Disney-Pixar Animators Give CSUN Students a Peek Behind the Making of Coco

  • Byron Bashforth, Disney- Pixar character shading lead at the

    Character Shading Lead, Byron Bashforth (left) from Disney-Pixar Animation presenting to CSUN students during the "Making of Coco" event moderated by Professor Robert St. Pierre (right) on Nov. 15 in the USU theatre. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • Disney-Pixar character shading lead Byron Bashforth shares expertise with CSUN students.

    Disney-Pixar Animator Byron Bashforth visits CSUN campus on Nov. 15. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • CSUN students ask questions during Q & A panel during Disney-Pixar Animation presentation on Nov. 15.

    CSUN students participate in Q & A panel following Disney-Pixar Animation presentation for the upcoming feature film "Coco." Photo by David J. Hawkins.

More than 200 students, faculty and community members lined up around the University Student Union (USU) Theatre at California State University, Northridge on Nov. 15, to attend a free special presentation on the upcoming animated feature film Coco, by Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. The film is set to be released on Thanksgiving Day.

The hour-long presentation featured guest speaker Byron Bashforth, Disney-Pixar’s character shading lead and texture shading artist. As a character shading lead, Bashforth helps manage and support the team of technical artists who are responsible for creating the overall look of all animated characters used in the film.

The event was the Animation Student League of Northridge’s (ASLN) second free Disney event for animation students and the CSUN community. The group is a club of students who are passionate about art, specifically in animation, 3-D modeling, lighting, visual development and character design.

During the presentation, Bashforth shared advance behind-the-scenes clips, while explaining the in-depth process of character development and the elements that are required when working on a computer-animated film for a major studio.

Coco tells the story of 12-year-old Miguel, who dreams of becoming a musician despite a ban on music within his family. Set in Mexico, the film highlights the tradition of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is a two-day celebration honoring family members who have passed away.

“[Presentations like these] provide windows of opportunity that help our students realize that a career in the world of animation exists beyond graduation,” said faculty advisor Robert St. Pierre, who has helped lead the organization since joining CSUN’s Department of Art in 2013.

The club prides itself on providing the necessary industry knowledge and expertise to students interested in a career in the competitive animation industry, according to St. Pierre.

Disney offered “swag bags” that featured guitar pics, posters and other merchandise in support for the upcoming film as guests entered the 224-seat theatre. Following the presentation, St. Pierre moderated a Q&A session between Bashforth, students and other guests.

“From the questions that I’ve gotten, I think a lot of people are introduced to this idea that there are all types of jobs in the animation industry,” Bashforth said of the importance of educational visits from major studios. In addition, Bashforth added that he enjoys talking about the particular creative aspects of his job to undergraduate students.

Bashforth joined Pixar Animation studios in 1999 as a render technical director for Toy Story 2. Since then, he has worked as shading technical director on award-winning films such as Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Inside Out, Ratatouille, Brave, Up and The Incredibles. Bashforth shared with attendees that his passion for animation and film grew from his advanced technical experience with computer science and technology.

The colorful characters and bright visuals featured in Coco are inspired by real-life Mexican culture and folklore. Disney-Pixar films typically take four to six years to create a feature before it’s released in theaters. Coco was originally pitched in 2010, and production began in spring 2016.

​The Nov. 15 program was part of an ongoing partnership between CSUN and Disney called the Making of… series, which St. Pierre initiated in 2015.

The ASLN, Department of Art and Department of Cinema and Television Arts previously hosted Making of Moana and Making of Inside Out, which featured informational sessions and expertise from working professionals.

From 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28, the ASLN will host a Pitching to Studios program with story board artist Robert Souza at the Department of Art, room AC 331 of the Art and Design Center.

To learn more about the ASLN, please visit https://www.asln-csun.com


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