Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up and the other movies created by Pixar Animation Studios have entertained multiple generations around the world. They have also set new standards for the development of collaborative animation design and a meticulous research process as examined in a new exhibit, Pixar: The Design of Story, at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. The exhibition, which opened Thursday, Oct. 8, will be on display through Aug. 7, 2016, the year Pixar when will celebrate its 30th anniversary (and 10 years in the Disney family).
Pixar: The Design of Story Smithsonian exhibit features approximately 650 original renderings, illustrations, mockups and storyboards that depict the studio’s diverse characters, landscapes used and background information. The art works and artifacts show the painstaking research and detail that goes into the creation process. Every character and outfit they wear is thoughtfully developed, as seen in the hand-drawn sketches, paintings and other pieces on display at the Cooper Hewitt.
The show includes concept art from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Cars, Wall-E, Brave, The Incredibles and other modern animation classics. The exhibit focuses on studio’s approach to creativity via iteration, collaboration and research, and the studio’s three basic movie development principles: story, believability and appeal.
“At Pixar, the visual design process and the story development process work hand in hand from the very earliest stages,” John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, recently noted. “We’re very excited to work with Cooper Hewitt on this exhibition, which will give people an inside look at one of the studio’s most important relationships.”
Every detail is examined in developing a Pixar film, as illustrated by Cooper Hewitt’s new interactive display tables. They show how Toy Story’s Woody took form, with designers sculpting a series of busts, to ensure he appeared likable from all angles.
To make an imaginary world believable, the creative teams faithfully studying real life example. The western landscape colors in Cars were taken from dirt samples collected on the Route 66 research road trip recently depicted at the Autry National Center in L.A. The house in Up is based on a real Victorian-style residence in Berkeley, Calif., that was painstakingly recreated down to microscopic and architectural details, as shown in the Cooper Hewitt exhibit.
As part of the exhibit, the museum will also be screening Luxo Jr., the innovative short film featuring the desk lamp that began the company’s animation revolution in 1986 and became their logo. This allows exhibition visitors to see how Pixar evolved from its origin through the past 30 years.
Founded in 1897, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum is the only facility in the country that focuses on exhibits regarding historic and contemporary design. It became a branch of the Smithsonian in 1967 and is housed in the restored Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City, just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This NYC Smithsonian museum and the exhibit on the Pixar animation design process are open seven days a week, except holidays.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
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Photo from JD Hancock’s Flickr page — Creative Commons License