Pixar in a Box introduces students to filmmaking with free online lessons

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If seeing Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 3” this weekend has renewed your sense of wonder about how Pixar consistently creates memorable stories, they have a cool way for you to find out! Pixar has partnered with educational service Khan Academy to explain — and teach — the art of storytelling. Best of all, It’s online and it’s free so it’s widely available to everyone who is interested in filmmaking.

Pixar in a Box is a series of lessons taught by actual Pixar artists. The website states, “The goal of Pixar in a Box is to show you how the concepts that you learn in school are the same concepts that we use to tackle creative challenges at Pixar.” The concepts are ones that students typically learn in Grade 4 and above.

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The lessons are broken down by topics, such as animation, character modeling, patterns and effects. These topics represent the fundamental steps Pixar uses to make movies, and students can explore them in any order they choose.

“Each topic in Pixar in a Box contains two lessons. The first lesson contains videos and fun interactives that will get you solving problems and creating things with tools, while showing you some of the connections to math, science, arts, and humanities. The second lesson gives you a deeper dive into the concepts in the first lesson,” according to the Pixar in a Box introduction.

For example, in the “Crowds” lesson, students learn that modeling a character takes a lot of time, so Pixar has created ways to populate crowds quickly that don’t involve drawing each individual from scratch. Doing so uses a modular approach and the mathematical principle of combinatorics.

Special effects are not just used in live-action films, either. When animators want to create water, smoke and fire effects, they have to rely on engineering to do so. Pixar uses the laws of physics as well as computer programming to produce them, and students of Pixar in a Box will learn how this is possible.

One of the really cool features about the Pixar in a Box program is that students can submit questions and get detailed answers from animators. In addition, at the end of each lesson, there are hands-on activities to extend the lessons.

Ready to get started? Create an account here to save your progress and then dive in!

Pixar in a Box is a multi-year project, and new lessons are expected every few months.

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