Up there with being an astronaut, comic book artist, or the President, there’s one job that your average kid would probably love to snag: Working at Pixar. Animation and Pixar enthusiasts of all ages, take note! Pixar in A Box (or PIAB) is a collaboration between Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios that focuses on real-Pixar-world applications of concepts you might usually encounter in the classroom. The latest batch of Pixar in a Box gives Makers a rare peek under the hood so that you can get a whiff of the warm engine that keeps those Pixar pistons pumping. There’s no need to register for the course, nor a requirement to watch the lessons in order — just head to their site and start exploring!
This new series of behind-the-scenes introductory videos and online exercises introduces computer science fundamentals by taking a closer look at the tools Pixar engineers and artists use to craft some of your favorite animated movies. There are two series with a couple dozen videos each which give the animation nerds in your life, young and old, a chance to get a sense of what it’s like to work at Pixar.
Most topics start with a broad overview and follow up with a second lesson that delves more deeply into the geeky details. The deeper dive of the Rendering lesson, the most difficult session from the first series, yielded one PIAB student’s home-built basic ray tracer!
This new release follows on a successful inaugural season of a dozen of lessons that touch on the math behind the movies, like how parabolas are helpful in modeling grass in Brave or how combinatorics helped Pixar build a diverse crowd of robots in WALL-E.
Some of these lessons stem from a popular talk by PIAB co-creator Tony DeRose as seen at TED-Ed. We already know DeRose from Maker Media and his work mentoring the teams behind the 720° flight simulator (aka The Viper) and the fire-breathing dragon, Saphira. He also co-founded Young Makers with Dale Dougherty. PIAB is another way he’s working to encourage more kids to learn about STEAM subjects.
I’ve always been fascinated that this animation studio has its own internal Pixar University, and this is the closest thing I’ve seen to actually “enrolling” there.