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"Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" reveals the art at the heart of all those hits

"Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" reveals the art at the heart of all those hits

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In 1979 George Lucas decided to create the Graphics Group as part of the computer division within Lucasfilm.  In 1986, Steve Jobs paid Lucas $5 million and renamed the newly independent company Pixar.  Twenty-five years have passed, and as of last Friday, "Toy Story 3" has earned $920 million worldwide, making this the top-grossing animated movie ever. Pixar has had an amazing track record. It has produced 11 hit films in a row that have earned over $5.7 billion over the past 15 years.


Copyright 2010 Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

There is a lot of interest in how Pixar is able to accomplish such incredible achievements. To help show what the people at Pixar do, the Oakland Museum of California is hosting (through January 9, 2001) "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation." An exhibit that reveals all of the artistry that lies at the heart of these CG films.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

Originating at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the show has been touring internationally for the last five years. Originally built as a showcase for the 20th anniversary of Pixar in 2005, "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" has since been updated with artwork from "Ratatouille," "Wall-E," "Up" and "Toy Story 3."


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The 500 pieces of art on display here illustrate the history of Pixar, and the process that this studio's artists & animators go through in creating their films. The process itself is all not much different from the way that animation was created back in Walt Disney's day. Concept art is created using oils, pastels, and other mixed media, but now it includes digital graphics. With all these tools characters must be created, as well as a story and the world they inhabit.


Copyright Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

Pixar uses CGI to produce their finished products, but computer graphics are just tools that are used in service to the story. The computer is one kind of tool, every bit as much a tool as the pencil. Art from every type of material is on display in the exhibit, and the artists in Emeryville never stopped using their pencils.


Copyright Disney / Pixar. All rights reserved

In viewing the artwork, you are struck by the amount of effort that's involved with the production of every Pixar film. For every little splash of color you see on the screen, every character that moves, there are hundreds of people working behind-the-scenes. Checking and rechecking each scene in an extremely labor-intensive process. It can take up to 5 years for a single animated feature to complete production. Sometimes, artwork is meant for development only and never even makes it to the screen at all. They aren't usually seen by the public, but are on display here as well.

Some of Pixar's more famous shorts are screened as part of the "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibit. They show how the technology used to produce Pixar's films has advanced from that studio's early days through today.  Also on display is the Toy Story Zoetrope, which - in addition to be great fun to watch - also is a terrific physical representation of how the animation process actually works.

But the real highlight of "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" is the Artscape. Which is this wide screen visualization of works created by the artists of Pixar, and brought to life through movement and sound. The still art pieces take on movement, and show their use in the final films. It's another great experience, and one I actually sat through twice. When going to the OMCA, this part of the exhibit is not be missed.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The Oakland Museum of California itself has just undergone a two year long refurbishment and looks up to date and modern.  It features an interesting mix of displays, all about California art, history, and science. Given Pixar Animation Studios is located only a few miles away in Emeryville, it is very appropriate that this traveling exhibition would eventually come in for a stop here.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

The entire museum has been dressed up for the Pixar exhibit. You'll find large pieces of Pixar-related art on display in the museum's new Blue Oak Café area. You'll also find lots of Pixar books, toys and souvenirs on sale in the OMCA gift shop.


Photo by Jon Nadelberg

"Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" will be on display at the Oakland Museum of California now through January 9, 2011. The museum is  located at 1000 Oak Street, Oakland.  For further information on OMOC's hours of operation and admission prices, please click on this link.

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  • Typo alert - second paragraph above. I think you meant January 9,  2011, not 2001.

  • Well, the article was only read and re-read ten times and no one caught it!

  • Hi Jon. I found you again ;-)

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