Finding Nemo’ mastermind Andrew Stanton is one of the most successful screenwriters alive, and he doesn’t seem to care. Working out of the animation hit factory Pixar, Stanton has co-written the scripts for Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters Inc. — films with a combined domestic theatrical gross of $853 million. When confronted with his world-beating status among movie scribes, Stanton at first seems thrown (Wow – now I want a raise! Could I get back to you?), then ponders the irony of having attained such Hollywood success so far from Hollywood.
I don’t even know any other screenwriters, he says. It’s kind of weird being up here in the Bay Area and sort of isolated, with just these guys, doing what we do. I think it has probably a direct correlation to our being able to make successful original stories — we’re not jaded and daunted by the whole system, because we’re just not part of it. I don’t even think like that. That’s wild.
Coming from, say, Jurassic Park-Lost World-Spider-Man scripter David Koepp, this might sound like false modesty. But Stanton’s one of the Marin County CG animation company’s first employees — and he rhapsodizes about its storytelling-first culture. To this day, [new Pixar employees] come in and they feel like they’ve found Mecca or paradise, he says. They just didn’t think that it could be this good — in the style of moviemaking and the way people collaborate.
It’s worth noting that he sings these praises on the tail end of a grueling production cycle for Pixar’s fifth feature, watch Finding Nemo – Stanton’s first as director and solo screenwriter. It’s the story of a clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) searching the seas for his lost son with the help of a memory-impaired sidekick, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).
Lee Unkrich — a seasoned editor who probably suffered whiplash when he came to Pixar from live-action stints on TV’s Silk Stalkings and Renegade — serves as co-director on the project and says Nemo is a very personal effort for Stanton: It was his vision. He wrote the film, it was his idea to begin with … and he actually does like five different voices.
In Focus recently grabbed an hour of Stanton and Unkrich’s time to talk about Finding Nemo full movie, Albert Brooks, the culture at Pixar, computer animation, surprising cameos and the art of telling a good story.