Buzz Lightyear didn’t always have wings. Woody used to have a square, fat face. And Sully, he was more…well, “loveable” probably wouldn’t be the first word to describe him.

The Oakland Museum of California is currently running an exhibit showcasing actual character molds, storyboard panels, and art designs used by the creators behind all of the Pixar movies.

It’s one of those Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moments, of getting a chance to look behind the glass, when walking through the exhibit and seeing how these films came to the screen.

Sidenote: If Wonka Candy were Pixar movies, Nerds would be Up (good from beginning to end), Pixy Stix would be A Bug’s Life (supremely underrated), and Laffy Taffy would be Cars (a big no-no). Of course, Toy Story series gets the royal treatment, but every single movie is represented. There are painted ocean scenes from Finding Nemo, sculptures of Ratatouille, and a room dedicated to all of the short films, including, yes, the crazy old dude playing chess. What sticks out is the development of the creative process. By seeing the original character designs and scene layouts, you’re struck by how some aspects of the stories were radically different. What if Sully from Monsters, Inc was more like the terrifying menace as originally depicted on worn scrap piece of paper?

The funniest part, though, was seeing that Cars was allotted the smallest space (Laffy Taffy I tell you!). My buddy Trung is a strong believer that Cars has to be the black sheep in the Pixar family, until we learned recently that there is now a sequel coming out next year – Cars 2 – with the talking automobiles teaming up as spies, making him wonder if members on the development team had a bet amongst each other, and we’re all the losers.

But there is a sense of awe and nostalgia in understanding how all of these various ideas came together and entrenched themselves in our childhoods. You walk through the various rooms and, almost like a time machine, you’re taken back in your own history. Earlier and earlier you go as you are brought to a different point in your own life. It’s hard to imagine that it was fifteen years ago when we were first introduced to Andy and his toys, and yet they have continued to mean something to us. Somehow, someway, the exhibit is a confirmation of the value of storytelling and creativity.

So if you’re ever up in the Bay Area, try venturing out to the Oakland Museum of California. The exhibit will be open until January 9th. Ticket information can be found here.

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