New Class Brings Pixar Animator to Day School

By Josh Richman

Published June 02, 2006, issue of June 02, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

California resident Josh Fried furrowed his brow and then laughed as the figure on his computer screen stood up from a bench, leaving his head behind.

“Uh, Josh, the guy’s not parented,” said Sam Seder of Berkeley, Calif., his project partner.

Fried, of Oakland, reattached head to torso with a few deft clicks of a mouse; the figure then glided whole toward an apple hanging from a nearby tree.

Fried and Seder were using Softimage XSI, state-of-the-art 3D animation software with which one should be familiar when seeking jobs at industry giants like Pixar Inc. in nearby Emeryville.

But Fried and Seder are not likely to have to worry about jobs for a while: The two are 11-year-old Oakland Hebrew Day School sixth graders.

They’re among 18 fifth through eighth graders in the school’s inaugural computer animation class, a weekly after-school effort led by computer teacher Rich Klein and Galyn Susman, associate producer at — yep — Pixar. Credited in such box-office smashes as “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.,” Susman, 41, volunteered to lead the class after watching her kids and others use computers.

“They were basically just playing games, and that’s frustrating because there’s so much more they can do,” said Susman, who has been with Pixar for 16 years and was at Apple before that. Her son, Jake, is in the class.

Animation hones observational skills, she said: how and why things move, the lines and colors and textures defining appearance, and so on. Art, math and science merge.

“It’s a practical application of geometry, and they don’t even know they’re learning about geometry,” Susman said.

Students began by animating a bouncing ball, and then moved on to produce 20-to-30-second clips. Along with their families, they will view their work in a Pixar screening room June 8, the eve of the opening of Pixar’s new film, “Cars.”

“It’s pushing me to my limits,” said Klein, 39. “I used to do educational software development, but this is far beyond what I did.”

The teachers plan to expand the class to a full year — half the year spent learning the principles, the other half producing clips.

“It took us, like, a month just to learn how to use the program,” Seder said, rolling his eyes at a screen console that would make most adults quiver in fear.

Klein said that his students “picked it up a lot quicker than most adults would,” as “digital natives” raised on RAM and on gigahertz rather than as “digital immigrants” raised on paper, scissors and paste. “It also really makes us appreciate what goes into the animated feature films.”

That is, hours of work for each frame of film. High tech as it is, animation remains painstaking work.

“I like to run around and stuff, so animation all day would be tough for me,” Seder said. “I could do it three or four times a week… but not all week, all day.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.