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There's a real art to keeping Pixar's traveling art exhibition fresh

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There's a real art to keeping Pixar's traveling art exhibition fresh

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Remysthe14me writes in to say:


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I saw Jon Nadelberg's story about the "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California and was wondering if this is the same exhibition of art that was presented at the MOMA in 2005?


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Not really, no. I recently spoke with Elyse Klaidman, the Director of Pixar University & Archive about this traveling exhibition (which - since it ended its NYC run back in April of 2006 - then went on to be displayed to great acclaim in London, Tokyo, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Helsinki, Seoul, Taipei and Singapore). And she explained that - for each stop of this world tour - Pixar made a deliberate effort to keep things fresh.


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 "You have to understand that most museums are interested in showing things that have never been seen before.  So - all along the way - we kept making changes," Elyse explained. "At each stop, we'd try to open a special feature. Sometimes we'd add a display that would hype our latest film. Other times we'd take a few pieces off display because they were showing signs of shifting or fading. But this exhibition was different - sometimes in very subtle ways - for every stop of its world tour."


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But given that "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" 's stop at the Oakland Museum of California is something of a homecoming (After all, the OMOC is just a 10 minute drive away from Pixar's Emeryville campus), Klaidman and her team made sure that this iteration of the exhibition was the best to date.


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"We actually got lucky. The Museum recently underwent a two-year, $58 million restoration. As a direct result, 'Pixar: 25 Years of Animation' is the first exhibition to be presented in OMOC's new gallery space. Which meant that they were literally able to design & build this space around our artwork," Elyse said. "We've never had this much display space before or had such great flow-thru between exhibits."


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As a direct result ... Well, even if you've seen "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" at one of the previous stops on its world tour, you haven't seen this display. Which - thanks to the inclusion of artwork for "Toy Story 3" - is able to bring the Pixar story full circle.


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"In this version of the exhibition, we've been able to place one of Bud Luckey's drawings for the original 'Toy Story' right alongside one of his drawings for 'Toy Story 3,' " Klaidman enthused. "To see pieces like this in these sorts of groupings gives you a real appreciation for all of the talented people we have working here at Pixar."


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That - to be honest - is one of the main reasons that John Lasseter had this traveling exhibit put together. To remind the public that - while Pixar does use computers to make its animated features and shorts - the films themselves are not made by computer. It's human beings - who often work with such old-school tools as pen & paper, clay & pastels - who create all of these characters, worlds and stories that  the world has fallen in love with.


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Speaking of which ... That's pretty much how the artwork for "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" is grouped inside of the OMOC's gallery space. By story, characters and worlds. So that visitors can then get a sense of how Pixar (as each of its films goes through the story development process) refines the looks of its characters. How its artists create such highly detailed but believable worlds.


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"That's another aspect of 'Pixar: 25 Years of Animation' that I really enjoy," Elyse said. "In our movies, things go by so fast. People rarely get the chance to truly appreciate the level of detail that our artists put into character design or backgrounds. But with this exhibition, you can take all the time you want with individual images.  Really soak in the detail."


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Mind you, a lot of work went into this refreshed / revamped version of "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation." Klaidman and her team of six practically lived at the OMOC during the three months leading up to this exhibition's West Coast debut. And even then - just hours before this exhibit opened to the public - Elyse's crew were still moving individual pieces around. Trying to come up with the best possible groupings.


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"We'd done multiple design passes on this exhibition prior to install. But obviously things change once you actually get into that space and see those paintings & drawings up on the walls. So we were making changes on the fly right up until 'Pixar: 25 Years of Animation' opened," Elyse concluded. "But I'm extremely pleased with the way that this version of the exhibition turned out. The way that people are able to transition from the artwork to the Zeotrope to the Artscape and then back again. I believe that this is the most beautiful, most fully realized version of this traveling exhibit."


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And given the huge crowds that have been turning up at the OMOC over these past seven weeks in order to see "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation," it's clear that the general public agrees with Klaidman's assessment of this exhibition.


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In fact, according to what Oakland Museum of California officials recently told me, OMOC has seen a recent surge of people purchasing individual or family memberships to the museum. Mostly because museum members can then participate in some of the special programs that are associated with "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation." Which have reportedly included movie screenings as well as talks by Pixar veteran like Tia Kratter or Gary Rydstrom.


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So if you're thinking about making a special trip up to Oakland just to see "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" (which closes on January 9, 2011), it might actually be worth it for you to purchase a OMOC membership. If only to take advantage of those Members-Only viewing hours for this exhibition (i.e. Every Saturday morning from 9 to 11 a.m. through October 30th) as well as to snag a seat for those "Meet Pixar Artists" that are scheduled for October 16th, November 4th and December 21th.


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For further information of the Oakland Museum of California and the "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibition, please click on this link.

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  • One bit about the Oakland Museum area and Pixar: Exit the Oakland Museum front entrance and walk one block west. Once there, ask yourself where you've seen this neighborhood. Answer? "The Incredibles", at the beginning where Mr. Incredible gets the cat out of the tree and then throws the tree into the street and stops the bad guys. Yep, it was this spot that was modeled in that movie.

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