and I try to see if I can make an analogy in the fantasy world…. There are very few “intentional villains” in life – maybe Hitler and Saddam, but most bad guys think they’re truly doing something good. It can be complex. In FINDING NEMO, even the most feared thing in the ocean – the sharks – weren’t truly villains. They were just being themselves and trying to better themselves.”

Be Realistic in Determining Talent

Talent is not fair, believes Andrew. “Everyone seems to understand this in sports,” he says. “Just because you really, really want to play baseball, you don’t get to go play for the Yankees. Some, with lots of dedication and time can overcome their amateur status and get into something professional, but that’s a very small gene pool. Even if you do make it, someone will always do it better. You’ve gotta make peace with that fact before you get into the movie business. Talent is not fair.”

Andrew does add that there’s something that everybody is insanely good at; they just have to search it out. And, he believes that others will spot true talent; one just has to find trusted people who will be honest with them, perhaps a family member.

Stay Teachable

“I’m a learn-aholic,” Andrew confesses. “And, I got it from my dad. My father used to even correct the questions on my homework. I’m always listening, reading, getting advice, and learning – even when I think I’ve mastered it. Since I’ve been here, John Lasseter’s been a real influence. He makes everyone feel they are an essential element to the success of the film. He finds the unique thumbprint of each artist and capitalizes on that, bringing it to the forefront on every project.”

Don’t Shrink Back in Fear

Despite its challenges, and despite the fact that one must have recognized talent to make it, Andrew is clear that Hollywood is not the den of iniquity some people think it is. “You’re going into the lion’s den whenever you walk out of the house – no matter what the industry. Jesus spent much of his time with murderers, tax collectors, and even a prostitute. Living your life as a good example of integrity and compassion amongst people of other faiths and beliefs is a better service than shunning them or their ideas from a lofty moral platform. Remember that it’s not a bad thing that you’re around questionable people and weird situations…. It’ll keep you sharp. And actually, there’s a lot more people of faith than you think in Hollywood.”

And, how wonderful it was to interview such a man of faith, so skilled in the movie industry and so influential in the American family! We can’t wait for the next Pixar movie!

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you appreciated this article and want to know more about how you can redeem the mass media of entertainment and/or become involved in the entertainment industry, please read SO YOU WANT TO BE IN PICTURES? Dr. Baehr’s book is available in bookstores and at  When you buy a copy you get access to many informative articles from top Hollywood talent and executives.

(c) baehr, 2005
NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr: For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest MOVIEGUIDE® magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at MOVIEGUIDE® is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. MOVIEGUIDE® now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers. MOVIEGUIDE® also regularly broadcasts several international TV and radio programs hosted by Dr. Baehr. Also, if you want to train your family to be media-wise, call 1-800-899-6684 in North America to order the book, video or audio version of THE MEDIA-WISE! FAMILY, Dr. Ted Baehr's latest book. © baehr, 2001

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