Geek Fact
Did you know that the soon to be released animated feature film "The Wild" took 1.5 million work hours and a staff of 418 people to bring it to the screen? Samson the lion has more than six million hairs that have to be individually rendered by a computer. And Samson's not even the hairiest animal in the movie. That distinction belongs to a relatively minor character, a poodle, who boasts over fourteen million hairs! Also, nearly two million individual feathers were animated for all the birds that appear in "The Wild." CGI has certainly come a long way since "Forrest Gump," which won the Visual Effects Oscar for just one animated feather!

Animation Mentor Tips & Tricks:
By: Shawn Kelly
Hello Animators!

Welcome back! Last month we talked about multiple character shots, and in particular, about how important it is to keep your secondary characters doing secondary actions. How you usually want to try to have only one primary character in any shot at any given moment, and to use your knowledge of composition, staging, and motion to lead the eye of the audience through any shot, no matter how many characters are talking, or how busy the scene is.

If you've read more than a couple of these, you know I'm just jumping randomly around to whatever happens to seem interesting to write about each month, so sticking with tradition, this month we're making a big random jump out of the "practical application" world and taking a short detour into something a little more conversational. A little more intangible, I guess.

This month I want to talk about acting just a little bit.

Not how to do it, but why it's important to try.

Here's a little pop quiz: raise your hand out there if you're an actor...


Okay, well - that's sort of a trick question. If you are an animator, you *ARE* an actor. If you want to become an animator, then you're signing up for a lifetime of studying acting, and I think it's important that you think of yourself that way.

TIP #6: A great animator IS a great actor, and that needs to be a goal for each and every one of you.

Don't believe me?

Okay, what is an actor's job? An actor's job is to become their character so completely that they can deliver a performance that an audience can believe in. An actor's job is to take the direction from the Director, and to deliver the required story-points, emotions, and actions -- all without any dialogue or narration, if necessary.

How is that any different from an animator's job?

We have to do the same exact thing, only on top of the actor's job we also have to be masters of body-mechanics, physics, and artistic presentation (composition, staging, silhouette, etc.) In fact, I'd argue that our job is often more difficult than an actor's job, because we have to do almost everything an actor does, and then on top of that, we have to have the ability to break that performance down into tiny 24-frame-per-second increments!

Actors have the luxury of living in the real world. They have real props, and real actors to interact with. If an actor is going to storm out of a door, he gets into the character's head, tries to feel the emotion of his character as truly and deeply as he can, makes sure he knows where his marks are, and that's it! Off he goes, storming through the door, angry as all get-out, and slams the door behind him.

That actor doesn't have to think, "Okay, I'm really really mad, so I'm going to storm through that door. So, hmmm... Okay, first, I want to take a step with my left foot, so I better shift my hips over my right foot, and rotate them on the x-axis so my right hip drives upwards as the weight of my body comes to rest completely on that right foot. Oh, and I better remember to counter that with the shoulders, and offset the overlap of the arms as I swing around to take that first step, or I'll probably just fall over."

NO! An actor just thinks "storm through the door" and that's it! His body will automatically do all of the things you have to truly break down into minute individual (but deeply inter-related) actions.

Animators have to create a performance (hopefully) every bit as evocative as that actor, AND be a master of how the body mechanics will work and everything else besides.

It isn't an easy job, but boy is it a fun puzzle to tackle, and so satisfying when you really nail it.

Here's the thing - people don't give animators enough credit.

Remember the first time you saw that T-Rex in Jurassic Park busting through the trees, almost on top of the jeep? The whole theater screamed! Afterward, people were talking about how scary that T-Rex was.

What? What T-Rex? It wasn't real! The T-Rex didn't scare anyone! The *ANIMATOR* made them all scream! Sure, the music, and directing add to any scary moment, but the animator is the single person who brought that dinosaur to life to such an extent that a theater full of people screamed.

How cool is *THAT*!?

Or what about Buzz and Woody from Toy Story? How many times have you heard kids talking about how funny Buzz and Woody are?

But Buzz and Woody never made anyone laugh. They never made anyone cry, or scream, or feel inspired. Buzz and Woody are only ideas. They're a bunch of math, and that's it. They're a file full of bits and bytes and ones and zeros!

The Pixar animators breathed such life into Buzz and Woody, that children all over the world believed, truly believed - even if only for those 80 minutes, that those characters were truly alive. That Buzz had real feelings. That Woody had real dreams.

That's some pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me.

It's the closest we've got to real magic.

Sometimes, as an animator, you might wish for some recognition, or dream of the day when a poster trumpets the fact that a character was animated by Glen Keane or James Baxter, rather than pointing out that Mr. Bigshot Celebrity spent two whole days recording the voice track.

Will that ever happen? Maybe. I doubt it, but who knows. Either way, it doesn't really matter, because in the end, the magic of this animation stuff doesn't have anything to do with individual recognition. It inspires kids! It spreads laughter around the world. It gets people thinking about things they normally might not think about. It lets people of all walks of life recognize universal truths about themselves and their neighbors. At the very least, it lets people escape their lives, no matter how hard those lives are, at least for a couple hours.

The point, I guess, is this: if you don't make a conscious effort to study at least the rudimentary basics of acting, you will NEVER imbue a character like Woody with the life that Woody's audience so wants to see. They WANT to believe in him. They WANT to identify with him. You only have to give them a real chance! If you don't truly become your character when you're filming your reference, you are short-changing the audience, and whatever performance you come up with will never be as powerfully evocative as it could have been.

If you ignore the principles of acting, you might be a good animator, but you will never be great. In short, you will have blown it as an animator. You will have squandered an opportunity to help entertain, inspire, and touch people, even in that small way for that short period of time.

And honestly? If you aren't gunning for becoming "great," then you might as well just give up now, because you'll never get past "mediocre" with that attitude.

Am I the best actor? Am I "great?" Of course not! Not even close. I have a ton to learn about acting (and always will - yet another of the many facets of our art form that are far too complex to ever completely master), but I do know enough to know that the pursuit of acting skills is as important to my animator's toolbox as any nice figure-8 arcs are.

And I also know that getting lazy, stopping your learning process, and saying "okay, I'm good enough" is Step 1 in the "How to Become a Washed-Up Burned-Out Has-Been Animator" manual.

Will I ever be a "great" actor? Will you? Beats me. That isn't the point. The point is that I'll spend the rest of my career trying to push my art to that level, and even if I'm never the Greatest Actor/Animator On Earth (which, come on - let's face it - probably isn't ever going to happen), at least I'll know that I spent every day trying my best to get there.

And in the end, isn't that what truly matters? Isn't that what will give your life, (and by extension, your work) that feeling of satisfaction, growth, youth, and fun?

I should apologize for how preachy that got. I just think acting is such an important and overlooked skill for animators. Future articles might get into more practical "acting tips," but then again, I never really know until I sit down what I'll be blathering about, so who knows.

Whatever the next article is about, I promise it'll be more practical!

As always, keep animating, and have FUN!

- Shawn

Book Showcase: A Sketchbook by Patrick Morgan Vol. 1
by Patrick Morgan
Animation Mentor:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Patrick Morgan:
I'm from Detroit Michigan. I attended The Center for Creative Studies, College of Art and Design (C.C.S) for only 2 years before dropping out. It was more of an industrial design school. At the time I was going there, there weren't many classes focusing on animation. They always told me, that there was no money in cartooning. After I dropped out, I pretty much didn't draw for a few years and just played music in bands. I'm also a bass player, and I figured out that girls were more interested in guys in rock bands than in animation. So eventually I moved to L.A. to try to make it in music. My first job in L.A. was at Golden Apple Comics. It got me back into drawing a bit, and I started to pick up freelance gigs, here and there, through people that came into the comic store, looking for artists. After that, I got a job for a small company in the art department. We were basically, the owners, mid-life-crisis project. We were doing storyboards, for music videos of unsigned artists, developing animation projects that never saw the light of day, and we released a couple of comic books through the company. The pay was crap, but I learned a lot there. I was drawing all the time, and also learned Photoshop and Illustrator. During the Internet boom, I got a job at Disney Online where I learned Flash. I left Disney and started a start-up design company along with some other ex-Disney employees, which focused on extreme sports design, snowboard design and whatnot. That was short lived, due to the big Internet crash. I was a freelance artist for a few years, working on projects for Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, and Vivendi Universal among others, until I started at Nickelodeon, as a Background Painter due to my extensive use of Illustrator and love for color. I'm on a show called the X's, which is created by Carlos Ramos. The magnificent "Ragnar" did all the backgrounds for the pilot. It was a great looking pilot, and I wanted to be a part of it, even though it was for backgrounds. I have since been promoted to Design Supervisor for the show, and I have been designing some character stuff for the second season, along with continuing overseeing the backgrounds. I have also been doing some development work for some projects at DIC as well as releasing a vinyl toy of my Whaleboy character. I am also completing Vol.2 of my sketchbook series, which I will have out for San Diego Comic-Con. Whew! Oh yea, not to mention that I have been pitching "Whaleboy" at Nickelodeon with my partners Ed Acosta and Taesoo Kim. Nick seems very interested. Wish us luck.

Animation Mentor:
What inspired you to write the book?

Patrick Morgan:
I was and have been inspired to put out a sketchbook ever since this whole sketchbook thing blew up. I am a huge fan of sketchbooks. My studio is filled with them. It's out of control really. This is actually my 4th book. The others were all self-made (but full color). San Diego Comic-Con has always been where I'd premier my book each year. After seeing how great Stephen Silver's books came out, I decided to take mine to the next level and go hardcover. It is in stores out here in Los Angeles, a couple of stores in New York as well in Canada.

Animation Mentor:
Please tell us about the book.

Patrick Morgan:
My book is just a bunch of stuff done throughout the year that I like to share with people. I love drawing ugly people. Even if the person I am drawing isn't strange looking, he will be when I get done with them. Everyone does the hot chick thing, (I have some of that too) but I like drawing things that make people laugh. It's fun to see people laugh when they see something funny in my drawings. I also throw in some figure drawings in my book as well. I can't stress how important life drawing is to young artists. It should be the foundation of any character artist.

Animation Mentor:
Do you have any additional tips for our readers?

Patrick Morgan :
Draw, Draw, Draw! And do it, because you "love it", and it will show in your work. Carry a sketchbook with you always. Observe from life, and put it into your work.

Animation Mentor:
Where can our readers purchase your book?

Patrick Morgan :
You can go to my blog at, or e-mail me through, and I'll send it on out. I usually will do a sketch in the book for everyone that gets one. I take PayPal or checks. Bud Plant and Stuart NG books carry it as well.

March US Movie Releases
Your inside guide to US movie releases and the visual effect companies who made movie magic.
The Wild
U.S. Release Date: April 14, 2006

Feature Animation Studio:
C.O.R.E. Feature Animation

Synopsis: THE WILD follows a teenage lion that hails from the New York Zoo, which turns zany when the animals are all alone. However, after he gets captured and sent to Africa, a group of zoo animals -- featuring an older lion, a female giraffe, a not so bright anaconda, a little squirrel in love with the giraffe and a neurotic koala -- set out to rescue him.
Silent Hill
U.S. Release Date: April 21, 2006

Production Companies:
Konami Corporation Ltd.

Visual Effects Studios:
C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures
Film Effects Inc.
Luma Pictures
Mokko Studio
Mr. X Inc.
Patrick Tatopoulos Design Inc.
Tatopoulos Studios

Synopsis: Based on the Konami videogame franchise, the story follows a mother and daughter who seek to discover the secrets of a seemingly abandoned town.