Pixar's Up - The Many Endings Of Muntz

As recommended by Richard, I just watched this fascinating snippet into the making of Pixar's Up, which talks about the resolution of Muntz, where several alternative endings felt as if Muntz's character stole the story/limelight from Carl making for an unsatisfying end. In the end, they essentially shaped Muntz story to support that of Carls' as the hierarchy of storytelling determines your main character's needs as central, and everything else must support this.

I found it particularly intriguing as it resembles a similar concern in my story for this project, where the initial ending of the snowman's demise perhaps stole the highlight of the story away from the central refrigerator. Now that the cantankerous refrigerator also meets a similar demise, this begins to focus the story on the main object of the fridge. Essentially, I have to be sure that the snowman's story supports the refrigerator's needs and not overpower it, as perhaps ultimately it is the Cantankerous Refrigerator's story.

Pixar Knick Knack (1986)

Just found a great retro Pixar short known as 'Knick Knack' (1986), also featuring a snowman character.

What strikes me most in relation to this project, is that the snowman's design remains neutral - being neither overly appealing or repelling. As such, our sympathies are detached and not so directly in favour of the snowman.

Thus, in this way perhaps a similar effect can be achieved with my own snowman design shifting its cuteness to a more neutral demeanour, which will allow the focus to remain on the main object of the cantankerous refrigerator.

Snowman References

Some snowman visual references.

Storyboard Draft #1

Initial storyboard to help further refine the story and pacing.

The cantankerous refrigerator, old, rusty and out of his prime, is resting (perhaps confined to the back garden shed and not in the home of the kitchen). With the rising sun, the snowman interrupts the scene seeking refuge inside the refrigerator. He slips as he is slowly melting, making a loud crash that wakes the cantankerous refrigerator from his sleep making him particularly grumpy. A battle of wits occurs as the fridge resists the snowsman's attempts to get inside him. Finally, the sun has reached its peak leaving the snowman to melt in his demise, yet the fridge also meets a similar fate being short-circuited from the water of the melting snow of the snowman.

With a plain background, this helps focus the animation to the central characters while avoiding unnecessary complications by establishing scene and setting. While keeping the cantankerous fridge as the centre in the majority of frames helps to emphasise the focus to the fridge.

A few issues that need to be resolved is that the snowman is perhaps a little 'too' cute, which starts to shift the focus away from the fridge with sympathy in his demise. Shots 1.3 to 1.4 similarly bring attention to the snowman and may perhaps not be necessary to the narrative, as shot 2.5 or 3.2 may work sufficiently to convey the element of the rising sun.

With some further refinement, I believe this could work well in providing an engaging little story while keeping the economy of hand drawing each frame into consideration. Any thoughts and feedback is welcome.

Some rough sketches while drafting the storyboard.

Life Drawing #10

Been a while since I last used charcoal for life drawing.

Cantankerous Walk Cycle

A walk cycle with the tone/mood of our story element, so in this case, a 'Cantankerous' walk cycle.

I tried to emphasise his movements with a stomping motion, wider swinging arms and a hunch. With more inbetween frames and perhaps not so straight edges in the legs, would help smooth the animation as a whole.

Walk Cycle #03

Third walk cycle using the legs of Felix, with a greater emphasis on the contact mechanics similar to that of the previous hand drawn walk cycle.

I'm certainly gaining more confidence with each walk cycle I make, where I look forward to adding the upper body and further tone/mood variations to the walk.

Rig - Arms

With the addition of the arms, this completes the basic rig for a character model.

Hand Drawn Walk Cycle

First attempt at a hand drawn walk cycle animation. Its not perfect, but I am quite pleased with the results coming out better than I excepted, as well as making a small but essential step in understanding the practices of animation.

Initially, it was quite tricky to get started, as you don't realise how many motions are actually involved when walking, it starts to become a fairly complex process when translating this to paper. Even then, this is just a basic walk cycle, where tone and mood would affect the walk cycle quite substantially adding another layer of thought and consideration to the entire process.

La Planète Sauvage (1973)

René Laloux's La Planète Sauvage (1973) or Fantastic Planet, is a strange and captivating sci-fi tale delving into wild themes and concepts that are simply mind-bending.

Humans, now known as 'Oms', are under the tyranny of the giant humanoid race known as the 'Draags', where they hold little regard for 'Oms' and keep them as domestic pets. The thought is quite unnerving and yet the Draags behaviour is not too dissimilar from our own in their cold and calculating rationalism.

The drawings in particular are quite intriguing with the imaginative concepts of Laloux's strange world, where the animation bears a quirky aesthetic that is brimming with atmosphere. One can definitely see how this might has inspired many contemporary examples of its kind.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it as a captivating tale, if a little bit disturbing. The animation is just over an hour long where you can view the entire film on youtube in a series of 8 parts.


La Planète Sauvage (1973) Part 1

Jan Svankmajer (1934)

Jan Svankmajer is a surrealist artist greatly known for his surreal animations. His works are profoundly iconic with some amazing stop motion animations involving clay.

Dimensions of Dialogue (1982)
An experimental stop motion animation, Dimensions of Dialogue is quite incredible with strange yet wonderful transformations each object undertakes, bearing an amazing aesthetic quality with its quirky movements and in the details as a multitude of finger marks are present in the clay transitions.

Part 1

Part 2

Meat Love (1988)
An amusing short involving pieces of meat - the animation is reminiscent to the format of many animation shorts of contemporary works.

Darkness, Light, Darkness (1989)

Quite possibly one of the craziest, most imaginative stop motion animations with clay I've seen. The pacing is perfect to the slow yet deliberate build up to the creation of man, where the clay modelling is amazing particularly when adding facial features such as the eyes. It is quite uncanny especially with the tongue which was a little unnerving to say the least, and the splash of water moment was quite unexpected one can't help but laugh. Definitely worth checking out.

Brothers Quay (1947)

Brothers Quay are most known for their influential stop motion animation techniques, creating surreal and abstract worlds with profound impact.

Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Street of Crocodiles certainly lends itself to the uncanny with the doll heads and very aesthetic quality of stop motion animation with quirky motion. One feels drawn into a completely new world as the animation brims with a certain impenetrable tone and atmosphere with remarkable effect.

Part 1

Part 2

The Comb (1990)
The Comb continues with an eerie quality of an abstract narrative, including a mix of live action scenes that distorts the action. Its a little confusing, but the results are certainly still admirable with a distinct sense of something otherworldly.

Part 1

Part 2

Life Drawing #9

Life Drawing with some clothed warm-ups and later tone and negative space studies. Some trying studies with some success.

(Argh - seemed to make all my past mistakes with this one)

Essay Idea: Hayao Miyazaki

As of yet, my initial idea involves exploring Japanese animation through Hayao Miyazaki in his philosophy and techniques that contrasts the Disneyan principles of animation. I will most likely take a specific example of his films to analyse more thoroughly.

Its still a rough idea that may be subject to some tweaking, as I'm still trying to gather more research material.

Story Ideas - Cantankerous Refrigerator

I've been thinking over a number of story ideas with the prescribed story elements of a cantankerous refrigerator . From a stubborn fridge refusing to open and reveal its contents to its owner, a fussy fridge nit-picking and removing unwanted food contents against its owner's whim, to perhaps competing fridges at a showroom/garage sale or with the fear of impending replacement. Either way, although each story may suffice individually, I wasn't quite satisfied with the ideas feeling perhaps a little too obvious.

As such thinking outside the box (or 'fridge' so to say), a new idea I'm thinking of features a Snowman desperately wanting to get inside the refrigerator before the racing sun rises up. However, our cantankerous fridge thinks otherwise to the snowman's plight and profoundly refuses with a struggle between the two, finally ending to the snowman's tragic yet ultimate demise as the sun reaches its peak.

Its a simple, straightforward plot that takes the well known charming idea of preserving a snowball/snowman in a fridge, with a different spin that is hopefully much more appealing.

Will try to get a storyboard going and some character designs soon enough. Though am intrigued to hear what you think.

Cantankerous Research

Here I've tried to find examples of the cantankerous for further research and reference.

Hugh Laurie's character, House, is a prime example of a cantankerous man. He saves lives - but most genuinely find him particularly difficult to work with.

Here's a clip of a typical dialogue exchange with his character, in the form of his auditioning.

Carl Fredricksen from Pixar's Up also begins as a cantankerous character in the early stages of the film.

Carl's first encounter with Russell is also a prime example (youtube won't let me embed).

A random cantankerous puppet

Another cantankerous example, yet with some strong language so be warned!

A scene from Spongebob with a weird cantankerous character. Stop watching after 0:45 secs as it gets pretty random after that.

La Fete - Animation

Found an intriguing little animation with a lovely hand drawn style. Its not a three act narrative, but the illustrations and techniques are great with the use of sound, transitions and the minimal yet effective use of background elements. Perhaps this may inspire.

La Fete (HD - 2010) from Malcolm Sutherland.

Walk Cycle #02

Second attempt at a walk cycle in Maya and no sliding - hurray! Thanks to the tutorial and Ethan who helped clarify things for me.

Rigging - Mech Leg

More rigging with a funky looking mechanical leg, additionally learning how to combine the geometry to the skeleton joints.

Rigging - Spine

Second workshop into rigging moving onto the Spine.

Hand Drawn Bouncing Balls Animations

Some hand drawn bouncing balls to practice animation techniques. Here the challenge was to convey a convincing movement that the reflected the respectful ball material. So a Rubber ball with squash and stretch, a Ping Pong ball that is light and bouncy, to a Bowling ball that carries weight with no bounce.

I think the Ping Pong ball works best.

Self Object Morph Animation

An experimental hand drawn animation using symbolic objects from the letters of our name. So, as follows:

L for 'Lightbulb'
E for 'Easel'
for 'Orange'...

I also made it loop with only three objects. Hope you like!

It was good to do this to not only learn from mistakes, but to gain confidence when committing to our full hand drawn animation. Consisting of around 35 individual frames, one quickly develops an appreciation for hand drawn animation in the time and dedication it demands, where the results are (hopefully) surely worth it.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Wow, this brought back some memories - although its the first time I've seen the film as a whole. Jason and the Argonauts is a fine example of model stop frame animation techniques with none other than Ray Harryhausen, featuring some magnificent creatures of Greek mythology.

The story is a classic tale of adventure, as we follow Jason and his companions in their quest to obtain the gift of the Gods that is the Golden Fleece. Its nothing particularly special, but the lore of Greek mythology is always intriguing enough with almighty Gods, raging titans and other beastly creatures.

As Jason undergoes several trials and tribulations, Harryhausen brings alive several Greek mythological creatures through the art of stop motion animation. Bearing similarities to the techniques of Willis O'Brien's King Kong (1933) and Ladislaw Starewicz's The Mascot (1933), the techniques in animation have certainly improved with Harryhausen's effort in Jason and the Argonauts. With cleaner, much more complex movements and a greater variety of shots - scenes such as the several headed beast and the final skeleton duel were a real treat.

The use of scale is certainly something to behold, achieving great towering titans that dwarf mountains for a definite epic quality. It further demonstrates the technical and cinematic achievement in the film, creating some iconic moments that we all implicitly remember - particularly with the titan of Talos.

In closing, Jason and the Argonauts will remain host to some of the finest examples in model stop motion animation in film. The achievement is undeniable which no doubt inspired many feature films of cinema and animation to come.

Life Drawing #8

Life Drawing again! Quite challenging this week with an interesting set of poses. I'm happy with the sitting/laying poses but the last standing pose is a little amiss.

King Kong (1933)

Being the first of its kind, King Kong (1933) is one of the most iconic and important films of all time, capturing the grand epic of towering monsters that inspired several remakes, Godzilla and contemporary films such as Cloverfield.

The story, in which I'm sure most are familiar with, features a crew's voyage to a mysterious island where huge prehistoric animals dwell, including the gigantic gorilla type creature that is King Kong. As King Kong becomes infatuated by Ann Darrow, the crew are able to bring the 'beast' back to the shores of America where he unleashes havoc.

Special effects animator Willis O'Brien was responsible for bringing the eighth wonder of the world alive, using stop frame animation with miniature models. The animation is indeed captivating featuring some of the finest examples in model stop frame animation that is profoundly iconic to this day. The intricate fight scenes of King Kong with several prehistoric dinosaurs is masterful with the technical practices of the time, not to mention the famous scene with King Kong atop of the Empire State building.

Another aspect that stood out for me, was the great use of layers in particular shots of the island being reminiscent to that of the Lost World. Not only with its creatures and Amazonian atmosphere, but also with background, midground and foreground elements adding to the wealth and depth of the scene, often each layer would comprise of stop frame animation of the huge creatures or to live action of the actions making for a complete scene.

Intriguingly, a scene of giant spiders devouring the fallen crew members was cut during the initial filming. Lost to this day, it remains unknown as to whether the footage will see the light of day again.

Overall, King Kong's significance in influencing and advancing techniques in film and special effects remains as influential as ever. It will undoubtedly remain as one of the all time greats where its stop motion animation techniques still hold an admirable charm to this day.