Oscar winner

11 July 2012

Dr Jan Pinkava
Dr Jan Pinkava

Oscar winning film director and Aberystwyth University graduate, Dr Jan Pinkava, was honoured as Fellow of his alma mater on Wednesday 11 July.

Dr Pinkava, who also completed his PhD at Aberystwyth, was presented by Professor Chris Price from the Department of Computer Science.

Awarded an Oscar in 1998 for the animated film Geri’s Game, Dr Pinkava is also known for his work on A Bugs Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc and earned a second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Original Screenplay on Ratatouille.

Professor Chris Price’s presentation:
“Llywydd: braint a phleser yw cyflwyno Jan Pinkava yn gymrawd o Brifysgol Aberystwyth.

President, it is my privilege and my pleasure to present Dr Jan Pinkava as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Receiving both his undergraduate degree and his doctorate from the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth, Dr Pinkava has very strong links to Aberystwyth University.

The height of his achievement so far has perhaps been the winning of an Oscar for his short film "Geri's Game", but the breadth of his achievement has been and still will be greater. He has excelled in the theoretical application of computer science, in the creative application of the film maker's art, and has made and continues to make a positive contribution to this university.

On the creative side, he started film-making while still at school in Colchester, and his animated film "The Rainbow" won a national Young Film-Maker's Competition of the Year Award in 1980. The organisers of the annual competition later said it was "the only occasion in the history of the competition where we came across a piece of film that was spectacularly professional".

Shortly afterwards, he came to study Computer Science at Aberystwyth, and achieved first class honours. After graduation, he continued to excel at the more challenging task of a very theoretical PhD in Sensory Robotics. The external examiner described his thesis as "a bold attempt at the very difficult problem of providing a scientific basis for the design of sensory robotic systems". After becoming Dr Pinkava, Jan returned to his first love, animation, joining a London company specialising in TV commercials.

In 1993, he joined his hero, John Lasseter, at Pixar. This was two years before Pixar's first hit feature film, Toy Story. He originally worked on commercials, and won a Gold Clio Award for his "Arrows" commercial, which animated a bottle of mouthwash as an archer fighting bad breath. After several other notable commercials, he was given permission to create one of the ground-breaking short films for which Pixar are famous.

Geri's Game tells the story of an old man playing chess with himself. As well as being a touching tale, it broke new ground as the first Pixar film to feature a human main character. It was awarded the 1998 Oscar for Best Short Film.

After Geri, Jan worked on A Bug's Life, on Toy Story 2, and on Monsters Inc, and was invited to create his own idea for a feature film. He came up with Ratatouille, the story of a rat cooking in a Paris restaurant, for which he shared a second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Original Screenplay.

Since Ratatouille, he has been working on his next masterpiece, Little White Lie, the story of a boy and his unusual dog.  We look forward to seeing it in the cinema.”

Eight new Fellows are being honoured by Aberystwyth University at this year’s ceremonies which take place between Tuesday 10 and Friday 13 July.

The title of Fellow is awarded to honour distinguished people who have a close association with Aberystwyth University or who have made an outstanding contribution to professional or public life in Wales.

The 2012 Fellows are the actor Michael Sheen, TV presenter Alex Jones, Professor Michael Clarke, Director of the Royal United Services Institute, Mark Price, Managing Director of Waitrose, Dr Jan Jaroslav Pinkava, Oscar winner, Rev. John Gwilym Jones, Former Archdruid of Wales, Caitlin Moran, Broadcaster, TV critic and columnist, and Judge Sir David Lloyd Jones.

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Arthur Dafis
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