7 things you learn as a Pixar Animator
When you grow up everyone wants to work for their favourite football team, favourite company, favourite film makers. I could go on. Not everyone is lucky enough to do so, but if you don’t aim for it then you just won’t get close will you?!
British animator Jude Brownbill has worked at Pixar’s Californian HQ since May 2010, turning her skills to such high-profile movie hits as Cars 2, Brave, Inside/Out and The Good Dinosaur.
With The Good Dinosaur out on DVD next week, we spoke to Jude about what it’s like to work at arguably the world’s most beloved animation studio.
Here’s seven insightful things she told us.
1. Pixar aren’t your typical employer
Perhaps this isn’t the most surprising thing to hear, but Jude certainly confirms that clocking in at the firm who brought us Toy Story isn’t your usual humdrum affair.
“It’s a really great company. Everyone is free to be creative and express themselves – even down to how we decorate our office.
“They provide classes and courses, and promote ways to keep ourselves healthy. That environment is one of the reasons we love our job – and why we make great movies.
“On a typical day, I come in at nine, get a coffee and a breakfast, then we go into a screening room with a director and look at the work being done. We get feedback and see what’s working and what’s not. Then it’s time to go to our desks and keep on animating!”
2. Getting your foot in the door can be simpler than you’d think
Dream of following in Jude’s footsteps and landing a role at the purveyors of poignant family films? With talent, hard work, good experience, and the courage to drop them a line, you never know.
Jude did a degree in animation at Bournemouth University, before working in London for three years as an animator – and continuing to build up her qualifications and show-reel in her spare time.
“I was doing an online animation diploma, and making short films at the same time. I sent one of my films to Pixar, and they invited me to an interview while I was in California collecting my diploma.
“I came in, and they gave me a job.”
3. Some characters are more satisfying to work on than others
Be in no doubt. Just as fans have their favourites, so too do the people who create them.
“Cars 2 was my first film – and I got to animate a female British character, so that was something I could relate to!
“Joy [from Inside Out] was one of my highlights too. The voice talent, the character personality. Putting that on screen in that over-the-top style was a lot of fun.”
4. You never stop learning
Despite the fact that Pixar’s animation staff are clearly some of the best in the world, they’re the first to admit they know far from everything.
As Jude explains:
“All films present different challenges. There’s always a different hurdle to get over.
“I’d never animated a four-legged character before The Good Dinosaur, so you’re constantly learning all the time, on every film.”
5. Actions sometimes have to speak louder than words
Pixar have picked up a reputation for story-telling and character development with visuals (and music) alone. Think about the heartbreaking opening montage in Up, or Wall-E’s captivating first section.
Jude embraced a similar aspect for her work on The Good Dinosaur.
“My favourite thing was the challenge of having to express the characters with very little dialogue; convey what they’re thinking, and feeling, without them saying anything. Eye movements and expressions are key.
“I think that Pixar does ‘silent cinema’ really well.”
6. Oscars get passed around the office
Inside Out Screenshot
Two of the films Jude has worked on since joining Pixar have picked up Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature.
And it’s nice to hear those coveted gold statues don’t just gather dust in someone’s cupboard at home.
“It’s nice when people bring them back and we can hold them!
“It’s lovely to have the outside world appreciate what we do here too. When people take our films to their hearts, it’s really satisfying.”
7. You get to have fun with your heroes
Like many of us, Jude had been an enthusiast of Pixar’s work for years – enthralled by their movies as a cinema-goer long before she set foot inside the office.
As such, the opportunity to pick up and work with classic characters she fell in love with as a fan was almost overwhelming at times.
“I loved Monsters Inc. I really enjoyed that movie. So working on Monsters University was really cool. Or when you’re doing a shot with Woody and Buzz – it’s that history. It’s a dream come true.
“I love it when I see my shots finished, and up on the big screen. Once all the effects and extra magic is put on it, it takes it to a different level.”