Pixar: 25 Years of Animation at the Oakland Museum of California

The many skins of Sully from Monsters, Inc. Image courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.

In order to gauge your interest in this post, I have composed a brief survey. The questions are as follows:
  • When I say the name “P. Sherman,” do you automatically think “42 Wallaby Way, Sydney”?
  • Have you ever seen a large tropical bird and suddenly been overtaken by an inexplicable urge to call it Kevin?
  • Do you ever get the feeling that your old toys back at home have gone off on some wild adventure now that you’ve left them unsupervised?
  • Are you, or have you ever been, a kid?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then I suggest immediately shutting off your computer and catching the next bus headed for “Pixar: 25 Years of Animation” at the Oakland Museum of California. If, however, your cynical mind answered “no” to all of the above (and really, what kind of person are you?), then read on for all of the reasons why I think everyone in the Bay Area/California/United States/the World should go see this wonderful exhibit.

When one thinks of Pixar, drawing and painting are usually not the first things that pop into mind. Cutting-edge computer technology and animation, yes, but traditional art? Noticeably absent in each of Pixar’s incredibly successful films. But just as a fashion designer must first commit the idea of a dress to paper, so must Pixar animators begin each movie with a preliminary sketch—a first look, if you will, at the amazing world each Pixar film encompasses.

A scene from Pixar's A Bug's Life.

Now, the term “sketch” is a bit misleading, because in reality the works on display are nothing short of full-blown masterpieces. Each painting, drawing, digital rendering, and mixed media collage is both familiar and innovative, and there are moments aplenty where the artist’s ingenuity will delightfully surprise the viewer. A full scale drawing of various fall leaves, taken from the movie A Bug’s Life, will add a whole new color spectrum to your walk in the brisk autumn afternoon. Another piece, a “study on fur” done for Sully from Monsters, Inc, reveals the subtleties in character that just a few tiny hairs can express; on the other side of the exhibit room, a highly stylized version of Edna Mode from The Incredibles will leave you baffled at how a few polygonal shapes can so accurately capture the flamboyance that is Edna. But really, my meager words cannot do these works of art justice, and I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil all of the exhibit’s surprises for those of you going. (Which, I’m presuming, is going to be everyone, right?!)

Edna Mode from The Incredibles. Above two images courtesy of Pixar: 25 Years of Animation artbook.

More than just a chance to see some stunning artwork, “Pixar: 25 Years of Animation” is a reminder of the beauty inherent in good storytelling, which, when done right, has the power to transform and inspire entire societies. Judging from the number of children and adults I saw walking around that day with silly smiles plastered to their faces, I’d say that the artists at Pixar are some of the greatest storytellers of our time.

“Pixar: 25 Years of Animation” will be at the Oakland Museum of Art until January 9, 2011. Tickets for students are $9.

Aimee Shimizu
BARE Reporter

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