What's it like to work at Pixar?

Some kids fantasize about flying to space. Others have an even bolder destination in mind: to infinity and beyond! At The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition, which makes its Canadian debut at TELUS World of Science – Edmonton this month, dreamers of all ages will delight in discovering how their favourite movies were made.

The 10,000-square foot exhibition is a dazzling salute to the mathematicians, scientists, storytellers, animators and artists whose talents bring children’s stories to life. It includes more than 40 interactive elements, human-scale recreations of beloved Pixar characters (selfies, anyone?), and eight themed areas that combine video tutorials and hands-on simulations to lay bare the science of filmmaking. At a physics-based station, for example, kids adjust the behavioural variables of a school of fish (how tightly they swim together, swimming patterns, and so on) and instantly see how their choices affect what’s on screen.

In honour of the July 1 opening, we talked to Elyse Klaidman, Director of Exhibition and Educational Partnerships at Pixar, to find out what life is really like at the celebrated animation studio.

AMA: What’s it like to work at Pixar?

E.K: It’s pretty magical. I mean, it’s work; we work really, really hard. But Pixar is made up of incredible people: talented and kind and humble and curious – always interested in doing new things and innovating. So, it’s inspiring every day.

AMA: For kids who see this exhibit and want to pursue a career in animation, what do you recommend?

E.K: Really thinking about what you love to do because there are a lot of different entryways into this work. If you love science, there are many things you can be doing at Pixar as a scientist. The same is true if you love math or storytelling or drawing or even colours and textures. All these things are part of what we do. If you love acting, that’s animation – bringing characters to life.

AMA: What’s the most important aspect of a Pixar film?

E.K: Storytelling is at the heart of everything we do. We don’t do anything unless it will be compelling, interesting and emotional. So, I would say to kids, follow your passion and study story: read books and immerse yourself in filmmaking and what it means to tell a story.

AMA: What’s Pixar in a Box?

E.K: It’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs, with lessons we’ve created that focus on middle and high school students. Pixar in a Box takes the ideas from this (Telus) exhibit and delves even deeper.

AMA: How did you get started at Pixar?

E.K: My background is as an artist and a teacher. Someone at Pixar took my drawing class – and this was before Toy Story had even come out – and about a year later, she called to say that Ed Catmull, the president of the company, wanted to hire someone to teach drawing and that she recommended me. His idea was that everybody at Pixar needs to be able to see, and drawing teaches you how to do that. So, I started by teaching drawing classes, then colour theory and composition, and later became a part of Pixar University, Archives and Exhibitions.

AMA: Best part of working for Pixar?

E.K: My favourite part is the inspiration I get every day, either from seeing what other people are doing or from working on new projects. Right now, I’m most excited about how we’re really getting into educational outreach, like this exhibit. That’s where the next generation of filmmakers is going to come from.

Adventure awaits! The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition is open now and AMA members enjoy 10% off regular admission. It’s one of the many ways your membership saves you – even without a car.

I’m a former journalist, current AMA communications specialist, and future backup dancer for Beyonce. I’m passionate about helping members, riding motorcycles and eliminating all traces of cilantro from food.