To say Derrick Clements loves Pixar really undersells it.
Like, really, really undersells it.
There are the small “The Incredibles” art pieces hanging in the Provo resident’s bathroom. There are the drawers full of sundry Pixar-themed figurines. There’s his living room, decked out literally wall-to-wall with Pixar movie posters, memorabilia and media. And, most of all, there’s Clements’ “The Pixar Podcast.” The successful podcast, which Clements started in 2010, has covered the Pixar spectrum over more than 100 episodes and counting. He’s featured numerous Pixar animators and staff, and has been flown out to Pixar headquarters for three press junkets — including that of “Inside Out,” which comes to theaters nationwide on Friday.
“It was always my dream to work at Pixar in some capacity — like as the janitor or the president; either one,” Clements joked.
FROM FIRST LOVE TO FIRST PODCAST
Clements’ love for the animation studio began when he was 8 years old, at the release of Pixar's first film, “Toy Story.” It then crystallized with “Toy Story 2” (still his all-time favorite movie). When “Monsters, Inc.” was released in 2001, Clements started to realize that though Pixar films were distributed by Disney, it was very much a separate operation. (Though Disney eventually bought the company in 2006.) He began researching Pixar more earnestly, even listening to the company’s rather bland quarterly conference calls/financial reports.
In high school he waited outside the Pixar headquarters gates just to have the security guard autograph his copy of the “Toy Story” soundtrack.
If anyone exudes enthusiasm, it’s Clements. He’s a passionate advocate for the arts and storytelling, teaching English, film studies and journalism at Maple Lake Academy in Spanish Fork and producing “The Porch,” a popular local storytelling show that happens monthly in Provo and Salt Lake City. His home décor seems to indicate, though, that Pixar might be his biggest passion of all.
“I was just so taken by how imaginative the stories were,” he explained. “And it just seemed like a place where they really valued quality, when a lot of children’s media … didn’t always do that.”
Clements also fell in love with podcasts, voraciously consuming podcasts of all kinds — “everything from NPR, really professionally done stuff, to just guy-in-a-garage kind of stuff,” he said. This went on for a few years. Doing his own podcast, though, wasn’t necessarily second nature.
He always wanted to do a podcast. He realized, though, that it would take considerable work, and didn’t think there was any one niche subject that would properly motivate him.
“And then I realized, ‘Wait, Pixar! Pixar is something that I could talk endlessly about’ — and I had, to many people that I knew,” he said. “I would go on dates and just talk to them about Pixar the whole time.”
CATCHING THEIR ATTENTION
The podcast’s initial angle was simple and streamlined: just a 15-minute report on Pixar news. It quickly morphed, however, into something more vast. “The Pixar Podcast” quickly became more interview-driven just a few months in, after Clements reached out to some Pixar artists via Twitter. In a surprise to him, Clements discovered these artists he idolized already knew about his podcast. He asked them to be on the podcast, and they readily agreed.
“And that was a very exciting moment for me, because I had just put Pixar on this pedestal, and it was amazing to me that somebody inside Pixar was actually paying attention to something that I was doing,” he said. “When I realized that they were actually listening to me, I realized, ‘Oh, they’re actually just fans of this stuff too.’ ”
“The Pixar Podcast” has also expanded into realms that are more Pixar-adjacent. He featured a couple in Herriman who built — and live in — an exact (and we mean exact) replica of the house in Pixar’s 2009 film “Up.” Pixar provided the blueprints on the condition that they build the house to those exact specifications. Clements also interviewed some researchers in Alabama who were exploring dog collars that could convey a dog’s emotions — similar to the talking dog collar from “Up.”
BECOMING AN INSIDER
With its forthcoming film “Inside Out,” Pixar has generated considerable movie buzz as of late. It premiered last month at the Cannes Film Festival, garnering widespread praise. In some ways it’s Pixar’s most high-concept film yet. The story revolves around Riley, a young girl whose family moves from the Midwest to San Francisco. But instead of Riley being the main character, she’s actually the setting. Most of “Inside Out” takes place inside her mind, where a handful of tiny characters keep things running.
Clements saw the first half of the film at Pixar headquarters, where he and other media members were invited.
“We all were really impressed. It’s a really provocative and interesting movie, and I think it’s going to be a big hit,” he said. “Everything about the world of ‘Inside Out’ is new. There’s nothing in it that is a normal, real thing. It’s all taking place not even in the brain — it’s the mind, which is this abstract concept, you know?”
More than 100 episodes in, Clements and “The Pixar Podcast” are having a tremendous run. Each episode gets thousands of downloads — his episode on "Frozen" got more than 16,000. Clements said he plans to continue the podcast into the foreseeable future, ever expanding the Pixar narrative by interviewing, profiling and reporting on whatever might fall under the Pixar umbrella.
And, as it always has, Pixar will guide his ethos.
“It always seemed to me that in that atmosphere of ‘quality doesn’t really matter,’ Pixar always said, ‘No, quality is the thing that matters the most. And if we worry about making good, quality stuff, then money will come and good things will come,’ ” he said. “And that has sort of been a philosophy that I’ve tried to adopt.”
To listen to "The Pixar Podcast," visit thepixarpodcast.com.