Monday, April 07, 2008

Lasseter and Jobs on Charlie Rose

Yeah, I know that's a picture of David Copperfield in the preview still, but the first interview in this episode is in fact of John Lasseter and Steve Jobs.

I stumbled upon this video while searching for Toy Story clips. It's a great glimpse back a few years, as it takes place right after the release of the first Toy Story. Lasseter is a young film director, Jobs has not yet returned to Apple for the iPod Age, and Pixar is still a name that people don't really understand. While that sort of nostalgia is fun to watch, what I find the most interesting is how these 3 different characters, Rose, Lasseter, and Jobs, interact with each other. Each one of them comes from a completely different perspective, and hence uses vocabulary that they are comfortable using.

Charlie Rose is the outsider, the journalist, trying to use what he has learned over the years about businesses and computers and apply it to the making of Toy Story. He asks a lot of questions about how the computer makes the process "easier", "faster", "cheaper". Lasseter is the filmmaker trying to explain his craft, using an explanation that makes sense to him, which is that the computer is an expensive pencil. Steve Jobs is the computer business man, once referring to the story/production process as "beta testing" the film before release.

Charlie Rose is in some ways entertainingly ignorant of "computer" animation, and no matter how much Lasseter tries he just can't seem to get the point across that computers didn't make the movie faster, easier, or cheaper. And even though he gets the point that the ideas come from the artists, I don't think he ever quite gets to the point of full understanding that computers are just a new tool and not creators in the process. I found it very interesting how at around 5:20, when Lasseter is trying to explain the differences between 2D and 3D, Rose seems completely lost and almost tunes out as he starts shuffling his papers and looking at his notes, maybe for the next question. In all fairness, how can he understand? To him, a picture is a picture, he doesn't seem to understand the difference between a flat drawing and a virtual 3D environment, he seems to still be stuck in the mindset that somehow the computer can just draw things faster and do them better...somehow...

Steve Jobs is also incredibly interesting to watch, especially if you consider the point at which he is at in his life. I'm not extremely knowledgeable on his business history, but I think the general summary is that at this time he had been fired from Apple, and was working for (or started?) "Next" Computers. This is well before he became one of the top CEO's of the country, well before the iPod and Apple became a status symbol on the streets of SoHo and 5th Avenue, and everywhere else. He seems a little like a broken man, though he tries to hide it, especially when Rose asks him for his thoughts on the fall of Apple. Jobs breaks from his normal catchprases of "We're about (blah blah)" and relevant cultural examples that support his topic, and instead takes a moment to think, and kinda quietly states that the innovation he made at Apple lives on in other forms, even though the Apple Company may not be succeeding, and he might not be a part of it. He seems genuinely proud of that, not in a boasting way, because he has to admit that he failed in other ways. There are many times when he still talks as he does on those Apple Keynote addresses of today, but somehow it's really only the words and his strategies that are similar. I'd have to study it more to see exactly what it is, but he doesn't seem to have the same confidence as he does now when he addresses his theatre of fans waiting with anxiety for him to reveal their new toys. What an interesting comparison between then and now! He's definitely the same person, but his life is changing as he speaks.

Jobs is also interesting to listen to because he seems to be at a point of understanding well past Charlie Rose's (concerning animation), but shares a similar point of view as having been a bit of an outsider to the filmmaking process. Jobs has obviously embraced the filmmaking process, no doubt in part to his view that it will continue to be a success for him, but the way he explains how the product, in business terms, continues to live on (read: is profitable) for decades in contrast to computers that have a very short life span--shows a deeper understanding of the product. He also seems to have an understanding of the inherit value of the creativity of filmmaking. I think that's the paradox of Steve Jobs--he's an incredibly saavy business man and of course his products are results of decisions he thinks will make his business succeed. At the same time, he comes off as someone who understands creativity and innovation. He has a great talent of speaking to both left minded and right minded people, and you've gotta admire his talents.

I was asking myself earlier today why I animate. What is it about animation that draws me to it?
It seems silly to ask that now, but sometimes I wonder. When I look at this, I think I know one reason. I found the juxtaposition of these three guy's distinct personalities very interesting to watch, and I really love analyzing personalities and characters. If you're the same, take a look at the interview. If you have more time, the David Copperfield interview is fun to watch too. He talks a lot about his goals as a performer, and how his inspiration comes from films and stories.

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