John Lasseter

Monsters, Inc.

Interviewed by Alec Cawthorne

Were you under pressure because of the success of "Toy Story"?

Well, this time, because of the events of September 11, it's been kind of a nervous time for Hollywood because most of the releases didn't fare that well, so we were concerned whether people would come out and see our film. But when they did start coming out, a lot of people mentioned that the subject matter of the film - the fact that families could come and see this film - was what the country [America] needed.

What sort of benchmarks do you set yourself creatively? Do you set the bar a little higher each time?

Yeah, the bar always gets raised higher each time, but really that's always by the requirements and needs of the story. At Pixar the story drives everything. We're blessed by being up in the San Francisco Bay area, out of Los Angeles, out of the industry town of Hollywood. It keeps us concentrated on what we're doing, focusing on making a good story. We make the films for ourselves. And we're a very tough audience.

What was your actual role on "Monsters, Inc."?

As Executive Vice President of Creative, overseeing all creative work at Pixar, I would come in numerous times a week and work with Pete [Docter, the director] on the story and oversee all the other aspects and be there for him when he had a question or a problem. I was able to be a fresh set of eyes, because when you work on something for as long as this you get really close to it and you tend to stop seeing the forest for the trees. In fact, you get more involved in the veins on the leaves of the trees in the forest.

You initially approached Billy Crystal to do the voice of Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story" - did that make it easier to get him on board for "Monsters, Inc."?

Yeah, we originally approached Billy Crystal very early on in the "Toy Story" thing and he passed on it, then we went on to Tim Allen, which turned out to be a fantastic choice for Buzz Lightyear. Later on, when we approached Billy for "Monsters, Inc.", he mentioned that turning us down was the one decision in his entire career that he regrets to this day.