Cartoon masters

The Animation in Pessah Festival, replete with films and workshops, is as much for adults as it is for kids.

Don Quixote 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Don Quixote 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Moviegoers who love animated movies know that there is one studio that towers about the rest in terms of quality, inventiveness and every other measure of success: Pixar. Pixar has brought us the Toy Story series, as well as such other gems as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Cars, Up, Ratatouille, Wall*E, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.
So animated film fans will be delighted to learn that two of Pixar’s masters, Matthew Luhn, a story supervisor, and Andrew Gordon, an animator, will be visiting Israel to give a Pixar Master Class as part of the Animation in Pessah Festival. The festival will take place from April 20-23 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Israeli Animation College (Hamichlala Ha’israelit Le’animatzia) and is being sponsored by the college.
The master class is designed for adult animators who are serious about their craft, but the festival includes programs and films for animation lovers of all ages.
There will be more than 30 workshops, including workshops about 3-D animation, stop-motion animation done with clay, comics, creating video games, and screenings of animated films around the clock.
“This Pixar Master Class goes to many places in the world, and we are very pleased that they have decided to come to Israel,” says Kfir Ram, the director of the Israeli Animation College and one of the co-directors of the Polygon Animation Studio in Tel Aviv.
The local animation scene is flourishing, according to Ram, who says that many animated cartoons shown around the world, on networks such as Nickelodeon, are produced in Israel.
Both Luhn and Gordon of Pixar are looking forward to visiting Israel. Luhn, who hasn’t been to Israel since he was 13 years old, has worked on all three of the Toy Story movies, as well as Up, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and Cars.
So what’s Pixar’s secret for making movies that strike such a deep chord with audiences of all ages? (Remember, Toy Story 3 received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, as well as for Best Animated Feature, for which it won an Oscar.) It’s simple, according to Luhn.
“Pixar created an environment where creative people could be creative without any pressure from producers or managers,” he says. “With that being said, creative people need to know how to make good stories. We are creating movies that are not just for kids, but that doesn’t mean creating films that are rated ‘R’ for violence. It means showing real characters going through real adult character arcs, whether it’s a car or a fish or a toy. Take Woody in Toy Story 1, 2 and 3. His inner conflict in all three movies is that he fears being abandoned. That’s the one fear he bases all his decisions on in all three movies. Whether he fears being abandoned because Buzz is the cool new toy [in Toy Story] or because his arm is ripped [in Toy Story 2] or because his owner is growing up [in Toy Story 3], it’s always the fear of abandonment.
Kids and adults both need to feel for the main character and have to relate to them.”
The Pixar studio has a unique (and uniquely successful) system for creating its films, says Luhn: “For Pixar movies, we don’t start with a script. We start with an idea, and then we have five story artists and a director and a writer work on it. We put together the idea for the movie, decide who the characters will be, and we also write it. After we figure it out, we draw up the storyboards.”
Storyboarding is a process that Luhn likens to “drawing giant comic books” in which virtually every shot is represented.
“You then re-storyboard them and re-storyboard,” he says, in a process that takes years. “You constantly try to perfect the story you are trying to tell and try to make it look as if it were easily put together.”
Each story artist is assigned certain scenes or sequences. “I came up with Tourguide Barbie,” says Luhn, with a touch of well-earned pride. “And also the crossing the road sequence.”
In Toy Story 3, “I created Mr. Pricklepants,” the hedgehog, and the Spanish-speaking Buzz scenes.

To learn more secrets from the Pixar vault and to take your children to an affordable and creative festival this Pessah, go to the festival site at Matthew Luhn’s site on teaching cartooning is