Back in '95 I went to go see a lil' animated movie about a toy cowboy and spaceman by unknown company. Walking out of that theatre I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I immediately went back to night school to learn computer animation. Days and nights went into making demo reel after demo reel hoping one day, some day I would get a job at Pixar.
13 yrs later, I actually got to bring Buzz and Woody to life in Toy Story 3. While animating on this film, I remember thinking to myself 'is this really happening?'
I hope you enjoy watching my TS3 animation below as much as I did animating on it.
WOODY SNEAK - My first Toy Story shots! Opening up my shot, hearing Tom Hanks voice as the Woody rig is staring blankly at me - I went into instant panic! I could not animate anything for two days.
Starting animating, rather then thinking what would Woody do (which is way to intimidating!) I thought of my old lawnmower. Pulling the rope, getting the motor started. I wanted Woody's body to a have a energy throughout those shots, a bouncing vibrating quality much like my old lawnmower I had as a kid.
MR.SAND HEAD - When starting these shots, its important to set everything up so it is easy to animate later on. I made sure to move the pivot point of Mr. P to the side where his hip meets the ground. This way, when rotating - it'll feel believable throughout.
Since Mr.P is basically a big head, I wanted to make sure the eyes told you exactly what was going on. I spent days on getting those flicker blinks just right. I must've done alright cause I ended up getting alot more Mr.P shots later on :0)
VHS ANDY - What can I say! Young Andy playing with his Toys, Randy Newman singing 'You've Got A Friend in Me' - It was like 1995 all over again. Also, Andy is watching Star Wars on the TV (you can hear a Stormtrooper yell then shoot his blaster when there is no music playing). Yeah, this nerd fanboy's head just about exploded while animating on these shots.
SCRAMBLED POTATOES - This shot I knew was going to be all about being organized. There is alot of constraints going on with characters picking up pieces, putting pieces in, throwing pieces to each other. Knowing this ahead of time, I spent a few days organizing and color coding - so when there was changes, I knew exactly where each thing was.
Good thing, cause the 1st time I showed Lee he said 'I'm Lost! What's going on here?!' I had to re-block the entire shot since my intial idea of Mr P looking like Mrs P then reveals that Mrs P is actually Mr P (yeah, I was lost too). Once I got those notes from Lee, I immediately went back to my desk, turned off the computer and pulled out the pencil and paper. I had to find the character design before I could animate it. I went for the most alien like creature for Mr P when you 1st see him in the shot.
BARBIE MEETS KEN - To be honest w you, I was shocked that I was given these shots. I mean, this is movie moment history if done right! Again, panic started to creep in but luckily mr director told me to watch West Side Story when Tony sees Maria. Watching that a few hundred times, I knew exactly what to do.
Its really fun to animate Ken, less is more! I try to think of a guy that was in a horrible ski accident. If you imagine Ken with a invisible neckbrace on and his arms are in casts, then you are 90% done with your shot.
WOODY n REX - After animating alot of big, cartoony moments - the animation supes gave me a rest with these shots. I think they knew something I didn't at the time. A storm on the horizon in the shape of a Tortilla.
TYPING TRIXIE - Once in awhile you hear a character's voice and you know exactly how they should be animated. Kristen Schaal's Trixie is exactly that character. I just imagined those texting teenagers that type a mile a minute with there thumbs while Tom Hanks sits at his old trusty typewriter, looking for each letter.
I do have one regret during Toy Story. I wish I had the courage to ask the director if I could put a Daily Post-it on the computer screen.
GOODBYE GANG - Surprisingly, all these shots got approved pretty fast except for one. Its that moment when Woody turns around one last time to look at his friends in the Attic Box. Getting that expression just right took alot of tweaks. I showed that shot so many times in dailies that finally at the end, I just showed 5 different versions and let the director pick his favorite one. It was a combination of 3.
KEN DANCE - When assigned these shots I immediately thought 'Blue Steel' I went to Google and found as many Ben Stiller Zoolander picks as I could find. I printed them out and taped them all around my monitor.
MR TORTILLA-HEAD - The animation supes took me into a room to tell me the news 'We are giving you Mr. Tortilla-Head' Its one of those moments where your really happy then really nervous. How was I going to animate that thing? Sure it plays funny in boards, but to bring it to life! The Supes knew it was going to be a challenge, being the great leaders they are said 'these are your last shots, take all the time you need!' I kept telling myself, you'll be happy you animated this once it over.
I sure was - although they were extremely hard shots to pull off, I'm really proud to part of that character. There was a small team of us, 3 animators helping each other. Showing each other what works, what didn't. Some reference that really inpired us was Drunk Guy Buying Beer. I wonder if this guy knows he was in a movie?
TRIXIE n REX - Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in ... an i'm glad they did! I really didn't want Toy Story 3 to end so when I heard Lee the director wanted me back for one last shot I had a feeling I knew which one it was. Although it looked like another technical nightmare of a shot, I was soo happy I could extend my stay on the film.
I actually got to go into the recording booth with Kristen Schaal as she did the voice work for this shot. She turned to me and asked 'was that good?' I nodded yes then she screamed 'now get to work!' :)
In this shot I just worked backwards. Knowing they were both made of hard plastic, I just spent a day posing them into crazy Twister type poses until one fitted. Then I just work backwards from there trying to figure how they would get into that pose.
When you wrap on a film, you tired and happy for the break. Then you go to the crew screening and squirm in your seat everytime your shots come up on the big screen. Looking over my TS3 reel as I write this blog post - i'm really proud of my work on this film. It represents the best I could do at this time in my career. I poured my heart and soul into this film. As much as I am happy with the way the trilogy ended, I really wish I could animate those characters again.