Volunteers from Pixar Studios Bring Animation to Life at Claremont Middle School and Oakland Tech High School

Oakland, CA – Two Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools, Claremont Middle School and Oakland Technical High School, are creating exciting learning opportunities for students through the Studio Mentor Program, a volunteer collaboration with animation studios in the Bay Area. The program was born out of Project Seven, an initiative in place at the schools since 2008 with a name that refers to the seven years of computer animation that students at Claremont and Oakland Tech can take by the time they graduate high school. Freelance storyboard artists will tend to draw for a variety of different creative projects, and not just stick to adverts, feature films or commercial productions.

Project Seven provides students with real world learning experiences in the animation industry and knowledge of the technical and artistic skills involved while in the classroom, on field trips and by doing projects with professional 2D and 3D animation software. Students with access to these high-quality computer animation classes over time build a strong foundation in a highly advanced technical arts field.

The first volunteer in the Studio Mentor Program is the world-renowned Pixar Animation Studios, based in Emeryville. For the first time this year, animators and story artists from the studio donated their time mentoring students who take animation electives offered at the two schools. At Oakland Tech, the animation program is part of the FADA Academy, beginning in 10th grade, in which students follow a three year pathway in preparation for college and career success. Several graduating seniors have already gone on to pursue animation and graphic design in college.

Crystal Eastman’s animation class at Claremont recently received a visit from Bobby Rubio, a Storyboard Artist who helped produce Pixar films such as Up, Inside Out, and Brave. Rubio showed students how to storyboard quickly, which he does regularly at Pixar. Every student contributed their ideas to the story while Rubio brought them to life by sketching it on large print paper in real time.

“I love how the session was very creative and fit perfectly with the curriculum. It’s one thing for me to tell students that there is a place for rapid, imperfect sketches in the animation industry, and quite another thing for students to meet a professional storyboard artist and experience how he or she uses that skill regularly at their job,” said Eastman. Eastman’s class also hosted Trevor Jimenez, another Story Artist at Pixar who has worked on films such as Finding Dory, for a hands-on learning experience in film development.

At Oakland Tech, three senior students in the Animation 2 elective are being mentored by KC Roeyer, an animator who worked on the children’s movies Inside Out, Toy Story 3, and Up. KC meets with students every other Monday to review their work and provide feedback on how to improve their craft.

Peter Heckel, Visual Arts Teacher at Oakland Tech and co-founder of Project Seven remarked,“This is an incredible opportunity for the students and they are extremely excited to have a mentor from such an important studio in the industry.” Heckel’s advanced animation class will also receive Yung-Han Chang, a Story Artist at Pixar, for a presentation on job paths in the animation industry.

The Studio Mentor Program was established through Project Seven, a K-12 computer animation program started in 2008 by Claremont PTA member Mike Mages, Oakland Tech teacher Peter Heckel, and Claremont teacher Crystal Eastman. Visit the Project Seven Volunteer Portal for information about the volunteer program, to see student work samples and interviews, or view the curriculum.