Last month I visited Pixar studios in Emeryville for the first time. It was a rare opportunity to see both the studio and Geena Davis, who was speaking there on the subject of women in the media. The event was sponsored by Bay Area Women in Film & Media (BAWIFM).
I’m a huge admirer of Pixar. The fact that every film they make hits it out of the ballpark just blows me away, so I jumped at the chance to visit this remarkable studio in person. Security is pretty tight at the studio. You better have an appointment and/or be on their visitor list to get in. They don’t offer tours to the public. Once inside the gate you are directed to the large parking lot. After parking, I and several others ended up having to wait around outside the building for the doors to unlock. Once inside we were given our visitor badges. The funny thing about those badges is that we were not called visitors. Instead we were designated as strangers from the outside! Check out the picture below.
Once inside we had to wait for quite a while in the massive lobby, called the atrium, for the theater to open. But, as usual, BAWIFM took good care of us and offered us drinks while we were waiting. I ran into a couple of people that I had met before and I met a few new people also, which is always my goal at any kind of networking event.
I am so kicking myself that I didn’t bring a camera with me. I could have shown you some pretty cool pictures. The lobby is huge. There’s a cafeteria on one side and on the other a mail room, a store (that was unfortunately closed), and a game room for employees. Life-size figures of various characters from the Pixar movies are sprinkled throughout such as the monsters from Monsters, Inc., the cars from Cars, and the family from The Incredibles. There was a big giant chair in one corner which you could actually climb up on and get your picture taken. Another photo opportunity was the action figure package that was big enough for a person to get into and pretend to be an action figure.
Before you hate me too much for not taking pictures, let me point you to The Pixar Blog where you can see photos of the studio for yourself. The blogger who toured the studio was able to get some great photos of both the inside and outside of the studio. Check out the rest of the blog too. It’s a great blog for everything Pixar! And for even more photos check out Collider.com for even more fantastic photos taken on press day.
After what seemed like a long wait, we were finally admitted into the theater. I got a great seat in the second row with a great view. However, I didn’t even notice Geena sitting in the first row until she was announced. What struck me about her was how tall she is. She is about 6 feet tall according to IMDb, but with heels on she easily stood around 6’3″. She’s stunning. I would have never known she was 54 if I hadn’t looked it up. She could easily pass for her late thirties. Geena immediately put the audience at ease with her graciousness, humor, and intelligence (she is a member of Mensa).
Geena’s purpose that evening was to talk to us diverse group of film people about the roles of women in the media, specifically, the number of females in children’s programs and how they are portrayed. Geena’s quest started about six years ago when she noticed an imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters while watching TV programs and videos with her young daughter. This caused her to undertake a research project about gender in children’s programs and to later start the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Her goal is to make the entertainment industry more aware of not only the number of females in children’s entertainment but, also, how females are portrayed. This means showing female characters that have aspirations beyond romance and are valued for their inner qualities as opposed to just being valued for their looks.
I wish I had videotaped her speech that night, but here is a recent interview of Geena by Sir David Frost that you can watch that gives a shortened version of what she talked about that night.