Touring Pixar Animation Studios #DisneyPixarEvent

One of the highlights of visiting Pixar in San Francisco last week was getting an official tour of the building, with little nuggets of information about the past and present of Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar does have its very own tour guide, Danielle Levin, who was kind enough to answer any questions that we had about Pixar as well.

Caption: Dingwall Clan Gets Ready for Pixar Tour with Pixar Tour Guide Danielle Levin

Photo credit: Melissa at Sippy Cup Mom

The History of Pixar

Before the Pixar headquarters was in Emeryville, it was located in another area that was a sort of warehouse, industrial setting. Pixar Animation Studios is now located on Park Avenue, and all of the buildings have New York-themed names because of their street name.

The Pixar Animation Studios Building

Steve Jobs was the CEO of Pixar in 2000, and was very influential in the design of the building. Not only did he want a beautiful building–he also wanted one that was tied into the type of work that the studio produced.

The Pixar building is very bright and everything is open: the free Cereal Bar and cafeteria are located on ground level, and the conference rooms above have wide glass walls that look down onto that area so that the employees are always connected to one another.

There is even some fun Pixar lore that Steve Jobs wanted for there to be only one unisex bathroom in the entire building (think Ally McBeal). In truth, there are actually 8 bathrooms all centrally located, and they are divided by sex.

The building was entirely built by hand, from the kilned bricks to the bolts which were screwed in by hand. The building has a factory look to it because a canning factory used to occupy that space, and they wanted to preserve that look and fit in with the surroundings.

Story Board Corner

We were guided over to a wall that features story board concepts. The purpose of what they call Story Board Corner is to show the beginning stages of how the story board is turned into a movie. Everything on a Pixar film is done in-house; no outside artistic submissions are accepted. After a “green light” is given for a project, the director, story board artists, and story writers come together to decide what their story will be.

Other Facts About Pixar Animation Studios

  • It takes 4-5 years for a film to go from the story board to the theatres
  • There are 2 rooms with machines that work on the rendering process at all times
  • Pixar University is a course that Pixar employees participate in. One of the things they have learned how to do in Pixar University is sword fighting. These classes are beneficial to all employees because it helps them try new things and work together.
  • If your child becomes interested in working on animated films, their schooling path should be to get into computer animation (Brigham Young University in Utah and CalArts in California were Danielle’s suggestions), math or science related fields, and to intern at museums or other art-related settings because those are key.
  • Pixar filmmakers go on location to the film settings for research in order to make their films. They went to Scotland for Brave and Australia for Finding Nemo, for example.

*Disney/Pixar provided me with an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco to attend the Brave Press Day at Pixar Animation Studios. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including paperbackswap.com, Goodreads.com, and luxuryreading.com.

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