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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Pixar global publicity director Chris Wiggum ('94)

Growing up near Custer, Chris Wiggum would make silly horror movies with his friends and sister with a camcorder. Fast-forward a few decades, and he has fulfilled his dream of working in the film industry by overseeing all press for the legendary animation studio Pixar as their Director of Global Publicity.

“To be surrounded by a group of incredible storytelling artists, it’s electric,” Wiggum said. “I love working here because it fuels my love of movies. There’s nothing better.”

During his teen years, Wiggum worked at the Thriftway grocery store’s video department after school. He had a wide array of movies at his fingertips, and quickly discovered some films that had a major impact: Goodfellas. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Raising Arizona. He also loved chatting with customers about movies and giving them recommendations.

Wiggum was highly involved with the Ferndale High School student newspaper, which he called “the best thing that happened to me in school.”

“I found a community of friends, both on the newspaper and yearbook side, and we just had so much in common,” he said. “We had a blast brainstorming story ideas, researching them, and writing them.”

Wiggum said his newspaper advisor and teacher, Mary Seilo, was a key mentor for him and his fellow students.

“She was just a source of so much inspiration, and really urged us to be creative, inquisitive thinkers,” he said. “She guided us with a really steady hand, but gave us a lot of freedom to explore.”

After graduating from FHS in 1994, Wiggum attended the University of Washington, where he took some film theory classes as a part of his all-encompassing Comparative History of Ideas major. He knew he wanted to work in the film industry, and took any internship or job that would let him work near filmmakers, such as the Seattle International Film Festival.

By 1999, Wiggum had moved to San Francisco and started working on some independent film shoots around the Bay Area. After these experiences, he realized that although he loved film, he didn’t necessarily want to be involved in the production side of the industry.

“When I was putting movies together, it kind of ruined their magic,” Wiggum said. “I saw behind the curtain and realized that this is a lot of standing around and waiting, a lot of starting and stopping.”

In 2001, Wiggum applied to intern at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the only spot available was in the publicity department. He didn’t know much about film publicity, but decided it sounded fun and gave it a shot. Wiggum discovered he loved the job – which involved a lot of discussing movies with filmmakers and the press.

“There’s nothing better than talking about movies, and that’s basically what you do in film publicity,” he said. “It goes back to my old days, working the video counter at Thriftway.”

Afterwards, Wiggum promoted independent films for Larsen Associates for about six years, until he heard about a publicity position opening up at Pixar’s offices in Emeryville, near Oakland. He got the job in 2009 and has worked there since.

At Pixar, Wiggum works with filmmakers, artists, voice actors, and more to help promote their latest films. During the long process of creating an animated movie, Wiggum and his team get to see early versions of movies every few months – usually about 6-7 times in total before they’re finalized.

“My favorite thing about working at Pixar is that our movies tend to be successful at evoking strong emotions,” he said. “The credits roll, and you just went through this storytelling journey, and it’s amazing.”

Once a movie is finished, Wiggum and his publicity team organize press junkets and attend film premieres and red carpets all over the world with Pixar’s filmmakers. Only six months after starting at Pixar, Wiggum attended the Oscars to support their newest movie at the time, Up. The film had a great showing, winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

“I got to enjoy that celebration with the filmmakers and (score composer) Michael Giacchino, and even held an Oscar for the first time,” Wiggum said. “I grew up watching the Oscars every year, and that was an unforgettable moment.”

To this day, Up is still Wiggum’s favorite Pixar movie.

“I went from watching as a fan to working on its award-season campaign,” he said. “I went from ‘Oh, this is amazing,’ to working with the filmmakers, and it was spectacular.”