What drew me to Pixar and animation is the desire to tell stories: Arjun Rihan

A. Kameshwari
Arjun Rihan works at Pixar Studios

Arjun Rihan believes animation is becoming realistic with each passing day.

Arjun Rihan currently works as a camera & staging artiste at Pixar Animation Studios. During Pixar Brand Immersion day, Rihan talked to indianexpress.com about his job and the experience of working with Soul director Pete Docter among more.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What is the nature of your job at Pixar?

I work in layout. It is also called camera and staging sometimes. You can think of us as virtual cameramen. All our movies are made in computers, but we have this camera that we have designed that lives in the computer. How the cinematographer for a traditional film places the camera, sets the focus and tells the actors to stand at a point or walk to some point, our job is the same, but we do it on the computer. What we try to capture is the intent of the storytelling but also look for opportunities where the camera can introduce a little magic.

What inspired you to get into animation?

It was sitting on the floor and watching Doordarshan and Mickey Mouse. I remember telling my mother, "I think there is a guy wearing a mask, and he is acting as Mickey Mouse." I did not know that there was someone who was actually designing frame after frame, which is amazing. From a very early age, I wanted to be on the other side of the story to understand how everything happens. That was kind of the guiding light. And at that time animation wasn’t something you could study. But I think the question of how can I create what is seen on the screen is something that motivates and influences me even today.

Has the idea of animation changed over time in Hollywood?

It has changed a lot. Just movie-making, in general, has gone real-time with richer virtual environments. When I started there were much more limitations about how much hair, how many characters and stuff we could have in the same scene. But now things are faster and better. So we are able to do a much better job. In terms of Pixar itself, the overall atmosphere feels more dynamic, and I think the nature of the projects we have done has also changed that. When I started, I never thought I would work on something like Sanjay’s Super Team or Coco. So I think that’s great. I think Pixar always tries to reinvent itself and remain relevant.

I think now we are at a point where things are so real that even audiences sometimes are like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was a synthetic forest or that Buzz (from Toy Story) is not actually like a real toy.” That is pretty exciting. I see a trend towards richer and authentic stories.

Do you have a subject in mind to make a film?

Definitely. I have ideas that I am working on. What drew me to Pixar and animation is the desire to tell stories, and there is always a desire to connect to my roots. I want to make something that I can show to my daughter and make her learn about our roots.

I think what is cool about Pixar is that ultimately we are not about one filmmaker. We are like a group of filmmakers who come together with our special discipline. We are generally just encouraged to look at it from our point of view, and if there is something that we feel like we can contribute, there is like an open forum to send in feedback. Ultimately one person is not going to know the experiences of every person. But if those people bring their experiences together and contribute, it can make the movie resonate with a broader audience.

Also read | Onward director Dan Scanlon: Tom Holland has an infectious charm and sincerity | Tom Holland is like a little brother to me: Chris Pratt | Pixar president Jim Morris: I grew up watching Satyajit Ray’s films

What are you working on at present?

Right now, I am working on Soul, which is our summer 2020 release. It has been a career goal of mine to work with Pete Docter. It is great to work with him and work on a movie that sort of asked some very big and deep questions. It is beyond the scope of animation. I am excited to see how it turns out.