Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Science Behind Pixar at the Science Museum of Minnesota

The museum is on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul

My wife and I went to The Science Behind Pixar last week on its opening night at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, and I wanted to share some thoughts and photos from this amazing exhibition.

Inside the lobby

I want to start with the Science Museum as it has some significance to my wife Lynn and myself. Our first date was at the museum in January of 1982, where we saw Genesis on the domed Omnitheater during a blizzard. We've been to the museum many times since then, at first just the 2 of us, and then with our 3 children. For many years we had family annual passes, and the museum always had creative and interesting exhibits and films. But as the kids got older and became more involved in school activities and sports, we started going less and less. So I was super excited that, 35 years after our first trip there, Lynn and I would be going there to see this exhibition.

And we weren't disappointed! As its name suggests, The Science Behind Pixar is an incredible exhibit that demonstrates the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) concepts involved in creating Pixar films. It shows off these concepts in a multitude of ways making it easy for everyone to participate and learn.

The Science Behind Pixar is a 13,000 square foot exhibit that was created by the Museum of Science, Boston in collaboration with Pixar. It opened on June 28, 2015, and began a 10 year traveling tour in early 2016. It's been to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA and the California Science Center in Los Angeles. It will next be at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, Alberta and The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

The exhibit starts with a short introductory video, very similar to the Pixar in a Box introductory video and hosted by a couple of characters from Pixar films. Once the film ends you enter the main exhibition area. And the area is huge! My first thoughts when I walked in were how expansive and elaborate it was.

The exhibit is broken up into areas representing the steps of filmmaking, such as rigging, sets & cameras, simulation and lighting. Each of these areas has a number of stations to help you learn more about the concept.

What makes the exhibit so great is the variety of activities, with many that are hands on. For instance, in the rigging area there is a station to adjust Jessie's eyelids and eyebrows to match her expression to different ones from the Toy Story films.

Or you can explore and apply different arm rigs to Woody, Eve and Elastigirl.

I really enjoyed the Working at Pixar stations. These are videos of employees describing what they did at Pixar, maybe how they became interested in computer graphics and animation, and included great nuggets of information on making our favorite films: how they used lighting to make WALL•E stand out amongst the dust and trash, or why they had to move the location of the Eiffel Tower in Ratatouille.

Interspersed among all of this are life sized statutes of characters and plenty of wonderful artwork, maquettes and sculpts.

The Science Behind Pixar is an engaging, informative and fun exhibit. I had walked through most of the areas and tried a number of activities, and was shocked that we had already been there for more than 2 hours! I'll definitely need to go back and check out the areas I missed.

I strongly recommend trying to see this exhibition! It will be at the Science Museum of Minnesota until September 4th.

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