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As an original Disney+ docuseries, viewers get a special look at the creative process at Pixar from many points of view.

From “Toy Story” and “The Incredibles” to “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E,” Pixar Animation Studios has delivered numerous hits to audiences around the world. With “Inside Pixar,” an original Disney+ docuseries, viewers get a special look at the creative process at Pixar from many points of view.

In November, Disney+ released its first batch of episodes titled “Inspired.” This collection focuses on the ideas that sparked concepts for “Onward” and “Soul” and how an employee designed a program to create gender balance in Pixar’s films.

The newest collection of episodes, “Portraits,” shifts gears and features the daily lives of several Pixar employees. Though their jobs might blend into the background, these creators always have something exciting to do and help build up the studio.

Cynthia Lusk, director of creative film services and international production

Lusk’s work revolves around modifying Pixar’s movies to be understood by people around the world. Part of this process includes translating and recording new dialogue in various languages. 

When Lusk and her team were working on “Onward,” they took 150 shots of footage and created 43 different versions of the film for international audiences. “Onward” had many scenes featuring handwritten notes and signage. While some images, like a “Student Driver” sign, were neutralized to become visual graphics without words, other pieces were translated by Lusk’s colleagues into different languages for audiences to understand.

In some cases, the animation itself had to change. During a scene in the film “Inside Out,” a character points to and spells out “danger” on a sign, but some languages read right to left or have more characters to indicate than English, so the team changed the character’s movement for each version of the movie. This kind of work might not be considered by a casual viewer, but it’s fascinating to see how much detail goes into making Pixar’s movies more accessible to the world.

Marylou Jaso, pastry chef

Jaso is Pixar’s resident pastry chef, and she’s responsible for baking all of the lovely desserts in the studio campus’ cafe. Her day consists of arriving at 6:30 a.m. to prepare and bake countless treats before the cafe opens to the staff at 11:30 a.m.. At that time, all of the other cooks are preparing lunch while Jaso gets ready for the next day of baking.

On a normal day, 862 employees have lunch and 215 people order dessert. The kitchen staff comes from many different backgrounds, so they often incorporate family recipes to serve the community and introduce people to other cultures while centering the menu’s theme around Pixar. Jaso’s also made cookies that look like the Luxo Pixar ball and churros inspired by “Coco.”

It’s admirable that Jaso produces so many creative treats for Pixar employees, largely working by herself. She joined Pixar when the studio was developing “Inside Out” and called getting to craft such whimsical and fun desserts “the best job in the world.”

Rachelle Federico, production assistant

Frederico worked as a Production Assistant (PA) for Pixar’s latest film, “Soul.” Every movie the studio develops has a hub of office spaces and she operates in the middle. It’s Frederico’s job to make sure all aspects of developing the film run smoothly.

For those interested in the film industry, Frederico discusses how she came to work at Pixar. She majored in media studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where she played on the university’s basketball team. It took several years of applying to get hired, but Frederico’s experience in product management and being a team player gave her valuable skills for her work as a PA. Her path to Pixar wasn’t quick and easy, though it goes to show that hard work and determination will pay off.

Frederico shared that she appreciates every second of footage that goes toward the final product of a film after witnessing a few dozen people debate over the direction of the clip. She recently moved to the animation department where she can focus on one discipline instead of overseeing them all. Her ultimate goal is to one day become a producer so she can keep telling phenomenal stories. Considering her progress thus far, that day will probably come soon.

Barney Jones, temporary music editor

Pixar films often take three to seven years to develop, and the movie mainly consists of black and white drawings for two to four of those years. Unlike a composer who writes the final score for a movie, Jones makes temporary music to set the tone and help the artists and animators depict the characters and story.

The composer eventually comes and replaces the work Jones adds to the movie, but the editor finds joy in feeling through the music and getting to experiment with what fits and what doesn’t. He usually works with the lead editor and director of movies to preview scenes and put together music to match the footage. It must be hard knowing his work won’t always be the final product, but it’s clear that Jones loves having a job where he can be playful and try out all sorts of music, making every day at work unique.

Patty Bonfilio, director of facility operations

Bonfilio is always on her feet around Pixar’s 22-acre campus. She spends 10 to 15% of her day working in the office and the rest walking around with her team. In her previous jobs at other studios, Bonfilio learned to support both creative and technical people, which is experience she brings to Pixar.

“There are no small jobs,” Bonfilio said in her interview. She and her team ensure that the entire campus is functional and operating properly, because they never know where one might go to work or find inspiration. Whether it’s setting a table or preparing for the studio’s mini-golf tournament, there’s always something for her to do to help Pixar run.

Bonfilio’s job includes working on sustainability initiatives for the studio, like how it’s reduced the waste it sends to landfills to a stunning 7% and the rest is recycled or composted. Bonfilio also gives tours to new employees, showing them all of the recording studios, stages, theaters and more. Though it might seem challenging to the viewer, it’s all in a day’s work for Bonfilio and her team.

It’s always a treat to peel back the curtain and learn more about how Pixar Animation Studios brings its classic films to life. The magic is bound to continue as Disney+ releases more installments of “Inside PIxar” in the coming months. 

Contact Michael Russo at russomw@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.