September 21, 2013

Research: Physicality and Motivation (Animator's Staycation: Day 2)

I was getting pretty caught up in doing research for my pencil test today in terms of action. HOW do you climb a tree without gear? I can think about how I might climb a tree, but what about a manic middle aged man chasing a squirrel? So I spent some time looking for reference and even considered heading out to a park and filming some footage of myself climbing. I decided not to bother since I'm probably not as fit as my character and I'm pretty sure I can figure out how a character would climb a tree without actually doing it myself. I can find a bit of footage of people climbing to study and then consider how this particular character would climb this particular tree in this particular instance.
I found this video on youtube which was the most helpful in terms of the physical action of climbing trees without gear:

Now I believe that it's going to be more important for me to consider how the characters feel instead of how they can get around. The old man is feeling manic, spurned, determined, he's experiencing an adrenaline rush and he's a bit winded. The squirrel moves only when she needs to, she is scared but scatter brained enough that she forgets to stay scared. Her movements go between smooth and bouncy runs to frantic and twitchy little movements.

The old man character in my animation exercise is, well he's not that old... About 40 years. I found this great video on youtube called "Sikkimese energetic old man ". I can't tell what is being spoken by anyone in the video but it looks like some young men, possibly grandsons or sons or friends of an older man are filming him being active. The old man is from Sikkim. The old man seems very sharp and he's quite stylish too. I love the way he holds in his energy when he's not showing off. And he stores a beanie in his fedora!

As for Squirrelly, I've been watching videos of squirrels just being squirrels to learn more about how they live and act. As far as movement goes, this video has a bit of everything, in slow motion:


Some interesting squirrel facts:
-they can fall 100 feet without injury
-they are constantly looking around and aware of their surroundings, even while eating
-they have great eyesight via their huge glassy eyes
-must always be wary of predators since they have few natural defences, save flight
-sometimes ground squirrels work together to warn each other of approaching danger with a whistling call
-they have four front teeth that never stop growing so that they don't wear down from constantly gnawing.
-grey and red squirrels do not hibernate in the winter
-grey squirrels tend to be shy but when they are fed, their feelings of bashfulness tend to disappear
-grey squirrels are inherently friendly and curious
-red squirrels are very solitary and defensive of their territory
-red squirrels are considered aggressive, moreso than greys
-a red squirrel is about half the size of a grey squirrel, around 12 inches from their nose to the tips of their tails - the average length of a gray is 18 inches and half of that is the tail
There are lot of famous animated squirrels out there, including Scrat, Sandy, Secret Squirrel, Foamy the Squirrel, the ones in Sleeping Beauty and in my mind most notably; the squirrels from The Sword in The Stone. The part of the film when Merlin and Wart become squirrels is super entertaining and emotional! Loved watching that. Andreas Deja put together a fantastic post discussing the squirrel sequence from Sword in The Stone on his personal blog here. He links to these thumbnails that Frank Thomas did and they are scribbly but just what Frank needed to do to think out the scene. They're so clear!

I've actually got a ways to go on my thumbnails for this scene, I'll share those when they're done.

I found this Disney confession astonishing:

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Rough key sketch of Babette!

I'm currently rough animating this shot.