Starling was made by an incredible group of artists and animators around the world (14 different countries!), who so generously volunteered their time and talent.
Below is a glimpse at some of our leadership.
Writer - Director
Mitra Shahidi is an Iranian-American story artist, director and screenwriter who was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Shahidi’s passion for art and storytelling began at a young age and led her to pursue a career in animation in United States. Growing up, she was exposed to a rich cultural heritage which has greatly influenced her artistic style and subject matter. After graduating from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, she worked as an art director and story artist in games, film and advertising until she joined Pixar Animation Studios as a story artist in 2017. Since joining Pixar, she has worked on several films, including the Academy Award-nominated “Luca” and the upcoming “Elio.” Her role as a story artist involves visualizing the script and creating storyboards that help the director and other team members understand how the film will look and feel. Her love for animation greatly influences her live-action filmmaking as well. Shahidi currently lives in the Bay Area, California with her family.
Jessica Heidt joined Pixar Animation Studios in 2008. She was a Script Supervisor on many of Pixar’s feature films including “Cars 3,” “Luca,” Academy Award ® winning “Soul,” and the upcoming “Elio”. She was the Associate Production Manager on the short film, 22 vs. Earth, and is currently the Art & Technical Department Manager on the upcoming, “Inside Out 2.” She is featured in the Disney+ docuseries, Inside Pixar, which focuses on her work to balance representation in Pixar’s films. She’s a fierce advocate for Inclusion and Representation across industries and Bloomberg News named her one of their Game Changers in 2022. Prior to working at Pixar, Heidt worked in theater as a producer, director, and casting director. She taught at Universities across the Bay Area and was the writer/director of the award-winning short film, “Prufrock,” produced in 2019. She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.
Director of Photography - Composer
Andrew Jimenez has been with Pixar Animation Studios since 2001. His previous Pixar projects include co-director and writer of the Academy Award-nominated short film, One Man Band, and co-director of photography on the Academy Award-winning comedy-adventure, The Incredibles. Jimenez is also the Director of Photography and Music Composer for the 2D animated film program at Pixar. Jimenez also served as a Digital Story Artist for Finding Nemo, Incredibles 2, Onward, Toy Story 4, Coco, & Lightyear. Time away from filmmaking often involves a deep dive into the world of model railroading.
Animation Supervisor- 2D & CG
Holger Leihe studied Illustration and Design at the Folkwang School in Germany. As a student he worked for 18 months as an animator for Richard Williams in London and also directed 2 short films that were shown at animation festivals in Zagreb, Hiroshima, Espinho, Stuttgart and Ottawa. After graduating he went on to work on feature films at Warner Bros., Dreamworks and Disney. Since joining Pixar in 2006 he has worked on most of the studio's feature films and also on several of the hand drawn animation projects, including the Spark shorts Kitbull, Burrow and Twenty Something. On Starling he supervised the hand drawn and CG animation. He started with prepro, working on model sheets, turnarounds, character layouts and previs. He assembled a team of animators whose work he admires and worked with Mitra on providing feedback on the animation iterations.
Ayşe Dedeoğlu Arkalı is a San Francisco Bay Area based film and television editor. Ayşe is currently working as Picture Editor on Win or Lose, Pixar's highly anticipated long-form animated series, streaming on Disney+ Fall 2023. Originally from Turkey, she graduated from Koc University, Istanbul with a BA in Business Administration, then pursued studying film in Rome, Italy at Rome Film Academy, Cinecittà (formerly, NUCT). Over a 10 year career in VFX, Ayşe worked on 60 features and and 5 TV series, including Stranger Things: Season 2, Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, Pirates of the Caribbean 4-5, Allied, Rogue One, Star Trek Beyond, Deadpool, The Walk, Game of Thrones: Season 5, Transformers 2-5, Cosmos, Elysium, Terminator Salvation. Since joining Pixar, Ayşe has worked on Soul and Nona. Ayşe strives to be a true collaborator and a creative voice in the cutting room.
Celine is an art director and visual designer currently working at Google Doodle. She is passionate about creating stylized and memorable visual experiences to tell meaningful stories. Before joining Google, she worked as a character designer at Pixar animation studios on several feature films and short films including Turning Red, Soul, Toy Story 4, Kitbull, and Wind. In her spare time, she loves collaborating with artists on various projects. In 2021, she art directed a short film called Opera, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category. If not doing art, Celine enjoys hiking and climbing rocks, staying as close as possible to nature.
Visual Effects Supervisor
Kristoffer Neil Landes
Finding a passion for animation at a young age, Kristoffer started his journey into film in 2005, teaching himself many of the associated disciplines such as modeling, rigging, and simulation. Starling provided an opportunity to bring these skills to an exceptional project with the added challenge of creating a look that seamlessly merged 2D and 3D animation. Throughout the production of the film Landes enjoyed solving interesting technical problems and participating in the creative process alongside the stellar crew assembled to bring the director’s vision to life. Landes currently works in the software research and development group at Pixar Animation Studios where he leads the development of 2D animation and motion graphics pipeline technology. Prior to this role he worked in Pixar’s Systems department for five years in various positions building infrastructure for Apple technology at the studio and partnering with stakeholders in production to solve issues on the Mac platform. Growing up in Fairfield, California, Landes holds an associate’s degree in Spanish language and literature from Solano Community College and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of California, Davis. He currently resides in Bothell, Washington where he enjoys bouldering and partaking in the local craft coffee scene.