Many of us have laughed, cried and re-watched Disney Pixar movies. As children or adults, these classics are hard not to find some enjoyment in. But, have you ever thought about all of the technical elements and difficulty that goes into creating these elaborate animations?
Pixar’s Lighting Supervisor, Jonathan Pytko, spoke to students of the College of Technology, Wednesday, Oct. 21, in Roosevelt Hall, about what he does and how he got there.
Pytko joined Pixar Animation Studios in 2004 to work on shot lighting for the Academy Award-winning film, The Incredibles. He continued as a shot lighter for the feature film Cars, and worked as a shot and master lighter for the Academy Award-winning films Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up. Later, he served as the lighting lead on Golden Globe-winning Cars 2.
As a part of the lighting team, Pytko is responsible for helping create the final look of the film, using light, color and composition to serve the story and focus the audience eye. In addition, he assists in the early production of the film to explore the visual challenges and how they can achieve the director’s desired look.
“It’s sometimes hard to figure out what we’re actually trying to do and what we want things to look like because we’re starting from nothing. It takes a lot of time and thought,” said Pytko.
Most recently, Pytko was the lighting supervisor for Disney Pixar’s upcoming film, The Good Dinosaur, set to release November 25, 2015. After working on it for the last two and a half years, this new film was the main topic of his guest lecture.
In order to generate emotion and excitment from the packed auditorium of engaged students and faculty, Pytko showed exclusive scenes from the new movie throughout his presentation. He explained that every Disney Pixar movie starts with a “what if” and the “what if” for this movie is, “What if a meteor never hit earth?”
Besides Ratatouille, Pytko said that The Good Dinosaur was his favorite movie to work on. He overseas a team of about 45 lighters and they work together to add finishing touches to the scenes we see on the movie screen.
“One thing we do a lot of is reference,” said Pytko. “That’s when you visit the mountains and get inspired.”
Pytko meant this literally as he showed the students a video of him and his team white water rafting in order to gain incite on how going down a river should look.
“The water and river was a huge project we had to take on,” he said.
Prior to joining Pixar, Pytko was a generalist technical director at Fathom Studios in Atlanta, GA. Raised in Wilbraham, MA, he was a fan of cartoons like Looney Toones, and working with his hands drawing, painting and model building. He went on to attend the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and currently resides in Albany, CA.
“I tried to take small jobs to build my experience and while you’re doing that, you’re meeting people and building connections,” said Pytko.