Class had ended. The learning hadn’t, for students in Dr. Heather Holian’s “The Art of Disney and Pixar” course.

They’d just gotten an inside look at lighting techniques in the classic film “Cars” from the artist who’d created its original color script with pastels.

Now Bill Cone, who’d also helped create “A Bug’s Life,” “Up” and “Brave,” offered an after-class question and answer session.

Professor Holian looked on as students gathered round in the Weatherspoon lobby. Cone is the third Pixar artist to visit UNCG and speak with her students.

Holian has researched Pixar art for six years. She continues to visit the studio to conduct interviews and use its archives, as she works on the first scholarly book on the topic.

The first artist to visit UNCG was Adam Burke, who worked on “Up,” Cars” and “Ratatouille.” “Adam stayed after his talk about an hour – and talked with every single student as much as they wanted,” Holian says.

“Adam invited me to come to Pixar,” she adds. “No scholar had ever been out to Pixar. We’ve been making this up as we went along.”

There, she has met and interviewed other artists. Teddy Newton, the “professional muse” whose creativity can be seen in films such as “Up,” “Wall-E” and “The Incredibles,” came to speak to her class. “The students were starry-eyed.” And now Bill Cone has come too. She plans to invite more.

The Renaissance art scholar obviously can’t go back in time and bring Michelangelo to campus, she explains. But she can bring the great artists of the premier art medium of our time.

Her students see that they’re real people. It inspires them to create, to excel.

“It’s why I want to bring people from Pixar here. The human element.”

The Pixar artists talk to the students in their language. And they give advice, when students ask for it. Bill Cone, a creative force at Pixar since he worked on the first feature film, ‘Toy Story,” drew from his own experience:

“Have a huge appetite now. Draw as well as you can.”

“What you really want to be is good enough to get the job. Then you start all over. You never really stop learning.”

“That’s what’s good about the arts. In sports, you wear out pretty quickly – your body wears out. In this type of a business … you get more experience and you can keep turning that back into your work.”

Holian sees in Pixar pre-production and production art – as well as the films themselves- what she sees in many great works hanging in museums. It’s sublime, timeless, moving.

“The fine art world determines – through exhibitions and exhibition catalogues – what is studied and remembered as ‘art.’”

Pixar art should receive more respect from the fine art world.

If Holian has her way, it will.

Story by Mike Harris, University Relations
Photography by David Wilson, University Relations

See “Art in Overdrive” article in the Spring 2014 UNCG Magazine, complemented by Pixar art.