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Moving Fur, Vegetation, Pillows & Books
Christine Waggoner, simulation supervisor, was part of the team that helped create realistic movements for Sulley's fur and Boo's t-shirt in "Monster's Inc." This time around, advancements have made her job easier in many ways, but also presented new challenges.

"There are actually a lot more furry characters in this film than ever before," says Waggoner. "Basically, we could only have one main furry character in 'Monsters, Inc.,' because it was such a big deal at the time and affected our render time. With 'Monsters University,' 15-20 percent of the monster population have hair. It's gotten a lot easier to do hair and fur. The technology has really matured and so has our simulation pipeline. Our graphics hardware allows the animators to see the hair while they're animating. They don't see simulated hair, but they are able to visualize the actual groom at a speed that can work interactively. Artistically, it lets the animators and layout artists better gauge the composition of a shot and account for the volume of fur."

Waggoner says the film called for another breakthrough for the simulation group: good grass. "It turns out that there are a lot of grassy surfaces with our lush campus and outdoor competitions. We put together a pipeline that lets the characters almost automatically interact with the grass -- even leave footprints. We built technology that made it possible to deal with the complicated problem of how different body types -- multiple legs, arms, tentacles, tails and slugs -- interact with the vegetation."

Chris King, global illumination lead for the film, says, "To light a computer animated film, we simulate the physics of light in the scene. In reality, light enters then bounces around infinitely off all the surfaces in the scene. That is impossible to compute so we have simplify the problem somehow. On this film we removed simplifications we used in the past and simulated lights and surfaces much more accurately." Another one was simulating turning the pages of books -- a key detail in the film's academic setting. So, a special rig was created so that the pages would appear to flip naturally.

When it came to technology, director Dan Scanlon was pleased with the end results. "I'm always amazed by what the technical minds at Pixar are capable of accomplishing. Technology is really the backbone of our storytelling process -- one of the cornerstones of the studio -- making it possible for the smallest of details to come to life in a way that connects with people in incredible ways."

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