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When Pixar came to visit...

posted by Margaret Whitaker on Thu, Oct 22, 2009
in Backstage buzz , Costume shop

Bookmark and Share was awesome!

Over the years, we in the Berkeley Rep costume shop have had some interaction with the tailors at Pixar. Kathy, our tailor, has an excellent book on tailoring odd bodies that they took guidance from during Ratatouille. Needless to say, a bond was formed between our shop and theirs.

There are a few things I never knew or thought about when it comes to animation. Being a fan of animated films, TV shows, and video games, I should have realized the amount of effort it takes to render clothes beautifully in this medium — doubly so because of my profession! But when I heard that Pixar had tailors, I was a little confused. But now I understand, and after you read this, you will too!

(This was explained to me last week, and hopefully I don't muddle it — Pixar lovelies, if you read this and I make a mess of it, post corrections and I will fix!) 

Some of the Pixar group were tailors, and others did hair, skin, etc. The focus was largely on the body of the characters among our companions (much like it is with us). At Pixar, the tailors render the clothes to lay over the bodies of the characters. To do this, they have to take into account not only the garment that they are creating, but also the body under the garment and the accessories that may be moving freely over the garment. (So far, this sounds simple, right?)

The problem is that since this is functionally all math, they have to account for the way that collisions occur between these different forces. In our world, the clothes lay on top of the body, but in theirs, they have to make sure that the clothes behave in that manner and don't merge or cross with the other objects they are interacting with. Add to that complexity a necklace, tie, or scarf bouncing along, and you have even more collisions to worry about! No one wants to have their pearls dive through their body. So, what is simple in our world becomes very math-y and complicated in their world. The group from Pixar talked about how they solve some of their bigger quandaries with collisions and how they go about creating code to solve problems and create their characters.  

That being said, what we mostly did was give them a tour and show them how our space is laid out, and what kind of work we do, and they got a backstage tour of the Roda Theatre and American Idiot!  They brought delicious pizza from Zachary's, and while we all enjoyed a fine slice of deep dish, we talked about our work, and they talked about theirs.

We went around the room, and each member of the costume shop shared what it is that they do at Berkeley Rep, and how they got into theatre. Kitty, Kathy, and Janet shared how we pad out dress forms to match the actors' bodies and shared some of our favorite research books for period costume patterns. We had some dresses and suits up on dress forms to display some of the more complicated and fun costumes the shop has gotten to build. By the end of the Roda/Idiot tour, they were needing to get back to the ranch, and we were about due to get back to work ourselves, so we said our goodbyes and thanked them for their excellent visit.


Photo: From Ratatouille, courtesy of Disney/Pixar.


What a nice little insight into what sounds like a fun day of sharing information!

Kim | Fri, Oct 23, 2009

You brought to light a concept that has baffled me, I don't know many tailors but I am sure they are a different breed. Thanks for the article.

Family Photographer San Diego | Tue, Sep 14, 2010

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