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Inside Pixar Canada studios in Vancouver

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Cars 2: Air Mater (New Short Film) - Clip, YouTube video by

As we neared Water Street, I could hear the toothy tow truck, his thick Southern accent could be heard from two blocks away.

"I wasn't tractor-tippin'," Mater insisted.

The red race car came into view. He looked shinier than ever -- it must have been the new headlights, the fresh coat of paint.

Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater were in Vancouver last week. The two starring characters of Pixar animated feature Cars 2 were promoting their new animated short film, Air Mater.

Beneath a large white tent, McQueen and Mater welcomed media with open wheels. I was in the press shuttle, with reporters from DVD Town, Tribute, GeekSugar, CBS. Some of the reporters flew in from California and Toronto for the event.

With the long lineup and camera flashes everywhere, it was impossible to get any closer to the Pixar stars.

I sat down with Pixar's  Rob Gibbs, Dylan Brown, Amir Nasrabadi and Darwyn Peachey, before it would be my turn to meet the celebrities.


McQueen with best friend Mater, Photo by Anja Konjicanin

Inside Pixar Vancouver

The old, cobbled streets of Gastown led the reporters to Pixar Canada studio on Water Street. The 30,000 square-foot facility, a 110-year-old building, houses the 75-person Academy Award-winning computer-animation giant. Inside, Pixar art was everywhere, with character portraits hanging on the walls. 

"There's history that goes way back with Pixar, back into the Point Richard days," Pixar creative director Dylan Brown said. "It's important to remember that history and to be and feel a part of it."

Brown recalled the company's early days.

"It was very much like living in your parents' garage, and it was a little cobbled together," he said. "It was nice, and we could do great work there. It was also a smaller studio."

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Landlord

Pixar Canada's previous landlord may have forced at least six tenants in their Gastown location out of their premises to accommodate their expansion. Pixar set up temporary headquarters in the Water Street building in April 2010, subsequenty decided they wanted to stay and acquire more space, and began negotiating with the building landlord, which conveniently resulted in cancelled leases for existing tenants and denial of lease renewals that were the tenant's options. Technicalities were found to deny continuation of these tenancies, including eviction due to major building renovations (renos were minor alterations), late rent technicalities (when tenants duly and regularly paid their rent), and not allowing renewal options by failing to negotiate lease rates. All these small local artistic companies had no intentions of leaving and none of these issues with the landlord surfaced until Pixar wanted more space. They now have had to relocate at their own expense. It is very difficult to believe Pixar could be unaware that, just as they indicated their preference to stay, virtually all of the building's tenants suddenly began moving out en masse. Each tenant has a story about their eviction that will come to light soon. The sad thing is that there is a lot of available vacant production space in Vancouver that Pixar could have had without being the impetus resulting in small independent creative businesses having to move..