Brian Green, From Dingley to Disney

by Ponderings Radio

Kirsten Macdonald

Kirsten Macdonald

Wordsmith

Brian Green

Brian Green

Pixar - Disney

From Dingley to Disney Magic and a Little Fish Called Nemo – Inspiring Aussie David Green

Home grown Aussie Brian Green pursued a dream, the boy from Dingley is today the technical director of the world’s greatest animation company Pixar, Disney.

The man behind characters such as Sullivan from Monsters Inc and Nemo and an inspiring portfolio of achievements make his path a reachable reality. We can be reminded; dreams do come true. 

Brian you have a computing maths and animal logic background, you mention in some of your interviews that you like to draw, and you are the creator of characters like Sullivan and oversee character development- this is an incredible skill set. Do you think tech and creativity are separate like many have been conditioned to believe, or two branches from the same tree? 

At work I am surrounded by people who do both – they might program in the morning and then go draw Armadillos at lunch – so I do believe we are just conditioned to think they are separate skill sets. The best tech is very creative!

We have tried to shift the mindset a little on this with our “Pixar in Box” series we did for Khan Academy. The idea was to create a link in students minds between the math and science you learn in school and the art and science used to create movies we make at Disney.Pixar.

https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/pixar

I created a course on rigging 🙂

https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/pixar/pixar-rigging/intro-to-rigging/v/rig-overview?ref=Pixar_Recommended_videos

From all the Pixar characters who do you believe is the most endearing?

Sullivan from Monsters Inc. I spent so much time making him he became like a friend to me. I am also biased, I had a hedgehog so I do have a soft spot for Mr Prickle Pants from Toy Story 3 though.

How do you recognise opportunity?

When I saw Toy Story in the theaters in Sydney I was so impressed by it that I went home, wrote up my resume and sent it to pixar. I think, if you are willing and open to take risks, then when you see something that impresses you so much that you want to be part of it, that will be your opportunity.

What does it feel like to go from sketch to the screen realisation and then life bringing to a character such as Sully, to have him then materialise into a toy, merchandise and also produce hugs and smiles to all ages? What does that process feel like as it progresses?

Well… awesome!

From all the Pixar characters who do you believe is the most endearing?

Sullivan from Monsters Inc. I spent so much time making him he became like a friend to me. I am also biased, I had a hedgehog so I do have a soft spot for Mr Prickle Pants from Toy Story 3 though. 

How do you recognise opportunity?

When I saw Toy Story in the theaters in Sydney I was so impressed by it that I went home, wrote up my resume and sent it to pixar. I think, if you are willing and open to take risks, then when you see something that impresses you so much that you want to be part of it, that will be your opportunity. 

What does it feel like to go from sketch to the screen realisation and then life bringing to a character such as Sully, to have him then materialise into a toy, merchandise and also produce hugs and smiles to all ages? What does that process feel like as it progresses?

Well… awesome!  

When do you realise you are really onto something?

Typically there is a piece of test animation that is really inspirational. On Toy Story 3 Carlos did this dance test for “Spanish Buzz”. When I saw that I knew we had something special. 

It is still great!

Where do the ideas for movies come from? Are they pitched to you from writers and animators or do you have a think tank?

 

The directors usually come up with the original ideas. Usually they are working on crafting pitches for 3 or so project ideas. If one gets picked then it goes into development so a script and artwork can be created to flesh out the story and world. When new employees arrived at Pixar we would show them the pitch Andrew Stanton did for Nemo. It helped inspire a great movie and is still inspirational.

 

What do you believe is the specifics  to making a character vulnerable with the potential to emotionally connect the viewer? 

 

Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole), the food critic in Ratatouille, is a great example of this. His flashback to childhood reminds us of our childhood, a simpler time full of happy and sad memories. For myself one of the most impactful moments was in Toy Story 3 when Andy was going to college and saying goodbye to his toys and childhood. My son Jeremy was also leaving for college at that time and that scene never failed to impact regardless of how many times I have seen it.

 

The hope, with our movies, is to provoke within us feelings and emotions 

 

Have you ever had an idea you thought was really bad and it turned into something wonderful? 

 

I was a little concerned about doing a movie about a fish called Nemo . The movies coming out then featured some amazing lead actors like Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise, and I did wonder how a fish would compare. At that stage we didn’t even know how to create CGI water. It worked out wonderfully though.

 

How did you overcome doubt when you were starting out? What gave you the courage to have a crack?

It was just a progression (and good fortune and good timing). 

Pixar took a lamp and gave it emotional meaning; that’s pretty incredible. To take inanimate objects and give them an emotional purpose is art to its core. Do you see it this way and if so why do you think this fascinates human nature so much?

That is the fun and fascination. We get to study human nature, emotions, reactions and then have a fictional character embody them. It never gets stale.

Does Walt carry a tangible legacy in the company? Is he revered and did he have certain principles that are carried forward diligently today? 

Definitely. 

Walt’s desire to appeal to the sense of wonder in people’s mind continues today. If we have a cheerful reaction to our movies then, I think we are honoring his legacy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A Disney animator. It seemed very unlikely for a boy from an outer suburb in Melbourne (Dingley) but I did love those beautiful hand drawn movies coming out of Disney.

 

Do you feel a responsibility for your characters to reflect ideals in society as they change?

They definitely shouldn’t go against ideals. 

Do your characters have an agenda, as in a message to deliver when you profile them? Ie- Nemo gave some much education and attention to the Great Barrier Reef which is so inspiring particularly the partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

 

I think Andrew Stanton answered this well so I’m going to steal from him “You should have something to say. Not a message, per se, but some perspective, some experiential truth.”.  I never felt our movies had an agenda but I do feel they wanted to express something of value. I don’t think so many talented people would have worked on them for so long if they didn’t. 

 

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