20 Years of Pixar

For anybody who has ever muttered at a piece of furniture or electrical appliance, it might not seem too peculiar to bestow inanimate objects with a smidgen of personality

Feature by Gabriella Griffith | 11 Apr 2007
Regression is a wonderful thing. Excited eyes and lit-up faces fill this exhibition favouring no age bracket; old and young alike take great joy in it. As children whiz past, whooping with excitement at their favourite characters, it's difficult not to join them in racing around to discover where the monster's roar came from. One might compare this to a trip to Disneyland, were adults too, revel in the mythology of traditional characters, but there is something more sophisticated here that sets it apart. Pixar: 20 Years of Animation is an exhibition of skill which showcases works by real, talented artists whilst mapping out its deceptively long history.

For anybody who has ever muttered at a piece of furniture or electrical appliance, it might not seem too peculiar to bestow inanimate objects with a smidgen of personality. For others, it is quite odd. As this is the basis for many of Pixar's characters, their success is even more admirable. Suddenly people see themselves in objects and animals. It began with a desk lamp in 1986: when short film, Luxar Jr. came out, the technology involved wasn't what captivated audiences. What everyone wanted to know was whether the big lamp was the mummy or the daddy. This installation of human essence in Pixar's creations has continued successfully since.

The exhibition is full of a wide range of mediums. Beautiful pencil and charcoal sketches are mixed in amongst vibrant chalk studies. The colours and detail that are captured are astounding. One section is dedicated to the worlds created for their charismatic inhabitants. Leaves, on the edge of turning, embrace every thin vein and thread of reality. The range of brown and yellow in the autumn leaf is mesmerising. A number of characters have been made into what are known as maquettes. These 3-D replicas explore a wide range of charming facial expressions and fur textures. Every inch of the creative process is brought to the viewer, from story boards to finished product.

For a full multimedia affair, Pixar have added some extras to the exhibition. Artscape takes certain pieces from the collection and creates a simulated 3-D motion on a large screen. In a darkened room, it pulls us into the sketches themselves and even further into the process of filmmaking.

A definite highlight is found in the 3-D Toy Story zoetrope. Invented in 1834, this little piece of Victoriana is stunning. Models of Woody and his friends are placed on a disc; slightly different versions of each are placed next to each other so that when it spins it gives the impression of continuous movement. For an old trick it certainly packs a punch.

Pixar seem to be eager for people to accept their work as art rather than computer generated imagery. The general praise for their well crafted narratives and lovable characters is not enough. As John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar says, "Computers don't create computer animation any more than a pencil creates pencil animation. What creates computer animation is artists."

Pixar make their point, and make it well.
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh until 28 May. £6 (£5 conc, £3 children, free for children under four). http://www.pixar.com