Inside Pixar debuted last November on Disney+ and there’s no kind way to say this, it did not, in fact, take viewers “Inside” Pixar Animation Studios. Instead, the five short-form premiere episodes introduced the personal lives of three directors, one artist and one corporate-ish employee at the studio, showing them at their homes, at restaurants, walking through city streets and pretty much anywhere other than the promissory studio in the show’s title. For that reason, I was not eagerly anticipating another bulk release of new episodes, but the creators either listened to feedback or had already planned to do what they set out to do from the beginning with the “Portraits” collection. To sum it up, this new batch of episodes takes viewers “Inside” Pixar. Better late than never.
From changing the lightbulb(s) inside the giant Luxo Jr. statue outside of the Steve Jobs Building to seeing the insides of highly creative offices, these five new episodes give fans what they wanted from the series. Any one of these episodes would’ve been a better introduction to the series than the first wave, but the last in this collection makes the most sense. “Inspired: Patty Bonfilio, Director of Facility Operations” serves as a great overview of the Emeryville campus, tagging along on a new employee orientation tour and showing off some customized office spaces, including one that looks like the interior of a TaleSpin style metal plane that crash landed in the jungle, complete with vines growing out of the metal hull and a retro film projector that plays what looks like the Indiana Jones Adventure safety video from Disneyland. It often leaves your jaw on the floor at just how cool Pixar Animation Studios is.
Another delightful surprise is that this batch of episodes doesn’t focus on well-known names. If you’re the type of person who would seek out Inside Pixar, you’ve likely already seen all of the bonus features from past home video releases so a profile on Dan Scanlon is redundant if you’ve already seen how Monsters University and Onward were made. But what you’ve never seen in any bonus feature before is the inside of the kitchen at Luxo Cafe, where we get to meet Marylou Jaso who single handedly produces desserts for the campus as their lone Pastry Chef. Her creations will make your mouth drool.
These episodes are also honest about how competitive landing a job at Pixar actually is. For a while, home video releases included PSA-style features called “Paths to Pixar” that highlighted employees who talked about how they got there, what they studied, where they started, etc… It seemed like a calling card for fans to apply there, but in an episode that profiles Production Assistant Rachelle Federico, she openly talks about how long she tried to get in and how many times she applied and was rejected. Her story involves taking a big step back in her career just to fulfill her dream of getting in the door. Living not far from Pixar, I can attest to the feelings of inadequacy at finding out that in the eyes of Pixar’s hiring team, your professional resume isn’t worthy enough of landing an interview to roast coffee beans at Luxo Cafe. It’s not that unlike any major Fortune 500 company in that regard, but sheds any disillusionment that just because the end products are all about wish fulfillment doesn’t mean that Pixar doesn’t hire and fire like any other corporation, regardless of how bad you want it or how hard you’re willing to work.
Depicting an honest look at the lives of employees at Pixar Animation Studios with a wide variety of skill sets, any Disney+ subscriber who hasn’t yet checked out the series is encouraged to start with the new “Portraits” collection. And anyone who felt burned by the first wave and had no interest in checking these new episodes out should put aside their preconceived notions and dive right in. It gives viewers unprecedented access not only to the facilities and grounds of Pixar’s 22-acre campus in Emeryville, but also the wide variety of roles that go into running one of the most prestigious animation studios in the world. These are real people doing real jobs experiencing all of the nuances that life throws at them who also happen to play their part in making films that spark the full range of emotions characterized in Inside Out.
I give Inside Pixar “Portraits” 5 out of 5 Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train ride vehicles parked outside of the Brooklyn Building.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.