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In this stage of the pipeline, animators pose the characters to act out each scene. Giulia’s body language and expressions convey her personality and emotions.

Animation is acting

What is an animation?

Animation is a series of images, each slightly different from the last, shown in sequence. When they are shown fast enough, we stop seeing the individual images and instead see an illusion of motion. There are many ways to create the individual images including hand drawings and photographs of objects. Pixar makes their images with virtual 3D models and sets.

What does an animator do?

Animators bring the story to life, posing characters to act out each scene. They start by breaking down an action into a series of poses called key frames that mark out important positions. Then, they use a computer program to describe how the object moves in between those key frames so that the resulting animation conveys the desired emotions.

Pixar animators bring a story to life, posing characters to act out each scene, one frame at a time.

Pixar animators bring a story to life, posing characters to act out each scene (like this one from The Incredibles) one frame at a time.

Videos and Activities

Pixar’s Animation Challenge

Animating with algorithms

Pixar’s Animation Challenge

Gini Santos

Character Animator

Gini Santos

Computer Animation Workstation

Animate Mike’s wave using curves

Create a short animation of Mike Wazowski waving. Select a transition curve and set the total number of frames.


Pixar in a Box

Continue to explore using Pixar in a Box, a set of lessons developed by Pixar and Khan Academy. Follow the link for a lesson on Animation.

Ask a Pixar Scientist

  • Do you ever use Tweening (turning separate body parts) in your animations?
    — Emily
    By tweening I believe you are referring to the process where body parts are positioned at a relatively small set of animation frames, then the computer fills in the in-between frames automatically. That’s exactly how our animators work. They pose body parts and facial expressions at “key" frames they feel are important, and then our animation system software uses mathematical functions called splines to create the in-between poses. If you want to know more, this process is discussed in detail in the Animation Lesson on Pixar in a Box and in the Animation area of The Science Behind Pixar exhibit.
    — Tony DeRose; Senior Program Manager Educational Outreach, Pixar