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Awe and Spectacle

Michael Frederickson (Technical Director, Pixar Animation Studios)

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core+Summits Pass, Core Pass - Get your pass now!

Topic: Vision

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Not Recorded

Audience Level: Intermediate

There is great satisfaction and challenge in creating vast, beautiful new worlds for moviegoers to watch, or players to explore. Michael Frederickson (Technical Director, Pixar Animation Studios) helped build the mind world for feature film "Inside Out,” as well as the Land of the Dead in “Coco." In part using procedural generation, Michael had a strong intuition that there was great value in putting so much care into world-building, but lacked the vocabulary to explain that value. What might separate meaningful visual storytelling from the notion of "cheap spectacle?"

He found some possible answers in an investigation of the emotion of awe. What is this ineffable emotion, what makes us feel it, what might be its evolutionary purpose, and how can it assist us in telling our stories? We'll explore these questions, ending with some tips and tricks on inspiring the emotion of awe in those visiting the worlds you're creating, gleaned from Michael's time as a procedural sets artist.


Attendees will learn tips and tricks on creating awe inspiring visuals. But what does it mean to feel awe? Attendees will hear about the common perceptual markers of an awe experience, and some of the current thinking on why the emotion might have been retained in human evolution. Equipped with this knowledge, attendees will gain a better idea of when and how spectacle can be used strategically as a storytelling tool in their creations.

Intended Audience

Anyone who has ever felt awe or wonder will find something to wonder further about in this talk. It will appeal especially to those interested in the animated filmmaking process, world-building, set construction, animation, or the relationship between proceduralism and spectacle.