Pixar animator gives backstage view of new film

By Ben Wade

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Students got a behind-the-scenes look at Pixar’s new film, “The Good Dinosaur,” on Monday when Pixar art director and animator Matt Nolte visited the School of Art and Visual Studies building.

Nolte, who has worked with Pixar since 2004, showed unreleased footage and commented on the process of creating scenes for the film. Nolte also helped create other films including “Ratatouille,” “Cars” and “Brave.”

Nolte showed many images ranging from the initial pencil sketches and 3-D sculptures of the characters, a technique that he said is useful in visualizing how a character will appear once fully animated.

“No single person can really take complete credit for any part of a final production,” Nolte said. “It really is quite a collaborative process — I’ll have the director standing over my shoulder telling me, ‘I don’t like how that tooth looks,’ or, ‘I think that’s a great direction to go in.’”

For the characters to be genuine and original, the artists first visualize the character and then allow the director to review it. Nolte said he incorporated expressions from his children and his memories of being a worn out parent into the characters in the film.

“We don’t try to cater to anyone,” Nolte said. “The people at Pixar find it important to reflect their own experiences and tell their own stories. Animation isn’t necessarily about the movement, it is about showing emotion and perception.”

Though he credited luck with much of his success, Nolte has a portfolio heavily influenced by his affection for birds. A film he created about bird watching while he was at the California Institute of the Arts caught the eye of Pixar.

“I was hired as an animator out of school and, for me, I didn’t want to work on the computer,” Nolte said in an interview following the presentation. “So even though I loved animation, art and drawing happens in the art department, so I kept sending my portfolio to people up there.”

Nolte was given the chance to pursue his more traditional 2-D style when animation began for “Ratatouille.”

“One day this guy named Tony Fucile walked into my office as I was animating — he is why I have a job,” Nolte said. “He let me do this job on ‘Ratatouille,’ I think it was really his job, but he was just being gracious and he mentored me through it.”

Nolte was involved in the creation and design of every single character that appears in “The Good Dinosaur.” He found it difficult as a dinosaur lover to sacrifice a scientifically-accurate portrayal of dinosaurs to focus on creating relatable, humorous characters.

Nolte said each Pixar film required an intense level of research, and the company aspires to defy cliché themes, characters, dialogue and storylines.

To accurately depict the movements and behaviors of animals, Pixar animators bring real animals into the office, like the rats Nolte kept when he was working on “Ratatouille.”

After speaking, Nolte talked to individual students about their portfolios and gave them career tips.

The film will be in theaters on Nov. 25.