Festival Watch
Pixar: 20 Years of Animation
Mike Caputo · January 16, 2006 | Animation is a large field with many studios and many more talented people, but in truth there are only a tiny handful of studios and artists that have any lasting impact in the field. Pixar Animation Studios, with films to their credit like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles, certainly falls into this elite category. It is arguably the studio with the most impact on animation over the past ten years. The artists at Pixar have not only contributed the most to the evolution of contemporary CG animation, but have defined it in every way possible. Their mastery of traditional animation aesthetics such as colour, characters, music, layout and effects combine seamlessly with the behind-the-scenes science that is integral to CG animation in bringing to life stories that leave indelible marks on children and adults.

Because of these achievements, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is hosting a show dedicated not just to animation, but to Pixar itself. On display are over 500 original pieces on loan from Pixar Animation Studios, including background art, rough sketches, sculpted maquettes, and colour storyboards.

There is much to see here, and most of it is material never used directly in the films. Rather, we view the inspirational sketches of, for example, Sully from Monsters, Inc. that are used when developing the story, or rough clay sculptures of everyone's favourite geriatric chess player, Geri, used to help refine the character and communicate his look to all involved.

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation
The Museum of Modern Art
December 14, 2005 to February 6, 2006
Everything in the show can be loosely categorized into five sections, as it is in the lavishly printed book of the show published by MoMA: Characters, Sculptures, Story, Colorscripts, and Worlds. Each is a collection of pencil roughs, colour sketches, paintings, even thumbnail animatics that portray the development of a Pixar character, scene, layout, or environment. The remarkable thing is even in early pre-production sketches of, say, Woody or Sully, where the character in the sketch looks substantially different from the final version, we can still see the elements of the character we know and love. The sketch we are looking at looks like a close uncle or an older brother, and we can see where Woody or Sully get their charm and good looks.

In addition to getting up close and personal with original sketches, paintings, and sculptures, the Museum of Modern Art uses a handheld wireless audio receiver that provides a narrator for each stop on the walking tour. This isn't new, but the production effort that went into these sound bites is impressive. Much more than a narrator describing the work before which you are standing, we get to hear John Lasseter talk about a particular aspect of directing a scene in Toy Story, or Brad Bird describe the creation of Edna Mode from The Incredibles, including him falling into character and speaking in her voice (Bird voiced Edna in the film).

This is an opportunity to view the elements of a Pixar feature that are the invisible cornerstones to the finished product we love so much. It is a show not to be missed.
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