Recently Khan Academy, a website that offers free classes in math, science, computer programming, history, art history for elementary, high school and college students, teamed up with Pixar to create the new “Pixar in a Box” education series. For those who aren’t familiar with the Kahn Academy, their site has no ads or subscriptions unlike many other online classes and tutorial sites. They “believe in a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere and rely on a community of thousands of volunteers and donors.” As many of you know, this isn’t Pixar’s first entry into the world of education, they have also been involved in the “Hour of Code” project that encourages children (and adults) to learn how to code using basic stories and concepts for several years now.
The “Pixar in a Box” multi-year education series curretnly has 15 educational categories or classes that teach “Animation,” “Environment modeling,” “Sets & Staging,” and “Rendering.” Each class topic has multiple topics and activities, and while the majority of the classes offered involve animation, the newest class in the series is the new “The Art of Storytelling.” The “Pixar in a Box” classes “introduce viewers to scientists, Pixar artists/coders/sculptors, actual Pixar creation processes, problems encountered during the course of creating Pixar films, working methods, and much (much) more. John Lasseter even makes an appearance.” Each series of classes offers a “Learners Guide” and an “Educator’s Guide” so that parents can help track their child’s progress as well as help them when needed.
“The Art of Storytelling” series teaches students how to tell amazing stories the Pixar way, while giving them a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists and writers do their jobs. With spring break and summer vacation just around the corner, many parents may find this new new educational series to be a great way to teach children about animation and storytelling. Or, it may just be a great activity for adults who want to learn more about Pixar to participate in.
In the newest installment children (and adults) can take part in Kahn’s two part lesson system of videos and fun interactive tools and exercises. The “Art of Storytelling” features presentations by Inside Out and Up director Pete Docter, Brave director Mark Andrews, Inside Out story artist Domee Shi, and Ratatouille animator Sanjay Patel. The first installment in the Storytelling series “focuses on Character creation specifically, and others segments will address storyboarding, emotional appeal and more, with releases happening throughout 2017.”
Taking part in the “Pixar in a Box” classes is quite easy. First visit the Khan website and locate the “Pixar in a Box” series of classes.. You can either create an all new account and login, or link your Kahn class progress to your existing Gmail or Facebook account. Once you create your account, you can go to your profile and customize your avatar, username, and profile; this information can be seen by the Khan Academy community. You will be able to “Check your Vitals” which shows you your badges and visualize your stats, this information if only visible to you and your coach. You can take part in discussions with the “Pixar in a a Box” community, and show off your projects. Because you have created an account, your progress is saved so you can come and go from the class as you like.
Once you have set up your account on Khan’s website you can start learning right away. First, you should watch the “Learner’s Guide” as this will explain the basics about a class. Next start a class, the path for each class can vary slightly, the class I can tell you about is the one I started taking today. In the storytelling series you watch a video and then take part in an activity, one of the nice things is you can read the transcript of the class if you are in a place where you can’t use audio. You can also pause classes, restart them, or watch them again if you feel you missed something. Currently the activities I am taking part in are writing activities where I write about memories or characters in movies that I love. When participating in the writing activities you can write either write on the classes “wall” in the “Tips and Thanks” section, or you can hand write them in a story journal. When you use the “Tips and Thanks” section other attendees can vote on your entry, leave suggestions, thoughts and encouragement. As you progress through the videos you earn energy points, these points can be used to evolve your profile’s avatar.
Right now I have completed the videos in the first chapter “We are all storytellers” but need to finish a few of the activities, but I wanted to start the “Character” chapter before then, and thanks to the way “Pixar in a Box” lets you work at your own pace that isn’t a problem. I have to say that as an adult that took (and passed) many English and writing classes in high school and college, I am realizing that not only am I finding these classes to be a great refresher, I am finding myself learning a lot about how Pixar creates characters and stories. Once I finish this series I may go outside of my safety zone and try the animation and computer graphics classes just to see what else I will learn about Pixar and their animation process. Who knows maybe I will even pick up a new skill? For those of you seen the traveling “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit, the class names in the animation track will be familiar. Class topics include Simulation, Color Science, Virtual cameras, Effects, Patterns, Rigging, Sets & Staging, Rendering and more.
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