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The art of animation

May 04. 2016
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Pixar’s touring retrospective comes to Tokyo
An exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of Pixar Animation Studios, underway at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo until May 29, offers a unique opportunity to see how the studio’s films are conceptualised, planned and produced.
California-based Pixar Animation Studios is known worldwide for its cutting edge technology and computer graphics art, as represented in such works as the 81-minute-long “Toy Story” (1995, directed by John Lasseter), the world’s first fully computer-generated animated feature film. But little is known about how the individual elements of the studio’s animation are planned and formed.
The three essential aspects of Pixar films – “story”, “character” and “world” – are sketched, moulded and completed through numerous hand-drawings, paintings and sculptures created by Pixar’s artists.
The exhibition, “Pixar: 30 Years of Animation”, is the latest presentation of a serial show that first opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2005.
Then called “Pixar: 20 Years of Animation,” the exhibition first came to Japan the following year. Its aim is to highlight the artists and present their behind-the-scenes work. The exhibition has travelled to more than 25 cities around the world, adding content as new films are produced.
The greatest appeal of the exhibition is how the show itself transforms, says Chika Mori, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
“The exhibition is continually revised and updated,” she says. “This is interesting to see.”
The present show includes the artwork for the studio’s latest film – “The Good Dinosaur” (2015, directed by Peter Sohn).”
A wide variety of media are shown through approximately 500 artworks. They employ both old and new techniques, such as marker and pencil drawings, sketches in pastel, paintings in watercolour and digital painting.
Mori points out that while innumerable artworks are created for each film, very few survive in their original form.
“You will definitely understand that what you’ve seen at theatres is only the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “Out of sight, artists expended an enormous amount of energy and work to create the films.”
The current exhibition also marks the 20th anniversary of the release of “Toy Story” in Japan. It displays artworks related to the first film as well as its two sequels, including models of its main characters Woody and Buzz and the colour-script for “Toy Story 3” (2010, directed by Lee Unkrich).
A colour-script depicts the whole story in a chronological format that allows one to see the basic colour structure applied to the entire film. Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, an animation artist who worked with Pixar at the time, produced the colour-script.
Also on display are two installations – “Toy Story” Zoetrope and Artscape – that were created for the exhibition at MoMA and continue to tour with the show.
The “Toy Story” Zoetrope allows viewers to see how animation works by placing figures in successive poses on a disc that rapidly rotates under a strobe light. 
Artscape is a wide-screen media installation using digital technology that offers viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the details of pre-production artwork.
There are also short films by Pixar as well as video interviews on the production process.
After Tokyo the exhibition moves to the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum from July 27 to September 8.

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