PIXAR animators always include it, and PIXAR fans always look for it. It’s in every PIXAR movie, and as fans watch a new PIXAR film for the first time, they are hot on the trail of it. It can be found on license plates, on locomotives, on wall hangings, and even on underwater cameras.
It’s, of course, the alphanumeric code, “A113,” the likes of which can be found in every single PIXAR film, beginning with 1995’s Toy Story.
But even PIXAR fans who look for “A113” in each film are often unsure about the significance of the code.
The Wikipedia entry for “A113” reads as follows:
A113 is an inside joke and Easter egg in media developed by alumni of the California Institute of the Arts, referring to the classroom used by graphic design and character animation students, including John Lasseter, Tim Burton, Michael Peraza, and Brad Bird.
Other notable Disney/PIXAR animators who attended CalArts include PIXAR’s current Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and
And while it’s true that the first installments of the famed “A113” were intended as inside jokes, the PIXAR Easter egg has become a staple in PIXAR production, as it is now a way that animators and producers honor the classroom at the California Institute of the Arts, routinely shortened to “CalArts.”
Animation students who later became big players in animation at Disney, PIXAR, and other production houses had their professional education beginnings inside classroom A113 at the California Institute of the Arts, and therefore, the reference to the classroom can be found in dozens of animated films a nod to the school–perhaps a “thank you” for the guidance, and even maybe a “tie that binds” animators who graduated from CalArts.
If it weren’t for the school, the classroom, and the instruction, the world of animation today would likely be very different.
In November 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that CalArts alumni who had gone on to become directors of animated films were responsible for the generation of more than $26 billion at the box office between 1985 and 2012, a staggering number that baffled many in the industry.
The list of award-winning and record-shattering animated films is overwhelmingly fascinating and includes such titles as The Brave Little Toaster, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story, Pocahontas, Cars, A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles, Corpse Bride, Ratatouille, and Coraline.
Not only did the animators and directors of the films attend the same school, but they were also students together, taking classes together, learning the art of animation together, and ultimately breathing life back into the genre together. They were students at CalArts in the 1970s, and their talents are seemingly endless.
In a strange and miraculous turn of events, the institute founded by Walt and Roy Disney in Valencia, California, would educate and empower the next generation of animators–the generation of animators who ultimately turned things around for Walt Disney Animation.
“People think it was the businessmen, the suits, who turned Disney Animation around,” explains PIXAR’s Brad Bird, “but it was the new generation of animators, mostly from CalArts. They were the ones who saved Disney.”
Bird was the first of the CalArts grads to use “A113” in a film, namely an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, called “Family Dog.”
It’s not always easy to find the “A113” in animated films. Some are hidden very well, and others, like the code added to PIXAR’s Brave, are in other written forms, such as Roman numerals.
Leave it to the visionary prowess of Walt Disney to create the very institution that would eventually empower future visionaries, creating a way for them to turn things around for Walt’s beloved company.