The Magic of Pixar

The Magic of Pixar

When Saad Moosajee 16 GD first arrived at Pixar’s 22-acre campus in Emeryville, CA, the he was thunderstruck to be at the Academy Award-winning animation studio known for such box office hits as Toy Story, Cars, Brave, WALL-E and Finding Nemo, among others.

But as one of nine students accepted into Pixar’s highly competitive summer internship program, he didn’t have much time to gawk. Instead, he was there with a purpose: learn as much as humanly possible from some of the most brilliant minds in the industry.

“It’s like you’re going to school at Pixar for three months,” explains Moosajee. “The interns are mentored by genius programmers and technical directors considered living legends to anyone trying to make their mark in the animation world.”

Almost immediately, Moosajee got to work in an office plastered with film posters and full of furry characters. Each week he mastered a new software package – many of which are proprietary – that corresponds with a specific part of Pixar’s many-layered animation process. He became proficient at Houdini while animating moving clouds, exploding fireworks and other complicated 3D special effects. And using the program Houdini, he practiced the art of “subsurface scattering,” an exacting shading technique that allows designers to make organic objects (like skin and food) appear realistic. Animators used the technique for the main courses in Ratatouille, the Pixar charmer about a rat who becomes a leading Parisian chef.

“The food in the movie looks so appetizing you almost want to eat it off the screen,” notes Moosajee. “Without this shading technique, viewers would feel there was something off in the meal scenes – even if they couldn’t quite put their finger on it.”

By the end of the 10-week program, the London-bred creative left with a firm grasp on what it takes to produce animated blockbusters. As he came to understand firsthand, much of the company’s monster success rests on the ability of its staff to work efficiently in a dynamic, collaborative environment.

In his final weeks at Pixar, Moosajee developed a moving animation that demonstrates his prowess at creating abstract forms using particle simulation, a technique that allows designers to make naturalistic, organic computer graphics. Now in his junior year in Graphic Design, he can hardly wait to integrate what he’s learned at Pixar with his studio practice.

“It’s been such a treat to witness what goes on behind the scenes at one of the most respected movie studios in the world,” notes Moosajee. “And I now have the toolset to bring my own imagination to life. That’s a magical thing.”

–Abigail Crocker

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