From Seneca to Pixar: 3D Animation graduate brings characters to life

Disney/Pixar's Coco brings to life the story of Miguel, left, a young boy who is desperate to prove his musical talents to his family. Miguel's character was created by 3D Animation graduate, Brendan Beesley. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion P

Originally featured on SenecaCollege.ca

As a professional animator, Seneca graduate Brendan Beesley had one overriding goal for his career: to work for Pixar, the renowned animation company responsible for Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars. He has accomplished that and now makes characters come to life in features such as Coco, in theatres now.

Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who, despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, dreams of becoming an accomplished musician. Brendan was responsible for animating Miguel and his great grandmother Mamá Coco.

“I was the first animator to start developing Mamá Coco as a character. The little nuances and mannerisms were fun to develop and then everybody else who animates that character follows that lead,” says Brendan. “I also animated Miguel in a couple of pivotal moments, which was amazing. I got to really dive into the character’s performance and get inside his mind to figure out what the subtext was.”

Before understanding concepts of animation, Brendan had dabbled in the art at a young age, creating flipbook-style birthday cards for family members. During a 3D animation course in high school, he learned how to create a spaceship flying through space, which motivated him to turn this passion into a living.

Next, Brendan was accepted into an animation college where he focused on traditional animation, but soon discovered he was more interested in the digital side. Seneca’s 3D Animation program came highly recommended to him by his friends, so he decided to enrol in the fall of 2004.

“What was cool about Seneca was that there were people who worked in the industry,” says Brendan. “They recognized students who had talent and were able to help with your career.”

Brendan credits his Seneca education for putting him on the path to professional success in digital animation.

“I was finally able to put it all together. I was able to focus on the performance aspect of animating a character,” says Brendan. “Seneca gave me opportunity to realize what I love and really supported what I wanted to do.”

He entered the world of feature films on the animation team of 9, a 2009 computer-animated science fiction film, and never lost sight of his goal of working for Pixar Animation Studios. When a job opportunity came up in 2013, he made the move to California. Brendan has also worked on Inside Out, Finding Dory, The Good Dinosaur and is currently working on his sixth Pixar film, Incredibles 2.

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