U of S grad Byron Bashforth shines a light on Pixar's Coco



Byron Bashforth - Computer Science, U of S Alumni

Byron Bashforth was a computer science student at the University of Saskatchewan when he saw a trailer for Toy Story. A light went on. Not the famous Pixar desk-lamp light, but pretty close. “I remember marvelling that you could do that with a computer,” Bashforth said in a recent phone interview. He was calling from, yes, Pixar Animation Studios, where he’s worked since graduating with his masters in 1998.

“I like to say that Pixar was more desperate back then, so I got in,” laughs the native of Okla, Sask. “There’s a large Bashforth clan out Yorkton-Preeceville way, so I try to get there as often as I can.”Bashforth’s first Pixar film was Toy Story 2. He’s worked on everything from Finding Nemo and The Incredibles to Ratatouille and Up. His latest is Disney/Pixar’s Coco, the story of a Mexican boy who dreams of becoming a musician. On his journey, Coco meets the skeletons of his long lost relatives. Bashforth was the “character shading lead” on the film. “We worry about how the skin looks, how the eyes look, the hair, the bones, the garments,” says Bashforth.

It’s vastly more complicated now than when he started. “Monsters Inc. had two characters with hair and one character with clothing. Those were both giant research projects. When you see Coco, there are hundreds of characters and they all have clothing and hair.” It can take four to six years to create a Pixar film. Bashforth worked on Coco for two and a half years. Coco was particularly challenging because they had to create two separate worlds, one for the humans and one for the skeletons.

“It’s double the amount of stuff than we normally have to do. And there’s the challenge of making the skeletons emote and something you connect with and feel for.” He says that Coco has been one of his favourite projects. “That’s a little biased because I just worked on it but it’s a special movie. Other than that, I’ve always been a fan of the first Incredibles and Up and Ratatouille. Ratatouille is definitely one of our prettiest. I think Coco might actually take its place, it’s pretty amazing.”

Bashforth lives with his wife in Marin Country, which is about a 45-minute commute to Pixar north of San Francisco. He’s allowed to give friends and family a sneak peak at Pixar when a movie comes out but he’ll also see it in a theatre. “I’ll try to sneak out on opening night and watch it with a regular crowd to see everyone’s response. I kind of enjoy that, too.”

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