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EducationalPixar

Learn How Pixar Makes Its Films with the Free Pixar in a Box Program

Respected non-profit online education platform Khan Academy is unpacking Pixar’s creative and technical process — for free.

Launched yesterday, its new online curriculum Pixar in a Box analyzes how the studio fuses art, tech, science, engineering, and math to develop top-shelf animated cinema. Created with middle and high school students in mind but available to everyone, Pixar in a Box’s interactive exercises, in-depth video lessons, and hands-on activities are an informative addition to Khan Academy’s extensive educational resources.

“By working with Khan Academy on Pixar in a Box, we hope to encourage the excitement of learning and creative thinking for middle and high school students and to provide the tools to do it,” said Pixar president Ed Catmull, who formally presented the curriculum during a Wednesday evening event on the Pixar campus.

The event also featured a live demonstration from two of Pixar in a Box’s creators, Khan Academy content producer Brit Cruise and Pixar senior scientist and research group lead Tony DeRose. Pixar University director Elyse Klaidman presented the official unveiling and participated in Q&A, explaining that hearing from teachers at every grade level who are looking for animation-based curricula helped push the project forward.

“Many students start to lose interest in academics in middle and high school, partly because they don’t see how academic concepts relate to things they care about,” explained DeRose. “Pixar in a Box aims to address this disconnect by showing how Pixar filmmakers use these concepts for creative benefit in their everyday work.”

Starting today, the mostly math-based lessons available include:

  • How combinatorics are used to create crowds, like the swarm of robots in Wall-E.
  • How parabolas are used to model environments, like the forest in Brave.
  • How weighted averages are used to create characters, like Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
  • How linear and cubic interpolation are used to animate characters.
  • How trigonometry is used to create the worlds in which Pixar stories take place.
  • How simultaneous equations are used to paint all of Pixar’s images.

Cruise explained that future lessons, which will appear on Pixar in a Box as they become available, venture beyond math into science, humanities, and the arts. What will not appear is a price tag.

“Our mission at Khan Academy is a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” said founder Sal Khan. “Sparking student interest in math and other academic fields is a key part of that, and we’re delighted to collaborate with Pixar to achieve this goal.”

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  • @SpitAndSpite

    Thumbs up :D

  • ScribbleMonkey

    I recently went to The Science of Pizar exhibit in the Museum of Science in Boston, and they went into surprising detail about a lot of things mentioned in this article, and then some (it even featured the same two people in an introduction video).

    I generally knew the goings-on at Pixar, but was surprised to see how much detail they went into at the exhibit, and my girlfriend, who generally knows little about how animation is made, learned a heck of a lot. So the fact that they’ll be sharing this stuff with more kids as a curriculum is exciting.

  • AnimatedMadness

    Challenge accepted.

  • mechasus

    Can’t wait to see where this goes. It sounds like a great way to get the next generations interested in this art.

  • I know a lot of people really don’t like Pixar or Disney. They can be the big bad wolf. I get it. I have some animosity myself. But this is really cool.

    “Many students start to lose interest in academics in middle and high school, partly because they don’t see how academic concepts relate to things they care about,” explained DeRose. “Pixar in a Box aims to address this disconnect by showing how Pixar filmmakers use these concepts for creative benefit in their everyday work.”

    If someone had explained this to me when I was in high school I would have probably focused a lot more, instead of barely skating by and not learning a lot of the concepts I should have just because I was bored.

    I think it sometimes takes the big studios to do things like this. A smaller studio wouldn’t have the time or the resources to get this done, but I think Pixar’s size gives it an advantage in this regard. They have a dedicated department for all the stages, and can take whole groups of people off of a project do do things like this. Plus, everyone knows Pixar films. So, people and kids seeing this are already familiar and probably already idolize Pixar and anything associated with it.

    Kudos on this.

    • Guest

      First off I think this is cool as well, and as a side note I hope you don’t mind me asking what your animosity is toward Disney/Pixar? P.S. I’m not trying to be a butt-hurt Disney fan, I just curious is all.

  • Hello moon man

    This could be gerat for young animators! We need a new generation of talented artist and interested young minds. I would have killed for something like this when I was younger.

  • Barrett

    I think it’s pretty damn cool that Pixar is doing this, there’s a lot of great info there for people who want to get into 3D animation. Since my interest in Pixar is mainly in the actual story department and vis-dev side of things, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot for me, but for the animation/rigging/rendering/lighting folks, this is great.