Exploring the Animation Pipeline – Science Behind PIXAR Exhibit

There is WAY more to animation than art!  While it takes creative minds to bring to life the complex images you see on the screen, the people at Pixar rely as much on science as anything else.  Exploring the Science Behind PIXAR Exhibition at the California ScienCenter in Los Angeles makes you realize that creativity can be expressed in more ways than one.

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Location: 700 Exposition Park Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037
Website: californiasciencecenter.org
Type: Highly interactive and innovative self-guided exhibit
Specialty: Using PIXAR characters to represent STEM concepts in fun ways
Cost: $14.95/adult; $11.95/students and seniors; $9.95/kids 4-12; children 3 and under FREE – combo packages available with IMAX movie, museum members save about $2-4 each
Exhibit Dates: October 15, 2016 – April 9, 2017
Craig’s Favorite: Anything to do with UP!

The exhibit is broken down into eight distinct sections – what Pixar calls the production pipeline.  It includes modeling, rigging, surfaces, sets & cameras, animation, simulation, lighting, and rendering.  If you’re at all confused at what any of those stages mean or what is involved, don’t worry.  In simple, easy-to-understand ways, each station has interactive and video elements that help explain all of it.  There were tons of fun things to do like creating your own mini-movie (featuring the Pixar lamp) and making your own Cars racing hood.  But my favorite had to be the lighting section – primarily because it featured both Dory and Carl from UP!  Since UP! is my favorite Pixar movie, you can say I’m just a bit biased, but it is so much fun.

Having the chance to interview Lindsey Collins, VP of Development and New Media and producer of Finding Dory was a treat. Even more fun to take a picture of her with her creation come to life.
Having the chance to interview Lindsey Collins, VP of Development and New Media and producer of Finding Dory was a treat. Even more fun to take a picture of her with her animated star come to life.

At the special press preview I attended, I had the chance to interview Lindsey Collins who is the Vice President of Development and New Media at Pixar Animation Studios and producer for Finding Dory.  Appropriately, we did the interview next to a giant statuette of Dory herself.  She and I talked about Pixar’s involvement in the exhibition.  The folks from Pixar worked to help show all the different aspects of the production pipeline.  Then Lindsey said they worked hard on translating it all, “How do we break this down in a way that makes it kind of ‘getable?’ because some of it is pretty heady, complicated stuff.  And then the science museum had a good part in figuring out how to turn it into hands-on exhibits.  So it was a real collaboration from start to finish.”  She pointed out how much fun she had in the museum herself, getting to play with building the Wall-E robots and the innovative stop-motion animation exhibit.  That in particular is meaningful for Pixar since it involves animating the lamp from Luxo Jr. Lindsey said, “There’s such historical importance to that since it was the first original piece of animation back in the day and it’s our logo and everything.”

A replica of Ant Island from A Bug's Life shows visitors the importance of sets and cameras
A replica of Ant Island from A Bug’s Life shows visitors the importance of sets and cameras

With over 40 interactive portions to the exhibit, there is plenty to do.  You’ll find yourself like me wandering over and over again to each section, seeing something new each time.  The replica of Ant Island, the larger than life Pixar characters, the cool, interactive things to do are just plain fun!  And at the end of it all, without realizing it, you’ll find out how much science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fits into the artistic world of animation.  Hopefully, you’ll be as inspired as I was by how seamlessly the California ScienCenter and Pixar Animation Studios is able to marry the two together.  Go and see it if you live in the area or if you’re coming to visit Disneyland.  It’s certainly worth it!

  • The Science Behind PIXAR Exhibition opens October 15th and runs through April 9, 2017.

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