A Character Sketch

How an Alum Created the Look of Some of Your Favorite Pixar Stars
by Chris Carroll | Photos courtesy of Pixar

It took 81 minutes—the running time of 1995’s original “Toy Story” movie—for Bob Moyer ’00 to decide his future.

“I walked out and immediately told all my friends, ‘That’s what I’m going to do,’” he says.

Moyer made good on his prediction in the most literal way. The longtime computer animator for Pixar is the supervising technical director—“the film’s general contractor,” he says—for “Toy Story 4,” which comes out June 21.

Through UMD’s Individual Studies Program, Moyer pieced together an education that combined computer science, visual arts and “other odds and ends” to move him toward his goal. At Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif., since 2002, he’s served up the studio’s trademark jaw-dropping visuals alongside some of the most talented animators and storytellers in the business.

He talked to Terp about a few of his favorite characters from a list of modern-day classics he’s worked on.

"Toy Story 4"

Bo Peep

“Between ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘3,’ most of the characters were brought up to a modern level, technically. Bo Peep we hadn’t seen since ‘Toy Story 2,’ so we had to build her from scratch and make her look like she’s really made out of porcelain. We also tried to fill in where has she been and what has she been doing, and visually imply a lot of history.”

"Inside Out"


“She’s an emotion. And we don’t know what emotions look like. So the idea was, she’s effervescent, she’s sparkly, she gives off a glow. That’s easy to say, but how do you actually make a character that talks and feels emotion herself? We built her like a glowing fog—she feels almost like a cross between a firecracker going off and a glass of champagne.”



“I think the hardest character was Kevin, the bird. To get those iridescent, shiny, fluffy feathers and then, his neck that could bend in any direction—it’s just kind of a crazy character. To make that feel like it’s something that’s really in the world, and believable, was really fun and tricky.”


Background Rats

“All the hundreds of rats you see in all the crowd scenes—I worked on those. I’ve always enjoyed doing crowd projects: Okay, how am I going to make a hundred things look as believable as the one character that we’ve spent two years on?”




“The first character I ever shaded was Mater. I spent months learning about rust and chrome. Our team went to a detailing and body shop north of San Francisco and learned how they do car paint, and detailing out to get pinstripes and the clear coat. At the end a guy handed me a giant rusted bumper, and I still have it hanging in my office.”


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