Pixar’s critically acclaimed animated film “Soul,” in which Cal State San Bernardino biology professor Stuart Sumida served as a consultant to animators, won two Golden Globe Awards: Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.
The film, an offbeat story that addresses big ideas on life through the exploits of a jazz musician, was honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Feb. 28 at its 78th annual awards ceremony. “Soul” is also on the shortlist of animated films predicted to be nominated for an Academy Award.
One area of praise for “Soul” is the work of the film’s animators for their realistic depiction of its characters. To help in their efforts, Sumida, who teaches in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Biological Sciences, was enlisted for his expertise in animal and human anatomy to ensure an accurate representation of a cat named Mr. Mittens.
“I was invited by the animation supervisors at Pixar to help to infuse believable types of movement and behaviors into the character of Mr. Mittens,” Sumida said in an earlier interview. “Although Mr. Mittens is a stylized animated character, the way he moves, walks and runs, and behaves as a cat are all inspired by real-life feline biology.”
“First, cats are an important and standard animal in comparative studies from the undergraduate to the veterinary level,” Sumida said. “Second, in CSUSB’s Department of Biology and College of Natural Sciences, we have continued to study actual animals responsibly – including cats – in our course laboratories. So, in fact, CSUSB’s determination to give students in animal and human biology courses real-life laboratory experiences is one of the reasons why I had this great opportunity with Pixar.”
Sumida’s work with filmmakers is not limited to Pixar. He has consulted on more than 70 films, television shows and video games since joining CSUSB.
Sumida lectures on a number of subjects that include human anatomy and physiology, evolution and topics in zoology. He is the author of three books and more than 70 journal articles – many with students, introducing them to the process of research and publication in refereed journals.
He is just as comfortable outside the classroom or lecture hall, be it in paleontology digs in Europe and the United States or reconstructing fossilized dinosaur skeletons. He is recognized internationally for his research on biological transformations that took place as back-boned animals adapted to life on land and as co-discoverer of the earliest bipedal animal to ever run on two legs, predating dinosaurian bipeds by over 60 million years.