By Maegan Rocio
Baylor and “Beauty and the Beast” have a history, but not in the way many have heard.
A 1979 Baylor alum, Jim Hillin, who was the Computer Generated Imagery Supervisor of the 1991 animated feature, helped design the famous ballroom scene of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
“I was looking for a new gig,” he said. “I got a call from Disney, from producer Don Hahn.”
Hillin was working in Hollywood when he was hired as part of the CGI staff after interviewing with Hahn.
“He gave me the job to do the graphics,” he said. “At the time, the department in 1990 was about 12 people. He wanted me to do two sequences: the fight scene at the end on the castle and the ballroom scene. There was so much work to be done to put it together before nine months that I couldn’t guarantee that we’d get it done, so we did the ballroom scene.”
According to a Nov. 8 Baylor Proud Newsletter, the rumor is the famous ballroom scene from “Beauty and the Beast” was modeled after Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library.
Hillin said the rumor is not true.
“The design came from the art director, and I was just following his directions,” he said.
Some Baylor students were disappointed to hear that the myth turned out to be false.
San Antonio freshman Rachel Hess said she heard the story from her tour group guide while passing the library.
“I guess it’s just a little disappointing, but still it was a nice thought because our library is really pretty,” she said.
Tatum sophomore Emily Roberson said she heard the rumor from her roommate and despite being told the rumor is false, she said the news hasn’t changed her positive perception of the library or the movie.
“I think she heard it on a campus tour and then she told me about it,” Roberson said. “I was really excited like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool!’”
Hillin has a long history working in the film industry.
Born on Oct. 29, 1955, Hillin lived in Corpus Christi with his family until they moved to Houston, where he completed his firstthrough eighth-grade schooling before moving back to Corpus Christi to finish high school.
Hillin said he has had an interest in animation and film since he was a child, but instead chose to study music at Baylor.
After graduating from Baylor, Hillin attended California State University at Northridge where he earned his master’s in composition for television and film.
Hillin said he began his film and animation career when he worked as a composer for the 30-minute film adaptation of “Pickman’s Model,” a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft.
Besides working as the CGI supervisor for “Beauty and the Beast,” Hillin has also worked on other well-known films.
While with Disney, he worked on “Aladdin” in 1992 as the CGI Modeler/Renderman Consultant, then later in 2000 on the Disney film “Dinosaur.”
He was offered a job to work on “The Lion King,” but declined to find work at another film company.
Since then, Hillin has worked for six film companies, including Metro Light, Digital Domain Productions, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Hillin has also been on staff for special effects companies, such as Entity FX and Gradient Effects where he worked on big name films such as “Spider-Man 2,” “Beowulf” and “Speed Racer.”
Hillin was inducted into the Motion Picture Academy for his special effects work on “Dinosaur” in 2002.
He is also a member of The Animation Guild, The Visual Effects Society and the Visual Effects Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hillin worked on the movies “Bullet to the Head” and “Jack the Giant Slayer” last year and is currently working on a horror film called “Home.”
Hillin said he has had a good time working in the animation and film industry since 1984.
“Computer graphics is what I do,” he said. “That’s my specialty.”
Hillin is willing to help any students that are interested in finding professional work in the animation and film industry because he had trouble finding work opportunities after graduating from school.
He said social media and Internet now make this task easier.
“Students can ask me about the business if they are interested in that kind of work,” he said. “They can get in touch with me.”
Hillin has both a Linked-In account and a Facebook account.
He can also be reached via email at email@example.com.