Animated Movies: You Asked, Pixar Answers

Deepa Gopal's picture

[Editor: A month back, we had published a two part series on how animation movies are created. You had an opportunity to ask questions to two experts from Pixar, and we have their answers for you! Bruce Kuei and Doug Dooley are both animators who are responsible for the motion and performance of the characters.

Bruce has worked on Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 at Pixar. He has also worked on Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, and Barnyard the Party Animals outside of Pixar, at other animation studios. Doug has worked on Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up and Cars2.]

[LegoDude] Where do you get all your ideas for movies from?

[Bruce] Pixar is a director driven studio, so a great majority of the time it's the directors that come up with the ideas for the movies. They draw inspiration from important moments in their own lives and also fantastical things from their imagination!

[Sammy02] What happens after an idea for a film is generated at Pixar? What proceeds it?

[Doug] When a director's story idea is approved, the film will enter what we call "pre-production." In that stage more artist join in to help the director. These artists help the director develop all the details about the story, characters, and the imaginary world it takes place in. Then it goes into "Production" where more artists are brought in to make the each of the frames in the film.

[maati2003] How long does it take to make a movie like Toy Story from start to finish?

[Bruce] Pixar movies can take anywhere from 4 years to 7 years! The bulk of the production though, such as animation and lighting, only takes about 6 to 8 months.

[Arjun] When a movie is being made, does the entire company focus on that one movie?

[Bruce] No, we usually stagger our productions, so when while a movie is going through production, another development team is already starting to work on the next film!

[Sammy02] Sometimes I have noticed that many characters of animated films, look like their voice-makers. Are the voice-producers used as model for the cartoon?

[Bruce] Some studios do use their live-action counterparts as part of the character design. As far as I know, Pixar doesn't do that, we're afraid that it might distract (however minutely) the audience, so instead of focusing on the character in the movie, they're focusing on the actor or the actress playing the part.

[Arjun] How do you create the graphics for when Buzz is flying and all those toys are below? I am always fascinated by that.

[Doug] The shot that I believe you are thinking of is a shot we call a "POV," or "Point Of View" shot. This is done by animating the camera to appear attached to a character's head, so it shows exactly what the character is seeing.

[RCMaster] How was the fur on Boog from Open Season made to move individually? And how was each and every water drop created in the river scene?

[Bruce] Open Season was made from Sony Animation Studios. We're not exactly sure how they did their fur and effects, but Pixar's technical directors uses programs and algorithms to make the computer simulate the fur and effects in the movie. They then have to use their artistic eye to keep tweaking it and make it look perfect.

[LocaPorSelena] I've done several claymations, so I know about the whole layout, but how do you make it play all together smoothly?

[Doug] There are a few tricks we can do that claymation can not do as easily. The first thing is, we are able to constantly go back and fix things in our animation that do not seem smooth when we see it in motion. The other is we can render very fast animated motion with something called "motion blur." Motion blur imitates the streak you get when a camera snaps a picture of something moving very fast.

[zippyfire4444] How are the 3-D frames shown at the same time, and how do those glasses filter them out?

[Doug] Although I'm not an expert on this subject I will try my best to answer a little of this. Each image that both the cameras take are projected on top of the other. The objects that are far from both cameras look almost exactly the same when they are projected over each other. The objects that are close to both cameras end up appearing in different positions. The glasses then trick our mind in to seeing the two images as one 3-dimensional image through an effect called "polarization."

[Arjun] What is the next technology after 3-D? What lies in the future for animation movie-making?

[Doug] That is difficult to tell. 3-D has been around for a while, but only recently has it worked well enough that audiences really seem to like it. The only 2 technologies I can think of that if improved might be used is "smell-o-vision," or some kind of "virtual reality." Neither seems likely anytime soon though.

[Sammy02] What are the skills needed to become an animator? Does a person have to excel in drawing and arts for that?

[Bruce] Animators, I feel, need to be very observant. You have to pay attention to the way things move and people act and be able to transfer it all into the work that you do. Nowadays with CG (computer graphics), you don't necessarily need to excel in drawing and arts, but being good at those things helps hone your "artistic eye" and can be a great asset for an animator. You also need to be able to work really really hard and be open to constructive criticism - always be ready to improve and grow.

[Matthew14] I wish to become a movie director when I'm older. What are the chances of becoming one?

[Doug] You can do anything you set out to do, as long as you believe in yourself, and you are willing to work really hard to achieve it.