Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

The crowd chattering about their favorite digitally animated Pixar movies this week wasn’t the elementary-school crowd one might have expected — it was the college crowd of UC Santa Cruz.

Founders Day at UCSC annually honors individuals whose work supports the spirit of community and UCSC’s vision. At a dinner on Friday, Oct. 23. awards will be given to five individuals who meet these standards, with the Foundation Medal going to Pixar CEO Ed Catmull for his groundbreaking work as one of the founders and the current president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

Because of student interest — and the fact that Pixar’s studios are located just a few hours north of the school — UCSC decided to plan several days of events encompassing “Pixar Week,” which started on Monday. Community members and students alike were invited to partake in screenings and lectures in celebration of the award.

The week’s events have drifted off campus as well, as downtown’s Del Mar Theatre will screen the documentary, “The Pixar Story,” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22.

Caetlin Benson-Allott, a UCSC assistant professor of film and digital media, film historian and expert on digital effects, lectured at the event on Tuesday night.

“Since there are so many students who are interested in film history, [computer-generated imagery] and digital animation, we decided to put together a series of events with various people from the Pixar team and faculty and UCSC to create community,” Benson-Allott said.

Her lecture, entitled “Tales of Labor and Value: What Works in Pixar Films,” addressed how Pixar stories really differ from other animated films.

“Think of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ and the song ‘Whistle While You Work.’ Pixar has these happy workers but it’s a much more realistic scene of labor,” Benson-Allott said prior to her lecture. “‘Ratatouille’ looks at how the contemporary culinary industry operates.”

As expected, “Pixar Week” has been drawing students from not only film, but also game design, art and even business majors at UCSC.

Tom Wunsch, a second-year business major, was one of the many attendees of Benson-Allot’s lecture.

“[Benson-Allott] touched on the topic that ‘Monsters, Inc.’ came out during the time that California was having a major energy crisis,” Wunsch said. “It’s something I hadn’t thought about before and it makes sense. Relevancy sells.”

Benson-Allott also noted that a conference on the art of collaboration will be held on Thursday and Friday.

The conference, entitled “The Art of Collaboration,” will feature a speech by Ed Catmull and focus on the idea that collaboration is key in creative production.

The conference will be a set of three panels, each discussing different aspects of collaboration.

Amanda Kimball, a third-year UCSC student, plans to attend the “Modes of Production and Reception” panel.

“I’m interested in the topics of this panel because as a double major, in film and digital media and literature, I am interested in the question, ‘How can communications across disciplines be improved?’ that this panel will attempt to answer,” Kimball said. “I hope to learn more about the current collaborative practices between contemporary art activism and research.”

Benson-Allott said that one of the most remarkable aspects about this week of events is the many different angles from which Pixar — and digital art as a whole medium — is being examined.

“There are going to be talks on the technology behind digital animation, about film history, about labor practices,” Benson-Allott said. “I’m really impressed with how interdisciplinary this event has become. We’re really hoping to create more of a relationship between [UCSC] and Pixar in the future.”

{The End of the Week’s Events}

Thursday, October 22: Michael B. Johnson: “Making Movies is Hard Fun: Building Tools for Telling Stories.” 4 p.m. in Oakes Room 105.

Thursday October 22 & Friday October 23: “The Art of Collaboration” located in the Digital Arts Research Center.

Thursday, October 22: A screening of the documentary film “The Pixar Story.” 7 p.m. at the Del Mar Theatre. Tickets are $5.

Friday, October 23: Ed Catmull: “Creativity: What I Don’t Know and What I Know.” 3 p.m. at Music Recital Hall.