One thing I love about my current job is that I get to have 7th grade experiences in a 34 year old body.
Puberty is so much easier now that I am aware of it and that I am not so stressed about science fair projects.
Today I got to go with some of my first digital storytelling students to Pixar in Emeryville, CA.
You may be familiar with Pixar. They brought you Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, and Cars.
The philosophy of the organization and even the space (designed by Steve Jobs) is about collaboration.
Bathrooms are intentionally placed on the bottom floor so people have to encounter one another and brainstorms have to happen.
I love it.
They have old-fashioned mail slots and bins of cereal for their breakfast in the morning. They have air hockey and video games and fooz ball to play with.
Creative juices flowing everywhere...in every flavor.
Flyers were posted for Pixar University film screenings featuring a young girl from India. I don't remember the name of the movie, but it looked serious, less cartoony.
Today I saw an acorn cap that will appear sometime in June 2007 in Ratatouille.
I fell in love.
The creative process is always amazing. Always something to pull me out of the doldroms.
This morning I cursed my alarm at 5:30 and ignored it until 7. Then I continued to putter until about 7:30. I showered and headed into the fog monster to cross the Bay Bridge and end up at Claire Lillenthal School where I observed a Storytelling Exchange workshop with some of my coworkers.
They were working with 30 6th graders to write their about the authors. Pencils and poor penmanship and electricity were alight in bungalow #3.
I observed as students wrote and distracted each other with Christmas wish lists and hobby exchanges. Avery wants to excel in soccer and football. Jonah wants to be a chef with his own television show. Another young woman born in Montgomery, Alabama knows she wants to follow in Thurgood Marshall's footsteps and go to the same college and join the Supreme Court.
I was fascinated and infused with all of this possibility.
I haven't felt this Ishkabibbly in a long, long time.
Then there was my student, my special project.
After bios were collected we started the next activity.
We were to check our stories for green, yellow, and red stars. These signify the characters, setting, and dialog we were to insert to different parts of the story.
Our job was to cut along our first draft and insert our green, yellow, and red papers which had more detail about these things.
My special student, whose mind was somewhere outside of the bungalow, called aloud, "I don't get it" after my coworker was done with her thorough explanation and after all the other students got busy determining where there stars were and marking where they would cut.
This student was mine. I introduced myself as Ms. Ishkabibble and asked him what he got of the assignment.
I sat down in a chair that was meant for a shorter frame than mine. My knees came up closer to my chest than they have in a long time, and I felt equal to this student.
He repeated what he got of the assignment and I filled in the gaps. Then we worked on editing his story together.
The dimmer on his brain bulb started turning on and the juice poured forth into his head.
He was getting it and clipping away and arranged his story. He read it aloud to me, proudly. I added sound effects while he read and the kids around him began giggling, pleased to have a little entertainment during this task.
My little student, who was vocal, but not necessarily focused in the moment, was among the first ones done.
He was alright. He just needed that little nudge.
I took leave, like I love to do in that Mary Poppins kind of way.
Off to the next location, KIPP Bridge, my home school for this digital teachers project, to pick up the 7th graders and head over to our tour of Pixar.
I haven't seen these students since October and I miss them terribly.
They gave me beautiful letters and teddy bears to say thank you.
I was a surprise.
They came down the way and I said hello and I was squeezed about the neck.
It was way cool.
Everyone likes Pixar.
7 minutes later, we pulled into the Pixar compound. We had nametags and valet parking, and saw employees lined up to purchase Pixar stuff for holiday gifts in the atrium.
Our hostess rocked. She is a coordinator and took us through the screening rooms where we saw shorts that were being screened for the employees during lunch. Next we got to see a premier 3D engagement of one of the shorts we had just seen in the main screening room. We had to use special 3D glasses for these. They were digitized.
Apparently 3D can be done in a few ways. Stereo video can be done using two projectors OR it can be done with one projector alternating images for the left and right eye.
I had NO idea about the second 3D method.
I geeked out and asked a billion questions.
Then when the movie played, I reached out to grab the characters and the snowflakes from the movie.
It was AWESOME.
We then continued our tour through the art galleries and the server farm and saw the storyboard for Finding Nemo and some gorgeous models and sketches for Cars.
Some research was done along Route 66 for cars.
They found canned armadillo and brought it back to Pixar. It is in a glass case.
How cool is that? Part of your job is to bring back canned armadillo.
We then worked our way to the animators, which work in little covens in Pixar. Their digs are SUPERCOOL. Some themed in a rain forest. Some themed as a cabaret with formerly Chuck E. Cheese animatronics. Everyone has their own space created for themselves....
At the cul de sac of a hallway we squeezed into one of the animator's office.
One side of the office was filled with 3 computer monitors and some complex software to model and skin for the upcoming movie.
On the other side was an old-fashioned animators desk of warm wood and a tilt top.
It was LOVELY.
He spoke with us for a cool half hour showing us the rough renderings for a section of Cars and then moved us through the evolving segments of the film until we saw the clip that was released with the film...in full colour and effects.
Amazing. Simply amazing.
80 animators and teams can be working on a project simultaneously.
All perfecting a specific look, character, ambiance, that makes watching these films so great because the level of detail is so meticulously monitored.
Dude. They have canned armadillo. How can it not be?
I squealed with delight.
The kids thought I was crazy.
I plotted with their teacher that we should start off as janitors and move our way up.