Pixar and Khan Academy’s Free Online Course for Aspiring Animators

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Education Maker News
Pixar and Khan Academy’s Free Online Course for Aspiring Animators

Pixar in a BoxUp 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!

Lena Fleischer watches Pixar in A Box, on August 12, 2015, a partnership with Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman/Pixar)
Lena Fleischer watches Pixar in A Box, a partnership with Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Photo by Deborah Coleman/Pixar

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.18.27 AM


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.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Michelle, or Binka, makes . While at Maker Media, she oversaw publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.

View more articles by Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).