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pixar: 20 years of animation exhibition details

Read the welcome from Tony Sweeney, Director, ACMI

The artistic consideration of how to design a world, define its characters and find their story is at the heart of Pixar's creative process. 

The handmade designs spanning Pixar's twenty years of filmmaking are shown in three key sections in this exhibition:

image of woody from toy story
Bud Luckey, Color by Ralph Eggleston, Woody, Toy Story Image © Disney/Pixar


"A character needs to have sufficient dimension to live beyond the frame of the film."

Pixar's characters provide the main vehicle for the film's story. From toys that suddenly spring to life to insects living in harmony (or not), monsters with day jobs or superheroes with ordinary problems, Pixar characters are full of real-life aspirations, needs, yearnings, deep thoughts and passionate feelings.

storyboard image from toy story
Joe Ranft, Storyboard, Toy Story, Pencil, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 © Disney/Pixar


"Show, don't tell."

The storyboarding process ensures that the finished film grows naturally from a visual source.

"We spend about three quarters of the film's life in Story, starting with an original concept, writing script pages, and visually representing the film with storyboards."

image of toy story
Framed Artwork, Toy Story © Disney/Pixar


"If it were the real world we wanted, we'd use a camera."

Pixar artists refine their ideas through drawings and paintings. These explorations lead to a discovery of the rules and realities of the world of each film.

Pixar uses colorscripts to capture the colour, lighting and mood of a film in a chronological format, providing the first opportunity to see the completed story years before the computer is turned on.

major exhibition highlights

      The Toy Story characters in motion
Toy Story Zoetrope
Using over 150 modelled characters from Toy Story 2 including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Bullseye and the Aliens, this magical technical achievement employs early cinematic devices to achieve the perception of motion through the illusion of continuous activity. Rapidly rotating a sequence of objects, the zoetrope demonstrates the basic principles of animation before the invention of film.

The original art that forms the basis of Artscape was created by Pixar artists in traditional mediums such as pastel, charcoal, and gouache for the feature films Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars.

      Artscape image from A Bug's Life
Using digital technology to simulate 3D motion, this immersive journey through the concept art of Pixar's films allows viewers to experience imagery from the artist's perspective. Many of these original concept artworks are on display throughout the exhibition.

Interactive Kiosks

Learn more about the people behind the scenes at Pixar Animation Studios through a series of short interviews with the production team and artists, talking about processes of design, story, animation and computer technology. Learn about John Lasseter's early influences, Ralph Eggleston's approach to colorscripts, and Teddy Newton's process of collage design.

new exhibition features

ACMI has worked closely with Pixar to exclusively secure a range of new items for the exhibition, including:

  • Stunning new screen-based works, including a new adaptation of the celebrated title sequence from Monsters, Inc. showing on a giant 12-metre wide screen and a rarely-seen nine-screen work using Pixar's Luxo Jnr., the animated desk lamp that starred in Pixar's first-ever film and has become the company trademark.
  • Drawings and maquettes from the making of Pixar's latest release Ratatouille
  • Full-sized Sally Carrera from Cars - a specially modified Porsche 911 on display in the ACMI ground floor foyer


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