Pixar and Disney Animation: Pixar’s Toy Story Versus Disney’s Moana

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Pixar and Disney are two of the most popular animators in the industry and are behind some of the highest grossing films of this generation. They both have their own unique animation techniques, but also some similarities as Pixar is owned by the Disney corporation. Moana uses a traditional hand drawn technique while Pixar’s Toy Story series uses CGI to bring its toys to life.

Pixar’s Toy Story premiered in 1995 and was the first full-length computer animated movie. It was a game changer in the industry and opened the door to so many possibilities within the animation industry. The recent release of Toy Story 4 shows just how far the company has come in the past 24 years and the changes in technology and software which has enabled animators to create life like motion pictures. In the original film, there were problems with creating human characters as they hadn’t quite figured out how to animate them properly. Drawing clothes was also an extensive process that took a lot of time. Visible progress was seen in the next two sequels with human characters that were fully developed, but two decades later with Toy Story 4 you can see how far Pixar has come. The team has also grown, from 129 making the original, to 475 today. They have mastered how to add fur on characters and make them move in a life-like manner, which was explored through Monsters Inc., and shown through the cat in TS4 which looked almost real. There was also incredible attention to detail with ‘hairline fractures’ on Bo Peep and ‘fly away fibers’ on Woody’s jeans to make the images not picture perfect. The opening storm scene in TS4 wouldn’t have been possible 24 years ago as their software wouldn’t cater for it, as well as the added detail of dust in the antique store. Rendering allowed this movie to come together and it’s one of the most important things when creating an animated film. Their previous software couldn’t handle what they were trying to create so they had to invent a whole new program, Renderman, which was able to process the 114,240 frames that made up the movie.

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Disney’s Moana premiered in 2016. Animators also required technology upgrades and new software to handle what they were trying to create. Hair and water are two of the hardest things to animate and were the main focus as they both play an important role in the plot. This movie was created very differently to Toy Story 4 as it was a hand drawn 3D animated film with a 2D animated aesthetic. A new program was developed to create Moana’s hair, which is free and lifelike, moving with the wind and the character. Disney also decided to give the ocean a personality as it plays such a key role in the princess’ search beyond the shore. They programed it to act like real water yet also have character traits and a unique personality. Several software programs were used such as Autodesk Maya and Hyperion (owned and created by Disney) and these worked together with mathematical algorithms to enable a large amount of the ocean to be animated with minimal physical work. There was an understanding of physics and motion that was required to ensure the characters and the water were moving as they would in the real world.

Both Toy Story 4 and Moana were blockbuster movies that showed incredible progress for Pixar, Disney, and the animation industry. As they are competition to one another, they are always trying to find ways to be ahead of the game. They still have very different animation techniques because their animators, directors and other staff are unique to the company ensuring they create their own name and are known for their distinctive style. This is seen when comparing TS4 and Moana with the contrast between a CGI film and hand drawn technique. It is the little details and decisions that result in very different films. Moana is almost an old fashion story book brought to life with computer technology while also introducing a new Disney Princess to be admired as she is strong and determined. Toy Story is focused on bringing objects to life and is the vision of every child’s imagination – the personalities of their toys. Both films reach two audiences being a family friendly movie for young children with a storyline they can follow yet also the occasional innuendo to entertain the adults.

To conclude, Pixar and Disney have their own unique animation techniques yet both create stories appealing to all ages. Their technological development progresses dramatically between each film and the software they are creating enables them to continue making movies that become more and more lifelike. The change from the original hand drawn techniques in the first animations, to now in Moana, and the development of CGI which enables animated movies to be made quicker and more efficiently shows the progress these companies have made and how there is always new ways of creating.


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