Top Essentials in Animating Creatures to Think About ( Part 1 )
Once the beginning animation student get through their bouncing ball exercises and the pendulums, the stuff that everyone goes through, then they get to the first basic walk animation. Sometimes after doing a successful walk, the temptation is to continue working solely with bipeds and and then plunge into the mechanics of the human body, and capping that off with performances tied to audio clips.
And that leaves the lowly creatures in the dust. People seem to forget that creatures are downright interesting; just look at the success of the Monsters, Inc. franchise. We here at Austin Visuals are going to look at the top five reasons that knowing how to animate creatures is an essential skill in the marketplace right now.
1. Many companies feature creatures in their movies.
If you think about the question “Why should I learn how to animate creatures?” then that is easily answered by looking at the list – the extensive list of films that that feature creatures in their movies, which are either based on existing or fantasy animals. Here’s a partial list of the many major companies that do so:
Pixar Animation Studios has produced the Toy Story series (1, 2 and 3), A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Wall-E (remember the cockroach?), Up, and Brave. Oh, and The Incredibles had that great cat in it.
Dreamworks has made the Croods, Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, the Madagascar series, Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2, Megamind, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon, and Bee Movie.
Blue Sky Studios has created the Ice Age series (the self-titled, plue Continental Drift, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Meltdown), Rio, Epic, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
It’s evident that many, many movies that companies produce include creatures, if only for comedic effect, if not as feature performers. It could therefore be rightly concluded that creatures are an integral and essential part of the work that animators for at these studios, and at many others that we haven’t listed.
So what has this got to do with your demo reel? When you’re assembling it, you really have to think about where it’s going – your target audience, in other words. Your reel has to be custom-made for the company you’re applying for. The reel you use to apply to Pixar is going to look different from your application to the animation company that your friend-of-a-friend runs. You have to study the company: What are they doing, stylistically? What sort of characters are they creating?
In short, why would you want to look at and learn creature animation? Odds are, when you start work at an animation studio, that’s what you’ll be working on.
2. Diversity in your reel is essential.
When looking at student feature animation reels, many of them will show a young human character performing some variety of actions. For quite a while the only thing we would see was male characters, due to the scarcity of female character rigs, but gratefully these are more available currently. Even so, it’s hardly common to see a very old character, or very young one, or perhaps an extremely tall, or big, or skinny, or whatever. Exaggerate some characteristic of your characters; make them interesting in some way, as the lack of diversity is killing your reel. You need to make each shot stand out in some way.
A new skill set should be demonstrated by every shot on your reel, Look at different things, from pantomime to body mechanics, from weight to performance anything else you can think of in between. Certainly you don’t want to show the same twenty weight lifting exercises in different ways, but the same goes for characters. No one wants to see the same character over and over again, as that doesn’t show any depth of skill; it limits your acting performance possibilities.
In terms of animating creatures, it would serve you well to think outside the box – think about borrowing specific animal behavior from the real world to augment the performances of your animated actors. When you start blurring the lines between humans and animals, you can achieve some very interesting exploits by sliding back and forth between the two realms.
For example, imagine a creature moving from Point A, to Point B, where there is an object. It then inspects that object and delivers a line of dialogue regarding it. This type of shot is pretty complex – read: interesting – and displays creature locomotion, an anthropomorphic presentation, through pantomime, which is buttressed by some lip syncing. That’s not just some simple weight lifting, that’s three different types of exercises rolled into one! With a demo like this, you can show that you’ve studied how the creature moves, you can prove that you’ve not just rotoscoped that movement, as that you’ve stylized it enough to prove that point. You can also show how you use your creature’s body mechanics to influence the performance, and how its’ animalistic features factor in. Take, for example, Kaa the snake from Disney’s Jungle Book, with his sinuous movements, sibilant speech, and constant tongue hissing.
The tip we want you to take from this is that once you start melding animal and human behavior, you get a much greater variety of acting choices. This makes your performances much more entertaining to watch, and at the same time you as the animator are able to show off your different skill sets within the same shot.
Isn’t it time you invested the services of a professional video company like Austin Visuals to create a video for you? We have several top-notch animators on staff, ready to help you out with video-related need you can conceive of. Give us a call at 512.591.8024 and we can talk about your needs and the best way to fulfill them.