Discovering The Science Behind Pixar at CA Science Center

When I was in high school my best friend and I decided to go to the movies. Even though we thought we were too old for cartoons we decided to check out something called Toy Story. I instantly fell in love with it and developed a lifelong appreciation for Pixar films. I’ve seen nearly every one and a few rank on my list of absolute favorite films.  So, when I heard there was a Pixar exhibit at the California Science Center I knew I had to check it out. Luckily, I scored a free pass and headed there one recent afternoon.

While general admission to the California Science Center is free The Science Behind Pixar is a special exhibition and costs $14.95 for adults ($9.95 for children). Due to its popularity (it’s residence has been extended through April 16th) advanced tickets are recommended but as I arrived around 3pm on a Wednesday I had the space mostly to myself.

As soon as I entered I was greeted by two of my most favorite characters, Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc., and knew then and there I was going to have a good time. The Science Behind Pixar is an interactive exhibit that explains in detail just how the famous films are made. It’s divided into multiple segments devoted to various aspects of the production process with hands on activities to explain each.

For example, I learned how the animators gave characters various emotions through facial rigging and was able to give it a try with Jesse from Toy Story.

Through various manipulations of her eyebrows and and eyelids I was able to make her sleepy, upset and happy.

At the Cars “auto body shop” I learned about creating various textures while customizing car hoods and at Carl’s House (from Up) I was able to change the scene from night to day with various lighting techniques.

It was endlessly fascinating and I had a ton of fun making my own Pixar creations only getting bored when the task required too much math (never my strong suit).

Accompanying the exhibits were several video consoles featuring current Pixar employees explaining how they came to join the company and what work they were responsible for. A kid would easily bypass these stations but as an adult I absolutely loved them. I always wished I could work at the company but without and real animation skills (and there is the whole math issue) I don’t think it will ever happen so I really enjoyed the insider’s view into life at the famed studio.

The Science Behind Pixar is a fascinating glimpse into a company who’s works of art have brought me so much joy over the years. It’s also really fun for both kids and adults and a great way to gain some extra scientific knowledge. I had so much fun visiting it and would recommend it to anyone.


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