Help need with understanding Backgrounds and Environments

I pretty much have down how to model and animate a character. I have been creating the environment for a scene and am not very pleased with what I have. My question is this. Does Pixar type films use this technique called matte painting and projection mapping? I would like to have more control of the overall design of the background and also not spend years rendering every rock and object in a scene.

I have found readings for VFX films like Lord of the Rings, but not for any for cartoony films like Pixar movies or even Big Buck Bunny. The backgrounds are simple and very nice. Any suggested links for detailed tutorials or books would be greatly appreciated.

I have even put in an image into a plane for the background. That’s not really great for quality it seems. Perhaps there are other methods for uploading background images.

For the most part, they just model and texture the environments. This isn’t a trivial process (“environment artist” is a job title for a reason). Usually just slapping an image back there will never look quite right. For things like the sky, or distant/out of focus objects you can get away with it, but for most things, you’re going to have to just build it.

you can keep the modelling to a minimum
watch this tut it might give you ideas

Yeah, and they do composite everything. The things that you need to do with the lighting to get the central character to look like “the star of the show” might be completely different from what’s called-for even with things that the character’s “standing right next to.” So, you not only seek to simplify the problem, but you also seek to minimize the amount of redundant calculation that takes place. “This is not the real world … this is CG.” Take full advantage of that.