Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Animating " Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" with Mr. Bernstein.

Come with me..........................

I worked on " Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs " at Sony Imageworks for about 6 months until the film wrapped up. I loved working on it and thought I'd share with the world some of what goes into making a 3D animated film.

Let's start with the directors Phil and Chris. I gave them this gift on my last day as a thank you for being such great directors. It's a little sketch I drew in one of the many meetings we had. I thought it was pretty ironic as I watched them direct a sequence with chicken legs and corn falling from the sky as they stuffed their mouths with lunch. These guys were multi-tasking incredibly!

Here's Phil in his thinking pose. I love that he just had to close his eyes to visualize the scene. He did this many times and I recommend it to many animators and story board artists.

So here's Team Hawkins and Pete Nash reviewing the first sequence of the film. These are images I saved from video that was shot of our animation launch. We would shoot all the meetings so that we could watch them back and maybe catch anything the directors or supervisors had mentioned that we didn't hear the first time. This animation launch was for the first sequence ... which we animated very close to the end of working on the film. At the time I had no idea what shots I was getting. I ended up with the 4 shots where little kid Flynt tries to take off his "spray on" shoes.

My first thumbs! At the bottom of this page are some thumbs of my first shot on Cloudy. It's just a background character picking up a snowball and throwing it. Above are the big boys. Pete Nash: Head of animation and Alan Hawkins: Supervising animator.

So these are the shots I was talking about. Flynt tries to remove his "spray on" shoes with his teeth, with scissors, with a screwdriver, and with a cement block! The first image below is just me copying the actual storyboards. I would watch these drawings constantly to capture some of the positions or facial expressions the board artist had used. I would then get on the computer and roughly block out the position of the boy and show it to my supervisor and the directors for feedback. I would also bring these drawings to every meeting to show them exactly what I was thinking.

As you can see, I tried to find just the right pose that would work. I was searching for the clearest silhouette that would read the best. I was also searching for a good pose that you could feel the struggle he was going through. Flynt was embarrassed by his new shoe invention and desperately wanted to take them off!

I had to animate a shot in the movie where Flynt gets hit with a loaf of bread by the Mayor, goes flying back, and lands in an awkward "silly " position on his laboratory floor. The directors, Phil and Chris, asked for him to fly in the air and land like he was a puppet. They told me, "He should move as if you threw Kermit the frog or Grover across the room". After a few unsuccessful attempts at animating the character straight ahead, I decided to use some video reference. This shot was hard and I wanted to get it just right.

So I taped myself one early morning before work with my Sony cyber shot camera. Since I didn't have Kermit, I decided to use Pee Wee. He was the closest thing I had to a muppet. This shot was unlike any other shots I've had in the past. Usually you try and add life to your characters, make them breathe! Here I was animating practically a dead, lifeless doll. Arms and legs had to move independently of one another. And if you study some of the video, the arms and legs cross over each other and move all floppsy mopsy! I finally got the shot right and finished it. Sadly, the shot got cut from the film in the final editing process! GRRRR!!! It happens all the time in this business, so I'm used to it, but I can't say I'm happy about it.

Me in my Jammies.

There's another shot I did that was cut as well. The mayor sits up in his wheelie chair after being knocked down. He whips his left arm up and Nacho chips appear like he was a magician. He then says, " Flynt! It's NAHT-CHOHHH DAY! " and begins to throw them repeatedly at Flynt like ninja stars. Chris and Phil told me these shots might end up as extras on the DVD, so cross your fingers!

Here are some notes I took from a class taught by Pete Nash . This was my first week at Sony Imageworks.

As you can read... A LOT....and I mean A LOT goes into every single shot. I would constantly come back to these pages at the end of each shot just to make sure I was covering everything.

Sometimes the notes just never stop...they keep coming in...and keep coming in.....and never....everrrrrrrrr....enddddd.............

Here's a small shot that took awhile to get right. Flynt spraying on his "spray on" shoes for the first time. I loved these designs and rigs. For the index finger to reach that nozzle...all you had to do is scale and stretch it up. And since it's a cartoon...it looks great!

The problem we had in this shot is that the feet didn't look cute enough. So my supervisor and I had to take a crack at re-modeling those toes. They also wanted a little bit of toe movement right before the spray. And guess what? The toes had no controls. We had to make that work as well.

And lastly, here are some doodles I drew in my sketchbook while waiting for my turn in animation meetings.

Welcome to Sony Imageworks!

Animator Joel Reid pretending to be me at my desk.

That's a wrap!

Friday, September 25, 2009


Interview with Max Fuchs, the cantor in the first Jewish religious service that was broadcast from occupied German territory in 1944.

New York Times Article on Max Fuchs

Thursday, September 17, 2009