Colorado’s own Danielle Feinberg is the Photography Director for Disney Pixar’s Coco film- here’s 10 fun facts from our our exclusive Denver interview!
Whenever a badass woman who is breaking barriers is around, I get excited. I love to celebrate girl power in all it’s forms- and when I found out fellow Coloradoan Danielle Feinberg was in town to promote Disney Pixar’s new movie Coco, I definitely did not pass up the opportunity to interview her about being a woman in technology at Pixar. She spoke about mentorship and coding programs for girls- and of course geeked out about her role as Photography Director for the film. We’ve since been having so much fun by preparing for the film’s opening with our Coco coloring sheets and making our fun Coco Krispy Treats.
About Danielle Feinberg
Danielle Feinberg was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, and mentioned how supportive her parents were of the arts. She was enrolled in classes and camps all throughout her childhood, and her sister is a fine artist. This set the foundation for her love of art, and her time as a computer science major at Harvard cultivated her passion for science.
Danielle has made an incredible career out of combining science and art to create make-believe characters come to life in movies such as Wall-E and A Bug’s Life. She talks more about her career experience in her Ted Talk:
10 Facts About Coco- Danielle Feinberg, DP
- When creating a scene within the animation, the coders will create the entire set (for example, the whole town of Santa Cecilia) and then move the characters around inside of it. The virtual movie set lives within Pixar servers forever. In theory, the producers can go back to the set and create more scenes right inside of them. (My mind was warped by this and it’s so cool!)
- Producers of Coco brought to life a traditional Mexican wood art form called alebrijes (read more about them from Cool Chill Mom!) Instead of creating them from scratch, Danielle told me that “The alebrijes were good in that we found animals from past movies and messed with them a bit to create a range of alebrijes.” I had no idea code from one movie could be repurposed for another. Smart.
- The Land of the Dead has over 8 million lights in it -and this is another example of code being recycled. Danielle explianed it to me in better terms- “(We) were taking code that was developed on The Good Dinosaur for a scene with fireflies that uses fancy math and code to make the computer essentially think it’s one light instead of hundreds for the fireflies. We took that, expanding and augmenting it, so we could light the Land of the Dead with over 8.5 million lights in it.”
- The bridge of marigolds to the land of the dead is a very complicated scene- and it took over a month to render. “It’s one of those things when you know it’s going to be crazy hard, but quite possibly the coolest thing ever,” she says, adding that the petals were actually light sources. “We have a new kind of light called a particle 14 light that can have many, many points in it. Our special effects team gave us a way that we can automatically know which petals a person is stepping on as they cross the bridge and control the glow the petals emit, creating little spots of light as someone walks through.”
- The entire production team went on several in depth research trips to Mexico over three years in order to bring an animated world inspired by Mexico and it’s people to life. That’s why the setting is so incredible realistic.
- I was curious about how the team kept so many authentic aspects of Mexican culture alive, and Danielle explained that “We had a team of Mexican cultural consultants for the movie that were amazing. It was such a fantastic resource because whenever we got stuck or questioned something, we could talk to them and work out a solution so we could move ahead with full confidence!”
- The team spent a lot of time making sure that Mama Coco’s movements were reflective of someone of her age. Ms. Feinberg told us that at one point in the creation of Coco, someone brought their grandma in so they could replicate her movements. She’s not sure if the grandma knew exactly why they were observing her…
- During that same process, Mama Coco’s chin waddle got mis-coded and so it would move the wrong way on her face when she moved. It provided comic relief for the team which was much needed. As Danielle said “Making a movie is really hard!”
- In order not to overwhelm viewers with tons of color and light, the team purposely made the town of Santa Cecilia a bit lacking in color so that the characters would really pop out against an otherwise dusty background.
- Danielle said that when she signed on for the four year project that became the Coco film, she didn’t really know what she was in for- Pixar keeps details tightly under wraps. She knew it was Day of the Dead and she wanted in! Pretty cool!
Girls Who Code
I asked Danielle about how to cultivate a love of science, technology and art in young girls- since she is definitely paving the way for my daughters with her work at Pixar. She touched several times on how her mentors played an influential role in helping her to work her way up within the ranks of Pixar- but also how many more opportunities there are today for young people to create their own path within technology.