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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Visualizing success

Photo by Provided by Walt Disney Pictures

Life & Arts reporter Keagan Miller says “Incredibles 2” isn’t quite as good as the original, but it’s close

Patrick James, Class of 1996, has worked with Pixar’s animation team on major successes such as “Wall-E,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Inside Out.” He recently played a role in the box office hit, “Incredibles 2,” as the film’s technical director.
The film’s prequel about a family of superheroes, “The Incredibles,” was released in 2004. The film was the first Pixar film produced with outside director Brad Bird.
The end of the original movie hinted at a second film, so fans have long been expecting the sequel. According to James, the enthusiasm for the film has been felt both inside and outside the studio.
“That excitement [for the original] was palpable in the studio … Brad Bird was new to the studio and he did things differently and it was all ‘Top Gun’ Maverick style,” James said. “So everybody wanted to be on that first film, the first Incredibles, and the second film had the same appeal … and everybody got real jazzed about it.”
According to Ann McNamara, the associate professor in the visualization department at A&M, visualization students at A&M attain a special edge in through classes in the program.
“The combination of theory and practice in both creative and technical [animation] allows our graduates to hit the ground running,” McNamara said. “What sets the Department of Visualization apart is the blend of creative and technical faculty and the high expectations they set for our graduates.”
James finished the visualization graduate program at A&M in 1998. After graduating in December, James landed a job at Pixar and was working by February of the next year.
“People in the very beginning are doing layouts and camera work while people are modeling the sets and other people are shading it,” James said. “And then as it makes it all the way through and is animated, then bang, you need people to come in and do the lighting and the rendering and the stereo work. So there’s a lot of people who end up working on this thing.”
As a technical director, James is responsible for modeling, shading, lighting and rendering of images in the film. According to Tim McLaughlin, the associate professor and department head of visualization, A&M’s program focuses on both the artistic and technical side of animation and prepares graduates for such jobs.
“The Department of Visualization’s academic programs are relatively rare in that they focus equally on aesthetic/artistic and technical and scientific problem solving,” McLaughlin said. “This makes our expectations for students rather challenging, but those expectations match well with what the animation industry expects from technical directors, such as Patrick.”
McLaughlin said studios notice the adept software and technical skills Aggie graduates demonstrate. He said Aggies also tend to have a broader knowledge of visual arts than students from competing schools.
“The imagery in ‘Incredibles 2’ is amazingly more complex than in the first film,” McLaughlin said. “Both films have excellent design and cinematography, but the environments, the effects, and the behavior of light on the screen has a complexity to it in the new film that is far beyond what was possible in 2003 and 2004.”

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