I visted San Francisco this weekend and got a chance to meet up with an old friend at Pixar.
Pixar is in Emeryville, the east side of the San Francisco bay area. I used to live in the bay area before I moved to Portland back in 2005. Although I'm originally from New York, this was my old stomping grounds for many years while working for Autodesk. It was good to take a long weekend and go back to vist the area. I got to eat in some of my favorite resturants and visit some old friends.
It's been about 6 years since I visited the Pixar campus. It's really funny pulling up to the campus since it's tucked away in Emeryville, right on the edge of Oakland. It's not exactly the best part of town. I saw lots of new construction going on and confirmed that they have a second building going up that might be populated very soon. Aparently, the first building got filled up pretty quickly and they had many people working off the main campus.
As you walk in, you'll notice a large amphitheater in front of the building. They will often have larger company meetings and parties out here in the nice weather. They also have a new Luxo Jr statue out front. That was a nice touch too. (New to me, they could have put it up any time since I was there last.)
The lobby has a life size replica of Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc., life size models ofLuigi and Guido from Cars, and a life size lego statue of Buzz and Woody. (I bet you could use some voxel 3d model generator for making a lego blueprint. Knowing that, I'm not as impressed by large scale lego sculptures. I just feel sorry for who ever has to put them together.)
The main area consists of the cafeteria, the giftshop and a game room. The doors at the other end of the main room lead to the main screening room. I didn't go in there this time, but I did get to see Spirted Away, introduced by John Lasseter after he got back from visiting Hayao Miyazaki. He said he hand carried this print on the plane himself, but I dunno, maybe he's just a good story teller. ;)
Lunch at Pixar is awesome. Back when I lived in SF I jumped at any chance to go have lunch over there. The food is great and it's real inexpensive. They always have daily specials and they make pasta and pizzas to order.
They also had a great display of the art of Toy Story 3 in the Upper East side of the building. Everything from concept art, to model sheets, sculptures and lighting designs. I couldn't take any photos, rightly so, but it was very inspiring to see.
Pixar has a really great culture. You can feel it when you're there. The pay a reasonable wage, provide healthcare and retirement assistance for their employees. They provide training through their Pixar University program, and encourage people to learn much more then just their position in the company. I hope the day I run my own studio, I remember the things that make a great culture, and do my best to create my own culture. John Lasseter and Ed Catmull are still the leading force at Pixar and it shows. They inspire their employees to do great work. I hope I can do the same with the people that work with me, now and in the future.