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Maria Grazia Mattei: Pixar as a digital shop

How did the idea of a Pixar exhibition in Milan come about?

The exhibitionwas conceived by John Lasseter and Elyse Kleidman, director of the University of Pixar and the company’s archive. The idea is to present the “behind the scenes” of Pixar, all that stands behind the screen and that not everyone knows: the drawings, the studies on colours, the sculptures, the work on the stories, on the characters’ personalities and their physical appearance, on the worlds portrayed. The exhibition path reveals that in order to produce a film like Cars or Toy Story, multiple skills are required, just like in a shop, a digital shop.

In other words, this exhibition shows Pixar as a subject fully inserted into the history of art in general and of digital art in particular…

Just looking at Pixar’s work easily shows the many references to traditional forms of expression, as we are trying to highlight here on our blog. And it could not be otherwise, it’s in its DNA. If one looks at the history of computer generated graphics we can see that it was born in an interdisciplinary context: there were large companies that financed computer animation research, engineers who developed computer programs for creating images and artists who used them. Pixar continues this working tradition with great attention to the humanities. When they have to hire someone the last worry they have is if they can use a computer or not. They care a lot more about the candidate’s culture.

Does this attention to the “artisanal” and conceptual work of a high-tech company like Pixar have a cultural significance?

I believe so and I think it is an important message especially in Italy. I think it’s time to focus less on technology, which is now a fact, and more on the analysis of new languages and new narratives, on the expressive, ideational and creative aspects. The time to be fascinated and enraptured by technology is over, it is time to try to bring attention to the training, research and experimentation that live in what is actually a Renaissance arts workshop, albeit a digital one: Pixar. And I think that Milan, which has multi-disciplinarity and eclecticism in its DNA, is the right city to host this operation.

Steve Jobs, who left us just a few weeks ago, often said that Apple (and Pixar) are not technology companies but something more and this is what makes them different from their competitors. In your opinion what was the greatest contribution of the founder of Apple in this venture?

I think Jobs understood immediately what John had been saying at least since the late 1980s: that is that Pixar is not just a software house, a company that creates special effects on behalf of third parties but a real animation studio. As is clearly expressed in a double interview they gave of a few years ago both Lasseter and Jobs were fully convinced that the value of Pixar was in its ability to tell compelling stories. Steve Jobs contributed to the creation of a magical alchemy and his personality increased the momentum of this revolution and drove it along the right path.