Behind the scenes with a Pixar animator

Stefan Schumacher shares insight on the process of making animations for Pixar

More stories from Hannah Angell


Photo by Hannah Angell

Stefan Schumacher shows the step by step process of Finn from the short film Sonder.

Computer-generated films such as “Finding Dory,” “Brave” and “Monsters Inc.” take a team of talented animators. All of the aforementioned films share one common element: the animator Stefan Schumacher.

Schumacher visited UW-Stout on Wed. March 13 to share his new short film, “Sonder.”

Sonder, produced by Soba Productions, is a short film created by a group of global professionals who have worked at studios such as Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, EA, Oculus Story Studios and more.

Animators with backgrounds in feature film animation, VR/AR, gaming and Visual FX collaborated with Soba Production to tell a story through different mediums.

The process of animation is a long one: The story goes through a storyboard, concept art, modeling process, layout process, animation and simulation, lighting and final image, Schumacher said.

“One shot from “Sonder” had about 70 lights and all of the shots were created individually,” Schumacher said. “You have to build every single tree, stones and pebblesa lot of the production time is spent on the graphics.”

“Sonder” was produced by a team of 140 people globally, Schumacher said.

“The most challenging part of creating this project was communication,” Schumacher said. “The Skype calls held were of people within different time zones.”

Jesse Woodward, a professor at UW-Stout and assembly member for “Sonder,” said the best part about creating the award-winning animation was working with other colleagues on a global scale.

To keep energy high, the project brought in new animators whenever someone was feeling burnt out. A consistent cycle of animators kept excitement throughout the project, Schumacher said.

With the help of a large crew, 15 different drafts were created. The final draft of “Sonder” was released in May 2018 taking three full years of production, Schumacher said.

The 15-minute animation explores the emotional journey of what happens after a hard breakup in a relationship, Schumacher said.

During the Q&A, the audience asked design-related questions, as some of those in attendance were graphic design students or studied topics similar to graphic design.

“The most interesting part of the presentation was the emotional climaxes throughout the film how the scenes from flashbacks and present reflected the emotional journey of the main character Finn,” Matt Goodsell, a third-year graphic communications student at UW-Stout, said.

Events like these are a way to inspire students and allow them to see where a career path may take them, Woodward said.

Whitney Philips, a third-year game design student at UW-Stout, said the emotional storyline of “Sonder” is relatable to most people, and the presentation was definitely worth attending.

Woodward said he is is hopeful for similar events with special guests that is open to anyone in the community. Angell can be reached at [email protected].