Pixar Short Film Research


Image result for paperman poster

The black and white romantic 3D short film called Paperman, produced by Walt Disney Animation Studio, producer Kristina Reed and directed by John Khars. The film involves a man and a woman meeting at a train station, they eventually separate however the man sees the her in another building across from where he works. Trying to communicate with her by constantly throwing out paper aeroplanes to reach her window. He eventually tries to find her, but the paper planes come to life and guide the two to where they first met. The idea  in creating Paperman came from John Khars personal past, of when he use to live in new york city commuting to work in the big city, surrounded by lot of people but “feeling alone at the same time”. Explaining connections you make with strangers through eye contact, then they’re suddenly gone forever. Therefore John Khars thought about making a story about a man and a women having that connection, taken away from them and the man fighting to get that connection back, eventually causing fate to bring them together once again.

Walt Disney animation Paperman is a combination of CG and 2D drawings, a technique employed by Disney called Meander, fusing together analog images and digital images together to benefit from them. The process creating Paperman, the scenes are animated by CG animators to start of the digital process, rendered by the computer into a flat cel shaded perspective. In the customer software made for creating Paperman, hand drawn lines are produced in the key frames inside the software. The drawings produced are then attached to the CG models by the software, within the keyframes, automatically generating in-betweens in a way. The generated in-betweens are not as visually detailed as keyframe drawings, therefore the animators have to manually adjust and tweak each individual in-between, to achieve that hand-drawn natural effect. The obvious paper texture is added to the short film, forming its 2D like appearance.

Information used to aid my research:



Day and Night

Image result for day and night film pixar

Another Pixar short film directed by Teddy Newton and produced by Kevin Reher, the story evolves to individual characters representing scenes that occur throughout life. One character showing daytime, scenes of the sun, bright sky’s and following through with a rainbow. Whereas the other character showing nighttime, scenes of the moon, darken skies and fireworks going off. Scenes in the film expresses multiple events within the characters that typically happens throughout these time periods, the characters emotions are shown visually, such as the rainbow when day is happy and fireworks when night is happy. Each character meets, not liking one another as they’re different, however they begin to form a bond together as they discover they’re more alike than different. Eventually discovering that both of them are better together.

The animation style of the characters is two dimensional, whereas inside the characters displays a third dimensional perspective universe, as living lifeforms go about their daily lives within the world. Pixar use various software to create their short films, such as Marionette and RenderMan. Marionette is a software used and developed by Pixar Animation Studios, the software is not available to purchase as Pixar only use it. RenderMan is Pixars main technology used for rendering and has been for over 25 years, the software has been developed in order to overcome constant challenges increasing within visual effects and 3D animations. RenderMan is very successful for Pixar as the software aids artist’s control and flexibility, offering various types of light transport, visual effects and illumination at the highest quality.

Information used to aid my research:




Pixar animation process

As Pixar is a well-known company for their high quality animated films with unique story ideas, their animation process in achieving all of this is a very long process and quite complex, taking years to complete films and even weeks to complete just one animation. The company plans their ideas slowly, working as a team to collaborate ideas, specially through exchanging ideas back and forwards between animators and designers as it is their key strength.

Story Ideas- Multiple ideas are pitched within Pixar to the development team , in order to engage the audience into believing the idea pitched by Pixar was a big success.

Text treatment- A treatment is a short description of the main story. At times various treatments are done and compared to one another to development the chosen main treatment. Finding possibilities and solid ideas to expand on detailed development.

Script- After the text treatment and story idea, the script is written up.

Storyboard- A hand drawn blueprint of what each scene is going to look like throughout the story. Each artists drawing out storyboards is given information on how the story should roughly look. They’re given script and character’s emotional changes through actions, after this is visually produced by the storyboard artists present their work to the director for feedback.

Voice talent- “First temporary scratch voices are recorded by Pixar artists for the storyboard reels”. Character voices are then next recorded from improvisation and scripts, once story and dialogue are further developed. Many recordings of the same lines are repeated constantly, aiming to achieve a certain tone of voice for character emotion, expression or the situation within the scene.

Reels- Pixar uses reels (a videotape) in order to  aid the sequence of a cleaned-up storyboard, as it removes the unnecessary pitch person to tell the story. However pitches can be very useful due to a strong story teller, but reels improve the timing of sequences which is essential to make the sequences understood. Sequence shots length and other elements are fixed by Editorial from the information processed by reels.

Image result for reel videotape

Look and feel (colour scripts)- Gaining that extraordinary creativity through not only through text treatment ideas, but through storyboard brainstorms as Pixar’s art department create high level art, illustrating the characters and the world. With this development visual looks for surfaces, sets, props, colours and colour scripts for lighting  are produced. Character’s designs, props, colour palletes and major set locations are all designed by the art department.

Image result for pixar colour scriptImage result for pixar colour palette

Models- Presto is used by Pixar for most of their creations on 3d characters, sets and props, as it is their proprietary animation software. However at times Pixar use 3Ds Max with plugins extensions designed in-house  and Autodesk Maya within most studios. Details of the shape of the objects and characters are described through the computer models, along with motion controls used by the animators to form expressions. Informational drawings are produced, using the departments model packets.On characters, props and set are either produced onto the computer software itself using the 3D software, or hand sculpted then scanned in 3D. The X,Y and Z axes are applied when modelling the 3D models as any angel they can be viewed at and rotated. When constructing a model, no colour or texture is presented. All that is displayed on the screen is outlines and inner lines of individual polygons, used to construct the model. Animators use avars or hinges in order to make  character or objects move. An example is that the character from Toy Story called Woody, has 100 avars in his face.

https://vimeo.com/90687696 (Pixar’s presto software)

Related imageImage result for pixar avar


Sets- Every animation films created no matter if it is a short film or a full length film, both require and have a set. Which is the environment designed to suit the film’s story, as they’re the setting of the film. Sets are key to an animation as they all require an environment to set the scene and build up that atmospheric feel. Eventually once the sets have been finished designed in 3D software’s, they’re then to be decorated with various prop models that suit the environment. For example Toy Story’s set would be filled with curtains, chairs and toys to create realistic atmosphere of a toy world. Directors work alongside the set dressers, to ensure that the directors vision for the set is being produced as they imagined it. After this, characters are then placed on the set in a process called blocking which is a technique developed to help establish placement and timing of characters by having them in poses ( the technique is commonly used in 3D computer animations). After this, camera angles are blocked on characters key positions for all shots of Pixar’s films.


https://vimeo.com/10856139 (blocking example)

Shots- Virtual cameras used by the layout crew, through the choreographed characters they capture the story point and emotions within the scenes. Converting the story into 3D scenes. Multiple versions of shots are presented due to the layout, this provides options for the editorial department as they have choices on what to do with scenes to increase the effect of the storytelling. The finished scene is ready for animation once it has been produced through constant editing and final adjustments.


Animation- The next step in Pixar bringing their high level creative models to life, is through the animators. They’re handed the final models along with dialogue and sounds in order to start animating. Using the animation software provided by Pixar, they control the characters expressions and movements within each scene through key frames. Key poses are defined by character avars. Making the characters movement more smoothly and realistic, in-between frames are created by the computer which are possibly adjusted by the animator if need to do so. To produce the animation up to a high level of satisfaction for the director, a constant re-dos of an animated sequence will be repeated until it meets the standard.


Shade- This is a key step in order to bring the animation to life, as the computer programs called “shaders” bringing featured characteristics of anything, giving it that realistic life, such as textures and colours. The limit of shaders is nearly unlimited as they can materialise multiple features, glass, wood, fur, metal, glass, skin and many more. Pixar’s creations, surface textures  and colour are applied to props, as Toy Story has a tile texture beneath the mat. And characters have colours and textures such as wrinkles, skin and fur, like this bear in toy story.


Lighting- Another key into bring the animation to life and setting the scene perfectly. Using the computer technology, life like lighting is formed on the computer, creating realistic use of light. Multiple types of lights are used, bounce, fill and key lights define the scene enhancing the atmosphere, portraying various moods forming emotion. Colour scripts produced by the art department aids the animators, giving them information on how build up the lighting. After receiving this information, animators gain ideas on more in depth lighting to effect the mood deeply, ambient light, omnidirectional light and spotlights, forming more shadows and perspective.


Rendering- The final process in finishing off any animation, converting all the produced information on the software, into an individual frame of film. Like I said further above already, RenderMan Pixar’s rendering software, as it “draws the finished image by computing every pixel of the image from the model, animation, shading, and lighting information”. Even though Pixar use highly advanced computers, it roughly takes 6 hours to render one frame. 24 frames per second is the frame rate that Pixar produce their films at, as Pixar produce seriously high level animated films, 100 frames of animation a week are expected to be produced by individual animators.

Picture Picture

Final touches and musical score- Sound effects and musical score is overseen by editorial to ensure completion. Pixar’s photoscience  team is responsible for recording the “digital frame to film or to a form appropriate for digital production”.


Below is an example of the animation process sequence, the film is Cars 2.



http://pixar-animation.weebly.com/pixars-animation-process.html (aided me with my research)

One of Pixars films, called Finding Dory has an octopus character names Hank. As complex as the model is, Pixar spend weeks going to aquariums to see how an octopus would move, what they do and just their natural movement and characteristics. Animating one scene of the octopus within Finding Dory took Pixar 2 years just to animate, as it is a very complex model along with getting that realistic movement of an octopus.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s