4 ways the Science Behind Pixar Exhibit changed my 2017

I was booking tickets to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center (because space is awesome!) when a cute little orange clownfish caught my eye. There was Nemo, next to a header that read "The Science Behind Pixar Exhibit." I was feeling spontaneous, so I dropped $30 on two tickets. What the hell, right? I figured since I've always liked Pixar movies it would be a good way to kill an hour.

I was very right and I was very wrong. I was right to be spontaneous. I was wrong about it being a good way to kill an hour, it was actually a great way to spend two hours completely mesmerized by anything and everything related to Pixar.

This is going to sound cheesy, but I'm dead serious when I say that exhibit changed my 2017, maybe even my life. Maybe it can do the same for you.


I appreciate and respect animators more


I've always had a healthy amount of respect for animated filmmakers because I can't draw to save my life. But after going through the exhibit, I see them somewhere between Einstein and Mozart levels of genius with the determination and skill of an Olympic athlete.

For real. The exhibit had stations where you could try your hand at animation. One of them was Finding Nemo themed and used 3 separate controls to manipulate a school of fish. I gave it a go and it was HARD. I could barely keep my school in a coherent group let alone make them into shapes like in the movie. If you check it out, I would love to see your fish creations in the comments.

Animation is acting. I know that now.
Animation IS acting, as it turns out. Credit: Megan Cooper

And now I understand why there are so many credits at the end of any Pixar movie. Because it's not just one guy sitting at a desk drawing Merida from Brave. It's like 6 people inventing a new kind of digital spring to create her curls so they bounce *just* the right amount. Then another 3 people making sure her dress "acts" whenever she moves, because in Pixar movies, even the clothes are performers. It's mind-blowing. The exhibit details what went into characters like Gusteau from Ratatouille, Mike and Sully from Monster's Inc., and Joy from Inside Out. You might find that those characters' stories are just as good as the movies they were in.


Sully and Mike get schooled in how they were made. Credit: Megan Cooper


I got some serious creative inspiration


I've dabbled here and there in drawing (still bad at it) and stop-motion animation, but it's been hard to focus or stay committed to anything. The exhibit was just what I needed to really stoke the smoldering coals of my creative drive. For months I've been talking about doing things instead of actually doing things. Not anymore.

Now every time I see Buzz Lightyear it's a kick in the ass to go forth and CREATE. I got a picture of myself with a statue of him to serve as a constant reminder of that.

Me and Buzz aka my inspiration
My inspiration! To (Creative) Infinity and beyond. Credit: Megan Cooper

Toy Story wouldn't have been made if Pixar didn't do it. And they had to invent tech in order to make the movie (you'll learn more about that in the exhibit) and still did it. It's fair to say I'll likely never face a hurdle like that, so why can't I do things now? The answer is that I can, and you can, too. Proof positive: I went home and did something (see below).

Credit: Megan Cooper


I found my inner child


One thing I really love about kids is that they're curious. When you're older, it's easy to let things just wash over you and be an observer, but the exhibit was so fascinating, I couldn't help but drop those grown up walls I'd put up and become a sponge. I read every nugget of info posted on the wall, watched every video, looked at every picture, pushed every button, turned every dial and I learned so much in the process.


Try your hand at lighting a scene. Credit: Megan Cooper

You ever hear someone talk about "suspension of disbelief?" That was this exhibit in a nutshell. I stopped overanalyzing what was around me and stopped overthinking the technical aspects of the exhibit and just appreciated it for what it was. I felt about 20 years younger. I got lost in the moment and the story that I created at a section of the exhibit about set design.

When I looked up at that screen and moved around digital furniture, I had a "whoa" moment. You know the kind you have when you see fireworks or a magic trick for the first time as a kid? It was like that. I did it, I made my own little Pixar-esque set and it was so cool. Nothing more and nothing less, just cool.


I felt better about embracing my love for science


The exhibit features a number of video interviews with various Pixar animators. Every one of them talks about how they get their start in animation. About 90% of them talk about how they found a programming language and learned they could make shapes change color with computer code and how it was AWESOME. Basically, every one of them were completely unashamed nerds.

It's all computers. Credit: Megan Cooper

And I'm a nerd, too. I love physics, Swift coding and playing with the 3D graphing calculator on my computer. You'll find every every shade of nerdiness on display here and it's invigorating because everyone embraces it. It's a great place for a kid that might be struggling with their interest in science or math. If I'd visited this when I was a child, my career might've shaken out a little differently.

Joy from Inside Out. Credit: Megan Cooper

One of the greatest things about the exhibit is that it makes science look fun, cool and beautiful (ie the concept art for Joy from Inside Out). There are over 40 interactive elements in the exhibit, each featuring a different letter of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) that the expert computer artists and animators use to make our favorite Pixar movies.

You have to hurry, the Science Behind Pixar Exhibit is only at the California Science Center until April 16, 2017. Tickets are $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for children. Buying them ahead of time is the way to go, but even if you do, you might have to wait 15-30 minutes after your reserved time to get in. It's still worth every penny and every minute in line waiting to get in.

All in all, this exhibit was exactly what I needed to feel better about myself and the world around me.


Just some of the many monsters created for Monsters, Inc. Credit: Megan Cooper

Megan lives in Los Angeles and enjoys running and eating her way around the city. She's in LA to write and make stuff, follow her journey on her website.