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John Lasseter to be feted at Sonoma Valley Film Festival

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John Lasseter to be feted at Sonoma Valley Film Festival

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For the past decade, the Sonoma Valley Film Festival has heard the refrains of "You've Got A Friend In Me" from John Lasseter, the creative force behind Pixar.

Now the festival is turning the tables and planning quite a bash April 11-15 in recognition not only of its 10th anniversary but in tribute to its friend and one of the region's most beloved filmmakers.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

In addition to screening some 75 films from 12 different countries, the festival is hosting a day chock full of events honoring Lasseter, an animator, director, producer and the vice president of Pixar. When the Walt Disney Company purchased Pixar in 2006, Lasseter also became chief creative officer of Walt Disney Feature Animation and principal creative adviser for Walt Disney Imagineering, the division responsible for creating theme park attractions.

"It is our tremendous honor to pay tribute to John Lasseter, the world’s premier storyteller,” said Marc Lhormer, executive director of the film festival. “A longtime Sonoma Valley resident and a supporter and friend of the festival over our 10 years of incredible growth, John is a legendary creative force inspiring a whole generation of filmmakers."

Photo courtesy of Google Images

The live tribute at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 14, will be hosted by Pixar's "lucky charm" John Ratzenberger, who has voiced characters in every one of studio's feature films. Ratzenberger was Hamm in "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2," P.T. Flea in "A Bug's Life," the Abominable Snowman in "Monsters, Inc.," a school of fish in "Finding Nemo," the Underminer in "The Incredibles," and Mack in "Cars." His voice will be heard later this summer as a character in Pixar's "Ratatouille." Best known for his television role as postal carrier Cliff Clavin on "Cheers," Ratzenberger can now be seen kicking up a storm in ABC's reality show "Dancing with the Stars."

Special guest participants include actor and comedy superstar Robin Williams; actors Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin and Tony Shalhoub, who all lent their voices to "Cars," Lasseter's last effort as director; Pixar storywriter and "Finding Nemo" director Andrew Stanton; and legendary Disney animator Glen Keane, who designed the Beast, Tarzan and several other memorable film characters.

Photos courtesy of Google Images

The special day begins at 9 a.m. with a presentation of the work-in-progress version of "The Pixar Story," a new documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Leslie Iwerks. This film offers a look behind the gates and inside the artists' cubicles & meeting rooms at the Emeryville studio. It recounts the genesis of the most creative and successful storytelling studio in history and includes interviews with many of Pixar's top talents.

FYI: "The Pixar Story" will also be screened at the fest on Friday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. And If you catch that work-in-progress screening and don't want to see Ms. Iwerks' documentary again on Saturday, there's a special big-screen presentation of Pixar's first feature "Toy Story" at 9:15 a.m.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

A sizable collection of Pixar's beloved shorts -- early examples from the '80s as well as a new, never-before-seen film -- will be screened at 11:30 a.m. The shorts program will be hosted by Pixar's Andrew Jimenez.

Top Pixar story artists Mark Andrews, Jim Capobianco, Ronnie Del Carmen and Jason Katz will lead a "Storytellers' Panel" at 2 p.m., talking about the lengthy process of creating magical, memorable family-friendly films. It's been said that good writing is research and rewriting ... and for an animated film, good writing involves research, storyboarding and, often, story reboarding.

 Copyright 2007 Richard Kraft Productions

The tribute to Lasseter, sure to be filled with a lot of laughs and memorable stories, will be followed by the Northern California premiere of "Finding Kraftland" at 9 p.m. This documentary is decribed as a roller-coaster ride into the world of Richard Kraft, a Hollywood mega-agent, divorced father and fanatic Disney collector who drags his bright but quirky son though an obsessive quest to recapture his childhood. See Jim Hill's archived story for more about this "most
overproduced home movie," which is often funny and ultimately quite moving.

In addition to directing the "Toy Story," "A Bug’s Life," "Toy Story 2" and "Cars," Lasseter served as executive producer for "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," as well as the English language releases of Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle" from Japan.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Under his supervision, Pixar’s animated features and shorts have received a multitude of critical accolades and film industry honors. Lasseter received a Special Achievement Oscar in 1995 for "Toy Story" and the work on that film also resulted in an Academy Award-nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” -- the first time an animated feature had been recognized in a writing category. "Finding Nemo," released in spring 2003, became the highest grossing animated feature of all time, and won the Oscar as “Best Animated Feature Film.” In total, Pixar has won some 20 Academy Awards and its seven features have grossed more than $3.4 billion at the worldwide box office.

Festival passes and tickets are expected to sell out. Order online at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival web site or call (707) 933-2600. More information, including a complete schedule, is available at www.sonomafilmfest.org.

If you're unable to attend, check this site next month for additional stories and event coverage.

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  • Oh, I wish I was able to go!  Sounds like SO MUCH FUN.  There is so much more to do/see in california in regards to animation than up here in Vancouver.  We do have cartoonapalooza, which i keep missing, but that's another story.

    I'd love to see the "Pixar Story" documentary.

  • Let's just get the obvious comment out of the way; Lasseter really doesn't photograph very well.

  • "Let's just get the obvious comment out of the way; Lasseter really doesn't photograph very well."

    That's true.

    Like usual, can't attend, too far away.. Bummer.. Would have loved it..

  • For those interested, FINDING KRAFTLAND will also be screening at the following film festivals:  

    Oxford International Film Festival in Ohio on April 7, 2007 at 10am and April 8, 2007 at 8pm. www.oxfordfilms.com/oiff

    2007 Newport Beach Film Festival in California on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 1:30pm. www.newportbeachfilmfest.com

    Rainer Independent Film Festival in Washington state. It will screen on Saturday, May 5th at 6:30pm with a repeat screening on Sunday, May 6th at a time to be determined. www.rainierfilmfest.com

    KRAFTLAND will make it's international premiere in Wales at the Swansea Film Festival on Wed, June 6, 2007. www.swanseafilmfestival.com

    for more info: www.findingkraftland.com

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