Pixar in a Box – Free Online Animation Course on Khan Academy

Pixar in a BoxPixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy – an online classroom that provides free mini-tutorials and in-browser activities – have teamed up to create an online course to introduce all animator enthusiasts, both young and old, to the world of animation. The course, made up of a series of lessons is called Pixar in a Box.

The lessons show the coding, maths, art, and fun behind the Pixar movies to anyone who wants to get a real look behind the scenes of their favourite animations. It also demonstrates the power of Mathematics as the backbone to Pixar’s animated movies.


Although Pixar may be best known for their endearing characters, captivating graphics and storylines; they may be less known for the Mathematics behind the scenes. The collaboration between Pixar and Khan Academy make these links explicit and may be just what you need to whet your class’s appetite for more maths.

Pixar in a Box is free and accessed through the Khan Academy website. It includes a mixture of video tutorials, activities and challenges.

The lessons were inspired by the popular TED-Ed talk by Tony DeRose from Pixar on The Math Behind the Movies (below).

The content is accessible from any web browser and students do not have to have accounts. There’s no need to register for the course, nor a requirement to watch the lessons in order — just head to their site and start exploring! However, if your students do have class accounts, Khan Academy will record their progress in the course and you as a teacher will have an overview of how each pupil is doing from the teacher dashboard. To create a class just register on Khan Academy as a teacher and you will then be able to create classes from there.

Pixar and Khan Academy suggest the grade levels each Pixar in a Box lesson is suitable for (note: grade 7 is the equivalent of 1st year in second level in Ireland) but it is best that you have a look yourself first to see if the level may be slightly ahead of where your class is at right now.

Wall-ESo far the Pixar in a Box series includes:

  • Rigging
  • Environmental Modelling
  • Character Modelling
  • Animation
  • Crowds
  • Sets & Staging
  • Rendering

Depending on the age and ability level of your students you might only pick certain elements of the series to explore.You can expect to hit on some of the following mathematical topics as you move through these modules:

  • PIXAR MOVIESMidpoint
  • Weighted averages
  • 2D and 3D shapes
  • Subdivision
  • Transformations
  • Rotation
  • Tree Diagrams
  • Factorials
  • Permutations
  • Combinations
  • Binomial Coefficients

The series is developing further and lessons on Rigging and Simulation are currently in development. To keep an eye out for new lessons follow the Pixar in a Box twitter page.


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