From Hollywood to Murdoch University

June 16, 2017

Simon Allen

Simon Allen was an animator at Pixar before joining Murdoch University

A former Pixar animator who swapped a career in Hollywood to become a lecturer at Murdoch University discussed his career ahead of the release of Cars 3 in Australian cinemas.

Simon Allen worked on a number of animation giant Pixar’s most famous films, including WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, before joining Murdoch in 2011.

Mr Allen gave a short presentation and participated in a Q and A at Event Cinemas Innaloo recently, ahead of a special preview screening of the movie, Cars 3.

The School of Arts lecturer is now passing his expertise onto the next generation of animators, special effects creators and games designers via Murdoch’s Games Art and Design course.

“I talked about my experiences of working in Pixar on those successful franchises, and what it takes to put together a film like Cars 3,” Mr Allen, who was born in Australia and raised in New Zealand, said.

“I actually applied to work at Pixar five times over the course of 10 years before I got an interview and joined in 2006.

“Pixar was an incredible place to work. Part of the ethos was to accept the ideas and suggestions of others. Negativity kills creativity so it was important to support each other through the creative process.

“It was each individual’s responsibility to ensure the outputs of their co-workers shone as brightly as possible. If everyone accomplished this then your own work would shine as well.

“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with Pixar founders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, people I had admired for many years."

Mr Allen said his career highlights included working on the Pixar films, which would become academy award winners. His final project at Pixar before joining Murdoch was animating Brave.

He advises aspiring animators to keep practicing and perfecting their skills.

“Surround yourself with like-minded, talented people and you will all help each other to advance. It is also important to find a mentor,” he said.

Mr Allen started out as a 2D animator and moved to California in the United States just as computer animation was taking off in the 1990s.

He began his 3D animation career on Peter Jackson’s feature film, The Frighteners in 1995, and then worked as an animator at George Lucas’s games company, LucasArts.

Before he joined Pixar, Mr Allen worked on 16 feature films including The Matrix: Revolutions, Hellboy and on the Academy Award winning movie, Happy Feet. Mr Allen also played a role in the start-up of the San Francisco games company Tell Tale Games.

And he is still making films. Most recently, Simon was among the Murdoch students and staff to contribute to a low budget Murdoch-made feature, entitled Broken, by his colleague Damian Fasolo.

See the latest news from Murdoch University here.

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