Thursday, November 24, 2011

CARS 2 - Animation Reel

Cars 2 is out on DVD, so it's that time again...
Below is my shots I did on the film - enjoy!
(color is mine, black/white is other animators)

1) Agent Leland Turbo - I was really excited to get these shots. Then I realized, before the credits, before the title card, audiences were going to be seeing my animation first. Excitement quickly turned to Nervous.
2) Finn on Tightrope - So how do you make a car swing around on a rope? Beats me! I tried tying a jumprope on my car's bumper but for some reason the rope couldnt support the car's weight ;^)
3) Finn Swan Dive - Thank you YouTube. I watched a dozen clips of different cars peeling out before I did my take on it. As a animator, you get excited by that one lil' thing that you added. It can be as small and meaningless as a blink, but you know that blink has that extra something special you added in there. For me, I really like that look Finn get's in his eyes as he goes over the edge. When the ground is pulled out from under him, even though he is a top-notch spy, his eyes dont lie. There is that brief 'Oh No!' look that he gets.
4) Bathroom Brawl - Car tranforming, 1st thought that came into my mind 'Total Recall'. A Chubby middle-age woman turning into Arnold. Also, I animated these shots using scratch dialogue. It wasnt til a few months later that I found out that I animated to Bruce 'Evil Dead' Campbell's voice. I wish someone wouldve tapped me on the shoulder while I was watching 'Army of Darkness'  in the theatre and whisper you're gonna animate him one day!
5) Francesco in the Zone - I was helping out a fellow animator by taking this small shot off his plate. Lesson learned, there is no small shots. John L. really liked what I did with Francesco there in the background and I started getting more and more Francesco acting shots.
6) Karate Cars - Thanks to my fellow animator Michal for showing me how a car could actually throw another one. I owe ya one Mike!
7) Mater vs. McQueen - Out of all my CARS shots, these mean the most to me. John L. spoke about the importance of this moment in the film. You are experiencing a fight among two best friends. I approached this sequence less about posing and more about overall rythm. When you 1st see Mater, he is happy, carefree, always moving. Throughout these shots, it slowly dawns on him what he has done and he moves less and less. Til the last shot where he does not move at all. I learned alot on these shots. It was great to have an amazing animator, Rob Thompson, who animated McQueen to bounce off acting beats with.
8) Francesco loves his Mama - I wanted Francesco to be in his element. This is his homeland. He is not talking to McQueen as much as he is talking to his fans. Every move he does has to be read by the person in the back row of the stadium. John Turtorro's voice performance made this character. When you have a actor that good, it makes your job as a animator very easy. You can just see the performance already by just listening to the voice.
9) Francesco the TV Star - I feel really lucky that I kept getting Francesco shots. He's just so fun to animate. One rule I had when animating this sequence of shots, Francesco would only look at the camera if he was taking a jab at McQueen. Like two boxers going at it, trying to get inside the other's head.
10) ClockTower Mater - I asked for this one specific shot of Mater running on the gears. I had no idea on how I was going to make a tow-truck run on fast spinning gears but that's why I took it. It's good to be scared! I tried my best to pull off a 'Doug Sweetland' type of cartoony motion that he does so masterfully. I just wasnt getting it right. Reblock after Reblock, my supervisor came up to me and said 'be Aaron Hartline, I like his animation' That definetly helped get my confidence back and give it one last try.

Getting the chance to work w John Lasseter was a dream come true. I remember watching Toy Story, walking out of that theatre my goal was to work for Pixar. 13 years of trying,  I did it! And to top it all off, I've got the man himself, Mr John Lasseter directing me. I wish I could find the words..

I just kept remembering that Chicago kid walking out of the theatre. As JL was talking to me, I kept thinking 'is this really happening right now?'

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Tomorrow a very unique sketchbook will be bid off for a great cause. If you haven't heard about it, then I urge you to go take a look right now.

I just hope they sell it in stores soon!

71 Artists all in 1 Sketchbook
 Poster for the Event
My old college bud, Mr Daniel Lopez's piece 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CARS 2 Animators Behind the Wheel

WOW, last post was August! Sorry for the delay in posting. It's hard to do animation updates when your working on a film that won't come out til the end of 2013. Nevertheless, I promise to post more often. Even if it's just to say hello on a weekly basis.
Now that Cars 2 has done it's run in theatres and is soon coming out on DVD, I can share with you some of the footage that is getting released online. Over a year ago I got to drive really fast and get paid for it! (I love my job) 

Since we were all about to start animating cars for the film, it's important we understand how they move. How the weight shifts when you hit the gas or apply the brakes. Here is a snippet from that fun day.  I'm in one of those silver cars :0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs

This past weekend at Disney Fan Convention D23, Disney/Pixar announced the film I am currently working on titled'The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs'

The movie doesn't come out til Nov. 27th 2013, which by the way my 16 year old daughter will be in college by then. Wow, I'm feeling old right now.

I'm really excited to be part of such a small pre-production crew. With each animation test, we get closer and closer finding who these characters are. I like to think that they are out there already and if we listen closely, they will tell us who they are.

The D23 announcement by Director Bob Peterson and Producer John Walker

Pic from the making of UP that 1st hinted that Pixar was making a dino movie.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pencil Kings

Years ago I did a interview for a website called Strut Your Reel. It was a great site for the animation community, it actually put faces onto some of your favorite shots in animated films. I miss not having it around anymore, it was one of those sites I visited daily as I waited for my animation to playblast.

So when Tim Linklater asked if I would be interested in doing a video interview for his new site, Pencil Kings, I didn't hesitate. Looking at the finished product and the new site, I'm really happy to be part of it. It's even on a higher level then Strut.

Click on the pic below and enjoy!

Thanks Tim!

Friday, June 24, 2011

CARS 2 in theatres today!

After a year of working on Mater, Francesco, Finn and the gang - Cars 2 opens in theatres today.

I'd be lying if I say I didn't follow what the critics are saying about the film. To be honest, 5 years ago when I watched the original Cars I was saying alot of the similar comments the critics are saying today. The thing is, 4 years ago I had my boy Jackson. It wasn't until I pressed play on the dvd player and watched my son smile ear to ear as he watched Lightning and Mater do tractor tipping, that I finally 'got it!'
The Cars franchise is not for me or the film critics - it's just good clean popcorn movie fun for the kids. And for that, I feel extremely proud to be part of it.

I'm going to love watching my son's smiling face as he watches Finn McMissle drive across the big screen this weekend.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I LOVE MY JOB! Where else do you get to take your 4 yr old son to see Elmo on your lunch break.

A new film was shown at Sundance called 'Being Elmo' about the life of Elmo's puppeteer, Kevin Clash. I can't say enough good things about this film! Even if your not a Elmo fan (personally I'm more a Gonzo guy!), the story is so inspiring watching a young boy making puppets out of his dad's old coat to a young man actually getting to perform next to his idol, Jim Henson.

I'm proud to say I cried 3 times during this film!

Elmo and his puppeteer, Kevin Clash
Elmo and Kevin spotted Jackson in the audience and came up to say hi!
Jackson and his new best friend Elmo!

A young fan watches Elmo up on stage.

If you ever get a chance to see this film - do it! I filled up my 'inspired' tank after watching the film.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cars 2 - My Finn Shots

Disney / Pixar released a viral video for Cars 2. In the video, if you look closely you can find a link to a few minutes of some footage of Cars 2. To view both of these videos, click here!

A few of my shots I animated shows up at the end of the Cars 2 footage. Below I animated all the shots of Finn McMissle getting cornered, rev'ing, then hitting reverse and going off the edge into the water.
Cars 2 was a big challenge for me. When I was 25 I got into a car accident - it was bad enough for me to vow not to drive for awhile. 10 years later, leaving NYC to come out west, I knew it was time for me to get behind the wheel again. As I was re-learning how to drive, I was going onto Cars 2. For a guy who took public transportation most of his adult life - animating cars was pretty nerve wracking at first. I had no idea how to make a car move believable.

Being part of such a great team - Animators showed me how a particular car should move. We took a class from a professional race car driver. About halfway through I felt like it was all starting to sink in. Needless to say, I'm a total pro behind the wheel now. I drive to work with my eyes closed! kidding ;0)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

CARS 2 Animation Wraps

My last shot on Cars 2 approved and finaled.

A few weeks of downtime before going onto Pixar film #4 (#9 if you count all the films i've worked on) Yikes! That's starting to sound like I'm a old timer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

TS3 Animation Reel

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.
Oscar, Lee and Me
Toy Story 3 Animation Department
A Clean Start - start of TS3 Animation

Monday, February 21, 2011

Please Stand By

Hey All.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I'm rounding the corner and headed towards the finish line on CARS 2. Just got my last shots assigned to me today with this guy below.
I'll start posting soon, only 6 more shots to go :0)


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.
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.

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.
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.
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)