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February 14th, 2005 #1
Walt Disney Animation Recommended Reading List
CHECK OUT LOTS OF INFORMATION AFTER THE READING LIST AS WELL.
"This is a list of Recommended Reading for talent training at Walt Disney Feature Animation. Thought it would be nice to share it with you all and you can start your own checklist"
-originally posted at the AWN.com forums by OMNIGOD
Walt Disney Feature Animation
WALT DISNEY ANIMATION - Production/ Artists/ History
1. Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane (1992)
2. The Art of Mickey Mouse, by Craig Yoe (1991)
3. The Art of Walt Disney, by Christopher Finch (1993)
4. Bambi: The Story & the Film, by Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas (1990)
5. The Disney Touch, by Ron Grover (1991)
6. Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, by Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas (1981)
7. Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Characters, by John Grant (1992)
8. Fantasia, by John Culhane (1983)
9. The Disney Studio Story, by Richard Holliss & Brian Sibley (1988)
10. The Man Behind The Magic: The Story of Walt Disney, by Katherine & Richard Greene (1991)
11. Too Funny For Words, by Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas
12. Treasures of Disney's Animation Art, by John Canenaker (1982)
13. Walt Disney's World of Fantasy, by Adrian Bailey (1982)
14. The Disney Films, by Leonard Maltin (1984)
15. The Ultimate Disney Trivia Book, by Kevin Neary & Dave Smith (1992)
BOOKS ON PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES
1. Animation From Script to Screen, by Shamus Culhane (1988)
2. The Animation Workbook, by Tony White (1986)
3. Basic Animation Stand Techniques, by Brian G. O. Salt (1977)
4. Cartoon Animation: Introduction to A Career, by Milton Gray (1991)
5. The Complete Kodak Animation Book, by Charles Soloman & Ron Stark (1983)
6. How To Create Animation, by John Cawley & Jim Korkis (1990)
7. How To Draw Animation Storyboards, by Bob Singer (1992)
8. Make Your Own Animated Movies & Videotapes, by Yvonne Anderson (1991)
9. Scriptwriting For Animation, by Stan Hayward (1977)
10. Timing For Animation, by Harold Whitaker & John Halas (1981)
11. Walter T. Foster Art Books Series:
Cartoon Animation: Basic Skills, by Walter Foster
How To Draw Cartoon Animation, by Preston Blair
How To Animate Film Cartoons, by Preston Blair
BOOKS ON ANIMATION ARTISTS & PIONEERS
1. Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of An Animated Cartoonist, by Chuck Jones (1989)
2. Emile Cohl, Caricature & Film, by Donald Crafton (1990)
3. The Fleischer Story, by Leslie Cabarga (1988)
4. The Great Cartoon Directors, by Jeff Leuberg (1983)
5. Tex Avery, by Patrick Brion (1984)
6. Tex Avery: King of Cartoons, by John Adamson (1975)
7. Talking Animals and Other People, by Shamus Culhane (1986)
8. The Walter Lantz Story, by Joe Adamson (1985)
9. Winsor McGay: His Life and Art, by John Canemaker (1987)
BOOKS ON ANIMATION HISTORY
1. American Animated Films: The Silent Era (1897-1929), by Dennis Gifford (1990)
2. Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare, Joe Adamson (1990)
3. Cartoon Confidential, by Jim Korkis & John Cawley (1991)
4. Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-45, by Michael Shull & David Witt (1987)
5. Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, by Charles Solomon (1989)
6. Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons, by Jeff Leuberg (1991)
7. Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars from A to (Almost) Z, by Jim Cawley & Jim Korkis (1990)
8. Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World's Most Famous Cat, by John Canemaker (1991)
9. Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cartoon Animals, by Jeff Rovin (1991)
10. Looney Tunes & Merry Melodies, by Jeff Beck & Will Friedwald (1988)
11. Of Mice and Magic, by Leonard Maltin (1987)
12. That's All, Folks!: The Art of Warner Brothers Animation, by Steve Schneider (1988)
BOOKS ON DRAWING (Human and Animal Figures)
1. Anatomy Lessons From the Great Masters, by Robert Beverly Hale (1977)
2. Art Anatomy of Animals, by Ernest Thompson Seton (1977)
3. The Art of Animal Drawing, by Ken Hultgren (1950) (Recently re-issued in soft cover)
4. The Book of A Hundred Hands, by George Bridgeman (1962)
5. Bridgeman's Life Drawing, by George Bridgeman (1962)
6. Constructive Anatomy, by George Bridgeman (1962)
7. The Drawings of Heinreich Kley, (1961)
8. Drawing The Female Figure, by Joseph Sheppard (1975)
9. Drawing The Human Head, by Burne Hogarth (1965)
10. Drawing The Male Figure, by Joseph Sheppard (1976)
11. Drawing Media & Techniques, by Joseph A. Gatto (1987)
12. Dynamic Anatomy, by Burne Hogarth (1958)
13. Dynamic Figure Drawing, by Burne Hogarth (1970)
14. Figure Drawing Comes To Life, by Albert Seckler
15. Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, by Andrew Loomis
16. Heads, Features and Faces, by George Bridgeman (1962)
17. The Human Machine, by George Bridgeman (1972)
18. More Drawings of Heinrich Kley (1962)
19. On The Art of Drawing, by Robert Fawcett
20. Vilppu Sketch Book, by Glen Vilppu (1994)
PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCE (of Human and Animal Figures)
1. Atlas of Foreshortening: The Human Figure in Deep Perspective, by John Cody (1980)
2. Human and Animal Locomotion - Volumes I, II, & III, by Eadwead Muybridge (1979)
3. The Human Form In Action and Repose, by Phil Brodatz & Dori Watson (1968)
4. Illustrator's Figure Reference Manual (1987)
5. Illustrator's Reference Manual of Nudes (1989)
BOOKS ON FILM
This is only a tiny sampling of the almost limitless number of titles dealing with every aspect of live cinema production and the history of motion pictures.
1. Cinematography, by Kris Malkiewicz (1973)
2. The Elements of Cinema, by Stefan Sharff
3. Eugene Lourie: My Work in Films, by Eugene Lourie (1985)
4. Film Design, by Terrence St. John Marner (1974)
5. The Film Sense, by Sergei Eisenstein (1970)
6. Flight of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films, by Kennth Von Gunden (1989)
7. How Movies Work, by Bruce F. Kawin (1992)
8. Introduction To Film, by Robert S. Withers
9. The Moving Picture Book, by William Kuhns
10. Special Effects: Creating Movie Magic, by Christopher Finch (1984)
11. The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography, by Raymond Fielding
12. Understanding Movies, by Louis Giannetti (1987)
13. Wide Screen Movies, by Robert E. Carr and R. M. Hayes (1988)
14. Hollywood Art: Art Direction In The Days of the Great Studios, by Beverly Heisner (1990)
MY OWN LIST THAT I HAVE BEEN COMPILING
Books on Animation and realated fields
The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion, and Internet Animators by Richard Williams
The Animator's Workbook by Tony White
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas
The Disney Villain by Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston
Walt Disney's Bambi: The Sketchbook Series (The Sketchbook Series) by Frank Thomas
Walt Disney's Peter Pan (The Sketchbook Series , No 5) by Frank Thomas
Disney's the Little Mermaid: Sketch Book (Walt Disney's Sketchbook Series) by Applewood Books
Animation : From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane
Timing for Animation by Harold Whitaker
Acting for Animators, Revised Edition : A Complete Guide to Performance Animation by Ed Hooks
Cartoon Animation (The Collector's Series) by Preston Blair
The Complete Animation Course: The Principles, Practice, and Techniques of Successful Animation by Chris Patmore
<LI>The Animation Book : A Complete Guide to Animated Filmmaking--From Flip-Books to Sound Cartoons to 3-D Animation
by KIT LAYBOURNE, JOHN CANEMAKER (Introduction) "The biggest single misconception about animation is that you need to be an artist to do it, that you need to know how to draw..."
Exploring Drawing for Animation (Design Exploration Series) by Stephen Missal "Good drawing skills necessary for animation are no different from the skills needed for basic sound drawing from life..."
Paper Dreams by John Canemaker
Before the Animation Begins by John Canemaker
Disney's Nine Old Men by John Canemaker
Storyboards: Motion in Art by Mark Simon
Setting up Your Shots by Jeremy Vineyard
Storyboarding 101etting Up Your Shots by James O Fraioli
Brother Bear : A Transformation Tale (Welcome Book (Hardcover)) by H. Clark Wakabayashi
The Art of Mulan by Jeff Kurtti
Treasure Planet: A Voyage of Discovery by Jeff Kurtti
The Art of The Incredibles by Mark Cotta Vaz
Lilo & Stitch : Collected Stories From the Film's Creators by tk
The Art of Finding Nemo by Mark Cotta Vaz The Art of Monsters, Inc. by Pete Docter
Tarzan Chronicles (Welcome Book) by Howard E. Green
Any of the "Disney Art of.. "(i.e. Tarzan) books http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/s...7330519-6419163
Last edited by Hett15; February 27th, 2011 at 12:58 AM.
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February 14th, 2005 #2
"Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."
"Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation."
~~Walter Elias Disney
Through the help and knowledge of people here at conceptart.org and AWN.com and on other internet forums and websites I have learned so much about becoming an artist/animator and how to get there. The process of gathering the information was a learning experience in itself, but if I can do anything to help people that are in a place where I once was looking for help I will be glad to.
The purpose of this thread is to gather as much information, questions, and resources as possible to help students, graduates, and entry level animators find ways to succeed. Just post a reply with a question and I will try to find the answer or someone with the answer may reply. I will gather the information and eventually make a much longer.
[disclaimer:] I DO NOT BY ANY MEANS TAKE CREDIT FOR THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE. I SIMPLY GATHERED THE INFORMATION FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES AND TRIED TO GIVE CREDIT WHEN I KNEW WHERE IT CAME FROM. IF YOU SEE SOMETING THAT YOU RECOGNIZE LET ME KNOW AND I WOULD BE GLAD TO CREDIT THE SOURCE. THIS IS WONDERFUL INFORMATION THAT EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO.
From Pixar's Website
"How do I get started in a career in computer graphics/animation?"
There is a wealth of information on the web regarding careers in these fields. Besides information on our web site (list of schools, current job opportunities) be sure to check the career and business information offered by Siggraph (www.siggraph.org). Animation Magazine (www.animationmagazine.net) and the Animation World Network (www.awn.com) are also good resources.
Looking for a 2D animation school http://forums.awn.com/showthread.ph...ighlight=school
Pixar's FAQ how to get a job etc. http://www.pixar.com/companyinfo/jobs/faq.html
List of Schools and Colleges
The following is a list of colleges and schools offering courses in animation or technical direction. Pixar does not necessarily endorse any of these schools. The list is simply a resource for those interested in exploring the world of technical direction and animation.
COMPUTER GRAPHICS (Technical Direction)
Art Institute of Chicago
California Institute of Technology
California State University, Irvine
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
New York Institute of Technology
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Davis
University of North Carolina
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
University of Utah
University of Washington
Academy of Art College
Art Center College of Design
Art Institute of Chicago
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
New York University
Parsons School of Design
Ringling School of Art and Design
Rhode Island School of Design
Rochester Institute of Technology
San Francisco State University
Savannah College of Art and Design
School of Communication Arts
School of Visual Arts
University of Southern California
Vancouver Film School
Vancouver Institute of Media Arts
Last edited by Hett15; February 14th, 2005 at 10:23 AM.
February 14th, 2005 #3
PREPARING A PORTFOLIO FOR ART SCHOOL
(information gathered by Sula Nuboxi on conceptart.org)
There is a great section at conceptart.org for schools and art education questions http://www.conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=15
Figure studies and still lifes, lots of them. When schools mean observation from life they mean this. -Don't ignore composition in still lifes, they can turn a dull piece into something really interesting to look at.
-Be very careful in including 3d work, only include it if your 2d skills are top notch and even then only include a few, and even then still, only include it if it kicks ass.
-Be diverse. Include a little bit of everything, by which I mean different mediums. Paintings, charcoal, pencil, etc...
-No storyboards. Stick to observational drawings.
-Scanning drawings can be a bad thing. Use slide film or a good digital camera in good lighting.
-It is possible that attending a art college prep/precollege program will increase your chances of getting in. The official requirements stated that they like to see that you have taken a bunch of studio art and art history courses prior to applying.
-Plan to spend LOTS of time with your drawings, expect to spend at the very least 6hrs on each one. It's grueling but the amount of effort will show in your work.
-Your current GPA and portfolio are key to getting in. If you have a high GPA(3.5 and up) you have a better chance with just a decent portfolio, if you show potential. But if your GPA is low(between 2.0 and 3.0), your portfolio must be fantastic to offset the GPA. GPA's are important because they show that you are willing to work hard to improve.
-Many times you have to write an essay. The essay is very important. It may tell a bit about you that your drawings cannot. To a lesser extent it also shows that you can put words together to form a sentence. Your essay should have a sense of eagerness to work hard, humility, no arrogance, and don't say something like "If I don't get in that's fine, I can do it on my own". They might think "OK, next!". Don't say "I have always wanted to be an animator since I was little..." be original.
-Schools want to see a few things above all else: Potential, drive, creativity, skill, and your personality shine through your portfolio.
-Do your drawings on a nice unwrinkled sheet of paper with no rips or tears or whatnot, If it doesn't look like you put enough effort into creating your portfolio for presentation what do you you think the people deciding on your admission will think about you .
- First impressions only happen once!
-Showing contrast in drawings is a must. Have a large range of values in your drawings. It's never good to just have grays in your drawings. Include dark blacks and bright whites. If you are using color then mix up the color values too.
-Play to your strengths. If you have weak figure studies, try not to include too many of them. Instead include what you are good at. Just don't neglect the observational art. You may be judged on the worst piece of your portfolio.
-Show only your best. Including bad or relatively average drawings can hurt your chances. It kinda gives a rushed feeling and they may think you aren't consistent with your work. Even if you only have a few pieces (10-12 pages), it's better than filling it out with mediocre work.
-Try not to wait until the last minute to send in the portolio, while they may be lenient on this, it doesn't hurt not to take any chances. The last thing you would want is to not be admitted just because you were further down on a list.
-Quick gestures can be a good idea to include. Large sheets full of them. Show movement, action, and energy. Static poses should be saved for longer more detailed observational studies.
-Include some of your creative works alongside the observational stuff. Show them what you are interested in. Remember, this portfolio is supposed to show who you are, BUT do not include anime, giant killer robots, or copies of cartoon characters (Bugs, Mickey, Homer etc..)
-Most art schools, don't want to see comic/manga style work either. It's hard to be original with those kinds of styles.
-They also do not want to see stuff drawn from photos. Usually a trained eye can notice whether or not something has been photographed beforehand. All the decisions have been made for you about where the lines go. Training your own eyes to see the forms, shapes, and lines is important.
(originally posted by Storyboard Dave at conceptart.org)
I review a ton of high school portfolios. One of the most discouraging things I see in portfolios is the lack of cleanliness and professionalism. A portfolio is not just a scattered collection of your best pieces. Think of your portfolio as a personal reflection of who you are. Choreograph the order in which your pieces appear. Show me that you've mastered drawing from direct observation (don't copy photographs), show me that you can handle drawing the human form, let's see some sense of tonal value (don't just give me some washed out 30%- 60% grey pencil drawings) and above all- keep the entire portfolio clean and crisp.
I want clean crisp matte cuts. No smudges on your mattes. No dinged corners at all. There are a multitude of ways to present your work but keep it immaculately clean- it's one of the first things I notice in a portfolio and it represents you in very overt ways.
As far as how the admissions people grade their entrants I'm not 110% positive, but I do know that a lot of it is based upon their portfolio AND the interview process. I've seen portfolios that are weak and yet I still recommend the Admissions people at our school to take a second look based upon my gut instinct. It's almost an intangible feeling.
On the other hand I've also seen portfolios from high school kids be so polished it makes me wonder if they did it themselves and then when I see several kids with the same kind of slick presentation I know their program & its instructors were really on them. Some kids just have all the breaks- is it fair? No, but then it's a cruel world out there.
As far as the professionalism goes, I don't think anyone is asking a high school student to be so button down tight they can present to a major boardroom. Their level of expertise varies; a lot of it is also based upon what they get from their high school teachers. But I do think that a student has to take it upon themselves to realize what professionalism is. They need to ask questions of the Admissions Offices. A well informed student is the best kind of student. I think THIS is a great forum to ask as well. My high school instructor didn't know all of the ropes for being a professional but I thank him regularly for encouraging me to find out.
I think that once a student has matriculated through several years of an intense college program their professionalism grows by leaps and bounds. I just think being in a collegiate environment is a huge growth period for any person.
I know I'm still learning each and every day even though I've been out for a long while and in the work force now as a professional illustrator. I honestly get as much from my students as I try to give to them; some are just amazingly creative and innovative. I'm really lucky that I can at least give back some of the knowledge I've gained over the years.
One suggestion is to lug the portfolio in yourself. The Admissions people at any college know to expect the big clunky portfolios (wanna go through 17,000 pieces in an afternoon to decide Scholastics??). I'm sure they're not crazy about them but I'm sure they know it's part of the hazards of the job.
A great solution is to shoot slides of your work and bring that in IF the school allows that. Ultimately find out what format the school is willing to accept and then possibly go with the lightest and simplest way possible.
Presentations can be so individualistic too. So what works for one person might not be right for another. My strongest suggestion is to find out what they're willing to accept and then expound upon that whether it be slides, foamcore backed images, a DVD, VHS or whatever.
February 14th, 2005 #4
IS ART SCHOOL FOR ME?
Originally posted by keithlango at conceptart.org in reference to the Ringling School of Art and Design Computer Animation Program
I'm very familiar with the Ringling program. I know the faculty and have been involved as a visiting artist and guest lecturer on several occasions over the last several years.
In my opinion, the quality of the education in the Ringling Computer Animation department is top notch. There's a strong emphasis on traditional art throughout, as well as for developing the ability to tell a story. The faculty are constantly inviting working professional artists to review and critique student work in progress. Every year the faculty also hires working pros to come and do faculty training so that they stay current with the industry. Not to mention that the faculty also do a fair amount of actual professional freelance work during the off months of the year. So there's no basis for implying the Ringling program is not among the best in the world from a quality of education standpoint.
Having said that, going to Ringling is not a guarantee that you'll get a high paying job in the CG industry right out of school. I'd say a good 50% of each graduating class isn't ready for the job market upon graduation. They need more work on their own time after graduation to get up to par. I make that judgement based on a simple question: Would I hire this person right now as a junior artist in my studio? To more than half the graduates I'd say that answer would be "No, not yet."
Is that a fault of the program? I don't think it is. Those are actually pretty good averages for hire-able people from a given pool of graduates. I've seen entire classes of students coming from other programs that I wouldn't hire if you held a gun to my head.
Every year there's 1 or 2 Ringling graduates who are so good they have multiple offers awaiting them upon graduaton. Then there's the next level, perhaps the top 5-8 graduates who will get a job offer within 2 months of graduation. There's the next level of students (perhaps 10-15 of the 35 or so who graduate) will need to work on their reels on their own time for a period of 6-12 months after graduation, occasionally getting a spot assignment here or there until they can catch on with more consistent work. They have training and ability, they just need to get more practice and grow in their skills. Even so, that's not bad. Again I've seen whole classes of graduates from other schools that I would say would need years of additional work on their own in order to be good enough to get in as a junior level artist.
Sadly, just as every graduating class from Ringling produces some super stars, it also produces it's share of duds. People who never took the program seriously, rebelled against the faculty's instruction because they thought they knew it all already or were so talented that they didn't need to listen, folks who goofed off or didn't feel a burning need to improve their craft and take advantage of the opportunities they'd been given. Almost universally the people who fall into this category have their schooling paid for by their parents. Such folks likely will never work in the CG industry without a significant change of attitude, but they won't have any loans either. They'll just have taken their parents for a $100,000 joy ride on the sunny beaches along the Gulf Coast of Florida.
When calculating the costs of the education, you need to weigh what it's worth to you to have access to knowledgeable, well trained faculty, industry pro reviews and a competitive class environment which will push you artistically. The typical pay for a graduating Cg artist from Ringling may be a bit higher than from your usual Art Institute, but not much. After all this is a merit driven business that judges the artist by their work, not by their class ring. The hire-able Ringling graduates have offers that are typically in the $30-40,000 range. Maybe $45k if it's the right studio or game company. But not typically. Still, $30-40k is quite good for a first job right out of school. The top guys will get a bit more (maybe $50-65k, but VERY rarely). The folks who have to work on their reels for a few months will get less to start because they won't be walking into the top studios right away. Overall the payoff is not bad for a typical graduate. But you'd better not be dreaming for a 6 figure income right out of school because that just doesn't happen anymore. That pay scale is reserved for high end TD's, senior level artists with many years of experience and supervisors. The occasional production artist may hit that mark in a very few select studios if they work a ton of paid overtime (key word here is "paid"). But fresh graduates won't get a sniff of anything near 6 figures, not even superstar Ringling graduates.
The way to ensure that you get an offer for employment when graduating from Ringling is to be in that top 5-10 students in your class. Those are the folks who will get work. The rest have to do it the way the rest of us mere mortals do and work their way up from the bottom over a longer period of time. You need to HONESTLY assess your abilities right now. If you cannot say with confidence that you are capable of producing work that is on par with the SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater or Animation Theater shorts coming out of Ringling each year, then you're best served not spending your money to go there. You're better served keeping your overall debt load low and taking the longer, slower path to a job in this business because that's the way you'll have to go if you can't do stuff that is on the same level as something like Poor Bogo.
That's just my opinion.
February 14th, 2005 #5
WHAT ABOUT JUST GETTING AN ASSOCIATES DEGREE IN COMPUTER ANIMATION?
(Ringling CA Teacher) on earning a degree from 1-2 year associate/certificate programs (i.e. FullSail or DMAC )
In the long run it doesn't matter if you have an Associates or a MFA; if the quality of your work is not up to a certain level you are going to have a hard time finding work. You aren't going to school to learn the software you are going to learn the art of animation. If this is your first time getting into the computer animation the amount of time at either place is going to make it hard to become efficient at your craft. And don't forget there are a lot of other students in longer programs and experienced animators out there that you are going to be competing with for the same jobs.
Last edited by Hett15; February 27th, 2011 at 01:00 AM.
February 14th, 2005 #6
Other graphic/drawing websites
February 14th, 2005 #7
Feature Animation Demo Reel Tips:
1. Keep it under 2.5 minutes.
3. Always use a NEW CD/DVD. (Always label DVD ITSELF WITH YOUR NAME AT LEAST!)
4. Include a log sheet (breakdown sheet). Show thumbnails of the shot on the log and mention what you contributed to each shot.
5. Include a resume and cover letter. Always spell check these two docs.
6. Only use your best stuff.
7. Short film? Show your best shots first. Include the full film at the end.
8. Tailor your reel to the studio and position your applying for.
9. No offensive content. (stay away from big boobed women, gore, and unicorns)
10. Avoid cycles in your reel.
11. Reel Order:
-Best shot –FIRST
-Second best shot – MIDDLE
-Weakest shot (but still good work) – NEXT
-Full short film (if applicable) – at the end.
(updated: Author a DVD with links to your shots, 2d work, 3d models, and a link to your movie)
What is a demo reel for?
A demo reel is essentially a sales tool. You are selling yourself and proving, to an extent, what sort of positive addition you will be to a company. If you can prove you've got oodles of talent and a creative way of thinking about things, your demo reel will get you noticed. If it is exceptionally good, it's your doorway into the industry.
Who is your audience?
Your audience, obviously, is comprised of those people you want to work for. The thing is, you're not alone. Many, many people want and have tried to get the same job you are applying for. These demo watchers have seen countless reels and guess what, they're tired of seeing the same things over and over again. If you think your 3 minute flying logo is going to win you a job, you better consider it very carefully before putting it on your reel. These people are not obligated to watch your entire reel. If they're dissatisfied, they will hit EJECT and move on, possibly missing your Oscar(tm) worthy animation later in the reel.
What to put on a demo reel
SECTION A (general):
Only your best, most amazing work ever. This stuff has to be the best thing since pizza. If you can do it all (model, render, and animate), do it all! You'll earn points for this. Companies are looking for people who can wear many hats and accept many responsibilities. You need to capture their attention and show them you're more than up to the challenge of working in a creative (and crazy) environment like theirs. You want to not only show them you're up to it, you want to show them it'll be a breeze for you.
What to put on a demo reel
SECTION B (specific):
You need to get as many strong points across to your audience visually, in as little time as possible. You need to capture their attention, draw them in, and make them forget for an instant that they are watching a demo reel. This can be quite difficult unless you a great deal of vision and a really good story to tell. Currently a lot of businesses are looking for excellent character animators. You need to bring an object to life, give it a voice, an attitude, "CHARACTER", and have it tell a story. Be fresh, creative, and original (I can't stress that enough). Also, there is a demand for artists who are good at creating low polygon count models. If you have specific skills you want to show off and can, such as adding actual paintings you've created in the real world into a 3d environment, then do it. You are trying to earn as many points as possible. A well rounded artist is always appreciated.
What not to put on a demo reel
Probably whatever you are most likely to think about putting on your demo reel first, is the sort of thing you want to stay away from at all costs. You may think you're being original, but believe it or not, everyone else thinks their name or company logo looks cool flying around the screen too. How about spaceships? They're cool, to be sure...but if you're a demo watcher and that's all you see day in and day out, you're probably dying to see something else. Also, with whatever objects you include in your animation, make sure they are decorated (textured) in the best way possible. Most things in the real world are not shiny and new. Instead they are dented, beat up, scratched, or flawed in some unusual way. Prove your texturing skills by creating your own complex custom textures and make your models even more interesting to look at.
Realize that your audience has seen just about every basic transition and effect out there. These are the things that are only one click away in whatever program you're using. You need to be different and your effects need to be hard won. If it can be done from a simple pull down menu, it's probably not doing to impress them. You need to stand out from the rest of the pack.
What not to put on a demo reel
SECTION B (exceptions):
Of course there are exceptions to everything in the computer graphics and animation industry. If the job you are applying for is going to require specific skills, such as flying logos or spaceship battles, then by all means gear your demo reel in that direction. However, if you are going to be applying to a wide variety of jobs, it is best to have something that will appeal and look absolutely amazing to everyone.
How do I create a good demo reel?
Sit, plan, make-up, cross out, plan some more, think, cross out, make up, and then get to work. A good method is to think about what your strengths are and then think about the most effective and entertaining way possible to get those strengths across on screen. Then sit and think about every aspect of what you want to do and storyboard it out. Understand what every scene is going to involve, how long it's going to take, what sort of resources you'll need to accomplish it, and if everything you want to do is really possible. And if it's not possible, how you're going to look that obstacle in the eyes and say "up yours, I'm doing it anyway".
What does a good demo reel look like?
Many companies have their own reels which you could probably arrange to get a hold of. Contact these places and see if they will send you one. If these are places you would like to work for, then pay close attention to the sort of things they do. Otherwise, I suggest checking out many cool animation tapes currently on the market. Look for "The Mind's Eye" series by SMV or "Computer Animation Festival" series also by SMV. Watch the tapes, be inspired, and then think about how you could have done it better...and then do something else, since what you're thinking about doing has already been done. Remember, be original. If you want to do something that's been done before, do it differently (if that makes sense).
Things to remember!
Put your best stuff first. You want to grab your audience's attention as soon as possible. Give credit where credit is due. If you didn't do something, say so. Also, specify the tools you used to create your demo reel.
“If you want to get your reel noticed by the big companies, fill it with 2 minutes of clips that show the strongest mechanics and physics (showing off the fundamental principles of animation) that you can, and pepper it with a few dialogue/acting tests. If it's a rock-solid butt-kicking reel, it will rise to the top no matter what. It will get passed around, the right people will see it, and you'll be set. At that point, it's just a waiting-around period until the companies happen to be hiring.”
1. Focus on the forces affecting your character, both internally and externally. This will describe the action and reaction of the character, the succesive breaking of joints, the overlap, center of gravity, the follow-through, what leads what, etc. It all starts with the forces involved.
2. MAKE A DECISION.
I was a really big "what-if" guy. I mean, REALLY big. I'd get 1/4 of the way into a shot where a guy is lifting a box, and say "Hey! What if the box was really a bowling ball?" So then I'd want to start over. Of course, then I'd have another "bright" idea and start over again. You'll never finish a scene or even be able to properly get started on it until you MAKE SOME CONCRETE DECISIONS about what is going on in the scene, what you're trying to say in the scene, and what actions/emotions you are going to animate in a scene. This stuff is all found in the planning phase.
We all want to just dive into our shots, but if you take the time to plan it out, you'll find that it turns out much better in the end, and probably finished faster.
4. It's really an amazing gift to run into someone so generous and willing to take so much time out of their life to help you along... Being able to be the recipient of that firsthand is one of the reasons that I wanted to teach so badly.
5. Polishing up your arcs can make a GIANT difference in the overall impression of your scene.
You know how if your room is a wreck and people are coming over and you just don't have time to clean, but if you just make the bed nicely, even that one thing can suddenly make the room seem a lot neater, even though you only really changed one thing? Arcs are like that bed.
It's important to know the following things:
Where is your character? Where did he just come from? Where does he want to go next?
When does the scene take place?
WHO is your character?
What does your character WANT in this scene? What does he want in the long-run?
What, if anything, stands between your character and this desire?
If you know those things, you can figure out the subtext of what he is saying (the TRUTH behind his words), as well as his emotional state, how he'd react to this given situation, etc.
A lot of this subtext stuff can be determined from the "main word" in the sentence. The "main word" (I've also heard it referred to as the "operative word") is the word that is most enunciated or focused-on word in the sentence. This is usually the word you will build your main gesture around, the main body performance around, and the main facial performance around.
- major posture shifts
- head turns
- weight shifts
ALL THE ABOVE TEXT FROM THE LAST FEW POSTS
WAS REFERENCED FROM
Last edited by Hett15; March 4th, 2008 at 09:20 AM.
February 14th, 2005 #8
Principles of Animation
All credit goes to http://www.freewebs.com/kavehmichael/charanimideas.doc
Character Animation Definitions
1. Squash and Stretch -- Defining the rigidity and mass of an object by distorting its shape during an action.
2. Timing -- Spacing actions to define the weight and size of objects and the personality of character.
3. Anticipation -- The preparation for an action.
4. Staging -- Presenting an idea so that it is unmistakably clear.
5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action -- The termination of an action and establishing it relationship to the next action.
6. Straight Ahead Action and Pose-To-Pose Action -- The two contrasting approaches to the creation of movement.
7. Slow In and Slow Out -- The spacing of the in-between frames to achieve subtlety of timing and movement.
8. Arcs -- The visual path of action for natural movement.
9. Exaggeration -- Accentuating the essence of an idea via the design and the action.
10. Secondary Action -- The action of an object resulting from another action.
11. Appeal -- Creating a design or an action that the audience enjoys watching.
12. Solid Drawing
Key Elements of Successful Character Animation
Balance – Weight - Timing
Stage 1: There's nothing about a character's movement that makes you (or other people if you're not picky enough) sit up and say, "There's something wrong with the way it moves."
This would include animation that's too stiff, has too few keyframes and looks like it's occurring under water, moon walking (feet sliding), poses that make no sense, etc. You must be long past just doing walk cycles and such to get to that point. Also it would include breaking symmetry, so the exact same action or facial expression isn't mirrored on the other side of the character. This just screams "COMPUTER", which is a bad thing.
Stage 2: Characters must act. Show emotion, facial expression that conveys the internal thinking of the character without the character having to say a word.
The body language should also be demonstrating a character's state of mind. Are they lazy, aggressive, do they have a limp, a backache? If they were trying to be threatening, would another character be threatened? If they do talk, are they convincing?
Stage 3: The character must have an absolutely unique and identifiable personality.
Subject the character to the "Twin" or "Brain Switch" test. You have two identical characters. You should be able to tell if you were looking at the good character or the bad character, even in silhouette. Or the smart brother or dumb brother. Trickier still would be the evil character doing his best to pose as the good character, and he's *almost* there but just not quite.
The characters in Toy Story would all pass this test. Buzz in Woody's body? Think you couldn't spot that. Or Woody in Buzz's. Or Rex in Buzz's.
In live action I'll give you an example: in the TV show "Taxi", Andy Kaufman's character, Latka, had an alter ego called "Vic Ferrari". When he changed without saying a word, you could tell. When "Vic" was trying to return to Latka, he tried acting like him, and you could tell he just couldn't quite get it.
Ask yourself, "How often have I seen this in computer animation?"
If you want to really call yourself good, *Stage 3* is the bar you have to achieve. I would presume it's the bar that the various large traditional animation studios require you to reach before you can even be called an "animator".
February 14th, 2005 #9
The purpose of this section is to gather as much animation material as I find to make it accesible to as many people as I can. Also, make sure to check out the website of the guys at Animation Meat , Jez Hall's Hat 01 website and Peter Levious' Anatomy Resource website. They all have priceless stuff for any animator out there.
Another very interseting and helpful site
February 14th, 2005 #10
Reference for animating thoughts and techniques
"This is a page I have set up more or less as a reference for animating thoughts and techniques by some of the generous and enthusiastic animators out in the wide world prepared to share their thoughts on the topic. They are basically excerpts from websites and chatrooms that I have found interesting and useful. " Shaun Freeman http://www.shaunfreeman.com/animating_tips/
Shawn Kelly + Delio Tramontozzi Animation Lecture:
April 9th, 2004
Ringling School of Art + Design
Transcribed by: Jeremy Collins
-Carefully choose gestures.
-Gestures should hit on vowels.
-Choose 1 or 2 of the most important poses and make sure they carry emotion and read.
-Avoid clichés at all costs. (i.e. using the first pose that comes to mind.)
-Watch out for “showing” in your animations instead of “doing”.
-Use gestures from NOW, not 1950.
-Essential but commonly overlooked in animation.
-They have a wide range of motion and “emotion” in them.
-The shoulders often lead many actions.
-When your arm is completely extended your shoulders touch your ears. Their range is very wide.
-Computers inbetween with math, not with the principals of animation.
-Specify exactly what the pose needs.
-You must define the timing from ears to toes in your animation.
-“The computer is the dumbest inbetweener there is”.
-Watch for twinning in your poses.
-Try working with curves other than the default splines to develop your inbetweening.
-Spend the most time on the first post. It is the most telling in your whole animation.
-Use all of the controllers provided. There should be animation on every possible curve.
-Nothing truly is ever at rest.
-The ocular muscles usually move before anything else. Brows lead the action and the mouth typically comes last.
-Avoid changing facial expressions in the middle of big movements. Do it before or after.
-There shouldn’t be any expression changes at all in the first or last 6 frames of an animation.
-Start with the core of the motion and move outward from there.
-Arms and often legs move in figure 8 patterns.
-When in FK, do the arms last. The motion of the arms is almost always dictated by the torso.
-Be aware of the orientation of the wrist to the elbow.
-Apply the waves principal (add overlap to all joints.)
-Plan when and why your characters eyes dart.
-Too many eye darts = spastic characters.
-Allow the eyes time to focus on the objects they’re pointing at.
-Unanimated eyes = doll eyes.
-The eyes always convey the emotion and truth of a character’s performance.
-Blinks are never random.
-Plan when and why your character is blinking.
Convey a shift in thought.
Sell the emotional state of a character.
We blink to change a shift in thought or emotion.
When we blink we are “cutting the film of life”. Our eyes are the cameras.
Blinks always occur on quick head turns.
-The jaw doesn’t always open on every syllable or word.
-Get a mirror and keep it by your desk. Place your hand in a stationary position under your jaw and feel how many times it opens and closes per line of dialogue.
February 14th, 2005 #11
Character Animation Exercises
Generally, most exercises will involve either a character's emotions or a character's physical presence or both. Depending on how complex an animation you want to work with, characters can be as simple as a bouncing ball or as complicated as a living thing. It depends on how much time you have and how much you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions to get you thinking.
The following exercises vary quite a bit in complexity. Most of them will require at least an intermediate understanding of the program you're using, but you are welcome and encouraged to attempt them no matter what level you're at. These exercises are ways in which you can challenge yourself and improve your animation skills. If you're not being challenged, you're not really doing yourself any favors. Pick something just above your level of competency and then try it. Once you've done it effectively, make it more complex.
When I have time, I will try to rate these exercises and put them in some sort of order. If you know of an exercise that has been particularly useful to you or just have an interesting idea, please send it and I will add it here.
1) Try to display the emotions a character might go through while waiting for a bus that's late. Pay close attention to facial expressions, body language, and detail.
2) Have a character try to open something (i.e. a present) that refuses to open. The character can only use body parts for the first minute, but may resort to other measures (i.e. tools and explosives) thereafter. Note, the character will be affected by the tools used (i.e. blast of an explosion). After you've mastered this, try to do the same thing with a normally inanimate object (i.e. lamp) as your lead character.
3a) Animate someone riding a pogo stick or some other 'fun' object (i.e. using a hoola hoop).
3b) Have your character use a weighted object, such as a hammer or a shovel. Demonstrate how the weight of the object affects the stance and demeanor of the character using it.
4) Create a walk cycle, then vary it to accommodate different attitudes and 'character'. For example: Angry, happy, sneaky, limping, carrying a heavy object, sleep walking, etc.
5) Animate two characters sawing a log. The first character is a big, muscular brute. Animate him pose-to-pose first and cycle his animation. The second character is a scrawny little guy who gets yanked around, grabbing onto the saw for dear life.
6) Have a character bend down, pick up something heavy, and throw it. This exercise can help you with timing, emphasizing weight, and anticipation.
7) Put a short character in a tall room with one window, one door, one light (and switch) and a hanging ceiling fan (with hanging switch). The room contains 3 boxes, a ball, and a board. Imagine the different ways your character could figure out how to reach the hanging switch and then animate the most outrageous. Next, subtract two boxes and add a skateboard and try again.
From CG-Char, CG Talk, 10 Second Club:
Bouncing ball (rubber, wood, lead, glass, beach, bowling, tennis, cannon, etc.) - weight, arcs, squash/stretch, timing, spacing, anticipation, declining residual energy (in the after-bounces), and possibly attitude, if the ball is more of a character. You can get a lot into (and out of!) a bouncing ball exercise. Well done bouncing balls actually aren't that common.
Walk, run, jump, sneak in different directions (show character from one into the next – realistic, character, 4-legged)
Push-pull-lift-carry-put down weight
Dialogue/monologue where the character starts off feeling one emotion and changes into another
Different weights of characters/ vary the size and shape of the character doing above tasks
Four-legged character (cat, dog, etc.) walking, jumping, climbing, stretching, yawning, scratching, etc.
Juicebox: a juice box enters frame from left has an emotion change throughout the animation and leaves from right (200 frame limit)
Character jumping over object
Character interaction with a ball
Character interaction with a box (push, pull, lift, etc.)
Bring an inanimate object to life
Leaf falling in arcs and the timing
Egg drop / brick drop
Ringing bell tower bell
A short dialogue (very short), putting physical accents on the significant beats of dialogue
Two character dialogue - introduces more staging and interaction
Standing or sitting, character doing nothing, body language should suggest thought process without any interaction with an object
A bunch of people waiting for a bus, all with different ages/professions
A character walks to a mailbox, deposits an envelope, and walks away. Now, how is that action different if the envelope contains (1) a heartfelt love letter, sent without knowing whether the recipient feels the same way about the sender, or (2) this year's tax return, which includes a big fat check made payable to Uncle Sam, or (3) the last mortgage payment on a house, or the last alimony check to an ex? The basic goals are the same (approach mailbox, etc), but the motivation behind them and the mood expressed will be dramatically different for each one.
Character goes to pick up an object they think is light but it’s heavy, and vice versa
3 legged character - two legs cannot move in unison
First you come up with something very minor - say, a guy picking up a flower. Now you start developing context...ask yourselves questions and try to come up with interesting answers
A two legged character walk on all fours
An old man kneeling down to pray, then rising
Pendulum swing (using arcs)
Simple head turn (using arcs)
Water drop falling from a leaf
One-shape character design
Complex character design
Emotional character walk in profile (anticipate - walk two strides and compensate to a stop)
Flour sack walkcycle
Flour sack falling off a ledge
Character waiting for something
Character sitting on object, interacting with object
Circus/Sideshow accidents (character walking on a tightrope gets distracted by a sound off screen and loses control; character stuck in a cannon, trying desperately to get out before the fuse burns out, but of course doesn't quite make it; carnie tries to impress onlookers with a "talent" but it goes horribly wrong)
Confrontation between two characters: one is losing but makes a spectacular comeback, just when you thought all hope was lost. This is that huge fight between the Boss and the Hero, or the dramatic clash that has led up to your dramatic quest
Hero/villain attempts to execute their strange and unfamiliar powers. Suddenly something goes horribly wrong and their power backfires
Character tries to access a bank machine and it misbehaves
Character tries to use a restroom and can't
Character takes on a profession as a mover and has to move an awkward object
Character entering a dark corridor/cave with weapon drawn awaiting a surprise from the dark
Character finding the “one ring” and reacting to his discovery
Show a feat of elven dexterity (ie. Legolas jumping on the horse or walking on snow, etc., but be original)
Character meeting death from an attack
Character thinks they're going to sneeze, then not sneeze and then finally sneezing
Character trying to swat a fly or catch a bug
Character trying to stay awake, finally falls asleep (maybe something really loud wakes him up at the end its up to you)
Character sneaking up on another character to scare them
Character leaning against the wall, chewing gum or a toothpick, hands in his pockets or maybe flipping a coin, waiting for something to happen
Character lifting their leg in front of them (perhaps ballet). Study the balance of body.
Character walk, then bolt into a run, jump over something, jump onto a rope, swing to a rubber ball and roll around on it (breaking/resuming motion)
Character pitches a baseball to another character using a bat
Character trying to lift weights
Idle hold (character stands still but needs some movement to his limbs or else will look frozen)
Opening/closing a door.
Pushing an heavy object.
Fire and reload a rifle.
Reload a rifle.
Let him die (this one can be fun to have several different versions of)
Reeds waving in the wind
Character side-step, jump, hop, side-jump, dive, cracking a whip, using a sledge-hammer
“I Want Candy”
Catch, running catch
“I’m losing my senses”
“Watch out for that car”
“Get down from there”
“Where did I put that...”
Hot hot hot
“I won the lottery”
Jumping a fence
Arrow in the chest
From Spicy Cricket.com:
1. Character on the phone, but not talking, listening to a person on the other end talk about something: important, sad, happy and/or "fill in the blank". Choose the subject matter to really express how the receiver of that information reacts. The exercise is designed to help people develop a character's thinking through eye movement, subtle facial expression and pantomime with body language.
2. Display the feelings a character would experience while waiting for something or someone. Gender specific reactions can be really revealing here. How a man would react vs. a woman? This is a good exercise because it demands pure acting outside of dialogue. Much like Tom Hanks for most of castaway, your character will need to show lots of emotion through psychological gesture.
3. Create a walk cycle. Now make 4 variations on the same character to illustrate an emotion. For example: Angry Stomp, Happy Run, Sad Shuffle, Cocky Strut, Questioning Tiptoe, etc. Be sure to refer to the bouncing ball for your arcs and paths on this one.
4. Create a walk cycle with a four legged character. Do the same thing as above, but now illustrate you ability to translate it into four legs or even an insect and go to six or eight legs. Always refer to real life and then translate that into your own work. It is great when you can create a connection between an animal and human nature, but if you keep the integrity of the animal's basic essence, then the animation will be much richer. Of course a dog would not have the emotional range of a human, but you still know when a dog is happy. Think to yourself, not only how a human might react to the situation, but also how "insert animal/creature here" would react to it also.
5. Character encounters something that he wants to open. Perhaps it has difficulty opening it. Perhaps it reacts to whatever it opens (but you don't see what it in it). The character can only use body parts for the first 30 seconds, but may pursue some other means (i.e. tools and explosives) thereafter. This one is really open ended and can test your ability to show many storytelling ideas in the body language and facial expressions, without one line of dialogue.
6. A similar test to the one above is to have a witch attempt to ride a broom that keeps bucking her off. Andreas Deja (animated--Jafar in Aladdin, Scar in Lion King, Gaston in B & B, etc.) spoke of this test at a talk I attended in LA. He referred to it as what Disney asked him to do before he was officially brought into the animation department.
7. Animate two characters sawing a log. The first character is a big, macho man. Animate him pose-to-pose first holding one side of the saw and cycle his animation. The second character is a scrawny little guy who gets yanked around, grabbing onto the saw for dear life. This idea would be even better if there was some kind of big finish where the little guy gets the best of the big guy.
8. A character lifts something heavy. This is hard enough to show shifts in weight throughout the body to get leverage, but if you wanted to make the test even more complicated you can make the character do something else, while continuing to hold the heavy object. Great example of weight and timing. Again, Chapter 3 in The Illusion of Life covers this concept thoroughly.
9. A character is doing something and needs to get someone's attention. Lots of eye movement and subtle mouth stuff, as well as body language on an exercise like this.
10. The flour sack. A great test that forces understanding of the principles in its most basic form. Make a four sack move and react to show emotions and character. Be sure to remember the volume of the sack and how it would move between contact with the ground and being airborne. This test is a favorite among animators, since there is very little character design and development and you really have to pay attention to what you are trying to communicate.
February 14th, 2005 #12
What folks in the industry want to see is...character animation. THINKING, BREATHING CHARACTERS! Do 15-30 seconds of GREAT CHARACTER ANIMATION with one or two characters which show the following:
WEIGHT - show weight by squashing the feet and in the quads of the upper legs (on the front side) and in the hips/butt area. In 3D - use a lattice when structuring your character. WHEN IN DOUBT EXAGGERATE THE WEIGHT.
Posing with exaggeration
ACTIONS - LEADING AND FOLLOWING actions are easy - example: when a character land one foot makes contact and then the other...or if you lift the arms - one arm goes up and then the other.
OVERLAPPING ACTIONS - example the character comes to a halt and her hair and dress continue to flow and settle into place. To be effective the overlapping has to use "S" curves to change direction.
DRAG ACTION - is where you show a drag on a form as it moves through space. This usually occurs at the ends of the form. If a rubber raft is falling, the middle edge will be intact - the other edges will bend or drag back.
MOTIVATIONAL FORCES - what makes thing move - 80% or more of all actions happen because of the hips and legs. If a character throws a ball the action starts with the extension (unfolding) of the front leg which rotates the hips and create toque with the torso and allows the unwinding of the torso to lead the shoulder and the rest of the arm through a throwing motion. Another example: a character can't turn unless he pushes off on the outside foot - then he can change direction.
Thinking time (a character ALWAYS thinks before it does anything).
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY ACTIONS - easy example in a walk - the legs are the primary action - then arms are the secondary action.
ANTICIPATION - (or ANTIC) In a grab, the hand comes up and backward before it goes forward.
COMPENSATION - If a character is running and stops - you have to compensate for the forward momentum (usually by driving the forces up - or down and then up.)
REVERSALS - try to work as many reversals into the spine as possible (as long as it makes sense to the action). The spine is curved forward - then curves back during an antic and then curves forward when the character picks up a stone. HINT: My next lesson at the Toon Institute will have this information.
A CUSHION OR SETTLE is where you move passed a key frame into an extreme/extreme and then cushion back into the original key frame.
A MOVING HOLD is a very, very slow slow-out of an action - to where the movement is coming to a creeping halt.
Staging (how the action is composed within the frame)
Character Design - the ability to caricature a person utilizing good design skills and have appeal
Dialog would be a plus
February 23rd, 2005 #13
Just a good read...
by Shanna Smith
The term "persistence of vision" describes the optical phenomenon that makes animation possible. The human eye retains an image for a split second after the source of the image disappears, so when 24 frames per second of an animated film zip through a projector, the flow of motion on the screen looks seamless.
The same phrase could also be applied to the mind-set of a young (or not quite so young!) person who has his or her heart set on becoming a Disney animator. For generations, the debut of each Disney animated feature film has ignited in the minds of thousands of individuals the desire to be a part of the marvel they see on the screen.
What does it take to be a Disney animator? What spectrums of talent and elements of training are needed to produce these wonder-working "actors with pencils" called animators? We recently put these questions to Frank Gladstone, Manager of Animation Training for Disney, who works out of the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.
Gladstone begins by explaining that natural talent will come out at a young age. Every parent knows that a child with an artistic bent considers the family home a vast and inviting canvas. Such children "draw all the time... everywhere, on everything. They see Mommy and they try to draw Mommy. They see the dog and they try to draw the dog," Gladstone says.
Children go through different phases as they explore their skills. Three that Gladstone cites are: 1) The very young child who tries to render his or her own creative fantasies. Mom or Dad may not be able to recognize it as such, but according to the child, that blue scribble is a dinosaur eating an ice-cream cone! (And who is to say it isn't?) 2) The older child who is fascinated by visuals, who sees cartoons or illustrations and attempts to copy them as accurately as possible. (This "draftsman" stage may be difficult and frustrating - more on this later.) 3) The high school student who goes back to the beginning and gives free rein to the imagination, rather than adhering to straight copying.
"This is the bridge," Gladstone says. "This is when someone may be a serious artist. If they draw things they see - the real world - that is a big jump. The intent to interpret what they see in the three-dimensional world is, for me, the tell-all that somebody's interested in art in a serious way."
Getting to that "bridge," that third phase, though, requires passing through phase two - easier said than done.
Gladstone explains, "Most young people who start drawing are trying to make things as accurate as possible. They work very hard to get the eye right, and that's where a lot of people get discouraged.
"There's a certain strength in being an artist, he says "in that at some point every artist I know is trying to draw Mom or Dad and somebody will come up behind them and say `that doesn't look like that.' This is when many people's art career ends."
He continues, "The only time they'll draw again is if they can copy something exactly, which is why many people are good at drawing from a picture, but they can't do the other [draw from life]. The person who is strong enough to say `So what? It's my version of this'- that's another step."
Practice is paramount to maturing as an artist. "Go to the zoo and sketch: draw your friends," Gladstone suggests. "Drawing people and their animals, trying to capture something that's moving - this kind of thing comes with time. It's not something that many children do early on. It comes with experience."
Milton Gray, in his book Cartoon Animation: Introduction to a Career, recommends studying animated films frame by frame, using a VCR or laser videodiscs.
Gladstone agrees. "I had the opportunity to put an old-time print of "Pinocchio" on a Moviola and spent an entire night going through the scenes I like frame by frame and finding out how they created that movie.
"It won't teach you everything," he warns, but, "we still do that. We still study how [certain segments] were done - how did Frank Thomas approach this problem. It's a very good way to do things, but it's only one of the ways."
Hand-in-hand with practice is formal art training. A young person, brimming with talent though she or he may be, needs structured schooling to make animation a career.
"They're not going to get a job here when they're fifteen years old," Gladstone says. "We recommend not only high school, but additional schooling as well - hopefully a college degree."
This schooling would, of course, have art as its primary focus - not merely drawing, but other disciplines as well, such as painting and sculpting. Milton Gray recommends studying actors and books on acting, learning something of staging, choreography, and principles of music.
Beyond the fine arts, some background in history, geography, the life sciences, et al., makes for a more knowledgeable, flexible animator.
"You have to bring things to the table," Gladstone explains. "Half of doing Disney-style feature animation is the ability to draw, paint, run a computer, or whatever, but the other half is communication skill. We find that people who have some post-secondary education are more well-rounded, more adapted to the needs of our studio.
"We realize," he adds "that not everybody can go to college, but we seem to see more seasoned players if they have." Can you be an animator without being able to draw? Gladstone replies, "If a kid wants to do animation and he or she can't draw, there are ways to do that. There always have been ways to do that - stop-action, pixilation (which is stop-action using people instead of objects), things like that. Now there's another one, the computer. You don't have to learn to draw to learn how to animate on a computer."
He cautions, however, "Computer animators just have a very fancy electronic pencil. If they can draw traditionally, they're that much ahead of the game. In all the computer work that I've seen in my life, [work] that has really pushed the animation limits - not just the movement limits, there's a difference - the animators have either come from traditional areas or had good traditional skills."
These skills, be they traditional or high-tech, can be utilized in a variety of ways. An animated feature film employs the talents of a wide variety of artists. Animators make up a fairly small population of the people that create an animated film. There are also assistant animators; in-betweeners; breakdown, background and layout artists; effects animators; storyboard artists; visual development or inspirational artists; computer animators; and graphic designers - to name a few!
All these individuals work as a team (hence the importance of communication) during the long, arduous process of producing an animated film. Gladstone gives an example of how the artist (in this case the layout artist), director, and art director work together. These individuals interpret the storyboard into the various sets, backgrounds and foregrounds for each shot of an animated film.
"The layout artist has a lot to do with the lighting of the film, the scope, the way the camera moves through the sets," he explains. "The layout artist is in a very great way the cinematographer of an animated film, deciding what the camera is going to see and where the characters will be blocked in a scene."
The in-betweener has traditionally been looked upon as the first rung on the ladder of a animation career. Although there are exceptions, Gladstone says, "Most people come up through the ranks, starting as an in-betweener and working their way up to an animator. I think that's a good way to do it. Eventually, if they become an animator, they will have had the experience of the people that follow them up. They were there before."
So, the path is charted - now, where to go for the all-important formal instruction? There are many schools that offer good fundamental art programs and consistently produce graduates with the skills necessary to become Disney animators. These schools are by no means the only choices available to the future animator.
Gladstone speaks from experience, "If you need to go to a state school - great! Find a state school that has an art program and take the best advantage of it you can. Learn how to draw well. Draw better than everybody there. If you can only go to trade school, great! Go to trade school and do it that way."
The various roads to an animation career all demand hard work, discipline, and patience. We asked Frank Gladstone what crucial advice he would give animators. He responded, "Keep trying. Don't get too frustrated. Realize your potential, be honest with yourself, and apply yourself to whatever that particular goal is you want to reach."
It takes, in a word, persistence!
For information on the Disney Animator Training Program, please write to:
Walt Disney World Casting,
P.O. Box 10,000,
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000.
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