Monday, October 6, 2014

Virtual Animators

A little while ago I was invited by my friends over at Virtual Animators to give an online lecture on character animation. We settled on this coming Saturday, Oct. 11. Buddies of mine like Don Hahn, Kathy Zielinski and James Lopez have already been involved in this lecture series, and I feel honored to be in their company. Click here for more details:

Since I am in the process of putting material together for Saturday, I thought I’d ask you what kind of specific subject I should talk about. Is there anything I haven’t covered on my blog, something that might be useful to you? My main objective is to give you ideas about what could help you make your characters come alive.
As you know there are no tricks or formulas to good character animation, but there are things I can point out that you might not have thought of. Let me know.

I look forward to interacting with some of you on Saturday.

A few throw-away roughs from the villains I animated, plus Mama Odie.


  1. Hi Andreas,

    I have a few questions, and I'm planning to do the class...

    1. Relates to drawing - how do you approach drawing things that you (I mean you personally) may not be able to find reference for, or that life drawing may not have covered? I see so many great artists seem to wing this, all though I know that's not the case, I'm sure it's taken a lot of hard work. Such as drawing things from different angles - any drills or techniques that might not be talked about so much? And can you give an example?

    2. What are some things you can do to improve timing for a scene?

    3. General trivia - what's your favourite pencil to draw with?

    Thank you :)

    1. 1. There isn't anything you can't research. If you are going to animate a dinosaur, you can study reptiles, birds and large mammals.
      2. Contrast. Good timing has a rhythm, fast and slow as well as long and short parts.
      3. Any soft pencil will do.

  2. -B-

    Hi Andreas,

    How about watching you "over shoulder" animating any two key poses?
    That would be marvels!

    Can't wait 11th:)

  3. Hello Andreas,
    Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us on this blog, and in the upcoming lecture. I signed up for the lecture a few days ago.

    You've covered this a little in some of your blog posts, but I'm interested in watching you take a frame or two of a scene from the rough to the tie-down stage; I'm looking to understand your thought process and approach to doing tie-downs.

    On a less technical note, what's your approach to acting for animation, and how do you keep your animation sincere?

    Thanks again,
    'Looking forward to it.
    Kind regards,

    1. When animating, drawing from your own observation is best.
      You need to get to a point where you don't think about any technique, just the personality of your character. All that comes with time and experience.

  4. Hi Andreas,
    I'm very excited on your up coming lecture..I was very curious on how you approach timing in your work..Specifically your latter on your drawings..Other then timing things out traditionally on a time-watch..What is your method of figuring out where to put your timing lines the latter. Thanks for your great blog..

    1. I do all my animation roughs first, then I think about timing. How long each pose or expression should read. When I see the first rough pose test, I pretty much know what's too slow and what's too fast. If you don't, ask a friend. You can always re-time your drawings until the scene starts to look natural.

  5. Wow, this is great, thank you , must-to- sign on that.

    Have you found your own "formula" how you approach to animating character ? Like, do you watch some reference and inspirations from movies? Acting out animation scene yourself, do some animation test ect...
    Is there some basic phases you do when developing character and study whatkind of persons she/he/it could be and how they move and talk?

    1. That's a loaded question. No, there is no formula. Try and think if there is someone in your life who has a similar personality to your character. Research is always good, study animals or certain actors who have something in common with your character.
      The basic phases are:
      Study and understand the personality of your character.
      Try to feel what the character is feeling.
      Do little thumbnail sketches to explore the acting.
      Animate in a loose, sketchy style, so you can think about the emotions only.
      Then, once you found an acting pattern you like, tie down the drawings and clarify the poses.

    2. Thank you so much for answer. I (and I´m sure lot of other people too) appreciate that you passing on all that knowledge from decades you´ve been working on animation business.

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  7. Have you seen the Lion King fan tribute by Eduardo Quintana in which he animates Scar and Nala to a clip from the LK Broadway show? I'm curious to know what you think of other people animating characters that you've put so much passion and effort into creating.

    1. Very impressive! So much work put into the animation.
      I need to contact Eduardo and compliment him.

  8. Hi Andreas! I'm SO excited for your lecture, thank you so much for doing it! I'm currently a second year animation student at SVA in New York and as I do consider the rough animation to be the key stage in the character animation process, it would be amazing to watch you animate a rough scene and maybe address the following:

    1. Straight ahead or pose to pose? Which method do you favor and for which types of animation (str. ahead for fast actions/ pose to pose for emotional close-ups?)

    2. How long do you spend on each drawing in the initial rough stages? Here we are being trained to "rough it out" as fast as we can and focus on movement and emotion and not worry too much about anatomy. We rough out a scene in 45 minutes basically. But how do YOU approach this vital stage?

    3. Some trivia: what were some of your challenges and frustrations when you were a novice at this medium? I love everything about animation, but honestly there are days where I'm literally sobbing into my light disk and Disney/Pixar feel light years away. Were you always great?

    1. No, I very much struggled early on, particularly with timing. Everything looked too slow.
      1. Straight ahead animation ALWAYS, but based on thumbnail sketchers I would do before. Pose to pose can become very mechanical looking.
      2. I do what you do. Roughing out a scene fast allows you to concentrate on the emotions, instead of the drawings.
      3. Practice, practice, practice. You'll get better by doing it.

  9. Seeing everyone so eager about this makes me even happier.

  10. Hey Andreas I would love to hear about your thoughts on becoming a Animation Historian, without a animation background would you say a degree is needed? How accessible is the Disney Archives for those not with the Company? Or would being an animator before or while you pursue the other, give you more insight than someone who isn't. I Love your blog and reading books and watching documentaries by former animators and the amount of love and passion they had for it.

    And the idea of sharing the knowledge of animation and its history and being able to work on films that are seen and remembered really makes my heart feel warm and indescribable happiness.

    And What are your views on art school/degrees right now vs self taught animation? Some of your old colleagues have stated that they believe the cost is way too much for the degree you get while others say the connections and discipline you get are something you can't get else where. And some internships do require a degree, even if its just to see that you're serious about being apart of it. I know its a topic that has been touched on a lot but I would love to get another Disney animators insight on this matter. I was lucky when working at Walt Disney World to cross paths with a couple of animators from the old FL studio and they seemed evenly split on this.

    1. I believe, I answered your question during the online lecture.
      If not, I'd be happy to do it here.

  11. Hello Andreas, I was wondering if you could talk about your approach in turning your voice actors into animated characters. I think it is so fascinating to see Jeremy Irons turned into a lion. I can't wait for the class on Saturday

  12. This so amazing that you are doing a lecture. I was excited when I found out this morning while working on my Casual essay about Disney's aftermath after Walt died.
    There are so many questions I have about Disney animation. I've been studying Disney on my own for about 6 years now. This is so exciting. So here are my questions to you Andreas:

    1.I do have a question about Roger Rabbit. Was the concept for the rabbit based off Oswald the Lucky Rabbit?

    2. What does it take to become a great Disney animator?

    3.What were challenges you had to go through to become a Disney animator today?

    4. Is there still hope for another Disney hand drawn animation film?

    5. Are there any plans for Oswald and Julius the cat to return to animated features or shorts?

    6. There was one thing I always was curious about regarding Frozen. I heard somewhere that Marc Davis had some drawings to an original concept idea for the fairy tale of the Snow Queen. Have you come across any of those drawings?
    Andreas thank you for doing this lecture. I am so excited for this class.

    1. 1. Roger Rabbit was supposed to be a mixture between Disney and Warner Brothers, but not Oswald.
      2. Being able to express yourself personally and portray your characters technically convincingly.
      3. I kew how to draw, but didn't know how to act. So I focused on studying acting.
      4. No.
      5. Not that I know of.
      6. Marc designed a ride based on the four seasons. Winter had a Northern European Ice Queen type character. Frozen and Marc's work have nothing in common.

  13. Hi Andreas,

    I feel content to participate on your workshop this saturday is a great opportunity to learn from you.

    I have two questions just yesterday I read an interview to Glen Keane
    where he mention he had a conversation with ED Catmull where he told him he was doing a meditation exercise to visualise and sphere and he could describe it mathematically but not picture it in his mind and I was surprised to read that ED Catmull and even Glen as amazing as he is, he couldn't do that neither. Sometimes I can see the shapes the stuff I want to draw for my self and for a second or two hold it on my mind but I haven't got time enough to put it on paper when its already start changing I wonder what is your process when you draw and thumbnail especially those complex movements you have animated how is that in your mind and if you could describe it and give any tips to improve this? Glen mention one on the article passed by Ollie

    And this second question I would love to know which are your views about the future of Animation in reference to the new technology coming out there like Dreamworks Apollo and the technology used on Paperman to render 3D like it was 2D to name a few.

    1. Animators just have to give their assignment a lot of thought. First, analyze the emotions of your character, that will tell you how to animate the scene. Close your eyes, imagine the character's acting, then explore that with small sketches until you are sold on one particular way to portray this scene.
      Part 2 of your question:
      The only combination of 2D and 3D that I LOVE so far is the Disney short "Lorenzo". Hand drawn first, THEN computer aided work to come up with a brand-new visual look.

    2. Thank you very much Andreas for taking the time to share your expertise and advice it makes me really happy, I will definitely think on this terms before thumbnailing my animations from now on. I had a look at "Lorenzo" it really looks great! all those texture and minimalistic backgrounds I put it under my radar for when it gets release, for now I could only watch the Trailer but it looks fantastic, I'll stay tune to your wonderful blog, You are awesome! thank you so much :D

  14. Hi Andreas!

    I love so much the "Jungle Book" and all its characters.
    I understand the concept of research and observation (both animals and people and its different personalities) but how to combine efectively these elements for to make a character a strong one, I mean, what is the magic to achieve this attraction and appeal (not in terms of Character Design but in terms of Character Animation)

    So happy to hear you next saturday!

    - Juan

  15. Hi Andreas,

    I'm a little late in seeing this. It says that the class is sold out. :( Do you know if it will be re-broadcasted? I'm an Animation Mentor student and I am always looking for opportunities to learn. Also, if anyone who attends the class and wants to share their notes, I would really appreciate it! :D


    1. I think there will be a way to see my lecture on Virtual Animators, at least parts of it.

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  17. Hi Andreas! I'm hoping you can spend some time explaining how to keep a character appealing and full of personality without getting TOO hung up on strict anatomy or over-rendering. thanks!

  18. Hello Andreas,

    I would have loved to see your virtual class/lecture, but unfortunately it is now sold out. So my one question is will you be at CTN this year?


    1. Yes, I will be at CTN, and next time I'll do a lecture for Virtual Animators, there will be more sign-ups available.

  19. Andreas i just wanted to thank you for your wonderful lecture at Virtual Animators, it was a wonderful experience to be able to spend such marvelous time being lectured by an artist of your caliber. It was a joyful experience and i just wanted to greet you and express my gratitude towards your generosity and charisma while portraying the wonders of animation as a craft. In behalf of myself and many others thank you for being such an inspiring person and professional. Wish you the best with your film and your upcoming book. Take care and never stop animating!