Pixar to open Vancouver studio
Pixar Animation, one of the world’s leading computer animators and a multi-Academy Award winning studio, will build a 20,000-square-foot facility in Vancouver to produce its popular short features.
Walt Disney Studios, with whom Pixar merged in 2006, is scouting locations in the city, concentrating on the downtown area. It hopes to have the new studio up and running by this fall.
The studio will hire 75 to 100 people, most of them Canadians, and will make all of Pixar's three-dimensional, computer-animated short films, which usually run three to five minutes. All Pixar theatrical features will continue to be made at its main studio in Emeryville, Calif., which employs almost 900.
Amir Nasrabadi, who will run the Vancouver operation as studio general manager, said Vancouver was attractive to Pixar for a number of reasons. It's an English-speaking city in the same time zone as Los Angeles; the B.C. production tax credits are attractive to an American company; and the city, with its numerous animation studios and quality schools, is a good source of talent.
"There's a huge, very robust, and mature talent pool in Vancouver that we'd like to tap into and continue to develop," Nasrabadi said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he has been vice-president of operations and finance for DisneyToon Studios, a direct-to-DVD studio.
"I don't have a particular number [of employees] in mind, but I can say the majority will be locals."
Pixar has grown from a small studio making award-winning computer-generated short animations — Luxo Jr. (1986), the tale of a small desk lamp which, when shown in theatres, got as much buzz as the feature it preceded, and the Oscar-winning Tin Toy (1988) were its first titles — to a large operation which has produced nine major animated features: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and Wall-E. A 10th feature, Up, will be released on May 29.
The company's most popular short features include Knick Knack (the story of a snowman stuck in a snow globe), One Man Band (about fiercely competitive street performers), and Presto (a hapless magician frustrated by an unfed rabbit).
The company uses short films as springboards for its feature animations, and that will be the role of the Vancouver studio. A Pixar short takes six to 12 months to produce, and the production team can range anywhere from 20 to 75 people.
"First and foremost for us is to concentrate on Pixar legacy characters," said Nasrabadi, citing Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, and Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars as four of its legacy characters. "We want to keep these well-known and well-liked characters alive without creating a distraction to those working on the full-length motion pictures in California.
"The types of products we produce will be niche products, such as short films, whether they are standalone or episodic in nature," said Nasrabadi, a 12-year veteran of the digital entertainment business. "They will be helpful to all of Disney's ancillary businesses, such as television, compilations on DVD, Internet broadcasting, as well as theatres."
Nasrabadi, who will oversee production and business strategy at the Vancouver operation, said the company has a couple of projects in mind for the Vancouver studio, but nothing is firm yet. He also said that all post-production will continue to be done at the main studio in California.
John Lasseter, chief creative officer at both Pixar and Disney Animation, is not expected to spend much time at the Vancouver studio.
Pixar will not be the city's biggest studio. Rainmaker Entertainment, which houses Rainmaker Animation, has 75,000 square feet at its two buildings, and employs 250 to 400 people, depending on the production cycle.