But few realize that the studio previously dabbled in the visual technique. "Oh, man, I love 3-D," says Lasseter with his usual boyish enthusiasm. "In the computer, we are creating a three-dimensional world, but we have only been able to see a two-dimension view of it. In 1989, I did a short film called 'Knick Knack' that was in stereo 3-D. But there was no theater in the world where you could watch it. It was crazy." It was later shown in 3-D when attached to the 2006 rerelease of "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
"Up" will play in 3-D on at least 2,600 screens, according to RealD, the main company behind the technology in non-IMAX theaters. Coming Oct. 2: a double-feature reissue of "Toy Story" 1 and 2 in 3-D.
•Restocking the talent pool. Pixar's output has been dominated by four directors — Lasseter ("Toy Story" 1 and 2, "Cars"), Pete Docter ("Monsters, Inc.," "Up"), Andrew Stanton ("WALL·E," "Finding Nemo") and Brad Bird ("The Incredibles," "Ratatouille"). Some animators, such as Jimmy Hayward, who co-directed 2008's Horton Hears a Who! for 20th Century Fox, end up leaving Pixar to have a chance to take charge of a film.
But now that some of the stalwarts are expanding into live action — Stanton with John Carter of Mars and Bird with an adventure about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake — the studio is getting serious about prepping more talent for the director's chair.
Just as Walt Disney launched a program at California Institute of the Arts in 1975 to deepen the animation ranks (grads include Lasseter and Bird), Pixar is actively expanding its talent base. One source: the shorts that run before their features. "We have younger filmmakers experiment with ideas and technology," says Lasseter. "The next thing you know, we have assigned them to come up with feature ideas."
Upcoming directors include longtime Pixar-ite Lee Unkrich ("Toy Story 3," summer 2010), "Ratatouille" producer Brad Lewis ("Cars 2," summer 2011) and Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom ("Newt," summer 2012).
•Repairing the gender gap. Just as there has been no female lead in a Pixar film, the studio has yet to have a woman director.
Both of those situations have been addressed with the arrival of Brenda Chapman, formerly of Disney and DreamWorks (co-director on "The Prince of Egypt") before joining Pixar in 2003 to work as a story artist on "Cars." "I still feel like a newbie," she says.
Chapman attributes the lack of feminine influence simply to the male-dominated nature of the profession. "It wasn't for any conscious sexist reasons. When I look back at the ratio of women who go to school for this, it was five out of 30 in my class."
She describes "The Bear and the Bow," scheduled for Christmas 2011, as true to dark fairy tales of old and inspired by her relationship with her daughter, Emma, 10. "She's quite a firecracker, and it makes for some interesting developments at home."
The fable that unfolds in Scotland features Reese Witherspoon as Merida, a headstrong princess who rebels against her parents (Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly) and becomes an archer. Unlike traditional Disney fairy tales, "she drives the story as opposed to having things happen to her. And there is no waiting for a prince."