Tea Time

An Evening with Pixar

I'm sure many of you were disappointed that there wasn't a Pixar movie for 2014 but now they have a lot of movies in the works and planned. More work for us! As such, Pixar will be looking for new talent that they can train and hopefully integrate. To share with us the upcoming opportunities of internships and residencies, before everyone was off for the holidays, we got a visit from Kim Diaz, senior recruiter, Ryan Howe, university relations program lead, and Anika Holloway, human resources coordinator. There are different type of internships, classroom based and production based. Classroom based internships are structured actually like a class where you go in to learn and be mentored. Story, animation, and the Pixar Undergraduate Program (PUP) fall under classroom based and last 10 to 12 weeks during the summer. The other type is production based where you will get to work on actual shows in production. As such, the openings are based on production needs and typically last 12 to 18 weeks.

Residencies are also based on production needs are are for those who want to be technical directors or go into software engineer and research. They can last 6 months to a year.

The summer internships and a few residencies have already been posted on www.pixar.com/careers/Available-Internships so I hope you're prepared!

Speaking of being prepared, what exactly do you do and what is Pixar looking for? Apply online at the above link with your resume, cover letter, and a link to your online reel/portfolio. If your reel/portfolio is password protected, that's fine, just have the link and password included in your resume. Make sure to do all this by the deadline, March 1st 2015!

I probably already went over what goes into resumes, cover letters, and reels before but let's do a review. Limit your resume to one page and list any awards won, related classes, projects, and any events volunteering; show what you have done above and beyond a classroom setting. Make your cover letter stand out from others by having it being personalized and creative. Put your best work first on your demo reel and then followed by other best work (yes, only your BEST work goes on your reel) for a reel that is 1 to 3 minutes long; once you're finished, include a breakdown and always get others to review it.

So You Want to be a Pixar Intern

Over the summer we had two fantastic animators, Nicole Ridgwell and Spectra Sani, get the Pixar animation internship and we got them to drop by Tea Time on November 14th to share their experiences and any tips on how others can structure their reels to match what Pixar would be looking for. Getting into Pixar means they're amazing right? Well just what did they do to be amazing? It's definitely not just sitting in front of a computer plowing through animation day in and day out all alone.  Nicole and Spectra recommended going to the labs to be able to socialize with others and be inspired by talented friends. Getting into the Pixar classes is great. If you feel that you're not getting the education that you need, try taking a class over at the Animation Collaborative. Take some drawing classes or workshops along with acting and story classes to get those creative juices flowing. Also, make sure to observe life and go to the movies to find inspiration.

Thinking that you're all ready to apply, let's take a look at your reel. Make sure you have your best shots and it's fine if your reel is simply short and simple as 2 shots can be enough to do it. Create believable  characters and only add sound if it adds to the shot. You don't need to have fancy final rendered shots and they can even be work in progress with blocking. Just make sure that your idea is clear and your animation is clean. Use a simple title card to introduce yourself and tailor your reel for the company as a company like Pixar probably doesn't want to see something super gorey with zombies ripping of people's heads and having blood spurt everywhere. When animating your shots though, don't just make the shot for the purpose of applying to the studio; make it personal and relatable, emote yourself through the character, and people will respond to it.

Your reel showcases your work but it's your resume and cover letter that is your face. Make them short and simple as no one wants to or has time to read through a novel but make sure you present yourself as interesting and not weird. It's vital to have good spelling and grammar. Always. If you have references, make sure that they like you so that they will be a good reference and it's not reluctant or even worse, negative. Also make sure that they know they are going to be a reference; surprises are only good for parties and gifts!

You were chosen? Great, now you must be wondering what to expect other than probably having to wear silly outfits, such as a bright pink jumpsuit. Each intern will be assigned a personal mentor and the rest of the Pixar animation internship is a lot like the Pixar classes where you will be doing assignments animating a Lifesaver, the Luxo Lamp, posing, walkcycles, pantomime, and 3 dialogues. Through these assignments you'll learn how to have a clean workflow, create appealing poses, owning confident ideas, making clear choices, and have clear blocking.

A quick note on pantomime, from Andrew Gordon, as visual storytelling is so important and greater than words. Before starting make sure you think about the objective of the characters and the progression of the shot, where the entertainment is, being true to the character, to push poses, and the analyze emotional beats. Got all that? Now when you're actually animating your shot make sure to have spark, solid poses and timing, clear reactions and staging, exaggeration, contrast, situational comedy, a gear change, specificity (avoid cliches), have a payoff at the end, a progression of reactions, and offset the action so things don't happen all at once.

Even if you weren't chosen, don't be discouraged and remember to keep in touch. Feel free to keep in touch every few months and at the end of projects to showcase your continual interest and growth, but don't be annoying. Social media is great but make sure you don't have a weird picture and before pressing that enter key read back on what you're saying and think if you need to censor yourself.

Pixar is great but it shouldn't be your only goal. There are tons of awesome opportunities out there so go and explore the world. Don't let your ego limit your choices. Don't get discouraged. Don't compare yourself to others. Be awesome, be yourself, and own it!

An Afternoon with Carlos Baena

Apologies for the delay. Life gets a bit hectic when you somehow find yourself on 13(ish) different productions. We've had quite a few events and amazing people come over the past month so here is the start of catching you all up on what's been happening! Carlos Baena has come back from Paramount Studios to AAU to be an onsite director for his film Market Street. Through the lovely people of Sasha Korellis and Becky Johnson, we got to schedule Carlos in, back on October 31st, to give a talk to Tea Time!

For those who don't know, Carlos Baena has worked at Pixar as an animator and is well known for his contribution to Toy Story 3 with the Spanish Buzz Lightyear sequences. Just as amazing is that he is one of the founders of Animation Mentor, now one of the largest online schools/community for animation.

Carlos gave an amazing talk on the 12 Principles of Animation which he loves as even though they start simple, they apply to everything. On top of the 12 original principles set by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, Carlos has an additional 7. The extra 7 aren't exactly certain laws to obey but rather things to remember to be a better animator.

Observation Visualization Blocking Simplicity Clarity Personality Have Fun!

What do these 7 new principles mean you ask? First off, study movement. Don't just be looking at what's happening but the reasons behind actions. While studying though, make sure you find your references from real life and not film as those are people acting and their own interpretations. Next is to always find the appeal of everything that you're animation. Make sure things are appealing and clear first instead of rushing to acting. Try turning on silhouette mode or turning your character around to make sure your poses and animation are able to be read on their own. Lastly, make sure to have fun! There will always be stress and you'll have ups and downs but there is a lot of time after school so make sure that the time you spend is enjoyable for yourself and others. While it's great sitting in front of a computer and all, carefully tweaking each and every spline, find a balance between doing "work" and going out to experience the world instead of burning yourself out.

Of course people always want to know about the industry and getting into it so we end the talk with a few tips from Carlos.

You'll be spending out hundreds of letters and reels trying to get internships and jobs and you'll get hundreds of rejections and no responses back but don't let rejection discourage you, let it push you forward. When checking in with a recruiter, just email to confirm if they received your submission ONCE; otherwise hands off. If they really want you, they'll contact you, usually within a few weeks. If you don't hear back, look at other places and take whatever you can get. Don't be that person who makes other people wait just because you're sitting there waiting to see if Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, ILM, or whoever will respond to you.

Carlos unfortunately didn't get to finish his talk on the principles but was excited to come back in the spring to continue so look forward to part 2!

Mr. Peabody and Sherman Panel

Following the previous post where I got to go to a special press screening of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, yesterday was when the director Rob Minkoff and the producers Alex Schwartz and Denise Cascino came to talk about Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Unfortunately I was a few minutes late as I had a last minute meeting so I missed out on getting a drawing from Rob. I feel bad for being late, particularly that now I'm on the board for Tea Time and also they skipped meeting the Dali Lama who was apparently arriving at their hotel to come to give a panel to us. That's dedication! There was some great questions/topics and it was a very enjoyable evening. The process of creating the film The movie was 12 years in the making. Tiffany Ward first brought the concept to Classic Media where it was seen by Jason Clark. Jason and Rob took the idea and pitched it to Walden Media where they bought it and wanted to go forward with the movie. Unfortunately some legal issues arose and a year later Walden Media unfortunately says that they are only able to give 50% of the funding and that another backer and distributor will need to be found. The idea was then pitched to Jeffery Katzenberg at Dreamworks who also gave a resounding yes but didn't want the involvement of Walden Media. Dreamworks wanted to take it all and produce it or none at all. Scripts were written. Initially the story had an antagonist who was a mole named Little Jimmy, and there was going to be the eight wonders of the world be stolen. With the release of Despicable Me, that story line had to be scrapped and it was with a meeting with writers Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin that the movie changed direction. Instead of Little Jimmy, the little girl character named Penny came to be to show and help further the relationship and development of Sherman.

Approach to creating story They really liked the idea of being able to go to multiple time periods and with the promise of what animation can do and offer, they really wanted to showcase that ability. From there, how a movie starts and boils down to is the relationship of the characters with each other or to certain things or ideas. Start with a question and as the plot progresses, always return back to thinking what is the journey of the characters and their relationships and always old on to that core and how the story is told.

If there was any pushback from fans that held up production There weren't any major issues from production, rather as so many people were also fans, everyone felt responsible to get the movie right.

Tiffany Ward's contribution As the daughter of the original creator, Jay Ward, Tiffany was described as the "godmother of production". Not only being the executive producer in ensuring the movie being true to the original, Tiffany made sure everyone was motivated and excited about creating the film.

Ty Burrell as Peabody's voice actor Since Mr. Peabody is already an existing character, when finding a new voice actor to play Mr. Peabody, a particular type of voice and acting is required. A mimic isn't good enough as sounding alike doesn't quite go the distance. Instead life and character needs to be given and not just an impersonation. Initially Steven Colbert and Robert Downey Jr. were considered. Steven Colbert loved Mr. Peabody and Sherman and said he would love to voice any character in the movie except Mr. Peabody as unfortunately he did not time in his schedule to play the main character. RDJ was unfortunately busy making Avengers. Ty Burrell was brought in and after working with him for a couple weeks the voice of Mr. Peabody was found!

Development of the bullying scene The bullying scene is really dark and serious. Even more so now as bullying is an important issue that is occurring in schools today. When the scene was first scripted there was some pushback saying that it was too dark and negative but it was felt and decided that they were on the right side of the issue. A great quote that comes into play by Mr. Peabody and further proves itself further down the plot is "All great relationships start with conflict and then evolves into something greater".

Transition from 2D to 3D The original Peabody and Sherman started back in 1959 and it had very minimal budget. To keep costs low, not only was the show even produced in Mexico but the artists used house paint  to paint on cels so that the cels could be erased and reused. Also, part of the influencing style of the original cartoon was that it was created for TV and with the limited technology, the art required to have heavy outlines for things to be visible. The movie sought to approach with the same aesthetic sensibility of being graphic, designed, and flat. There was at one point when Mr. Peabody was designed with square glasses, to make him more modern and trendy and to contrast Sherman's roundness, but that was quickly veto'd as the round glasses were signature of the time back when Peabody and Sherman aired.

Limited animation of original cartoons While some may feel that to be true to the original classic cartoons, the same or similar limited animation is required; also in a way decreasing the appeal of watching a movie with such limitations in theaters. However, the limit was due to the budget and technology back then, not because artists back then wanted the animation to look exactly that way. Back then they had a limited budget so there was limited animation but now with a high budget it would make sense to have high animation. In fact, Jay Ward even wanted better animation if it was possible. Even more so as a movie about time traveling, in a way it makes sense for them to change for the different time periods. The original 2D and the current CG versions are the same but different, like looking at a mirror.

Balance between the adult and children audiences While there may be some lines to be drawn between adult and children audiences in terms of humor, what they sought to do instead is to make the comedy universally funny and able to encompass both age groups. It's not so much of there is this, this, and this to do while there is that, that, and that to not do but rather to just fine what they thought is funny and hope that everyone else will find it funny also. Rob has even asked this same question about comedy to Chuck Jones before and the reply was to find ways to make yourself laugh and others may laugh also. Going to far would probably have been what the original opening to the movie was planned to be. While the movie currently begins, after the prologue, in the midst of Peabody and Sherman's adventures in France with the French Revolution, it was initially script of the two being in Germany dressed up as Nazis, completely with Peabody disguised with a Hitler stache, as they attempt to steal the war plans and change the future.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman Review

In preparation for director Rob Minkoff and, daughter of the original creator, Tiffany Ward's arrival to give a talk about the Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie on February 21st, Tea Time was invited to view a special press screening of Mr. Peabody and Sherman yesterday, February 13th; 3 weeks before the movie's actual release! As I've never seen the original, Peabody's Improbable History, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect but was hyped for the movie after attending to a panel about the movie at CTNx. We even got limited edition Mr. Peabody themed 3D glasses!

Mr. Peabody is an incredibly intelligent dog who won the right, through legal law, to adopt a human infant boy, Sherman, as his son. Inspired by Sherman, Mr. Peabody built a machine called the WABAC to take Sherman on travels through time and teach him not only history but important life lessons. Now that Sherman is growing up, Mr. Peabody has to deal with the issues of being a father, trusting, and letting go through the adventures and mishaps that occur while attempting to solve the paradox created by Sherman and Penny when they traveled back in time.

I loved this movie. While I have some friends who would disagree, I liked this movie more than The Lego Movie. I laughed and I cried. I felt the characters to be endearing and relatable. I found the puns funny and having co-directed The Lion King, Rob Minkoff knew how to hit those beats to make heartstrings twinge as Mr. Peabody and Sherman attempt to resolve their issues. While there may be some issues of the story that takes a bit of a stretch of imagination, such as everyone speaking the same language, even in Egypt and Italy, they tend to be common occurrences in cartoons and thus I did not mind them. One small stretch that may have been a little too far is how Agamemnon says "Don't tase me bro" as if he knew what a taser is. One small point that was confusing to me was exactly when the WABAC was built. Mr. Peabody mentioned that he built the WABAC after being inspired by Sherman however in Mr. Peabody's memory sequence we see Mr. Peabody traveling back in time to William Shakespeare's and even ancient Egyptian time on the Nile (great reference back to Dreamwork's Prince of Egypt movie) while Sherman was still an infant. Otherwise, for a time traveling movie that can have many plot holes and inconsistencies, I felt that the story was decently strong.

While there were quite a number of butt jokes I quite liked the comedy element of the movie. I found the puns to be witty and quite funny. They were also very well integrated into the dialogue which is an issue that I had with Sunny with a Chance of Meatballs 2. In Meatballs 2 the puns just kept coming one after another as the characters kept on shouting them and it was quite dull and the "THERE'S A LEEK IN THE BOAT" joke wasn't even funny in the movie as it was completely out of place unlike the trailer when you think that they are in danger while going down rapids.

I really like the textures and materials in this movie. They were simple yet detailed. Simple in that they refer back to the original hand drawn cartoon yet detailed to give the world feasible plausibility and richness. The wood grain was intricately painted,  the skin textures while simple had a great and beautiful amount of subsurface, and while Mr. Peabody may just look white, he in fact has detailed hair covering him. Also, while having had a dog, the details and specularity on Mr. Peabody's nose was perfect. I also want their shader/material for the sand used in Egypt as I am currently working on look dev for a beach.

The lighting was also really nice. There were subtle color adjustments for mood shifts that matched very well. Interestingly there is a segment in the movie as Mr. Peabody reflects upon his memory of Sherman growing up and during the segment the lighting/materials were "faked" as there were specularities, particularly eye specs. It was beautiful with a nice sepia tone but it was a similar method in turning everything to surface shaders and using an occlusion pass to create shadows.

While there have been movies where I have said "amazing in 3D, totally worth the extra ticket price", I unfortunately did not feel quite so for this movie. The movie tended to be very character focused and towards the front of the screen so there isn't often large expanses of land going back in space where the stereoscopic 3D can really shine. Instead there was a lot of fingers or swords point straight at/out at the screen which felt somewhat gimmicky and I didn't particularly care for.

AAU Fall Festival - Fall Festival and ILM Industry Panel

The final day of Fall Festival is final here and over. I am done with this week; byeee. Starting two and a half weeks ago I have troubleshot, lit, and composited ten shots in order to create a trailer for today's Fall Festival. After that stressful period of time I have this week of running around going to all the events. I will have a little bit of breathing room before I run off to CTN next week! Fall Festival began with trailers of the various collaborative projects and the one that I was working on is called Umbra, by Cal Williams. A slightly rushed job but will only get better as we go further into production of the full short film! Another project that I am on is called Crows, a VFX music video by Ilgi Candar, where I worked on crystal shaders. Unfortunately the trailer for it isn't on the internet yet. [vimeo https://vimeo.com/78397577]

For the ILM panel, Nick Walker, layout artist and cinematographer, and Derrick Carlin, animator, showed and talked about their experience of working on Pacific Rim using the keynote that ILM showed at SIGGRAPH as a base. I actually have not seen the movie yet but now I want to as the giant monsters look really cool. Unfortunately the presentation was mainly visual so there's not a lot that I can share here. There was a lot of talk about layout and figuring out technical issues such as scale and speed. For scale there are issues such as how the textures for the giant monsters will look and also how rain and water will look in comparison. Water is tricky in that it doesn't scale well and using miniatures to simulate water can look incorrect when composited in together with the rest of a shot. With how large the monsters and robots move, speed is something to keep in mind to create believable action. A little secret that was mentioned is that ILM is working on a fairy movie that is a musical. Nick likes the giant robots and monsters genre and doesn't care for the movie but hearing musical and fairies has me extremely excited.

There was an exciting raffle whereupon I won a plush toy of Sully from Monsters Inc/University. Love it. While Randall may have been my favorite monster in terms of coolness, my favorite character is Sully, even more so since Monsters U since I felt a greater relation and similarity to him. I love plush toys, they're so cute and soft. Having gone to all the panels this week I had a lot of raffle tickets and so I also won a $25 gift card for art supplies. I actually had a third prize which I gave up since I already won two and it was slightly awkward since I was up on the stage helping the drawing of the raffle.

AAU Fall Festival - Monster Mash with Glen McIntosh

A big hand to Tea Time Animation for bringing in the amazing Glen McIntosh, directing animator at ILM who has worked on movies such as Jurassic Park III, Star Wars I, II and III, Transformers, and Battleship, to come talk about his work and experiences. MC'd by Tea Time's professional outreach coordinator, Frank-Joseph Frelier, we got to hear Glen's inside stories about being in production and see some of his original artwork!


Glen initially majored in film studies and then went on to study traditional animation at Sheridan College. He moved out to Ireland and started out at the Sullivan Bluth Studios as an inbetweener and fix animator with hand drawn animated movies such as Thumbelina and Anastasia. During his time while in Ireland was when Jurassic Park came out, which he fell in love with, and was inspired to traverse into the realm of 3D. He jumped from working on Anastasia, a 2D animated film, directly onto Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace which was interesting in that Glen mentioned he had no idea how to use a computer. He jumped right in and started learning all the new technical aspects from the ground up. Glen found his transition from 2D to 3D as an experience in that 3D animation could not be cheated as much as in 2D animation. While 2D animation allows additional stretch and squash to create motion blur and poses could hide certain elements of animation, a 3D rigged character, particularly for live action, is more similar to manipulating a puppet in 3D space and a pose has to look good from every angle. If poses are cheated, such as an arm intersecting to the inside of a body, while the pose may look fine from the view of the camera, it may cause issues further down the pipeline such as simulations where cloth dynamics keeps on falling off the character or lighting and various strange intersections and shadows show up.

As an animation supervisor, Glen got to go on set and work with the actors at times. We got to hear stories about how he was on set of Battleship and his interactions with Rihanna. One story that he had was how the stuntman for a shot was absent and so Glen got to step in. He was the stuntman for the villain and had on a helmet, a visor, and earplugs, and was expected to go through an exploding door where upon the other side were the actors who were crouching amid various debris. Glen couldn't hear nor see very well and if going through an exploding door wasn't already frightening enough, he was worried about tripping over Rihanna. He didn't and everything worked out well.

The next question asked about Glen's animation process. He talked about setting up a shot and then experimenting with a rig. It is important to find out what the rig can and can't do. Animators need rigs to do specific actions which the rigger may not always to take into account so by "doing your homework" first the rig can be kicked back to rigger and changed. The next step is blocking out the animation and while different people may have different definitions of what blocking means, it is important to show directors only the animation in which they will be critiquing. While it may look cool to turn on all the textures or use some cards to show splashes or explosions, it would be better to use simple geometry as placeholders for more straightforward evaluation. Pertaining to this, we got to hear some stories about working with Michael Bay. Directors know what they want but sometimes it doesn't always come through in the previs. However, the previs should still be matched first to show the director that it isn't working and then have a second version ready to show what the director actually wants.

Some suggestions that Glen has for animators is to not become pigeonholed into a single role. While working on animation, don't just become the robot person or the dinosaur person. To broaden the spectrum of your work, try to break it up into binaries such as male vs female, comedy vs dramatic, cartoony vs realistic, organic vs inorganic, and etc. It is important to study the world around you and see the little differences in it instead of assuming what you know and filling it in your mind. Glen told a story about an intensive figure drawing class where the model came in and he was missing a thumb but people were automatically filling it in their mind and drawing five fingers in their sketches. When looking at animal reference for creatures, notice how animals act differently than humans. Animals are reactionary, they don't stop first to think about their action; there are inconsistencies and fast jerks in their actions instead of smooth and steady arcs. Don't be afraid to act out reference and to feel the movement. Animators are actors so don't worry about your ego, instead think about how your acting helps you achieve the most desired end result.

A fun question to end the night with is Glen's three favorite movies that he would recommend everyone to watch. Jaws was the first movie that came to mind. While there were inconsistency issues from shot to shot due to being shot on the wide ocean but due to the acting and music the movie still comes across beautifully and conveys its purpose. The two other movies weren't any particular titles but Glen recommends anything from Stanley Kubrik, such as Full Metal Jacket, and Steven Spielburg, such as War of the Worlds, due to the beautiful photography and composition. Composition conveys meaning and Kubrik and Spielburg have such strong composition in their movies.

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.

Mike Makarewicz on Performance and Acting

Hosted by Tea Time Animation, Mike Makarewicz came again to give another lecture on animation! Mike is an AAU alumni that has been working at Pixar for ten years now and is a supervising animator and also an instructor and owner of the Animation Collaborative where he teaches animation. One thing that I love about his lectures is his workflow as he animates with a layered approach which I find fascinating as I was taught pose to pose. Maybe I would have liked animating more with a layered approach as Mike makes it look so easy while I was so frustrated with my animation way back when. Tonight he gave us a lecture on performance and acting.

In animation there are those who are pose focused, animating pose to pose, and those who are motion focused, animating layered. Each have their own advantages but the foundations to both are necessary for animators to know. However, what is even more vital, whether animating in pose to pose or in layered, is choices. Animators must make good choices in their decisions on how to go about portraying the animation in a shot. There are so many different choices and variations that can be done though so there are some things to consider that can help eliminate bad choices.

Some preliminary points for animators to start off with.

  • Be invisible. Don't let the audience think about the animation. Not even to stop and think "that was some beautiful animation right there". The audience should 100% believe what they see and inhabit the world of the film instead of having to step outside of it.
  • Acting choices come from within the character
  • Do less. Focus on ideas. Instead of having 3 good ideas, 2 great ideas would be better.
  • Moving stuff isn't animation, instead what animators need to do is to bring soul to the work.
  • Avoid the two common mistakes: not thinking through the animation and trying to cram in too much in attempt to show off.

From a macro look, animation consists of a character and the shot. From the character's standpoint, you must think about who that character is and the shot is the purpose. The character drives the "how" to the purpose of the shot. The shot provides context of where the character is in relationship to the main story, which infers to the history of the character. In a shot you may also have dialogue so things to consider are the mood, the subtext, and the thought process. At the same time, consider the length of the scene to make sure what there is time for and to ensure that there will be enough to show a thought process. When thinking about a character, consider who they are and what they have been through to create a history.  What does the character want, the motivation of the character in the main story, and consider what is the character willing to do to understand how far a character will go to achieve his/her/its goals. Get to know the character well enough to predict how the character would react to any given situation. To help understand a character, list main definable adjectives and list actors, family, or friends that resembles the character psychologically to draw reference from. It's important to draw inspiration from real life or from other films, but try to avoid using animated films as reference as that has already been filtered through the mind of another artist. Really get to know the character, get inside the character's head. Think about if the character is a head, heart, or stomach type. However don't overdo the actions trying to portray the character. Leave some space for the audience to fill in. The audience has already and will be going on a journey with the character so overkill isn't necessary and leaving the space also lets the audience project thoughts and emotions onto the character.

The energy of actions is critical to selling believable animation to match dialogue. Energy is portrayed through time, distance, and value and to achieve different feelings the progression and contrast of energy can be played with. Having less contrast has less energy as it spans the action out across a period of time. More progression gives more thought to an action as decisions are given more ease in and out.

It is important to balance energy levels but also vary the texture of the energy levels so that there is a dynamic balance. Think about how the character reacts both internally and externally and to break apart a dialogue. Try breaking the dialogue in thirds, as halves tend to be static, where each partial section is called as a phrase. Don't do it during pauses though as while people talk they are always thinking and switching between the two and not coming to a full stop to switch and continue a thought process. Structure your phrases for the shot and make sure not to over or under act. As Ollie Johnston says, "communicating without complicating". Consider the subtext of the dialogue as characters don't always say what they mean and it can give another layer of depth.

Give the character a soul and make the character relatable. Animators aren't just animating to mimic reality but, as Walt Disney says, to take the foundation of fact  in order that it may more richly possess sincerity and contact with the public. Animators are a sort of puppeteers but just moving isn't enough, animating is to give a soul and life to a character. Animate the character in ways that are relatable so that the audience can connect and project upon the character. Give the character some gray areas as they are interesting and to be imperfect and flawed is to be human.

For shots with two or more characters, think about the relationship between the characters, their history as it will influence how the character will act and react to each other.

Don't betray your characters though. Have them be true to themselves. Such examples that were given were considering how a character will act and keeping the character true to that personality and the actions and motions involved instead of going off on a tangent that would be less true to the character. Another would be to keep an animal as how an animal behaves instead of giving it humanistic motions and poses that would break the animal character.

Eighty percent of human communication is done through pantomime, body language. Body language can support info, add extra info, alter info, or even contradict info. No matter what the character may be saying though, the truth is in the body language.

When posing, consider the angles and direction of the head and body as different angles and direction transmits different amounts of energy. A tilted diagonal head or body decreases the amount of energy while straights are more focused and the energy goes forward,

Give the character specificity as it helps solidifies the character and the character's history. Things that would be considered would be the physiology, such as material species, action, gender, age, and personality. When thinking about the character's thought process, make sure that there is enough allowed time for thought and give the thought action priority first before full action. So important to the process of thinking is to consider what a character's reactions would be like.

Consider the status of the character and in relation to other character. The character with the higher status is the one in control and can most easily achieve what the character wants. Then there is endowment. Everything has potential value to give and take. Objects, for example, can be endowed with an idea or symbol and so consider how characters would act around or toward it.

To finish up the lecture Mike gave us some tips. For reference, act out the shot to feel the performance, Let it be natural and don't force characters in to poses. Try not to pretend or fake acting, instead build an environment to react to. Pretending to hold a heavy item is different than actually holding one with how the body actually moves. Find someone to act with to be able to get some honest reactions. When having issues with a shot, try playing the shot in a mirror. Try playing the shot in the morning to see it with fresh eyes and write done issues. Try playing the shot at double or half speed. Try playing the shot backwards. Don't just believe what the computer is trying to sell but look at the shot from many different angles to get a greater sense of what is wrong and how things are working.