The Science Behind PIXAR Exhibition – Have Fun and Learn Something Too!

Are you near SoCal? Do you love PIXAR films? Do you want your kids to learn STEM while still having fun? Well, get excited because “The Science Behind PIXAR” Exhibition just opened at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles and runs through April 9, 2017. This is a hands-on exhibit that showcases the science, technology, engineering and math behind PIXAR films.

pixar exhibit

On October 13th we were invited to a press event to preview the exhibit, as well as interview members of the Pixar team who brought The Science Behind PIXAR and the films to life.

  • Diane Perlove – Senior Vice President for Exhibits at the California Science Center
  • Tom Porter – Vice President of Production at PIXAR
  • Lindsay Collins – Vice President of Production and New Media at PIXAR / Producer of FINDING DORY

Each of these interviews are chock full of info – they told us some fascinating things we can’t wait to share with you. Listen at 1:43:20 for those interviews and the PIXAR portion on Episode 141 of Skywalking Through Neverland. We even got a few reactions from kids experiencing the exhibit for the first time! Then continue reading for more details on this family-friendly exhibit.

What’s It All About?

The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition fills most of the 3rd floor of the Science Center, and you begin in the Introductory Theater, watching a video on the process that PIXAR uses to turn an idea into a film. Then the doors open and you enter the main Exhibit. This next section features 8 steps of the PIXAR production pipeline.

Pixar exhibit

Each step has a focal point, such as a giant statue of Sulley from MONSTERS, INC., or a huge model of Dory from FINDING DORY in a beautiful ocean. Then there is a “learning station” where you can press a button and PIXAR employees tell you about this particular step and the challenges involved. These videos also highlight the variety of careers available in the STEM field. Best of all, each step features an interactive station in which you can control things. This hands-on approach really helps you learn exactly what goes into the animation. Diane Perlove – Senior Vice President for Exhibits at the California Science Center, describes each station:


Digital modelers create virtual 3D models of the characters based on the art designs. Buzz from TOY STORY presides over this station.

pixar exhibit



Riggers create the virtual joints and muscles for the models so they can move. Here you can make miniscule adjustments to Jessie’s face as you learn how rigging works. I really enjoyed making Jessie mad and cross-eyed!

pixar exhibit


Surfacing artists construct each aspect of an object’s appearance with computer programs called shaders. Kids can cover 3D shapes with fabric “skins,” changing a cube into a present, brick or piece of cake, just by changing the covering.

Set & Cameras

Set designers build the virtual environment -they are the architects of PIXAR. Camera artists are the cinematographers of the virtual world. This station is the central focal point of the room, with a life-size cherry tree from A BUG’S LIFE. Kid’s can crawl underneath the cherry tree and stick their head into the set, learning what it’s like to put the “camera” anywhere in a scene.

pixar exhibit
pixar exhibit


Animators bring the story to life as they pose the characters to act out each scene. Here you are able to create your own shot stop-motion film with PIXAR’S most popular character – the lamp!


Hair, clothing and other effects are actually programmed into the computer by simulation technical designers. At this station you are able to watch a scene with and without hair, clothing and water simulations in place. It’s funny to see Merida walking while her dress stays completely motionless, like a scarecrow!

pixar exhibit

pixar exhibit


Lighting designers light each scene to highlight the story and enhance emotional impact. Dory in a water scene is the focus of this station. You can change the color and intensity of the background and key lights, as well as the movement of water. It’s pretty neat.

lightingwithdory pixar


Renderers turn all the data and programing into the final 2D image. This is where you can finally see all the hard work that went into setting the scene.


I definitely recommend this exhibit to kids and adults alike. Anyone can learn a thing or two, and who doesn’t want to explore camera angles with WALL-E, or discover just how awesome it is to be a bug? A great deal of research, time and effort went into this exhibit, and it is worth every penny.

pixar exhibit

How Can I Experience The Exhibit?

Tickets for The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition are currently on sale HERE and you are encouraged to buy tickets online to reserve an entry date and time, as this is a popular exhibit!  Admission is $14.95 for adults 18-59,  $11.95 for youth 13 to 17, $9.95 for children 4 – 12. Discounts and special rates are available; phone (213) 744-2019 for information. As a bonus, admission to all other Science Center exhibits is free!

The California Science Center and IMAX Theater are located in Los Angeles, CA at historic Exposition Park just west of the Harbor (110) Freeway at 700 Exposition Park Drive. The Science Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm. Both the Science Center and IMAX Theater are wheelchair accessible. Guests can enter the parking lot on Figueroa Street at 39th/Exposition Park. Parking is $12/car, cash only. For general information, phone (323) SCIENCE or visit for schedule updates.

For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod