AAU Fall Festival - Pixar Panel

I'm back! After two long grueling weeks of being the sole lighter and compositor in trying to finish a trailer for a 3D animated short film I finally bring a new post.Welcome to the Academy of Art University's second annual Fall Festival. Starting the week we have a panel of four AAU alumni who are currently working at Pixar as animators and they talk about their work on the movie Monsters University.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onZe3gOhWkQ&w=560&h=315] Kevin Chesnos started out not knowing what he wanted to do. He took a wide array of classes and it wasn't until his first art class he took as an elective while majoring in business that he found his passion. From there, Kevin decided to pursue art and wanted to be an illustrator. However, there are always those in your classes that just draw better, faster, and easier than you and so while taking some animation and rotoscoping classes, Kevin found that he was also good at animation and thus he became an animator. His first feature film was Ice Age 2 and then he came back and was hired at Pixar starting on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Kevn's topic for tonight was Reference: A How to Gide for Animators. The definition of reference is to use source information to ascertain something. Having reference and good preparation is 60% of the work already done. The purpose of reference is to generate ideas. When shooting reference, some things to keep in mind are to know what you want and to keep in mind the camera composition. When viewing/reviewing reference important general observations to have are if the reference meet the needs, what is the thought process, what are the nuances, and to watch for those animation principles. Important physical observations are things such as the firing order of body parts, shape change, and contacts. When applying reference to animation it is important to exaggerate and minimize. Most importantly is to be an animator, not a rotoscoper! Animation is an art so differentiate your work so that it is given its own life and not just motion capture of a person moving around in a suit.

Simon Christen is from Switzerland and he started out with Photoshop graphics which gradually led him into learning 3D. He obtained the Pixar internship and was afterwards hired on as a fix animator. After the contract was up at Pixar, he left briefly to work on Bolt but then joined back up with Pixar again halfway through UP. Using one of the shots that he worked on, with Mike riding the pig mascot, Simon talked about technical preparation. It is important to think how to set up a shot in figuring out what is the best way to animate. Don't just jump in as having a good technical preparation saves time and liberates yourself to make changes. In the shot that Simon used as an example, he showed how he set up his test and initial constraints of Mike to the pig mascot and certain decisions that he made so that Mike follows the pig, receives the up and down translations of the bouncing so that he could focus on polishing animation and acting without having to go through and waste a lot of time doing things such as counter animation. As a spline animator, he makes sure that he goes through and does a pass to make sure he has strong poses.

Terry Song drew his inspiration from going to movies. He studied character animation at AAU and attributes much of his success to the support from friends and classmates as they are the people who are always around to encourage, support, and further your work. He received the Pixar internship and his first feature film was UP where he worked as a fix animator. He worked on more Pixar films as a fix animator and then a crowd animator and was finally given his first full shots in Monsters U. The shot that Terry got to animate on was the event of Mike and Johnny during the finals of the scare games. Terry talked about performance and acting and about the issues that he had with animating Johnny. Johnny had a troublesome character design in that he has tiny legs but with large arms, horns, and jaw. It was fine when Johnny was walking around normally on two legs, but the problem came in during this shot where it was suggested that Johnny runs on all fours. With Johnny's body proportions it was very hard to do and to get appealing poses and silhouettes. Terry started with gorillas as reference and then extrapolated the poses to Johnny's character to animate the shot that was finaled and what we all see now.

KC Roeyer has loved animation since he was young. He was drawing 2D animations and even doing stop motion with his Legos. Later on, he was inspired by Jurassic Park with all the dinosaurs running around. He obtained the Pixar internship with Simon Christen and worked as a fix animator on Ratatouille. Probably one of the most onerous shots, KC was given the shot right before Simon's where Mike and Sully crashes through a frat party that involves two monsters, each with two sets of arms, playing ping pong with multiple balls. Using this shot as an example, KC talked about the physicality of animation. As the shot was set in an extremely tight and crowded space with a large object in the middle of the room that needs to be broken, KC sought to use the environment to his advantage and used a lot of contact between the characters and the props. Let there be action and reaction. When Sully comes into the room, he isn't just running quickly straight in but rather he hooks his hand on the side of the door and swings himself around in. Using parkour and Casino Royale as reference, KC animated Sully hopping on top of the ping pong table, slightly sliding, and then crashing down. Just the end his shot beautifully with amazing compositional foresight, as Mike zips off screen to the left a hand flying behind, it is in fact pointing backwards towards the doorway to lead the audiences' eyes back in preparation for when Sully comes in.