Silt native part of Oscar winning Pixar animation team for ‘Coco’
March 9, 2018
Cody Lyon was sitting in Pixar Animation Studios’ theater on Sunday night watching a live-broadcast of the Oscars. He was clad in a “Coco” shirt and hat, feet propped on the seat in front of him, popcorn all over. But when he saw the clip shown for “Coco” was one that he animated, the Silt native sat straight up.
“I thought, maybe I better clean myself up a little bit,” he said with a laugh.
“Coco” won two Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song, and 24-year-old Lyon was part of it as an animator at Pixar.
While in middle school at Riverside in New Castle, Lyon saw a documentary on Pixar and knew immediately animation was something he wanted to do.
“I never really realized you could do that for a job, I always just thought people did it as a hobby,” Lyon said.
He taught himself how to do animation and made his own films throughout high school. He entered some in the Rocky Mountain Student Film Fest.
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After high school, Lyon wanted to get as close as possible to Pixar so he went to school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He worked at Niantic, a software development company where he did animation for the popular smartphone game, Pokemon Go. He also taught animation workshops at Stanford University one summer.
But every summer for five years he applied for Pixar’s summer internship in animation. On the fifth try in 2016, he got in.
“I was lucky enough to get a job offer afterwards,” Lyon said.
“Coco” was the first movie Lyon worked on at Pixar, and he did so for 18 months.
“I had worked in games before, but never a full animated production,” Lyon said.
And it was, and continues to be, a dream.
“Working at Pixar, there’s a really cool feeling that everyone around you is at the top of their field,” Lyon said. “Everyone really wants to be here and they really care about how the final product turns out.”
“Coco” is about an aspiring musician named Miguel who travels to the Land of the Dead where he seeks guidance from his great-great grandfather who was also a musician. A lot of the film’s concept and aesthetic is based on the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.”
Lyon said director Lee Unkrich was very detailed and research-oriented on Mexican culture and holidays. Unkrich would make frequent visits to Mexico and give lectures when he returned to keep the story and animation authentic.
“It was really cool cause we got to learn a lot about Mexico while making the film,” Lyon said.
Lyon’s favorite “Coco” character is the dog Dante, which he describes as the “dream animated character.”
“I’m a huge dog person and love characters that are kinda idiots,” he said.
His favorite scene he worked on, however, was Frida Kahlo with her troop of backup dancers dancing on papayas and cacti.
Lyon describes the moment he found out he and his team won an Oscar as “surreal.”
“Everyone knows it’s a great movie, in our minds,” he said. “But we weren’t expecting to win.”
When a Pixar movie wins an award, the company has a homecoming celebration where the award comes back to the office and there’s a champagne toast with the whole team.
“They make you feel like everyone earned it together and it just doesn’t belong to the director,” Lyon said.
Lyon is currently working on “Incredibles 2” at Pixar, which is slated to be released in June.