Movie Maniac

June 23, 2013

‘Monsters University’ latest project of former Wichitan who works at Pixar

Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to work at Pixar Animation Studios? For one former Wichitan, it is.

Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to work at Pixar Animation Studios? For one former Wichitan, it is.

Craig Foster, 46, who was born in Wichita and lived here until junior high school, has worked at Pixar for 10 years. The studio, which is in Emeryville, Calif., was a pioneer in computer-generated animation and made the first-ever computer animated feature, “Toy Story.” The film became an international hit, earning $362million worldwide, according to Pixar’s website.

Following that success, Pixar would go on to make such worldwide hit films as “Wall-E,” “Finding Nemo,” “Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and others. The studio has collectively won more than 20 Academy Awards.

Foster works in the graphics department at Pixar, and has worked in various capacities on several Pixar films. Most recently, he was the director of graphic design on “Monsters University,” a prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” that opened on Friday.

Foster explained what a “director of graphic design” does in a recent phone conversation.

“It means basically anything you see in the film that looks like real-world graphics” gets designed by his team, including “posters or a label on a jar, bedding if a blanket has a design on it, any signage for the various backgrounds.”

He got his start at Pixar designing motion graphics as a freelancer (he has a BFA degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design). While doing that, he got to know the production designer for “Cars” and was hired to do freelance work on that film. During that production, Pixar decided to make him a full-time employee.

Foster said he worked on “Monsters University” for about two years.

“I was brought in fairly early,” he said. “They were still writing the script, they were still storyboarding the scenes.”

He said a graphic designer’s involvement in a film project varies, but generally they “go to the very end, end credits as well. Even work on a short that might accompany the film. Then there comes all the merchandising. We just keep plugging away until we get a new project.”

Film work tends to overlap, as well, he said.

“‘Monsters’ is going to have a life that keeps going. I worked on ‘Cars’ and ‘Cars 2,’ and a good part of my daily job is still supporting those in some way. We’re always continually working on graphics.”

If it is your dream to work at Pixar, or any animation studio, Foster says “just draw. Keep at it. Work at a place that keeps you at the top of your game.”

Pixar certainly seems to be that place for Foster, who says everyone there is “very close-knit. Everyone is so talented here, there’s a lot of passion.”

Foster still gets back to Kansas, occasionally. He’ll be here this month to visit his grandmother, who lives in Eureka. He also has two brothers who live in Emporia.

Then he’ll return to California. After that, his future plans are simple.

“I’ll still be doing what I’m doing now. I just hope it’s at Pixar.”

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