Commonwealth Club/The Animation of Disney Pixar’s Up

04Nov09

In anticipation of the 11/10 DVD release of Up, giddy fans gathered Monday evening at the Cubberley Theater in Silicon Valley to enjoy a special Commonwealth Club presentation by Scott Clark, Lead Animator at Pixar Animation Studios. His reel included a behind the scenes look at life at Pixar, the late nights, the swanky lounges.  The audience oohed and aahed as he talked about visits by famed animators like Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Then he showed the process of boarding, layout, and animating – talked about how it all starts with an idea, like an old man holding balloons, then it’s about the story, quoting John Lasseter, the story is king, if the script isn’t any good, it isn’t worth making, then it’s the editing, it’s always cheaper to redraw than to rebuild – showing pre-vis art and scratch dialogue of scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut.  For set dressing, the team went to Angel Falls, Venezuela to gather images of other-worldly plant life and rock formations for inspiration and reference. For character building, they even brought an ostrich, Ed Asner, a dog behavioralist, etc. to the studio.  He talked about humor, what is funny is what we know.  Then he closed with casting is key, the boy who was the voice of Russell was not an actor but discovered while his brother was auditioning.

ENCORE! When the program ended, Scott took a seat on the edge of the stage to hangout with his fans. In the crowd were tweens, fan boys, and up-and-coming animators like Robert Lazzarini, Animation Director for episode two of  Nova’s Becoming Human.  They chatted about Maya being as good as some of the proprietary tools used in the industry, how CG lends itself to an immersive world and hand-animated movies is best with lush flat graphics, Cal Arts being the top school in the field, RISD’s alumni including himself, Avatar’s Bryan Konietzko and Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, AnimationMentor a respected online school taught by pros from Pixar, ILM, Sony.  He talked about Pixar being at 1000 employees now, expected to grow to 1300, hiring specialized talent.  He suggested those getting started look to the animation houses like Dreamworks and PDI, as well as the gaming industry. Lastly, he talked about the importance of drawing, there are 1000 bad drawings in you, so to get to the good ones start now.  And then he left them smitten with his Twitter ID and autographed drawings of Dug.  In full disclosure, I was the producer of the event but I have never seen an audience at the Club so thoroughly engaged.  Many thanks to Scott for a great evening!!!

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