Pixar Canada Creative Director Comes to VFS

By VFS Web Team, on November 20, 2009

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2451","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-8313","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"220","height":"220","title":"Pixar","alt":"Pixar"}}]]This week, students in 3D Animation & Visual Effects, Classical Animation, Digital Character Animation, and a few other programs were treated to a visit by Dylan Brown, a longtime Pixar animator and currently the creative director for the brand-new Vancouver-based Pixar Canada.
The day began with Brown speaking to a large contingent of VFS students at the Vancouver International Film Centre. Even the overflow area, where students could watch a simulcast of the presentation, was packed. Brown began by walking through his own long history with Pixar, dating to 1995, two months before Toy Story would change the industry as we knew it.
He was working on CD-ROMs (remember those?) and learning everything he could. "I would animate Luxo endlessly," he said. "I would just wander around and ask people questions. And I didn't sleep much."
The many highlights of Brown's tenure at Pixar include Finding Nemo and Ratatouille, on which he served as Supervising Animator.  Brown also animated on A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Presto. He was Directing Animator on Toy Story 2.
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His talk focused on truth in character performance ("It sounds a little hoity-toity," he said) - not the "how" so much as the ever-elusive "why". Using clips, sketches, and tests from Ratatouille, he walked students through big-picture challenges like authenticity, and why it's so much more important to Pixar than realism. (Why did they use cartoonish eyes in Finding Nemo? "Have you ever seen a real fish eye?" Yes, fair enough.)
It is, he explained, about "finding the truth within a story" - using subtleties of posture, movement, and dynamics to get at the truth of a character and his or her arc. "There must be purpose," he said, which is how a single sequence between Linguini and Colette can, largely through movement and positioning, show their status relative to each other as it grows from professional disdain to a personal connection. He also pulled back the curtains a bit on the development that went into Ratatouille, and just how close it came to being a very different - and much less successful - film. "Pixar fails all the time," he said. "We're just really good at recovering from failure."
Of course, he also spoke a little about the new Vancouver studio, the sort of work they will be doing there, and what they're looking for in new talent. The presentation closed with a Q&A.
From there, it was on to the VFS Animation & Visual Effects campus, where he spent the entire afternoon with students, discussing their work and seeing what goes on behind the scenes of our programs. All in all, it was a great experience for everyone at VFS, and we were delighted to welcome him.
Visit us on Flickr to see photo highlights of Dylan Brown's talk and his VFS visit.
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Pixar Canada Creative Director Dylan Brown (right) meets VFS Digital Character Animation students, as Senior Instructor Greg Berridge (centre) looks on.