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Recently, I met up for an hour-long lunch in Los Angeles with Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian, the DGA-nominated co-director (with Brenda Chapman) and PGA-nominated producer, respectively, of Pixar's animated feature Brave. The summer blockbuster won the best animated feature film Golden Globe last month and the best animated film BAFTA Award this month, and is nominated for -- and stands a good chance of winning -- the best animated feature Oscar, which will be presented on Feb. 24. During our time together we talked about their lives, careers and the challenges they faced while making the first Pixar film built around a female protagonist and the last Pixar film made (in-part) under the watch of the late Steve Jobs.
Sarafian, an Armenian-American, has been at Pixar since the beginning. A trained artist, she was originally recruited to the San Francisco-area studio to be an animator. However, during the making of A Bug's Life (1998), Steve Jobs, who headed the company at the time, urged her to transition from the art department into marketing. She did that, and eventually became a producer -- and one of the studio's biggest advocates.
Andrews, who is built like a tough-guy but is irrepressibly goofy and exuberant, has been at Pixar since 1999, when animator Brad Bird was recruited from Warner Bros. and brought with him 12 of his closest collaborators, including Andrews. Bird nicknamed the group "The Dirty Dozen" because, Andrews explains, "We weren't bred at Pixar," meaning that they marched to a very different beat than the more corporate-style folks who were already at the studio.
On Andrews' first day at the company, Sarafian recalls, Bird reviewed storyboards and gave out notes during a meeting. Afterwards, Sarafian asked Andrews when the updates could be expected. Without even meaning to be rude he said, "You get it when you get it," got up and walked out. She concluded that he was "unmanageable," but came to be very impressed with the quality of his work, and before long they had become close collaborators and friends.
Like her colleagues at Pixar she affectionately calls him "Mandrews," a nickname inspired by his Pixar email address. "I don't think I've ever called you Mark," she says to him.
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Andrews began drawing fully-formed people at the age of three, and, as a kid, enjoyed watching Warner Bros. cartoons and Japanese animation on television. He got his first formal training in animation through a course at City College, through which he learned about CalArts, the noted visual and performing arts school established by Walt Disney in the early sixties as a sort of farm system for his animation studio. "Draw and please my parents with a college degree?" he recalls marveling. He applied and got in.
After graduating, Andrews secured an internship at Disney -- at the end of which he was the only one of five interns who did not get hired by the studio. ("It was because I rocked the boat," he speculates.) He freelanced for a while as a storyboard artist before landing his first real gig at Hanna-Barbera animating the TV show The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Working in television, he learned how to produce a lot of animation in a little amount of time -- 2.5 hours of footage in a year, he says, which is vastly more than the 80 or 90 minutes that a whole team produces in the same amount of time while working on a film.