By: John Gaudiosi                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInspiration

Fix it Felix

Video games have been around for five decades now, since invading arcades in the ‘70s. Walt Disney Animation Studios has been exploring the rich history of games with its latest 3D computer-animated film, Wreck-It Ralph, which opens November 2nd. The movie follows the journey of an 8-Bit bad guy (in the game world of Fix-It Felix Jr.) named Ralph who just wants to be liked. What transpires is an adventure across multiple arcade games that shows the evolution of gaming through the years.

Mike Gabriel, art director on Wreck-It Ralph, has over 30 years of animation experience. He directed Pocahuntas and The Rescuers Down Under and designed the castle logo that you see before every Disney movie. With Wreck-It Ralph, he found a brand new challenge in video games.

“My goal was to make the audience forget it was a video game movie,” said Gabriel. “We don’t want the audience wishing they had a controller in their hands.”

There’s also the negative stereotype around video game movies, in general, as Hollywood has churned out a lot of bad movies over the years. But gaming continues to grow in popularity, and Disney realizes there’s a huge audience of gamers out there. After all, Disney Interactive makes games.

“We put a lot of things in there for gamers,” said Gabriel. “We kept characters the same throughout the worlds so they don’t change as worlds change. Ralph remains an 8-Bit character even as the game worlds improve. We wanted to keep the audience invested in these characters.”

Wreck-It Ralph offered a serious challenge for animators with over 150 characters. And that’s not including the thousands of cameos from real game protagonists and antagonists that appear in the game. There are also four unique worlds that the central characters explore.


Gabriel said his team built each world around shapes. The 8-Bit world, Niceland, has a pixel grid feel to it with lots of squares and clean layout. And yes, there is pixilation just like in the game world. The color scheme was a combination of vivid colors and black. Ian Gooding, art director, said the level of detail in the film is amazing.

“The video game interiors and environments are supporting characters in the film,” said Gooding. “They tell you a lot about story and characters. Everything in Niceland reflects the limited capabilities of ‘80s processors. We have square olives in the martinis in the penthouse penthouse. We actually have curves in this world with wallpaper designs and lights, but we made them with aliasing so they have pixilated edges. Even the pock marks in the stone and brick are square.”

One of the challenges with the environments in the film was to create the illusion that people actually live here. The concept of the film is that when the arcade closes for the night, the game characters punch out of work and go home to their lives. The Nicelanders like contemporary architecture, which serves as a humorous contrast to their Weebles look.

Game Central, which is the game’s version of Grand Central Station, was built on verticals. Everything is shaped like a plug, since this is literally where all the plugs from the arcade machines meet up. This area also makes for the perfect avenue for all types of game characters to intermingle.

Game Central

Hero’s Duty, which is based on the latest first-person shooter games, was designed around triangles. It’s a very hostile atmosphere with fog and flying debris. It’s also the home for the Cy-bugs that end up wreaking havoc throughout the film’s plot. Gabriel said even these bugs were built around triangle shapes. Ridley Scott served as inspiration for this game world.

The art team created the ‘90s-inspired kart racing game Sugar Rush around circles and soft pastels. Lorelay Bove, visual development artist, said Candyland serves as an inspiration for this racing world – although there’s no gingerbread or candy canes. The Spanish artist also found inspiration from Gaudi. A team of animators traveled to Barcelona to study the architecture to bring the rhythmic movements and flow of shapes and patterns to the game levels.

“We took Gaudi and the modernist movement and used it to reinvent the candy house in a new way,” said Bove. “We also traveled to the international candy fair in Cologne, Germany, where we found patterns and inspiration.”

All of these worlds’ patterns converge at the end of the film, but we’ll keep those details under the vest for now so everyone can enjoy the full movie experience in theaters.

To be continued in part 2

John Gaudiosi head shot John Gaudiosi has spent the past 20 years covering the $75 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, Forbes, NBC, CBS and Geek Magazine. He specializes in the converge of games and Hollywood. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and dogs and can be reached at

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By: Nancy Beiman                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

Pitching the Pet

Although many modern films use digital storyboard presentations, pinning drawings on the wall allows you to review the entire story at once. Boards can be re-pinned or removed as necessary to improve the story or change the timing. The video below is an example of a pitch for the short “Your Pet Wants Some of Your Dinner.”

The audience’s attention must be focused on the boards, not the presenter. The pointer, if used correctly, will direct their gaze toward the precise area that the story person wants them to see. The action in each panel will be described in approximately ‘real time’, but will unavoidably be a bit longer than the final film. The pitch must keep the audience interested in the characters and their story—it cannot be a monotone. Pitching “dos and don’ts” are described in chapter 18 of Prepare to Board.

After the pitch the storyboards are scanned and timed to ‘scratch track’ music cut to the length of the final film. ‘Scratch’, or ‘temp’ track music is chosen for tempo and mood. It serves as a ‘script’ for the composer—and may even occasionally be used in the final production. Simple sound effects help convey the story. Here is the animatic after the pitch and after the storyboards are scanned and timed to music.

The storyboard pitch was one minute and 40 seconds long; the animatic for “The Pet Wants Your Dinner” now lasts only 30 seconds. The pacing is faster than it was in the original pitch because there is no longer any need to describe the action in the scene—the drawings speak for themselves. This animatic uses methods described in chapter 19 of “Prepare to Board“.

Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts, 2nd edition is available at Amazon, BN, and wherever fine books can be found.

headshot of Nancy Beiman

Nancy Beiman is a renowned animator and artist having worked as a professional animator, storyboard artist, character designer, development artist, illustrator, and director in feature films, commercials, television specials, and new media. She was a supervising animator and development artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Television Animation, a director at Warner Bros. Animation, and a producer (with partner Dean Yeagle) at Caged Beagle Productions, Inc. Nancy has taught animation, storyboard, character design, and gesture drawing at the undergraduate and graduate level since 2000 and conducted masterclasses in storyboard and animation.

Artwork and animatic © 1998, 2012 by Nancy Beiman

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By: Roland Hess                Categories: Animation

In addition to being balanced physically,your animation also needs to be balanced in time. If an action occurs—say, a character jumping across a small gap—that action needs to balanced in time both before and after it happens.In a case like this,it’s easy to visualize what we need to do. Before the character jumps, it will coil like a spring, drawing its arms behind it, then swinging them forward to build momentum.The character then flies through the air. After its feet touch down on the other side, its legs will bend to absorb the shock,maybe even taking a step or two forward. The arms will continue forward after the body stops,probably swinging up. The motion before the jump is anticipation. After the jump is the follow through.

Let’s step through the poses in our whole animation project and determine if, when,and how to add these elements.For now,we’ll ignore the walking poses as they are a special case.

We’re looking for changes of momentum: stops, starts, and rapid changes in direction. The larger the change the more anticipation and follow- through we’ll have to add.

I find the following spots where Junot’s momentum changes:

The transition from walking to regarding the pedestal
When she begins to fall backwards after the alarm
The transition from falling backwards to the defensive crouch

Note that each of these points in the animation is a time of change in motion. She is transitioning from one kind of motion to another. We are looking for beginnings and ending.

One other place deserves a bit of anticipation too: Junot touching the light. It isn’t a full body motion, but it is a deliberate, distinct action on her part and adding anticipation here is directorial. It assists the viewer. A proper anticipatory motion prefocuses the viewer on the hand and arm, giving them a cue that “Hey-something’s going to happen here! Pay attention!” It doesn’t need to be huge- remember that an anticipation should be in proportion to the eventual action- maybe only a few frames,but including it is important.

The transition to the backwards fall is going to be trickier. It is not a deliberate motion. Junot did not “decide” to start going backwards. She was scared into it. Think about time when you’ve walked around a corner and come literally face to face with someone. Generally, you jump or twitch (or in my case have a mini freakout) Depending on how good your memory is of what your body does, you might recall that your nervous systems sends a kind of shock into your muscles that causes them to tense at once, propelling you away from “danger.” That is what’s happening to Junot. Strictly speaking then, this motion shouldn’t have any anticipation. It’s an explosion of movement. We could animate it that way, as though the alarm delivered a shock wave that blasted her backward. That would be a valid approach and it’s probably worth a try.

As we’re just learning though, we’re going to choose a method and stick to it. If you want to go back and try it differently later, then by all means proceed. What we’ll do is provide her with only a frame or two of frightened anticipation. If she had a face, this is where we’d stick a wild-eyed response (in animation terms that’s called a “take”) Since it’s going to be a brief, we’ll have to make the pose rather extreme.

When she finally falls into the defensive crouch, it is the end of the careening motion. We’ll need some serious follow through that ends with her hands in the martial arts pose. Follow through poses have always been a little easier to generate for me because they are often simple physics. How would the masses involved need to move in order to return the character to balance?

Let’s go back and work on the first example. Fig 5.3 shows the last walking pose and the standing pose respectively. First, do we need to add anticipation or follow-through? The energy shifts of stopping action (walking to standing still), so we need the latter. Junot is moving at a fairly slow place-normal walking- but it is her whole body makes the change. In real life we ease into a stand still. But this is the world of animation and we have to liven things up.

FIG 5.3(a top ,b bottom) The Two Poses That will Generate the Follow-Through.


A follow-through that we need here will actually occur between our final pose (standing,regarding) and the earlier one.The resting pose is the one that occurs after the follow-through,not before it. So really, when I was story boarding, I missed two key motions. First Junot walks. Then she begins to stop. There is a follow through pose.Finally,she comes to rest in the “regarding” pose that actually made it into the storyboards. For this exercise,let’s start with another duplicate of our animation file.The timed constant interpolation steps are pretty good, and again,we’d like to keep a fall back point on hand,in case we completely mess things up.The web site has a file called chapter 05scene.blend to work with as well. I begin to work on the Animation screen. Junot, her control armature, and ground are shown in local mode in the 3D view (\-key), and the Dope Sheet is set to Action Editor mode.We’re still using constant interpolation. It’s often easiest to build a follow- through pose from the final resting pose. To do this,select any of the keys in the column that represents the “at rest” pose. In the sample file,thesearethekeysonFrame61.Press Alt-RMB on any oftheFrame61keystoselectallofthekeysonthatframe.Then, press Shift-D to duplicate the keys and move them four frames or so to the left: backwards in time. Click the LMB to accept the duplication and transformation. Fig. 5.4 shows the Action Editor with the column of keys duplicated and offset. In the figure, the selected column is the new one. It is on this new frame (Frame57) that we build the follow-through pose. Remember to exaggerate and use solid drawing techniques.Keep the character in balance.However,this is animation ,and we can afford to throw in a little bit of the goofiness.I’m going to try to have her feet stop in place, but have the upper body continue forward just a touch so that when she falls into her final pose it’ll be a “Whoa there!” effect, the upper body rubber- banding back into place. Before building the pose,make sure that the current frame marker is on the duplicated, earlier set of keys on Frame 57. Fig. 5.5 highlights a control on the Timeline view’s header.This “record” style button turns on Automatic key framing. We’ve been setting keys by hand up to this point, but now it becomes useful to have Blender take care of that for us.

FIG 5.4 Duplicating a Still Pose for Follow-Through.

FIG 5.5 Enabling Automatic Key framing.

We already have an entire column of keys, and it would be handy to just have every tweak or change we make on this frame to simply be recorded without any further intervention. So, enable the button. Once you do, ensure that you stay aware of it. Any changes you make to anything in the 3D view will now be recorded in time. This means that if you adjust the angle of the camera,it will record it as a key,not as the absolute,all-time location and rotation of the camera.This can be annoying however, like when you adjust a camera position and find that it is now animated because it has two different positions in time.To avoid this annoyance,open the User Preferences, head to the Editing tab and enable the Only Insert Available option. This will only place keys for objects (or bones) that already have keys, even during automatic key framing, meaning that only things that you have hand-applied a key to(with the I-key)will receive automatic key frames. Something like a camera that has never been keyed will not receive them automatically even if you adjust its position. The first thing I do when actually creating the pose is to go into a top view and find out the direction of the character.By toggling back and forth between the walk and stand,the main direction of the body becomes obvious. Fig. 5.6 shows both poses,with a line drawn to indicate the overall motion.The upper body controller bone should continue along this line as it should follow the body’s momentum. After that, it’s a matter of thinking about what might happen if you try to stop that momentum. Fig. 5.7 shows a more cartoonish approach to this. The pose is inserted before the resting pose because the character hits the position and stops,does this bit of follow-through, then returns to the rest pose. It’s a nice pose,but in the end I’m not sure how well it fits with the action and character in the rest of the animation.It’s kind of goofball. To try a different pose,I use the Alt-RMB to select the entire column of keys that represent the pose and move it way off to one side,out of the normal timeline for this animation.This way,I can easily get it back if I change my mind.Realizing that our rest pose is actually the endpoint of the follow-through,it might be a good idea to generate an additional pose to help us.This new pose should once again fall between the last walking pose and the resting pose,but this time it will indicate the character’s attempt to stop moving. We can just duplicate the resting poses over all  frames to the left again and alter it.In this new pose shown in Fig. 5.8, Junot’s  left foot is part of the copied pose, in it’s final spot.

FIG 5.6 Momentum Dictates the Flow of Follow-Through.

FIG 5.7 One Possible Follow- Through Pose.

FIG 5.8 The Actual Pose on Which Junot Tries to Stop Moving

The right foot, however, has not moved from the earlier walking pose. This is because it is really her next “step,” and the planted forward foot does not move. To do this, I selected the foot controller in the 3D view and found that the corresponding animation channel in the Action Editor was highlighted. In this case, it is called heel_R.  I select the key from the earlier column(the last walk pose),duplicate it with Shift-D, and move it forward to takeover the key in the current pose’s column. Fig. 5.9 shows the selected key, and where it moves to. Doing this guarantees that the foot will be in the same place as it was in the earlier set of keys. Then,I adjust the foot’s rotation so that it is flat on the floor. Stepping back in time, I see where the next swing of the arms would be and move them accordingly. This isn’t the world’s most exciting pose, but that is okay for once. It is merely transitional.The next pose we create will show the follow-through.The one after that is our existing rest pose, with Junot considering the pedestal.

FIG 5.9 Duplicating a Key from an Earlier Pose to Keep a Foot in Place.

The same rules apply to this attempt at a follow-through pose as to the last. Follow the momentum of the body by going backwards and forward in time. We keep the upper body controller moving just a little along the main line of action, bend the spine slightly, and pull the arms ahead of the body. The resulting sequence can be seen in Fig 5.10

Put together like this, the action of Junot coming to a stop, her body pushing a little past it (follow-through!), then resolving into her rest pose, is obvious. One of the lessons to take away from this is that you cannot always rely on your main poses as a guide to what you’re doing. The pose that you think might require some follow-through might actually be the end point of the follow-through, like it is here.

Let’s move onto the anticipation right before Junot explodes backwards. Anticipation doesn’t have to get nearly as fancy as follow-through, and you have more freedom. Sometimes you need to really watch the physics. Most times,it is just an anticipatory action that draws attention and prepares the viewer for the main action. Fig.5.11 shows the “before and after” poses.We need to put an anticipation pose right before the “b” pose.This one is pretty simple.We give Junot a very quick,light movement toward the pedestal to compensate for the upcoming backward motion. It will only show for a frame or two,giving a subtle but useful effect. Although we’re showing this pose in the long shot for consistency, be sure to build it from the medium shot camera’s point of view, as that’s where it will be captured in the final render.

FIG 5.10(a–d) The follow-through after the first momentum change




FIG 5.11(a top b bottom ) A Place for Anticipation.


I’m going to build the pose only three frames before the first “falling backwards” pose, whichcomesonFrame241.So,I duplicate the earlier pose (during the anticipation she won’t have moved her feet)and bring the new column of keys up to Frame238. Keeping in mind where she’s headed, some minor adjustments are all that are needed.The goal is to provide motion contrary to that of the action that is about to happen. By noting the differences in the two earlier figures,we can see that the right arm moves the most.So,it should also receive the greatest degree of anticipatory movement. Fig. 5.12 shows the anticipatory pose almost involuntary action, so the anticipation will be reduced.

FIG 5.12 Anticipating the Backward Explosion.

FIG 5.13(a, top b bottom ) Before and After Stopping


If Junot had been leaning against the pedestal and actually planning such a movement, the anticipation would have been significantly greater. We can’t tell exactly how it’s going to look until we release everything from constant to smooth interpolation, but at this point, animation is like a chess game. We’re trying to get all of our pieces into powerful position, with the proper lines showing. If we do that consistently, we’ll find that we are in a very good place later in the game.

The last major pose we need to add is a follow-through pose in the transition from the backwards fall to the defensive crouch. Much like the earlier situation, it appears that the defensive crouch itself does not require follow-thorough after it, but before it. This is because the crouching pose represents the character once it has regained control of itself, after the initial stop and follow-through. So, we need to add two more poses: a stop, and then some follow-through. Fig 5.13 shows the last falling pose and the crouch, respectively. Like earlier, we find the keys that represent the crouch, duplicate them and move them to the left in the timeline. In this new pose, Junot should be trying to catch her balance. The hips and center of gravity won’t be quite as slow as the resting pose, and the hands are not yet up in the defensive position. This is a transitional pose, so it probably won’t have the dynamism and visual impact of one of our main poses. For now, I place this new pose 12 frames before the resting pose. That will give the entire follow-through process, from beginning to recover, half a second. It might work or not, but we’ll have to wit until we release to smooth interpolation to find out. Fig 5.14 shows this pose. It’s not our follow-through, but represents where Junot is trying to end up. Think of it this way. Our storyboard indicated an action pose and a resting pose. What we need to have in the animation is an action pose, a pose on which the character thinks they are stopping, some follow-through, and then the resting pose. To take up the energy of her backward fall, the upper body control goes way down toward the ground, continuing its current momentum. This energy applies itself to her legs which bend deeply, push against the ground, and attempt to counter it. The spine alse curls forward significant, and the arms fly ahead as well, each trying to balance her shifting center of gravity. Fig. 5.15 shows the point of maximum impact. Note that this is not the follow-through. Finally, in Fig. 5.16, we see the follow-through.It’s the continuation of motion past the extreme pose of the earlier figure. It is from here that Junot will transition into the defensive crouch.Sometimes doing an adequate follow-through or anticipation study necessitates more than a single pose. To review,the main rules for building anticipation and follow-through are as follows:

• Actually remember to include them,

• Use anticipation to direct the viewer,

• Make them proportional to the main action,

• Momentum should lineup with the main action

FIG 5.14 Junot’s Pre-follow-Through Pose.

FIG 5.15 Maximum Squashiness

FIG 5.16 The Follow-Through.

This is an excerpt from Tradigital Blender . Tradigital Blender can be purchased at, and wherever fine books can be found.

Roland Hess

Roland Hess has been working with graphics and imaging software for over 20 years, Roland is the leading expert for Blender software. As one of a handful of people involved with Blender who is both an active user of the software as well as one of the developers, he brings a unique perspective to Blender instruction that helps to bridge the difficult gap between technical knowledge and artistic endeavor. Hess wrote: Animating with Blender for Focal 2009, and The Essential Blender, No Starch, 2007.

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By: Dave                Categories: AnimationBooks

Hi Everyone!

Look for Francis Glebas’ new book The Animator’s Eye hitting shelves soon. Below, watch the trailer for the book featuring scenes from Francis’ short, “The Animator’s Eye.”

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInterviews

By John Gaudiosi

Focal Press correspondent, John Gaudiosi recently sat down with EA Sports Developer Jason Danahy to discuss the famed Madden and NCAA Football franchises and video game animation. Jason Danahy has worked his way up the game development chain to become the animation director for EA Sports’ perennial bestselling Madden and NCAA Football franchises. He started at EA Tiburon as an associate character animator on NFL Street before transitioning to the Madden franchise as a staff character animator, lead staff character animator and lead senior character animator.

Since 2010, Danahy has been overseeing the huge undertaking of improving every aspect of the animation in the Madden and NCAA Football franchises. With record sales for Madden NFL 13 and NCAA Football 13, Danahy took some time to talk about his job and offer some tips to aspiring game developers in this exclusive interview.

John Madden

John Gaudiosi (JG): What are the challenges of constantly needing to release a new Madden game each year?

Jason Danahy (JD): Every year we have more ideas than we could possibly implement in one game, so trying to focus in on what we think are the most important things is critical. We have so many passionate people on the team, and everyone has ideas/features that they fall in love with, so it can be hard to let some of them go or wait to do them in the future. Outside of that it is really about balancing what we are working on, trying to straddle the line of making a simulation and keeping it fun to play, while making sure that what we are adding works well with everything we already have in the game.

JG: Can you talk about what drives you creatively at your job?

JD: Watching football and playing games. It helps being a big football fan (Go Bills!) and having a never-ending supply of new things to try and replicate from real NFL games each season. Also, even though we are making a football simulation we are always looking to games in other genres for inspiration.

John Madden screen shot

JG: What’s a typical day like in your life as a game developer?

JD: It mostly consists of iterating on animations in-game. Getting something in the game and playing it, having others play it, gathering feedback, making changes, and so on. I work closely with designers and engineers on a daily basis to make sure that we are coming up with the best solutions for every new feature.

JG: How did you work together with your team to overcome challenges during the game development process?

JD: Long gone are the days where designers would ask for an animation, animators would make it and toss it over a wall, and then the engineers put it in the game. We can prototype features so fast now that it gives everyone on the team something to rally around. It allows all of us to provide input every step of the way to help shape a feature. There are far less times now where only one group can solve a problem, Everyone has the tools and ability to come up with a solution, and then we work together to figure out what mix is the most appropriate for that specific case.

JG: Can you talk about how advances in technology and the tools you use have influenced what you’ve been able to accomplish with this new game?

JD: Most of the tools we use are custom and created inside EA, MotionBuilder is really the only off-the-shelf tool that we use. ANT (short for Animation Toolkit) is our animation engine that we do all of our non-MotionBuilder work in. This year we completely overhauled our catching system in the game and added a ton of debugging features in ANT. The coolest part is being able to save any play and load it up inside of ANT, and then to be able to make changes to our animation assets and re-run the same play in ANT to see how the outcome changes. It allows us to quickly change or tweak animations in order to create the best possible outcome.

JG: What are you most proud of when it comes to the animation in your new game?

JD: We did a ton of work around catching and added hundreds of new animations. It really is great to see so many new animations playing and giving you a much more appropriate catch for the context of that play. There are some spectacular-looking diving catches. Also, watching the Infinity engine running in Madden is really great. It changes animations, adding new and more organic “wow” moments. My favorites are the gang tackles. Seeing a defender tackling the ball carrier and having another defender come in and level him is just fantastic.

John Madden screen shot

JG: What advice would you give to aspiring animators interested in getting into the videogame business?

JD: Aside from the obvious of learning the basic principles (anticipation, squash and stretch, timing, etc.), get comfortable with the idea of owning your animation beyond Maya, MotionBuilder, 3DMax, or whatever software you use to animate. A great-looking animation in Maya doesn’t mean anything if the game engine isn’t using it the way it should. Besides, who is going to take better care of your animation than you? Our animators are responsible for every aspect of the animation all the way into the game; compression, blending, controller inputs, layering, tagging, etc. So much goes into making animation look good that happens after you leave your animation software, but first you need solid fundamentals. Play games, and play lots of different kinds of games! Animation in games is more than just aesthetics, it needs to play well too. Play and explore to find what looks good, but doesn’t feel good and try to figure out why; what doesn’t look good but feels great and why, and what balances both well and how did they do it.

JD: What are your thoughts on where the game industry is today with so many new avenues of game development open now with social, casual, mobile and free-to-play games?

JG: I think it allows for a bit more freedom in the ideas people are willing to try. With the smaller budgets/teams’/development time, it doesn’t cost as much if a game/feature doesn’t work out, so people are more open to try something a little crazy. It also gives more people a chance to break into the industry and get some experience that they can use on bigger titles, if they choose to move in that direction.

John Gaudiosi head shot

John Gaudiosi has spent the past 20 years covering the $75 billion videogame industry for top international print, online and television outlets like The Washington Post, Wired, Playboy, AOL, Yahoo!, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today Weekend, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, Forbes, NBC, CBS and Geek Magazine. He specializes in the converge of games and Hollywood. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and dogs and can be reached at

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By: Nancy Beiman                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

The following video is based off a project created for the upcoming new edition of Prepare to Board by Nancy Beiman.

The short started off as a project that was created for the Chapter 12 assignment of Prepare to Board, an assignment that is based on a simple nursery rhyme or poem. The poem does not appear in the finished animatic since it served as a ‘script’ that inspired a visual story. The true nature of the characters and situation is gradually revealed as the story progresses. Beat boards, character lineups and storyboards from MY FATHER appear in Chapter 12 of the second edition of Prepare to Board . Bram’s animatic was scored with a scratch track using methods described in Chapter 19 of Prepare to Board.

Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts, 2nd edition is available at Amazon, BN, and wherever fine books can be found.

headshot of Nancy Beiman

Nancy Beiman is a renowned animator and artist having worked as a professional animator, storyboard artist, character designer, development artist, illustrator, and director in feature films, commercials, television specials, and new media. She was a supervising animator and development artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Television Animation, a director at Warner Bros. Animation, and a producer (with partner Dean Yeagle) at Caged Beagle Productions, Inc. Nancy has taught animation, storyboard, character design, and gesture drawing at the undergraduate and graduate level since 2000 and conducted masterclasses in storyboard and animation.

© 2010 Used by permission of Bram Cayne.



By: Walt Stanchfield                Categories: General

This is an excerpt from Walt Stanchfield’s Drawn To Life.

The ability to see in third dimension is fairly near the top of the list of requirements for the animator, assistant animator, and the in-betweener. Most of us come by this knowledge only after years of observation and practice. Some years ago, a simple little drawing book was given to me by its author, Bruce McIntyre. He had devised a sort of shorthand art course that he taught to young children and the results were amazing. His whole premise was built on six rules of perspective and an involved use of directional symbols.

The perspective rules are simply this:

The first two rules, I think, are a preparation for the third one — surface plus size, a rule that is very usable in animation. For instance when working on a scene with a layout like this:

A character standing on that plane would have two feet fitted to that surface, creating not only a stable stance but also a third dimensional.

Any props such as apples, cans, bowls, etc., as seen below.

The overlap rule is very important to all phases of drawing, especially when the illusion of third dimension is desirable.

Here is an outlandishly simple example where the whole head area is in front of the shoulders and in the next drawing there is a complete reversal. In the first drawing, note how definite the overlap is depicted: the fingers in front of the jaw, the thumb behind and the left thumb in front of the elbow, the fingers behind. Being definite with overlap helps the drawing “read” clearly.

One of the worst traps that catch us unawares is when overlap and tangent gang up on us. A simple example is two mountain shapes drawn with no overlap that automatically creates a tangent and destroys any illusion of depth whatsoever:

The-simple solution to this problem is to add overlap making it very clear which hill is in front of the other.

Then if you force the perspective by adding surface plus size to the drawing it will be more definite and read much faster.

The importance and usefulness of the surface lines rule can only be hinted at. In a rendered drawing or painting, the artist has untold nuances of color, shading, and rendering to emphasize the depth — the animator has only line. Plus, of course the rules of perspective. As for surface lines, there are usually very few in a line drawing. When using a cigar with its surface lines (the band) the importance of using them for direction and depth can easily be seen:

There are few areas on cartoon bodies that can be used like the cigar band. If none at all, the two objects would look like each other only one smaller than the other.

So the artist must use whatever suggests itself. A sleeve for instance

or a pant cuff

or a belt, collar, hemline, pattern on the material, or wrinkles in cloth:

In the case of heads, the basic structure has to serve as a surface line. For instance, the eye, nose, and mouth lines are unseen but implied and depicted by the placement of the eyes and mouth and the direction they take when the head is tilted:

Along with these “unseen” surface lines, there is overlap such as (in this case) the hair, first being seen somewhat behind the forehead then reversing to be in front of the forehead in the second drawing. The ear employs another rule: foreshortening. The other rules such as surface plus size and perspective would have come into play had the head turned to the side:

Although the other ear is not seen so it cannot be compared with the one that is seen, it will have grown in size as the head turns the ear toward you and closer to you, thereby giving even a better illusion of depth in motion than you would get from seeing a still drawing or the two ears:

That increase in size plus a change in shape (angle) plus following an arc (as if the ear were orbiting the outside of a sphere like the head would give a maximum third dimensional effect). The last rule of perspective is foreshortening, which is none other than Italian perspective in a simplified form. It is used extensively in animation by simply drawing things larger in the foreground than those of like size in the background. For instance, on a head “forced perspective ” is used in drawing the eyes, eyebrows, etc.

It is the kind of perspective you would get when using a wide-angle lens on a camera. The difference is that the photograph appears distorted and unreal. In the cartoon it is acceptable, partly because we can adjust the whole drawing and make it plausible. It is defying reality but in a logical way. Using logic in animation is a powerful tool. That is how we can use such extreme action and pull it off as believable.

Tangents are the enemy of the illusion of depth and to be avoided at all cost. Tangents occur when two or more lines converge

or when one line ends at some point then seems to continue on at another point.

Here is an obvious instance of tangent trouble and a simple solution wherein a great deal of depth and clarity is achieved.

If you can arrange it so all of the rules of perspective are used in one drawing, you will have the maximum third dimension possible in a line drawing. The directional symbols mentioned above were simple arrows pointing in a number of directions.

Each arrow and its direction had a code number. Their use was related to the manner in which Bruce taught drawing. I had never involved myself with his use of directional symbols, but the principle of it completely captivated me. It has influenced every drawing and painting I’ve made since. This principle has made me conscious of the fact that everything is pointing in some direction: pointing away from us, or sideways to us, or three-quarters up at a certain angle, straight at us or slightly to the left or right or down.

Most often these directional lines coincide with perspective lines and have a common vanishing point. In the case of drawing a figure, the line directions are not random but have to do with the pose or action. To be conscious of the direction that arms and legs and fingers, etc., are pointing is the key to the third dimensional drawing. It is the thing that reveals to us the six rules of perspective; for instance, if in drawing the legs of a character you find one pointing toward you and the other pointing away:

You know that the surface lines will be dictated by those directions and also surface plus size will influence the placement and size of the feet, and overlap will be necessary to show the right leg is in front of the left leg. Foreshortening will be subtle but the left leg will diminish in size as it recedes from hip to ankle:

Difficult foreshortening in a pose can be more easily handled if one is aware of which direction the object is pointing; for instance, if there is a figure bending over toward you, which is a difficult view. The problem can best be conquered by the awareness of what is happening. To you it looks like this:

From the side it would be a much more drawable view.

However, merely being aware of the side view will help you pick the rules of perspective that are needed to conquer this foreshortening dilemma.

The surface lines of the chest and stomach will be almost circular; the arms, held slightly back will have a less circular surface line; and one leg forward and one back will require opposite surface lines. The leg on the right would diminish slightly in size as it goes away from you while the other increases, employing the foreshortening rule. The head in front of the chest applies the overlap rule, while the rule of surface plus size is employed in the feet. True, these things (rules) are present all around us, so, so what? The what is being aware of them as a positive aid in drawing, allowing you to progress directly to the pose, rather than rely on a lot of doodling, pencil manipulation, and haphazard accidentals.

If you wanted to play Mozart music on the piano, you would not doodle on the piano hoping some day to come across something that sounded like Mozart. No, first you would study the rules — the rudiments of music — and then with a little practice you could bring Mozart to life. Drawing is no different.

There is another approach to drawing the figure that may seem a bit bizarre at first, but is worth your consideration. It is especially helpful when working out a difficult foreshortening problem. This method merely employs pipes as parts of the body.

This system will also help with all of the other rules such as surface lines, surface plus size, and overlap .

This is an excerpt from Drawn To Life. Drawn to Life can be purchased at,, and wherever fine books can be found.

Walt Stanchfield (1919–2000) was an American animator, writer and teacher. Stanchfield is known for work on a series of classic animated feature films at Walt Disney Studios and his mentoring of Disney animators.

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