Hi reddit! I'm Pete Docter. I work at Pixar. I directed Monsters Inc and Up. Ask Me Anything!

Verification: http://i.imgur.com/QX7A8.jpg

P.S. Monsters Inc, 3D is coming to theaters on December 19 – Here's a little something to get you excited for the 3D release! http://www.ign.com/videos/2012/12/12/monsters-inc-3d-going-3d-featurette

UPDATE: 11:33AM PST -- The fire alarm just went off! (no joke!) Hang tight, back shortly!

UPDATE: 11:49AM PST -- Ha! False alarm. I'm back.

UPDATE: 12:30PM PST -- Thanks everybody for all the questions -- it's really cool to hear you like our movies. I'm off to get back to work now... let's do this again sometime!

And finally...

Would you rather fight 100 Flik sized Sulleys, or 1 Sulley sized Flik?

"One Flik sized Sulley. I could just step on them and then go off to lunch!" http://www.reddit.com/r/Pixar/comments/14ck7v/help_i_will_be_in_school_during_pete_docters_ama/

Comments: 2741 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

PixarPete2864 karma

Sorry to report, Pixar burned down. All future films canceled. Sorry.

applemaestro1724 karma

Was the goal of UP to make every single person in the world bawl their eyes out?

Edit: Sorry, stupid auto-correction ball/bawl mistake!

Edit #2: Wow! Pete answered my question and somehow, all these upvotes appeared! I think it's time to hand out some upvotes myself!

PixarPete2624 karma

Yes. Seriously, we had to make you really care about Carl's desire to fly his house to South America because -- let's face it -- that's pretty weird. If the audience didn't cry about Carl having lost Ellie, they wouldn't have rooted for him through the rest of the film!

zarp861543 karma

What exactly does a director of an animated film do? The stereotypical director in my mind yells "Cut! I need more emotion from you Brad." But your actors are characters. Are you standing over some animator's shoulder saying "Sully looks sad, but he should look morose."

Also, obligitory "Up-made-me-cry-omg-it-was-so-amazing comment here."

Edit: Sully not Skully

PixarPete1948 karma

Around here, a director usually comes up with the concept and then shepherds that idea along all the way until its done. He/she may write, draw, animate, or do voice work, but the primary job is to be able to communicate to the 400+ amazingly talented people who do the actual work. I have to clearly state what it is I'm looking for from the animation in this shot, or what the fire effects should look like in this other shot. Because animation is done in pieces, you seldom have the benefit of seeing what the movie (much less an individual shot) will look like until it's all done, so you have to have a good imagination. But more important than all of that -- I'd say the majority of my job is creating a story and characters that people care about. Of course no director does that by him/herself -- there's a core group of collaborators we work with -- but the director is in charge of all that.

ApolloArrow1370 karma

Hey Pete,

I live across the street from your parents. They are fantastic people and great neighbors. About a year and a half ago they gave me some cels from your student films at CalArts (which are incredible, by the way! I truly treasure them) a week before I left to study at the U of MN. Now I'm a sophomore and am pursuing a degree in fine arts. So I just wanted to say thank you for your inspiration and hard work--it has definitely affected my life.

I hope to meet you in the future. Ask your parents about that John kid across the street. :)

Thanks again, Pete.

edit: misspelled "cels"

PixarPete1323 karma

Cool! Say hi to them for me! And good luck to you!

Dinghy-KM2181 karma

They're your parents, man. You should say hi yourself.

PixarPete1698 karma

True, true.

PixarPete849 karma

Ha! False alarm. I'm back.

fiebska842 karma

Not a question, but I just wanted to say that I used to work at a now-defunct restaurant that you would visit occasionally. You sketched a picture of Wall-E with Christmas lights many years ago for a co-worker and I was SO ENVIOUS.

You were also a really nice guy the one time I served you.

That's it, just thanks for everything!

PixarPete837 karma

Cool! Glad you were able to spread a little envy around! What did I order, do you remember? Maybe 100 chicken nuggets?

swimman1998692 karma

Are you a Woody or a Buzz man?

PixarPete1676 karma

I like Buzz, because I'm delusional.

PixarPete662 karma

Thanks everybody for all the questions -- it's really cool to hear you like our movies. I'm off to get back to work now... let's do this again sometime!

clonethedodo589 karma

Did you grow up wanting to be a doctor, Docter?

PixarPete881 karma

Yes, but I faint at the sight of blood.

anwipr549 karma

Any tips on how to break cliches and when to use them when coming up with a concept? I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to play off a common idea while taking it in a new direction since that's something you seem to do so well!

PixarPete1224 karma

Write the cliche first, then recognize you just wrote a cliche and rewrite it. Repeat until your scene works. Our secret here is that we make 8+ lousy versions of every film that we change until we think it's good enough for you to see it.

zeugmatic425 karma

Hi, Pete! Thanks for doing this!

Working in the Production department at Pixar has been my dream since I was 12. I applied to the summer internships last year and was rejected, but I'll be applying again for this upcoming summer. My question is: what common trait do you see among those lucky individuals who get selected for internships? How can I get my foot in the door? The process seems so competitive that I frequently find myself feeling like my dream is slipping away! Having some sort of edge would certainly boost my confidence!

Also, picking my favorite Pixar movie is kind of like picking my favorite chocolate chip in a cookie, but I'm pretty sure UP! is my favorite. Just thought I'd let you know!

PixarPete443 karma

Glad you like our films!
Pixar is an amazing place to work, but it didn't exist when I was starting out at school. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that may come up along the way -- you never know where life might lead you if you're open to it. And keep trying!

idkmybffyossarian394 karma

This is fantastic, thank you so much! Are you looking forward to the Monsters University? And can you tell you a story about working with the little girl who did Boo's voice? :) She seemed like a charmer.

PixarPete1350 karma

Yeah, MU is turning really well -- it looks fantastic and is really funny. The kid who did the voice of Boo was Mary Gibbs -- daughter of Rob Gibbs who was a story artist on the film (he's since directed a bunch of Cars shorts too -- very talented guy). Mary was too young to understand what we wanted her to do, so we had to trick her into stuff by playing games, jumping & running around, talking to puppets.... Later I used the same tricks working with Ed Asner. (Ha!)

boredlike292 karma

What is your favourite particular scene from any of the Pixar films?

PixarPete863 karma

Well, my favorite scenes are usually the sad ones. I don't know what that says about me. But I loved doing the "Married Life" sequence on UP, and the scene in Monsters where Sulley has to say goodbye to Boo.

johncosta290 karma

What is your process for coming up with that first idea?

PixarPete778 karma

Ah, good question. Every film is different, but there's always some hook that gets you into the project. On Monsters it was the thought that maybe monsters are real, and that they scare kids for a living -- it's their job. That simple premise lead to everything else. On UP it was a combo of doing something with a grouchy old man character (which just seemed fun) and my own feelings of wanting to escape the world. Nobody warned me that as a director basically all I do is run around and talk to people all day, and I'm not an extrovert... so by the end of the day I usually wanted to crawl under my desk. That feeling of getting away from the world lead to the story of UP. On my next film, it all started with-- oops, I'm not supposed to talk about that one yet.

winkleflinkle248 karma

Do you think you could eat 100 McDonald's chicken nuggets in 1 hour?

PixarPete500 karma

If you bring them over, I will try.

Phny_241 karma

How did you get into making animated movies?

PixarPete413 karma

I always loved making things move. I made tons of puppets and flipbooks as a kid, and then used my parents super-8 camera to make my own animated films (and live action as well). There's just something amazing to me about making something appear to be alive, even though you know it's just a drawing. I'm basically doing the same thing today, only I get to use millions of dollars worth of computer equipment to do it.

lovettc234 karma

Who or what are your greatest inspirations or influences?

PixarPete552 karma

Hoo boy, that could be a long list.... Walt Disney, obviously, and Jim Henson. They both created these amazing organizations devoted to making great characters. Chuck Jones -- amazing. Oops -- the fire alarm just went on! Gotta evacuate the building! (No joke!)

Salacious-223 karma

Who is your favorite pixar character, and why?

PixarPete642 karma

Hard to answer. Carl was fun to write for because he could tell other characters to get lost. If you did that with most characters, the audience would hate them, but Carl got away with it. I also like Kevin the bird, because he's a big idiot and you never knew what he was going to do next.

PixarPete257 karma

Tough question. Basically, every time someone asks me that I answer differently. Today Carl is my favorite. I like writing for Carl, because he could get away with behavior that would make you hate most other characters.

astrobeen195 karma

I've noticed that Pixar relies a lot on replicating key physical mannerisms and appearances of the voice actors. Could you expand on that? For instance, are you present at the voice recordings? Do you have the human actors actually stage the scenes?

By the way, I loved Up. At the end of the first Act (no spoiler, but you know what I'm talking about), my daughter asked, "Daddy why is your face wet?" Great work - in my opinion, it ranks with Old Yeller as one of the great, poignant movie moments.

PixarPete242 karma

Thanks -- and glad you liked UP. (Good cover, by the way. I usually use "There's something in my eye.") We usually have the characters designed and a first draft or two of the script before we even think about casting. We cast actors who we think will "fit the suit" of the character we have. But then, when we record, we grab on to things the actor brings and we adjust the character to fit the actor. Usually the actual design stays the same, but we may pick up on mannerisms, or take advantage of the way an actor speaks. Our goal is to make our design and the actor merge in a seamless way that makes you just accept them as a person, without even thinking about who did the voice. We have been lucky to work with some pretty amazing actors!

boredlike157 karma

What is your favourite Pixar movie?

PixarPete492 karma

My next one!

timdevries149 karma

You worked for the films Toy Story and Toy Story 2, but you weren't included in the crew of Toy Story 3. Did you think the others did a good job?

PixarPete302 karma

Lee Unkrich and his crew did a fantastic job! It's kind of a shock to look back at the first Toy Story and see how simple and crude it was compared to 2 and 3. Looking back at 1, hopefully viewers get caught up in the story and characters and don't get too picky with how it looks through modern eyes...

GoodGuyGregsCousin95 karma

Hi Pete, I just wanted to know if you were having any involvement in the new Monsters University movie? I love everything else you've been a part of!

PixarPete221 karma

Yes, I've been part of it from the concept on, and have been helping out in whatever way I can. It's looking fantastic and the director Dan Scanlon has really done a great job. It's so cool to see Mike and Sulley again -- and through the miracle of computer animation, they are even younger than they were 10 years ago!

SmileyBlob12389 karma

First off I wanted to say how great your work is, I would probably class your pixar films as the best in terms of showing characters, plus monsters inc is just brilliantly funny as well. My question was if there is any particular way you go about setting up and showing characters in your films?

PixarPete196 karma

Thank you!
Ideally, we try to introduce our characters in some way that makes them distinct and memorable -- sort of like the way you might tell someone about a wild friend of yours. You know, something like, "He's the kind of guy who calls you at 3am, not even realizing you're asleep!" We try to make characters that have a definite view on the world. Geez, talking about characters is tough... I keep typing and erasing -- it's kind of an instinctive thing. You just do what feels truthful and real, and try to exaggerate that.

Zylll42 karma

Hello mister Docter, thank you for doing this AMA, but thank you even more so for bringing these amazing stories into our life. Personally I love both Disney and Pixar, having grown up on the movies since I could remember.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you the scenes in Monsters Inc. with the doors were above and beyond all I could have ever imagined. It's truely beautiful to see what you (and ofcourse the entire team) can come up with to leave everyone in awe. Thank you for making our lives colorfull and filled with beloved characters.

I understand there are a lot of questions to anwser and even if you do not get to anwser mine, I would like to thank you for your time overall.

Do you have a Pixar movie you would have liked to work on and why that particular movie? In hindsight, do you think it turned out better the way it did?

PixarPete68 karma

Glad you liked the door chase! As soon as we came up with the idea of using doors as portals from the monster world to the human world, I immediately flashed on where they would store all these doors. The door chase was a lot of fun, and Lee Unkrich (who was codirecting on MI) really pushed the action to another level.