How Pete Docter's Next Pixar Movie Helped Reinvent the Emoticon for Facebook

How Pete Docter's Next Pixar Movie Helped Reinvent the Emoticon for Facebook

Apr 12, 2013


Update: Facebook began rolling out its new emoticons on Tuesday (screenshot below), and you can read more about that here. See our original post below.

BuzzFeed shared a neat story about Pixar artist Matt Jones and his current Facebook smiley project. The social media network wants to upgrade its emoticons, allowing users to convey nuanced feelings that take the boring :-) to the next level. Enter the Wallace and Gromit artist who is reinventing the emoticon for Facebook (as an independent project), with the help of Up and Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter — unofficially anyway.

Both men happen to be working on the upcoming and untitled Pixar feature that takes place inside the mind of a young girl. The coming-of-age tale will be released in June 2015. Psychologist Paul Ekman has been assisting the duo in their "micro-emotions" endeavor, and since he's collaborated with Jon Cleese on the BBC series The Human Face, he's the perfect guy for the job. Ekman's protégé Dacher Keltner — who is the codirector of University of California-Berkeley's Greater Good Science Program — has been working with Facebook on the emoticon revamp and found Jones through Keltner. It's just one giant artsy, science-y lovefest.

Since then, Jones has been studying Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which explores similar traits between human and animal facial movements (since Darwin did believe we have a common ancestor). The group is aiming for "instant readability," and Jones conveys that with subtle line work, which is remarkable when considering the simplicity of it all. Negative emotions have proven more fun to conceive of and easier to draw, says Jones. Tests, colors and other intricacies are being considered. Animation is a goal for Jones, who is encouraging Facebook to include iPhone-style emoticons that move. "Hopefully we can evolve them into living little living characters." We can't wait to see the finished product and inundate our Facebook chats with the miniature, cinematic animations.

You can see emoticon concept art above, and concept art for that Untitled Pixar Movie below...

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