A Chat with Pixar’s Matthew Luhn

I had the privilege of being introduced to Matthew Luhn this past weekend after a producer of a live interview show invited me backstage to meet him. While our conversation was limited to a few minutes, I can tell you that he is genuine and a caring person with strong family values.

Pixar Story Artist

Matthew started out working as an animator on the Simpsons, but soon shifted over to Pixar. His first project with Pixar was as an animator on the first CG movie, Toy Story. This seemed to be a natural fit for him since he came from four generations of toy store owners.

His move into animation was not only supported by his dad, but also pushed by him. Matthew’s dad had a lifelong dream of becoming an animator, but was forced to keep the family business going. To make sure that didn’t happen to Matthew, his dad pushed him into animation.

Matthew is currently a Story Artist at Pixar Animation Studios and worked on Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille, UP, and Toy Story 3. He works with a creative team including a director, writer and storyboard artists. It’s his job to translate the script elements into the visual look and feel of the show, and to make sure the story works well on screen.

During the process of creating the visual personalities of a character, it’s common to borrow from the lives and people on the team. In fact, if I were to guess, elements of Matthew’s demeanor may have been borrowed for the character of Woody in Toy Story. Let’s just say there are a lot of similarities.

Matthew loves to give back by teaching master classes to professionals and university students, and helping young kids get started in animation. He has traveled the world promoting the skills and techniques needed to bring about quality images and a strong story. He even created several books that can help kids develop their cartooning skills.

It’s been widely recognized that it takes 10,000 hours to become highly skilled or a master at something, and Matthew humbly admits that what took him a week to do in his early years, he can now do in a day. I saw his mastery first hand as he drew the character of Jessie from Toy Story for a little girl. It only took him a few minutes to draw a perfect character.

By the way, this summer will be a blessing to the Luhn family, as Matthew and his wife are expecting a baby. I’m sure the household excitement extends to his son looking forward to being a big brother and certainly all of Matthew’s cartoon characters are also happy.

Copyright © 2013 by CJ Powers