Saturday, January 29, 2011

Return of the Region Rat

Last year I gave the Commencement Speech at my old Chicago highschool. It was 17 years ago when I last stood on that very stage receiving my diploma and now I was asked to return with
words of wisdom to the next generation.

Its hard to put into words what those twenty minutes were like. Its certainly a moment I will never forget.
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What's a region rat?

The Region n : an area of Indiana encompassing Lake County; many Hoosiers immediately recognize a 'Region-Rat' from the subtle nuances in dialect and propensity of proclaiming being 'from Chicago', albight living in Indiana.

Non-'
Regionites' have the ignorant belief that da Region is a gang-infested wasteland a la Mad Max or Escape from New York / LA. If your from the Region, you know this is not a belief but rather a fact ;0)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

ROBOTS - Animation Reel

Well, with the good ones comes the bad and this folks is my BAD! Ladies and Gentlemen, I present - ROBOTS.

Truth be told, it was on my 1st day at BlueSky I saw a William Joyce drawing framed in the halls. Later I found out that William Joyce's Robots would be the 2nd film. I was so excited - I read so many Joyce childrens books to my daughter that I couldn't believe I was going to bring his characters to life! During all of Ice Age I justed wanted to get through it so I could start on Robots.

When Ice Age was a success and we started pre-vis on Robots, everything was going great. The designs were creative, like nothing that had been done before. I managed to read the 1st draft of the script, it was amazing. Had such a old time Hollywood feel to it (the closest thing I can compare it to is The Coen Brother's The Hudsucker Proxy)

So, what happened? I wish I knew.

Truth be told, those 2+ years animating was the absolute hardest and heartbreaking of any project i've ever worked on. Although, I feel every artist needs a Robots once in their career.
You need the lows to make those highs that much sweeter.
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LUGNUT (workout?) - This was done before the start of the film. We would grab audio lines from actors and animate to them. I always though John C. Reilly wouldve been a perfect Lugnut. This was taken from Boogie Nights for the sole purpose 0f testing out his jaw rig.
BIGWELD (buttah!) - Yep, this was Bigweld at one time. Actually he was the big round jolly guy you see, but behind closed doors - his ball would open up and this lil' guy would pop out (ala The Wizard of Oz). This line is Steve Martin in Bowfinger, the purpose of this test was to play with follow-thru on the wires of the robot characters.
BABY RODNEY - when I got this shot assigned I immediately thought 'Not again!' On Ice Age I did most of the human baby shots. From this shot on, it was my goal not to just repeat myself again. I had to work harder to become a better animator.
DAD DISHWASHER - Reminded me of going to visit my dad at his job, he is a welder. I still remember him showing me his beat up welding mask with a Chicago Bears sticker on it. Wanted to capture that memory in this shot.
BIGWELD CHAIR RIDE - While animating this, I wanted to find movements that would be uniquely Bigweld. Sort a like when someone does the moon walk yo instantly think of Michael Jackson. The last pose of this shot I wanted it to be iconic, something BW would always do.
MOM HUG RODNEY - Ouch! This one hurts. Such a emotional scene and I really didn't do it justice. I wish I could go back in time a re-animate this.
RATCHET (big city kid!) - Heres is just one shot of many that never made it into the film.
Animated films are usually around 72 minutes long. I think we animated in total 120 minutes for Robots, alot of which was finished rendered shots that ended up on the cutting room floor.
My hope is that they would end up on the dvd one day - no such luck!
RODNEY MAGNET HAIR - For this shot modeling gave me 10 different hair shapes, it was up to me to think of creative ways to go from one pose to the other. This was a hard shot because alot of the notes from the director was about in what order should each hair shape appear. Alot of reblocking! Some hair shapes I didnt end up using was Elvis and Lincoln.
RODNEY (outmoding millions of bots) - Although Rodney takes center stage here, I was more interested in getting Ratchet just right. Having the right pose that shows off his power.
FENDER (the Rodster) - Concentrated on clean poses since there is alot going on in this shot. Wanted to make sure that everything read clearly on Fender so when Rodney working on his head, that the audience can still follow along w the acting.
Dr.V NEEDLE - Poor Dr.V, never had your moment to shine! In a old cut of the film, Gasket calls in the good doctor to reprogram Bigweld's brain to do her bidding. I really wanted to get that shaky old man with a needle feel.
RATCHET / GASKET - I didnt get to animate to many Gasket shots, but she was alot of fun to animate. So many moving parts, felt like a really hard puzzle you had to solve when animating her.
BIGWELD TRAPPED - Fun to play with BW's hose like arms to get clean S-shapes in them.
PICKUP TREADMILL - This was a really quick fun shot to do. To just really sell the weight of a object through the timing and body poses. I think I animated this shot in a day.
FENDER MINI-SKIRT - I really wanted to show the anim supes that I could do full body animation since I mostly got close up face animation on Ice Age. Looking at this shot now, I moved that body WAY too much.
RODNEY STUCK - Again, great lil' fun shot to sell being stuck to a magnet through poses and timing. Sometimes the small throw away shots are the funnest. No stress!
BIGWELD DOMINOES - Really wanted to get fast moving hands on Bigweld to show he has setup dominoes for years now. Why Dominoes? I have no idea!
BW SWEETKEESTER - A robot talking about another one's butt?! Uh yeah, lets move on! That's the directors voice for Rodney.
FENDER (in a huff!) - Fun to really play with Fender's body pose to show that he is royalty. Also with Tim the Guard in the back I just went straight ahead and animated it concentrating more on the timing and less on the poses.
RATCHET (lets do it!) - This is one of those shots that I did twice. After I got the final, the next day there would be new audio with new direction. Here's both.
WINDUP CAR - this was the moment when I lost hope. Here the lightpost walks off after a long days work, in the film version Aunt Fan blows a fart that makes him pass out dead. I couldn't do it. I asked for someone else to re-animate the lightpost.
SCREWDRIVER PLEASE - A drunk robot ordering at a bar? What is this film about again!
DAD SICK - I learned alot on this shot - managing a long shot w 3 characters, knowing who to move at the right time, directing the audience's eyes to the right places on the screen.
FENDER (lil' teapot) - Last shot. I'm too tired to make any more comments.

Mork from Ork(played Fender in ROBOTS) and me.
Halle Berry (played Cappy in ROBOTS) and some lucky schmuck!

Friday, January 7, 2011

UP - Animation Reel

After carefully picking out what shots to put into my 'Decade Demo Reel', thought it might be nice to do a reel for each film I worked on. Show all my shots - the good, bad, and ugly.

To kick this off, I chose UP - my 1st film at PIXAR.
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1) CARL COMES HOME - My 1st shots animating at PIXAR. Simple enough, a close up of Carl's feet as he enters frame. That shot kicked my butt!! I kept getting notes on those feet. After I finished those shots, I started to wonder if I could actually make it as a animator at Pixar? Sometimes its the shots you least expect that do you in.
2) CARL PUSHES THE HOUSE - Back to basics. After sweating through those 1st shots, I immediately went outside and started filming me pushing and pulling the Pixar building. I even grabbed one of the chairs and started throwing it around. I kept a eye out for security, didn't want them to see the new guy ruining company property.
3) YOUNG CARL and ELLIE - I was super excited when I got these. After years of animating Scrat, I felt at home being able to do some slap-stick physical comedy. At the same time there was another sequence in the animation department, Married Life. I was a bit bummed I missed out on that beautiful sequence. Each time I watch it, I still get choked up.
4) DUG 'Point!' - In the beginning of the film Scott Clark, the Animation Supe, asked if there was any shots we wanted. I wrote a email back saying "How about shots we don't want? Please, Please, Please - No Dogs!' Welp, sure enough I got some canine animation. Scott was nice enough to say 'We have your back! If you have any problems, we are here to help you' Sometimes that's all a person needs to hear.
5) CARL ANGRY AT RUSSELL - After 2 cartoony shots, I requested this shot. I wanted to show that I can do more then just slapstick. I must've done alright, cause I got some more dramatic acting right after.
6) MUNTZ SUSPICIOUS - I was incredibly excited and scared as hell when I found out I was getting these shots. Excited to animate Muntz, a amazing villian designed by my old college buddy, Mr Daniel Lopez Munoz. It was surreal bringing my Chicago buddy's design to life. On the other hand, scared to be animating right in the middle of a couple of the best animators at Pixar, Michal Makarewicz and Travis Hathaway. I was responsible for taking Michal's lost in the moment and Travis's evil threat - and stitch those two moments together seemlessly
7) CARL CLIMBS THE BLIMP - When you get shots like this, you have to treat it like a game of chess. Carefully plan your moves, don't do to much - just the right amount at the right time. Really enjoyed putting the lil' details in these shots, like a hand adjust or a foot slip. Something that makes it feel grounded in reality.
8) CHASE SQUIRREL - This was a weekend assignment. Who would like to do a few scrapbook images for overtime pay. When posing it out, they didn't have a squirrel model so I posed out Ellie's hamster. The art department painted over hammy to turn him into the scared squirrel you see.

I let Pete pose with me and my Oscar ;0)