• Monday, November 29, 2021

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  • Pixar: 25 Years of Animation at Amsterdam Expo

    I can still remember where I was when I saw my first Pixar film. I’m not sure exactly when it was exactly, but my guess would be somewhere in 1987, possibly in the autumn, which was when I first went to art school. This is back in the days when if you had a computer you played basic games on it, or someone you knew might do very rudimentary programming. My college had typesetting computers and a set of huge machines that did very lightweight stills artwork.

    However, there was a rumour that in the US a company was doing amazing things with animation. Computerized animation. But this was still so leftfield that Pixar’s first real film, a two-minute short called Luxo Jr, was only shown on TV in the UK late at night on Channel 4. To put that into perspective, it was the slot that was usually reserved for art-movies, or foreign films.

    These days, over twenty-five years later, computer animation is ubiquitous. It’s literally everywhere.

    The exhibition at Amsterdam Expo, “Pixar: 25 Years of Animation” which is entering it’s last weeks, wisely focuses on this more commercial side of Pixar. And it’s a huge success.

    We went on a Saturday, pre-booked tickets in hand. It was busy, but not Rijksmuseum-busy, which was a positive way to begin. Maybe being just out of town has its bonuses. I’ve not spent a lot of time in that area of Amsterdam and was instantly won over by the clean, wide streets and Blade-Runner-esque architecture. Worth a visit on its own. The staff at the Expo were also great, just the right side of friendly and helpful without being intrusive.

    But we came for the exhibition and, as mentioned, it didn’t disappoint. Broken chronologically into Pixar’s most famous films, we were taken through the creative process, illustrated by films, frames, sketches and models. Fascinating stuff, and aimed at exactly the right level to keep the interest of child, parent, enthusiast and novice alike.

    If you’ve seen the Pixar documentary that came out a couple of years ago (and if you haven’t it shows in its entirety here) you’ll be familiar with the rags-to-riches story and the enormous amount of work that goes into Pixar’s masterpieces. This is finely illustrated by the section concerning Monsters Inc., which travels from the initial back-of-an-envelope doodle of Mike and Sulley through the look and feel sketches, colour tests and clay models to the final wire-frames. The amazing thing, we felt, was the huge amount of brilliant work that actually doesn’t get anywhere. If you’re in any way interested in the creative process it’s fascinatingly familiar. If you’re not, it’s eye opening.

    The wonders of this exhibition are too myriad to list, but we loved the Toy Story Zoetrope, which made us feel like kids as static models speeded up until they actually appeared to be alive, and we felt that some of the original artist sketches would have looked great on the walls at home.

    Pixar are suffering a slight lull presently (the rotten Cars 2), but this exhibition helps to emphasise just how culturally important they are. With a canon, that most studios would chew their leg off for, including The Toy Story Trilogy, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E and Up, the weight of expectation is always going to be big. But this exhibition, along with the positive noises being made about the forthcoming (in 2015) Inside Out, proves how important, talented, intelligent, ground-breaking and just plain special the people at Pixar really are. The world would be a worse place without them.

    Our most negative feeling at the end of the exhibition? It would have been lovely to been able to purchase some better souvenirs of the exhibit. How about some reproductions of those sketches or stills, instead of the tired looking run-of-the-mill overpriced book or – frankly – awful posters?

    But that didn’t inhibit the joy of the hour or so we spent at the Expo. Get there soon, while you can.

    Pixar: 25 Years of Animation is open until 27 October at Amsterdam Expo. Check out their website for more details http://www.amsterdamexpo.nl/en/pixar-2/

    Image: vandaagopstap.nl



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