Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My First Scene on "Roger Rabbit"

I had just flown over to London to join the crew who produced the animation for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". A taxi took me from Heathrow right to the studio in Camden, the north of London.
I left my luggage in the lobby, and was shown around the new studio set up.
By the time I got to say Hello to Dick Williams, there was little time for small talk.
He had a scene for me to get started on, right then and there. So forget about your jet lag and dive in.
Most everybody was animating on the Maroon Cartoon for the opening of the film. 
But Dick wanted me to do the scene with Bob Hoskins walking out of an office, passing a Fantasia ostrich as he moves downstairs. Dick said something like: "You're the Disney guy, it'll be great."
"Great" I thought, for Pete's sake, I had never done animation combined with live action before, what if it turns out awful? 

I was given a huge box with photo stats of the whole scene. When I studied them I noticed of course that the camera was in constant motion. 
HOW ON EARTH AM I GOING TO PUT THE BIRD INTO THIS?? I remember my mind started to panic.
Then, a bit of relief, I noticed that you wouldn't see the ostrich's legs, they were covered up in the live action. That meant potential foot slippage wasn't an issue here. Sigh….

Anyway, after analyzing the ostrich from old model sheets and thumb nailing the action, I just animated the character straight ahead on two's. I based it on the camera move and the perspective as best as I could.
Dick Williams liked the rough animation and thought the little attitude gesture on top of the stairs was fun. He only suggested a small change. The ostrich should look screen right at the start, then screen left, it would make it more interesting. An easy fix. I added the jumping frog with more confidence, and the scene was sold!!
I was so relieved, I felt like a million bucks.

Later on this turned out to be the first animation/live action scene in color that got sent from ILM, after they did the final compositing, including highlights, shadows etc.
It looked sooo cool, everybody was thrilled.
But we had a long road ahead of us to finish the movie.

Here are a few character studies and thumbnails, done before animation.







This is a cel set on a photo print, no tones on the character here.



The final scene.


29 comments:

  1. While your posts about the old masters have been fascinating, for an animator like myself this post surpasses them all. To hear about your experience on a specific scene and your struggles with it is absolutely wonderful! Seeing your thumbnails is a great addition too.

    PLEASE share more like this with us Andreas, it's so valuable! :D

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  2. Memories Andreas! That just brought back a whole load of buried memories. Great to see that you kept your thumbnails.

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  3. How scary.... but it must have been an awesome feeling to succeed! :)

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  4. That was an interesting story, thanks for sharing, it is great to see it from the thumbnail to the final scene.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this story, Andreas! You give us such valuable insight with your great stories and behind-the-scenes information.

    I was just watching Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray last night with the audio commentary by you, John Lasseter, and Leonard Maltin. As always, your comments were fantastic and I am always excited to see you and hear what you have to say when you take part in these bonus features.

    In the future, I hope the studio continues to call on you, not just for your animation abilities, but for your love, knowledge, and care for all things Disney!

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  6. Andreas, for the model of the ostrich, was it a direct translation of Howard Swift's design, or were you able to deviate to some degree?

    More about your career Andreas, please! Great stuff!!

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    1. I tried not to deviate from the original Fantasia models. But then again, we all have our own drawing/animation styles.
      This is my version trying to match Swift's design.

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  7. The attitude head nod was a great touch and it's interesting to learn that was your input and not the director's. That little "Hm!" VO just put it over the top. This movie was a huge inspiration of mine to do what I do today. Thanks for sharing! Would LOVE to see more WFRR stuff!

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  8. These stories are so great. Keep them coming! Thanks for all our awesome posts.

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  9. nice work keep it up

    http://designs-article.blogspot.com

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  10. Mr. Deja. Thanks for this and for this blog. I don't respond that often, but I have to say that your blog is part of my normal daily read and a great inspiration and gift. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your insights, your work and the work of those you admire.

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  11. nice work
    http://designs-article.blogspot.com

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  12. What a great story awesome this is what makes this blog, wow, your first scene so cool, such a joy to see, love the notes nice rough sketches of the Ostrich. I remember this scene actually stood out to me some what because I remember the attitude of the Ostrich toward Bob I thought that was so funny. You said you did on 2s, that's interesting because I'm not sure if Roger is different but so much of the animation looks like its in ones, so rubbery smooth. I had read your first film was Roger so its so cool to see your first scene, you also did some scenes of Jessica's hands right. Love seeing your notes too, I think I read some where maybe it was Glen Keane said you animate differently then the others, you don't just rotoscope everything, you do studies and take notes from the live action. thanks so much for putting this up, I can't imagine what it would be like to do your first scene like that right on the fly, wow.

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    1. This was not my first movie or scene for Disney.
      I did work on The Black Cauldron, did some animation on Mouse Detective and worked in visual development on Oliver & Company. But it was Roger Rabbit that provided a breakthrough in my career.

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  13. Roger Rabbit was such a neat film and the technical aspects are always mind blowing.

    I thought conventional wisdom was that with live action everything would have to be done on the ones (to avoid jittering or slipping). Was there a reason why this worked on the twos? (Or did someone inbetween the missing frames?)

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    1. For the final version the scene was inbetweened on one's,
      pretty much like every animated scene in the movie.

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  14. I love this! If these are your sketches, I'm surprised you wrote your notes in English instead of German. Are these meant for others to use as well?

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    1. No, these scribbly notes were meant for myself to clarify my acting ideas.

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  15. Curious choice to have the ostrich facing screen right on entry but I guess it does add some life to the shot-did Dick often make these adjustments-suggesting some quirky bit of 'business'? Good to see you made foot slippage a feature with the frog!

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  16. So that was your ostrich! Love the beak going up – "Hmph!"
    I hadn't watched this movie during my childhood, but a few months ago, I heard about Roger Rabbit through an interview of yours. Very glad when I finally saw it!
    (I also kept an eye out for the slip up mentioned in the interview - Roger forgetting to put his hands on the bed? Only caught it the second time around, haha)
    Would like to see more of your work! :D

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  17. Haha! I remember this scene! Thank you so much for sharing your experience on it with us. It's reassuring to read even the best goes through the same ordeal as the rest of us do. But in the end, when it's pulled off well, there ain't no bigger satisfaction!

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  18. Hello Andreas. I thought you were going to appreciate this flash back. This is Dicks acceptance speech for the film where he said something really nice about you know who. It was really nice of him. Enjoy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqK8LeQrX1I

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    1. I was in the audience that night, and Dick's remark came totally unexpected.

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  19. Wow, Yarim...you mentioned the exact same thing I was going to. Andreas, so cool to know this was unexpected. Do you ever speak with Dick anymore?

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    1. No, I don't. Dick is working on his own project at Aardman Studios and keeps to himself.
      Can't wait to see what he is doing.

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  20. Thank you Andreas for your memories and sketches from the film. Your frog was great and reminded me of "One Froggy Evening" when Michigan J. gets out of his box and slips a couple of times. These posts are invaluable for those of us studying the craft.

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  21. I always loved that ostrich! thanks for doing it!

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  22. It was around 1988 ( I was 12) when I first saw a making of on TV and immediately fell in love with the film. But growing up in East-Germany there was no chance of watching the film in the cinema at the time. So, 2-3 years passed til I finally could rent the video, thanks to that the wall came down in 1989. I still love the film.

    I wish I could work on a project like this.

    Thank you for sharing your memories and don´t hesitate to show more.

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