Find­ing the Line

Animation Magazine - - Front Page -

Blue Sky Stu­dios strives to recre­ate the au­then­tic­ity of Charles M. Schulz’s comic strips in 3D CG an­i­ma­tion in hopes of turn­ing

The Peanuts Movie and its tale of a block­head into a mod­ern block­buster. By Tom McLean.

even­tu­ally be­came about honor­ing Schulz’s pen line and get­ting the right feel into the char­ac­ters. That ended up elim­i­nat­ing ideas like adding whites to the eyes or hair to Char­lie Brown’s head and re­tained such 2D con­cepts as “sixes and nines,” a term used to de­scribed Schulz’s eye shapes.

“When we put it up, if it didn’t feel like Char­lie Brown, we all knew im­me­di­ately,” says Dun­ni­gan.

Ideas in Mo­tion When it came time to make the char­ac­ters move, there was an­other set of chal­lenges.

“Our idea was that we would take the sen­si­bil­ity of the spe­cials and the poses from the comic strips as the guid­ing idea,” says an­i­ma­tor B.J. Craw­ford. But when some of the tech­ni­cal is­sues be­came clear, stick­ing with the TV style in some re­spects was the way to go.

“See­ing the lim­i­ta­tions that they had in terms of bud­get and time was really great for us to sell a more lim­ited an­i­ma­tion style,” Craw­ford says.

Jeff Ga­bor, a lead an­i­ma­tor and an­i­ma­tion colead with Joe An­tonuc­cio on Snoopy, says se­quences like Snoopy’s dance demon­strate how th­ese tech­niques were used. Go­ing frame by frame through the se­quence, mul­ti­ple limbs and the lim­i­ta­tions of work­ing on twos with no mo­tion blur be­come clear.

“It hope­fully doesn’t pop out while you’re watch­ing; it hope­fully just makes the an­i­ma­tion look smooth,” says Ga­bor. “It’s ex­panded upon ev­ery­one’s an­i­ma­tion skills to re­learn that: how to an­i­mate on twos, how to make it look smooth and fun and not overly bro­ken and edgy.”

An­other trick that was harder than it ap­peared at first was mov­ing the cam­era. To keep with the style of the spe­cials, it was de­cided the cam­era would pan in­stead of track.

“To go back­wards is ac­tu­ally so dif­fi­cult in 3D an­i­ma­tion be­cause 3D wants to add the par­al­lax, it wants to add all that stuff,” Ga­bor says.

Recre­at­ing some of the poses Schulz of­ten used in the strip re­vealed that what looks great in 2D in­volves some un­usual changes in 3D. For ex­am­ple, a three-quar­ter shot of Snoopy as the Fly­ing Ace wav­ing his fist in the air at the Red Baron was im­pos­si­ble to make work with­out stretch­ing and dis­tort­ing the part of Snoopy’s arm hid­den by his body to get it to the right po­si­tion.

Un­al­tered, the CG model of Snoopy that looks fine in other po­si­tions was phys­i­cally un­able to reach that pose. That re­quired an­i­ma­tors to cus­tom­ize al­most ev­ery frame of their char­ac­ter work, us­ing cus­tom tools to sculpt the char­ac­ters into im­ages that works.

“Ev­ery sin­gle an­i­ma­tor on a per-frame ba­sis is sculpt­ing ev­ery sin­gle frame, so you are es­sen­tially a tra­di­tional an­i­ma­tor with 3D parts, like you’re mov­ing a Mr. Potato Head around. It’s more stop-mo­tion than it is us­ing the CG tools,” says Nick Bruno, an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor.

Char­ac­ter Quirks The char­ac­ters also morph in un­ex­pected ways from one Sparky pose to the next. “There are hand poses that use five fin­gers; there are hand poses that use four fin­gers; and a lot of the time you’re tran­si­tion­ing over just a few frames from one to the next,” says Bruno.

Snoopy was the most dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter to work out be­cause he looks so dif­fer­ent from one pose to the next. “Snoopy is the most pushed, for sure,” says Ga­bor. “When he opens his mouth, his vol­ume changes and he be­come a com­pletely new char­ac­ter. That came very late in the game.”

Given that, the de­ci­sion to work on twos saved a tremen­dous amount of work. “Hav­ing that ex­tra frame to show that in-be­tween would mess us up,” says Ga­bor.

Con­vey­ing all th­ese stylis­tic qual­i­ties to the an­i­ma­tion staff was a job in it­self, with an­i­ma­tors at­tend­ing what was dubbed Van Pelt Univer­sity to learn the poses and styles for the char­ac­ters.

“Ev­ery­one here really em­braced the lim­i­ta­tions and brought new cre­ative ways, act­ing choices and stuff, that all live in the Peanuts uni­verse,” Ga­bor says. “So ev­ery­one really rose to the oc­ca­sion.”

In the home stretch of fin­ish­ing the movie, Martino says he’s op­ti­mistic the movie and its slightly dif­fer­ent mes­sage will strike a chord with Peanuts’ le­gions of fans.

“I feel really good about the story we’ve got, I feel great about the ex­e­cu­tion,” says Martino. “At the end of the day, Char­lie Brown doesn’t change, he doesn’t be­come the hero that saves the day, and we learn that the lit­tle things that I think we of­ten over­look — qual­i­ties like kind­ness and hon­esty and per­se­ver­ance — are ac­tu­ally more valu­able.”

Martino also is ex­cited by the pos­si­bil­i­ties the movie sug­gests for new ways to cre­ate CG an­i­ma­tion that is less pho­to­re­al­is­tic and more iconic.

“Maybe we’re like the im­pres­sion­ist pain­ters, we’re start­ing to look at sto­ry­telling in dif­fer­ent ways that doesn’t fill in ev­ery lit­tle de­tail but gives you the same emo­tional re­sponse,” he says. “If you look at a Renoir or a Monet, you’re like, ‘I got the same emo­tional con­nec­tion’ — some­times even more pow­er­fully. So I feel like that’s the op­por­tu­nity and maybe the ex­cit­ing part of this time we’re in now.” [

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.