I think, based on the interviews I’ve written about with various people at Pixar, that it’s safe to say that as a a group, they have some of the best jobs anywhere. If that’s true, then it logically follows that Pete Sohn is even more deserving of employment envy than most of his coworkers. You see, it’s pretty easy to envy the folks who work to bring the films to life visually. And it’s pretty easy to envy the folks whose voices are immortalized by being lent (in one form or another) to a standout character in one of Pixar’s future classic movies.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this: Yes, Peter Sohn is one of those privileged few, and I had the chance to (along with a roomful of other bloggers and media folks) talk with him on my visit to Pixar back in April. He started working for Pixar in 2000 as a character designer on Finding Nemo, and did some story work on that film as well. He’s worked in many different departments over the years since, and is currently co-directing The Good Dinosaur, Disney/Pixar’s next production scheduled to hit theaters next year (the upcoming film Planes, while set in the same universe as Pixar’s Cars films, is not a Pixar production). And Sohn has also voiced one minor and one major character in Pixar films now: respectively, Emile, Remy’s brother in Ratatouille; and now Scott “Squishy” Squibbles in Monsters University, which hit theaters this past Friday — and which, if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading this article, go see the film, then come back and finish this.
Sohn talked quite a bit about the way the character of Squishy developed, and how he related to it. Upon being asked whether he inspired the character or vice-versa, Sohn replied:
I– I think it’s the back and forth. I’m not sure, uh, exactly if it was just like, uh, um, because in the beginning there was a Squishy but then evolved to be, uh, a guy with a hat and– and chubby. And so maybe it wasn’t a stretch. Maybe that’s– that’s what he looks like. Oh, that guy looks like that. Let’s put him in there. Uh, yeah, but it was– it was an evolution for sure.
If you’ve seen Monsters University, you know that Squishy is easily one of the most likable of the new major characters the film introduces. When asked what he likes about the character he voices, Sohn had this to say:
I like that he’s so sincere about like kind of naïve things. You know, like, uh, there’s a– there’s a scene in there where the– the– uh, Mike and Sully want to throw a party. And he’s like “This is great. Grab some couch cushions ’cause we’re gonna build a fort.” You know, like, I– I– I’m– I totally connect with that type of guy just ’cause that’s how I grew up with my cousins. We didn’t– we didn’t have the Internet. So the world was so like out there. For us it was just like Oh my God. You have the one piece of Lego like whatever that is that you can just nerd out for a while.
And, uh, it was that naïve sincerity that I really really liked about him. And then, um, when, um, Julia Sweeney, uh, came who plays, uh, Ms., uh, Squibbles, [his] mom. I had– I’ve got that lunch with her. You’ve seen like, wow, she’s so brilliant. And then like, um, uh, uh, seeing in the reels how she’s– she’s embarrassed, uh, of her mom but still totally like, yeah, that’s– that’s my mom. Like, yeah, uh, that– he still loves her but totally living this weird 30-year-old living with his mom kind of feeling of it.
I totally understand it, connect with it as well. It’s not a stretch. Seriously, it’s not a stretch at all what that character is.
Sohn is the father of two young kids, and had an observation on parenting I thought was interesting. It was prompted by a question about what scares him:
What scares me? Okay, I’m gonna get real now. Don’t even– I have– I just– I have a three-year-old daughter and this six-month-old baby now. And now what scares me is– this is gonna sound so sappy– but like I had no idea having kids– I don’t– I don’t know how much of you have kids out there– but like that idea of that they will be able to break your heart purposely one day if you know what I mean. Like, in the beginning, it’s like, oh, wow. “I love you.” You love me. That’s great.
And now that the love has grown so much they have that ability now that like “I hate you, Daddy.” Oh my God! How can you say that? I’m so terrified of that just ’cause of what I did to my parents that like I know– I know it’s coming. Um, that’s– that’s oh so sad.
Sohn was a really nice, fun guy to listen and talk to, and it’s clear he’s very good at what he does and loves his work (and why wouldn’t he?). He’s certainly done an excellent job of helping create a memorable character in Monsters University, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for The Good Dinosaur (about which he was tight-lipped, as you’d expect). It’s good to see Pixar is still going strong.
All travel expenses for the #MonstersUEvent were covered by Disney, but I received no other compensation. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.
Photos courtesy of the official Pixar #MonstersUEvent photographer; Used with permission.