What I Learned from Animators Kevin O’Hara, Rob Thompson and Production Designer Harley Jessup #GoodDinoEvent

what i learned gooddinoevent

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what i learned gooddinoevent

When you watch an animated movie, do you ever think about what actually goes into making the movie itself?  Until I went on my first trip with Disney I had never really thought past watching the movie.  Now I am amazed at all of the work that goes into the production.  I have always been intrigued with graphic design, starting with pieces and ending with a finished product.  So sharing all that goes into the making of an animated movie like “The Good Dinosaur” is what I have in store for you today!

Image provided by Pixar

What I Learned From Animators Kevin O’Hara & Rob Thompson

  • The animation department enjoys what they do. They are lucky to have a job they can have fun at, although it is a lot of work.
  • Every film they work on they become these characters. Becoming a character they become invested in that character or characters. When they began working on the Good Dinosaur they had to figure out how can you be a dinosaur?  You can’t go outside to watch dinosaurs nor can you go to the zoo.
  • You can go to the zoo to see elephants which are the closest thing to a dinosaur. So they had many research trips to the zoo. They wanted to get the scale of these dinosaurs from the elephants. The locomotion of how they walked.   For Kevin or Rob to animate a human walking isn’t hard or very hard. But a four-legged animal is especially when they do not exist anymore.
  • They are very lucky to have Kevin who broke down how to walk like an elephant.
  • While looking at some footage of the elephant in a profile we were able to see how elephants are so graceful yet massive.  They are essentially the  same size as Arlo when he was younger.  They had to adjust the weight/heaviness of the foot motion in order to have it slam the feet to make it seem heavier than the elephant.
  • While dealing with locomotion- it is all about efficiencies. You have to figure out where does the weight go for the arms. Animating a 4 legged animal is harder. There were 4 keys when developing the gait of the dinosaur. To keep this light I am not going to go into each one, but this is how the dinosaur is kept balanced with 4 key poses so to speak which help with the locomotion of the movement.
  • There are 2 methods that can be used.  Pose to Pose which can create 100 frames/drawings or using 4 drawings. I would choose the later myself.
  • The animation team sit in the same room we were in to see the same demo we were shown. This is where they have their  ‘Dailys with Pete’.  The animation department at Pixar and can be working on several films at one time. So it is here that they are able to talk about 1 film at a time.
  • They normally start out with 10-12 animators on pre-production then inventory to animate they add 20-25 and at the peak 85 animators. Since a movie takes 4 or 5 years to make, the animators grow as time goes on.
  • An animator named Jamie starts with blocking (rough draft) which is 3 versions of the scene Blocking takes her 4 days. IP ( in progress), she takes her 4 key poses. : Arlo walking up the hill, deals with all of the elements. Arlo’s tale is in this IP portion. She has to make sure the tale spacing is correct, that the camera is working with the motion that shows Arlo’s emotion.   The IP portion is smoother. There is no background, just a stage. You don’t want to load the whole environment just show where the character is. IP takes about 1 1/2 weeks. Once that is approved, she goes on to the polishing which should have no issues being approved by the director. Polishing takes 1 week about.
    • So if we add that up. 1 scene for Jamie from the ‘rough draft’ to the ‘finished’ product takes her 3 weeks.  ONE scene.
- Spot character study by Peter Sohn. ©2015
THE GOOD DINOSAUR – Spot character study by Peter Sohn. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
  • When Spot was first introduced, he wasn’t on all 4s but it took away from the “boy and his dog” concept.  This was because they were not only working with a human (2 legs) and a dog (4 legs).  With studying other animals such as a raccoon and of course dogs.  They just didn’t want Spot to look like a human on all fours.  They were able to achieve this eventually.
  • To sum it all up. Animation is hard but very rewarding.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR - Production Designer Harley Jessup presents at the Long Lead Press Days at Pixar Studios. Photo by: Marc Flores. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR – Production Designer Harley Jessup presents at the Long Lead Press Days at Pixar Studios. Photo by: Marc Flores. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

What I Learned from Production Designer Harley Jessup

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  • Harley Jessup-productions Good Dinosaur leads a team of artists, set designers, and sculptors.
  • The sets have to be realistic yet believable.  The scenery was awesomely beautiful and yet at times had to be  threatening to Arlo. The team were trying for an idealize landscape painting approach to the backgrounds.
    They wanted to make sure to use huge variety of natural formations and features to create the atmosphere and feel of the movie’s setting.
  • Thanks to some pretty intense research trips to Wyoming, Jackson Valley, Great Tetons, as well as Yellowstone National Park they were able to create realistic sets.  They had beautiful, awesome scenery as well as scenery that would pose threatening to Arlo at the times when needed.
  • They were trying for an idealize landscape with the painting approach to the backgrounds. They had a huge variety of natural formations and features.  They wanted to include the Aspen Forrest in the valleys.
  • Everything was created from scratch. It is pretty nerdy if an outside thinks about it.  To know the look and feel of the grass, leaves vegetation. They can’t go to the location so they have to bring back the sage brush, aspen bark and all of that folds into the final look of the film.
  • The “spine” of the movie was the river.  So the quality of the rivers and waterfalls, the quality were very important.  Pete Sohn compared their river to the Yellow Brick Road of the film. The geysers, hot springs of Yellowstone was a big inspiration while doing their scenery also.
  • Arlo is 18 feet tall, so the banner in the main area of the Steve Jobs Building is actual size for Arlo.
    The banner of the parents and the t-rex’s are actually shorter than in real life. They would have had to be taller than the building in order to be actual size.
  • The t-rex’s Butch, Nash, Ramsey were to look like cowboys on horses.  So the team had to take Pete’s ideas for postures and have them be pulled up in order to pull this off. The was an animation end design challenge.
  • Early drawings of Spot, Arlo and others move to clay models of them to see how they work in a three-dimensional look. This is to see how they will look and if they are happy with that.
  • The story team did the drawing of the river, (the spine). Cunningham’s 140 year-old cabin which was also shown in the 1951 movie Shane (Peter Sohn’s) favorite movie.  The dinosaurs home was based on the old homesteads but their version of the homestead dinosaur house there.
  • They took in account how the dinosaurs would have built the house since they did not have hands for sawing. Everything is built to a scale, dug out of the ground like in the pioneer days. Big timbers tipped up. End walls made out of big stones.  Top of the dinosaur house would be 40 feet tall. The Steve jobs building is 35 feet tall which gives you an idea just how big it would have to become.
  • The team had to create a cut-out of the whole character in order to get the correct scale of the head.  So they took it outside to figure out the size ratio. So this showed how small they are in the whole environment (50 miles then 100 miles set span).
Pet Collector study by Matt Nolte
THE GOOD DINOSAUR – Pet Collector study by Matt Nolte. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
  • Lastly, we learned about the little critter type characters. Creatures like a raccoon, opposums were referred to as dream crushers, kind of vicious names, but they weren’t actually ‘our’ types of animals. They took normal rodents like mice or exotic birds and put a comb on their head or a frill on their lizard, prehistoric notes to keep with the time frame. The armadillo had spikes, the fox elongated ears.  Not many requirements for the animals, they just had to be exotic and funny.

So when you go to the theater on November 25, 2015, to see “The Good Dinosaur” keep some of this information in your mind.  You will never look at an animated film the same way again, at least I don’t.

The Good Dinosaur -newest poster

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