As cool jobs go, Andrew Stanton’s position as director/producer/sometime voice actor at Pixar has to be at the top of the heap. Thus far in his career, Stanton has collected two Oscars, 17 other awards and countless nominations for his work. He has written, produced, directed or been involved with most of this generation’s biggest animated films, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Cars and WALL-E. . . all the while living in Marin.
Why Marin? My wife, Julie and I are from the same high school in New England. We grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, a quintessential Norman Rockwell town, and didn’t expect to find that again moving to California. We didn’t find it in L.A., and when I got a job at Pixar, which was originally in Marin, we went as deep into the woods as possible: a tree house apartment in Fairfax. When Julie got pregnant we knew the seven flights of stairs and deep wilderness would not work. Knowing we are from New England, our real estate agent suggested Mill Valley. When did you know you wanted to write stories? I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, but I’ve been telling stories since I was a little kid. You’ve got to be able to tell a story as an animator.
What inspires you? Movies are my biggest inspiration; when I was growing up going to the movies was exciting—like a sporting event. These days, kids watch movies anytime, anywhere.
Favorite theaters in town? For favorite, I’d say by far Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, but I also have a fondness for the Sequoia [Mill Valley]. Part of the reason I love living in Marin is access to the art house theaters. And then there’s Corte Madera—it’s one of the last huge single movie theaters in the area. I just pray it stays in business.
What exactly is your job at Pixar? Through the years, we’ve found that my talent in the band was getting a project from nothing to something. I guess you could call me a creative coach. People need help getting a kick start, and that’s where I come in.
What/who influenced you to work in animation? I have the cliché of being influenced by classic Disney films and Bugs Bunny cartoons but to be honest it was the Muppets. I’m a product of the Sesame Street generation. It came out in 1969 and I was the prime audience.
I hear you watch Jeopardy, is this true? Do you think it makes you smart? Sadly, I watch it religiously. I don’t think it makes me smarter; I just try to keep up.
Would you be on a game show or call into a radio contest? No, on the game show, and I have called into a radio show just because I’m a friend of the Alice [Radio] folks, but not to win a contest.
Favorite car? Of cars I have previously owned, it would be my Jeep Wrangler. It cost me a lot of money to keep, but there is nothing like driving around with wind in your hair. Unfortunately, my wife hated it.
What’s your next project? We’re working on a big live-action film: John Carter of Mars. It is adapted from a book that was written 100 years ago and has endured through several generations of kids.
What’s your favorite hike in Marin? I only go up the mountain for pancakes.