Getting in on the secret of Pixar's 'hidden' speakeasy

A Pixar animator opened a small access door in his office, got on his hands and knees, and crawled through the opening to discover a "secret" room. The rest, as they say, is history.

Animator Andrew Gordon (right) plays host to Steve Jobs and "Toy Story" director and Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter in the "secret" room. This is a still from a Gordon-narrated short about the room -- see embedded video below. Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

If you've worked an office job for any length of time, you've probably found yourself envying "the creatives" -- the people in the design department, say, who always seem to be having more fun than anyone else, with their crazy cubicle setups and unusual work routines.

Matthew Panzarino over at The Next Web has posted a great little story about one of the most extreme -- and awesome -- examples of this that I can imagine.

Panzarino's piece concerns a secret room at Pixar. Judging from what the author says, I should've known about the hideaway before. But I didn't, and you may not have either, so here we go.

It seems that when Pixar moved into its then-new building in Emeryville, Calif., animator Andrew Gordon (who worked on "Monsters Inc.," "Little Nemo," "The Incredibles," and so on) felt a bit of pressure to outdo his co-workers' cubicle craziness. (You can imagine, at a place like Pixar -- which is packed with "creatives" -- just how inventive people get with their work setups.)

Luckily, he discovered a small access hatch in the wall of his office, and -- creative, curious, and mischievous person that he must be -- he wasted no time in doing what many of us probably wouldn't have. He opened it. Then he got on his hands and knees and crawled into it. Then, lo and behold, he discovered a secret "room."

The hatch and "room" were really just a mundane setup designed to give maintenance workers access to a portion of the building's ventilation system. But Gordon's imagination moved in, and the rest, as they say, is history. He started modestly, decorating with strands of Christmas lights. But over time, the humble maintenance space evolved into the "Lucky 7 Lounge" or the "Love Lounge," with a sliding bookcase replacing the hatch -- and operated by a switch hidden in a bust of Shakespeare -- carpets, furniture, and custom embroidered pillows; a full bar; and even a camera trained on the door to warn Gordon and his partners in crime of an approaching boss or some other meddlesome creature.

Through the years, the fabled space has played host to a number of illustrious visitors, from movie stars to sports heroes to tech icons such as Steve Jobs.

But Gordon himself tells the story far better than I ever could. The centerpiece of Panzarino's article is a bonus feature from the DVD of "Toy Story 3," in which Gordon narrates -- surprise -- a sweet little animated short about the lounge. (The clip was posted to YouTube by Scott Myers at The Blacklist. I've embedded it below. Note: The vid mentions Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter -- those are, respectively, the director of "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E" and the director of "Toy Story" and Pixar's chief creative officer.)

Take a look at Panzarino's article too. In it, he quotes a passage about the lounge from Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio, and he includes some photos of the room itself. You can find more pics by simply doing a Google Images search on "Lucky 7 lounge" Pixar -- there's one on this page that shows the original small hatch, and this page shows the Skakespeare bust and bookcase-door that replaced the hatch (for a look at how the door operates, watch the video that's mentioned in the update note at the bottom of this story).

Oh and this just in: My CNET colleague Daniel Terdiman tells me he's visited the lounge (he'd no doubt been sworn to secrecy but had to break his oath when he saw that I was writing this). He says: "I've been in the secret room. It's really, really cool. A great place to have a drink -- though I didn't get one." Poor Daniel. No cocktails for us hard-working journalists. I guess those are reserved for the "creatives."

Update, 1:45 p.m.: Reader dchamp1337 points out that the room, with original small hatchway replaced, makes an appearance in this New York Times video (at 03:38). Thanks for the tip, dchamp1337!

 

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