Academy Award winning Yale computer science professor discusses representation in animation

Theodore “Ted” Kim, two-time Academy Award winner and associate professor of computer science in the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science, was recently featured on President Peter Salovey’s ‘YaleTalk’ podcast. The episode featured a discussion about the Yale Computer Graphics Group’s research on promoting representation and countering racial bias in animation technology. 

Kim first joined Yale in 2019, and after having worked as a senior research scientist at Pixar Animation Studios for four years, he decided to return to academia. Through a collaboration with Yale film studies professor John Mackay, his work examines the intricacies of the technology used to depict animated humans in movies.  During the podcast, he described how he discovered that there was a significant gap in technical literature when it came to depicting visual features of computer-generated humans of color. Kim aims to address and rectify these issues in his current role as co-leader of the Yale Computer Graphics Group. 

At Yale, Kim works alongside Julie Dorsey and Holly Rushmeier, two renown Yale computer science professors who played an influential role in Kim’s decision to come work at Yale. He reflects on having incorporated professor Rushmeier’s models in his first job out of college and says, “the opportunity to come [to Yale] and work with the people whose work I had been using for decades was an immense opportunity.” The Group works to address and counter the racial bias present in computer graphics by developing techniques to capture visual features present on non-white characters in more realistic and accurate ways. 

As a Korean-American scholar himself, Kim emphasizes the importance of representation in animation and computer graphics. In the dual role of scientist and professor, he aims to push the needle with the Group’s research by finding and amplifying those voices that are often missing in storytelling. “We’re supposed to be the leaders in storytelling,” he says. “There are lots of stories out there and we haven’t told a bunch of them, so let’s go tell these stories.”

Last year, the Group received a $1 million gift from the Bungie Foundation, which will be used to support its leading, innovative research as it continues to work towards telling more diverse stories and fostering inclusivity on the animation scene. 


To learn more, listen to the full Yale Talk podcast episode.