With my Monsters University Classmates

With my Monsters University Classmates – photo courtesy of Louise Bishop

When I attended Monsters University I was able to attend some incredible classes with the amazingly creative people from Pixar. This was a trip that I took back in April, my travel costs were taken care of as well as meals. I was not paid for my reviews or posts and opinions are 100% my own. These classes were pretty incredible and I found myself wistfully daydreaming about working at Pixar and being surrounded by such creative, artistic and brilliant people. I was blown away by all that went into creating a movie and we only saw tiny snapshot what was done over years. I certainly had my favorite classes but each one was interesting in their own way.

My first class was DRAMATIC ARTS: Bringing a Character to Life: Learn how the animation process works, and view an animation demo on a linux machine. The Instructor was Scott Clark (Supervising Animator).

Supervising Animator, Scott Clark talks to press about the animation process

Supervising Animator, Scott Clark talks to press about the animation process at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Emeryville, California. April 9, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Lifland/Pixar)

It is a toss up between this class and English 101 for me. I was fascinated by what Scott did not only with the computer but also the fact that he was basically the actor for the animated characters. Scott showed us how he animated a 20 second clip of Monsters University. He took us through his through process of how to determine how a 500lb monster with short legs and simian-like arms was going to dance. He showed us all of the different controls that were created for the animated characters. There were quick sets for changing expressions and then each movable joint on each character is controlled individually. It was incredible to watch the character of Sulley come to life.

The next class that we attended was ANTHROPOLOGY 152: Monsterizing the World. In this class we would learn about creating and “monsterizing” the world of MU. Our instructors were Dice Tsutsumi (Shading/Lighting Art Director) & Robert Kondo (Sets Art Director).

Art Director, Robert Kondo talks to press about "monsterizing" the world of MU

Sets Art Director, Robert Kondo talks to press about “monsterizing” the world of MU at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Emeryville, California. April 9, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Lifland/Pixar)

This class was interesting because we learned how the landscape and buildings of Monsters University became “monsterized”. There are so many different design elements within all of the buildings that take into consideration the various types of monsters that attend Monsters University. There are doors within doors so that monsters of different sizes can enter the buildings. But then there are also monsters that swim and those that fly. They probably won’t be entering through the front door so you will see different ways for those monsters to enter buildings as well. So many great details that you need to keep your eyes out about.

We also learned about the color and lighting script for the movie. I didn’t realize that there was a script just for color and lighting. Dice was fascinating as he spoke about the role of lighting in the movie. Pay close attention to how our two main characters are lit. You will notice that characters are in the light or in the dark when certain things are happening. I don’t want to give this away but pay attention to the use of lighting.

The next class that we attended was SOCIOLOGY 203: The Deconstruction of a Character. In this class we would learn about the design of college-age Mike & Sulley, and creation & design of new characters in the film. Our instructors were Ricky Nierva (Production Designer), Jason Deamer (Character Art Director) & Daniela Strijleva (Character Designer)

Character Art Director, Jason Deamer talks to press about character design

Character Art Director, Jason Deamer talks to press about character design at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Emeryville, California. April 9, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Lifland/Pixar)

In this class we learned a lot about how the character designs undergo a ton of changes and iterations before we see the final character in the movie. We spent a lot of time talking about Dean Hardscrabble. The biggest thing that we learned was that the Dean was actually a male character at first. However he became a she and I think that the direction they went was a much scarier character over all. They also showed us all the different creatures that were inspirations for the character design. In fact, Dean Hardscrabble’s character was modeled after a type of centipede called Scolopendra Gigantea, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede. The designers told us that they had this creature come to the studios for designs and it is highly poisonous. Needless to say it was not a popular creature to visit. The design does have the intended effect though. Watching Dean Hardscrabble on screen did send shivers down my spine.

We also learned what went into redesigning existing characters like Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan. In the case of Mike he is a little shorter and thinner and his coloring is brighter. Sulley has a sort of a lazy fauxhawk, he’s thinner and his colors are brighter as well.

Our next class was ENGLISH 101: How to Tell a Great Story. In this class we learned about the story process and how to draw a character from MU. Our instructor was Kelsey Mann (Story Supervisor).

Story Supervisor, Kelsey Mann talks to press about the story

Story Supervisor, Kelsey Mann talks to press about the story process and gives a drawing lesson at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Emeryville, California. April 9, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Lifland/Pixar)

This was my top two favorite classes from the day. I was so excited to watch Kelsey use a super huge Wacom tablet to create movie storyboards. Then he would flip back and forth from the Pixar software to Adobe Photoshop. It was amazing to see the speed with which he was able to go back and forth and how quickly he could make these storyboards. He completely storyboarded a scene from the movie and then acted it out in the short period of time that we had for class. Kelsey also gave us a quick class on how to draw Mike Wazowski. It was such a fun class.

The last class that we attended was PHYSICS 250: Global Illumination. In this class we viewed a presentation on the use of Global Illumination in MU and The Blue Umbrella. Our instructors were Jean-Claude (JC) Kalache (DP-Lighting), Sanjay Bakshi (Supervising Technical Director) & Christine Waggoner (Simulation Supervisor).

Supervising Technical Director, Sanjay Bakshi talks to press about the technical

Supervising Technical Director, Sanjay Bakshi talks to press about the technical challenges and achievements of the film at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Emeryville, California. April 9, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Lifland/Pixar)

Our final class of the day was a little over my head regarding Global illumination. However, there was a decent bit of the class that showed us the scale of characters and also explained how so many characters were created for the movie. There are just so many monsters coming to Monsters University when it arrives in theaters on June 21, 2013. Will you be there as well? I know I will.

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