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Rob Warren on Pixar: 20 Years of Animation – Interview to the exhibition curator

Maquette of Mr. Incredible. Pixar: 20 Years of Animation. Exhibition. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London. Copyright Pixar Animation Studios
Maquette of Mr. Incredible. Pixar: 20 Years of Animation. Exhibition. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London. Copyright Pixar Animation Studios

Rob Warren, curator of Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, the upcoming exhibition to be held at the Museum of Science in London starting April 2006 has been so kind to let us know more about the event. There will be never seen before artwork and drawings made in the preparation stage of most popular Pixar Animation Studios‘ animated feature films. You will read my questions in italic.

Dear Mr. Warren thanks for your kind availability to spend some time with CG Explorer‘s readers. I don’t know how many prestigious events you managed during your career but there’s a question coming right from my heart: how do you feel in organising this event devoted to the masters of animated movies?

Ciao Massimo!!

I’ve been writing and developing exhibitions since 2000 at various museums including the Royal Observation in Greenwich and have worked with a lot of fascinating and creative people, and wonderful objects from around the World. Much of that work has been what you might call traditional exhibitions – This is different – and much cooler!

We’re having around 300 2-D artworks. These include paintings, drawings, rough sketches and oodles of doodles – all have been a part of the early process of inventing great characters, building up amazing story ideas and imagining the crazy worlds in which the stories are played out. We also have storyboard sequences which show a whole scene on paper. We’re also having around 50 3-D pieces called maquettes. These are wonderfully sculpted studies of the characters. What is very exciting about all this material is that most of it has never been seen before – certainly not outside of America. It’s an amazing insight into the creativity of the Pixar people. And I think it’s very important to stress that although they’re well know for producing highly technical films all via computer, all the creative work is done in the more traditional ways – pen, paper and great imaginations. And this creativity is so evident in the material. It’s all about a pen and paper!!

On top of that – and more exciting from my point of view – is their development of 2 amazing, stunning and rocking immersive art pieces. The first is a 21st century zoetrope. 600 characters from Toy Story 2 are spun on a huge disc and with the use of strobes the characters animate before your eyes. You have to see it to believe it. And even then you wont believe it! The second is called ‘Artscape‘ – an 11 minute film with a screen of 38 feet width giving the viewer an amazing cinematic experience. It’s a animation ‘rollercoaster’ of an experience so don’t have your lunch before you watch! Both these pieces were developed specially for the exhibition and really demonstrate the fun side of film making. Meraviglioso!!

Sulley and Wazowski: a sketch from the Monsters & Co. animated film by Pixar Animation Studios. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London, UK.
Sulley and Wazowski: a sketch from the Monsters & Co. animated film by Pixar Animation Studios. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London, UK.

What kind of preparation did you go through in setting up this exhibition?

Usually and exhibition needs at least a year to develop. This may sound a long time but teams are usually small and there are an amazing number of things to consider, particularly when you consider some of our galleries are around 1000 m2. This one is a bit different because the objects had already been chosen. That in itself saves a lot of time but the down side is that we’ve only had about 4 months to design, write and install – an incredibly short space of time on which to deliver, particularly when you consider the extremely high standards of both the Science Museum and Pixar themselves.

My job has been to decide how we distribute the material through the gallery and what stories we will tell about them. We’ve also added a number of elements to the exhibition experience. We’ll be having workshop sessions where people can come and try their hand at animation themselves. We’re also having lots of speakers in to tell the visitors everything they need to know about animation. The Kindest Leila has been the Wonderful Bridge on all these things – she is il migliore di sempre!

And I’ve peppered the galleries with objects from our own collections. It’s very important that this exhibition has a real mark of the Science Museum on it. The narratives will draw on the technical creativity of Pixar as well as the more traditional artistic aspects of their work and by adding these kinds of things into the Pixar material I think we have created a fabulous – and quite unique exhibition.

Do you believe there is an opportunity to bring more people to museums by proposing more events dedicated to the intersection between art, science and entertainment?

There’s no reason why science shouldn’t be entertaining and fun! That’s what the Science Museum is all about – presenting science – and the massive level of creativity that can contain – in such a way that everyone can understand and enjoy – and more importantly, be inspired by. I think this exhibition is going to do exactly that. Pixar embodies a collision of art and science and by shaping that into a Science Museum exhibition I think we have created something very special that will appeal to champions of science, art, and creativity in general. In fact – to anyone who is a lover of something beautiful!

Buzz Lightyear. A preparatory drawing for the Toy Story animated feature. Copyright Pixar Animation Studios. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London (UK)
Buzz Lightyear. A preparatory drawing for the Toy Story animated feature. Copyright Pixar Animation Studios. Courtesy of Museum of Science, London (UK)

If you had to prepare the public coming to attend “Pixar: 20 Years of Animation” what would you suggest them to do to arrive ready to enjoy the experience to the maximum?

Before they come I suggest two things. One – take a pen and paper and try to draw a cartoon figure. It’s incedibly difficult and it really shows how incredibly talented the Pixar artists are. Two – watch some of the Pixar films. Their attention to detail and sheer scope of their films will make people really understand why there is so much traditional art generated long before a computer is even shitched on. And remember the material on display is only a tiny fraction of what is done for each film.

Rob, would you like to personally invite our readers at CG Explorer to come to the Science Museum and to take a unique chance to watch memorable art?

I would love all of your readers to come and see the exhibition – it’ll be an amazing experience, and a lot of fun too! And also, the Museum in general is full of wonderful objects and collections. Come and see all we have!

We are getting a fabulous response from all over the UK Europe about this exhibition so it might be a good idea to book in advance. The Kindest Leila tells me with a smile that the tickets are already on sale NOW!!! So get onto to the web site – http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/pixar/ – and book up.

Arrivederci to you and you readers!!

Rob

I would like to personally thank you, Rob, and the wonderfully efficient Leila Schembri which provided me with the exclusive images illustrating this article. Thanks both of you and I hope to meet you in person at Pixar: 20 Years of Animation.

Related articles: Pixar: 20 Years of Animation at the Science Museum

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One Response to “Rob Warren on Pixar: 20 Years of Animation – Interview to the exhibition curator”

  1. Pixar: 20 Years of Animation at the Science Museum. CG Explorer Says:

    [...] UPDATE February, 17th 2006: Read the interview to the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation’s exhibition curator Rob Warren [...]