An In-Depth Look at Pixar in a Box ~ #Cars3 #Cars3Event

Pixar Box Khan Academy

For those of you that don’t know, Pixar in a Box is a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs. This collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy is sponsored by Disney. A lesson plan full of really cool information. I’m embarrassed to admit that before I was invited by Disney to come to San Francisco for the #Cars3Event and Pixar presentations, I didn’t know as much about it as I thought I did. For one thing I didn’t realize it was free. More importantly I never considered a middle school child using Pixar in a Box for all the things they can use it. Do they consider themselves an artist? They can learn about all the things they can do with that talent at Pixar. They can learn about careers they didn’t even realize existed. They can learn how the subjects they are learning in school – like math, science, computer sciences and humanities – are used every day to create amazing movies at Pixar. The next time your child tells you they want to be an animator so that cruddy math or science grade doesn’t matter – you can tell him/her how wrong they are. Sign them up for this program and let them see for themselves how those subjects are used! Imagine you or your child finding a new career – one that you may not even have known existed!

Through the lessons plans, you and/or your child will be able to animate bouncing balls, build a swarm of robots, and make virtual fireworks explode. The set-up seems easy to follow along with and I love you can jump from area to area easily.


Back in 2015, Pixar joined forces with Khan Academy to launch a free online course about animation called “Pixar in a Box.” Through interactive exercises, your child (and you) can analyze what goes into creating a story – the plot, world, and characters in films, and start developing storytelling superpowers and animation interests.

The themed set of lessons are infused with videos and web-based interactive widgets to help kids get excited about and visualize the math behind some of Disney’s biggest animated features. Each lesson comes with an introductory video that explains math concepts such as using parabolic curves to model grass or using weighted averages to translate clay sculptures into 3D computer models. The student can then play around with tools based on the real tools that Pixar animators use and are given the opportunity to test their knowledge through built-in assessments.

Right up there with being an astronaut or the President, there’s one job that your average kid would probably love to snag: Working at Pixar. Pixar in a Box focuses on real-Pixar-world applications of concepts you might usually encounter in the classroom. 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!

Pixar in a Box is free on Khan Academy, so don’t be shy about checking it out. New lessons will be released as time goes on and you can sign up with Khan Academy to receive email alerts when new lessons become available.

We were given a step by step walk through of the lesson categories and plans by Elyse Klaidman, Director of Exhibitions and Educational Parnterships and Tony DeRose, a Senior Scientist and lead of the Research Group at Pixar Animation Studios. I came away thinking that even in my sixties, I would really love to go through the lessons. It’s a really neat way to learn something new and when learning is fun (what else would you expect from Pixar!) I know I was always able to learn better. Also, because you can easily skip from area to area and only focus on the lessons that really spark your interest. What could be better than  initiatives to help make math, science, and engineering education more inspiring and relevant for middle and high school students. This collaboration with Khan Academy is designed to show students how creative challenges at Pixar are addressed using concepts that they’re learning in classrooms. What a great program!

Here’s a look at Cars 3 coming in June. Just imagine how the creators of this great upcoming film were able to learn what they do using lessons like the ones offered through Pixar in a Box!


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CARS 3 opens in theaters everywhere on June 16th!

I was provided an all expense trip to San Francisco by Disney. All opinions are my own.

Take a Lap Around Sonoma Raceway #Cars3Event

Sonoma Raceway Cars 3

So, what do you do when you work at Pixar and you find yourself knee-deep in the middle of the creation of Cars 3. How do you make sure your animation is right? How do you make sure your story is right? How do you make sure you are being emotionally realistic? Well, of course, you head off to Sonoma Raceway and learn everything there is to know about racing, race cars, fixing race cars, and driving race cars. You live, breathe, eat and dream race cars and racing. So what do you do when Disney invites you to come to California for the #Cars3Event. You do what all those creative minds at Pixar did and you spend time at Sonoma Raceway!

Sonoma Raceway is pretty – I never expected to think of a car race track that way, but there is no denying it. Pretty, green, well-maintained and really, really fascinating. Situated among the hills, the raceway has a permanent seating capacity of around 47,000. During major races, hospitality tents and other stages are erected around the track, which brings the total capacity up to around 102,000 seats. 

Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar

Pit Stop Training and Challenge (Photo by Marc Flores)

What a day. An early day that started off at 6:00 a.m. To get to the raceway our shuttle started winding it’s way through the hills surrounding San Francisco before it was light out. Through beautiful green hills filled with grape vines and small signs advertising wine tastings and vineyard tours. Never having been a racing fan I wasn’t sure what to expect, it was really early morning and I was still tired. I sat watching the scenery go by. Taking in the prettiness. Listening to the quiet chatter of 24 other bloggers who obviously knew much more about race cars than I did. There was a schedule full of interviews, presentations, taking a ride in a race car, a pit stop challenge and more that would have us at the raceway until late in the day.

A ride in a simulator! (Photo by Marc Flores)

From the moment we arrived I knew that Sonoma Raceway was just as excited for us to visit, as we were to be there! Sonoma Raceway was excited about Cars 3! 

Everywhere we turned we saw something else to remind us of the film and something else that would have us appreciating the “racing family” more. Putting aside the Cars 3 Event Press Day, if you are ever in the area, a visit to Sonoma Raceway has to make it on your ‘MUST VISIT’ list.

Fun loving and brave bloggers getting ready to take a lap around the track!

(Photo by Marc Flores)

(Photo by Marc Flores)

Touring the facility gave me such an appreciation for racing. I was apprehensive since high speeds and lots of motion aren’t really my thing, but excited at the same time because I knew I would learn what went into making Cars 3 and that’s really where my interest was. I couldn’t wait to find out how the creators of the film, which I had screened a portion of the night before, were able to have me think of the cars as characters first and vehicles second. How they were able to instill the emotional realism – which is an important part of every Pixar film – into cars. Cars that have us thinking of them as humans, with feelings and emotions. I wanted to learn about racing what they learned about racing that helped them create this latest Cars film. I wasn’t disappointed!

Creative Director Jay Ward and Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

One of the most amazing presentations was about the history of racing. Since there are portions of the film that give homage to some of the original legends of racing, this was a presentation full of great information. Stories from the early history of racing with photos and details and fun! Oh My! The history of stock car racing, the evolution of car design, stories of legendary drivers ~ told by Jay Ward, Creative Director at Pixar (think of him as basically John Lassiter’s eyes and ears on all things Cars 3) and Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports.

Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Creative Director Jay Ward (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

This was my favorite presentation of the day. I came away thinking of these two as the dynamic duo of racing comedy. It was obvious from the moment they started they have a great respect for each others knowledge. It was obvious they have spent lots of time together researching racing for the making of the film. It was obvious they loved what they do . . . and it was contagious! I came away having a totally different thought on the racing world. It’s a world full of family, full of respect, full of love and excitement. And all of those feelings will come through in Cars 3. It will come through because of their passion for the sport and their passion for the movie.

Stock car racing is a quintessentially American pastime that was developed in the days of Prohibition. Picture it – A bunch of dirt poor good ol’ boys who lived anywhere from Virginia on down to Georgia had no other choice to survive than the illegal whiskey business. They souped up their cars to haul their bounty, and then ran from the law like their behinds were on fire. Since boys will be boys – they started racing each other on local roads to prove who had the fastest car. Then, somebody got the bright idea to cut a track out of a cow pasture somewhere, and the rest, as they say, is history! By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, racing and modifying normal vehicles had become extremely popular. By 1948 it was a widespread sport.  The most famous bootlegger to make a name for himself in racing was Junior Johnson. 

Over the years, stock car racing has evolved from a band of drivers who raced for gas money on tracks primarily in the South, to millionaire owners and drivers who race at tracks across the country from North Carolina to California. Its a way of life for many. Its in the blood and heritage of many. The history is fascinating.

Lightning McQueen connects with racing’s roots in “Cars 3.” From left: River Scott, Junior “Midnight” Moon, Smokey and Louise “Barnstormer” Nash. Disney/Pixar

ESPN recently did an article on the legends of racing that are represented in Cars 3. You can read the full article HERE and get a sense of what I learned during the presentation.

I was not a race car fan before my visit, but I sure am now! How about you – are you a race car fan? 


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CARS 3 opens in theaters everywhere on June 16th!

I was provided an all expense paid trip to San Francisco. All opinions are my own.

“Thanks for the Adventure!” My Visit to Pixar Animation Studios #Cars3Event

Pixar Animation Studios TourYou all know I love Disney. You all know I love Pixar. Put those two things together and when Disney invites you to come to California and be part of the #Cars3Event that includes a visit to Pixar Animation Studios – well, let me tell you – I turned into a real fan girl over it! I was so excited I was hyperventilating!

As a huge Pixar fan, nothing prepares you for the feeling you get when you first go under that Pixar Animation Studios arch when entering the property. Then as soon as you get yourself together, you turn and walk right up to the iconic lamp. The LAMP! And . . . the BALL! Both sitting right there, right in front of you. And . . .  did you know the lamp lights up at night!!

The campus is beautiful. The campus is amazing. The campus is much more than I ever imagined. The attention to even the slightest and smallest details around every corner are mind-blowing!

On the walls ~ 

And even in the floors ~ !

Everywhere you go you notice something amazing. Some little detail that gives a nod to a Pixar movie or short. Everywhere you go you see happy employees. Some of the most creative minds in animation work here. At Pixar everything is about the story. At Pixar everything IS happy! Even the mail room is cool! Picking up your mail? Have a putt first – be sure to note the number of strokes on the board!

Walking into the lobby of the Steve Jobs Building you get a sense of community. You begin to understand the community of creativity that everyone who works here shares. The lobby houses the restaurant for employees, mail room, and the Pixar store among other smaller areas. With the lobby being the center, the building splits off left and right. Just as our brains are split into left and right. The left side of our brain handles reading, writing, speaking, arithmetic reasoning and understanding so the left side of the building is where the writing and the story creative minds work. The right side of our brain handles visual, music and emotional expression so the right side of the building is where the animation takes place. Both sides come together in the middle!

Everything at Pixar revolves around the story and all stories are based in emotional realism. Even the offices and campus are built to reflect this. Every area of the campus has a story behind it (like the Steve Jobs Building and the left brain/right brain concept). Every area of the campus evokes an emotion. Each area of the campus is built with the happiness and comfort of the creative minds that work there in mind.

From the beautiful, grassed amphitheater ~ 

To the year-round heated pool for employees to use, relax, exercise and think in ~

Or the basketball court to have a quick game while sharing ideas ~

The campus also includes a a soccer field, an organic vegetable garden used by Pixar’s chefs, flower cutting gardens and a wildflower meadow and a jogging trail. All of these amenities are meant to keep the animation staff happy and animated! , jogging trail, and basketball court.

I learned so much about the location on my tour. The story behind Pixar’s headquarters starts in 1999 with Steve Jobs. He had a vision for what he wanted the campus to be. His plan was for the space to hold up to 1000 employees. He wanted it to be a place that promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations. No closed-up offices – lots of glass. The original design called for separating different employee disciplines into different buildings – one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. But because Steve Jobs was a fanatic about wanting unplanned collaborations, he envisioned a campus where these encounters could take place ~ hence the lobby I described above. The atrium lobby houses a reception, employee mailboxes, cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater. His idea was that people who naturally isolate themselves would be forced to have great conversations. 

Job once said,  “If a building doesn’t encourage collaboration, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.”

When people run into each other, when they make eye contact, great things happen ~ and this is so evident by the layout of the facilities and the great things that come out of Pixar.

Moving beyond the atrium, the entire building plan was meant to provide a clean slate that gave Pixar the ability to creatively fill the space as it saw fit – in a very organic way. Many offices are arranged in U-shaped units of 5-6 individual offices – with a central gathering area in the middle that brings the idea of the creating unplanned collaboration down to a smaller, workspace-sized concept. There are even large Bar-B-Que areas complete with grills and picnic benches for employee collaboration outside! The campus is organized like parts of Manhattan, with sections called the Upper West Side, Lower East Side, etc. An annex building for overflow staff two blocks away, meanwhile, is called Jersey. Another building housing pre-production work is called Brooklyn – (all top secret stuff in here and no roaming the halls allowed!)

Pixar has created a work environment that people enjoy working in. Starting with the huge version of Luxo Jr, the cast of the Incredibles in the atrium, Bing Bong, Hank . . around every corner another reminder. A reminder of work that took years to complete. A connection to the great work created and the emotional connection each employee has to each film. Everyone at Pixar has a connection and a love of their work and it shows. There can be no greater feeling than walking around and being reminded of the great work you helped produce – as well as seeing the smiles of visitors like me, recollect the way each movie touched their lives.

I would love to go back. I would love to see more. I would love to be a fly on the wall when all of those creative minds come together!

Since my tour of Pixar was part of the #Cars3Event, I have to remind you – don’t forget to follow along over the coming weeks to get all the latest information about Cars 3. We were shown a portion of the new film while there and I know everyone will LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I’m actually still a bit disappointed we didn’t see the whole thing but from what I understand all of those creative minds are still collaborating to make sure it’s perfect when it opens June 16! So buckle up!

I always say that every Pixar movie teaches a lesson and Cars 3 is no different. I think the main lesson will be learning to be happy with where you are in life. When you reach a certain age you may not be able to do all the things you once loved, but there are many other things in life to make you happy. Time will tell if I’m right.

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CARS 3 races into theaters everywhere on June 16th!


I was provided an all expense paid trip to San Francisco by Disney. All opinions are my own.

#PuppyDogPals ~ What An Adventure on Disney Junior!

Puppy Dog Pals Disney Junior
Photo Credit: Disney Junior

Puppy Dog Pals is an upcoming Disney Junior show that will debut on April 14, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT with two back to back episodes on the Disney Channel. The premiere episode will also become available that day on the Disney Junior app and Disney Junior YouTube page.

Puppy Dog Pals Disney Junior
Photo Credit: Disney Junior

The story focuses on two fun-loving pug puppies, Bingo and Rolly, whose thrill-seeking appetites take them on daily adventures around their neighborhood and beyond and around the globe. 

Puppy Dog Pals Executive Producer Sean Coyle ~ Photo Credit: Disney Junior/Aaron Poole

The series was created by comedian Harland Williams and executive-produced by Sean Coyle.

Whether embarking on a mission to help their owner Bob or assisting a friend in need, the pugs’ motto is that life is more exciting with your best friend by your side. Along for the adventures are their community of colorful animal pals including Bob’s cat Hissy and A.R.F., the lovable robot dog created by Bob. Each episode features two 11-minute stories that showcase Bingo and Rolly’s similarities and differences while demonstrating positive lessons about friendship, problem-solving, collaboration, creativity and adventure.

Even though the show is geared toward the pre-school set, I was totally wrapped up in the show when I was given the opportunity to screen it in late March. The lessons the show is trying to teach – creativity, friendship and problem solving – are so well done in a fun and entertaining way. I guess I’m a child at heart because I truly enjoyed not only the messages be taught but the cutest little puppy dogs teaching those lessons!

After the screening, I was given the opportunity to take part in a Q&A with the Executive Producer Sean Coyle and Disney Junior Creative Executive Diane Ikemiyashiro. These Q&A’s always spark my interest. I truly enjoy learning about the thought process behind these shows and where some of the outstanding ideas come from. 

When asked what age group the show was designed for, Sean Coyle told us they were definitely aiming for the two to five age range. As a parent of two little kids, he is very picky with what they watch because it has to be something that he doesn’t mind spending time with either. And so that was really a focus for him and many of the crew members too. The writers, the directors, the designers just wanted to create something that kids would love but also something that people two to eighty could enjoy spending 25 minutes with. Believe me! They hit it right too! I know I enjoyed watching it myself but enjoyed just as much watching the reaction of a child (son of a visiting blogger) sitting a few seats away.

According to Sean, early on they ran focus groups with pre-schoolers as the audience and listened to the suggestions and comments of those pre-schoolers. How cool is that? Grown-ups taking into consideration the thoughts and ideas of pre-schoolers! Sean also said that at Disney there is always a standard of quality. He knows that he can turn on a Disney show and leave his kids if he has to because there isn’t going to be anything suspect or controversial. It’s a trusted brand.

Sean indicated that in the development stage he would study his own children’s reaction to a lot of it. I would feed them character designs and story ideas and ask them if they would watch a show about two dogs that perhaps go to Hawaii and surf. He would then gauge what they responded to and how they responded to it. 

At the core of Puppy Dog Pals is the family unit. Two brothers that love each other, support each other and help each other. A wonderful message – it’s about family bonds, being friends, making friends, being a good brother.

Both Sean and Diane agreed that the ultimate goal of the show was to have some education told in a very entertaining and storytelling way. I certainly think they are successful with Puppy Dog Pals!

Here’s a great trailer – Enjoy!

Recurring guest stars will include musician Huey Lewis as Bulworth, the junkyard dog; Patrick Warburton (“Family Guy”) as Captain Dog, the star of the pups’ favorite television show; Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”) as Hedgie the hedgehog; Yvette Nicole Brown (“Elena of Avalor”) as Daisy, a kind German Shepherd; famed sportscaster Bob Uecker as a baseball announcer; Leslie David Baker (“The Office”) and Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”) as neighbors Frank and Esther Exposition; Jill Talley (“American Dad”) as bossy pup Cupcake; Mo Collins (“Fresh Off the Boat”) as Strider, a fast-talking sheep herder; and Tress MacNeille (“Mickey and the Roadster Racers”) as Bob’s Mom.

Games and activities featuring Bingo and Rolly became available on the Disney Junior app and on April 7. 

I was provided an all expense paid trip to San Francisco for the purposes of this review and event. All opinions are my own.

A Look at Disneynature’s #BornInChina

Born China Disneynature

I was recently invited to San Francisco by Disney to experience some new films and shows. Part of that event included a special early screening of Born in China, a breathtaking film of family, survival and nature.

Disneynature films gives everyone a look at some of the most amazing and beautiful wildlife in the world. A look at some of the most amazing and beautiful locations in the world. I have always found each film to be educational and interesting. So much of what they produce teaches both children and adults so many wonderful things about nature. Born in China is no different. The film centers around three animal families – a Panda and her cub, a snow leopard mom and her two off-spring and a full clan of golden snub-nosed monkeys.

The film will be opening on April 21 and moviegoers who see Born in China during its opening week in 2017 will benefit World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China. 

The film is narrated by John Krasinski (“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” NBC’s “The Office,” “Amazon’s “Jack Ryan”). He guides us on a journey into the wilds of China where few people ever venture and has us following the stories of the three animal families. We are transported via film to some of the most extreme environments on earth and given the opportunity to witness some intimate moments of these animal families.

A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as the innocent cub tries to explore and become independent. A two year old golden snub-nosed monkey, feeling displaced by his new baby sister, joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts (that I lovingly started to refer to as the “lost boys”). A mother snow leopard is the most amazing of all since snow leopards are rarely caught on camera. The hardships she faces trying to raise her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet is heartbreaking. The landscapes are awesome and beautiful. Born in China is overall a fascinating nature film.

While I believe the film is family friendly overall, is educational, and holds a true message of family bonds, there are scenes of animals in extreme danger and fighting against each other for survival, as well as death that could be scary for very little or sensitive kids. The harsh realities and images of the existence of these animal families living in the wild include seeing a baby monkey being swept up by a hawk, animals viciously attacking each other, and the death of an animal mother. Older kids and parents will likely be interested in seeing this remote part of the world and its inhabitants and not be disturbed because of a better understanding. I also think the film, along with many other Disneynature films, are ideal for home-schooling families. The film ends with some wonderful out-takes that give you a greater look at what went into the making of this beautiful story.


The scenery is stunning and gives us a look at areas of China that most of us will never see. The film will definitely tug at your heart while keeping you interested, amazed and occasionally amused.

Fun Facts to download about the adorable pandas in the film:

Two great clips from the movie that will definitely put a smile on your face!


About Disneynature

Disneynature was launched in April 2008. Its mission is to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to share a wide variety of wildlife stories on the big screen in order to engage, inspire and educate theatrical audiences everywhere. Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife filmmaking, producing 13 True-Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, which earned eight Academy Awards®. The first six Disneynature films, “Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats,” “Chimpanzee,” “Bears” and “Monkey Kingdom” are six of the top seven highest overall grossing feature-length nature films to date, with “Chimpanzee” garnering a record-breaking opening weekend for the genre. Disneynature’s commitment to conservation is a key pillar of the label and the films empower the audience to help make a difference. Through donations tied to opening-week attendance for all six films, Disneynature, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, has contributed to a host of conservation initiatives. Efforts include planting three million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, established 40,000 acres of marine protected area in The Bahamas, protected 65,000 acres of savanna in Kenya, protected nearly 130,000 acres of wild chimpanzee habitat, cared for chimpanzees and educated 60,000 school children about chimpanzee conservation in the Congo. Additionally, efforts have funded research and restoration grants in U.S. National Parks, supporting conservation projects spanning 400,000 acres of parkland and protecting 75 species of animals and plants, and helped protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats across Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

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Visit the official BORN IN CHINA website:

Check out a previously published post HERE that offers a Born in China Activity Pack. The activity packet is perfect for homeschooling families as well as anyone with a thirst for knowledge, or simply anyone that just loves animals.

I was provided an all expense paid trip for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.