Friday, December 2, 2011

Setting the Scene : The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout

This is a must-have book for anyone interested in hand-drawn animation.

Let me rephrase that : this is a must-have book for anyone interested in any kind of  animation or film making , period.

Beautifully illustrated, meticulously researched,  "Setting the Scene : The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout" by Fraser MacLean goes beyond a simple "coffee-table art book" (although it is certainly handsome enough to rate as a coffee table art book) ,  rather the author goes into the real nuts and bolts of layout using examples from well-known films and from some less well-known films from various animation studios.  This book fills a void in providing highly detailed information on the art and craft of Layout .   HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

-David Nethery


"The art of animation layout takes center stage for the first time in this gorgeous, full-color volume. Animation fans and students can finally take a behind-the-scenes peek at the history of layout, the process by which artists plot scenes and stitch together the many elements of animated works. With in-depth text by veteran animator Fraser MacLean, this extraordinary book features previously unpublished art from major studios’ archives—including Warner Bros., Pixar, Walt Disney, and more—as well as interviews with some of the biggest names in animation and a foreword by Academy Award–winning director Pete Docter. From the genre’s earliest pioneers to the digital world of contemporary cinema, Setting the Scene provides an enchanting journey into the history of animation."

Fraser MacLean has worked for Passion Pictures, Cambridge Animation Systems, Telemagination, and Walt Disney Animation Studios, on such films as Space Jam and Tarzan. He currently runs Penciltown Animation and resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. Pete Docter is a longtime Pixar filmmaker and the Academy Award–winning director of Up and Monsters, Inc.

An example of one of the many illustration in the books showing the craft of the Layout Artist at work .

This  L-shaped pan layout with camera move indicated is by veteran Disney/Pixar layout artist Scott Caple , who , I should mention by the way,  teaches two online Layout classes for the Academy of Art University ,  ANM 377 and ANM 605  Layout Design.


Another book on Layout ?   An embarrassment of riches indeed !  --

A good companion book to Fraser MacLean's excellent book on Layout is the latest volume from the Disney Studios Archive series of books called simply:   "Layout & Background" .   The Disney Archive book is more of a typical  "coffee table art book"  , with gorgeous layout and background art from various Disney films on display, but it lacks the technical depth and breadth of Fraser MacClean's book.  However the Disney book is a worthy addition to your library as well.  (if you can only afford one then get "Setting the Scene" by Fraser MacLean ) .

(click image to see it larger)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A new Animation Pencil Test capture station: SIMPLICITY CAM 5e HD DOCUMENT SCANNER

As seen on the TVPaint Community User Forum :

This relatively new image capture station , the Simplicity Cam 5e HD Document Scanner by Recordex-USA may be of interest to online students who are looking to purchase an image capture station or scanner for digitizing their animation drawings --

This unit is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS .

Capture resolution up to 2560 x 1944 (which is actually higher than Academy Full Aperture 2K Film res. of 2048 x 1556).

Manual control of White Balance and Exposure.

Max. capture area of 12.75" x 17.25" (so this will capture the usable drawing area on 12 Field [12"w x 9"h ] and 16 Field [16" w x 12.75" h] animation paper.)

Image capture is much faster than scanning on a Flatbed scanner , but the capture resolution of the Simplicity Cam 5e is equivalent to using a scanner and the resolution is much higher than most webcams or mini-dv cameras that are typically used for pencil testing on a down-shooter.

Confirmed to work with TVPaint Animation running under Windows and Mac OS. (potentially works with any other pencil test software such as Digicel Flipbook, or Toki Line Test, or ToonBoom Pencil Check. But check with the Tech Support Dept. of the software you are using to be sure it meets the specifications for capturing images into your software)

NOTE: You'll need to add a peg bar and the base of the unit will need to be bolted down to a table top or a board so it can't be knocked over or jarred out of position (the base is weighted, but it needs to be completely locked down for animation) . 

This reseller has it listed for $178.00 (price visible if you add it to the cart) -

Lists for $199.00 from this reseller:

More information about this image capture station can be found HERE:


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lion King roars again

To mark the special occasion of the re-release of "The Lion King" to theaters (in "3D" ) master animator Andreas Deja has posted some pencil tests of his wonderful animation of Scar from "The Lion King" :

I have to say as someone who worked on this film back in 1993- '94 I'm feeling a bit of pride (pun intended) in the fact that The Lion King  was the #1 Film at the Box-office in the U.S.A over this past weekend . It took in close to $30 million dollars (which is nearly twice what industry analysts had projected) .

If you haven't seen it yet go see it now while you have the opportunity to see it on the Big Screen (as it was intended to be seen !).    It's actually playing in some theaters in conventional "flat/2D" projection, so if 3D projection is not your thing you can see it in it's original form.

So now the debate starts: Is it successful because it is "3D-ized 2D" film and the only way for hand-drawn animation to succeed in a big way at the box-office it to jump on the 3D bandwagon, or does common sense tell us that it is successful because a compelling, well told story with appealing characters and top knotch animation will always be a success whether it's done in hand-drawn , computer, or stop-motion ? (I say the latter is the rule , despite some notable exceptions that should have been hits, but were not , like The Iron Giant).

While I think the 3D conversion was done well for the most part and it didn't hurt the original animation overall ,  I think Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew summed up the 3D conversion of The Lion King best:

“Is this trip really necessary”?  No.   3-D adds nothing new to the greatness of Disney’s Lion King.
But anything that returns hand drawn animation to the big screen, and to the attention of the public, is a good thing.  [bold emphasis added by me -DN]
At various times during both screenings I kept thinking how fantastic a new drawn film, designed and shot for 3-D, would be. I hope the public, and the animation community, will one day have a chance to find out."


*UPDATE: Andreas Deja has posted even more of his Scar animation and some drawings on his blog:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Little Boat" by Nelson Boles

Found via CartoonBrew (thanks Amid).

Beautiful film by Nelson Boles. 

It’s become a cliche reaction now, but I still feel compelled to say that when I see work like this (and Nelson’s other student film: “This one time…” I can’t understand why the major studios are not grabbing these artists and putting them to work on fresh, new hand-drawn films. This sensibility could truly reignite interest in hand-drawn animation.  Films like this, or Ian Worrel’s shorts (, and the various Gobelins shorts, among many other examples which could be named, show that stylistically and thematically there is still so much new ground to be covered with both hand-drawn short films and features which are not merely re-treads of earlier Disney or Warner Bros. styles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where are all the Traditional Hand Drawn Animated films ? (and why study traditional animation?)

When people make the claim: "There are no traditional animation jobs" or "2D is dead" you should realize that what they mostly mean is that the model of big-budget feature length 2D Animation that flourished for a time in the U.S. film industry from roughly 1985 - 1999 and then finally crashed and burned in the years between 2000 - 2003 (for a variety of reasons, both economic and artistic, too complicated to go into here) is no longer viable.

Yes, perhaps that particular model of traditional animation production is "dead" (or maybe "just resting, pining for the fjords") and is not likely to come back the way it was in the 1990's. There will continue to be hand-drawn animated features , but those will probably be for a niche market , smaller indie films, not necessarily major feature animated films like 'Beauty & the Beast' , 'Aladdin', 'The Lion King' , or even slightly smaller scale films like 'Lilo & Stitch'. It's possible that there could be a break-out hand drawn animated hit again on that scale , but it doesn't seem likely, at least not in the short run. (but never say never ... things couldn't have been much more "dead" than in 1985 - '86 when a couple of films came out that I think changed everything: The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail . Momentum picked up after those , leading to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and beyond ...)

BUT that is not the only viable model of traditional hand-drawn animation production , and it never was the norm. Hand-drawn animation doesn't need to be "saved" or make a "comeback" , because it never really went away. I think there will continue to be smaller scale feature films like "The Secret of Kells" or "The Illusionist" , as well as more truly independent micro productions (one-person , creator driven features or features made by a very small crew) such as "My Dog Tulip" , "Sita Sings the Blues" , "Idiots & Angels" and Nick Cross's forthcoming "Black Sunrise"

There is so much hand-drawn animation still being done for advertisements , short films, games, and web applications (including iPhone/iPad and other tablet apps). And whether it's drawn with pencil on paper or using a Cintiq tablet in an app like TVP Animation , the traditional drawing-based skill sets are still essential to telling a story through images.

Here are a few projects I've seen recently which remind me of how hand-drawn animation is being used in the real world outside of mainstream "Hollywood" features:

Story Corps latest oral history animated piece , "Miss Devine" :

Clever animated advertisements animated by Jason Doll :

Music video animated by Anthony F. Schepperd for Blockhead's 'The Music Scene'.

"The Music Scene" from Anthony Francisco Schepperd on Vimeo.

TIJI Television Network "Colours" :

These are just a few randomly chosen examples from among many. IF you can think beyond "When I graduate I've got to go to work at a giant studio like Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/BlueSky/CartoonNetwork/Nickelodeon " [not that there's anything wrong with that] you can find a world of opportunity out there for animation. (in particular the hand-drawn variety) .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CTN Expo - Behind the Scenes with Independent Filmmaker Mike Nguyen

Here is another inspiring video from a presentation given at the CTN Animation Expo .

If you haven't attended CTN Expo before it is highly recommended . CTN is only 3 years old , but has THE place to be for people interested in character animation.  This year's CTN Expo will be Nov. 18 - 20, in Burbank, CA.

Animator/director Mike Nguyen has been working on the independent animated feature film "My Little World" for many years now (working on it part-time between other jobs).  

Mike Nguyen primary interest is the hand-drawn animation film making medium and aims to reflect beautiful thoughts toward this life on Earth.

Mike received his BFA in Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts in 1988. Since then, he has worked primarily in the feature animation industry as a Character Animator in various studios, including Walt Disney, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks Animation.

For more about Mike please visit :

Mike's blog "Rainplace" is one of the best animation blogs on the web.   Mike discusses the "how to" of animation in great depth, but also the "why" of animation , with a very creative/spiritual emphasis, using examples from his own work.

As in this post on "Rough Pass as Thumbnailing" where he discusses taking animation from a first rough pass to a "tied down" version of the roughs :

All Images Copyright Mike Nguyen/July Films. Go to his blog , "Rainplace" to see many more examples like this. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

New AAU Animation Dept. blog - "Animation School Daily"

Brand spanking new blog from the Traditional (2D) Animation Dept. at the Academy of Art University that you should check out :

Animation School Daily Blog 

It's just started, so bookmark and keep checking back for more posts soon.

First two posts have some beautiful drawings by AAU instructors:

This beautiful figure study in charcoal by Associate Director of 2D Animation (Onsite) , Diana Coco-Russell -

   (click on the image to view it larger)

and this terrific illustration -- "Young Walt" --  by Full Time Faculty (2D Animation - Onsite) Nicolas Villarreal -

     (click on the image to view it larger)

Great stuff , eh ?   More to come soon .   Drawings, departmental news, inspirational art for classical animation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Animation from FRANCE - Gobelins 2011

Another crop of amazingly proficient grad student films from Gobelins.

Google for the blogs of the individual students who worked on these films; some beautiful and inspiring work on their blogs.

(do yourself a favor and switch these to HD mode and watch full screen)

À Travers la Brume
(Through the Fog)
Two brothers are hunting a legendary creature. As they hunt, the fog separates them...

A film by Théo BOUBOUNELLE, Violaine BRIAT, Marie-Clémence GAUTHIER, Clément GIRARD, Aude GUIBOURT, Clara VOISIN, Maïté XIA


Les Chiens Isolés
(Lonely Dogs)

On an oil platform, a story of friendship between two workers is compromised by the insanity paranoiac of one of them.

A film by Rémi BASTIE, Nicolas DEGHANI, Jonathan DJOB-NKONDO, Paul LACOLLEY, Nicolas PEGON, Jérémy PIRES, Kevin MANACH


Who's Afraid of Mr.Greedy ?

A blind man comes to get back his identity, stolen by an ogre while he was a child.

A film by Simon BOUCACHARD, Jean-Baptiste CUMONT, Sylvain FABRE, Guillaume FESQUET, Adeline GRANGE, Maxime MARY, Julien ROSSIRE



Banned from his town because of his animality, a wolf man decides to make this segregation come to an end.

A film by François BARREAU, Marion DELANNOY, Claire FAUVEL, Rachid GUENDOUZE, Vincent NGHIEM, Benoit TRANCHET



For Eleanor, the joy of living among other people is out of reach because of her extreme introversion, she shuts herself away in a depressive routine, with her cat as her only support, until the latter, hopeless for her, decides to leave home...

A film by Chloé BURY .



Two men look at a woman. One wants her, the other one gets her.

A film by Kevin MANACH. (made in 2011 as part of an exchange trip to CalArts (California) by Kevin Manach, third-year student at GOBELINS, School of Image.)

THE RABBI'S CAT - LE CHAT DU RABBIN - animated feature film

Another hand-drawn feature length animated film from France ! LE CHAT DU RABBIN .  I'll say it again:  thank goodness the French did not get the silly memo (or they ripped it up)  from Hollywood that decreed "2D is dead".

Trailer for THE RABBI'S CAT  -

THE RABBI'S CAT - LE CHAT DU RABBIN - TRAILER from Banjo Studio on Vimeo.

There are several "Making of..." videos on Vimeo:

Making of Le Chat du Rabbin - Banjo - from Banjo Studio on Vimeo.

The film (directed by Joann Sfar  and Antoine Delesvaux) is adapted from the graphic novel by Joann Sfar . 

The studio Autochenille Production was launched in 2007 by Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux and Clément Oubrerie with the aim to make "author-driven, challenging films to appeal to children and adults.".

The Rabbi's Cat was the company's first project. The production was made in collaboration with TF1 and France 3. It was pre-bought by Canal+ and CineCinéma and had a budget of 12.5 million euro. (17.5 million U.S. dollars)

One of the directors' sources of inspiration was American animation from the 1930s, and in particular from the Fleischer Studios, which Sfar described as characterized by multi-ethnical production crews and for portraying darker aspects of society, in cartoons such as Betty Boop and Popeye.    In order to generate more personality for the drawn characters in The Rabbi's Cat, some of the scenes were staged in a Parisian suburb loft in the summer of 2008, with props and the cast fully costumed. As the actors performed and invented their characters' personal motion habits, the design team observed closely and drew what they picked up.

More making-of videos here:

John Celestri animation blog

There's a new animation blog I want to recommend to you by a great animator, John Celestri.

John the Animator Guy

John started his animation career in his native New York City (working on the Richard Williams' feature film "Raggedy Ann & Andy", among other things)  then spent several years at the Nelvana studio in Toronto as a supervising animator on Nelvana's ambitious first feature film , "Rock & Rule", as well  the Nelvana television specials  such as "The Devil and Daniel Mouse",  "Intergalactic Thanksgiving" , "Easter Fever" (which he was also a Sequence Director on) , among others.     I don't think these Nelvana specials run on TV anymore , but I'll tell you as someone who was a teenager interested in getting into animation at that time:  in the vast wasteland that was television animation in the 1970's  these fully-animated specials by Nelvana were a bright standout , which inspired people like me with the thought that "hey, it is possible to still do full animation today, it's not just all in the past".

*ADD ON:  Thank you to the Anonymous commenter who posted this in the comments :

"On the old Animation Nation discussion board (which used to have many pros posting as members of the board) Dave Brewster (who is also a very fine animator) posted something about Celestri:

"He went off to pursue other things but he is one of the few animators I consider up there with James Baxter and Glen Keane. During Rock & Rule he did some of the best animation ever. Feature animation suffered a huge loss when he stepped out of the spotlight. More than just dwell on the past I pine for what could have been."

After a long stretch in the Hollywood animation industry John moved back east to work as a freelancer from his home studio.  He and his wife Cathie have also teamed up to write a series of mystery novels.   Currently John is the Directing Animator and VP of Grace Animation Studios in Danville, Kentucky .

On the blog John is sharing his thoughts on animation technique,  scriptwriting,  the relationship between art and commerce , among other topics.   

Check it out !

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New animated feature film: "Moon Man"

Cartoon Saloon studio in Ireland -- makers of The Secret of Kells -- is starting a new hand-drawn animated feature based on the book "Moon Man" by Tomi Ungerer . ( . The film is a co-production with Le Pacte Film .
In March 2011 Cartoon Saloon started co-production on a new animated feature film version of ‘Moon Man’.   Based on the best selling book by Tomi Ungerer, the feature will be directed by Stephan Schesch. The group is also currently working on a pilot for Disney
‘Moon Man’ will be produced by Stefan Schesch , Le Pacte Film’s Jean Labadie (Himalaya) and Cartoon Saloon’s Ross Murray (Old Fangs) and Paul Young (The Secret of Kells). Irish animators who will work on the project are Cartoon Saloon’s Fabian Erlinghauser (The Secret of Kells), Sean McCarron (Song of the Sea) and Marie Thorhauge (Old Fangs). 

Cartoon Saloon is also working on another new hand-drawn feature film "Song of the Sea" , directed by Tomm Moore (who directed "The Secret of Kells").

New opportunities for Animators

Who's developing animation for the iPhone/iPad/Android market ? Fascinating to think about these marvelous new outlets animation.

Article in the NY Times here:

On the iPad version of the book "The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore", pages are brief movie scenes that pause to reveal interactive elements.

The iPad version of "The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore" has the content largely pulled from the animated short film of the same name by MoonBot Studios, which tells the story of a young man’s experience with a magical library. The app’s pages are brief movie scenes that pause to reveal interactive elements: books suddenly fly at the reader’s touch, for instance, and readers can play a piano or scribble in a blank book of their own.

The Fantastic Flying Books Of Morris Lessmore iPad App Teaser from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

About Moonbot Studios:

More about Moonbot studios (with more making-of videos) -

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New blog: the DEJA VIEW by Andreas Deja

Here is some very good news for students and fans of classical hand-drawn animation.   Esteemed Disney animator Andreas Deja has started a blog :

The Deja View blog

Andreas says he will be covering topics such as:

"Scans of rough animation drawings, thumbnail sketches and character designs, mostly the work of Disney's Nine Old Men. The majority of this art has never been published.
I will write short comments and explain, what makes a particular piece unique.
Since I was lucky enough to hang out with Frank and Ollie, Mark, Milt, Eric and Kimball for many years, I will also tell you anecdotes andstories that they told me.  Some of them are pretty hilarious ! These guys were all geniuses, but it's so interesting to discover their human side. Trials and errors, triumphs and failures, professional jealousy and even insecurities were all part of their lives.
Occasionally I will post the works of other artists who inspire me, such as Heinrich Kley, TS Sullivant, Wilhelm M Busch , and others.  
You will also find some of my own stuff as well." 
One of the treasures Andreas has shared from his collection:

And on the blog he's offering commentary which illuminates why scenes like these are so masterfully animated. If you're a serious student of animation then go there now , bookmark it , and visit often.

Here's a photo of Andreas when he started at Disney in 1980 , training under the great Eric Larson:

Go to Andreas's blog now to read some of his thoughts on Eric's animation , complete with rare animation drawings from his collection.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Rain Town" by Hiroyasu Inshida

"Rain Town" by Hiroyasu Inshida

(if you click through to the YouTube page I suggest switching it to 720p HD mode for better image quality)

The opening titles say:
"In this town, since who knows when, rain has never stopped.
Residents moved out to suburbs and high ground around
"rain town."
People's memories are now deeply submerged.
But into this forgotten rainy town
sometimes, someone wanders."

Graduation film by Hiroyasu Inshida
made at Kyoto Seika University. 

Animated and colored using  TVP Animation:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Alf Prøysen's Barnesanger" hand-drawn television series by Sandes Media

Saw this on CartoonBrew today:

And also on the TVP Animation Community Forum , where they report that the animation and coloring was done with TVP Animation:

So the animation is actually hand-drawn, but paperless , drawn in TVP Animation using Wacom tablets. BG's were painted in Photoshop. (although they could have used TVP Animation to paint the fully-rendered BG's as well)

The director , Hans Jørgen Sandnes , writes:
"...based on the songs of famed Norwegian singer/songwriter Alf Prøysen (1914 – 1970). The series is hand-drawn, made in-house by me and my five collegues. The episodes are short “music-videos” following Prøysens original recordings. We’re very passionate about our work, trying to master the medium of traditional 2D animation.”

Trailer for the television series:

Line test of a scene animated paperlessly in TVP Animation:

Making-of progression video showing line test to final color:

It's interesting that for publicity purposes in the making-of video (above) they have taken steps to disguise the digital origins of the drawings by adding some fake "flipping paper" effects to the animation.

I think I understand why this is done for the general public consumption: the minute you tell non-animation people "we used a digital program to do the animation" many people have this crazy idea stuck in their head : "ah-ha, the computer does it all" , as if the someone simply types in a command and pushes a button , then the computer program animates the scene. Whereas people still understand that if something is hand-drawn an artist is responsible for creating it.

It is difficult for many people to grasp the idea that there can be hand-drawn animation made on a computer , which is virtually the same process as hand-drawn animation on paper, except the lines are drawn directly into a program like TVP Animation using a wacom tablet, instead of drawn on paper and scanned/photographed.

Hand-drawn , in TVP Animation.


Some additional comments from the director/lead animator, Hans Jorgen Sandes, were posted on the TVP Animation Community User Forum:

I'm so glad you're using this on the TVPaint page. Because, it's ALL sketched, animated and coloured in TVPaint. The backgrounds are PhotoShop, and the composite is in AppleMotion. We're working on the subject of painting the backgrounds in TVP as well. The composite is very minimal, and AppleMotion works great with FinalCut.

Since others are so interested in our process, I will make a post on how we're working. I'll also include how the animation is actually done in the TVP software. I'll post it on your forum and my blog.

Anyway, feel free to share this information : ) Looking forward to hear from you again!

All the best,


As promised the lead animator/ director of this piece, Hans J. Sandnes has provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse at their work process using TVP Animation at his studio Sandnes Media.

He writes:

"We're a small team: an animator, an inbetweener, a background-artist, a compositor , and a producer. Using TVPaint means we're still making hundreds of unique drawings. We're sketching, erasing and re-doing drawings. But we don't have to spend time on scanning the drawings, numbering them, line-testing them and archiving them. In a way, TVPaint helps us doing what we like. And takes away the unnecessary steps.

Here's an in-depth look at how we do i
t. " :

Friday, April 22, 2011

"How to Break Into Animation" - advice from Steve Hickner Dreamworks Director

Students, you must watch this inspirational talk by Dreamworks director/producer/storyboard artist Steve Hickner, on how to break into animation and how to stay there once you break in (career longevity) . This is a great talk, full of very practical advice on having a career in animation :

Director/Producer Steve Hickner gives practical advice and hints on how to get into the animation industry and pitfalls to avoid once in it.

For more Info please visit:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Inspiration: Master Animators at Work - Disney Studio

Always interesting to see the process.  These behind-the-scenes movies  from the Disney Studio in the late 1930's /early 1940's show the traditional animation process.   Some of the process has been simplified or glossed over because these "documentaries" were produced for a mass audience , but there is still good information to be gained from these films and it's fascinating to see some famous animators like Fred Moore and Norm Ferguson at their animation desks.

Here's another one: "How Walt Disney Cartoons are Made (Burbank version)" made around the time of Snow White's release for the theater distributors who worked for RKO Pictures (the company that distributed Disney's films in the late 1930's /early 40's) . This footage shows both the late 30's Hyperion Blvd. studio as well as the "new" Disney studio in Burbank from the early 1940's -

A better quality version of this footage (without sound) is available here:

In particular the footage of Fred Moore working at his animation desk starts around the 1:55 mark in the above link (not embeddable, so you'll have to click through the link to see the footage) .

Some of this footage has been re-used in different "behind-the-scenes" documentaries about Disney.

A version of this was released to theaters for general audiences , titled "How Walt Disney Cartoons are Made" . Some , but not all of the footage is identical:

And here's a similar sort of newsreel report going behind-the-scenes at the Fleischer Studio in Miami, Florida, about 1939 -

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dailymation- Yoni Goodman

Students check this out:


Animator Yoni Goodman writes:

"I decided to do a daily rough exercise in traditional animation, just to loosen the hand a bit and study the weights and motion.
Most of my career as an animator revolved around fast, efficient animations, mainly Flash cutouts.
Some time ago I got sick of the technicality of cutouts & decided to return to the basics of frame by frame drawn animation.   To get my hand back in shape I started doing Dailymations -  short, sketchy, rough & FUN animations, more about mass and movement and less about fine, clean animation. 
Each exercises is done in about one - to - two hours of work (more or less). 
Every now and then I'll post some of my other stuff, but this is mostly about  Dailymations. "

Here is just one example .  Check out the Dailymation blog and comb through the archives to watch what someone can do in an hour or two a day of animating just for the pure joy of it.

Walking Woman - animated by Yoni Goodman
"Done in about an hour-and-a-half." writes Yoni.

A simple rule about animation (as with many other things):  the only way to get good at it is to DO IT.  (A LOT!)    Practice, practice, practice .

A couple of more:

Old Age - animated by Yoni Goodman

"Old woman getting to a chair
Thought i'd try something with a little more weight.
Took about an hour and a half."

Swordfight - animate by Yoni Goodman
"Didn't really plan how this fight would go, I let the characters lead the way. at some points I thought I'd let one guy win, then I countered the attack and let the other take the offensive, so in a way it was a bit like an actual swordfight (only m-u-c-h slower)
eventually no one won, I guess.

Done in about two hours"

Of course, these drawings could be refined more in a subsequent tie-down pass ,  but by working rough like this he gets his initial pass rough animated without investing a whole lot of time .  Once you get something like this roughed-out you have something to work with , you can see it moving , and you can see where you need to tweak it.  Then you're not just guessing about the timing.  The sooner you can get your timing worked out rough in a "scribble pass" like this , then you can spend  additional time refining the drawings and tweaking the timing as needed. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Good article:


Written with reference mainly to traditional stop-motion animation vs. CG ,  but the points are equally valid for hand-drawn vs. CG.

In the constant push to learn new software there develops this illusion in many beginning student's minds that the software is what will really do it for them,  that's what is really important.   They lose sight of animation as an expressive art , that shows the hand of the artist.

(click the image to see image larger)

(*some might say that the high-standard set by animators like Milt Kahl, is "perfection" in animation ,  but it's a skillful illusion-of-perfection, the "illusion of life"  , not a slavish reproduction of realism , because there is enough artistic license and graphic "cheats" in these drawings to keep them from looking too perfect, too realistic.   The human hand of the artist is evident.  There is a warmth and appeal to the drawings that we respond to as humans.)

This is in no way to denigrate the skill level it takes to do appealing, warm CG animation.   If anything the CG animator has the greater task to avoid having the animation look "too perfect".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Friday Inspiration: Frédéric Back and others

Here are some videos to inspire you as we go into the weekend and next week's Spring Break .    I came across these inspirational videos and links on Dan Caylor's "ON ANIMATION" site recently.    These are all too good not to share, so I'm reposting them here.

Frédéric Back is one of our greatest living animators and film makers.    He is perhaps best known for his 30-minute tour de force "The Man Who Planted Trees" .    If you do not know this film I highly recommend you get the DVD set  "The Man Who Planted Trees DVD Box Set - Nine Animated Classics by Frederic Back"

In this recent interview, Daisuke Tsutsumi interviews Frédéric Back about his life, passion, and contribution to SketchTravel. (see  for more information)

SketchTravel - Frederic Back from Curio on Vimeo.

Part 1 of "The Man Who Planted Trees" -


Next , illustrator and character designer Wouter Tulp demonstrates his drawing process:

Character sketch from Wouter Tulp on Vimeo.


Finally, here is a wonderful blog of life drawings from current and former employees of Aardman Animation, Bristol, UK   -

drawing by Aardman Animation artist Ashley Boddy
(click on image to see it larger)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Inspiration: Pencil Tests - deleted scenes from Snow White

 During the making-of Walt Disney's  "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" several sequences were started and then abandoned due to story changes or pacing issues.

Walt made the difficult decision to cut sequences that had already been completely animated , for the good of the overall pacing of the film.   Fortunately for us the Disney Studio preserved the original drawings and the pencil test footage so we can view these "lost" scenes :

The Soup Sequence -  (Dwarfs animated mainly by Ward Kimball,  with some scenes by Fred Spencer, Bill Tytla, Marvin Woodward, Dick Lundy and Bill Roberts. Snow White animated by Grim Natwick)

Here's the link to see the Bedroom Fight Scene between Grumpy and Doc (Dwarfs animated by Fred Moore , Snow White animated by Grim Natwick , with a couple of scenes of Snow White animated by Jack Campbell) .  Embedding is disabled , so you'll have to click through to YouTube to watch it:

Bedroom Fight sequence Pencil Test -- CLICK HERE to view --

Monday, February 28, 2011

Inspiration: Master Animators At Work - SYLVAIN CHOMET

In this excerpt from the BBC series "The Secret of Drawing" (2006) director Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville  and  L'Illusionniste ) demonstrates his approach to drawing for animation.  The work shown is an early test scene from "The Illusionist"  (released 2010) .  

The entire episode is available here:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inspiration: Uli Meyer

Students:  if you're not familiar with the work of Uli Meyer and his London animation studio  "Uli Meyer Animation"  you should definitely get to know his work.

In addition to his studio website , Uli has a couple of blogs where he posts his incredible pen & ink drawings :

A few samples of  Uli's work below.  Click on through to those links above to see more of his drawings.

An early show reel of Uli's work from approx. 1987 - 1993 . Commercials and feature films ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit" , "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West", "Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest") -

Amazing animation test done in the style of Ronald Searle, based on Searle's St. Trinian's girls :

Totally captured the Searle look in animation. Uli describes the process:

"On September 22nd I presented a 25sec animation test featuring a St. Trinian's schoolgirl to the creator of those classic British characters, Ronald Searle himself. Searle has had a few bad experiences when it comes to animation -his drawing style is extremely difficult to adapt and apart from a few short pieces of animation done by Ivor Woods in the 70s, he hasn't been impressed by any attempts. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give this a go and am delirious to report that he loved it! He even commented that it was the best he'd seen since Ivor: a truly wonderful compliment.

The original St. Trinian's cartoons are spot gags featuring the terrible killer schoolgirls and their teachers at the notorious, albeit fictional, boarding school. They commit murder, blackmail and extraordinary naughtiness against the backdrop of a supposedly more innocent era - 1945 to 1952.

There isn't a story. Searle's anarchic humor works as a single image -- not obviously lending itself to animation. Therefore, I picked one of the cartoons and added a little lead-up story.

Matt Jones and I boarded a sequence which was originally longer than 25 seconds and involved a massive crowd scene in the St. Trinian's dormitory. But I decided to keep it simple - it was meant to be a test after all. Based on the boards, I drew the layouts and posed the shots on 8s and 12s. The wonderful animation is by Sandro Cleuzo, who animated the first shot and Boris Hiestand, who animated the rest.

My job was to keep the whole project in the Searle universe. I drew the BGs onto frosted cel, each one five times to give the environments a slight boil. I then drew the character animation onto frosted cel with a mapping nib and black ink, trying to keep it as loose as possible whilst putting the characters on 'Searle' model. The animation is mostly on ones and I managed to get through 40-50 drawings per day. Helene Leroux, a very talented young French artist, traced the last shot. Loose lines further produced the 'boil' effect, which goes well with the Searle style.

The drawings were then scanned and composited by Michael Schlingmann in After Effects. Michael figured out a complex system of mixes to keep the multiple background drawings alive and in style with the lively lines of the animation drawings. We added a mix of existing music to the edit, hoping the composers won't mind since this is not a commercial project. The little film was great fun to put together - a welcome opportunity to remember those dusty 2D animation skills."

(click image to view it larger)