It was 1964 when a young John Lasseter and his family made the 40-minute trek to Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre from their Whittier home to see "Mary Poppins" on the big screen. He and his siblings skipped around the stars embedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard before taking in the spectacle on the screen. It was an unforgettable moment for the then 7-year-old cartoon lover and one he recounted with family and friends Tuesday when he received his very own star.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame has taken its hits over the years as a for-profit publicity vehicle for celebrities but none of that cynicism was in the air for the Pixar creative guru's tribute, which saw the goofy 54-year-old lay his Hawaiian-shirted self over the shiny star -- fittingly located in front of the El Capitan Theatre, where every Pixar movie has played in the company's 25-year history -- after admitting that "this is the greatest honor you could give me."
In addition to Lasseter's family, and his family of filmmakers at Pixar, Lasseter's loyal voice actors from many of his animated films were on hand for the celebration, including Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen in "Cars"), Bonnie Hunt (Sally from "Cars"), Patton Oswalt (Remy in "Ratatouille"), Cheech Marin (Ramon in "Cars"), Emily Mortimer (Holly Shiftwell from "Cars 2") and Don Rickles, who played Mr. Potato Head in the "Toy Story" movies and as the self-proclaimed "biggest name here" was expectedly inappropriate in his remarks.
Rickles teased both Lasseter and his wife for their wardrobe choices, specifically John's casual attire and Nancy's broad-brimmed hat. "Put a propeller on your tush and you can fly around with that," he remarked. He insulted Walt Disney; took jabs at Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, the stars of the "Toy Story" movies; and closed with, "Good luck in your career, John, though I believe it is slipping."
John Ratzenberg provided the most illuminating speech of the noon-day celebration, explaining why he's cast in every one of Pixar's movies. As his fable goes, Ratzenberg was a street fair tap-dancer who "made a good living" dancing on his plywood square. He says Lasseter's kindergarten class was attending the fair when a series of events caused a bunch of fair booths to collapse. "I grabbed John out of the way before a funnel-cake machine crushed him." On that day Lasseter promised to repay him for saving his life. "I'm sorry about the rest of your kindergarten class," quipped the man who has played everything from a piggie bank in "Toy Story" to the Abominable Snowman in "Monsters, Inc.," "that I couldn't help them."
Lasseter closed out the event with a tearful speech that thanked his family, his colleagues and Pixar President Ed Catmull. He also evoked the memory of Steve Jobs, his partner at Pixar. He repeated Jobs' only request of Lasseter, which was to "make it great." "Without Steve, Pixar wouldn't exist. These films wouldn't exist. I honor him," he said.
Photo: John Lasseter receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Tuesday. Credit: Fred Prouser/Reuters