Saturday, December 20, 2008
Studio AKA has posted some images and a clip on their site for their upcoming film Lost and Found. It's based on a children's book by Oliver Jeffers which I was previously unfamiliar with. The images look beautiful; I really like the simple style of the characters and the painterly quality of the rendering. Here's a link to the clip, and a post on Cartoon Brew. I guess I'll have to pick up this book for Christmas (for my daughters, of course!).
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I can finally talk about the 4th (and most ambitious) Cars Toon: Tokyo Mater! Just like the previous 3 Cars Toons (which are now in rotation on all the Disney Channels, including HD), these are Directed by John Lasseter and Co-Directed by Rob Gibbs and myself. The difference is that Tokyo Mater is a 6 minute theatrical short that will be playing in front of Bolt starting this Friday, December 12th. And it's in 3D! And we made it only 5 months, but it looks amazing! And it's got drift-racing! And it was crazy hard to do! And it has an awesome techno soundtrack by BT! And BT played at our wrap party! And - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....
Anyway, I'm on hard-earned vacation now, and I look forward to seeing Tokyo Mater with a real audience this Friday. I hope to see you there, too! In the meantime, check out this article on ComingSoon.net, and here's a nice review on AintItCoolNews.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Once again the students at Gobelins in France are tearing it up! Here is the latest batch of short films, all of which are unique in style and storytelling. Great designs, great animation, and all totally original. My favorites are "For Sock's Sake" and "Pluggin'". I wish these guys would make feature films!
Monday, December 01, 2008
Well I be darned, I'm up for an Annie Award for Character Animation in a Feature Production! This is a pretty big deal considering all the other great work that was done on WALL-E by my coworkers, and considering the amazing animators I'm up against from Dreamworks and BlueSky. Here's the full list of nominees:
Character Animation in a Feature Production
- James Baxter “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
- Jeff Gabor “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who” – Blue Sky Studios
- Philippe Le Brun “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
- Victor Navone “Wall•E” – Pixar Animation Studios
- Dan Wagner “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Friday, November 28, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here's an interview I gave about WALL-E and Cars Toons, in case you care. And if that's not enough for you, the same site has an interview with Angus MacLane, Directing Animator on WALL-E and Director of the original short, "BURN-E", which is featured on the WALL-E DVD.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Here are some sneak peeks at the upcoming stop-motion feature, Coraline. It's directed by Henry Selick ("Nightmare Before Christmas") and these documentary vignettes are beautiful to watch. I hope the movie is as good! Type in these passwords to access 6 different clips:
Update: Here's the trailer!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I'm not sure of the exact date, but I'm pretty sure that I finished my first animation test of Blit Wizbok (who would late go on to appear in Alien Song) in November of 1998. I don't give Blit a lot of thought any more, but I have him to thank for getting me in the door at Pixar. Blit was modeled and animation in Animation: Master, which I loved using, but I haven't had a chance to touch it (or Blit) in years.
So I've been doing character animation for about 10 years now; looking back at this first clip, I'm happy to say I've learned a few things in that time!
Friday, November 07, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Looks like there might be some confusion about the broadcast times for these. Check your local listings to see when Haunted Mansion, Phantom of the Megaplex and Scream Team air on Toon Disney, because the CarsToons air right after those, respectively. Also, here's an article with some images and a clip from the 'Toons.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Want to see what I've been up to for the past 9 months? It means you'll have to watch the Toon Disney channel (but you do that anyway, right?). Our series of "CarsToons", Directed by John Lasseter, Co-Directed by Robb Gibbs and myself, will be premiering over three nights, then will be in heavy rotation on the various Disney Channels as well as ABC Family.
Even if you're not a fan of the Pixar film "Cars" I think you'll enjoy these. They're very short and very silly, and they all feature Mater the tow truck reminiscing about the wild adventures he supposedly had. These are played strictly for laughs, and they owe a lot to Chuck Jones and his wonderful Warner Brothers shorts. For me (and my team as well, I hope!) these were a lot of fun to work on, and a huge learning experience. Rob & I got to work under the close tutelage of John Lasseter, and we were also free to add in our own ideas and really run the production from start to finish. I really enjoyed stretching out and working with all the other departments that I normally don't interact with as an animator. I found that my years of experience working on pre-rendered adventure games back in the 90's really came in handy, allowing me to communicate with the modelers, shaders, lighters, etc. Thanks, Presto Studios! I am also fully aware of how lucky I am to have been chosen by John Lasseter for this role, and what's more, to have had a chance to work with him on a weekly basis. I think our production has gotten more "John Time" than any other this year. He's been extremely supportive and helpful to us in getting these made and making them the best they can be.
The schedules were intense (we cranked out three complete short films in less than a year) but we were lucky to have extremely talented people working in all departments to help us realize these shorts with feature-quality production values. I only had time to animate a few small shots myself, as I was spending most of the time in editorial and various reviews and meetings.
Edit: I forgot to mention that we screened all three at Pixar about a week ago and they looked fantastic on the big screen. The company seemed to really enjoy them, too. It's a shame that everyone else wont be seeing them in a theater. I only hope these shorts get broadcast in HD at some point, and that everyone gets really big HDTV's and 5.1 sound systems for Christmas! They look and sound that good.
Unfortunately these "interstitials" are so short (about 3 minutes each) that they don't have their own program listings, so you can't easily Tivo them. They also run without credits, which is kind of a bummer for all of us who worked so hard on them. Here's the schedule info:
*TOON DISNEY* (all times ET/PT, meaning they air at the same time on both coasts).
*Monday, October 27* (6:56 p.m.) following /Haunted Mansion/
"Rescue Squad Mater" -- Mater is a fire truck that rescues Lightning McQueen from a burning building. When McQueen is rushed to the hospital, he discovers that Mater is a doctor, too.
*Tuesday, October 28* (6:57 p.m.) following /Phantom of the Megaplex/
"Mater the Greater" -- Mater is a famous daredevil who does all kinds of stunts. Lightning McQueen becomes an unwilling participant in Mater's greatest stunt ever.
*Wednesday, October 29* (6:57 p.m.) following /Scream Team/
"El Materdor" -- Mater is a famous bulldozer fighter in Spain. He's so good, he's able to fend off multiple bulldozers at once. Lightning McQueen joins Mater in this Tall Tale just as things are at their worst.
All three Toons begin airing on the Disney Channel on November 1st. Each Toon will run daily, totaling more than 20 times per week.
Premieres on December 23rd in conjunction with "Polar Express".
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
And on a completely unrelated note, here's an amazing video (follow the link to the higher res "HD" video):
Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont HD from adam kimmel on Vimeo.
It's totally awesome in its own right, but I'm sure there are lessons for the animator in there as well. Watch how the skaters can steer the boards with subtle shifts in their center of gravity, and how the different poses help them accelerate and decelerate. Or just sit back and geek out on how crazy these guys are!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
You can find the home page and a neat mini-documentary here.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
If you can't participate in the auction, there will be a book of the art for sale, and there are other ways you can contribute as well. Do it for the kids!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
...Or maybe Timing.
Which one? I think that depends on what you're animating - they type of character, the situation, and the style. For this article I'm just going to focus on posing, and hopefully I can talk about timing more in the future.
Okay, I know that "posing" is not one of The 12 Principles of Animation as handed down on stone tablets by St. Frankenollie, but it's really darn important. It's actually kind of an uber-principle, as it combines elements of other principles within it, such as staging, appeal, exaggeration, and solid drawing. Again, it's a foolish pursuit to try to pick the most important animation principle, and you might rightly offer this counterpoint: posing without timing is just a comic book. Touché! But consider this: still images can suggest motion. And a good animator could animate an entire acting scene within a single clear pose. Live actors hold poses all the time. A good pose can communicate your character's physiology, personality, emotion and intent, even when the scene is paused. Animation is storytelling, and a good pose can tell a story.
The thing that really got me wanting to talk about posing is this photo:
I saw this at an art auction (onboard the Disney Magic, of all places) and it damn near knocked the wind out of me. I had to stop and stare at it for a while to figure out if it was real. I had seen lots of photos of Muhammad Ali, but never this one. Incidentally, I've never been a fan of boxing, nor had I considered it much of a sport until I saw this documentary about Ali. Simply amazing. You must see it.
Anyway, back to the topic. This photo is rad for so many reasons, and it's one of those images that gets me excited about animation all over again. The lines of action are so clear, so extreme in this photo, that it almost feels staged or manipulated. You can feel Ali's lean back onto his right leg, and your brain wants to see the invisible arc of that left hook coming around. Look at the way the other boxer's body leans into Ali with a simple curve, while Ali's main line of action is a strong, straight line. The convergence of these two lines at the boxers' feet creates visual tension, and Ali's supporting right leg makes his silhouette huge and grounded. Check out this article from Carlos Baena for more about lines.
I was so excited about this photo that I had to Google some more. I found this:
Boom! Another stunning image. There's a slightly more famous version of this photo in which Ali has his right arm at his side, but I like this one better. This image tells a clear story. The composition is so strong, it feels like it could have been a Michelangelo painting. Granted, I'm talking about posing, not staging, but the two are very intertwined, as I mentioned above. Check out all these triangles:
That's some amazing graphical composition! I love how all the triangles are pointed up like pyramids, except for the right arm, which points down at Liston as if to say, "don't even think about getting up!" You can't help but be impressed by Ali's dominance of Sonny Liston, and the posing and composition are reinforcing that story in every way.
Okay, one more Ali picture, just 'cause he's the man:
To me, this one is all about rhythm. Visual rhythm, that is. The way that line of action snakes up from his left foot all the way up to his head, the way the right leg echoes and supports that line, and the way the two arms complement the line, drawing your eye to their sharp angles, without ruining the flow of the pose. You can feel the twist of his hips, the lunge forward, the looseness of the wrists. There is a sense of lead and follow, of weight and momentum. You can imagine what came before, and what will come after. Your brain wants to see the action - it's begging for another pose, or at least a breakdown!
Posing is an art form in itself. After all, still poses have been around a LOT longer than animation. For that reason, we have a wealth of imagery and knowledge to draw upon. Look at Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Goya... Hell, look at Rockwell!
Say what you will about Rockwell's subject matter, but he was a master draftsman and storyteller. You can tell so much about every character in this picture just by the body language. In this case, the way the poses relate to each other is just as important as the poses themselves. As I mentioned, posing is an art from in itself, and has it's own set of principles. Say what?! That's right, if the 12 animation principles weren't enough, here are 28 from master animator and artist, the late Walt Stanchfield:
pose and mood
straights and curves
shape and form
primary and secondary
model or character
squash and stretch
staging and composition
beat and rhythm
line and silhouette
depth and volume
action and reaction
overlap and follow-through
working from extreme
tension to extreme
positive & negative shapes
Notice that there are a some overlaps with the list of 12. Yes, you can indicate "anticipation" in a still drawing! A few of these are specific to drawing and don't concern the CG animator as much. I'm not going to go into all of these principles here, and I don't purport to have one one-hundredth the talent and experience of Stanchfield, but I think I know what he's talking about, at least. Walt's copious notes on the subject of figure drawing used to be posted over at Animation Meat, but apparently they've been taken down pending their publication of a book. That will definitely be a must-have title! At Pixar we are lucky (I could just end the sentence right here) to have animator and artist Tom Gately, who was a student of Stanchfield, and now instructs his own weekly figure drawing class. While I haven't been exactly regular in attendance (sorry, Tom), I have found that practicing my figure drawing with an emphasis on these principles has improved my drawing and my animation. Not all CG animators draw, but for a lot of us drawing thumbnails is an important part of planning. Knowing how to improve those initial sketches will help clarify your ideas before you get on to the computer. Personally I find that I push my drawings much further than I would be likely to push a CG character, so it's good to start with an extreme drawing rather than the limitations of a computer model.
In closing here's an image that Disney animator Sergio Pablos handed out during a visit to Pixar a few years back, which shows many of the above principles applied. Notice the similarities to the third Muhammad Ali pic, above. I hope Sergio doesn't mind me posting this... Thanks, Sergio!
That's all I've got to say for now. There went my Sunday night. Thanks for reading this far!
P.S. A good supplement to this article is Travis Hathaway's "my not necessarily the principles" post on Spline Doctors
Alright, I know that posting a series of links to WALL-E articles does not make for an interesting blog. I have some ideas for some original posts, but I'm really slammed with work lately and don't have much brain juice left to spread on this site. I'll try to make some useful posts about posing and timing in the next few weeks. It may just be musings or rants, but it'll be something.
In the meantime, head on over to Spline Doctors - they've always got something good!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
WALL-E's been out for over a week, so hopefully you've had a chance to see it. It was a really fun show to work on for me. Because there was so little dialog, the animators had a lot of leeway for adding acting beats and ideas to help further develop the characters visually. Very often I would end up adding time to my shots (sometimes even doubling the length) and really indulging a moment. Here is a breakdown of most of the work I did on it:
"Day at work" - I did the shots of Wally opening the twinkie and the roach jumping in. Then Wally boxes up, parks in his shelf and rocks himself to sleep. The rocking thing was something I had done in a test animation and Andrew liked it so he had me add it to this scene. I also did the next scene where Wally wakes up, batteries low, and tries to put on his treads. At the time we had a newborn baby, and I wasn't getting enough sleep, so I was involuntarily doing lots of research for the scene.
"Eve arrives" - I did the stuff of Wally coming home, then seeing the red laser dot and starting to chase it down the freeway offramp.
"Courtship" - The scene of Wally watching Eve scanning from atop a reactor, then boxing up as she zooms by and shuts down.
"The plant" - The loooong scene where Eve tries to shoot the Big Mouth Billy Bass, then Wally starts handing her objects to play with: eggbeater, bubblewrap, lightbuld, Rubik's cube, etc. Then she pulls the tape out of the VHS tape and he freaks out. He rewinds the tape and puts it in the machine. It plays back and he presents the video to Eve. She scans it.
"Eve vigil" - Wally and Eve, sitting on the bench. He pries her arm open to hold her hand, it clamps down on his hand, he tries to free himself and falls off the bench. This is a scene that I added a lot of time to, and Andrew let me "go for it".
"Spacewalk" - I did the initial stuff of Wally flying around with the fire extinguisher. He and Eve whiz past each other, then he slowly works his way back to her and sprays her with it. She says to get going, and he instead uses the extinguisher to spin himself around and fly away. The sequence was changed after I finished my shots, so some were omitted and others were reworked a bit.
"Garbage airlock" - I did the shot of Eve staring at the plant for a while, then tossing it and offering her hand to Wally: "Directive".
"Showdown" - My only human scene on this film. I did the stuff of the Captain hotwiring the video system and taunting Auto: "Look what I got, Auto! That's right, the plant! Oh, you want it? Come and get it, Blinky!" Then he yanks the cables out. The cable rig was really hard to work with, so I animated the Captain first pantomiming the action, did some 2D animation of the cables on top of the 3D, then match-moved the 3D cables to the 2D motion on 1's. It was hard.
"Back on earth" - I did the stuff of Wally rebooting after he has just been repaired. Eve tries to jog his memory, but he doesn't recognize him. He cubes some of his souvenirs, then exits, squashing the roach. Eve watches him from the doorway of the trailer, devastated.
That's all I can remember off the top of my head. This is definitely the most work I've done on any film so far. Including the Superbowl commercial, I think I did about 7 minutes of footage. I was involved very early in animation (I was on for 2 years, total) and this list doesn't include the test shots I did. When the DVD comes out around Christmas I'll post a reel. Thanks for reading!
I got back from my vacation last Tuesday, and am finally caught up on (most of) my email and stuff. On board the Disney Magic I got to present WALL-E at a midnight showing, and I did two presentations: one about Pixar Animation in general, and one about the Making of WALL-E.
I would estimate that about 80-100 people showed up for the first talk, and overall it went very well. I had expected that it would be open to general audiences, and had therefore included some sillier, kid-friendly material, but it turned out that these events were limited to adults. Nevertheless the audience was receptive to the silly stuff as well and the more sophisticated stuff. This was a Disney cruise, after all! My prepared material for the first talk lasted for exactly 45 minutes, as planned, and then I opened it up for Q&A. They had plenty of questions, and I was prepared to run longer than 15 minutes. At noon on the dot, my microphone cut out and the captain came on the PA to start making some announcements in a droning voice. It was annoying, but funny, and after about 5 minutes I got my mic back and could finish the last few questions.
My second presentation was at 1pm the next day. I expected everything would go smoothly, since we had worked out the tech setup the day before. Of course, that was not to be the case. Around 12:15 as we were setting up my computer crashed, and my Keynote presentation file got corrupted. I could no longer launch my presentation! I tried for about 20 minutes to resurrect the data, but with no success. Luckily I had burned a backup copy to DVD before we left home, so I ran back to our room to grab it. In the time remaining before the presentation started I was able to update the backup with most of the changes I had made over the past week. Always back up your data, kids! From there the presentation went off without a hitch. I think I had more people in the audience this time, and there were many repeat visitors from the previous talk.
I was also happy to see that people didn't seem upset by the portrayal of the human cruise-liner passengers in the film. I'm sure you can appreciate the irony of this venue. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed WALL-E, so it was a friendly and fun experience.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I am composing this blog post from onboard the Disney Magic Cruise Liner. I'm on the ship to promote the premiere-at-sea of WALL-E on June 27, and to tour the Mexican Riviera as well. Tough job, I know.
I'll be back home next week, by which time WALL-E will have premiered on land in the U.S., and probably elsewhere. I hope you get a chance to see it (and that you like it)! I worked hard on it for about 2 years and I'm very proud of what we accomplished. You'll also get to see the short film, "Presto", which is worth the price of admission by itself. It has some hilarious and astonishing animation, and is directed by legendary animator Doug Sweetland.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Obviously I haven't posted in a while, for which I apologize. For the last couple of months I've been hard at work on some Cars interstitials for the Disney Channel. I have been co-directing these with story artist Rob Gibbs, and of course we're receiving plenty of good guidance from Mr. Lasseter. The clips are set to premiere in the Fall. More info as I am allowed to relate it. This directing business is extremely time-consuming, as you can well imagine, so I haven't had a lot of time or energy left to post stuff here. It's a lot of fun, though, and I'm really enjoying being involved in all the different parts of production, from story to voice recording to art, modeling, shading, lighting, and of course, animation. Working on a small team is a nice change from working on a behemoth production like WALL-E.
Speaking of which, tomorrow night (June 1st) is the Pixar wrap party for WALL-E! Woohoo! I'm looking forward to getting blitzed and doing "the Robot" on the dance floor.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
More brilliant work from my second-favorite animation studio, Aardman. Here are a series of spots for Animal Planet promoting green solutions to help solve our environmental crises. Look for all the hallmarks of Aardman animation: Simple, clear staging? Check. Appealing characters? Check. Charming Brittish accents? Check!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
An in-depth story on GIGAOM features nine important lessons on fostering innovation in animation from renowned director Brad Bird, who helmed such hits as The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The article focuses on how Bird managed to encourage his crew on his various films to do their best work, and insists that the better the morale of the animators, the better the film will be. He also strongly advocates taking risks when telling a story. “You don’t play it safe—you do something that scares you, that’s at the edge of your capabilities, where you might fail,” Bird explains. “That’s what gets you up in the morning.”
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Tomorrow (April 22nd) you can catch this in-depth documentary about the origins of Pixar on the Starz network at 10pm EST/PST . Set you TiVo's! The Starz web site also has some bonus footage that's not in the documentary, involving the infamous "Love Lounge" and Pixar University.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Two days ago we lost the last of Disney's Nine Old Men. His contribution to the art of animation was undeniable, and I'll leave to those better qualified to speak about the man. In particular, there's a great piece by Brad Bird on Cartoon Brew.
Here's a photo of Ollie with the Pixar animators taken a few years ago:
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
One of my favorite indie animators, Romain Segaud, has updated his site. There's loads of great content, both old and new, all with a very unique style. Be sure to check out his short film, "Tim Tom", and the music video "Bip Bip", as well as some of his recent commercials, such as the new "Islands" spot. Vive Romain!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
It's always fun to see a new kind of animation pop up. This is by animation Javan Ivey at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyan, and you can see how he did it on his site. How long do think it will be until we see this technique used in commercials for banks and cell phones carriers?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Warning: lots of profanity in this clip. I haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War, but I saw this clip of Philip Seymore Hoffman during the Oscars and I had to chase it down on YouTube. First off, the shape of his head is amazing. But that's not his choice. Second, he's an amazing actor. But you probably know that. Third, check out the energy in this clip, especially around 1:15. He's so angry - his gestures hit hard and rattle his torso, his head shakes back and forth quickly, almost vibrating. His attitudes are so clear. When have you seen this kind of energy in animation? I can't recall if I have, but I sure want to try it the next time I have to animate an angry character. Maybe you guys will beat me to it!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
When you get tired of my blog, cruise on over to see Carlos Baena's site! He's a fellow Pixar animator and one of the founders of AnimationMentor.com. He's also a crazy Spaniard with a passion for animation and filmmaking. He's been posting tons of interesting stuff lately (unlike me) so check it out!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
As promised, here are some of the planning drawings I did for the Super Bowl ad. I planned about 80% of the shot on paper and figured the rest out in the computer. WALL-E is really simple to pose and quick to animate, so I often experiment more in the computer than I would normally.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
As expected, the WALL-E commercial for the Super Bowl is available online now in glorious HD and other flavors. The spot is 1 minute long, and I actually did a full minute of WALL-E animation, though they had to cut a lot out to make room for the Buzz and Woody bits. Hopefully they will release the uncut version on the web. We had a very short time to produce this ad, so there are some rough edges, but I think it turned out pretty well. I had about 4 weeks to do the WALL-E stuff from start to finish, and I had some help from Don Crum, Wendell Lee and Sarah Mercey. Luckily robots are much faster to animate than humans and rats! The hardest part was probably animating the vacuum hose. The power cord was simulated, thankfully. I'll post some planning thumbnails when I get the time.
In the meantime, you can check out the official WALL-E web site, which has just been updated.
Friday, February 01, 2008
If you weren't going to watch anyway... Tune in to the Super Bowl on Fox this Sunday to see a brand new commercial for WALL-E. Game begins at 3pm PST, and rumor has it the ad will run around the beginning of the 3rd quarter. I'll try to post a link here once the ad is online. I did most of the WALL-E animation myself, so I hope you like it!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This past Saturday I had the honor of attending and presenting at the graduation ceremonies for Classes 5 and 6 of Animation Mentor. It was a lot of fun to meet many of my students in person and hang out with the other mentors, as well as the founders, Bobby, Shawn and Carlos. I got to present the Student Choice Award for Walk Cycle With The Most Personality. You can get a much better description (with photos) on Bobby Beck's Blog. If you haven't already, be sure to check out some of the graduates' work in the latest AM showreel.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Here's an interesting quote:
I always tell my staff that if they don’t like to draw by hand deliberately, then they should give up animation. It’s easy to distinguish if pictures are drawn by machines or human hands. If we give up the tough way, we will lose the richness in our art.