Do you ever wonder what a typical day as a Pixar artist would be like? For the October Bear Essential News Young Reporter Zoom Meeting, we had Paul Topolos, a matte painter who has worked at Pixar Studios for 20 years, as our guest.
Animating a movie is a group effort—Topolos mentioned that there are 1,200 people who work at Pixar Animation Studios! Topolos really enjoys working on good films with excellent stories and highlighted that Pixar is a good place to work because employees are taken good care of and the environment is very creative.
When Topolos works on a movie, he tries to get into the emotion of the story through his painting. He encouraged people who are interested in animation to spend as much time as possible creating their art and getting into the emotion of their stories and characters.
Topolos’s love of science fiction, art, and films like Star Wars brought him to Skywalker Ranch, where he worked on two Star Wars movies. From there he worked at Pixar with some of his favorite movies including “Ratatouille” because he had a lot of fun painting the backgrounds such as the Paris skyline; “Incredibles” because he contributed a lot of work; “Wall-E” because of the beautiful backgrounds; “Cars” because it was fun to work on, and ”Soul” because of the meaningful storyline.
Topolos said that one of the most fascinating things about animation films are “that you watch an incredible movie, then you learn that the whole movie was done on a computer.” One of the main programs Topolos uses for his job is Photoshop. Topolos showed us an original photo of a New York background used in ”Soul,” and then he showed us what the background looked like after he edited the photo in Photoshop. The original version was darker while the second version looked and felt more magical with lampposts and building windows having more light. Topolos says that he can take up to a couple months to make a painting depending on the complexity of the picture! Luckily Photoshop helps make easier fixes in a painting when a director asks for changes.
“Lightyear” is a new Disney Pixar movie that Topolos is working on. For this sort of project, in a typical day, Topolos has to paint, paint, paint! Sometimes making one to two paintings per day! A spin-off from the Toy Story films, “Lightyear” follows the origin story of the human who the Buzz Light year toy is based on. Look out for “Lightyear” to be released in the Summer of 2022.