Thirteen years ago, while watching “Finding Nemo” at an historic movie theater in Oakland, Becky Neiman-Cobb found herself.
It was just before she applied for a job at Pixar, and the 2003 feature further convinced the Santa Monica native that she wanted to put her talents to use at the acclaimed animation studio.
“I remember being in that theater and being like, ‘This is amazing,’” she said. “It fueled me even more to see what I could do to work there.”
Neiman-Cobb’s career at Pixar is now coming full circle with the upcoming release of “Finding Dory,” which is due out in theaters June 17. She is credited as production manager on the highly anticipated “Nemo” sequel, and one of the movie’s minor characters, Becky the Loon, is named after her.
But for Neiman-Cobb, who now lives in the Bay Area city of Albany, perhaps the most exciting part of making “Dory” was working alongside director Andrew Stanton in keeping all of the various studio departments on task. With 1,200 animation shots to finalize and hundreds of crew members to organize, she met regularly with key staffers and served as a liaison between different departments to make sure they were kept abreast of changes. If a tweak in animation was going to impact lighting considerations, for example, then it was up to Neiman-Cobb to connect the dots.
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s super-cool,” she said. “I get to help be that nexus of information for the director.”
Born and raised in Santa Monica, Neiman-Cobb went to Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools before attending Samohi. It’s where she took on one of her first leadership roles as editor-in-chief of the school yearbook, a position she credits with preparing her for the job she has today. And she hasn’t forgotten the life lessons she learned from then-yearbook advisor Carol Lugo and longtime physics teacher Tony Murphy.
“I’m really grateful for my time in Santa Monica and that I got the opportunities that I did,” she said. “I feel like it had a big influence on who I became.”
When Neiman-Cobb graduated from high school in 1993 and started college at UC San Diego, she satisfied her interests in people and art by studying sociology and taking classes in music and photography.
“I wanted to be a teacher or in entertainment,” she said. “Pixar is this perfect combination of that. … I’m in this career that still touches kids’ lives.”
Neiman-Cobb returned to the Westside to work in the music industry for a few years before moving up to the Bay Area, where she’s been employed by Pixar since 2004. She was previously a creative director at Ultimatum Music, a Los Angeles-based independent record label.
Neiman-Cobb started as a production assistant on several Pixar shorts before becoming a production coordinator and department manager for several feature films, including “Wall-E,” “Up,” “Cars 2” and last year’s “Inside Out.”
Working on a sequel like “Finding Dory” presented a unique set of obstacles, Neiman-Cobb said. Dory, a popular sidekick from the “Nemo” saga who is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, has short-term memory loss.
“It’s challenging to have her lead this story when her major disability is not remembering anything,” she said. “It can be hard to keep it interesting. But the ultimate goal is to have the audience learn something or gain confidence, and it took a long time to figure out how to do that.”