This post is part of a series I’m writing based on my recent visit to Pixar Studios, courtesy of Disney.
On my recent trip behind the scenes at Pixar studios in Emeryville, I met several prominent Asian American and Pacific Islander animators who are playing a big role in the making of the upcoming animated film Inside Out, which opens in theaters June 19. One of them is Patrick Lin, Layout Supervisor for the movie.
At a roundtable interview with bloggers, Lin explained his job as sort of a director of photography for the film. But how does one direct the photography of a movie without any live action filming? As Lin, an 18-year Pixar veteran explained, even animators have to select their points of view and range of sight as they create their scenes.
Much as a photographer chooses where to place her camera to capture the desired perspective, Lin blocks out the points of view of the animators as they draw the characters and their surroundings.
Layout is an especially important part of Inside Out, as it’s almost two movies in one. The film follows the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, as she navigates her way through moving from Minnesota to San Francisco — trying to make friends and figuring out the wild emotional ride of adolescence. While some parts of the movie show what’s going on in the Riley’s real life world (walking into a new classroom, trying out for the hockey team, adjusting to her new home), other scenes zoom in on Riley’s inner world — a sort of space-age looking command center known as the Headquarters, where the emotions Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust and Anger jockey for control over Riley’s mind.
Lin works closely with character lighting lead Angelique Reisch, who then adds highlights and shadows to create depth to the scenes and also to shine the spotlight on the main mind character, Joy — a Tinkerbell-like sprite voiced by Amy Poehler.
Born in Hong Kong, Lin moved at age 15 to Ontario, Canada to attend high school, then moved to the Bay Area to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and video from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. While working on student films, Lin developed a passion for cinematography, leading him to work with Midland Productions, MGM, Skellington Productions, and Matte World. His credits with matte World include Wag the Dog, The Truman Show, and X-Men. After seeing Toy Story, he realized that cinematography had become part of animated films and knew that was what he wanted to do.
Since joining Pixar in 1997, Lin has worked on the layouts for blockbuster films such as A Bugs Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc. His work has been part of the Academy Award-winning features The Incredibles, Up, and Ratatouille.
Grace Hwang Lynch is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She blogs about Asian mixed-race families at HapaMama.com. She is also the News and Politics Editor at BlogHer, where she tackles all the controversial issues, from the presidential campaign to race relations. Her writing has appeared in magazines and newspapers and has been featured on Salon, PBS Parents, and mom.me, where she is a regular contributor.