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How to Get Hired at Pixar

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Rapt students listen to Pixar present their internship opportunities in Morgan Auditorium on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Photo by Bob Toy.

World-renowned animation studio Pixar has a reputation for nimbly plucking an audience’s heartstrings with classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up. Last month, the studio’s recruitment team stopped by the Academy of Art University’s Morgan Auditorium, where more than 100 students learned what it takes to join the Pixar team.

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(L-R): Andy Wu, resource coordinator for the Tea Time Animation Club; Cody Lyon, Academic Enrichment for the Tea Time Animation Club; Kim Diaz, Pixar’s Senior Creative Recruiter; Ryan Howe, Pixar’s University Relations Program Lead; Anika Holloway, Pixar’s Human Resources Coordinator; Jonathan Marshall, Academy alum and Tea Time Animation Club’s Online Community Manger. Photo by Bob Toy.

Pixar’s Senior Recruiter Kim Diaz was joined by University Relations Program Lead Ryan Howe and Human Resources Coordinator Anika Holloway. It’s hard to imagine anyone being unfamiliar with films as iconic as Pixar’s, but the presentation kicked off with a reel of Pixar’s most cinematic moments, which of course included Buzz Lightyear’s quintessential phrase: “To infinity and beyond!”

Howe broke down Pixar’s company culture, explaining that the feel of the company’s Emeryville campus is more akin to the Exploratorium than that of a multi-billion dollar company. We’re practically your guys’ neighbor,” Diaz said, “we’re thrilled that we’re so close to the Academy.” The office of Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, is filled with toys, which is only fitting since he directed the first two Toy Story films.

The three themes of the Pixar culture are its legacy, its people and its creativity. “We get to work with some of the best and brightest individuals in the industry,” Howe said, “and that’s really inspiring.”

The studio places an emphasis on the work-life balance of its 1,200 employees, with free classes through Pixar University, a gym and screenings of pre-released movies all available on campus. Pixar workers can even take a sword-fighting class from Mark Andrews, the director of Brave.

Diaz walked the students through Pixar’s internship opportunities, which are available in everything from business development to technical directing, with a focus in modeling. Internships are offered year-round, although there’s the most availability in the summer. Storyboard artists and animators attend a paid 12-week classroom-based program that Diaz affectionately called “Pixar Undergrad,” where “you really get to hone in on your craft,” she said. “You get to spend 12 really great weeks becoming a better animator.”

Concept design and business development students attend a 12-week production-based internship, where interns actually get to contribute to feature films currently in the works. Pixar’s next films include Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo. Production and editorial internships are offered for 12-week periods year-round, whereas technical internships are typically 3-6 months long on a full-time basis.

One of the most valuable aspects of Pixar’s internship programs comes in the form of a speaker series, where industry leaders share their decades of experience. “A lot of our leadership throughout Pixar will come and sit down with the interns,” Howe said, “and give them an inside look.”

Pixar also offers six-month residencies for recent grads who have received their B.A., M.A. or Ph.D. Along with an mentorship program where interns are paired with Pixar professionals in their fields, Diaz and Howe also check-in with Pixar’s interns throughout their programs, assessing how goals can best be accomplished.

Howe said, “We want to make sure that throughout your internship, we facilitate those ‘aha’ moments.”

To apply at Pixar, please visit: http://www.pixar.com/careers