The Science Behind Pixar

WALL-E shows how a camera views an animated world. Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

WALL-E shows how a camera views an animated world.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

The Science Behind Pixar is currently installed at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and will be on display until April 5, 2020.  This exhibit is described as a dive into all the effort it takes to create an animated feature film from a technical side.   

The science of making an animated feature film is cut into different sections throughout the floor space.  These range from how the surfaces in the movie Cars were created to how artificial light is infused into a scene. Everything is broken down through videos. It’s disappointing to not have more physical items from the movies, but it isn’t surprising that most of the content is digital since the movies are digital animations. 

Every section has a core interactive piece that teaches the participant a key aspect of the movie making processes.  Most of these pieces are large-scale statues of Pixar’s iconic characters.  Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story is the first character introduced to the guests after they watch a short welcome video from the people who make up the corporate side of Pixar.   

The other characters on display are Mike Wazowski and Sully from Monsters, Inc. in the rigging section that breaks down how the iconic characters’ movements were created.  Wall-E shows how a virtual camera views and interacts with a digitally crafted environment. Edna Mode from The Incredibles is attached to the in-depth animation section that breaks down the actual animation of the characters step by step.  The last big character in the exhibit is Dory from Finding Nemo who shows firsthand how lighting can affect the emotion of a scene. 

Lighting a scene digitally is also broken down with a small-scale model of the house from Up.  Three different lighting variables could be changed by the person interacting with the controls:  One outside the house, the lamp sitting on the table, and the main room light.  Not only could the temperature of the light be manipulated but also the brightness. 

Peppered throughout the area are large prints of early sketches and small molds of physical renderings of beloved characters, like Anger from Inside Out and the seagulls from Finding Nemo. 

Many of the aspects on display were created by Pixar over the years and each new movie provided a new challenge for the creative team behind it.  With the movie Cars, the animators had to figure out a way to add texture to objects within the artificial environments. This was everything from the asphalt of the road to the reflections on McQueen.  The secrets to how this was accomplished are highlighted in the area dedicated to surfaces. 

One disappointing section focused on stop-motion.   It was impossible to interact with the features without a friend.  A person attending this exhibit alone can’t enjoy every aspect it has to offer.  By the end, the exhibit felt lacking in quality but did present a decent amount of information. 

For people who enjoy learning through short video presentations and clunky hands-on tutorials, then the nearly $30 entry fee to this exhibit is justified.  If that doesn’t sound like an enjoyable environment, then this exhibit is one that can be missed without regret.

The Science Behind Pixar will be on display until April 5, 2020.

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