As most of you know I attended a special Disney. Pixar & Disney Junior event from September 29-October 2 in San Francisco to take part in a fun few days of exploring the movies, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Miles From Tomorrowland. It was an amazing few days and it is my pleasure to share some of my experiences with you!
On the second day there we spent all day at Pixar exploring the Good Dinosaur as well as going to the Pixar archive and then going to a special event at GOOGLE for the Disney Junior series, Miles from Tomorrowland. I was really excited to have the opportunity to learn more about The Good Dinosaur, the Pixar Archive and Miles from Tomorrowland.
In the afternoon of the second day we spent time with some of the main leaders of the movie The Good Dinosaur, learning about the process that they took to create the new movie. In each of these sessions we learned something new and over three different posts I will share some of my experiences within these sessions to give you some glimpse into what Pixar and their artists have done to create an amazing film.
Today I am sharing with you my thoughts on my conversations with The Good Dinosaur Production Designer, Harley Jessup as he spoke to us about: DESIGNING A BIG WORLD and how the Art department designed the different dinosaurs in the film and their surrounding environments as well as Animators Kevin O’Hara & Rob Thompson as they talked to us about “ACTING” LIKE DINOS and gave us an animation demo highlighting the reference used by animators to inform the movement of the dinosaurs in The Good Dinosaur.
Harley Jessup spent about 20 minutes with us talking with us about designing the characters and set for the film. He talked to us about the use of research that he used to be able to create the characters and the world around them. He talked about the research trips that his team took the Jackson Wyoming Valley and to the Grand Tetons. What was interesting though was what his team was looking at when they were on these trips. Harley Jessup talked about that his team would look at things like the Aspen Bark, its’ color and texture. They looked at the tree moss; the quality of the river; even the rock formations. Overall, they were looking for the things you would not always see.
Harley Jessup’s team also worked on the characters. He mentioned that they start with pencil and paper and they they will sculpt the character to see what works. As they try things and years past characters will change which is what we saw on our tour of the Pixar facility. The final model that was created was completely detailed. We got to hold a final model of Spot and what stood out to me were the attention to detail such as leaves and sticks in Spot’s hair.
Harley also mentioned how they would work hand-in-hand with Peter Sohn to create the characters that he wanted to convey in the film. One example of this was the T-Rex family and how they wanted them to be able to have the Posture of a horseback rider. To do this they spent hours watching horseback riders in person or on video to see how they moved and held themselves.
In the end there are 24 unique characters within the Good Dinosaur that all work in concert with the environment (which is considered a character as well) to bring the story to you as the audience.
In the end, Harley Jessup works to create an authentic world that looks and feels like something that you would find in the world that Arlo finds himself.
Kevin O’Hara and Rob Thompson from The Good Dinosaur Animation department shared with us the large task that they have make sure that the characters that you see on the film come to life in the right way. Both animators mentioned how much they love what they do, especially in the fact that they get to become the characters. The challenge in The Good Dinosaur for animation was answering the question “How do you become a dinosaur?” To do this their team took a trip to start watching elephants to better understand issues of mass and locomotion. By watching, videoing and re-watching again in the future, they were then able to break down the movements of an elephant to help them with the overall movement of Arlo.
Both Kevin and Rob waked us through what they called keys. They showed us 4 keys which were the “key” moves that would base the movements for Arlo, no matter where they took him. By developing these keys they are then able to do a “walk test” which can take about a day to do. Doing the walk test allows them to see if the motion is fluid and whether it works for the character in general.
I asked them the size of their team and they told me that they have about 85 animators total in the show though people came off and came on at different points throughout the creation of the film itself. You see, it used to be that there was only one animator on one character, this is not the case anymore and animators work very collaboratively together to great the magic you see in The Good Dinosaur.
So to get to the final product the animation has to go through three phases. The first is Blocking. In this phase, which usually takes about 4 days to create, animators are working to physically convert the character into action. This is very rough and in the example that they showed us we saw that there was even a lack of Arlo’s tail for this phase. The second phase is IP (In Progress). In this phase which can take up to 1.5 weeks the tail in question was added back in. You also are adding in the stage of the scene. The final phase is Polishing, this can take another week, Usually at this point animators will be in their special theatre framing forward and backward to make sure that everything is working smoothly. Usually at this point it is in the final cut of the scene in question, but they will keep working on it until the Director says he does not have to see it again.
An interesting point that Kevin and Rob mentioned was that quadrupeds are the hardest characters to animate because they are on all four legs. It also was the case that they had never had a human on all four legs so they had to look at other animals for inspiration as they were animating Spot in The Good Dinosaur. Some of the animals they researched included: dogs; wolves and raccoons.
As you can see it takes a lot to create the magic you see on screen and I hope this gives you a sense of the work that goes into this!
Find out more about The Good Dinosaur
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- Visit the official THE GOOD DINOSAUR website here: http://movies.disney.com/the-good-dinosaur
THE GOOD DINOSAUR – Trailer
THE GOOD DINOSAUR opens in theatres everywhere on November 25th!
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