Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Celebrating A Year's Journey

A year ago, I began this incredible journey with Animation Mentor.

This evening (well, April 3, I mean), I made a decent effort to start the gears turning for class 5. I read through the assignment notes in full (for once - usually I jump right to the lecture and then skim the notes afterward), and I think it'll help me stay focused to do a little more prep work.

It looks as though this term is geared toward preproduction (story design, animatics, etc), so not a ton of animating this term I guess. I don't think we even jump into Maya until halfway through when we'll delve into walk cycles and personality. For the most part the next three months are going to be about story and drawing and film pre-production (aren't I glad I brought my art desk along to Florida).

With that in mind, I'm going to have to adjust my goals. What I want to get out of this term is a really clean look to my thumbnails and animatic. I have to stay punctual, open-minded, conversational, and determined. I want to have a clear layout of a short film that expresses my strengths in design, acting/thought process, and timing (all of which I want to improve). I need to spend a few days to a week coming up with some kicking story ideas.

So far, Animation Mentor has really pushed the basics and hammered in all the fundamental principles of animation. I've only seen a couple people come close to mastering those aspects in the past year. Most everyone remains in a constant loop of continual improvement. Easy to do with the great mentors we've had. Here's my one-year history of AM:

Class 1: April 2006. Mentor: Don Kim

Profile: Don has worked in the animation industry for over 10 years. He is a graduate of Sheridan college with a diploma in Classical Animation. Don started his career at Walt Disney Animation where he worked on several classically animated feature length projects, including the theatrical feature "Return to Neverland". In 1999 he jumped over to 3D animation at CORE digital pictures and from then on it was CG all the way. Since then Don has worked as a 3D Animator and Animation supervisor on several shows including the feature film "Robots" while he was working at Bluesky Studios. Currently he is working as an Assistant Director at Nelvana limited in Toronto.

Don really helped push a better comprehension of the basics and encouraged weekly revisions. He was somewhat quiet but positive and constructive with his criticism.

Class 2: July 2006. Mentor: Steve Gagnon-Cady

Profile: Steve Cady is a french-canadian born in Montreal, Canada. He is a 1997 graduate from Sheridan College's Classical Animation programme. For the past 9 years, Steve has worked for numerous studios across north america from gaming to films. His most recent film projects have been Scooby2, Ring2 and The Chronicles of Narnia at Rhythm & Hues. His other passions include learning to fly, Golf, going to the movies and hanging out with the kids! Currently Steve is working at Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand.

Steve wowed me with the length and care put into his critiques. Although laid-back and very down to earth, he was serious about learning and improvement.

Class 3: October 2006. Mentor: Raquel Coelho

Profile: I was born in Brazil and since very little I was always doing tons of art. Growing up was interesting and soon i was able to make a living doing every type of art i always loved: i played viola in orchestras for 6 years, worked on a puppet theater group for 2 years, wrote and illustrated a bunch of children's books which were successfully published in Brazil, and became a computer animator here in the US. I started to get interested in animation when i was living in Sao Paulo, where I worked as an intern in a cell animation studio for 1 year. After that I moved to New York where i got hooked by computer animation. I worked in a bunch of cool companies, like Blue Sky Studios, PDI/Dreamworks, Wildbrain, Laika Entertainment (formerly Vinton Studios), and I currently work at Tippett Studio. What I love the most about animation is that it connects storytelling, music, visual arts, cinema and acting all in one beautiful form of art.

Raquel truly cared about each of her students, inspiring us by focusing her attention on each of our goals and helping us to orient ourselves toward them. She really emphasized the importance of secondary action and the idiosyncrasies that define your character.

Class 4: January 2007. Mentor: Brett Coderre

Profile: Brett has been working with Pixar Animation Studios since A Bugs Life. He is currently working on Pixar's 2007 movie Ratatouille. Brett won The Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Character Animation with his fantastic work on Finding Nemo, for the Dory Whale speaking scenes.

Brett, despite his gentle and friendly demeanor, really set up the goal posts and shoved us down the field with his advice. He was direct with his comments and straight forward with his opinions, but he always showed an encouraging nod to our individual ideas and aspirations.

Class 5: April 2007. Mentor: Ricardo Curtis

Profile: I am the founder of House of Cool, a preproduction studio in Toronto, Canada. Along with running my studio I am currently the Head of Story at Blue Sky Studios on Horton Hears A Who. Previously I was a story artist and animator at Pixar and a supervising animator at Warner Bros. Feature Animation. My credits include The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, The Road to El Dorado, Osmosis Jones and The Iron Giant.

With these credits, I'm hoping that Ricardo will help me to fix my eyes on a good story and squeeze all I can out of it. I know that in class 6 I am going to be polishing up the minute-long animation that I'll be setting up throughout class 5, so I'd like his advice on what really captivates people and how to harness that with a good plot and story elements.

This coming week while I'm on the cruise, I have to develop 5 different story lines that I could pursue in the next several months. I'll try to come up with some worthy ideas by Thursday so I can throw them in my online video journal before class at 11pm. My hurdle right now is undertaking this enormous task of coming up with a great story to work on until September. I have to try to break that idea into several small ones so that I can avoid being overwhelmed. I'll let you know how that goes.

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