‘Pixar in a Box’ Links Curriculum, Animation Online — For Free


Khan Academy has announced the launch of its new program, Pixar in a Box, which delves into the educational concepts used by Pixar Animation Studios during their creative process.

The new online curriculum uses video lessons, interactive exercises and hands-on activities to show students how what they learn in school is used by the animators at Pixar to create new worlds and characters.  While the program is designed for middle and high school students, it is open to students of any age, writes Mercedes Milligan for Animation Magazine.

Pixar and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull and Khan Academy founder Sal Khan made the announcement at a special event at Pixar’s Emeryville campus.  The project was introduced by Pixar University & Archives director Elyse Klaidman, and was then demonstrated by Khan Academy content producer Brit Cruise and Pixar senior scientist and research group lead Tony DeRose.

“Many students start to lose interest in academics in middle and high school, partly because they don’t see how academic concepts relate to things they care about,” said DeRose. “Pixar in a Box aims to address this disconnect by showing how Pixar filmmakers use these concepts for creative benefit in their everyday work.”

An additional “Getting to Know” section is added to the end of each video in order to show students real Pixar employees, allowing viewers to get to who they are and how they obtained their positions with the company.  The interviews feature a number of diverse individuals in order to allow all viewers the opportunity to see someone like themselves working for the company, writes Katrina Schwartz for KQED.

According to Cruise, hands-on activities that can be completed in a 40-minute period with minimal materials are being developed for each module with the help of a small group of teachers.  The activities are meant to further challenge students to use the artistic and mathematical concepts taught in complex situations.

“We really are trying to intersect art and math, and you don’t often see those things represented really well in hands-on activities,” Cruise said.

The program is currently available on KhanAcademy.org and PixarInABox.org.  Starting with a number of math lessons, students will learn how academic concepts such as combinatorics, parabolas, weighted averages, linear and cubic interpolation, and trigonometry are used to create animated worlds and characters by Pixar animators.

Future lessons will appear on the websites as they become available, focusing on other academic topics, including science, humanities and the arts.  All lessons will be available free of charge.

“Our mission at Khan Academy is a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” said founder Sal Khan. “Sparking student interest in math and other academic fields is a key part of that, and we’re delighted to collaborate with Pixar to achieve this goal.”