Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

Luxo Jr. Pencil Test: Emotional storytelling in wire frames

How do animators make a character lovable when the character doesn’t have a face and doesn’t speak? How can you build a relatable story with something as minimal as a computer generated pencil test? How do you communicate the curiosity, exasperation, or exuberance of an inanimate object primarily with outlines? This wire frame of Pixar’s Luxo Jr. (1986) is a great example. From Cartoon Brew ED:

If you look up “inanimate” in the dictionary you’ll see words like: lifeless, dull, spiritless, sluggish, lacking consciousness.

Working within the limitations of your object (John Lasseter puts it well – “Truth in materials”) it’s imperative you instill in your character recognizable human traits so your audience can empathize. Watch this wire frame version of Luxo Jr and observe the human emotions, gestures, attitudes and how the characters move in a way that is true to their physicality and to their personality.

The pencil test’s sound effects and music are key storytelling tools, as well.

A pivotal achievement in computer generated filmmaking, Luxo Jr. was the first CGI film nominated for an Academy Award, and of course, we now know Luxo Jr. as Pixar’s mascot.

luxojr_pixar1986
Watch the film online or in Pixar Short Films: Volume 1. Read more about the groundbreaking film here and here.

Related watching: more Pixar-related videos, including a handbell performance of “Married Life” from UP and Pixar’s Zoetrope.

Updated video.

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Pixar’s Zoetrope and how animation works

Rion Nakaya

Electromagnetic Induction – Science Demo

Rion Nakaya

Hedgehog in the Fog (Ёжик в тумане)

Rion Nakaya

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965)

Rion Nakaya

Handbell ringers perform “Married Life” from Pixar’s UP

Rion Nakaya

I Haven’t Seen You In Forever – They Might Be Giants

Rion Nakaya

Let It Go performed with wine glasses, pots and pans

Rion Nakaya

Pen Point Percussion and Dots: Norman McLaren

Rion Nakaya

Cubits (1978) by Al Jarnow

Rion Nakaya