Design and Composition in Pixar’s ‘Up’

Composition is important to every artistic medium if you wish to design the viewer’s emotional experience. As Wassily Kandinsky wrote in his book, Point and Line to Plane (1926):

“The content of a work of art finds its expression in the composition […] in the sum of the tensions inwardly organised for the work.”

Kandinsky was a modern painter, but this statement is equally applicable to video games, film, and animation. One example from animation, which I was unable to include in my book—Drawing Basics and Video Game Art (Watson Guptill 2012)—is from Pixar’s Up (2009), directed by Pete Docter.

Carl and Ellie in Pixar's 'Up' (2009)

A still from Pixar’s ‘Up’ (2009), illustrating composition and design techniques to wordlessly communicate information about the character of Carl and Ellie, and create a strong emotional tension.

There are several things to note in the above image, touching on shape, colour and texture, gesture, and composition.

Unless you haven’t seen this fantastic animation, Carl (left), has a stubborn and conservative character. His wife, Ellie (right), is the dynamic and energetic personality in Continue reading