Second semester has started, and a new rhythm with it. Gone are the days where every key pose and breakdown needed for a piece of animation was provided for.
We now use our own stories and create the animation from top to bottom. It feels like I have been dropped in the ocean and can barely swim. Thankfully, I do know in which order to proceed.
To animate a body language change, I first filmed myself in the act I wanted to reproduce.
My character, Count Drunkula, is trying to open a jar of eyes. A huge jar. He tries twisting it. It does not work. He tries clinging on to it to twist the top. Still does not work. He takes a step back and thinks about it.He then pushes himself all the way back to defeat this lid. Still is not working. He takes a step back again. This time, he is not happy and starts tapping his foot on the floor as a nervous rictus to try and calm himself. His arms are crossed, his brows furrowed. That’s it. He takes the jar and gets mad. He falls on the floor with it and takes it into a deadly embrace. He rolls from left to right, his arms and legs desperately crossed around the jar, grasping to open it.
However, the acting in my video was not exaggerated enough for my taste. So I to draw the key poses with the scene I had in mind. The movements are exaggerated and the scene may bit too long.
The second step will be to draw the breakdown , then the in betweens and finally clean the scene.
I ideally want to add later on another character. Grollo, Cound Drunkula’s monster pet, would arrive walking like a chameleon, sit on his bottom on the floor, pick up the jar and lift the lid easily with his tail. But this story is for later on.
When the first semester ended, we were left with an assignment that both excited me and scared me. Directly after finishing studying 2 legged walks, which I still struggle with, we attacked 4 legged. Twice the number, 100 times more difficult.
The thing is I made my life even more complicated when choosing the animals. I did not want to animated the standard horse or normal dog, or even stick to one animal, noon, I created my own. I started looking at animals, wondering which I would like to animate walking, which I would like to animate running. Quickly I was drawn to Anya Stasenko and Slava Leontyev small sculptures.
They mix animals to create all new creatures. From then on, I knew I wanted to create a derivative of some kind of rat. The story bloomed from there. I decided to create pets for my mad scientist character, Count Drunkula. Obviously, Count Drunkula would have made experiments on weird rats such as the capybaras. That was the primary shape. But then, looking at the shape, I thought it would create quite the character to have crossed with a chameleon. “Grollo”, as I later named him, will walk like a chameleon, in a circular, slow manner, and have eyes and tail like a chameleon.
I thought this pet might feel alone and weird. So I created its opposite: the cutest dog you can think of, a corgi. “Corgi” is a normal cute corgi whom wishes he was more scary, like Grollo. So Count Drunkula gave him a scary collar and googly eyes. The contrast between Grollo and Crogi makes them quite the pair.
I then drew the animals and their respective bones to know how they will move.
I have been studying their walks and habits for weeks and hope to be able to translate this, plus the character I gave them, in this small piece of animation.
On November 24, I was lucky to go and watch the “Lion King” musical Lyceum Theatre in London. The piece was visually so beautifully crafted that it inspired me.
I was so amazed to discover the many ways they translated this motion picture into a theatre piece. Lion King has always been one of Disney’s Legends, but also I believe, one of the hardest one to translate into a live show. Between the animals and the sets, it was hard to imagine how they could create it. Then, the show started. And everything was alive. The stage moves, the grass is personalized by people, the masks are animated, the visions projected and the puppets are mechanized.
The use of puppets and masks was very predominant and got me really curious about the process.
I went on to watch a small documentary about the puppet and costume section of the show and was surprised to discover the little mechanics in each prop.
It is hard for me to get curious about the works of a play but this really broadened my interest in puppet and props. The art that goes all around it is fascinating.
To produce my student presentation I was inspired to choose characters that I grew up with and mattered to me. Asterix and Obelix have been my childhood companions and its creators, Goscinny and Uderzo followed a path very similar to me. From illustration to animation, they brought their characters to life with some much humor and truth, there was no other animators I could have chosen.
Uderzo was born in 1927 in Fishes. He was born daltonian so most of his work was inked by other people including his brother Marcel on Asterix.
It’s from reading Mickey Mouse that he comes across comics. From then, his passion for Disney develops and he dreams of working as an animator.
Uderzo starts showing talent from the age of 12. At this age, he starts drawing characters with big noses which will become his signature style. He starts his career as an illustrator in many newspapers and books.
In 1945 he works as an in betweener on a short film and is so disappointed by the result that he decides to give up on animation.
His influences are Walt Disney, more specifically Mickey from Floyd Gottfredson, but also realists illustrators from the american strips golden age such as Alex Raymond, Leonard Starr or Stan Drake.
That’s how in the 50s, Uderzo develops a realistic style, with deep precision and fine inking as shown in his comic “Tanguy and Laverdure”.
Goscinny was born in 1926 in Paris. His family moved to Buenos Aires where he spends his childhood.
Very early on he develops an interest in cinema and animation, from peplum to western to musicals. He is fascinated by Walt Disney and his movies such as Mickey, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio”.
He wants to be an animator and goes to New York after the war in hopes of meeting and working for Walt Disney. Problem is, the Disney studios are in California, not New York, and even though Goscinny illustrates his own stories, his drawings are not good enough.
In 1951, Goscinny and Uderzo are sent to the World Press offices in Paris to work on the same project. That is where they meet. They are 24 and 25 years old.
They immediately start working together. Uderzo draws, Goscinny writes. Their first character is “Ompah-Pah”, a native american hero that fails to find success in France or the US.
In 1959, they create the magazine “Pilote”, a magasine to publish comics for kids, embedded with french culture.
During a mi-august afternoon in 1959 in Bobigny, when it is very warm and the two friends have been drinking pastis, they are brainstorming on new characters. They want a very french story. Goscinny tells Uderzo: ” Give me the times that marked french history”. Prehistory and cro-magnon have been done. But not the Gauls. In 15 minutes they had the story. They make extensive researches about the time in history books and painting.
They come up with the basic idea: a small village during roman occupation, a bard, a druid, Caesar,… historical cliches that every french person knows and can relate to.
On October 29, 1959, the first story about Asterix, their new gaul hero, is out in “Pilote”.
It’s a success and only two years later, in 1961, the first Asterix comic book, “Asterix the Gaul” is out.
The story of Asterix is about the adventures of a small village of indomptable Gauls as they resist the Roman occupation in 50BC. They do that thanks to their druid who created a magic potion that gives temporary strength to anyone who drinks it. We mainly follow Asterix and Obelix as they go on adventures and come back to the village to have a banquet and tell their stories.
Asterix is the main character. Goscinny describes him “ugly but clever enough to make it”. He was made very short to accentuate his comical character. His head is as big as his body. His blond hair and mustaches are characteristic of the Gaul ancestors while his big nose is Uderzo’s signature style.
Obelix was created to balance out Asterix. He is tall and has mustaches like the Gauls. He was made round to be the exact physical opposite of Asterix. The story says he got this physique from falling into the magic potion when he was a kid. His arms and legs are so short he cannot cross them.
Asterix and Obelix were created as antithesis from the 1950s superheroes like Superman. They are not good looking and they have flaws. Flaws characteristic of the french people. For instance, Asterix gets angry easily, just like the french.
Asterix is a hit. 34 albums (24 in the first 20 years), translated into 107 languages and dialectes, 11 movies, a theme park, 100 thesis, hundreds of by products and 325 millions of sold albums.
In the 60s, Uderzo has to give up all his other projects to focus exclusively on Asterix.
The first movie comes out in 1967, only six years after the first publication of Asterix. The movie is put on the works by Jean Dargaux, an associate of Uderzo and Goscinny. In the 60s, Jean Deloux, a researcher in television finalizes the animographe which is a machine that was invented to develop fast and cheap animations for advertising for instance.
Its optical system allowed to animate 1 to 8 drawings per second instead of 24 while still keeping fluidity..
Margaux develops “Asterix the Gaul” without telling Goscinny and Uderzo. They discover it at a private screening and do not approve. They want to shut it down but it is too late, cinemas are already interested. The movie comes out on December 13, 1967 in 60 cinemas. It is a hit, the movie makes 2 500 000 entries.
While this movie is out, Uderzo and Goscinny learn another movie is in the works. They shut it down and tell Dargaux to make an animation they could at least supervise artistically.
That is how “Asterix and Cleopatra” comes out. Uderzo draws the storyboard and Goscinny writes the scenario. The movie requires more than 150 people working on it for 8 months. It has more than 5000 drawings and 300 backgrounds.
In 1974, Uderzo and Goscinny create “Studios Idefix” in order to control the quality of the cartoon adaptations of Asterix.
At this time, animation in France is a flop. There were no successful animation movies since Paul Grimault. The search for animators is complicate, skills are lacking. At this time, people learn by themselves.
Uderzo and Goscinny have two ideas: first, they decide to recruit a team of animators employed in small structures that will be happy to find the mood of a real studio. Second, they ask the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris to create and support with them an animation section at the Gobelins.
The first movie they make is “The 12 Tasks of Asterix”. Goscinny writes and original scenario and describes every camera angle. He is the director. Uderzo makes the storyboards.
Production starts in autumn 1974 and the movie comes out on October 20,1976. Once again, the movie is a success.
However, the bliss is short lived. In 1977, Goscinny dies of a heart attack. “Studios Idefix” closes and it takes Uderzo years to draw again and more than 10 years for a new Asterix movie to come out.
After those three first movies, and despite Goscinny’s death, the audience asks for more.
After “The 12 Tasks of Asterix”, “Asterix and Caesar’s Surprise” comes out in 1985, then “Asterix in Britain” in 1986, “Asterix and the Big Fight” in 1989, “Asterix and the Indians” in 1990, “Asterix and the Vikings” in 2006 and finally “Asterix and the Mansion of Gods” in 2014.
This is a late start for 3D. The reason being Uderzo was scared 3D would not render his characters properly. It took Louis Clichy (a Gobelin Animation alumni) and Alexandre Astier to convince him to let them work on the project.
The 3D movie required 4 years of work and a team of 20 people in a studio in Charleroi. What makes this movie different is the process. The movie was voiced first before any image was produced. This allowed the actors to give as much personality to the voices as they wanted.
This week was rhythmed by one choice: 2D, 3D or puppet animation? We were given lectures and advice to help us make this decision.
When I entered this program I felt sure I wanted to do 2D. I love drawing and I am in awe over the traditional Disneys.
This is were I feel completely divided. Sue Tong, our Tuesday lecturer who works as a background artist in the animating industry, told us to always try new things and be on top of the latest technology. So 3D then?
However, I enjoy our traditional animating exercises over our 3D classes. Believe it or not, I enjoy spending a whole week on drawing one second of animation.
But then, Shaun Clark and Steeve Roberts keep on talking about where the jobs are: 3D. Is the 3D industry that powerful? When I went to watch the last Thor movie, I just could not even realize where the 3D and special effects were anymore. I have grown so used to it, I see so much of it, that it does not feel like anything new anymore.
I finally came home thinking about how I was rejecting 3D because of the overflow of it. I then sat and watched the trailer for the new Pixar movie “Coco”. I was so amazed by the artwork and the realness of it all.
Nevertheless, if it tries to look so real, is it still animation? Le Petit Larousse defines animation as “Any method consisting of filming image per image drawings or puppets that will look animated on the screen”. Does 3D apply then? Doesn’t the computer program do half of the job for you? How can you tell a computer to add more style to your drawing? How can an animation stand out if you do not have that particular style?
We were talking about this topic with another lecturer, Lilly Husbands ,this week and last. We were talking about what defines animation and which direction the industry is taking. I believe in the end that the definition of animation is very subjective. It depends on your taste and your upbringing. I grew up with Disney movies and 2d animation TV shows. I have always been impressed by their style that makes them so special.
Could you tell a Disney apart from a Pixar or a Dreamworks or an Illumination nowadays? If you were not seeing the opening credits, would you know what you are watching? What makes an animation house different from another one?
And even though money seems to be directed to 3D, I feel that pinch in my heart. This is not what I believe in, I believe I made this choice a long time ago. I made peace with the fact that the job market would be terrible and that I would strive even more to make it.
I hope in the end I can focus mostly on 2D but still learn 3D bases and practice with my peers.
This week was truly a battle between my heart and my head. And my heart won.
I have officially survived my third week in Character Animation. I can feel the rhythm picking up now and I am trying to follow.
Between life drawing, 2D, TVPaint, Maya, movie project, student presentation and blog, I am trying not to loose myself. It is so many things to learn at once. I take notes, I stay attentive, I plan and I practice.
The hardest for me was to survive the 3D Maya class. I came here with no knowledge whatsoever of animation, and even less of computers. I was truly lost like I had never been before. It is new for me. I am usually on top of things, I plan perfectly and I dont stress about my work.
However, I felt distressed during this week’s classes. I wondered if I fit in this program after all. And what if I fail? After everything I gave up to come here. Thankfully, I am very lucky to have incredible classmates who nicely agreed to help me. Those with a TVPaint and Maya background helped giving me advice and tips after classes on how to use those programs. But that is not all, they also gave me comfort.
I believe that if I work hard enough, and if I ask for help when I need it, I can make it.
The first Wednesday of the term, wednesday 4th of october, we were put into groups to deliver a shadow puppet animation in a few hours.
Very challenging project although very interesting. Trying out different forms of animations gives ideas, inspires and develops new skills. I also really enjoyed collaborating with people, exchanging ideas and creating with them. It’s like we are good separately but deliver stronger work together. We directly got our story into path and everyone created a character that would appear in the story.
We got along so well and everyone was adding beautiful ideas into the project. I think that is why the final result, even though short and hurried, was interesting and visually attractive.
Working on my first piece of animation was very challenging. Being very passionate about character design, I decided to try an easy head movement and insert some emotions into the animation. This meant moving different parts at the same time while creating a character.
I started making researches about bears and how their emotions can be expressed. I also researched head movements.I wanted to make sure I would correctly portray what I had in mind. I enjoy creating cute and funny characters, so next, I created a character sheet with how I though the rough key poses would be. My idea was a fat bear moving his head from left to right, going from depressed to happy.
I estimated this movement would take one second.It is then 24 frames and I will try animating on twos. I then timed it, and separated the frames. As the head goes down when it moves from side to side, I estimated my breakdown would be at frame 20. The head will move slowly at first, faster in the middle and slowing down when reaching the other side.
Ready to start, I put down the first frame and drew.
That is when it got real. You do not understand the difficulty of the task as much as when you start doing it. Stress. Stress. Mental distress. Drawing, erasing, throwing away, flipping, flicking, dying. But I want it right and fluid, so I go back and forth, I put in the hours and hopefully it works. The more I practice the more I learn. Research and practice. Keys.