Pixar teaches kids the math behind the movies through online course

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Pixar created films like "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." but the latest production from the animation studios stars a different cast of characters, ones like algebra and trigonometry. (KGO-TV )

Pixar created films like "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." but the latest production from the Emeryville-based animation studios stars a different cast of characters, ones like algebra and trigonometry.

It's the first chapter in a new effort to get kids, who are excited about Pixar's movies, to be enthusiastic about learning.

There's a reason Pixar has so many Oscars.

"There's a really rich story behind how our films are made and the math and the science is part of that rich story," said Tony Derose, a Pixar senior scientist.

Derose started giving a talk called "Math in the Movies."

"The shape of Woody's face, or the forests in 'Brave,' those all get reduced to algorithms and computer programs and numbers," he said.

Just like a box office hit, Derose's talk is getting a sequel. It's called, Pixar in a Box.

"Kids love Pixar movies. It is one of the greatest motivating factors to get into math and science," said Khan Academy content director Brit Cruise.

Working with the online educators at Khan Academy, they built a free online course that's truly interactive.

"They're simplified versions of tools that artists use here at Pixar," Derose said.

The lectures are given by Pixar animators. They start with the basics and get into the nitty-gritty.

Though this is something new for both Pixar and Khan Academy, it's actually based on an old idea, the notion that kids love getting a look backstage.

In some sense, Pixar In a Box is kind of a continuation of a tradition that Walt Disney started long ago," Derose said. "The episodes that went backstage and looked at how the Imagineers did their job, I found really fascinating."

The course uses real world examples.

"How crowds were designed in the movie "WALL-E" to design just a few pieces of robot and then combine them in different ways and that's the mathematics of combinatorics," Cruise said.

It's the math behind the magic and hope it'll be the first course of many.

Pixar is owned by Disney, which is the parent company of ABC7 News.

Related Topics:
educationpixarmoviemoviesmathstudentschildrenEmeryville
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