Monday, December 06, 2010

Thought of You

This is a really beautiful piece of animation by Ryan Woodward. It's also a great example of how to use live-action reference for good and not for evil!  Rather than copy his reference verbatim, Ryan has stylized not only the character design, but also the motion.  He plays with the timing to create emphasis and entertainment, and strips away unnecessary details to imbue a heightened sense of grace and fluidity. And of course he adds in various flourishes and effects that could only be achieved in animation.  Very inspiring!  More info on his web site, Conte Animated.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"It Gets Better" — Love, Pixar

This video didn't make me cry. I have... Allergies. That's it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CTN Animation Expo this weekend

The 2nd annual CTNX is being held in Burbank this weekend.  I'll be there, will you?  There will be lots of great panels and demonstrations; I'll be on a panel on Saturday called "Tools of the Trade of a Successful Animator Yesterday Today and Beyond" along with fellow Pixarians Carlos Baena, Aaron Hartline and Michael Makarewicz.  The moderator will be none other than Andreas Deja!  I'll also be hanging out with the AnimationMentor crew; they're hosting a happy hour on Saturday night.  I hope to see some of you there!

Pixar Success

Animation Mentor is hosting an article discussing Toy Story 3 and the work done on it by AM mentors and alumnus.  Included are Aaron Hartline, Matt Strangio and myself.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cars 2 trailer online

Here's what I've been working on for the past year or so (and will still be working on until around April).  There are actually quite a few of my shots in this trailer, which I've never had happen before.  Mostly Mater stuff, including his "average intelligence" line and his karate move.

I've already done quite a bit of footage on this show, but now that I'm a Directing Animator and we're heading into crunch, I probably wont be doing too much more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Toy Story 3 reel

Now that Toy Story 3 is out on DVD, Bluray, etc. (at least in the USA) I can show you some of my contributions to the film.  I also did a lot of pre-production test animation, but I can't show that here.  Maybe some of it ended up on the DVD; I haven't watched the extras yet!  Anyway, here's the reel, which is about 2 minutes:

And here's a breakdown of the reel:

Operation Playtime - I was responsible for Buzz, Woody and Slinky in these shots.  This sequence was actually completed much later in production, and it was my first time animating these characters.  I found the experience pretty intimidating, and up to this point I had requested to animate the human characters instead.  I think I have a good feel for Woody, but Buzz is always a challenge.

Welcome to Sunnyside - I did all the humans in the first two shots, but I spent most of my energy on Bonnie, as this was her introductory scene.  I referenced my own kids a lot for inspiration.  I had to shoot a LOT of video reference on this film, because I'd never animated such naturalistic humans before.  Getting Bonnie to walk on her knees was kind of a pain because her rig wasn't really built to do that, but I really liked the idea.

In the later shots with Lotso, I animated only Lotso, not Big Baby or the classic characters.  Lip sync on him is really tricky because he doesn't have a tongue, lips or teeth.

Bonnie Playtime - this stuff was really fun to do, and again, I shot a lot of video of myself for reference.  At the time I thought I was pushing the squash and stretch in the face pretty far, but looking at it now I think I could have pushed it further.  This is a pretty typical experience for me.  I did NOT shoot video reference for the running and jumping on bed shot; I decided to work that out procedurally.  I animated in a layered workflow, starting with just her root translates to get the weight and timing of the shot.

I See Andy - I animated Andy and his Mom, but NOT the dog (that was done by Mike Stocker).  This was my first sequence on the film, and definitely the hardest.  I've never shot more video reference for any other scene that I did for this one.  I knew I would have to do a lot of research to pull off convincing full-body humans, and having them pantomime a conversation on top made it even more challenging.  I think I blocked the scene 3 times before I hit on what the director wanted.  It's a shame the characters are so far from camera...

Spanish Buzz - These shots were also hard, but for a different reason.  Trying to find the right balance of cool, crazy and love-struck for Buzz took a lot of work.  We were all animating in the shadow of Carlos Baena's scenes of Spanish Buzz, and I was just trying not to screw up what he had started!  I actually animated these shots to a different voice recording, then when the final actor was ADR'd in, Carlos helped to clean up the lip-sync.  The slo-mo turn of Jessie was fun; I referenced a lot of shampoo commercials for that one.

Goodbye Andy - I didn't animate Andy in the first two shots, but I did all the rest.  The animation on Bonnie's parents isn't the greatest, I know.  I was hoping the audience would be focused on Bonnie, because she's what I spent my time on.  I was glad to get to do a lot of Bonnie work on this film; it's satisfying to feel like you had a hand in shaping a new character, and she will always make me think of my own daughters, who inspired her performance.  For the final shot I was given the freedom to figure out how she and Andy would play together, which was fun.  Getting Andy to fall back and raise his legs up like that was a real technical challenge.  Looking at it now the spacing on his legs feels off, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with it.  Note the Totoro toy sitting at the base of the tree.  That felt like the best place to put him.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The McGurk Effect

This goes to show how important it is to hit those "b" and "f" shapes in your lip-sync animation. Fascinating stuff!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with Toy Story 3 director and writer on NPR

Terry Gross interviews Lee Unkrich and Michael Arndt on Fresh Air.

Friday, September 24, 2010

11 Second Club eCritique

Every month they hold an animation contest over at, and the winner gets a free AnimationMentor ecritique of their work by one of AM's mentors.  This month's winner is Jim Kachelries, and this month's guest mentor is yours truly.  You can see my critique of his (really nice) shot here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

World's smallest stop-motion film

Thank you, Aardman!  Be sure to watch all the way to the end:

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Animation Mentor 2010 Student Showcase

Speaking of great new student animation, here's a highlight reel of some of the latest AM student work, including shots from a wonderful short film by recent Pixar hire, Jude Brownbill:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gobelins films

It's time for the next annual batch of beautiful short films from the students of Gobelins in Paris.  Note: some of these may be Not Safe For Work.


This was posted to YouTube almost a year ago, but it's new to me. Hope it's new to you, too! Wonderfully simple staging, and clear acting with rudimentary characters. Notice how the timing and the line of action differs between the two duelists, and what that tells you about their attitudes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday awesomeness

This is the only Clash of the Titans remake I approve of:

Thanks to Lineboil for the find.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rough animation from Chomet's "The Illusionist"

I always love seeing good rough pencil animation, which is why I've subscribed to Pencil Test Depot (and you should too!).  Recently they've featured some clips from the film The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet, who also directed The Triplets of Belleville (Belleville Rendez-Vous).  I confess I haven't seen Illusionist yet, but it sure looks beautiful, and I'm glad to see 2D animation of this caliber is still being done!

Friday, August 06, 2010


I normally don't go for experimental animation (or experimental jazz) but I found this clip to be mesmerizing.  It's by animator and auther Michel Gagné, whose style you may recognize, if from no other place than the visualizations of flavors in Ratatouille. He also had a hand at designing some of the VFX in The Incredibles. He's got a wonderful sense of design, timing, and entertainment, all of which come through in this short clip. You can learn more about Michel and this clip over on Cartoon Brew, where I found it.  I suggest you watch it full screen in a dark room, and turn it up!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Perfect Imperfection

Over on Cameron Fielding's "Flip" blog there's an interesting article that analyzes arcs and spacing in real life vs. animation.  He has some really great examples of how "dirty" arcs and spacing can be in live action footage, and how this extra level of detail could bring more realism to your work.  I know I'm definitely guilty of over-polishing my arcs and spacing (and splines) from time to time.  Of course these are all choices we make based on the style of animation for a particular production and our intent in a given scene.  The info in this article wont apply to everything you do, but it's a valuable exploration of natural physics.  I also find it interesting how the arcs and spacing in the dance footage are much more "animation-like", which makes sense because I've always thought of dance as stylized movement, much like animation.  Anyway, enjoy the article!

Congratulations AM graduates!

This weekend I had the honor of attending another graduation ceremony for classes 15 and 16 of  It was also the 5th anniversary of the school, which I am proud to have been affiliated with since it's launch in 2005.  The gala event was held and the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco, walking distance from the Presidio (home of ILM and the Walt Disney Family Museum).  If that wasn't cool enough, the commencement speaker was none other than Lee Unkrich, director or Toy Story 3.  It was great to see all the excited graduates and meet a lot of my students face to face.  Congrats, guys!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dan the Man

I just love this:

Clever use of a specific animation style, good storytelling, and a great ending!

Monday, July 26, 2010

New course at Gobelins

I've often posted clips of student work from the french animation school Gobelins on this site.  I'm consistently impressed by their originality and technical skill.  Apparently they didn't even have a specific course for CG Animation, even though they produce lots of it!  Well that's changing as of this September, and they've asked me to mention the new course on my blog.  More info below:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Call for entries: GIRAF Independent Animation Festival

The folks at Quickdraw Animation in Canada asked me to pass this along:

Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival (GIRAF)
Wednesday, Nov 3-7, 2010
at Plaza Theatre, Calgary, AB

Call for Submissions

The Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival is the only exclusively independent animation festival in Canada, with a focus on experimental and self-produced animated film. GIRAF plays an essential role in the promotion, education and appreciation of independent animation from around the world, exposing hungry local audiences to the best animated content from at home and abroad.

Important Note: Submission deadline August 2nd, 2010


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Toy Story 3 shot breakdown

Hopefully you've seen Toy Story 3 at least once by now, so I'll tell you about my contributions to this film.  Minor spoilers ahead, for those who haven't.  This list is in chronological order as they appear in the film, not in the order I completed them.

Operation Playtime - I did a few shots of Buzz and Woody after their plan to play with Andy fails.  Buzz and Woody jump out of the toy box, look at each other, then Woody announces "guys, hold up, we need a staff meeting."  Then he pulls some books over to make a stage and says "Slink, gather everyone up".  Slink says "we are gathered, Woody".  Woody is taken aback, then forges ahead: "okay, we all knew operation playtime was a long shot."  These were my only shots with Buzz and Woody, and I wish I had gotten to do some more.  I was nervous at first, but I found the Woody in particular was really fun to animate.

Sunnyside - I did all the human characters in the shots introducing Bonnie.  Andy's mom walks into the daycare holding the box of toys and starts a conversation with the woman behind the counter.  Meanwhile Bonnie is sitting on the counter playing with a toy monkey.  She reacts shyly to Andy's mom's attention, and then gets curious about what's in the box.  She gets frustrated when she can't see inside it.  These were some pretty challenging shots, since they featured full-body humans, lots of constraint switching, and were the first shots animated of Bonnie.  I referenced my own daughters heavily for inspiration and reference.

Bonnie's playtime - I did some shots of Bonnie playing with Woody.  Having just spit out the "poison" jellybean she says "who would do such a mean thing?", then turns to see Dolly.  "Ah!  The scary witch!  Lookout - she's using her witchy powers!"  She grabs Dolly, runs around the room and jumps on the bed.  She holds up Woody and says for him, "I know where to hide!"

Mrs. Potatohead's remote viewing - this is a looong shot of Andy picking up a box, walking across the room, setting it down, walking to the hallway, climbing a ladder, and looking in the attic.  Then Mom appears and asks what he's up to.  He explains to her about the trash bag he left in the hallway, and she realizes that she mistakenly threw the bag away, and he gets upset.  All this happens from a locked-off, wide-angle camera with no dialog.  At one point Buster the dog obscures our view, but I didn't animate him, just the humans.  This was a tough shot - I had to shoot a LOT of video reference!

Escape - I did the bet where Spanish Buzz first encounters Jessie.  Starting with a slow-motions POV of her head turning to him and saying "Buzz", then he drops to his knees, grabs her hand, and extols her beauty (in Spanish).  It was really tricky to find the right level of caricature and appeal in Spanish Buzz, and we were working in the shadow of Carlos Baena's work on that character.

Goodbye Andy - Here I did some more shots of Bonnie as Andy approaches her house.  She is playing with her toys on the ground: "Are you crazy? You'll wake up all the ghosts!".  Then she pretends to throw pies, and when she sees Andy she calls to her mom.  Later in the montage of her playing with Andy, I did the shot where she bounces Buzz on the cardboard box then bumps the toys in Andy's hands.  He falls back dramatically and she laughs.  If you look closely you will see that I've placed the Totoro at the base of the big oak tree, which seemed the right thing to do.

i also did a couple of shots of the monkey staring at the monitor, but they're not really worth mentioning (though I just did).

Overall I did about 1:40 of production animation (about 24 shots), plus a bunch of preproduction animation to test out the numerous background characters in Sunnyside Daycare - I think this is why I also got a "Character Development" credit.

You can read an interview I did about my TS3 work on Animated Views for more details.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And now for something completely different

I saw this over on Cartoon Brew and it really drew me in. I don't normally go for abstract animation, but I found this quite mesmerizing. I love the color design, timing, and flow of it all. The music is right up my alley too, which doesn't hurt. It's wonderful when clips like this remind you of just how much animation is capable of doing! Apparently A.F.Schepperd directed and animated the whole thing by himself, which is even more impressive.

Q&A on the Wooshii Blog

Here's a link to a Q&A I recently participated in for the blog known as Wooshii.  I talk about my life inside and outside of Pixar.  No Toy Story 3 spoilers, of course!

So... What are you doing this weekend?

It's that time of year again, when I shill for the latest Pixar film which premieres...  Tomorrow!  Yes, in case you somehow missed the media onslaught, you know that Toy Story 3 opens this weekend, and you can probably find a midnight showing tonight if you try hard enough!  I can objectively say that this is a great film, not just another redundant sequel crapped out to squeeze more money from a tired franchise.  Don't trust me?  Just check out Rotten Tomatoes - but don't read the full reviews because they contain spoilers!  I had the pleasure of working on TS3 for a year, and it definitely challenged me as an animator.  Once the film premieres I will talk specifically about the shots I did and the challenges they presented.  In the meantime, here is some friendly advice to consider before you set off to the cinema:
  • Avoid all merchandise.  There are plenty of plot spoilers out there, from Lego kits to Junior novelizations and graphic novels.  Shield your eyes!  Don't spoil the great ending!
  • See it in 3D.  Not that Toy Story 3 is any better in 3D, but the short film that precedes it ("Day and Night") is definitely better in 3D.
  • Don't bring small children.  This movie is darker, scarier, and more intense than its predecessors.  My 5-year-old daughter was fine with it, but I wouldn't take my 3-year-old.
  • Bring a hanky.  You will probably cry in this movie.  Twice.
That's all I can say for now.  I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

World of Color

I wouldn't normally tout a theme park attraction on this blog, but I thought this was worth a mention.   The weekend before last I had the honor* of attending a "dress rehearsal" of a new nighttime spectacle at Disney's California Adventure called "World of Color".  The show takes place on the water in front of the big Ferris Wheel and is quite spectacular.  If you've seen Fantasmic or the water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it's kind of like that only an order of magnitude greater.  Articulated water spouts, colored lights, lasers, fire bubble, video projections, the works.  The show lasts about 30 minutes and never gets boring.  At many points during the show they project footage of Disney and Pixar films onto sheets of mist, including some of my work from WALL-E.  For some reason, I got a bigger kick out of seeing my stuff on display here than I do on the big screen!  Go figure.  Anyway, I highly recommend checking out the show if you visit Disneyland/DCA.  And if you sit in the front row, you might want to consider bringing a raincoat or a poncho because YOU WILL GET REALLY FREAKIN' WET.  You've been warned.

*one of the many perks of working at Pixar, the best being working at Pixar.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Beautiful Gobelins shorts for Annecy

Here are a couple of "student" films from Gobelins promoting the annual animation festival in Annecy, which starts today. Wish I was there!

Thanks to the LineBoil blog for the find.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More great student films

Last week was the CalArts Producer's show, which featured some of the latest student films from the California Institute of the Arts.  I didn't have a chance to attend, but lots of the films are now turning up online, much to my delight!  Here are a couple of winners:

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


This rules:

Happy 50th anniversary, Annecy!

Timing and Spacing Webinar - replay now available

The live webinar that Aaron Hartline and I conducted last week is now available for replay online at  We cover everything from basic timing and spacing principles through advanced texture.  It's a lot to fit into 1 hour, I know, but I think it came out well.  Check it out!

Bonus video:
Here is a clip of the Q&A we did immediately following the prepared segment of the webinar:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Headless Productions

It's a good week for animation!  Here is some beautiful Spanimation - a studio reel from Headless Productions on Barcelona.  One more reason to love Barcelona...

You can find more info on their blog.

Monday, May 03, 2010

More student goodness

A nice little film from alumnus Daniele Zannone. Represent!

Cool CalArts student films

Here are a couple of CalArts student films that I found entertaining.  Hope you do too!

Crater Face by Skyler Page

third year calarts film.

Friday, April 30, 2010

New Book: Animation Insiders - Workflow Edition

There's a cool new book on animation workflows called "Animation Insiders - Workflow Edition" that I think is worth picking up.  It contains interviews with 13 working animators who discuss not only their processes for creating animated performances in various media, but also the inspired stories of how they came into this career.  Lot's of good advice for young and veteran animators alike.  It's not on yet, but you can order directly from the publisher.

Full disclosure: I am interviewed in this book as well (but I don't get royalties or anything).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Animation Mentor Webinar: Timing and Spacing

On April 29th from 7-9pm PST I'll be giving a live lecture on Timing and Spacing along with fellow Pixar Animator Aaron Hartline.  We'll have lots of clips and examples to show, and there will be a live Q&A afterward.  This online event is free, but space is limited, so register now!

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Uploaded by onemoreprod. - Watch original web videos.
This is an amazing short by director Patrick Jean. Brilliant idea, flawlessly executed. It pushes so many of my geek buttons at once!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

100 Pixar characters

100 Pixar Character
Here's an interesting size comparison of 100 different Pixar characters, both from features and shorts. Not sure how accurate this is, but it's kind of interesting in itself. Check out the full-size image here.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Tokyo Mater" on Disney Channel this Friday

If you've been reading this blog for a while you may recall that I co-directed some shorts called CarsToons back in 2008.  The first 3 of these aired on the Disney Channel, and the fourth Toon, "Tokyo Mater" premiered as a theatrical short in front of Bolt.  Now it's airing on the Disney Channel as well, in glorious HD (where available)!  It will be on just before 6pm and 9pm on Friday, March 12th.  If you do a search for "Mater's Tall Tales" on your Tivo, it should show up, along with some other CarsToons.

This was a really difficult short to make because of our extremely limited time and resources, but I'm proud of how it turned out, and I think it's pretty fun to watch.  I hope you'll agree!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Congratulations UP!

Oscar celebration for Up

Another Oscar victory for Pixar!  I didn't have a lot to do with this film, but I'm sure proud of my people!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Speaking of Animation

I recently stumbled across a new (to me) blog called Speaking of Animation, which has some really good information and podcasts.  I particularly like these two articles about specificty in character, which I often preach to my students about:

Specificity in Character Part 1
Specificity in Character Part 2

I feel specificity is key to pushing your performances the next level.  Start by knowing your character's history and the context of your scene in a bigger story.  Then add costumes, props, and environments to your scenes to provide the audience with more details about your character, and provide yourself with more interesting and specific acting choices.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Elk Hair Caddis

Elk Hair Caddis from peter smith on Vimeo.
If you don't speak Danish either, then the title doesn't mean anything to you. But this animated graduate film from the Animation Workshop in Denmark is really entertaining and original, no matter what language you speak. I love the mix of CG and miniature backgrounds, as well as the super-stylized design and motion. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gesture drawing with Mark McDonnell

I've found that practicing gesture drawing really helps me improve the design of poses in my animation, and is very useful for planning my scenes. That, and I still just love drawing! I stumbled across this tutorial video from Mark McDonnell about warming up for gesture drawing, and I think there's some really useful information in here for animators. I especially like how he takes the live model's poses and changes them to make them clearer, and how he talks about the importance of energy over draftsmanship. Mark has a whole YouTube channel here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Help the Hodges" auction has begun

Follow this link to see all the auction items available.  More info about the cause in my previous post.  New lots are added every 7 minutes until all the items are up for auction.  Ladies and Gentlemen, start your bidding!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A letter from John K.

I was a big fan of Ren & Stimpy back in the early 90's, way before I ever considered a career in animation (heck, I was doing racy paintings in France at the time, but that's another story!).  I've always admired John Kricfalusi's design sense and the energy and audacity in his work.  I may not like everything he does, or agree with everything he has to say about the medium of animation, but I respect his work and the impact it's had on our industry.  I'm even more impressed with him after reading this letter that he sent in response to an animation hopeful back in 1998.  It's a good read with some good advice for burgeoning artists, and it's great that he took the time to respond in such detail.  I can barely respond to all the blog comments and emails I get with more than a few sentences...