Voices Lectures welcomes Pixar's Danielle Feinberg
To be involved in computer animation during its evolution over the past two decades has been quite exciting for Danielle Feinberg.
Even more rewarding has been to be part of Pixar Animation Studios, which has produced some of the industry's top movies.
"I've been there over 25 years," Feinberg said. She joined Pixar "at an exciting time" in 1997, and eventually became director of lighting and now holds the title of visual effects supervisor, all the while working on such movies as "WALL-E," "Brave," "The Incredibles," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story 2," "Cars" and "Coco."
Back in 1997, shortly after Pixar put itself on the map with "Toy Story," the company had about 300 employees and also had produced some short films. Feinberg began working on its second film, "A Bug's Life," and has since been a key contributor to the company, which is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co.
She'll share some of her stories in the Voices Lectures series event, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at Revolution Hall.
For tickets: http://www.voicesinc.com.
Feinberg, who lives in Oakland and works in Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, said that during her time at Pixar she has seen many changes in computer animation technology — to be clear, we're talking about making movies via computers, and not using real studio lights, for example.
From the start, "A Bug's Life" featured more organic images, such as trees and grass — not "rigid" things like plastic (toys) such as in "Toy Story."
Literally, lighting is controlled by icons on a computer to help create a three-dimensional world.
"Our software is built to mimic the real world; if you don't put lights in, it comes out black," she said. "It's important to see what's going on. We are sort of using the same principle that a live-action movie might: Support the story, direct the audience, make things look beautiful, set the mood. Every department is super geared toward supporting the story."
Feinberg has worked on many movies, but "Coco" ranks high on her favorites list.
"'Coco' was really a pretty fantastic movie for me, in terms of the themes of it — chasing your dreams and the importance of family and ancestors," she said, adding that research trips to Mexico, where the movie was set and holiday "Day of the Dead" portrayed, were fun because "I love Mexico and the holiday."
Along with "A Bug's Life," the movie "Finding Nemo" was difficult to work on. "The director wanted it to be underwater," she said. "Also, with 'Monsters, Inc.,' they wanted a big, hairy monster, and we had never done hair."
Also, in "The Incredibles," she said "the daughter had long hair, and we had never done long hair."
In the end, with challenges, "you figure it out. It was a difficult thing then, but looking back on it now, it's not."
Her latest film is "Turning Red." Currently, "Elemental," which she isn't working on, is a challenging movie because the characters are fire and water.
Feinberg emphasizes that more young women should continue entering into STEM careers — she serves as a mentor — and she encourages young people to get into computer animation.
"The cool thing about computer animation versus when I was in school is a lot of places do degrees in animation and lighting and visual effects, hair and clothing, crowds, camera, building characters and sets," said Feinberg, a Boulder, Colorado, native who attended Harvard.
As far as advice: "Not a huge mystery to it; it's the doing of things. The more you make, say, a movie, the more you understand how things are put together. It doesn't matter if it's making a flipbook in your notebook at the back of class, you're still creating."
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