Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simpsons Interview pt 2: Models and Abandoning Inbetweens


So I did some character models to give them an idea of how I would draw the characters as caricatures of the Simpsons and then explained that even drawing them that way wouldn’t be enough to achieve what I wanted to do.
I’m even bored with the pose to pose style animation we did at Spumco where the only control we had over the look of the cartoon characters’ acting was in the held layout poses.

My whole experience in TV animation has been to chase a production around from department to department to make sure the original storyboard poses don't get toned down.Which is why I always made sure we at least made lots of layout poses for the animators (across oceans and continents) and instructed them to not redraw them "on-model".The effect of that system was: the characters would strike a funny pose, then basically inbetween into the next funny pose, but between the poses, not much interesting happened. It was a compromise between the 40s cartoon system and the practicalities of Saturday Morning television budgets and schedules.
Bob Camp Layouts from Space Madness

The few episodes that were animated at Carbunkle had much better animation and they added visual interest in the way the characters moved but still based the actions on the held poses. –Held poses by the way that didn’t always work from pose to pose and Carbunkle had to invent some very clever ways to connect them smoothly.

On the Simpsons I wanted to try moving the characters in crazy fun ways, not just looking funny each time they come to a stop. I tried doing layout poses that looked just like this storyboard and the layouts kept looking like toned down versions of the original sketch. And when I began animating I couldn't make it work anyway. So I abandoned trying to interpret it literally and just animated the cycle straight ahead and let it take me where it went.
The intent of the action is the same as the storyboard but the details are different and took advantage of movement rather than just a basic pose with moving legs.
I loved animating Marge's hair so much that it kept threatening to take all the attention away from the walk. I had to fight to keep the hair action as a secondary supplement to the main action.
This project has given me a whole new outlook on hair personality, by the way.
Hair is a feature, just like the eyes and mouth. Hair can reveal intimate secrets of the character living under it.


When you are animating you don’t draw the same kinds of poses as you do when you are drawing layouts. (Just like you don’t write the same kinds of scenes on a typewriter as you do when you storyboard them) You are using a different part of your brain; you are flowing from action to action. This is hard to put into words, but you just draw differently and you think of a lot of things you wouldn’t think of if you were merely drawing individual instances of emotions.

I try different paths to get from one place to the next – but I’m always aware of the context. I don’t change what the characters are doing, I just try to give more specific meaning to how they do it. The inbetweens are as fun to me as the bookended emotions you are aiming at.

No one is happy one instant and then mad the next without some kind of unique transition. Pure inbetweening makes the transition mathematical and cold (even with slow ins and outs and slick timing). In reality, a lot of indecision and emotional torture can happen between 2 different emotions or even just 2 thoughts. I learned this by freeze framing my favorite actors, in particular Kirk Douglas.

next...Kirk Douglas' tormented transitions...
This is Kirk leaving one emotion and on his way to another. It always seems to hurt him to move from feeling to feeling. A real man hates his feelings. Half his muscles try to hold them back, while others crawl towards the next intense one. There's a war going under under the twisting skin of his face. Some of his features resist longer than the others and it makes for wonderful emotional pain and distortion of flesh.