The Science Behind Pixar

Embrace your inner child and view the behind-the-scenes work of your favorite animated movies by visiting The Cincinnati Museum Center's interactive exhibit: "The Science Behind Pixar."

Embrace your inner child and view the behind-the-scenes work of your favorite animated movies by visiting The Cincinnati Museum Center's interactive exhibit: "The Science Behind Pixar." The exhibit features a combination of hands-on learning opportunities, scale models of the movies' many beloved characters and glimpses into the background of Pixar's technical artists to engage visitors of all ages. 

Eight interactive areas following the "production pipeline," or the steps to making a film, are detailed: modeling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, animation, simulation, lighting and rendering. With 50 interactive elements, the recommended visitation time is at least two hours. Here are four highlights you can't miss. 

Lighting, Virtual Workstation featuring "Up"

Few will abstain from shedding a tear or two in the opening scenes of "Up." Lighting plays a central role in the feel and texture of the movies' scenes. A bright orange glow infuses warmth and life into the scenes where Ellie, wife of main character Carl, is still alive. After her death, dim bluish sunlight takes over. This workstation allows you to adjust virtual lights, such as the brightness of a lamp and the color of the sun, to understand how lighting changes the feel of any particular scene. 

Sets and Cameras: Programming Natural Settings

Fans of the Pixar movie "A Bug's Life" often remark on the precision and detail in the film's depiction of an ant's view of the world. This interactive area shows the necessity of intensive research and sustained observation in designing naturalistic film sets. In a series of short videos, "A Bug's Life" producers share how research footage from a tiny camera attached to the bodies of real ants assisted them in understanding and mimicking an ant's perspective. A physical re-creation of the set allows visitors to mess with the position of cameras and see different angles of Ant Island from the movie. 

Rendering featuring "Coco" 

According to the exhibition's main page, rendering is "a process that answers the question, 'What color is this pixel?' about 1.5 million times per image." Put more simply, a rendering creates a 2D image from an outline of a 3D scene. Press and hold the "render" button on the station to see a scene from the movie "Coco" transform into a fully detailed image. Release the button too early, and the image looks sparse and incomplete. When producing "Coco," one high-resolution image took on average 89 hours to render. 

Animation featuring "The Incredibles"

"The Incredibles" is a time-tested family favorite famous for its double entendres. For instance, Elastigirl is an overstretched mother who can twist her body into unnaturally stretchy positions. This workstation encourages visitors to consider the effect of frame speed on the emotion in three different scenes from the movie. Turn the wheel at an increasingly faster speed and observe how changes in body position and facial expression impact the acting. Nearby is a scale model of Edna, a diminutive yet powerful costume designer to the Incredibles family. 

Tickets for the exhibition will remain available through April 24, 2022.