We Toured Pixar's Brand New Animation Archives And They Were Awesome

Pixar's Archive Studio

Brad Bird's Incredibles 2 isn't just a sequel that has been years in the making. The animated adventure of the Parr family also marks the 20th feature-length film released by Pixar Animation Studios, a creative house whose history reaches back to 1995, when Toy Story opened in theaters, changing storytelling in animation as audiences would know it. Because Pixar has seamlessly transitioned into a household name in animation, it's easy to forget just how much the studio has contributed to the film industry. That is, until you visit the archives that Pixar has created near its Emeryville headquarters.

During a recent visit to Pixar's Northern California campus for an Incredibles 2 press day, CinemaBlend was able to tour the private archives that Pixar created in celebration of its own 20th anniversary. As it turns out, when you start to hit important historical milestones, you take greater stock in your legacy, and begin collecting vital elements that speak to all that you have accomplished.

At this non-descript warehouse located near Pixar's Emeryville campus -- the location is secret, and only accessible to guests of Pixar employees -- you are able to walk through Pixar's storied history while revisiting a number of animated icons that celebrate the studio's rich and colorful past. There's an air pf delicacy to the museum-like atmosphere, and it starts as soon as you enter the lobby, with framed stills and portraits from Pixar films, both short and feature-length, on the walls. One in particular grabbed my attention, because it's an actual rough sketch that eventually became this scene from the original Toy Story:

Buzz and Woody in the original Toy Story

And it's then that you start to realize that these movies are the result of an incredibly detailed creative process that's the equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle, millions of times in a row.

But the meticulous preparation and imaginative teamwork that goes into every Pixar production really shines through once you are able to walk through the library stacks that contain busts and models of legendary Pixar characters. Here's something I never knew about computer animators: they create 3D models of their characters to study all angles of a subject's head, face and body to perfect all aspects of animating said person or thing. Models helps with lighting, shading, coloring and more. And in the Pixar archives, they have individual shelves dedicated to each movie in the Pixar filmography. And those shelves contain boxes that have original molds and sculptures of every character featured in those movies, from Woody to WALL-E.

A Woody facial mold

The final leg of the Pixar archives tour took place around a table, where our guide brought valuable sketches and works of art to us... where we looked, but you better not touch. It's overwhelming the sheer number of artist renderings that can go into the making of a Pixar feature film. And over the course of our visit, we saw sketches that led to advertising campaigns, and sketches that inspired scenes that never actually made it into the finished movie. At Pixar, the artists on staff draw constantly, and the archivists collect those scraps -- for, as we were told, you never know what drawing or doodle is going to be important to an ongoing story one day.

Original Pixar sketches

Incredibles 2 opens in theaters on June 15. The sequel literally picks up where the original movie left off, and will continue the Parr family's efforts to make superheroes mainstream again. We will have more from our visit to Pixar on CinemaBlend in the coming days, so stay tuned.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.