Pixar’s skin game

Is it live, or is it Pixar? Looks like the wizards at Steve Jobs’ and John Lasseter’s toon shop are upping the ante with new achievements in depiction of hair, skin and clothing texture with their recent mini-toon.

The 4-minute short, “Geri’s Game,” directed by 34-year-old ad veteran Jan Pinkava, has a simple premise: An old man plays chess with himself in the park. However, what makes this piece a solid contender in the Oscar race for live-action short this year is its impressive attention to cloning real-world textures.

Pinkava, along with dynamics guru Michael Kass and subdivisions surfaces expert Tony DeRose, used new ways of defining geometry and generating more organic shapes utilizing Pixar’s proprietary tools and RenderMan technology. RenderMan is the primary rendering technology used in Pixar’s “Toy Story” and numerous other blockbusters, including “Men in Black,” “Contact,” “Face/Off” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

“I really love working on ideas and seeing them come alive after months of story development,” says Pinkava, who won a Cleo for the 1994 CGI-laden Listerine Gold commercial. “What’s exciting about the computer animation medium is the flexibility it offers. It’s really not about the technology; it’s about the story and how we can stretch the limits of our imagination with the new tools.”

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