BSc Computing Science, 1990
From Aberdeen to Disney Pixar
A native of Banff and graduate of the University of Aberdeen, Gordon Cameron has had an impressive career within the film industry that has resulted in his involvement in cutting edge developments in the field of animation and some of its biggest hits. Here we find out how he went From Aberdeen to Disney Pixar.
Gordon was a big fan of science fiction movies, growing up on the Aberdeenshire coast.
“When I was much younger I harboured this fantasy that I’d love to get into film effects after watching films like Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battle Beyond The Stars and Alien,” says Gordon, now 44.
“When I lived in Banff I used to read about that world by ordering magazines from the States and imagining what that world might be like.
“I was so young and naive back then but the upside was that I had no fear of learning and firing off letters to enquire about the possibilities,” he says. “At 16 or so I wrote to Industrial Light and Magic to ask how I’d go about working in the industry, and they were gracious enough to send back an advice-packed letter that I still keep. But as I got older it seemed so unlikely that there’d be a way to break into that film world although of course it is always something I wanted.”
Gordon enrolled at the University of Aberdeen to study Computing Science, he remembers fondly his time at the University and the opportunities it offered.
“There was so much to enjoy coming from a small town - a lot of open-minded people from around the world gathered together on an inspiring campus. “I used to love walking from Hillhead down to King’s before classes; playing basketball (badly!) with the second team; cycling everywhere; the friends I made in halls and shared flats; the opportunity and space to learn, and the fact that although a relatively large university, it was always possible to escape and find somewhere alone. It was an enlightening time for me.”
Upon graduation Gordon went on to work in Edinburgh where his childhood dreams started to become a reality.
“To cut a long story short – I owe my entire work history to a procession of people taking a chance on me. I moved to Edinburgh to work, doing Computer Vision research and then parallel computing and visualisation. While in Edinburgh I got a call from Montreal asking me to come out for an interview. I flew out the next week, got the job and started soon after. That was my first step directly in the FX and animation business.”
After seeing Pixar family favourite Toy Story, Gordon knew he wanted to work for the studio “because it was such a perfect film”. By the time Pixar’s Finding Nemo hit the silver screen he had successfully made the move to California.
“When I joined Pixar it was to work on developing the in-house animation software we use for all our projects. I’d got that job by working in a similar area in Montreal for an animation software company. I managed to get that job by working on vision and visualisation in Edinburgh, and I got those positions in Edinburgh by gaining tremendous technical and practical experience studying for my degree in Aberdeen with some wonderful professors.”
Today Gordon is a technical supervisor in production at Disney Pixar - one of the most successful hit-moviemaking studios in the world. Gordon has worked on many big hits including Ratatouille, Toy Story 3 and Brave, a particular highlight. “Being the only Scot at Pixar meant working on Brave was particularly special: such is the attention to detail that Pixar puts into everything, there were a crew of people that were probably more knowledgeable on Scotland than I – many of whom would wander around in kilts each Friday! It was also the first film I was supervising on which meant I was able to watch it evolve from the start and stay with it until completion. Taking my parents to the premiere in Edinburgh was also remarkably special to me.”