On the BART from San Francisco to Emeryville, the two sit in silence. The boy’s too giddy to speak. The girl’s too excited to barely breathe. Besides, somehow it feels as if saying the wrong thing might jinx everything. The silence does little to comfort the pair as their minds perpetuate unanswered questions: Will our names be on the list? Will they open the gate? What if our guide gets overbooked and can’t meet us after all?
As the BART pulls up to MacArthur Station, their doubt multiplies. They steel themselves and cling to the belief that it will all work out. It has to. This isn’t just any tour.
The pair head to the bus station where a ruffled old man sits behind glass. “Might we ask…Where is the bus stop for Emeryville?” Without looking up at the boy, the old man points and utters, “Over there. Emery Go-Round.” The pair look at each other. They have no idea what Emery Go-Round is but they’ll take half a chance and head to where the man motioned.
City dwellers fleck the sidewalk and stare at the pair with deadpan eyes. A bus pulls up… but it isn’t the Emery Go-Round. This driver confirms they’re in the right place though. “Just keep waiting,” he says. “That bus will show up, eventually.”
Time creeps by. Unkind stares from passersby make seconds feel like minutes. Finally, the right bus turns the curb.
Stuffy and hot the air feels even though it’s November. The seats are sticky and the handrails have turned a color unfit for metal. But nothing can bother the two—not on this journey.
The bus jerks intermittently making its loyal stops; handfuls of forgetful faces slink on and off the bus. Finally, the pair hears it: “Fortieth street. Exit through the back doors.” Their stop.
They walk the last few blocks and then they see it…black iron…a gated campus…there it is! The entrance! This is it! What a sight: Pixar Animation Studios.
The guard at the gate smiles—a wondrous sight. “Enjoy your visit,” he says. “Go right in.” It’s as if those words set fireworks off, and let loose doves that fly out beyond the gate. “Are you two ok?” The guard asks. “Yes, yes.” The pair answers quickly.
They’ve made it! After all the wondering, hoping, doubting, it’s really going to happen. The two step through the gateway and instantly seem to taste inspiration. On the concrete, colors and logos from recent Pixar films paint the pavement. In the distance, Luxo the lamp maps the entrance next to his famous yellow ball. They make their way slowly, taking it all in. The girl claps her hands and points. “Look! There’s the set from Brave!” The boy smiles. Standing stones give an ominous, graceful power over the green campus grass.
After absorbing the outdoor sites, the pair enter the Steve Jobs building and are greeted by none other than giant sized replicas of James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski from the movie Monsters, Inc. Along every wall are paintings, sketches, and full size action figures from Pixar movies. John Lasseter walks across the room right in front of the pair talking with his producer, Katherine Sarafian. Excitement overwhelms them. They’ve made it. After all the wondering, all the waiting, it was happening.
The receptionist checks them in and asks, “You guys sure are excited to visit. What is it about this place that’s so exciting?” They have the same response: “Because Pixar represents a level of quality that we highly respect. They’re commitment, vision, and passion inspires and pushes us to discover ingenuity in our own art. Pixar creates stories that resonate—stories that propel us to discover new parts of ourselves. And stories that make us laugh and cry while maintaining novelty and the unexpected. Pixar strives to set higher and higher standards for perfection. Pixar serves as a model for other companies to emulate. They represent innovation and artistry, and purposefully invent environments that encourage creativity. To visit this campus and meet the people who believe in that kind of dedication and commit to those values is truly special.”
The receptionist smiles. “Well, enjoy the tour.”
“Hey guys!” Our guide says. “Welcome to Pixar. Hmm, now what to show you first…”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little short story about my visit to Pixar Animation Studios. If you haven’t guessed it already, the girl from the pair in the story was me! I’d like to thank everybody at Pixar for the opportunity to visit your campus. Thank you for the very warm welcome. Meeting all of you and getting to visit was truly a highlight!