Saturday, 20 March 2010

When Pixar came to town

I just spent the last couple of days voluntarily shut away from sunlight in a dark, incredibly hot room, at the brink of dehydration with a large group of other sweaty, mostly male people. And paid a fair bit of money for the privilege.

It was worth every penny and I loved every minute.

Why? Because I was attending the Pixar animation and story masterclass, and it was awesome! You know, awesome is a word that has become overused, however, these last couple of days were truly "awe-inspiring" so I feel justified in using it here!

Taught by Animator Andrew Gordon and Story Artist Matthew Luhn, they got through a huge amount of very informative material and by the end I felt like my head was going to explode with all the incredible information I'd crammed in!

Obviously, for them to work at Pixar you know that these guys are among the best in the business. But being a great artist doesn't necessarily mean that you're a good teacher. However, they really are. Both of them had a wealth of examples to back up every single point that they made, which really helped in driving home the information and demonstrated how these concepts are applied in the real world. They were also entertaining speakers, as well as very patient with answering the endless questions that poured from a slightly star-struck audience. And as a massive Pixar fan (as most animators are I think), I was in geek heaven!

Being an aspiring animator, I was unsure what the story-focused second day would really have to offer me. The answer turned out to be "a hell of a lot"! Naturally, Matthew Luhn knows how to tell a good story, but what surprised me was that actually he showed me that I can create stories too - we all can. He did a series of interactive exercises with us, that demonstrated that with just a few simple tools, we are all story tellers. And we can all create characters, and situations, and even gags, out of nothing, in just a few minutes. It really opened up my mind to exploring the endless possibilities and utilizing my own creativity. And all the cinematography stuff he covered is going to come in handy as I move onto my acting shots in the next couple of terms at AM. So I got a bonus day of amazing information and inspiration that I was not expecting!

They specifically requested that we don't post any of the notes online, which is fair enough, so unfortunately I can't share any of it with you here. However, Andrew Gordon has posted a huge amount of information on his blog, as well as some very interesting podcasts, so head over there if you haven't already.

I'm sure a lot of the information that they both covered is available either online, or in books, but having it presented in this way by people from Pixar was really incredible. It was like being in an enormous, live, behind the scenes DVD feature, but with specific information tailored to you, and your interests and that lasts for 2 days! And being live, you get to control it to a certain extent by being able to ask questions and have them answered - right there. It was truly inspirational and has completely reinforced my desire to be an animator, and made me want to work at Pixar even more badly!

I know that a similar masterclass was held last year in London (this one was organized by Escape Studios, so subscribe to their newsletter for any future events) and I've read that Andrew Gordon has taught this class all over the world. So if it comes to a city near you at any time in the future I would highly recommend it!

Oh, and they said that Pixar are hiring right now. So if you think you've got what it takes, send in your reel!

Me? I'm not planning on giving up the day job just yet, and need to get my head out of the Pixar clouds and back to my weightlifting shot ...


  1. WOW!! I am soooo jealous!!

    I would love to have been there to hear what you learned....Ill check out the blog link you put up for sure.


  2. Yeah, it was amazing! If you ever get the opportunity to attend something like that, I definitely recommend it! I was on cloud 9 for about a week afterwards, my head full of crazy ideas and plans. Calmed down a bit now, but I plan on drawing from that inspiration in future.