By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

This is an excerpt from Bill Plympton’s Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out. This living legend breaks down how to make a career outside of the world of corporate animation – and without compromise. Learn time-saving techniques, the secrets to good storytelling, and the business-side of short and feature-length animation films.

When drawing props and inanimate objects, you must think of them as animate objects, as if they’re alive, they have personality, they have souls. Otherwise, these items will be very boring to look at. For example, I’ve seen a lot of guns drawn like this:

But for me, this is a sissy gun. A gun is masculine, it’s macho—it’s got muscles. It’s not a delicate piece of ornamentation. No, it’s a brutal, powerful statement—so try drawing your pistols like they are characters in your story.

And that brings us to our next category in animation: design.

To me, it’s the arrangement of shapes so that they form a powerful image that is used to meet the creator’s needs. For example, if I want to create a feeling of peace and beauty, I’ll arrange shapes in such a way as to meet those ends. I’ll use soft, complimentary colors and shapes that have an easy flow. Or perhaps I want to communicate a feeling of violence, so the design might be much more aggressive or shocking, with bright colors and hard edges.

I can’t tell you how important design is to a great film. Again, look at some of N. C. Wyeth’s wonderful illustrations to see examples of how he used great design to push the eye around and to make you look where he wants you to look in order to capture your imagination and boost the powerful human emotions in the visuals. He used very little detail, and the detail he used was only to draw the eye to certain areas. The rest of the painting was dark shapes that have almost an abstract feel.

And that’s where design comes in. Here is a drawings in which I manipulate the eyeballs of the audience.

Use perspective to push the eye. Just try to look away from the guy’s head—it’s very difficult. Many pictorial elements can be used to divert the eye.

Excerpt from Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out © 2012. Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Make Toons That Sell can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Kenny Roy, co-author of How to Cheat in Maya 2013 has provided another awesome cheat for your Maya 2013 needs.  Here he shows you some time saving techniques when working with silhouette layers.

How to Cheat in Maya 2013 can be purchase at Amazon, BN, and wherever fine books are sold.

Kenny Roy
Kenny Roy
entered the animation industry in 1998 and has animated on feature films, television, commercials and rides, and started his very own animation studio in Los Angeles, CA. Now in its 6th year of operation, Arconyx Animation Studios has worked with clients Nickelodeon to Cartoon Network, Fox to Mattel. Kenny has mentored full time at www.AnimationMentor.com for 6 years, and also offers in-depth animation video training on his personal website, www.kennyroy.com. He lives in LA with his wife and son.

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationInterviews

This is an excerpt from How to Cheat in Maya 2013 by Eric Luhta and Kenny Roy. How to Cheat in Maya 2013 covers all of the methods available in the latest version of Maya. The following is an exclusive interview with Dan Barker. Dan Barker is the Character Development Supervisor at Blue Sky Studios. He has worked on Horton Hears a Who, Ice Age: Dawn of The Dinosaurs, Rio, Ice Age Continental Drift, and is currently working on Leafmen.

Photo by Perry_Marco


For me one of the most rewarding aspects is the collaborative creative environment. Early on I was really reluctant to show people my work, honestly because I thought they would think it was bad, and I didn’t want to hear any negative criticism. But what I found is that by working with other people, not only do they help you when you are struggling with something, they help you be the best artist you can be! Obviously the other aspect for me in particular is helping define how new characters are gonna act, and behave. Helping define the personality traits of the characters is an incredibly rewarding process. I love being able to speak to the director, the story team, the art director about how a character should look and behave. Then you finally get to animate them, you understand them and can hopefully make them sincere, and believable for the film. And then simply animating them. Animation is a lot of fun! Working on an IN-HOUSE feature you get to have fun for work! That in itself is pretty rewarding!


Our average depending on complexity is about 75 frames per week.


Depending on the character I would speak to the character leads. They generally will have a lot of reference and info on how the character should act, and perform, and more importantly on how he shouldn’t act or perform. I will look at the reference and the character pages first. Then I will look at the boards and the full sequence to get a good idea as to where my shot fits into the overall sequence. I try to identify what the character’s arc is in the sequence and where my shot fits into that. Once that is complete I would shoot reference. If I can’t get what I am looking for in my acting I would get someone else to act it out. Jeff Gabor is always a good guy to go to for that! Then once I have something I like I generally will do one or two drawings based on the reference, trying to push my character more. Once I have this I would show the other supervisors or the director to get a buy off on it. And then I start blocking it out.


Yes, listen to what the director wants. Get to know how your director works, what he/ she generally responds to, and what they don’t respond to. Depending on the director this may be taking his notes word for word, or sometimes it’s trying to decipher the underlying meaning of what he wants. Sometimes if your shot is not working a director will give you notes like “Maybe have him come in slower from the left.” And when you try to actually have the character come in slower from the left, the acting is thrown off, or the energy isn’t right, or it simply doesn’t work. In moments like this I try to get understanding of what “feels” wrong, rather than identify frame by frame what’s wrong. More than likely my whole shot is not working and I need to redo it with the right “feeling.” And other times I just need to have the character come in slower from the left. It really is getting to understand your director. That’s the secret! SO I would go to sweatbox a lot, read the notes other guys are getting. That helps you understand the director’s sensibility.


Yeah, I always try to show the director as early as possible. Things inevitably change from your reference/thumbnails to what you actually have in your shot, but if your idea is strong and clear, that remains constant, and if the director has bought off on that earlier you are in a better place. Try to show other animators as well. They will let you know if your acting is bad, or cliched. Try show them before you show the director.


Sometimes just going home and not thinking about it. Watching films, playing a sport or an instrument. Something to get your mind off your work really helps. Going to the pub and having a shot, to stop thinking of my shot! Sometime you just need to remove yourself from the shot, and more importantly stress associated with it. I sometimes would talk with the production supervisor about getting an extension if things really are not working. Reducing the pressure to perform, on something that is taking a long time helps.

After a little break, like an afternoon off, my mind is cleared and when I get back in there I generally nail it! Another thing that helps is going onto another shot if you can. Sometimes the creative juices that flow on the other shot give me the impetus to go back into the shot I am struggling with and bring it to the finish line.


I am a fan of all animation, but if I had to choose I would say I prefer cartoony. It’s a lot of fun to really exaggerate your poses and acting choices, which cartoony lends itself to. And then there is the contrast in a cartoony film where the character has to be played more straight, and sincere. I feel we get to get a good range. For me pushed realism is actually a lot harder to do. So I respect those guys a lot!


It’s important to communicate with the animators on either side of your shots. If you know someone is going to be starting a shot later than you, and say the end pose of his shot will dictate all of your shot, I try brainstorm with him/her on what they would be thinking for their shot. That way continuity is generally not that much of an issue. And sometimes if I see a problem, I will go back into my shot and correct a pose to make it feel the same. Communication is the key!


Not to be afraid to ask for help, out of fear of people finding out I was a hack! I think all artists go through periods where they are confident with their work, and then they think that they are completely useless. To this day I would love to go into all of my shots and redo them with what I have learned. But the big thing I found is getting feedback from other animators in the know. You don’t have to take it all, but it’s good to get them to look at stuff and give you feedback. I think I would have grown a lot quicker had I realized that early on.


Be open to criticism. One of the key aspects of working at a major studio is having a well-trained eye. And if you can’t see that there are problems with your work, then your eye isn’t trained well enough to pick up some of your mistakes. Try to get feedback from people in the know. And if you feel the feedback is harsh, it probably is because your work isn’t strong enough. Don’t take it personally, just try hit the notes the best you can as you slowly develop your eye. The other advice is that there are a lot of people trying really hard to get into the studios, and they are putting a lot of hours in, days and nights. You are probably gonna have to work as hard if you wanna get considered. Lastly if you get rejected, don’t take it personally, just try get feedback as to what was not right, and then improve that, and resend your reels out. The other BIG BIG thing is not to put everything you have ever done on your reel. Keep it short and only put your best work on. Only was I started taking part in reel reviews did I realize how brutal the review process is. As soon as there is something that is not strong, or has bad polish, or the acting choices are cliched, the reel comes out DVD Player and goes into the rejection pile. So make sure your strongest stuff is right at the beginning.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in Maya 2013 by Eric Luhta and Kenny Roy © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. How to Cheat in Maya 2013 can be purchased Amazon.comBN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: admin                Categories: General

Chris Georgenes has shared a series of videos from a webinar he hosted on animating in Adobe Flash. Chris will release How to Cheat in Adobe Flash CS6 later this year. The latest installment in this popular series will provide practical solutions and step by step tutorials for anyone working on creative projects in Adobe Flash CS6 – whether mobile applications, games, animated shorts, or full length features. Today we are sharing part 1 of 4, where Chris explores character design and more. Check out the other installments here:
Part 2: Walk Cycles & Keyframing
Part 3: Walk Cycles & Motion Tweening
Part 4: File Size & Optimization in Adobe Flash CS6. Enjoy!

Chris Georgenes

Chris Georgenes spent a very long time as a freelance designer & animator specializing in Adobe Flash. Before that he worked for a small software company producing animated television shows for networks such as ABC and Cartoon Network. A few years ago Chris started designing games for Acclaim, Playdom and for a very brief stint, Disney Interactive. Today Chris is enjoying a creative director position for the highly successful mobile app GSN Casino, the Game Show Network’s latest digital offering. Chris still writes books, makes select public appearances, drinks coffee and continues a 35+ year career behind a set of drums.

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By: Andrzej Kuziola                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneral

In the upcoming tutorials I will explain the design and creation process of a Space Rabbit character showcasing the features of ZBrush in my workflow. I am going to explore various ZBrush tools and show how helpful they are to visualize ideas and achieve desired effect. The tutorials will explain how to design and create the character from scratch. I am going to use ZBrush, because it gives me freedom that enables me to quickly experiment and visualize my ideas and it is also an industry standard.

The design of a convincing character is fundamental to its success. It doesn’t matter how meticulously detailed it is or how well textured, if it lacks personality, then it will not be believable. I always spend lots of time experimenting with form and shape to make my characters more appealing. I don’t do initial 2d sketches, my imagination works better in a 3 dimensional environment so I always start straight in 3d and use DynaMesh – a mesh creation tool that gives a real 3d-sketching experience. [others may find hand drawn sketches useful in their own creative process]

Let’s begin with creating the character’s body in a neutral pose.  Using ZSpheres I create armature for my character first. When I am happy with the result, I change the rig to Adaptive Skin and then press the Make Polymesh3D button.

The base mesh created in the previous step is my staring point for further development. I decided to adjust the pose to a more relaxed one. I use Transpose tool to do this. Now it is time to use DynaMesh. I activate the function by pressing DynaMesh button. A new uniform topology is created with density controlled by the Resolution slider. I start with lower res and then adjust it gradually during the process. I generally don’t use many brushes. I work mainly with Clay, Move Topological, TrimDynamic, Smooth, Inflat and Dam_Standard brushes. I add volume and block the shape of the character. At this stage I focus mainly on proportions. Each time when polygons become stretched after adjustments to the mesh I recalculate DynaMesh by pressing the Ctrl/Cmd key and dragging the cursor onto an empty canvas.


Now it is time to add rabbit ears and big alien eyes. I use CurveMultiTube brush for the ears. The diameter of created tubes is affected by the brush size. I also adjust the shape before recalculating DynaMesh. For the eyes I use Insert Sphere brush.

Now I add details to the character. I develop facial features and the space suit. I primarily use Clay brush to add volume and Dam_Standard brush to create intervals in the armor. I recalculate the DynaMesh often.

At the end I add some details to the gloves. I use Standrad brush with active Alpha 12 to create a recess and then add a sphere with Insert Sphere brush.

Now the design is ready. It is rough and without fine details. I am going to fine-tune it later. First I need to resurface the model and I will show how to do it in the next part of my tutorial. [Continued: Part 2]

Andrzej Kuziola
Andrzej Kuziola
is a self-taught digital artist who works as a freelance illustrator and 3D artist.  Andrzej is proficient in ZBrush, Cinema 4D and Photoshop. He has been published in 3D Artist Magazine,  CG+ Magazinem CGArena.com, 3D Attack magazine, and others. Please visit www.kuziola.com for more information on his portfolio, publications, and awards.

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By: John Gaudiosi                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInspirationInterviews

Read part 1

Inside Walt Disney Animation Studios, there’s a real-life replica of the arcade movie-goers will see come November 2 when Wreck-It Ralph hits theaters. This real arcade celebrates the golden age of gaming with classic quarter-munchers like Q*Bert, Galaga, Pac-Man and even a functioning Fix-It Felix Jr. 8-Bit arcade game (designed by a classic game veteran for Disney marketing).

In order to bring this new computer-generated 3D film to life, the team at Disney worked together to blend the latest effects with computer animation. According to Adolph Lusinsky, director of look and lighting on Wreck-It Ralph, the effects work on this film dwarfs anything Disney had done in previous films.

“We had to create three believable videogame worlds in this film,” said Lusinsky. “We worked with Mike Gabriel to go over rules of each world. Niceland, which is Ralph’s 8-Bit World, uses simple shapes and repeating patterns. Sugar Rush, which is Vanellope von Schweetz’s world, is more about cartoon physics and charming candy landscapes. Hero’s Duty, which is home to Sergeant Calhoun, is all about state-of-the-art realistic effects.”

Cesar Velazquez, effects supervisor on the film, said it was important that the stylized worlds of Niceland and Suger Rush retained their unique style. A 2D animator did draw-overs of the effects, which offered a different take from what a simulator would offer.

“We wanted to maintain the charm of each individual world so that everything remained cartoony in Sugar Rush, as an example,” said Velazquez. “Sometimes there were subtle differences with how a cloth simulator brought King Candy’s curtains to life versus how animators would draw it.”

There’s a sequence in a Niceland penthouse apartment early in the film where Ralph accidently destroys a 30th Anniversary cake. The team took a real cake and dropped it and then hand-animated the way the cake exploded for the film.

“With Niceland we wanted to retain simple textures and shapes, which was actually a challenge for us,” said Lusinsky. “We want the film to have a certain amount of richness, so not being able to add details like brick textures in the 8-Bit world was tough.”

One game world that allowed the team to go all-out was the first-person shooter world of Hero’s Duty. Velazquez said this world was more straight-forward computer animation.

“Hero’s Duty is about realism,” said Velazquez. “It’s about giving viewers the sense of the fog of war. We layered a lot of effects like smoke, steam and debris to give movement and make you feel like these characters are in this war. Flashes and sparks were added later to finish off this dark and eerie world.”

One of the most important effects in the movie comes in the form of a central character, von Schweetz. Like Ralph, she’s an outcast in her game world. She’s a glitch in the program and the other racers won’t allow her to take part in the game. The glitch comes to life through a flickering effect that happens throughout the film.

“The initial timing of the glitch effect was set up by animation so that the effect would support and accent her emotional state,” said David Hutchins, effects supervisor on the film. “We mix in a slightly different pose that reinforces that. We created her geometry and built that glitch effect in that place. They added the glow and lens glare in lighting. It’s something that stayed in the 3D world. It’s not a post-process effect, so in stereo you can really feel the building blocks come apart and back together. The glitch is a reflection of her emotional state. She has different glitches depending on whether she’s nervous or very sad.”

Having seen 30 minutes of the film, Von Schweetz and Ralph really come to life thanks to strong, emotional performances from Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly. Disney had these two actors record their lines together to bring the animation to life in a more realistic manner. And coupled with the amazing visuals, it certainly looks like the process worked.

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 JGaudiosi@aol.com.

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationGeneral

The following is an excerpt from Tyler Weaver’s Comics for Film, Games, and Animation: Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld. Tyler Weaver teaches you how to integrate comic storytelling into your own transmedia work by exploring their past, present, and future. He discusses the creation of the unique mythologies in comic stories and digs into the details of comic construction, from pacing to scripting to collaboration.

Photo by Marxchivist

From the penny dreadfuls to the pulps, from radio to comics and television, serialized storytelling has been a classic tool for bringing audiences back for each and every installment of your story. The infamous phrase, “To be continued,” inspires anger, rage, and frustration, but also a desire to return again, to see exactly how your favorite characters will get themselves out of the latest cliffhanger (a technique coined after author Thomas Hardy left the hero hanging off a cliff at the end of an installment of A Pair of Blue Eyes2) concocted by the writers whose job it is to toy with our emotions and allegiances (and to generate ratings). Serialized (or fragmented) storytelling is the act of designing stories that occur over multiple installments within the same medium. While a staple of comics storytelling since its inception, (Superman’s first adventures in Action Comics #1 and #2 [1938] are an example of early comic book serialization) and a necessity for the survival of the newspaper comic strips, another form of fragmented storytelling became part and parcel of the comic book: episodic storytelling.

Episodic storytelling features the same characters in different adventures, but starting at a point where all has returned to normal. In comics parlance these are known as “done in one” adventures, something the Golden and Silver Ages used to great effect. The episodic structure makes much more use of the audience’s goodwill towards the characters, as you visit them when all is normal—not when they’re facing certain death.

A combination of serialized and episodic storytelling is “serio-episodic,” which feature stories that are episodic in nature, but have an overarching mystery to them. Lost is a prime example of this, as (especially in the early seasons), there were trials and tribulations to work out, but an overarching mystery that was not resolved until the very end of the show (and even then, many questions were left unanswered).

A technique I made use of with my Whiz!Bam!Pow! project was what I call “perceived serialization.” Perceived serialization creates the illusion that the adventures of a character in a comic are ongoing, even though we only produced one comic book. By numbering the comic, Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics #7, we implied that there were issues before and, of course, issues that followed by ending the adventures of both characters (The Sky Phantom and The Sentinel) with a cliffhanger. We created a fake reality, one where you could imagine people returning to buy Issue #8, or following the anthology since Issue #1.

This was done by making the comic book a character itself, with a distinct back story, fleshing out the creators of each book (the creator of The Sky Phantom, for instance, is the lead character in the novella The Treacherous Path of Peril), and creating a mythology around that particular comic book as it’s viewed today (in the Whiz!Bam!Pow! world, the comic book is worth $1.5 million, and the backup character of The Sentinel went on to become that universe’s Superman).

Serialization is a powerful tool in the transmedia arsenal, both as a standard cliffhanger tale (though be careful not to make it expected for the audience to jump media forms to learn the outcome of your cliffhanger), and by employing tricks such as perceived serialization to deepen the world and the legend of the story you’re telling.

Excerpt from Comics for Film, Games, and Animation: Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld by Tyler Weaver.  © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Comics for Film, Games, and Animation can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: Nancy Beiman                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

This exercise appears in Chapter Four of Prepare to Board, Second Edition. In this exercise, readers and students were asked to suggest a conflict or situation that could inspire a story.

The conflict or situation could not be specific, as in “A cat chases a mouse” since the students had to create original characters and stories based on the suggestion without using a set formula. The class assembled a list of twenty conflicts and voted for their favorite. “Something in the Way” was then assigned to the entire class. No other story materials were given and students had the freedom to interpret the conflict in any manner they chose. As a result, no two projects turned out alike. Story beats and storyboards for Mincheul Park’s project appear in Chapter 12 of Prepare to Board. Mincheul’s animatic was scored with a scratch track using methods described in Chapter 19.

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 Mincheul Park.

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