The Science Behind Pixar Takes a Deep Dive into Movie Making

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 23, 2024.

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Have you ever wondered how Pixar's popular animated movies are made? The touring show “The Science Behind Pixar,” running at the Carnegie Science Center from May 25th, 2024, to January 5th, 2025, takes a deep dive into this one.

With roughly 50 interactive exhibits, you'll be going down the rabbit hole of all things animated movie production from initial concepts to final renderings before release and everything in between, all while focusing on the science and technologies used along the way.

I was fortunate enough to get a preview of this one for the press conference before the show opened, and wanted to share more about what you can expect from this amazing experience!

“The Science Behind Pixar” Covers Movie Making Start to Finish

Science Behind Pixar

To say that “The Science Behind Pixar” covers everything would really not be doing this one justice. Yes, everything really is the proper term to use here, but what I was surprised about was just how many layers of movie-making that covers!

You start your experience with a short film narrated by animators at Pixar, which walks you through the broad steps of movie-making at their studio. You get a high-level appreciation here of how movies start out as concepts, move to storyboards, onward to many levels of animation, and then over to final rendering to become the films we know and love today.

After watching the film, you enter the Science Center's two-floor exhibition hall, which features roughly 50 exhibits showcasing the steps of the process you just learned about in the short film.

Plan to spend a good bit of time exploring this one, there really is a lot to see.

Sculpting Exhibit

As you progress, you'll get to explore hands-on demos showcasing different elements that go into filmmaking. In early production and character development, you can explore the physics of character design, clay modeling, and more.

As you move on, larger design demos exist, showing how Pixar creates large 3d models for the virtual sets, how lighting is applied (with some fun scenes from Up), animation engines added for things like running water and flowing hair (exhibited via Brave), how textures are applied at various resolutions (via great examples from Cars), and so much more.

Stop Motion Animation Exhibit

While we never like to give away too many secrets of shows in our reviews, it was the rendering demos towards the end that really were the most surprising. It is one thing to think about how a frame on the screen is animated on a 2d/flat surface (e.g. a movie screen), but to see all the work that is done to create a full 3d space, with internal camera dynamics to adjust and change how scenes are captured, is truly wild.

The animators at Pixar truly build an entire world and then capture scenes inside it, rather than just animating a static frame!

Simulation Wing

Then you find out just how long it takes for a single frame to render, and then it all comes together to highlight just how advanced this style of movie production truly is. I thought I knew a great deal of what went into my favorite Pixar movies, but it wasn't until after visiting “The Science Behind Pixar” that I realized I truly knew very little indeed.

A Show That Has Something for Everyone

Science Behind Pixar Exhibit is Two Floors

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of “The Science Behind Pixar” is that it is a touring show with something for everyone. The youngest kids will love seeing their favorite Pixar characters in statues and videos on display, and older children (and kids-at-heart adults) can really take a deep dive into all things science, technology, and math behind the movies at each exhibit.

In fact, at some of the exhibits, you may find that the adults have more fun than the kids! There really is something for everyone here.

But at the end of the day, the show does a fantastic job of showing how science and technology are applied to something so many people around the world enjoy- Pixar movies. The exhibition is a great place to spark a kid's interest in the sciences while showing real applications of how these fields can influence something in real life (all without feeling forced in any way, too).

Rendering of "Inside Out"

As a (former) engineer myself, this makes me excited for the future. It is very well possible that kids attending this show will look back at it as one of those experiences that helped encourage them to get into the sciences. It really is that well done, with the perfect balance of entertainment and education, making it a perfect addition to the Science Center for its limited run.

While I only spent about an hour exploring the exhibits here, this one really could offer a robust visit- especially if you plan to check out every single exhibit and take them for a hands-on spin. As far as touring exhibits at the Science Center are concerned, this one is not only one of the largest but by far the most interactive. So be sure to have enough time to do this one justice, as it will take you to infinity and beyond!

“The Science Behind Pixar” runs from May 25th, 2024, to January 5th, 2025 at the Science Center. This exhibition requires a separate ticket with timed entry.

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