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Lasseter pays tribute to Jobs in accepting AFF award

Charles Ealy

It's hard to upstage Johnny Depp, especially when the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star is wearing a rakish hat and fingernail polish, but John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, did just that Saturday at the annual Austin Film Festival Awards Luncheon.

The "Toy Story" creator, who received the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award, offered a moving tribute to the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who acquired Pixar Animation Studios in 1986.

Lasseter, who had never directed anything but shorts when he met Jobs in the '80s, said Saturday that when he approached his new boss at their first meeting with the idea of doing an animated movie about toys being alive, Jobs turned to him and said simply, "Make it great."

When 1995's phenomenally successful "Toy Story" went on to win a special Oscar as the first feature-length computer-animated film, Lasseter said he handed the award to Jobs at a celebratory dinner, and Jobs just said, "Was that great enough for you?"

"Pixar wouldn't exist without Steve Jobs," Lasseter said of the computer company legend who died earlier this month after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Depp, who received the Extraordinary Contribution to Film - Acting Award, said that he had built "a career on 20 years of failures before 'Pirates of the Caribbean'" in 2003. But a video clip that introduced him to the crowd at the Austin Club downtown belied such modesty. The video showed him in a wide variety of performances, from "Edward Scissorhands" to "Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street."

Depp also delivered an award to his longtime friend and screenwriter Caroline Thompson, who wrote "Scissorhands" and helped launch Depp's movie career. As she grabbed Depp's shoulder for moral support, Thompson, who received the Distinguished Screenwriter Award, said she was nervous. But she said she learned how to get over her nervousness when appearing before a crowd: "Just picture them sitting on the toilet."

Television star Emily Deschanel of "Bones," via video, congratulated Hart Hanson on receiving the Outstanding Television Writer Award and said that the audience would be able to spot the series creator because of his "bad haircut." After Hanson was introduced by "Bones" co-star David Boreanaz, the writer quipped that he couldn't stop thinking about how his hair looked.

Later Saturday, former Austinites Mark and Jay Duplass walked the red carpet for the local premiere of their new comedy, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." And today, James Franco will present his new movie, "Sal," a look at the last day in the life of actor Sal Mineo, and Mike Judge will introduce his newly revived MTV series "Beavis and Butt-Head."

The festival continues through Thursday.

cealy@statesman.com; 445-3931