As Pixar Animation Studios’ new full-length film, “Up!”, receives rave reviews and rakes in cash at the box office, eight BYU alums will be satisfied to sit back and watch their hard work pay off.
The former students, who graduated from the university’s Department of Computer Science, played crucial roles in the film’s creation and development. These alumni included Trent Crow (MS 2007), Jacob Morrill (MS 2008), Ivan Romashka (BS 2009), John Bianchi (BS 2007), Joshua Jenny (BS 2004), Chris Ellsworth (BS 2007) and Masha Ellsworth (BS 2007). Each alum was assigned a very specific role within Pixar’s massive development team, geared to his or her unique abilities.
Seth Holladay, who earned his master’s degree in 2008, worked as part of a large team responsible for all the movie’s special effects shots. He said he enjoyed working with other artists to create the final product.
“I was a special effects artist, animating natural phenomena that support the story and character animation, such as dust, rain, flying rocks, etc.,” he said. “I worked on an amazing team amongst whom all the effects of the movie were divided. I loved doing effects because each new effect is a completely new problem and interesting visual – there is a lot of variety. I love working on material that entertains and inspires audiences.”
Holladay worked with the BYU Center for Animation during his time as a student. The center, which functions as an interdisciplinary venture between three colleges, including the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, has been lauded by animation industry professionals for its great educational techniques and top-notch short films.
Holladay said his work with the animation center prepared him to enter the workforce as an animation professional.
“The project-based set up of the BYU animation program prepared me for the industry,” he said. “Since at BYU we were involved in a full production of a student film, I had an effective, fun exposure to what it is like to work in a studio and solve problems and meet practical demands similar to those in a studio. We were able to set our own high standard for the film, not just meet minimum requirements to finish some homework assignments. As a result, my artistic and problem solving skills got better, and my self-motivation increased. The fact that we finished --not just started -- the project provided me with great demo reel material and caught the interest of the industry.”
Now, with a full-length animated feature already under his belt, Holladay plans to return to BYU and pass on his skills to the current students.
“I am now [an instructor in] the BYU animation program,” he said. “I will be teaching 3D animation skills to help students achieve similar great experiences to what I had.”
Pixar’s “Up!,” featuring the work of Holladay and other BYU alumni, is currently showing at theatres nationwide.
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