Story, Character & Animation Masterclass - London 2014

Aug 8, 2014 to Aug 10, 2014

STORY, CHARACTER & ANIMATION MASTERCLASS, with artists from Pixar Animation Studios


*** SOLD OUT ***

Hello London!

VanArts is proud to present a masterclass in Story Development, Character Design & Animation, featuring instructors Matthew Luhn (Story Supervisor), Ricky Nierva (Lead Production Designer) and Andrew Gordon (Directing Animator) -- all from Pixar Animation Studios in California, USA.

This exceptional 3-day event takes place in London, UK on August 8/9/10 in 2014, offering participants a rare and exciting chance to learn from the industry's top talent. It marks one of the few times a Pixar Story Artist, Pixar Art Designer and Pixar Animator will teach a class together. Bringing together three individuals like this is not easy, making it an incredible opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge in a short time frame, and at reasonable cost. Definitely not to be missed!

Geared toward experienced animators, story writers, character designers, students and enthusiasts alike, the skill sets covered are not software specific. Lectures are organized with visuals, including live action and animated clips, supplemented by a printed workbook. This class provides you with the tools needed to help create your own stories and feature-quality animation, plus offers a great opportunity to meet and network with your peers and others in the industry.

This masterclass has toured the world to rave reviews, this being one of only a few stops in 2014.
view all tour locations

masterclass with artists from Pixar Animation Studios


Day 1 - Friday
Instructor Matthew Luhn
9:00am - 5:00pm

Day 2 - Saturday
Instructor Ricky Nierva
9:00am - 5:00pm

Day 3 - Sunday
Instructor Andrew Gordon
9:00am - 5:00pm

  • Developing Ideas & Stories
  • 3-Act Story Structure
  • Character Development
  • Gags
  • Storyboarding from a Script
  • Composing Storyboards
  • Line & Value
  • Q & A
  • Character Design
  • Basic Shapes
  • Story / Art / Animation
  • Caricature
  • Set Design
  • Q & A
  • Pre-Production for Animation
  • Physicality & Locomotion
  • Pose Design in Animation
  • Planning & Blocking
  • Acting & Gesture for Animation
  • Dialogue for Animation
  • Polishing Techniques for Feature Animation
  • The Demo Reel
  • Q & A

Story Development
 (full day)
Story is King at Pixar Animation Studios, but it’s not always easy. Matthew Luhn, Pixar Story Supervisor, will teach and demonstrate his process for creating successful stories and enduring characters through practical exercises and lectures. Matthew will also be teaching students his process of Storyboarding from a script, and what is required in order to get a job as a story artist.

Character Design (full day)
The purpose of this day is to introduce, discuss, study and exercise the basic skills involved in creating characters for any type of animation (hand drawn, computer, stop-motion, cut-out, etc.). The primary emphasis will be on the development of character, the story behind the character and the effect that has on the overall design. Student exercises will involve the many aspects of character design: shape, attitude, costume, caricature, style and research. The typical class will consist of a lecture and an in-class exercise. All students are encouraged to participate in the critiques since most of the instruction will be learned from the discussion. Each exercise is designed to build from the previous one so completion of the project sequence is critical. Note: Although draftsmanship is a large component of character design, this class will focus more on sharpening your observation skills.

Animation (full day)
This day will focus on the animation techniques used in typical animated feature films. Shot progressions, multiple examples, and general best practices for how this work was accomplished will be talked about in some of the lectures.

* language of presentation and workbook is English
* content might vary and is subject to change

Natural History Museum
This world-class visitor attraction and a leading science research centre provides a dramatic space for the masterclass. Housed in a spectacular historical building, the theatre features excellent sight-lines, a large screen and great atmosphere. Perfectly situated in the heart of London at address: Cromwell Road, LondonUK. Auditorium room: Flett Theatre.

Natural History Museum, London

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> view venue location map

Andrew, Matthew and Ricky are all first-class educators who thoroughly enjoy sharing their incredible knowledge, wide-ranging experiences, and strong passion for what they do. Most importantly, they're all working professionals, currently involved in producing some of the finest feature films on the planet!

Matthew Luhn     
Story Supervisor, Pixar Animation Studios

Matthew Luhn began his career at Pixar Animation Studios in 1992 as an Animator on the very first CG movie, Toy Story. Since that time, Matthew has worked as a Storyboard Artist generating new ideas and characters on Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Monsters University, and current Pixar movies in development.

Prior to Pixar, Matthew attended the California Institute of the Arts, and would later be hired as an Animator on the award winning TV show The Simpsons.

Matthew grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where his family has owned and operated Jeffrey’s Toys toy stores for three generations.

view Matthew's IMDB profile


Andrew Gordon     
Directing Animator, Pixar Animation Studios

Andrew Gordon has been animating characters at Pixar Animation Studios for 17 years. He joined Pixar in 1997 where he has been an Animator on A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Toy Story 3. The characters he has worked on include Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc., Gill, from Finding Nemo and Edna Mode, the costume designer in The Incredibles, and Linguini from Ratatouille. He supervised animation on Pixar’s Academy Award-nominated short film Presto, and recently acted as Directing Animator on Monsters University.

Andrew studied animation in Vancouver, New York and New Jersey, and prior to his work at Pixar, he worked in the Looney Tunes division of Warner Brothers. He was awarded "Outstanding Character Animation in an Animated Motion Picture" by the Visual Effects Society for his work in Finding Nemo.

Passionate about teaching animation for over 13 years, Andrew began teaching at the Academy of Art, where he taught all levels of the animation program there. He has taught animation intensives throughout the world. Andrew has been also actively involved in The Pixar Animation Internship, helping lead it for for 2007, 2009 and 2010. Andrew is a contributing lecturer at Animation Mentor. He is a frequent guest artist at CSU Summer Arts Program. He is one of the founders of Spline Doctors, a blog/podcast dedicated to animation education. He helped develop and teach at the California College of Art's new animation program. Andrew has recently co-founded a workshop called the Animation Collaborative, which brings some of the best teachers in the world together to teach animation, story and character design.

view Andrew's IMDB profile

Pixar's Ricky Nierva

Ricky Nierva     
Lead Production Designer, Pixar Animation Studios

Ricky Nierva is a Production Designer at the critically acclaimed Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. The youngest of five, Ricky grew up in San Diego, California and attended the California Institute of the Arts. He credits his visual style to close mentor and famed Warner Brothers and Disney designer, the late Maurice Noble. Ricky has worked with talented artists at Turner Feature Animation, Warner Brothers, Baer Animation and Hanna Barbera.

A veteran Pixar artist since 1997, Ricky has worked on Toy Story 2 and was the Lead Character Designer on the beloved film Monsters Inc. He was awarded an Annie Award for his character work on Finding Nemo, and was the Production Designer for Pixar's 2009 Academy Award winning film Up. He lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys playing the ukulele, eating ice cream, and participating in triathlons -- not particularly in that order. He was recently the Production Designer on Pixar's 2013 feature Monsters University.

view Ricky's IMDB profile
view video of Ricky on Monsters, Inc.

Pixar Animation Studios characters

About Pixar Animation Studios

Disney's Pixar Animation Studios is arguably the industry's most successful and respected production studio for animated feature films. Over the years, Pixar has produced some of the most loved animated films of all time, including hits like Toy StoryFinding NemoUpWall-EMonsters Inc, RatatouilleCars and more! We're thrilled to have instructors onboard for the masterclass who have all contributed to this success, and continue to do so.

Click below to view a video and hear from previous masterclass attendees:

"It was an awesome, awesome event. I loved it. I got a lot more out of it then what I expected. Thank you to everyone involved, especially the instructors!"

"The only way I could describe the masterclass would be energizing. I couldn’t wait to get animating again!"

"Shows, presentations and gatherings like this are gold to us working professionals. They are rare and there is a sincere need for us to congregate and learn. Make them available and people will come to learn and network..."

"Thanks so much to you guys for coming out here. It was a fantastic couple of days and I learnt so much!"

"This class was the best thing I could have done for myself as an artist/animator. It was both inspirational, and extremely valuable. I can't wait to go again!"

"Great class! I was very inspired and also exhausted by the end of the 2 days. :)"

"It was an awesome opportunity to meet Pixar artist and learn their works, and minds. Thank you for this great opportunity!"

"I was really impressed and loved it. I am so inspired and hopeful now. The information has helped me to assess my skills and help me to move in the right direction."

"I thought both Andrew and Matthew were excellent speakers/teachers, and answered all questions clearly. I was very impressed with their abilities to reach out to the audience, and make everything clearly understood."

"I'll never look at my work the same again. That's a good thing."

"Thanks again for a great masterclass. Both days perfectly complimented each other."

"The Masterclass was amazing!"

£538.80 GBP (includes VAT) 

- 3 full days of instruction
- workbook with notes prepared by the instructors
- custom class t-shirt
- refreshments during morning & afternoon coffee breaks
- draws for prizes & giveaways!

free class t-shirt

Registrants will receive a free commemorative t-shirt, designed especially for this event.

Class size is limited and strong interest expected. To avoid disappointment, please register early since these classes can sell out weeks in advance. See below for the Event Terms & Conditions, including cancellation policy.

Register now and secure your spot using a credit card. You will receive your ticket by e-mail instantly. Online registration and payments are powered by EventSpot® and PayPal®. Thanks, we hope to see you soon in London!


Visit the official Facebook event page for this class. See who's attending, RSVP and more!
go to Facebook event page

Event Terms & Conditions

CANCELLATIONS for a full refund will be accepted up to 3 weeks before the event. From 20-7 days before the event, a cancellation fee of £150 + VAT will apply. From 6 days before the event and after, refunds cannot be provided. TRANSFERS (transferring your seat to a substitute attendee) can be accepted anytime and with no fee, provided they are first approved by VanArts. Transfers are the responsibility of the original registrant to arrange. Refund and transfer requests must be made via e-mail to:, and will require confirmation of the original registrant's identity.

Total charge is £538.80 (449.00 tuition + VAT). There are no other ticketing fees or service charges, however for non-Canadians, a "foreign transaction fee" of 1-3% MIGHT be applied by your credit card issuer (this fee, if any, is beyond VanArts' control and is the purchaser's responsibility, including for any cancel, refund or discount transactions). Financial aid is not available for this class.

The event organizer, VanArts, reserves the right to cancel or postpone this event with reasonable discretion and for any reason (inclement weather, low enrolment, instructor illness, or any other unforeseen disruptive circumstances). In the case of cancellation by us, registration fees and any taxes will be refunded in full (excluding any possible credit card transaction fees). If the event is postponed, registrants will have the option to either receive a full refund, or, transfer their registration to the rescheduled event. In all cases, we shall have no further liability beyond the registration fee, and regret that any transportation and hotel costs, cancellation penalties, or any other non-recoverable costs incurred by registrants are not refundable. In the event of any unforeseen last-minute scheduling problems, we reserve the right to substitute an equivalent, qualified instructor who might not be listed in the class description.

This class is open to anyone, however minors under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult (registered for the class). The suggested minimum age to attend is 16. Please, this is not a beginner's class.

For taking notes, pen & paper are recommended. Laptop/tablet computers are permitted, but please no recording with these or other devices. NO AUDIO OR VIDEO RECORDING OF THE CLASS MATERIAL OF ANY KIND IS PERMITTED. Out of respect for fellow attendees and the instructors, we ask that attendees please refrain from live tweeting, texting, cell phone calls, etc. during the class.

Please contact VanArts at:

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Use the +SHARE button (above) for Facebook, Twitter (#MasterclassLondon) and more to help spread word of this event to your friends and colleagues. Be sure to visit the official Facebook event page. Stops on this 2014 masterclass tour include: Paris, London, Chicago, Vancouver, Montreal and Austin. Thank you!

To view some photos from the masterclass, click below:


This event is being organized and produced by VanArts. Some images above are copyright © Disney/Pixar, all rights reserved.