A little behind the scenes look of the early stages of Green Lantern the Animated Series.
My eternal gratitude to everyone who helped prove the doubters wrong.
I can’t be the only one who’s reminded of The Simpsons during those dial scenes. Given that there’s a website based on that very model, I had no idea it was an actual tool used in test screenings. (Let me get this straight: you want a realistic, down-to-earth show that’s completely off the wall and teeming with magic robots?)
Today, Dan Povenmire tweeted this photo of Phineas and Ferb art director (and “Remains of the Platypus” writer) Jill Daniels showing off background designs for one of the show’s upcoming specials. The thing that stood out most to me (other than the fact that those are some darn impressive backgrounds, which shouldn’t be surprising coming from a two-time Emmy winner*) is the piece of paper (to the left of Jill’s outstretched hand) which appears to have as its heading a logo that reads “Disney OWCA” next to the “Disney Phineas and Ferb” logo, and underneath that what appears to be a character lineup also headed with an “OWCA” logo. It seems to me that we might be getting a special coming up that’s intended as a backdoor pilot (or Poorly Disguised Pilot, to use the TV Tropes parlance) for some sort of spinoff series themed around the OWCA. The character lineup looks like it might have Perry and Doofenshmirtz on it alongside some other animal agent characters - presumably new ones that I would imagine would be the other main characters of the series.
I have no idea if they actually are going this route (and if they are, if the series will actually be picked up), but it makes sense for a number of reasons: the Animation Guild’s Steve Hullett’s much-discussed quote from an anonymous employee that Ferb was winding up production (and the war of words between him and Swampy Marsh that followed) and the fact that Povenmire and Marsh’s contract renewal way back in 2011 included the option for a second series with Disney TVA that could possibly be a Ferb spinoff. The common consensus based on comments made by Povenmire and Marsh in a 2010 New York Times article led a number of people to think the most likely spinoff idea would involve the Fireside Girls - however, an OWCA-themed spinoff seems to make more sense both in terms of what can be done with the characters and the apparent shifting of all of TVA’s series to the self-proclaimed “hyper-targeted” to boys network Disney XD.
(Yeah, I barely delve into wild speculation like this, but I’m allowed to delve into it at least once every two years or so. I backlog my wild speculation points for stuff like this. Keep in mind that this is ONLY wild speculation based on an artifact in a single photo!)
*Ms. Daniels won two - count ‘em, TWO - Emmys for her background designs, one for “Wizard of Odd” and one for “Doof Dynasty”
My friend Ryan just tweeted this to me in honor of the finale.
I haven’t watched Fish Hooks in years, but one of my friends who is a fan said he liked the way I drew the characters, so I did this for him in honor of the show ending its run tonight. (That round thing you can see underneath Milo is a frazzled Mickey Mouse head I was fooling around with that didn’t erase fully).
New Disney Animated Series “The 7D” Features All-Star Cast and Crew
Today, the voice cast of The 7D joined Disney in making an official announcement of their roles in the series on Twitter. Combined with the crew of veterans of such beloved animated series of Animaniacs and Futurama, this definitely sounds like it’ll be a tour de force of both voice acting and animation talent.
The 7D is a new series from Disney Television Animation coming this summer focusing on the incarnations of the Seven Dwarfs Disney made famous in the 1937 movie - or at least new takes on them. Apparently set in the period before the dwarfs met Snow White, they are the unlikely protectors of Jollywood, scene of a power struggle between the unusual rulers Lord Starchbottom and Queen Delightful and the amateur witch-and-warlock duo of Grim and Hildy Gloom. According to Tom Ruegger, this image above is the only one that’s been released so far of how the dwarfs will look on the show. The original character designs were by Noah Z. Jones, the children’s book author who designed the characters for Fish Hooks; although previous images showed his distinctive “flat” style, this image seems to show the characters will retain Jones’s takes on the characters but will be drawn in the more “rounded” Disney TV animation style.
The production staff includes Tom Ruegger (creator of Animaniacs) and Mr. Warburton (creator of Codename; Kids Next Door) as producers with Sherri “Slappy Squirrel” Stoner serving as story editor. And if that isn’t an impressive lineup, the voice cast is even more so, with the voices of the Seven Dwarfs reading like a who’s who of voice acting: Bill Farmer as Doc, Maurice LaMarche as Grumpy, Kevin Michael Richardson as Happy, Dee Bradley Baker as Dopey, Scott Menville as Sneezy and Billy West as Bashful. The cast is rounded out by Paul Rugg (Mr. Director on Animaniacs, Freakazoid on Freakazoid!) as Lord Starchbottom, Leigh-Allyn Baker (Good Luck Charlie) as Queen Delightful, Jess Harnell (Wakko on Animaniacs) as Grim Gloom, and Kelly Osbourne (Ozzy’s daughter, of course) as Hildy Gloom.
Kelly Osbourne recording for Hildy Gloom (you can probably figure out which is which, though they seem to have the same hairstylist). Photo Credit: Todd Wawrychuck/Disney Channel
Disney TVA definitely has been riding high as of late when it comes to wooing the most famous names in animation, and this seems to be no exception. Combine that with the fact the series is based on some of the studio’s most iconic characters and it’s no surprise that Disney’s hopes are so high that the series will debut on all three of their cable networks - Disneys XD, Junior, and Channel. Only time will tell whether this talent mine is filled with diamonds, but given the lineup of talent, it sounds very promising.
Alright, Cartoon Hounds. There are 43 - 43! - cartoon themes here, including (hint) Adventure Time. How many can you name?
I can name them all … only because I am a cartoon nerd (and proud!).
Surprisingly current themes to boot (pleasantly surprised to hear Dragon Ball Kai’s theme in that rendition, but then again, it is an excellent theme).
Cartoon medleys are a dime a dozen, but the last group of folks I expected one from is Carnegie Hall. Yes, that Carnegie Hall. Ensemble ACJW, a group of music students in a two-year program with them, both arranged and performed this toon-ful medley. Needless to say, it’s fantastic.
The internet got a little surprise this week when a teaser trailer for PEANUTS THE MOVIE was released. It goes without saying (yet we will say it) that this project is near and dear to our hearts. Here are a few behind-the-scences shots of animators from Blue Sky Studios, 20th Century Fox executives, and the writers delving into Schulz’s art at the Peanuts Studio in preparation for the movie. In the center picture writer (and son of Charles Schulz) Craig Schulz, director Steve Martino, and writer Cornelius Uliano discuss an idea.
Freeze frame: the old-school hand-drawn techniques of the new CG Peanuts trailer
Charles Schulz‘s original Peanuts strips mastered the language and tapped the potential of cartooning so brilliantly that when 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky announced a new adaptation to be created in computer animation, I was somewhat concerned about how much they would be sacrificing.
The TV specials and earlier animated movies were one thing – being hand-drawn, they shared so much of their artistry and creative process with the comic strips, and employed many of the same techniques to similar ends – but CG is another thing entirely.
John Lasseter, head of Blue Sky’s fellow CG studios Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, once hit the perfectly formed nail on its impossibly symmetrical head. This quote has been doing the rounds for decades now and it’s still true.
A simple rule of thumb is that the more geometric something is … the easier it is to reproduce on a computer. The more organic something is, the more difficult it is to reproduce on computer.
We might see the most breathtaking representations of nature in CGI, or elastic renditions of hand-drawn style squash-and-stretch, but they’re all being achieved through a painstaking ‘breaking’ of the system.
The best of modern computer animation has required the software engineers and animators to walk into the wind, slowly inching along against the system’s in-built resistance. They’re forcing the computers to output images that just don’t come naturally to them, if you pardon the expression.
All of this only makes the accomplishments on display in the first teaser trailer for Peanuts even more dazzling. It’s full of clever, and no doubt laboriously-achieved, ‘breaks’ to create a series of compelling effects.
The techniques are probably not all obvious in real-time motion, but I’ve pulled some individual frames that best illustrate what’s going on.
One of the inherent problems comes from Schulz’s character design. In CG, the underlying premise is that each character is represented, with very few exceptions, by a single, three dimensional model. This is then posed and animated with techniques far closer to working with a stop motion puppet than anything you’d do with a pencil.
The Peanuts poses that we’re very familiar with, some 64 years since the strip first launched and 49 years since their first TV special, don’t adhere to those principles at all. Schulz’s characters were expressed and positioned in ways that made the best of their original medium, not this one.
Here are some frames of Snoopy as he appears in the teaser. Note how it sometimes looks like there’s two ‘different layers’ of animation at work, with Snoopy’s body and head being in one, his features being in another.
And did you spot the two very different designs for Snoopy’s eyes? Swapping out parts of a character design like this is as rare in CG as it is common in hand animation.
There are clearly different rules being applied when the characters move from being face-on to being in profile. Look at Charlie Brown’s mouth to see a very clear example of how the characters require different technique depending on their orientation.
I think it’s worth saying that these frames do also show the benefits of CG animation, right down to how Chuck’s ears keep their size, shape and location perfectly from moment to moment. And that’s before we even look at the texture and lighting, both of which are CG-specific as well as being very attractive and emotive.
Also in the ‘second layer’ of animation are the effects that mimic hand drawn lines, most typically motion as it would have been drawn into a cartoon strip panel. At 24fps, some of these might be a little harder to spot, but here’s a great example.
Actually, that’s a tremendously interesting frame in a number of ways. There’s a full suite of cartooning techniques in use. Snoopy’s exaggerated mouth is great, the positioning of his ears and eyes is fantastic, but nothing is more noteworthy than his number of… I was going to say arms, but he is a dog. His legs.
Look at Snoopy’s feet in the next images for some even more extreme distortion examples, as well as some very bold motion lines. These ‘tricks’ evoke motion blur without simply employing motion blur, referring instead to age-old cartooning techniques that Schulz or, say, The Looney Tunes crew would have called upon.
Actually, the use of multiple limbs to depict action is said to date back to cave paintings. CG has typically steered clear of the style, not least because it’s hard to employ in the medium, and a little bit because when actual motion is occurring, realist impulses suggest that it doesn’t need to be indicated in this way. But Blue Sky have obviously realised how integral these approaches are to the Peanuts feel.
The duplication of anatomy really does go to extremes just a few seconds later. Pay attention to how Snoopy’s design is very fluid here. His arms get very close to the Rubber Hose style of early American animation – something far older than Peanuts. In many ways, this sequence would have been much easier to create with pencil on paper and not fighting against the simulated volume inherent in a CG image.
See how they’ve drawn Chuck’s dizziness in? Well, I say drawn.
Something that CG is very good at is creating 24 different frames per second. For fully hand-drawn animation, each frame has to be drafted separately, but CG will take the input of key poses and calculate in-between frames for all of the movements that bridge them.
Hand drawing 24 different frames per second can be so labour intensive, and therefore expensive, that many films aren’t created this way at all. Much of Studio Ghibli’s work, for example, is animated ‘on twos.’ This means each animation drawing is photographed for two consecutive frames and only 12 frames are needed for a full second. As a result, movement doesn’t feel entirely smooth.
If you watch a lot of animation, I expect you will have seen a lot of animation ‘on twos’ and even seen some ‘on threes.’ I’m including the Peanuts TV specials here, and some TV anime goes far beyond even this.
But this kind of labour-saving isn’t a necessity in CG at all. Very rarely will a CG movie have a look where the motions slightly ‘strobe’ because consecutive frames are the same.
This Peanuts teaser is a notable exception. This certainly doesn’t apply to Snoopy when he’s zipping around all over the frame, but at other times the characters are regularly held in the exact same pose for two consecutive frames. This can only have been done very deliberately, and the effect is to imply a look that’s subtly reminiscent of hand drawn animation.
There would be little use in my showing you two identical images and asking you to accept them as consecutive frames, but here’s an example of Snoopy and Charlie Brown moving out of sync.
This may reduce the chance of the ‘strobing’ from seeming like a defect of the image, and connect it more completely to the motion of the characters.
And while we’re on the subject of strobing, let’s go back to the sequence where Snoopy has Charlie Brown surrounded. Every frame with Snoopies is followed by one where there are no Snoopies at all.
Again, that’s not the traditional CG way.
Later in the teaser, Charlie Brown and Snoopy move out of their abstract Blue Sky – which is probably just a coincidence, but you never know – into a static frame and a composition that’s very much in line with the original strip. We get to see some great squash and stretch in this section, and more of those expressive ‘overdrawn’ lines.
These are not all consecutive frames from the sequence. I left several out, but they do indicate the variety of poses that the characters go through.
Not only have they gone for poses and techniques that are bold and effective, and done so even when that has required a lot of work in CG, everything is very much in Schulz’s own style too.
One final frame. Here’s Woodstock with a tweet bubble. In the teaser, it’s animated. I bet he’s going to actually have these in the film.
There’s a kind of intensive, frame-by-frame craftsmanship in all of the best animation, but when a CG movie like this seems to use so many techniques from older disciplines, somebody is always bound to ask if the film might not have been better off produced in hand drawn animation in the first place.
Even if we take it for read that market forces would have made the use of CG absolutely mandatory, and I don’t know how true that actually is, it’s also the case that Blue Sky haven’t just defaulted to using easy CG options. It’s abundantly clear that Peanuts has been designed and is being animated with love and a real desire to do the job effectively. Blue Sky’s work on Charlie Brown and Snoopy corresponds elegantly with where the characters originally came from, while at the same time, it’s cutting edge stuff. Even in this trailer we’re seeing CG do things that no CG feature film has done before.
All of this ‘innovative borrowing’ is going to make Peanuts a movie like no other. And while I guess we’ll never know for sure, I think Charles Schulz would have been very impressed himself.
Peanuts is set for release in late 2015.
Sorry for the long reblog, but this is worth looking at if you’re interesting in the animation style of the Peanuts movie and looking forward to it (as I am). It’s clear from this breakdown that the animators are really doing as much as possible to replicate Charles Schulz’s distinctive art style - for example, the fact that Charlie Brown’s mouth looks different from the side than it does from the front, and the little touches like the movement lines and Schulz’s distinctively chunky pain stars (which I’ve personally cribbed when drawing pain stars, to be honest).