There are so many meetings
Stanton is quick to clarify that as a filmmaker at Pixar he doesn't direct computers; he directs people. However, there are some key differences between the production of an animated feature and a live-action movie like his 2012 blockbuster John Carter. For one thing, when he's making a movie like Finding Dory, Stanton isn't flying to a foreign country to spend time on set with actors or diving to the bottom of the ocean to get stunning underwater visuals. He's going to an office every day and working something similar to what he calls a "regular day job."
Also, unlike on a live-action film, where a script is shot with actors then assembled in an editing room, the production process on a Pixar movie works in reverse. The average Pixar film has a four-year production cycle: As the director, Stanton spends the first two years in story meetings and in an editorial room, where he's helping to rewrite the film's script and simultaneously edit what he calls a "rough draft of the movie." Pixar employees then provide the voices and use temp music to finish this rough cut. Once they've made a temp version of the movie they like, they start working with big-name Hollywood voice talent to record dialogue and gifted animators to make the CGI imagery pop.
How does a team of Olympic-ready animators complete such a complicated task? Tons of meetings that take place in screening rooms, where new footage is picked apart every day. It's not enough to simply be good at your job: Pixar employees also have to defend their ideas and talk through their processes to the other teams. As with most office jobs, communication is key.
"We'll have a lighting meeting, we'll have a sets meeting, an animation meeting, or a camera meeting, and everybody will meet that's on that crew," explains Stanton. "So, when I'm directing and talking to people, I'm actually talking to a crew of people and I'm repeating myself many times. And everybody gets to put in their two cents, so it is a bit like being on set, but it's in a screening room."