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There's something exhilarating about an early-morning chat with a man who truly loves his work. And that's the case at 8:30 a.m. as writer-director Andrew Stanton welcomes STARLOG into his spacious office at Pixar Animation Studios' Emeryville, California headquarters.

A graduate of the famed California Institute of the Arts, Stanton began his animation career in the 1980s at Kroyer Films before segueing to Ralph Bakshi's TV cult revival Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. In 1990, he was recruited by Pixar creative guru John Lasseter, becoming the new company's second animator and an essential part of its brain trust. He directed and helped create various TV commercials before Pixar moved into theatrical features. Stanton has scripted or co-scripted all four previous Pixar CG-animated films: Toy Story, A Bug's Life (which he also co-directed), Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. (which he also executive-produced).

Today, not surprisingly, he's ready for a rest. His five-year journey to make Finding Nemo is almost over. The movie was Stanton's idea to begin with — and he both wrote it (with Bob Peterson and David Reynolds) and made it his directorial debut (with Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich serving as co-director). All that remains is to talk about the funny and poignant tale of Marlin, a clownfish from Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and his epic undersea quest to rescue his fishnapped son Nemo from imprisonment in a tank in a dentist's office off Sydney Harbor.