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The Science Behind Pixar – An Interactive Experience for My Family, and Hopefully Yours!

The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)

By: Tiera Tanner, WDW Radio Team

Like most of my WDW Radio family, I’ve been fascinated by animation for as long as I can remember. As a child, I distinctly remember trying to deconstruct a Charlie Brown cartoon. My conclusion involved a series of individual drawings being placed vertically in rapid succession in front of a camera on a tripod — not too far off for the imagination of a six year old..

Through the years, I’ve consumed numerous books and material related to the magical process of animation. But, as my research and my recent visit to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have proven, animation isn’t just magic, it’s science.

Pixar Animation Studios presents an interactive experience for guests to explore the process of making Pixar’s groundbreaking animated feature films in the The Science Behind Pixar exhibit, featuring beloved Pixar characters.

Large boot prints from Buzz Lightyear guide guests into the Carnegie Science Center to the ticket counter, where guests can purchase tickets or check-in with their pre-paid tickets. The Science Behind Pixar is a separately priced ticket from the regular Center admission, but guests do not need to purchase both if they only wish to visit the Pixar exhibit.

The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)

Pixar simplifies their movie-making process as a “pipeline,” in which the evolution of an idea to a fully-realized feature film is created. The numerous departments, beginning with Story and Art to Rigging and beyond, utilize their specialized talents and STEM to send their piece of each project along the “pipeline.”

When guests enter the exhibit after the welcome video, they are greeted by a large Buzz Lightyear statue. The floor is open to explore countless stations featuring certain jobs in the Pixar departments, such as Modeling and Rigging. For example, guests can take a hands-on approach to Modeling by constructing magnetic blocks into their own robot at one Wall-E inspired station, or they can visit a computer station to create digital shapes to manipulate into characters. 

The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)
The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)
The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)

Although the stations rely on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, murals of enlarged concept art guide guests along the exhibit – a reminder that Story and Art are a vital part of the “pipeline” for Pixar – storytelling at the heart of it all. 

The exhibit leads downstairs to a larger area with more larger-than-life character statues, interactive stations, and colorful concept art. Smaller stations featuring Pixar employees, titled “Working at Pixar” are also interspersed across both levels of the exhibit.

Downstairs features Pixar departments like Animation, Surfaces, Sets & Cameras, Lighting, and more. Guests even have the opportunity to make their own Stop Motion Film with Pixar’s mascot, Luxo Jr.. Other popular areas include setting a field of view for a Wall-E scene, in which guests can join the friendly robot on camera. A larger than life scene reminiscent of the trees and grass from A Bug’s Life also attracted guests to join in the scene. 

The Science Behind Pixar exhibit had interactive elements for every age. My youngest (age 1) enjoyed hands-on activities like the “Wrap it Up” station, where guests used different patterned materials to wrap around three-dimensional shapes. My boys (ages 4 and 6) loved the stop motion station and the Lighting area, in which they adjusted the mood of a scene with light controls. My husband enjoyed the concept art and all things Wall-E.

The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)
The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)
The Science of Pixar (photo courtesy of Tiera Tanner)

As for me, I loved it all – my only regret was not slowing down to read every little bit of text and spend more time in each area. So, I might just have to take another trip back! This is definitely an exhibit you could explore more than once and learn something new each visit. 

The Carnegie Science Center hosts this exhibit through January 5, 2025. To learn more about The Science Behind Pixar exhibit and plan your own trip, please click here or visit Carnegie Science Center.

All photos from the author’s personal collection.