Friday, January 25, 2008

Mark Walsh Lecture

I'm pretty much just going to jump right into the notes I took. The lecture was fantastic, very inspiring and definately set my mind back on track after getting a little lost on my recent animation endeavor. A little background first on Mark Walsh: He graduated from CalArts shortly after Pixar released Toy Story, I believe he did an internship at Dreamworks first(he was talking about some extra stuff after everyone left and this briefly came up) before landing at Pixar where he's worked on every movie except Cars(Not sure about Wall-E though). Anyways, the lecture he gave tonight was not focused on the Pixar way of doing things it's about creating believable characters with thoughtful performances. Onto the lecture:

The first point he talked about focused on how to go beyond the movement and instead thinking of the characters. In order to create this believable character you must look into his/hers' personality (general outlook), psychology(sees themselves), Philosophy(how they see the world), goals("If they had a million dollars what would they do?" Or dreams/aspirations), and in particular flaws because no one's perfect and anyone who is perfect is viewed as fake. Throughput the lecture he showed various clips of scenes that illustrated the film crew considering these points. He used The Beast from Beauty and the Beast(Disney version) to show the thinking behind the character--selfish or giving, self absorbed? mean? low self-esteem? these kinds of things. In the end it's especially the flaws that create the story. Viewers are particularly captivated by stories about characters who keep running into a brick wall of them self(where they constantly battle their flaws).

Next up character studies, he touched on the topic of character arc where the character is different at the end that at the beginning of the movie, with examples of Scrooge, Marlin from Finding Nemo, and then The Beast. He then moved to shows like the Simpsons where it's limited animation(when compared to feature films) and how the creators think about the inside of the character. And even though it's a limited budget how fantastic the characters are. Homer can basically be classified as lazy, loves donuts and beer, etc. Lisa is always trying to be the adult...these kinds of characters when strong almost write the story themselves. He also went very briefly into character design and how a character needs to be more than a pretty design, as an example he showed the animation work he did on The Incredibles (Mr. Incredibles' scenes were the focus) where there's that conflict between Bob's obsession with the past glory days and how he's missing his current glory--his family--until there's that breaking point when both conflicts finally snap(towards the end when the family gets back to the city and Mr. Incredible tells his wife how he's not strong enough to lose his family again, or when they're trapped as a family under Syndrome and Bob realizes his greatest accomplish is his family.) Mark Walsh also touched on consistency for the character by stating,"What makes a character believable are their consistent reactions based on their profile." As an example he showed us a clip from Back to the Future, in particular clips focusing on the character George McFly.

The second part of the lecture began to address the main focus: Animation. The definition he provided, "Animation is the replication/caricature of the things discussed earlier." It's essentially the artists' job to reflect society back on itself. Give it a different perspective and it usually connects with people. A couple other quotes include, "Don't have to be a sell out to be an artist." In relation to the debate of Art for money or Art for Art. And on the same subject, "Not about the money, however why make art that no one can see?" Coming back to animation, he discussed the skill set needed to be a strong animator: It comes down to principles and acting. Principles meaning the 12 principles of animation(squash/stretch, anticipation, etc.) however it's vitally important to push past JUST making a character(or anything) move. That's where acting comes in. A live-action actor(like Tom Hanks) never shows up on a live-action set with only poses in his head("Oh this'll be a great silhoette!" "Look at this hand pose!"). An actor like Hanks comes to the set with the background of the character and gets into that character's skin. For animators(though this applies to live-action as well) when approaching how to get past just movement, you must decide on- the line of thinking, illustrate those thoughts with expressions or poses, and constantly keep consistent with the character. Always acknowledging the thought behind the action(s). Lip-sync is a great example how one sometimes thinks before they speak. Animators don't want to focus solely on how synced up the mouth is, but instead focus on the meaning behind the words. He used Trading Places(the butler was the focus) as an example of this. To conclude his lecture Mark Walsh ended with, "Take your craft seriously." In relation to constantly working to better your work and to always keep studying life around you. He pulled out his tiny sketchbook he carries around and while he flipped through it told some hilariously entertaining stories about the people he saw and how he incorporated some of these studies into his animated scenes. His walk-cyle observations were dead-on brilliant. He mentioned how fantastic Disneyland is for studying people, "The levels of burnout are great studies!" Anyways, that was pretty much the lecture itself the Q/A afterwards touched on his personal animation process, stories about the old Pixar days and how when he went back to visit the old building Pixar used to use, it's now a Crime Scene Investigation place for California, his old office is now a freezer for body parts apparently. haha. He also described what it's like to be a supervising animator at Pixar and the various duties. One huge point he touched on a lot was what's lacking at Cal Arts, "You guys draw beautifully(better than when I was a student here), your stories are always getting better...but I long to see feature animation quality again! Fully fleshed out scenes with acting and thought." He talked to us about the differences between Cal Arts and other schools and how he in the end really only wants to hire Cal Arts animators because of the training/curriculum, however, a lot of the films leave something to be desired. He said that the first and second years at Cal Arts are for exploring the principles and getting a handle on how everything works so that in your final years(3rd/4th) you can really bring it home and focus on that acting. He did mention that although the environment at Pixar has changed a little from the old days, Pixar still in the end will hire based on the best performance in animation, whether 2D or 3D. Anyways, it was again a fantastic lecture and am all fired up for a weekend full of animating. :) Night!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In an attempt to be more like Oregon weather---it's now raining in Valencia, after 2 weeks of sunny 60 degree weather, this is quite awesome! :) I've also started my second scene-it'll be finished before the rain is predicted to stop.

Also Mark Walsh from Pixar is coming on Friday to give a guest lecture! Can't wait...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Would be the sweetest thing, 'twould make me sing

Started animating over the weekend after losing a battle with the backgrounds(I'll conquer them soon enough---no fears) and can now say I have 1 of 25 scenes done! Sadly, not posting this elusive scene, however photos are following:

Here's the pile along with the first of the x-sheets. All 103 drawings. :)

A reject drawing that is not in the pile posted above. Though the action is still very much the same.

And this dear blog-readers is an official copyright document and basically says I own the rights to Tubby Tabby Productions, meaning, I have a production company. See Mom it arrived in one piece. ;) Thanks again Santa! And the rest of the artwork is a small glimpse into my wall o' film inspiration. Movies backgrounds include: 101 Dalmatians, Aristocats, and Sword in the Stone.

It feels really good to be back in the swing of things, can't even explain the feeling of animating on paper, but I love it and feel right at home spending my weekends animating a mean ol' cat and a obsessive old man. :) The word excited is the understatement of the year. Anyways, another busy week at CalArts is upon me so ttfn...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Well Spring Semester at CalArts is off to a promising start. Some nice new classes added to the mix, an animatic I'm considering done by now(just have notes to keep in mind when I start animating on Monday!), and the beginnings of some layouts/backgrounds on my film. So as far as classes:

Tuesday was my 3D animation class with the new teacher--John Aquino. He gave a little bit of background about himself, he was originally a 2D animator at Disney and when they switched to 3D he made the adjustment and has since been working(10 years and running) in 3D(between Maya and 3D Studio Max since he talked about both a bit). Since our past 3D teacher left unexpectedly I'm assuming the new teacher John was called very shortly before the semester started(I'd say a week or less), so at this point I'm remaining open-minded about the class. He did promise lots of animation so I'm hopeful.Wednesday I had one of my critical studies classes: Origin of Animal Behavior. It seems like a pretty cool class, basically finding a link between the motivations between the behavior in animals vs. humans. Today(Thursday) was the usual lifedrawing and I'm completely rusty. Horrible drawings were made in those couple of hours. Aftewards I had my other critical studies class: Animation and 'the body', this critcial studies class I'm really looking forward to. For one 98% of the class are all character animators and secondly the class is going to be a lot of watching movies and analyzing the human portryal, whether how the animators made the motions look believable(like in 3D) or how a human is represented, etc. Covers a lot of aspects that I haven't really considered before so I'm thrilled I signed up for it. Afterwards, my always favorite class---Traditional Animation. Great lecture about layouts, the teacher told us he'll be making a shift from pure animation to covering the basics of filmmaking and how to translate these basics to animation. He showed us several clips and examples of layout, camera shots, etc. and broke them down scene-by-scene. Exactly the kind of class I need right now. Lots of information was shoved into my head and I'm hoping to nail-down my backgrounds this weekend with this information in mind.

I begin animating my film on Monday(backgrounds or no backgrounds)---Monday marks exactly 3 months until films are due and according to my animatic, I have 25 scenes to animate! Anyways, in the mean time--thanks to the help of a fellow character animator who occasionally passes by the blog here---I've transferred my animations from my VHS tape to computer so I have a nice version of all of my animations I made last semester...this means a little montage of everything I did, including 2 projects I've never posted before: A stop-motion project whose sole purpose was the teach us how to use the pencil test machine(so horrid animation ahoy!) and then a flip-book animation....otherwise it's all the same stuff I've posted before only slightly nicer quality. Check out the time, it's longer than my actual student film--so it's actually comforting to know I have animated more than 90 seconds in a span of a couple of months. Well enjoy and here's to a productive weekend!

Monday, January 14, 2008

First Day of Spring Semester Report

Well, it's the first official day of classes at CalArts. Same teachers, classes, and overall schedule really---only changes: No Color/Design, Story for Animators, or Contemporary Literature. I replaced these classes with: 'Origin of Animal Behavior' and 'Animation and "The Body"' it's a pretty light class load: 15 credits plus a film will keep me plenty busy. Also the 3D animation teacher is not coming back this semester and they've hired a new 3D animation teacher so I'm curious how tomorrow night's class will go, the word is he's worked as both a 2D and 3D animator in the industry.

Past couple of days have been spent pretty much either in my cube, the computer lab, or back in the dorm(like right now)---not a lot of events taking place right now and so not much to update about. Film animatic is coming together very nicely-one more official pass, finalize some backgrounds, and I'm ready to animate! My Story Development teacher got us all pumped up about our films and spent the first 10 minutes of class describing the next few months before sitting down with us one-on-one and giving us in-depth critiques on our animatics/boards. And yes Mom, the music went over very well. ;) Got a lot of compliments from fellow students and the teacher was groovin' to the rhythm on his 5th time watching it. haha. The rest of the critique was also great, I'm mostly down to fine-tuning and playing with the timing of certain scenes, but he was very pleased with it. Well until probably the weekend---adieu.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Winter Break Conclusion

Well I'm back at CalArts and all settled in. It was a great winter-break and I thoroughly enjoyed being back home in Oregon. A big shout-out to the Oregon animation gang who made my last day a memorable one! Oregon was wet, windy, snowy, and absolutely bone-chillingly cold...Valencia greeted me with sunshine and like 70 degree weather---bit of an adjustment, but I'm sure the main building is still a pretty cold temperature. haha.
Well from here on out it's all film---classes begin on Monday, but all of them(minus critical studies of course) are focused on completing this film. I worked out a lot of staging issues over my break, finalized my characters' designs, music, and even title(Fight or Flight)--still need to polish my backgrounds, reboard about 35% of it, and create, hopefully, one more animatic and then onto my highly anticipated, just dying to get to, animation stage! Alright, well I'm off to go see how my cube survived break and see who else is around!

Hey fellow CalArtians: Assuming I have the correct film deadline of April 21st, we have 102 days until it's all due---the countdown officially beings eh? Oh yeah and the updates on my blog will probably slow down and I'll aim for a monthly update....especially when this countdown gets down to the line, anyways....Here's to a busy and hopefully successful 2008!