April 20, 2011

Tales From the Art Department

Pixar Art Director Ralph Eggleston Visits SCA

Pixar is known for being on the cutting edge of the technology and art of animation but, according to Academy Award winning director and art director Ralph Eggleston, the business model at Pixar harkens back to the old studio system. Eggleston spoke to students on May 15th about the importance of trial and error, the role of technology in animation and the art of working in an art department.

Ralph Eggleston addresses students in SCA 108

“The great thing about the computer is that it can do anything,” said Eggleston. “The bad thing about the computer is that it can do anything. The one thing about [Pixar] and the animation community in general is that it’s more akin to the old studio system [that was in place] when Hollywood started out in the thirties. With the studios like Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar and Blue Sky; even the small studios like Blur and Jib Jab, it’s a community of artists and they’re just going from one project to another and sharing their knowledge forward.”

“That’s what the old studios used to do but they were vast. They had everything under one roof. It was always there. It was easier to deal with and the knowledge from one film to the next would roll forward.”

Eggleston won the Oscar in 2000 for the animated short For the Birds. He has been at Pixar since the company’s beginning and was the art director on the original Toy Story.

Eggleston stressed the importance of trusting one’s instincts when telling stories. “I don’t believe in letting [style] principles drive the design of the film,” said Eggleston. “Character and emotion really must drive the process. I don’t believe in designing a film and thinking about filmmaking from the outside in. Start with character first and then work outwards.”

Eggleston also walked the students through the process of taking a sequence from a storyboard to an animatic to a full animation using an action sequence from The Incredibles.

Eggleston is currently working on the sequel to Pixar’s Cars which is scheduled to be released in June.