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Going to School at Pixar’s Monsters University: How the Magic Was Made

I went back to school. No, no, not as a full-time schedule of classes, tests and beer pong sessions. I went back to school for just one day to Pixar to learn all about Monsters University. And I learned a lot, a whole lot. I met with our professors (aka the filmmakers) to be educated on how Pixar magic is made from creating the story to designing the monsters and the campus to how the whole thing was rendered. I may not have passed all my classes, but all our instructors deserve straight As. Check out Monsters University was made right here:

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  • PHYSICS 250: Global Illumination 2 of 8
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    PHYSICS 250:  Global Illumination
    Instructors: Jean-Claude (JC) Kalache (DP-Lighting)
    Sanjay Bakshi (Supervising Technical Director)
    & Christine Waggoner (Simulation Supervisor)

    I have to admit, I did not get an A in this class. The technical aspects of what goes on in creating the monsters in Monsters University is complex and complicated.  I have very basic computer skills, so the high tech magic these filmmakers create is hard for me to warp my head around. All I know is that they create magic.

  • PHYSICS 250: Global Illumination Conti. 3 of 8
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    In rendering all the animation and monsters in Monsters University it took a whole lot of computer power - about 100 million CPU hours. Pretty astounding. One of the things that made this film even more complicated is that there were about 400 characters "built" for Monsters University (a very "diverse student population" as they said) with an average of 25 characters per scene. Phenomenal.

     

     

  • ANTHROPOLOGY 152: Monsterizing the World 4 of 8
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    Learn about creating and "monsterizing" the world of Monsters University
    Instructors: Dice Tsutsumi (Shading/Lighting Art Director) & Robert Kondo (Sets Art Director)

    One of the big challenges was creating a university for the monsters. They had to design a place that could accommodate big monsters, small monsters, flying monsters, and underwater monsters. They also paid homage to the monsters themselves in the architecture from tentacles, eyes, spikes and horns hiding in the details of the buildings. It was all designed to "imply history of the school." With the light and feel of the campus, they had a "careful choreography of light and color," that was "something you can feel without being distracted."

  • ENGLISH 101: How to Tell a Great Story 5 of 8
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    Learn about the story process and how to draw a character from MU.
    Instructor: Kelsey Mann

    When they begin the story they get together for brainstorming and put up big white boards for ideas. Kelsey said that the, "big white empty boards are the scariest things you'll ever see." They all get together in the story room with pens, paper, references, snacks and start writing down all their thoughts. Once you fine tune your idea you come back and pitch it to the team and try to "sell it." What we will see in Monsters University came from these sessions, and are all the great ideas that were approved, animated and made into magic. 

  • DRAMATIC ARTS: Bringing a Character to Life 6 of 8
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    Instructor:  Scott Clark (Supervising Animator)

    So much thought and mindfulness put into every single frame of Monsters University. In creating a scene, they have to "distill the core idea to the pose."  Our class got to see how a scene was created, a scene where Sulley, who Scott describes as a "big lumbering jock," hitting the dance floor of a frat party. He is able to manipulate Sulley using a couple hundred different controls. It's a dance in it's self!

  • SOCIOLOGY 203: The Deconstruction of a Character 7 of 8
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    Learn about the design of college-age Mike & Sulley, and creation & design of new characters in the film.
    Instructors: Ricky Nierva (Production Designer), Jason Deamer (Character Art Director) & Daniela Strijleva (Character Designer)

    There was a big challenge with this being a prequel, they had to make the main characters younger while still keeping it a very natural transition. There were some aspects that they used across the board on the characters to give them a more youthful appearance. They made the characters skinnier and they had shorter horns, but they also wanted a "visual cue/hook." For example, Sulley had a bit of a faux hawk and was a bit more shaggy. Mike often wears a baseball cap. And Randy aka Randall, he wears glasses in Monsters University.

  • SOCIOLOGY 203: The Deconstruction of a Character Conti. 8 of 8
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    In Monsters University they expanded the Monster universe making about 300 different monsters. The monsters were based on six different body types with interesting names: Fungus, Slug, Charlie, Block, Spif, Pill and One-offs.

    The most challenging character for them was Dean Hardscrabble who is a mix of  inspiration of a snake, dragon, moth, butterfly and a scorpion and a giant centipede. And they took all those to make her "elegent and creepy" and to be "appealing yet scary."

Monsters University opens everywhere on June 21st.

Also Disneyland and Disney World will be transformed by our favorite Monsters as part of their Monstrous Summer! Check out more details here!

Photos: Disney Pixar

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