Posted: Apr 21, 2010, 1:33 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
To Vancouver and beyond: Buzz Lightyear ushers in Pixar's first Canadian studio
By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER, B.C. - When Buzz Lightyear visits Vancouver, he strolls through the old-growth forest of Stanley Park, while his buddy Woody checks out the park's grove of totem poles.
Lightening McQueen races along the seawall and past glimmering glass of towering condos, while Wall-E takes in a glorious sunset over the Inukshuk at the beach.
Creators of the well-loved characters from California's Pixar Animation Studios are embarking on an adventure north of the border by opening its first Canadian studio, even despite a strong Loonie that's knocking the knees of American investors.
"Interestingly enough, we have a very long-term approach, we are very methodical and deliberate organization," Amir Nasrabadi, Pixar Canada's general manager, said Tuesday after showing a gag video featuring the popular computer-generated characters visiting city landmarks.
"Fluctuations in foreign currency, while they can be significant, will not alter our plans."
Pixar Canada won't make feature-length films. Instead, they will produce short cartoons by further animating the worlds of the blockbuster hits Toy Story and Cars. The variety of new creations, not set in Vancouver but in their respective imaginary towns, will appear on the Disney Channel and network TV, online and at theme parks.
Managers are aiming to staff the open-concept office - which features spectacular views of trains, tugboats and float planes passing through Vancouver's harbour - with 75 employees by December 2011.
Academy Award-winning Pixar, which is nearing 25 years in the business, was attracted to Vancouver for several reasons, Nasrabadi said.
Talent is available in droves thanks to an abundance of universities and colleges in the area, which is in the same time zone as San Francisco Bay, where Pixar has its headquarters.
Plus, British Columbia offers a competitive tax regime.
"The federal government, and especially the provincial government, has been incredibly strong in terms of supporting and strengthening the film and production tax incentives, making this a very cost-effective place to do business," Nasrabadi said.
Premier Gordon Campbell, who attended the opening, said the film industry comprises about one to two per cent of British Columbia's economy.
"(There are) indirect benefits that come from developing a strong creative industry," he told reporters.
"As we move into the future, I think for Canada, not just British Columbia, we're going to have to be more innovative."
New employee Behzad Mansoori-Dara, who is a layout artist, said he's thrilled to be working on projects related to films he watched while growing up.
"I still remember when Toy Story was coming into the theatres and I went and bought my tickets people said, 'That looks kind of weird, that C-G thing,"' he said of the world's first fully computer generated feature film, released in 1995.
"It's really awesome to be a part of that legacy, to just kind of feel that history of where it's coming from and to be a part of the projects that originated all of this."
His co-worker Julie Pantoja, an apprentice artist, says she's looking forward to injecting some Canadian flavour into the animations.
"We'll try to put in a Canucks' jersey somewhere in the background," she joked.
Pixar releases Toy Story 3, its 11th feature film, in June.