How Fantastic Beasts Immerses us in a New World

Every time I go to the movies to watch a Harry Potter movie, I know I am in for quite an experience.

However when I came into the cinema to watch the latest Fantastic Beasts “The Crimes of Grindelwald” I was once again surprised, amazed by the end result.

Since entering the animation world, I have been looking at not only cartoons but also movies in a different way. I guess it is because I now know better about the long process it takes to do one little thing. I also now know you need a whole load of people for one effective minute of movie.

When you enter the movies to watch Fantastic Beasts, you usually have a background in Harry Potter World knowledge. Personally, I have been bather in it since I was 12. So how was it that the new installment takes us to a whole new level? How is it that is still inspires us animators to aim for more?

“Crimes of Grindelwald” opens on a gloomy imprisoned Grindelwald. The tone is directly set when a small creature, property of Grindelwald appears. Because yes, this is Fantastic Beasts after all, and we are reminded the whole way through the movie.

We discover a lot of now unexpected animals, mix of fauna and flora mixed with special effects.

Some may appear longer than others, however I know than one second of this creature needed months and months of work. They all probably have a base, a background story, a character profile, characteristics, a lot of different versions before they even started modeling the animal.

Every movie brings on its fair share of new creatures to add to your encyclopedia.

Another element contributing for a full immersion are the backgrounds. Creating a magical world in relation to actual places, places you may have seen, places you can relate to.  For instance, Paris was recreated at the Leavesden studios.The underground amphitheater at the end of the movie was inspired by the ancient Roman Pantheon while Furstenberg Square in Paris was identified as the entrance to the French ministry of Magic.

Finally, the special effects tied everything perfectly.

As Harry Potter movies rolled out over the years, so did the special effects. They always got more and more impressive. They inspire us animators to excel in our process, to always aim for more.

This new Fantastic Beasts once again inspires me to create, not only by delivering a magical world, but by delivering a beautifully efficient one thanks to his characters, backgrounds and effects.

 

Research into Animation Companies Role

As a character animation student, I was obviously interested in researching the animation industry before I got involved into it. However, I did not go as deep as I could.

Fortunately, this term we were asked to research the roles in the animation industry and critically analyze them compared to our role in our group project. Even though it is a topic I had brushed before thanks to animation books, the research revealed to be harder than I thought. It turns out not many people are interested in knowing how it works, or giving us a precise animation hierarchy distributed in roles. The reason is, yes not many animators are not famous enough to talk to interviewers, and yes animation industry is always evolving, nevertheless, the main reason is because we cannot compartmentalize animation into one group. Every company is different. Every one has a different hierarchy and animators usually have a tiny job in a huge bee house.

Moreover, in most companies, animators end up doing a few jobs, dabbling here and there. So when trying to compare my role to a specific one, I was a bit lost. I do know from watching years of behind the scenes and documentaries from Disney and Pixar animations that people working in these type of companies usually are given one or two specific jobs. They are hired for a very specific talent, and this is the talent the company wants them to use.

However, when I started working as a freelance animator, I quickly noticed a big difference. I mostly had to handle the whole project from top to bottom.

The only way for me to understand what was really going on was to directly contact a professional. Denise Dean,  head of assistant animation at Lupus Films, tried to shed a bit of light on the matter by describing the process in TV based animation. And I discovered there was one more way to do animation.

In retrospect, there are many ways to do animation. Trying to categorize a role is next to impossible. Truth is, depending on the company or client, an animator will do many various things.

How Chef’s Table Can Relate to Animation

When browsing Netflix to search for a new program to help me focus while I animate, I unconsciously stopped my mouse on “Chef’s Table”. I remember thinking ‘here we go, another one of those cooking shows, no thank you’. Then, as Netflix does when your mouse stops on a program, the trailer starts playing.

The first thing I hear is Will Goldfarb’s voice: “When I was in Paris for pastry school, they were pretty clear this was a bad career choice”. I can already relate. Then, this series of so aesthetically pleasing dishes to the rythm of “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. And I am hypnotized.

I start watching it and quickly realize it is a series of documentaries about exceptional chefs. Not always famous chefs or cooks, but people that fought and became food artists.

The title sequence of Volume 4 pastry is by far the most aesthetically pleasing in terms of visuals and music.

It transported me into a world, a world of art, where people, like us, start from the bottom and build their way up. They fight, they face failures, disappointments, bad reviews,… but they go on, they strive to constantly be better and satisfy the client, please him/her.

The lessons I got from this show is first of all that we all start somewhere, with a love for something. For them it’s food, for me it is drawing.

Then they start from the bottom and work their way up like animators. First we in between, and hope to be a lead animator or director later on. To reach this dream, we all have an inspiration to take us along the journey. My dream has always been Disney for instance.

Another thing I could relate to in this series is that you need to leave your ego at the door. You have to listen to feedback, take it in to make your work better. In season 3, Jeong Kwan says it beautifully:

“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.” — Jeong Kwan

Moreover, this series talks about transcendence. Food is a basic need. Cooks could just want to give you something to fill you up without caring about taste or appearance. However, they strive to excel, to give the customer an experience they will not forget. This is also my aim for animation. To deliver something so beautiful and touching, the viewer will not forget it.

The more you watch the series, the more you discover individuals, stories behind their dish and all the long process, the attention to detail it took to this particular point. When animating, we always start from a particular story or anecdote and build on from there. We start this very long design process, a process similar to one of a Chef.

Finally, this show is all about teamwork and the people that push and help you getting to reach your goal. In a kitchen, having a crew helping you develop your idea, giving you out of the box feedback, all this knowledge reunited can only help improve your initial recipe. In animation, each person is part of the final process, each helping each other be better.

Grad Film Preparation

The ENO project is now coming to an end and it was time to pitch our ideas to our tutors for feedback.

The story is pretty set in my mind, the biggest problem now is that this will be my first 3D piece. I also have not touched 3D in a while. It is quite a risk to try it out on my grad film. I would like to model my own character over the winter break so I started researching models online.

I have also made some character design research, looking at how similar characters have been portrayed before in cartoons and illustrations, trying to transmit the whole character in the face and body, in the way it acts.

I have also contacted my mentor and he has given me some advice about how I should set up my scene as well as about parenting in Maya.

 

My Book Collection

I have to tell you something. I really do not believe in e-books. As long as you do not see the paper, feel it, smell the ink on paper, you cannot be inspired.

Reading as always been a religion to me. It has always inspired me. I treat every book as a piece of art. If it is a good one, it will transport me to different places, make me sad, or happy, or mad. Everything that you do should always be for that purpose. That is the goal I want to reach when I animate. I want people to immerse in my piece of animation.

I have developed my love of books very early on thanks to my parents. I went from Disney to Harry Potter to Twilight (yes, yes I did that) to Lord of the Rings and so on. Then I moved to art books. Traditional classical and modern art books, museum books to concept art books to animation books to character design books. I have so many shelves my room might crumble under the weight of it.

I guess every art relates to the other. I may love this movie, so I buy the concept art book about it. I love this manga, so I watch the anime. I like this anime, so I buy the character design book about it. Every art has a correlation to each other.

Kids were watching TV (and believe me so was I) and I always had a book in my bag (still do-currently reading the red queen, about 700 pages, probably not the best choice to carry around in my bag all day).

Anyway here is a little visual list of my most priced posessions:

Anime as a Source of Inspiration

As every illustrator whom ever lived through our time, I did not escape japanese animes. Actually i was raised as much with animes as with every other cartoon style.

I believe there are 3 schools you are raised with and choose when growing up: the school of Disney-Pixar-type of animations , the school of Cartoon Network and the school of animes.

There was quite the boom in 2000s in mangas and animes. It was all the rage. I was obsessed with the style, the details they put in and the quality they aspired to. So I started drawing animes. The style felt so delicate under my touch and so foreign, it was quite the challenge.

Then growing up I had a bit of a fall out until… I went into animation. I started watching animes with a different eye. Well, when I started doing animation, I truthfully started watching everything with a different eye!

Something you quickly notice when you watch japanese anime as an animator is how smart the animations are.

If you know japanese anime then you know it usually comes with quite the exaggerations, big moves and fights. “Naruto” is the perfect example of a japanese anime (also my favorite).

Naruto is all about fights and powers. That is something you would think will take ages to animate. Especially considering it as a TV series. However, the clever way they pulled it of is by extreme close ups and angles. Minimum movement, maximum impact.

With japanese animes also comes a whole new world of thought and mythology bringing amazingly inspired stories. Stories you would not think about, stories that inspire you.

A good example of that is “Sword Art Online”. This series talks about a world where everyone immerses themselves into a virtual reality game. One day they find themselves trapped in that game with very real consequences.

Now these types of animes are addressed to a youth audience as well as an adult one with plausible problems and stories that you may face one day.

Lastly, japanese animes is one of the last style to mostly use 2D which guarantees me work!

In the end japanese animes cleverly turn their diverse stories into beautiful efficient animations making it a popular source of entertainment.

Creating Stylized Characters

The more I get through this Character Animation course, the more I realize character design is one of the process I enjoy the most.

We did brush past it in class, however I wanted to investigate more. The most usual way for me to do that is usually to purchase a book. Of course, the older and more interested I get, the more books I collect.

I finally landed my choice on “Creating Stylized Characters” by 3Dtotalpublishing.

This book explores the fundamentals from simplified shapes to lines of action to expressions to color schemes and outfits.

As the grad film is approaching, character design is going to be 50% of the success of the piece.

I have been looking around at animators and illustrators and observing their styles as well as process to get an idea of where I am going for for my final piece. I have also done some observational work for my main character which I want to start developing.

Since it is an animal, it was pretty easy to find reference online and start creating, thanks to all this, the character I had in my mind.

ENO Group Project

For the ENO project, I was lucky enough to be put in a group of a project I really admire. Working with Rishabh and Erick on an environmental piece grounded in Rishabh’s geographical and traditional background, I had to start by doing research.

Rishabh gave me a list to look at as well as his presentation. His list consisted of looking at the Sundarbans, Pattachitra, “Tara, A Tigress”, as well as the Rohingya crisis and the NRC draft.

Sundarbans is a national park between India and Bangladesh , an area full in fauna and flora diversity.

Pattachitra is an ancient Bengali narrative art usually depicting stories of Hindu deities:

“Tara, A Tigress”, by Billy Arjan Singh, is an observation of a tigress named Tara, transferred from a Zoo in England to Nepal.

Billy Arjan Singh fought for the protection of tigers, managed to ban shooting tigers in India and helped to the creation of Dudhwa National Park in Nepal.

Finally the Rohingya crisis is Rohingya migrants from Birmany or Bangladesh trying to flee to Thailand , Malaysia and Indonesia in 2015.

 

 

Children Society Animation Process

When starting  a project, I alway start  building character designs and backgrounds to set the mood of the story. For this particular project, I looked for inspiration in  Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” and “Peter Pan” backgrounds to set a night time, blue mood. This ambiance helps reflecting the girl’s state of mind.

When settling on the mood for the animation, I started with visuals to further advance the story.

Once the mood and characters were in place, we had one month to go for the animation. With planning, we had to finish the animation in 2 weeks to have 1 week to clean and 1 week to colour.

The animation is about a wolf representing the girl’s mental issues. The wolf needed to be introduced as a threatening and scary character, which meant the pace of the first short when the wolf comes in needed to be slow. However, whenever working with a particular piece of audio, the timing may be diverted. In order to speed the scene, the girl was placed in the middle so that, even if the wolf slowly gets to her, it could fit with the timing.

The challenge was trying to fit this particular detailed style in such a short timeline. While I would not give up on the color, I had to give up on shading and highlighting to achieve a more 3D feel.

This project pushed me to the limits, trying to achieve the best result you can in a short amount of time while still pleasing the client.

 

 

Alan Lee and John Howe

When animating, I took this habit of watching “making of” videos on youtube. It started about a whole playlist on all the Disney feature length animations, giving insight of every process used on different movies, the multi plane camera, the medieval influence on “Sleeping Beauty”, the rotoscoping for “101 Dalmatians” and the use of 3D on “Mulan”. I then found myself looking at making of for “Lord of The Rings” and “The Hobbit”.

I have always found these movies fascinating in terms of storytelling, visual effects, attention to detail, craftsmanship  and also imagination. Watching such a piece of art always helped aspire to do more. I believe that such movies can only be achieved by choosing the best people in each area.

I remember years ago buying the sketchbook for “Lord of The Rings”, featuring concept art from Alan Lee and John Howe. As an illustrator, that is the level of imagination and details I aspired to. As an animator, this is the sense of movement and life I aspire to reach. Alan Lee and John Howe had previously made illustrations for the book before Peter Jackson went all the way to recruit them to help in every part of concept design. Alan Lee and John Howe helped in the creation of the sets, as well as the creatures, as well as the armors. The subtility of correct historical artefacts as well as their knowledge of Tolkien and his influences help the visual look of the movie to stand out and be aspiring.

This particular story struck something in me. Peter Jackson was talking about how he asked the people of “Weta Workshop” to design concepts for the dragon “Smaug”. Obviously, all the artists went crazy, developing futuristic or alien types of dragons that could not fit the needs of this particular movie. In the end, John Howe designed the dragon, giving it a more realistic and subtle style, something that perfectly matched Tolkien.

This perfectly reflects what I believe in: that we should look for inspiration in the part and keep the pencil as a first stool for artists.