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‘The Science Behind Pixar’ offers Hongkongers a look inside the beloved animated films

An interview with Brianne Moseley, Exhibition Designer for Pixar Animation Studios.

Brianne Moseley has a pretty cool job.

As Exhibition Designer for Pixar Animation Studios, Moseley’s day-to-day involves working with museums around the globe to curate interactive and educational exhibitions. These exhibitions bring to life the worlds of films like Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles and all those other animated masterpieces that make kids shriek with delight and adults weep like babies.

Like I said, cool job.

And from 30 July to 1 December, as part of a collaboration between Pixar and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hongkongers are invited to experience “The Science Behind Pixar” at the Hong Kong Science Museum. The exhibition gives fans of Woody, Nemo and others an up-close look at how animators use science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to take their storytelling to infinity… and beyond.

In her role, Moseley manages the look and flow of everything happening within, while working with others, such as Boston’s Museum of Science, to bring the installations to life.

“For ‘The Science Behind Pixar’, all of the physical components were designed by the team at Museum of Science Boston, in collaboration with Pixar. When the exhibition was being developed, my role was to review design plans, give notes, and gather Pixar images for the displays,” says Moseley.

While casual fans will appreciate opportunities to flick up for selfies with statues of popular Pixar characters, those interested in the technical side have access to over 50 fun and engaging exhibits to interact with. From casting proper lighting on Finding Nemo‘s Dory or rigging the virtual skeleton of Jessie from Toy Story, there’s no shortage of challenge, or fun, to be had.

Ensuring that there is plenty of both is what Moseley’s job is all about. We caught up with her to learn about bringing the animated world into the real one, the synthesis of artistry and technology, and what visitors can expect to find in Hong Kong.

Courtesy of the Hong Kong Science Museum

How does Pixar bring its digital creations into the physical world?

The exhibition includes a combination of videos, large-scale graphics, and life-size 3D sculptures to help visitors understand the STEM concepts necessary to make our films. I think it’s the interactives that really illustrate the ideas best. For example, in the Lighting section, there is a small physical model of Carl’s living room from Up where visitors can control the lighting to match a mood. When we make our films this all happens digitally, but seeing it in the physical world really helps people understand what’s happening in the computer.

How do you select which pieces go to which exhibition?

It depends on what story we are trying to tell with the exhibition. “The Science Behind Pixar” is focused on our scientific and mathematical processes, so it includes very few physical objects from our archive. However, we did include large reproductions of concept art in the exhibition since these drawings are the starting point for everything you see on screen. Even though the exhibition isn’t focused on the visual development of our films, it’s important to know that they inspire the technology.

What’s your favourite thing about being an Exhibition Designer?

I love being able to see all of the amazing talent that goes into making our films beautiful and engaging, particularly when selecting new artwork for display. The amount of creativity being poured into each film is mind-boggling, and my job is to share that with the world.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

I think the most challenging part of my job is showing the artistry in the more technical aspects of our filmmaking. My background is in fine art, so it’s easy for me to frame an early concept drawing from one of our films, hang it on the wall, and have people appreciate it, but harder for me to understand or share the elegant coding or equations that allow our technical artists to bring the concept art to the screen.

Courtesy of the Hong Kong Science Museum

Do you have a favourite Pixar film?

It’s so hard to choose favourites! I love all of them for different reasons. I’m sitting here trying to come up with my top three and I can’t even decide!

What sort of pieces make the Hong Kong exhibition specific to Hong Kong?

There will be some additional life-size 3D characters in the plaza and lobby for visitors to take photos with!

Are there any elements that are in every exhibition you design?

Story is the main driver of the art and the technology in our films, so that makes its way into every exhibition.

What’s the most important thing you want people to take away from “The Science Behind Pixar”?

Nothing in our films is free. Every single character and object, the color, mood and lighting, the dialogue and music, and most importantly the story, are all carefully crafted from the ground up by hundreds of very talented people.

“The Science Behind Pixar” will run from 30 July to 1 December at the Hong Kong Science Museum. All visitors are required to make an advance booking through the Museum’s e-booking system. Reservations can be made up to seven days in advance.

Nathan Erickson
Editor-in-Chief
Made in Seoul and based in Hong Kong, Nathan has covered food, drinks, fashion and more from New York to Paris to Oaxaca. He enjoys street photography, buying too many hooded sweatshirts and he'll never turn down a tequila soda. Catch him on weekends hiking trails all over Hong Kong in hopes of finding his idol, Chow Yun-fat.