Digital Arts Students tour PIXAR with John Knoll

John Knoll displays one of the original animatronic model dinosaurs used to create the animated dinosaur motion in “Jurassic Park.”

On Friday, March 7, twenty Digital Arts students from Dodge College met some of the industry’s most influential artists during a field trip to
and Visual effects house
Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)
, both in the Bay area. Both companies seldom host student tours, so the visits were a rare chance to see the operations of the  industries’ leading companies.

At PIXAR, Oscar-winning founder JOHN LASSETER explained the significance of the design concept behind the STEVE JOBS BUILDING, PIXAR’s main production facility.  The casual, unplanned interaction of artists from all departments, facilitated by the building’s central mall, are key to enabling creative, divergent thinking and idea-sharing.  PIXAR President ED CATMULL told of the unique process of the “PIXAR brain trust”, the small group of key creative artists who review every PIXAR project.

Oscar-winning Directors
Finding Nemo
) also greeted our students.  The DA majors were given inspiring demonstrations of the PIXAR story and animation processes, as well as viewing unreleased clips and film samples.

At ILM, Chief Creative Officer and Oscar-winner
hosted an amazing walk-through of the world’s premiere FX facility, which has created imagery for over 160 feature films.  The hallways are a literal museum of film history’s most famous elements, from ET on his bicycle to the original
Roger Rabbit
latex mold to R2D2.  Knoll showed the students ILM’s massive render farm, with over 700 terabytes of storage, necessary for creating such blockbusters as
Pacific Rim

The Bay Area/San Francisco animation studio tour trip was, without exaggeration, one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. Not just at Chapman, but in my life! That may sound a bit extreme, but for a fan of animation such as myself to be able to walk the halls of two of the most well known, consistently brilliant studios in the business was nothing short of a dream.

We started our day at Pixar and I’ve never been more impressed and amazed at a workspace than I was there. The environment seemed beyond belief in every way–from the over-the top office decorations (one was meticulously designed to look like a crashed airplane bunker complete with a working smoke machine and old fashioned projector) to the affectionate and humble energy that came from all the workers. We seemed to be the luckiest tour group in the world, running into nearly every major executive at Pixar (including President of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, Ed Catmull, and Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter). Needless to say, I left with a new found optimism and inspiration for my future–and we still had one more studio to tour.

ILM was equally amazing, from the moment we saw the first sign of the studio (a fountain outside the lobby with a miniature Yoda statue perched on top) to the moment we walked out, still trying to process all of the beautiful original matte paintings, antique film equipment, and exciting new material we had seen. It didn’t hurt that our tour guide for ILM also happened to be the company’s chief creative officer, visual effects giant John Knoll. After both tours were complete, we indulged our extra time in hitting up a few of San Francisco’s most beautiful areas, including a quick stop at the fisherman’s wharf as the sun was setting. If this all sounds like a cheesy movie, well, it sort of was! It truly was a perfect day in every sense of the word and every day since the trip my classmates and I have been motivated to work harder and get one step closer to working at a studio someday! – Julie Greiner (BFA/Digital Arts’16)