Mar 23, 2019

Oscar winner Brad Lewis visits campus

Associated Press

“Nice guys can finish first,” is what some Fresno State faculty are noting about Oscar-winning alumnus Brad Lewis.

“It’s great to see someone like Brad garner so much success, because he is such a nice guy,” Dan Carrion, professor of theater arts, said in a phone interview with The Collegian. “The entertainment business is rough and there is not a lot of nice people out there involved with it. It’s good when a great person gets what they deserve.”

Lewis was the producer of Disney and Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature earlier this year and he is now set to direct “Cars 2,” which will be released in 2011. He graduated from Fresno State in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts.

Lewis will be visiting the campus Thursday as part of the College of Arts and Humanities’ Lecture Series featuring distinguished alumni. He will give a lecture detailing his journey from Fresno State to the Oscars at 5 p.m. in the Alice Peters Auditorium.

Carrion came to Fresno State during Lewis’ last two years at the university, and said he will never forget what he calls “Brad’s trademark.”

“He [Lewis] is a real ensemble guy, a team player, he has this great ability of making everyone come together as a family,” Carrion said.

Lewis said in a phone interview with The Collegian that it usually takes more than just being a nice guy to have that sense of family at a workplace.

“I have been fortunate that mostly everyone I have worked with in my career from State to animation studios like Pacific Data Images and Pixar have been good, honest, ethical and fun people,” Lewis said.

Lewis began his career as a personal production assistant on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Carrion recalled the last time he saw Lewis about 27 years ago at an Italian restaurant in Monterey, Calif., when Lewis arrived with Merv Griffin in tow.

Lewis had come in and immediately went over to greet him.

“Brad said to me ‘You know Merv,’ and I couldn’t believe it. Here was Merv Griffin and Brad was being so humble about it,” Carrion said. “Trying to impress me with this little detail was the last thing on his mind. Anyone else would have made it a big deal.”

Since then Lewis has produced television specials such as Hanna-Barbera’s “The Last Halloween,” for which he won an Emmy, and the first 3D episode of The Simpsons. He received a second Emmy for graphic design utilized on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”

Lewis joined Pixar Animation Studios in November 2001. Prior to that, he spent thirteen years as a producer, executive producer, and executive vice-president of production at Pacific Data Images, a wholly owned subsidiary of DreamWorks Animation SKG. He was a producer on the animated feature film “ANTZ.” Among his other feature film production credits are “Forces of Nature,” “The Peacemaker” and “Broken Arrow.”

The Oscar win for “Ratatouille” in February of this year is a distant, but still extremely positive memory for Lewis and he said now he is caught up in directing “Cars 2,” his first ever directing project for Pixar.

“Life after the Oscar win has been good, but you’re always moving on to the next thing and this upcoming film is my main focus right now,” Lewis said.

The passing of legendary actor Paul Newman on Sept. 26, due to his struggle with cancer, leaves the status of one character from the film in question.

Newman originally voiced the character of “Doc” in the first “Cars” film. Lewis said it has not yet been decided how to handle this situation.

“I can not reveal any plot lines because the sequel is still in production, but the passing of Paul is a tremendous loss for us,” Lewis said. “Paul was an amazing talent and a great man.”

But Lewis said it hasn’t always been so easy for him and that like many in the entertainment business, it took a lot of hard work to get where he is now.

“I had to struggle for years,” Lewis said. “But what’s important is to stay positive and always work above and beyond and it helped that I really loved the business and that I knew this type of career is what I wanted,” Lewis said.

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