Animation

How NYFA Alum Camilo Navas Created His Animation Project “George is Hungry”

What does it take to actually make a creative animation sequence? Hard work, a bit of training, and the drive to manage multiple skillsets at once. From Game Design to Animation, NYFA students are taught the tools they need from some of the most skilled instructors in the business to create some of your favorite pieces you see every day in the digital world.

Colombia native Camilo Navas came to New York to visit a friend, who introduced him to an instructor that taught at NYFA. The instructor then told Navas about scholarships and ways to make studying at the school possible for what he wanted to study.

NYFA alum Camilo Navas

“I liked the city and the school was film and media-focused, so I loved it. The next semester after that, I started my admissions process, although I started studying Game Design and then I found out that what I really wanted to learn was Animation, so I was able to swap my program.” 

During their course, Animation students are trained to use multiple tools to create their assignments. For one project, Navas created a sequence called “George is Hungry,” and explained that he used Zbrush for modeling, Motion Builder for the animation and motion capture, and Maya as the 3D software, among others. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this same assignment, the NYFA alum decided not to storyboard it as some other creators may choose. “I actually didn’t storyboard the film because I’m not a great drawer,” he shared. “I had the plan of implementing motion capture, which would allow me to make an animatic. It was a great idea because it adds the timing of the acting and lets me place the camera wherever I want. It was like shooting a movie that I could rewind and fast forward, and I didn’t have the pressure of being on a budget or limited time for shooting.

For the whole process, Navas revealed that there was a workflow he followed to create his project that made the work more seamless, due to the complicated nature of animation. His process included the following order of operations:

  1. Scripting the story
  2. Modeling the characters
  3. Rigging
  4. Motion capture
  5. Animation editing
  6. Blocking the camera
  7. Animatic
  8. Dynamics
  9. Rendering
  10. Compositing
  11. Editing
  12. Sound design
  13. Exporting the final result

“I chose the tools that needed the smallest investment of time and effort in order to get results faster and make corrections multiple times. It could be considered an iterative process. The project itself needed 5 months to be completed including the sound.”

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this project, Navas needed sound to make the sequence complete, so when that was ready, the 1-Year 3D Animation alum had his finished project ready. “What happens on the screen is what creates the need for sound and music.”

With this project now finished and Navas graduated from NYFA, he is looking to produce a second episode and eventually make George’s universe from “George is Hungry” into a series. Navas also encourages those who are interested in animation to seek it out and pursue their passion. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

“There are probably a lot of people like me, who think that you need to be super smart and a talented illustrator in order to achieve some success in this field. I previously said that before NYFA I didn’t know anything about animation or I even didn’t have skills like drawing. Sincerely, I still don’t know how to draw the human body with its proportions, but it really doesn’t matter because creating an animation piece is a colossal amount of work that it’s very likely for anyone to find a job to do where they are good at it.”

New York Film Academy would like to thank the NYFA alum, Camilo Navas, for sharing more about his experience studying in the Animation Conservatory at NYFA and for giving readers insight into what goes into creating a full animation sequence.

https://youtu.be/l0ySF2FKQds

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Star Wars, Marvel, and More: Your Ultimate Guide to Disney Investor Day Announcements

It’s been quite an eventful year for Disney. Like many, they were left trying to figure out a whole new theatrical release model for big-budget films like Mulan in the midst of the pandemic and pushing their new streaming service platform, Disney+, to the forefront to compete with the likes of Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and others. 

They stole our hearts with Baby Yoda (sorry, we still won’t be calling him Grogu) in Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian, as part of their slate of first original programming, nabbed Broadway darling Hamilton for a streaming event so epic that it made even your typical non-musical fans sing “The Schuyler Sisters,” and they dropped two massive music events for the most prolific artists of the last decade, Taylor Swift (Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions) and Beyoncé (Black is King).

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Enter Disney Investor Day; boy did Disney deliver. The Mouse paraded a whole lineup of new shows, movies, and company announcements that would send any fan of pop culture into media overload and make any company executive jump up and down from all the intellectual property that is about to be put on display. Don’t worry, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Let’s break down some of the highlights. 

1) It’s all about numbers, and Disney has them: 137 million global paid subscriptions, to be exact, which includes:

  • 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers
  • 38.8 million Hulu subscribers
  • 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers

Disney plans to see these numbers rise tremendously by the 2024 fiscal year, with projections of 300–350 million total subscriptions, driven primarily by a significant increase in content output.

(Photo Credit: Disney)

2) “Content is King,” and Disney is coming for the crown: Disney announced that they would be targeting 100+ new titles per year on Disney+. Yep, you read that right. For Disney+ alone, Disney revealed an impressive slate of content spanning across the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic catalogs. They also announced that they would be releasing some feature films in theaters and Disney+ simultaneously.

Some of the top content announcements included:

  • Star Wars getting the Marvel treatment: Easily one of the biggest surprises of the day was Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy, announcing a slate of 10 Star Wars series stretching into 2023 for Disney+, the most aggressive creative expansion of the franchise since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The theatrical film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, was also announced with director Patty Jenkins attached as director. Taika Waititi has also been attached to an unnamed Star Wars feature film. Probably the biggest Star Wars news of the day, however, was the return of Hayden Christensen to play Darth Vader alongside Ewan McGregor in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, sending fans into a frenzy

  • Avengers may be over, but Marvel is just getting started: Starting off Marvel’s Phase 4 is WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki. Joining the previously announced lineup, Disney announced three new series for Disney+ including the Samuel L. Jackson-led Secret Invasion, Ironheart with Dominique Thorne as a genius inventor, and Armor Wars, starring Don Cheadle as James Rhodes. She-Hulk is here; starring Tatiana Maslany as lawyer Jennifer Walters. “Guardians” fans will be happy to hear that James Gunn will return to write and direct The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special for Disney+, and everyone’s favorite baby tree will get his own series in I Am Groot. Marvel Studios also revealed that Black Widow will be released in theaters, Christian Bale joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther 2 will retire the character of T’Challa in memory of Chadwick Boseman, and Nia DaCosta (Candyman) will direct Captain Marvel 2.

  • Pixar is still focusing on quality over quantity: While Pixar’s latest film, Soul, will launch on December 25 on Disney+, Pixar revealed three new films: Lightyear, an origin story starring Chris Evans; Luca, set in a seaside town of Italy, arriving in theaters June 2021; and Turning Red, which follows a 13-year-old girl with the ability to transform into a giant red panda.

  • Disney Animation is Bringing Your Favorites Back: Zootopia Plus, a series based on the little-seen creatures of Zootopia, will arrive on Disney+ in spring 2022; Baymax!, featuring the robot of Big Hero 6, will be released in 2022; Moana will be receiving a long-form musical comedy series spinoff; and Tiana, based on The Princess and the Frog, is also getting a spinoff. Raya and the Last Dragon will receive a day-and-date release in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5, 2021, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing music for Pixar’s new Columbia-set musical comedy Encanto.

  • More titles announced: The Sanderson Sisters will return in Hocus Pocus 2; Noah Hawley is developing an Alien series for FX; Andy Samberg and John Mulaney will voice our favorite chipmunks in a reboot of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers; and Will Smith and Chris Hemsworth are each getting their own National Geographic shows. Lucasfilm is also rebooting Willow with Warwick Davis returning as the beloved character, with Jon M. Chu announced to direct the pilot. 

This only scratches the surface. Check out all of Disney’s upcoming content here.

3) Star power: The media giant also announced that it will be launching another general streaming service called Star for the international market as a fully-integrated part of Disney+ that will launch in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore as early as February 23, 2021. Star will feature more adult-orientated content from the company’s ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios brands.

In short, Star will act like a service similar to Hulu, which Disney CEO Bob Chapek mentioned has “no brand awareness” outside of the U.S. Star will also include aggregated third-party content (likely from Hulu) and will instead focus on shows that Disney owns, as well as content that does not fall into other licensing arrangements on a global scale.

4) Latin America is getting its own version of Star: In the offshoot of Star, a standalone streaming service, Star+, will launch in June 2021 and will feature Disney’s umbrella of general entertainment content and live sports. The decision for Star and Star+ is said to be a result that followed the launch of Disney+ Hotstar in India in April 2020 and Indonesia in September 2020. 

For years now, Disney has sold its ABC shows to linear broadcasters and local streaming services around the world. So, essentially, Disney has a massive web of content to untangle when it comes to acquiring certain rights for content again, which is why Star is the answer to that solution…for the time being. 

In conclusion, the ambitious business moves from Disney prove that it is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to expand and compete with other streamers. With more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, in a world where shows and films are now being launched at any moment on a streaming platform, Disney has shown they are committed to developing their intellectual properties (IP) to keep their viewership intrigued and gain more subscribers.

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NYFA Alum Francesco Panzieri on What It’s Like Being The Compositing Supervisor on a Netflix Film

Netflix’s upcoming release of the holiday musical feature film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (“Jingle Jangle”) will see NYFA alum Francesco Panzieri among the film’s credits as the film’s compositing supervisor. The film was released by the streaming giant on November 13, 2020, release, and audiences are already loving the whimsical film from director David E. Talbert. 

Panzieri has had an extensive career since attending NYFA’s 3D-Animation & VFX conservatory program and has contributed to over 20 feature films and 50 television series. Some of his credits include Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Fate of The Furious, Avengers: Infinity War, Westworld, and Spiderman: Homecoming to name a few.

Francesco Panzieri

The NYFA alum’s latest work will be featured in Jingle Jangle, a holiday musical by Talbert, starring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, and Hugh Bonneville; with songs by EGOT winner and celebrated recording artist John Legend. The film follows a former joyful toymaker (Whitaker) who is rejuvenated in his love of creativity for his craft when his curious granddaughter appears on his doorstep one day.  

Panzieri worked as an in-house compositing supervisor for Jingle Jangle, leading a team of artists who completed over 230+ shots of post-visualization since they began their work on the film in October 2019. Once the post-visualization was finalized, Panzieri, along with his in-house visual effects team (INH), moved onto production shots, working from beginning to end on shots that are meant to be in the final cut. Panzieri and his team then completed over 70 shots, spanning from clean-ups to set extensions to color correction to split screens to retime. “The team went above and beyond and everyone on the VFX production side was very pleased with our work,” shared Panzieri. 

Still from a scene in “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

Panzieri had the opportunity to share more about his experience working on the film with New York Film Academy and the process of leading a team as the Compositing Supervisor on the Netflix Film:

We (INH) spent the first 5-6 months on post-visualization, focusing on the 2nd & 3rd act of the movie, namely the Magic Man G sequence and the Tunnel Escape sequence,” he revealed. “In light of the multiple audience screening tests that were scheduled on our way forward, we did several interactions each time on both sequences depending on the feedback received from Netflix and the audience.

Keegan-Michael Key in Netflix’ “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

For the Magic Man G (MMG) sequence, we were presented with the cut of the sequence that editors Michael Tronick and Joe Galdo put together. We paid attention to what David E. Talbert was asking us, and animated & composited accordingly the Whirly Twirly to bring flow and life to the sequence, and to connect the choreography of the audience with the flying toy that Gustofson is introducing to them, including the malfunctioning and crash at the end. Once we had a lock on the sequence in terms of animation, timing, positioning, look, we sent our work to Framestore Montreal (one of the several VFX vendors on the show), who dived head-in into the sequence, and started working on it from scratch, using our post-visualization renders as basically blueprints to masterfully build the final visual effects for each shot. The MMG sequence is my favorite part of the movie, with some incredible music, lyrics, and acting/dancing by everyone, especially by Keegan-Michael Key.

For the Factory Escape (FAC), we had to design the entire sequence from scratch.

It was gracefully shot entirely on blue-screen, and it had nothing but the two characters (Journey and Edison) rigged and secured to the wooden chest. INH built the 3D assets for the tunnel, matching roughly the parts that were built on set, and then did all the animation and composites for each shot. On my side of things, I also managed to keep the entire edit of the sequence open separately and literally laying on top of each blue screenshot of our composites, slowly managing continuity and look. That’s where the sequence started coming to life. 

Still from “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

We delivered each draft of the sequence to the editors, they re-arranged things on their side in terms of swapping shots around, adding repos, camera animations, and then sent out the movie each time for the audience screening. Our work was always welcomed warmly during every screening. John Legend and his daughter came twice to the office to watch the movie, and Luna seemed to really enjoy and dig the sequence, so we knew we were on the right path. From there on, Framestore Montreal took our work and once again brought it to final quality with fantastic finesse. 

Once we finalized post-visualization (230+ shots), INH moved onto production shots, which means working from beginning to end on shots that are meant to be in the final cut, so the real deal. We completed over 70 shots, spanning from clean-ups to set extensions to color correction to split screens to retime. The team went above and beyond and everyone on the VFX production side was very pleased with our work.

Still from “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

Sadly, Covid-19 hit right as we started working on those final shots, so we had to relocate and work remotely from home for the rest of the project, which meant having so many production meeting prior to leaving the office, in order to make sure everything was planned and taken care of. It was a challenging but stimulating situation to be in, figuring out for example the length of network cables that each artist needed, or testing the internet connection speed for everyone in order to make sure that we could do downloads/uploads and Cinesync reviews in a timely fashion. I was also requested to assist/consult VFX production for the purchase of a workstation for our director David E. Talbert, in order for him to review all the work from home. Production purchased for him exactly what I had advised to them, shipped it to me in order to configure it and set it up with all the necessary software for reviews, and I eventually ended up going to his residence to install it, do a first dry run test with my remote team, and explain David every bit and piece on how to run things properly.

JJ was: photographed with spherical Signature Prime lenses on Alexa Large-Format at full-aperture resolution (4448×3096), worked on at 4k-flat resolution (3996×2160), finished in DI at 4k-UHD resolution (3840×2160). Real 4k movie. Additionally, graded in Dolby Vision and mixed in Dolby Atmos for the most immersive viewing experience.”

Forest Whitaker in “Jingle Jangle” (Netflix)

With COVID-19 hitting right as Panzieri and his team started working on the final shots, like many companies, they had to relocate and work remotely from home for the rest of the Jingle Jangle project. With the new change of scenery, Panzieri was requested to assist/consult VFX production for the purchase of a workstation for the film’s director, David E. Talbert, in order for Talbert to review all the work from home, to which Panzieri himself implemented in the director’s home successfully with the help of his remote team. 

Working on this film was an amazing experience that allowed me to learn so much,” shared Panzieri. “The strenuous teamwork and love that everyone involved in this feature poured into it couldn’t make us prouder. I feel that the final result looks really dazzling, just like a true Christmas movie should look, and I hope that Jingle Jangle will turn into a holiday classic to enjoy with family and friends for years to come for audiences of all ages.”

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesco Panzieri on his involvement in Netflix’s Jingle Jangle and encourages everyone to check out the holiday film when it gets released on Friday, November 13, 2020, and to see why the Magic Man G sequence in Jingle Jangle is Panzieri’s favorite part of the film. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYPUYVgwLWY

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Pixar’s “Out”-standing Short Film Featuring Their First Gay Main Character Hits The Mark

Oftentimes I look at my dog Zelda, a beautiful pet AmStaff troublemaker, and wish we could switch places just for a while to take a break from our complicated human world.

That is precisely what happens to Greg in writer/director Steven Clay Hunter’s short film Out, part of Pixar’s experimental project “SparkShorts,” a program “designed to discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows.”

Pixar’s Sparkshorts short film ‘Out’

Out tells of a gay man still in the closet, who struggles to come out to his parents during a surprise visit from them during moving day. Their visit prompts Greg to ask his boyfriend to go out the backdoor, which was met by a stern response commanding Greg to tell his parents the truth. In a hilarious twist of magic, Greg switches places with his dog Jim through the help of two sparkly fairy pet parents. Greg now must simultaneously figure out a way to switch back, all while hiding a photo of him and his boyfriend from his mother. 

Greg’s character is a milestone for Pixar, as he is the first gay main character to be featured in a Pixar production. The film itself underscores the struggles that can come from not being “out” with loved ones and the fear of not knowing what the reaction can be when “coming out.” The short film also uses the switch in perspective to show that sometimes we underestimate people’s ability to accept and love others for who they are.

Greg from Pixar’s ‘Out’ holding a photo of him and his partner

Out marks the first time we see images from the acclaimed studio depicting scenes of affection between characters of the LGBT+ community. Speaking to the Associated Press, Hunter (Director), who has been animating at Pixar for 23 years said, “The first time I drew Greg and Manuel holding each other in the bedroom, I was bawling my face off. All this emotion came welling up because I realized I had been in animation for decades and I had never drawn that in my career. It just hit me.

The industry has been slow to show mainstream inclusion of the community on screens large and small. Pixar has dabbled in representation with a line from the movie “Onward,” where a cyclops character references her girlfriend when speaking about being a new parent. Due to this mention, Onward received a ban in four countries and censorship in many others by simply changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner,” and removing any reference to the character’s sexuality. This certainly hurt the pockets at Pixar, however, it showed they were ready to advance representation of the LGBT+ community for which they have been lagging far behind. Nonetheless, they are making strides.

Still from Pixar’s short film ‘Out’

Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Media said of the film, “Out represents the best of Disney and Pixar’s legacy as a place for heartwarming stories about finding one’s own inner strength in the face of life’s challenges.”

There is a real struggle individuals in the LGBT+ community face when it comes to having the conversation of their sexual identity with the loved ones that raised them and this short film expresses that beautifully. At one point, Greg looks at his dog Jim and asks “What is wrong with me?” By the end of the film, he realizes that which we all know, “nothing” at all. 

The nine minute film is a joy to watch from beginning to end with heartfelt emotion, exhilarating fun and a meaningful story about courage, love and perspective. It is now available to stream on Disney+

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Major Trends in Animation in 2020

The top five grossing films of 2019 had one thing in common: they all relied heavily on visual effects & 3D animation

The top five–Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Frozen II–all used the cutting edge of what computer imaging had to offer in 2019. So as we dive headfirst into the new year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) surveyed our instructors and alumni who worked on dozens of movies, games, and television shows this year to find out what 2019’s biggest trends were and how they will lead to the big trends of 2020.

Paradigm Shift in Buyers

If you want to pitch an animated show, you are lucky as there have never been more producers buying animated works. In the recent past, the main purveyors of animated series were Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, and Comedy Central. A good amount of those developed internally use a library of existing IP. 

But with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon now major players in the industry, more series than ever are being made. Hulu, TBS, Apple, Disney+, HBO Max, and Quibi have also thrown their hats in the ring, and more major and minor services are right on their heels. Because the streaming competition is international and because animation (generally) travels well overseas and is not ballooning in cost like live action productions, animated series are becoming a staple of streaming services.

2020 Animation Trends VR

Virtual Production

Visualizing the final film before it shoots it has never been more difficult. Modern tentpole films require more and more VFX, digital sets, CG characters, which means what you capture on set is bits and pieces of plates, as well as green screens that will need to be stitched together in post. This makes it hard for directors and other creatives to ensure what they are getting in camera is right for what they want.

That’s where virtual production comes in. Virtual production is when you use real-time 3D tracking and visualization to approximate what the final set extension or 3D VFX will look like in post, on set while capturing actors reacting to them in real time. A rudimentary form of this  technology has been used in line broadcast for decades, like the first-down line on a football field that is keyed to the ground and matches perspective across mulit-cam cutting; or the real time weather graphics that respond to the meteorologist’s movements. However advancements in game-engine and real-time rendering has allowed franchises like The Lion King to use VR technology, like that NYFA Game Design alum Guillermo Quesada helped develop, to visualize what a fully CG set looks like when captured using conventional directorial and lensing techniques.

Work Stations in the Cloud

Despite decreases in GPU costs, a modern top-of-the-line workstation can still set an artist back $5000. This spread across hundreds of artists can mean quite a costly investment for traditional VFX companies, which is why some artists and VFX houses are turning to “cloud” computing.

The most resource-intensive part of most shows is rendering. If a company does not need to own a render farm or even need to use a RAM farm that can generate previews, they would be able to have hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend more time on the art rather than the computing. This is where cloud computing comes in. Artists, companies, and supervisors are able to “rent” time calculating the preview or render of the shot they are working on, only paying for what is needed from more advanced computers to visualize what they are working on and then switching back to their home (local) stations for tweaks and then sending to a cloud farm for finishing. This process will allow boutique houses to compete with bigger competitors while keeping most of the money on the screen.

Real-Time Technologies

One of the most time-consuming parts of the VFX and/or animation process is rendering. For the first Frozen film, it took 30 hours to render a single frame, and with 24 frames a second, the render times add up fast. Video games on the other hand have been rendering at 60fps for decades but not quite at the quality expected for broadcast or theatre experience. The Unreal game engine is changing this. With strides in real-time rendering driven by the success of Epic Games (Fortnite) pouring resources into real-time rendering for use in animation and VFX, it is possible to render media in seconds what previously would take hours. For those looking to learn the tools of this future, Unreal is the software for you.

2020 Animation Trends

 

AI and Machine Learning

“Deepfakes” and “machine learning” have become daily terms in our newsfeeds, and they are affecting the VFX industry as much (if not more) than anything else. Being able to do head replacement, digital doubles, or de-aging, or having an actor give a postmortem performance as see with Peter Cushing in Star Wars: Rogue One, requires a tremendous amount of frame-by-frame pixel perfect work across dozens of software packages. This year, a deepfake plugin was released for After Effects, allowing artists to use this tremendous technology of machine learning to “photo-realistically” create deepfakes with little to no coding knowledge–training the algorithm yourself on your home machine. 

written by Matt Galuppo, Associate Chair of NYFA 3D Animation & VFX

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The Best Animated School TV Series

Schools make for dynamic and popular settings for television series, but perhaps even more so for animated shows since the target audience is usually children. Here is a look at some of the best animated school television series:

Hey Arnold!

Welcome to the life of fourth grader Arnold and the working class problems he, his family, and his neighbors all face while living in the city. The basis for the character was created by Craig Bartlett while he worked on Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and drew heavily from his own childhood. The show lasted for five seasons and produced two movies and is still regarded as one of Nickelodeon’s all-time great animated series.

Clone High

Clone High was created by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Spin City) and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have since gone on to write and direct hits like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The goofy, slapstick series saw a high school filled with clones of historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, JFK, and Gandhi, who, despite their DNA, were modern awkward teenagers. The show featured a stellar voice cast and quickly earned a devout cult following despite only airing for 13 episodes on MTV.

Doug

Winner of four Kids’ Choice Awards, Doug first began on Nickelodeon as one of its original animated series, before getting retooled and moving to Disney’s ABC. The show was a kinder, gentler cartoon compared to other Nickelodeon launch shows like Ren & Stimpy, but gathered a strong, loyal fanbase over time. Doug was eventually adapted into live stage musical as well as an animated feature titled Doug’s 1st Movie in 1999.

Recess 

Created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere at Walt Disney Television Animation, this fun and friendly series eventually aired for 126 episodes. The show treated school as a pure microcosm of society, complete with sixth grader King Bob, who demands conformity above all else. The six fourth graders who made up the core ensemble managed to transcend their cliches and make for a fleshed out run that produced one animated feature, Recess: School’s Out, and three direct-to-video sequels: Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street, Recess: All Growed Down and Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade

Daria

Daria has since gone on to become an icon of 1990s alt culture–clever, sarcastic, and acerbic. Daria centered mainly on the personal relationships between Daria and her family, friends, and classmates, with a focus on the juxtaposition between the central character’s jaded, sardonic cynicism and the values/preoccupations of American suburban life. The show’s popularity has endured over time; earlier this year, MTV announced plans to produce multiple spin-offs and sequels of the series.

Magic School Bus

A Canadian-American children animated series based on the book series of the same name by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degren, this vibrant and colorful show fused talented voices led by Lily Tomlin with a fantastical premise to help educate kids through the craziest field trips students could ever imagine. By turning a school staple into a whimsical adventure each week, the show earned a place in the hearts of many young children.

Kim Possible

Annie and Primetime Emmy Award nominated, this Walt Disney Animation series was a critical and commercial hit with a brilliant premise that combined the everyday drama of being a high school student with crime-fighting spy heroics. The show was created by Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle and employed several staff writers and freelancers over its four seasons, including New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and NYFA-LA Screenwriting instructor Christina Weir.

Sit Down, Shut Up

One of the few animated school series to focus on the faculty rather than the students, Sit Down, Shut Up was Mitch Hurtwitz’s follow up series after the initial cancellation of his award-winning Arrested Development. The voice cast included three alumni from the latter–Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler–as well as other big names like Kristin Chenowith, Will Forte, Tom Kenny, Cheri Oteri, Nick Kroll, and Kenan Thompson. The show stood out for using live action high school backgrounds as well as rapid-fire, fourth wall-breaking jokes that came as such an incredible pace that it made it hard for the Fox Primetime show to find an audience–it was quickly cancelled early in its first season.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here

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9 Hilarious Animated Films for the Whole Family

When it comes to animated films for children, parents resign themselves to watching the same few entries over and over and over again. That’s why they are always thrilled to find something that is hilarious for both children and adults, and more importantly, has replay value.

Here are nine hilarious animated films the whole family can enjoy, even if they end up watching it dozens of times. 

Frozen

Two very different sisters – one ordinary and one with magical ice powers – are emotionally separated after an accident as children. With the help of some new friends and a sister’s big heart, they learn that love can thaw the “iciest” of situations.

This blockbuster hit was popular with viewers of all ages. Not only is the lovable, huggable snowman Olaf full of little quips to keep viewers giggling, but Anna is by far the most awkward and relatable Disney princess to date. Fans of the film will be glad to hear its sequel, Frozen II, worked on by NYFA Animation instructor Kelley Williams, will be released later this year.

Shrek

Dreamworks release three sequels and a spin-off to Shrek in less than a decade, so fans of ogres with Scottish accents have their options, but the original has a level of hilarity that is nearly unmatched. The groundbreaking film created a brand new subgenre of CGI kids films brimming with modern pop culture references that parents could laugh along to.

Austin Powers star Mike Myers is a comedy natural, but even his scenes are stolen by fellow Saturday Night Live alum Eddie Murphy, as Donkey, and Antonio Banderas’s adorable-but-deadly Puss in Boots.

The Lego Movie

President Business is out to destroy the world, but not if the prophecy of the Piece of Resistance is true. Can an ordinary construction worker truly be the special master builder who has the power to stop an evil tyrant from freezing the entire Lego world in time?

Combining amazing animation that mimics stop motion, laugh-a-second gags, a surprisingly heartwarming story, and an all-star stellar cast, The Lego Movie was a gigantic hit upon release as well as a critical darling. Accolades include a BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Animated Feature, and countless other nominations.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

What do your pets do when you aren’t at home? Some may laze around; others may go on an adventure to find their lost friend while avoiding a band of “flushed pets” who hate both humans and their beloved animals.

Made by the artists behind the Despicable Me series, this film offers a fun-filled time by depicting pets as very human-like while also keeping their animal-specific personalities intact. The Secret Life of Pets provides lots of laughs while also featuring relatable, adorable characters that even the youngest members of your household will be able to giggle at.

Minions

The title Minions’ sole purpose in life is to serve the biggest, baddest badguy boss in existence, but their clumsiness makes it difficult to keep their jobs. A prequel to the hit movie Despicable Me, this story follows three brave minions who venture off to save their tribe by searching for a boss that will cherish and need them for years to come.

Minions most impressive achievement is sustaining 90 minutes of fun and story despite the constant warbling of the characters’ gibberish language. Indeed, not only was the film a success, but cemented the little yellow creatures as animation icons.

Despicable Me

There would be no Minions if not for the success of the original Despicable Me, which won audiences over with a modern style of humor, a subversive take on superhero tropes, and a hilarious leading performance by Steve Carell at the height of his comedic powers. But the movie is also a perfect family film, as the supervillain Gru (Carell) becomes a surrogate father to three daughters and finds true meaning in a suburban family unit.

 

 

Wreck-It Ralph

Poor Ralph never wanted to be a video game villain; he just wants to be accepted by his fellow game characters. Eager to prove himself more than just a villain, Ralph leaves his home game in hopes of showing that he can be a hero. His plan backfires–if he doesn’t return to his game in time, it will be unplugged and shut down forever, leaving him and all his friends without a home.

Wreck-It Ralph is a blast from the past for parents who grew up playing vintage video games during the 80s and 90s. But you don’t need an interest in Nintendo and Atari to enjoy this fantastic film, especially considering it was directed by Rich Moore, director of iconic comedy shows like Futurama and The Simpsons.

Toy Story

The original Toy Story transformed the animated film genre with its computer animation, but the impressive artistry and technology would not have captivated audiences the way it did without an, imaginative story, gut-busting one-liners, and a lively cast voiced by some of Hollywood’s top talent, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

Twenty-five years later, the iconic Pixar characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear are still dominating the box office, along with all their old friends as well as new ones, including Toy Story 4’s breakout character Forky, played by recent New York Film Academy guest speaker Tony Hale.

The Incredibles

Toy Story walked so The Incredibles could run. The 2004 Pixar film depicted a family of superheroes and perfectly captured the love (and hostility) that exists between a mother, father, and their children living under a roof, whether they have superpowers or not. Every member of the family will find something to love from this action/comedy/family drama and it’s must-watch for parents and their children.

If you’re interested in studying animation and visual effects at New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.

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The Best Animation Studios in the World Outside of Disney & Pixar

From today’s computer-animated films to the hand-drawn classics, there’s no denying the storytelling power of animation. For nearly a century, this art has given us captivating stories taking place in vibrant, memorable worlds. But like any entertainment medium, it can take a passionate and talented team to charm us time and time again.

We all know how good both Disney and Pixar are, together raking in hundreds of awards in the last decade alone. Here we’ll be focusing on the many other animation studios inspiring viewers across the globe with their work. The animation industry wouldn’t be the same without them:

Studio Ghibli
Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke

This Japanese studio has been cementing itself as a prolific producer of anime films for some time now. Co-founded and led by legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has won hearts of all ages by using powerful storytelling combined with gorgeous, often jaw-dropping animation. Some of the most visually stunning worlds and characters ever to grace the big screen have come from this Tokyo team.

Spirited Away, perhaps their most successful film to date, earned several awards across the globe, including the coveted Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film in 2002.

DreamWorks Animation
Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon

Despite being around less than three decades, DreamWorks already boasts a number of franchises recognized all over the world. What else would you expect from an animation studio founded by none other than iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of Disney during the company’s groundbreaking Renaissance era.

Responsible for many high grossing animated films, this is one studio that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Kung Fu Panda Dreamworks

Nickelodeon Animation Studios
SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Doug, Hey Arnold!

Starting out as a humble little animation studio in California, Nickelodeon Animation Studios wasted no time in creating highly recognizable shows for viewers of all ages. From Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life, to Rugrats and Invader Zim, Nickelodeon has proven their ability to craft attention-grabbing worlds brought to life by memorable, often-silly characters.

Of course, no series has been able to match the wittiness and popularity of a certain yellow-shaped figure. SpongeBob Squarepants alone has earned Nickelodeon dozens of awards, global recognition, and a cool $13 billion in merchandising revenue.

Toei Animation
Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sailor Moon, One Piece, Saint Seiya

It’s pretty much impossible to have grown up in the 80s and 90s without being influenced by one of Toei’s incredible cartoons. This Japanese animation studio is actually older than most people think, having been founded back in 1948. Since then it’s crafted well over 100 animated series for viewers in Japan and the rest of the world. Today, Toei uses its talented artists to help create everything from full CGI films to video games.

Dragon Ball Z, their most successful franchise, has made the biggest pop culture impact, enough that Goku himself appeared in Macy’s 2018 Thanksgiving Day parade.

Toei Sailor Moon

Warner Bros. Animation
The Iron Giant, The Lego Movie, Batman: The Animated Series, Looney Tunes

With a history as far back as the early 1930s, Warner Bros. has one of the strongest legacies when it comes to animation. The studio saw great success with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes, and for the last few decades they’ve been providing countless hit shows for some of the most watched children’s programming blocks, including acclaimed Fox Kids and Kids’ WB, with shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid!

Warner Bros. Animation has also gained attention for feature-length films like The Lego Movie films and The Iron Giant, as well a slew of slightly more mature films from the DC comic book universe.

Cartoon Network Studios
Adventure Time, Regular Show, The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10

The Burbank-based studio began pumping out hit shows at the turn of the millenium, winning kids over with hit shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and The Powerpuff Girls. Their second decade brought them even more success as series like Regular Show and Ben 10 became some of the most popular cartoons on television.

Adventure Time, which just ended its eight year run in 2018, won a slew of awards for the studio, including eight Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and three Annie Awards.

Adventure Time Cartoon Network
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5 Animated Short Films That Pull At Our Heartstring

Sometimes all you need is a few minutes to tell a heartfelt story that leaves an impact lasting much longer than the film itself. Here are just five of the countless touching animated short films out there you can seek out and enjoy:

Feast
Directed by Patrick Osborne
Length: 6 minutes

Few animals on our planet offer the same companionship and loyalty as a dog eager to see you return home, share a meal, and follow you wherever you go. Feast touches on this age-old relationship by telling a story revolving man’s best friend.

In Feast, a single man named James adopts a stray Boston Terrier puppy and names him Winston. Along with kibble, Winston also gets to enjoy portions of James’s meals, including the junk food James especially loves. James eventually embraces a healthier lifestyle to impress his waitress girlfriend, which doesn’t please Winston, who’s now slipped vegetables. When James and the waitress break up, Winston realizes his owner’s sadness and finds a way to reunite the couple.

Dear Basketball
Directed by Glen Keane
Length: 5 minutes

It’s in our nature to admire the people who inspire us. From comic book heroes and musicians to filmmakers and our own parents, most of us go through life receiving motivation from those we look up to. Whether you grew up watching Kobe Bryant dominate the NBA, or recall when your favorite athlete played their final game, Dear Basketball is a moving hand-drawn animated film that hits close to home.

With Dear Basketball, co-creator Kobe Bryant chose animation to express the myriad swell of emotions felt on the eve of his retirement from the NBA. Bryant goes on to describe the dreams, challenges, and glory that basketball gave him across a career spanning two decades. The short film resonated enough with sports fans that in 2018 it made Kobe Bryant the first NBA player to win an Academy Award.

Bao
Directed by Domee Shi
Length: 8 minutes

Who knew that a sentient steamed bun could be used represent a bittersweet moment in a parent’s life? Winner of the latest Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Bao tells the emotional story of an older woman feeling so lonely that she somehow brings a traditional Chinese treat to life. The woman raises the steamed bun, pampering and coddling it throughout its life, only to become devastated when it grows up and prepares to leave the house.

In the end (spoilers), it’s all an allegorical dream. The steamed bun simply represents her actual human son planning to leave with his fiance. A touching story of a woman suffering from empty-nest syndrome, Bao offers a special glimpse at what most mothers and fathers go through when the children they raised for years are ready to set off on their own.

Bear Story
Directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas
Length: 11 minutes

This film tells the story of an elderly bear and his mechanical diorama featuring a bear similar to himself. The bear takes his diorama down to a street corner and rings a bell, hoping that someone will pay a coin to look into the peephole of his contraption. When a young bear does, he gets to watch the story of a mechanical bear taken from his wife and child by militant figures. Captured, he’s forced to perform in a circus for years before making a great escape and reuniting with his family.

At the end, the bear with the diorama takes out a photo of his family, implying that he too once had a family that he’s currently separated from. Serving as the first Chilean film to win an Academy Award, Bear Story is inspired by the director’s grandfather, who was imprisoned during the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and then exiled for the rest of the dictatorship.

Peter & the Wolf
Directed by Suzie Templeton
Length: 33 minutes

A multinational production, this film was a collaboration between talent from the UK, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, and Mexico. Their efforts paid off as Peter & the Wolf went on to earn plenty of praise and awards, including the Academy Award in 2008 for Best Animated Short Film. Along with its stirring story, this short film is also memorable for its unique puppet animation style.

Peter & the Wolf tells the tale of a young boy named Peter living with his abusive grandfather. Forbidden to enter the forest surrounding their cottage, Peter nonetheless does so to play with his only friends, a runner duck and a hooded crow that can’t fly. When a wolf appears and eats the crow, Peter’s furious grandpa shows up just in time to help catch the wolf and take it into town. When the caged wolf gets taunted and abused by the same bullies who chastise Peter, the boy shows compassion for the wolf by setting it free.

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The Top 3 Free 2D Animation Software Tools in 2018

Certain styles of 3D animation have been around long enough that younger generations of animators and animation fans may not remember a time where they weren’t prevalent. But whether it’s a creative indie game, popular television show, or brief video clip just to bring laughs on social media, artists are still finding creative ways of using the gorgeous, emotion-filled style of 2D animation.

The price tag on some great pieces of software, however, can be daunting. The good news is there are plenty of great tools out there that don’t require a dime to use. If this sounds like what you’re after, look no further than our list of the top free 2D animation software tools in 2018.

Synfig Studio

If there’s one open source 2D animation software you’ll find on most other lists, it’s this one. Synfig Studio is one of the best for being easy to pick up while also allowing experienced animators to create high quality animations. It offers several layers of content, has an intuitive interface divided into four different windows, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. A notable feature is sound support that lets you sync sounds, music, and narration to your videos.

An interesting thing about Synfig Studio is that its developers offer two different versions. The Stable Version is just that — a simple, highly tested set of features you can rely on for your project. The other version, called Development Version, let’s you check out some experimental features that might not still be polished, yet allow you to do some neat things with your animations.

Main Features:

  • Vector Tweening: transform any vector shape into another
  • 50+ layers & several layer types to choose from
  • Full-featured bone system for cut-out animations and vector artwork
  • Advanced controls for experienced animators
  • Cross-platform: Windows, OS X, and Linux

synfig animation software

Pencil2D Animation

This free 2D animation software is recommended for beginners looking to get a better feel for animation and how it works. Pencil2D boasts a simple, clutter-free interface that makes it easy to create basic graphics and drawings as well as complete animations. This program is compatible with three major operating systems (Windows, OS X, and Linux) and lets you use both vector and bitmap graphics.

The ability to quickly switch between vector and raster workflows means nothing can slow you down whether you’re using ink, paint, or sketching. And if you’re ever stumped or want to learn more about certain features, you can either check out valuable docs or ask the community forum or social media pages.

Main Features:

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface design
  • Can switch between vector and raster workflows
  • Active community sites to get help and ask questions
  • Cross-platform: Windows, OS X, and Linux

Opentoonz

Opentoonz is the free alternative to Toonz, an advanced 2D animation software used by some of the top film and game creators in their industries. How can you not get excited at the thought of using the same tools as the likes of legendary Japanese animators Studio Ghibli or the creators Futurama and SpongeBob SquarePants? Although you won’t get all the features of Toonz Premium, the free Opentoonz version still provides an impressive number of features and tools.

With the help of a plug-in effect SDK, users can seamlessly swap picture styles and also apply powerful effects such as Affected Incident Light and Wavy Distortion. The inclusion of Studio Gibhli’s GTS scanning tools provides four types of scanning: colored, black/white, and with or without binarization. Opentoonz is also frequently improved based on the opinions of production professionals, which helps make it an amazing tool for 2D animation pros and newcomers alike.

Main Features:

  • Users can modify source code
  • Frequent updates and improvements
  • Used by top animators in the business
  • A host of features and helpful manuals

opentoonz animation software

Conclusion

Don’t let money be the reason why your exciting ideas will never leave your mind or sketchbook. No matter where you are in terms of experience, the top free 2D animation software tools listed above can inspire you to finally turn your visions into visuals, ones you can be proud of and that others can enjoy.

Interested in researching other free 2D animation software tools? Here’s some Honorable Mentions:

Tupi

  • PowToon
  • Animation Paper
  • Anime Studio
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The 6 Latest & Greatest Trends in Animation

The art of putting together images to depict a sequence of events is much older than we think. Egyptian murals with carvings showing the steps to wrestling moves have been found in tombs left behind more than 4,000 years ago. A thousand years earlier, someone in the area of modern-day Iran painted sequential images of a goat leaping up to bite a tree leaf on a pottery bowl.

Today, animation continues offering us a captivating way of telling stories and providing information. Thanks to advancements in techniques and technology, here are the latest ways you can impress with your own animation talents:

  1. 3D Looks to Retro & Vintage

To keep their content fresh and unique, many 3D animators are looking to art styles from the past for inspiration. One of the more popular trends looks to Gouache, a ’60s era water-based painting style which involved heavy use of color layers and dry brushing. Another cool 3D animation style that’s becoming popular again is retrofuturism. This makes use of sci-fi aesthetics from what people in the late ’70s and early ’80s thought the future might look like. Use of lush lighting effects and pixelated digital elements serve to create places and characters that feel both retro and sci-fi.

  1. High Contrast Cel Animation

Converse Chuck Taylor II Shield Canvas from Golden Wolf on Vimeo.

This is an animation trend that’s been on the rise for a few years now and has been used by some of the top companies in the world, including Nike, Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network, and even fo the Winter X games. Vibrant, contrasting colors combined with an angular design are used to give the animation a simplified, almost cel-style look. The result is a fun, in-your-face sequence that’s hard to look away from. Some of the best examples are from Golden Wolf, an animation production company based in London.

  1. 2D and 3D, Together

A trend that began in recent years and has continued picking up steam is creating animations that look like a mix of 2D and 3D. You don’t have to look far to find a tutorial that shows you how to end up with a flat 2D look by using a cel shader to render 3D. By giving 3D objects a 2D look, animators are able to make expressive, illustrative elements that immediately attract a viewer’s attention while delivering information in a clear and colorful way.

  1. Hyper-Surrealism

HONDA “The Dreamer” from Roof Studio on Vimeo.

If there’s one great animation trend that makes full use of the power of CGI imagery, it’s this style. The effect of hyper-surreal animation relies on combining photo-realistic elements with fantastical imagery to create dreamlike worlds and action. There are few examples better than Roof Studio’s “The Dreamer” add for Honda, which takes viewers along a whimsical journey as a realistic vehicle drives across outlandish locations.  If you’re interested in an animation style that lets your creativity and imagination run wild, look no further.

  1. Dynamic Function Animation in Apps

App developers are also now seeing the power animation can have to give users a memorable experience. Instead of using static images or just text, many apps in 2018 are using functional animation that keeps a user’s attention with a vibrant, interesting user interface. This includes using animation to brighten navigational elements, confirm user input, zoom in and out on content, and more. Since there’s nothing better than motion, mainly because our eyes are designed to follow it, 2D animation offers an unmatched level of visual feedback.

  1. Resurgence of 2D Animation in Marketing

In entertainment industries like film and video games, 2D animation took a back seat when 3D arrived. Since then, companies have felt there’s no better way to captivate audiences, players, and potential customers than with 3D animation, even if it requires more time and effort to create. But now that more people are using the internet like never before, be it on their smart devices or computers, companies need attractive yet cost-effective ways to grow their marketing brand. Thus, a big trend in animation these days is having the ability to whip up simple, attention-grabbing 2D animation videos for use in mobile and web advertisement.

Learn more about 3D Animation & VFX at the New York Film Academy.

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Here's What It's Like to Work for Walt Disney Animation Studios

For many who grew up watching Disney movies the opportunity to work at Walt Disney Animation Studios would be an incredible experience. Many aspiring animators wonder what it’s like doing what you love at the most accomplished and iconic studio in the world. To prepare for what could one day be your dream come true, here’s an idea of what you can expect:

Working for Walt Disney Animation Studios is all about…

Taking Big Risks

Screenshot 2017-06-21 10.01.06

No company has ever reached worldwide recognition by only playing it safe. People who want to make an impact know that success doesn’t come from only doing what’s expected. To truly stand out and raise the bar you have to be willing to take risks and hope it pays off.

No one knows this better than Darrin Butters, an animator who has worked on Walt Disney Animation Studio hits like “Tangled,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Frozen.” During a recent talk at the New York Film Academy 3D Animation School, Butters spoke about how the slow sloth scene from “Zootopia” required going against the top principles of good animation. Despite this, the scene ended up being one of the highlights of the film and well worth the risk.

Giving Your Best To Make Disney The Best

Screenshot 2017-06-21 10.06.55

Most would agree that Disney wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the Disney Renaissance. During this era lasting between 1989 to 1999, Walt Disney Animation Studios produced hit after hit with no signs of stopping. Some of the most admired animated films were created during this time, including “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Hercules.”

The animators that worked for Disney at the time inspired today’s animators to do one thing: make Disney the best. Working at Walt Disney Animation Studios means remembering that the competition is fierce, so you must always do better than before. Of course, it also requires passion and love for animation to walk under Mickey’s wizard hat while on your way to work each day.

Remembering The Fundamentals

Screenshot 2017-06-21 10.08.47

Whether you prefer working with 3D graphics or prefer 2D drawings, there’s a place for you in animation. This is because no matter how 3D-dominated the industry gets, animation will always need people who know the fundamentals. No one understands this better than Eric Goldberg, a man who has worked in the industry for 25 years.

With animated TV shows and movies like “Looney Tunes” and “The Simpsons” under his belt, Goldberg knows the importance of mock up, character design, and other animation tasks originally done by hand. During his exclusive preview of “Moana” at the New York Film Academy’s LA campus, Goldberg expressed that all animators who want a future at big studios like Disney should remember that many fundamentals of animation have held true for decades. It’s why a 2D animator like him can survive in a 3D animation world like today.

Doing Whatever It Takes & Loving It

Screenshot 2017-06-21 10.09.32

There’s nothing like watching a finished animated film after countless hours of hard work have been poured into it. While a lot of people assume creating animated characters and worlds is all fun and games, animators know how much hard work is required to make something special. If you’re not willing to push yourself in order to come up with something unique and creative then perhaps working for the “Mouse” isn’t for you.

In a guest post on Chronicle Books, Maggie Malone of Walt Disney Animation Studios talked about how one of the artists went above and beyond while working on “Wreck-It-Ralph.” This artist was tasked with building the world for the Sugar Rush candy go-kart scenes. In order to make sure her candy world was authentic and reliable, she spent weeks creating actual models out of real candy. This resulted in a deliciously wonderful scene that might’ve never looked as good if she hadn’t put in the extra mile.

What are your goals as an animator? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about 3D animation and visual effects at the New York Film Academy.

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Inspiring Advice from 3 Top Animation Studios

No matter whether you’re about to start your program at The New York Film Academy’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School or are already deep into your journey into the magical wizarding world of professional animation and effects, we are sure that the hard work and long hours you put into your work are motivated by a lot of passion and a lot of creativity.

Screenshot 2017-06-20 10.30.03

Because you work so hard at what you love, we rounded up some inspiring advice to give you a boost. So regardless of where you are on your path as an animator or effects artist — whether you’re gearing up for class, tackling a tricky challenge on a project, or hunting down your next professional animation job — we thought you could use some extra insight and inspiration from animators who work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

Here are 8 great tips to inspire your animation and effects work:

1. Research

Screenshot 2017-06-20 08.50.00

Just like actors who do research for their role, animators should do research too. Even if you’re just jumping into a shot, take the time to draw or do video research. Make sure that it becomes a habit.

2. Animation Motion

Screenshot 2017-06-20 09.16.47

Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have to animate something that you aren’t familiar with creating. If you need to, break the animation down into simple components to help you.

According to Andrew Gordon and Robb Denovan, directing animators for Pixar’s  “Monsters University,” the team had to color-code Terry-Terri’s tentacles to help during the process.

3. Drawing It Out

Screenshot 2017-06-20 09.18.42

Aaron Blaise, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, tweeted, “Try forcing yourself to draw by just laying single lines down. No searching lines. This will force you to think about every line.”

4. Mastering Technology

According to Scott Wright, an animator for Dreamworks, always look to enhance your skill set. He wrote on Twitter, “Technology changes fast. Don’t rely on mastering one program. You never know how the next software package will enhance your imagination.”

Don’t be afraid to use the different types of tools that you have. Computers and software can do CGI well. Put your efforts into the performance and let the computers help you fine-tune everything.

 

5. Polishing Your Work

Screenshot 2017-06-20 10.26.03

If you prioritize correctly, you will know what aspects of your project may need more polishing. Animation requires a great deal of time and effort to bring an idea to life, and you will need to spend a lot of time to achieve a level of work that is polished and ready to share.

6. Show Your Work

Screenshot 2017-06-20 09.20.26

It’s better to show your creation early on versus keeping it under wraps: you can gather valuable feedback, see your work from a new perspective, and find new opportunities to collaborate or flesh out an underdeveloped part of your idea. Creating solid animation is teamwork and that means being open to critiques.

7. Seek Out Advice

Screenshot 2017-06-20 09.49.26

There will be times when you feel stuck while working on an animation project, and there may be a time when someone else’s work fits better in a scene. If that is the case, go find the person who created the work and talk to them. Some animators will open up and go over scenes to show another animator how they made a scene work. Again, collaboration and critique are vital tools to help you grow and improve your work, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your colleagues and peers whose work you admire.

8. Live Your Life

Screenshot 2017-06-20 10.28.35

Animation is similar to acting in that it requires emotional understanding, a passion for storytelling, and an awareness of life experiences to develop believable characters.

Your creativity and discipline at work will draw from how you live your life, so take the time to travel or go see a show, watch people, and write about memorable experiences. Your own life can serve as a valuable resource and support for you as you develop animated scenes, whether you excel at creating funny scenes or subtle and dramatic scenes.

Either way, it’s important to learn to draw from real life, as that can give you immense insight into understanding what makes a scene entertaining for the audience. After all, your audience is full of people living their lives, too.

Do you have any inspiring advice for our animation students? Let us know below!

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The 6 Best Animated Shorts From The Last SXSW Films

This year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, was another success in film showcases. Running March 10-19, the festival hosted filmmakers from all over the globe, all representing a variety of styles and genres, including animated short films. This year there were 11 total accepted animated shorts, but only one could receive the high honor of Best Animated Short.

But just because there was one winner doesn’t mean there weren’t other quality pieces in the ring. With Cannes in full swing, we’re taking a moment to celebrate festivals and to remember great films that have debuted already in 2017. To celebrate animated film, here are six animated favorites from this year’s SXSW festival:

“Wednesday with Goddard”

The winner of Best Animated Short was created by the UK’s Nicolas Ménard as a commision for Channel 4’s “Random Acts.” It is about a man named Eugene seeking God. Combining 2D animation with pencil drawings by Manshen Lo as well as a soundtrack by David Kamp, the film takes viewers on a surreal journey to find Eugene’s idea of the divine.

“Pussy”

The short film by Polish filmmaker Renata Gąsiorowska received Special Jury Recognition at SXSW for its unapologetic and hilarious take on female sexuality and every absurd thing that gets in the way of it. The protagonist of the short tries to spend alone time with herself and is interrupted from her private bath.

“Hot Dog Hands”

Created by San Francisco-native Matt Reynolds, “Hot Dog Hands” is a strange but hysterical film about a woman who can’t stop growing fingers. Even when she tries to type her condition into the infamous WebMD, her hot dog hands get in her way. The rest is comedic chaos.

“Catherine”

Calling all cat ladies! “Catherine” is all about a little girl who loves pets, especially her bright blue cat who brings her comfort and joy. Being bullied at school plus living alone means the cat is Catherine’s only confidant and friend. But Dwight, a boy across the street, is having a hard time getting Catherine to notice something other than her cat … him! The film was created by Britt Raes and produced by Creative Conspiracy.

“Tough”

Created by Jennifer Zheng, “Tough” is about a grown British-born daughter and her Chinese mother speaking for the first time as adults. The result is a bridge between cultural understanding and childhood clarity. The film combines both Mandarin Chinese and English language for a fulfilling four-minute multicultural experience.

“Birdlime”

This family-friendly stop-motion film by Canadian animator Evan Derushie, who has previously worked on films such as “The Little Prince” (2015), follows a bird dodging birdlime, a substance used to trap birds for export and illegal trade. Though the grey-blue bird in the film successfully averts the dangerous birdlime, he is still captured within a cage and cannot make sense of the strange creatures around him.

What animated films are you most excited to see in 2017? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about animation at New York Film Academy.

 

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Technical Innovations in Star Wars Through the Ages

We have now marked 40 years since the first Star Wars, “A New Hope” astounded moviegoers with its otherworldly look and stunning special effects. Since then, special effects have morphed into CGI and the growing pains of this change and subsequent balancing act between analogue and digital mark the three distinct “Star Wars” trilogies. As the triumph of “The Force Awakens” subsides and excitement mounts in anticipation of “The Last Jedi,” we take a look at how technical innovations shaped the look and sound of some of the most beloved (and reviled) “Star Wars” moments.

A long time ago … There were SFX.

In order to make his first Star Wars movie approximate his elaborate storyboards, George Lucas hired special effects wizard John Dykstra to head up a new company — Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Lucas’ ideas required Dykstra and his team to invent as they went along, as this quote from Dykstra in a The New Economy article demonstrates: “Back in the days of ‘Star Wars,’ we kind of walked into an empty warehouse and sat on the floor and went ‘How are we going to do this?’”

ILM has since been responsible for some of the biggest special and digital effects of the past 40 years, including the incredible leaps from SFX to VFX.

“But,” continues The New Economy, “a mere two decades after Dykstra destroyed the Death Star in ‘A New Hope’ using nothing but a cardboard box and titanium shavings, Lucas turned his back on animatronics and practical effects in favour of expanding his ‘Star Wars’ universe digitally in the prequel episodes…”

The literally unbelievable.

by istolethetv on Flickr

by istolethetv on Flickr

Indeed, the prequel trilogy pushed the limits of CGI, creating incredible virtual sets, and “the first CG star” in the form of Jar Jar Binks. But the technology was not quite there yet, which brought a little too much attention to the fact that the actors inhabited a post-production world. “Worse,” as this Wired article points out, “the special effect that was meant to be ‘The Phantom Menace’s’ crowning glory instead ended up as the biggest albatross around its neck.” Wired concludes that Jar Jar Binks “became instead emblematic of the film’s flawed CG heart.”

Sounds of a galaxy far, far away.

The famed sound designer Ben Burtt was a student at USC when he began collecting sounds of the real world destined to be manipulated into the iconic sounds of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. In an article detailing the sounds behind those sounds, Burtt is quoted as saying, “In my first discussion with George Lucas about the film, he [said] — and I concurred with him — that he wanted an ‘organic,’ as opposed to the electronic and artificial soundtrack. … Therefore we wanted to draw upon raw material from the real world: real motors, real squeaky door, real insects; this sort of thing.” An example is the use of his TV set blended with an old 35 mm projector to create the hum of a light saber.

The sound designers for “The Force Awakens” continued in Burtt’s footsteps. In a Daily Dot interview, David Acord tells how he turned his cat’s purring into Kylo Ren’s Force rumble: “It’s pitched and kind of slowed down, and it’s got a ton of low-end added to it. But you listen to it, it’s one of those things … it’s tough when you sort of pull back the curtain for sound effects, because then that’s all you’ll hear, is that. [laughs] But yeah, that’s Pork Chop purring.” Perhaps it is this seamless melding of analogue and digital that most beautifully captures the spirit of “Star Wars.”

A new movement.

The development of motion capture — the use of the physicality of actors to animate CG creations — melds together the real and virtual worlds to great and seamless effect. Although, in an effort to reclaim some of the original trilogy’s magic, “The Force Awakens” director JJ Abrams famously eschewed much of the CGI available to him, Lupita Nyong’o enlivens her CGI character with motion capture as space pirate Maz Kanata.

Supreme Leader Snokes, another CGI character played by Andy Circus of Gollum fame, will be physicalized as a giant puppet in “The Last Jedi,” according to Making Star Wars, assuring fans that the union of real and virtual wizardry continues.

What is your favorite “Star Wars” sound effect? Let us know in the comments below. And learn more about Filmmaking and 3D Animation & VFX at New York Film Academy.

 

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5 Great Sites for Animation References

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It’s a good time to be an aspiring animator. Access to many useful sites are only a few keystrokes away, giving you a look at what other talented people are working on. While nothing compares to your own ideas and creativity, it doesn’t hurt to get a little inspiration from other people’s work.

The following are some of the top reference sites for future and veteran animators alike:

1. Reference! Reference!

This is easily one of the best databases for animation on the web, and the best part is that it’s completely free. This reference site is run by Martin L’Heureux, a Canadian artist with more than 20 years and 30 projects under his belt. They include not just movies and television but acclaimed video games as well, such as Nintendo’s Metroid Prime.

L’Heureux started the site to share the knowledge he’s picked up over the years in the animation industry. A deep interest in physics and mechanics of human movement mean there are a lot of human animations on the site. If that’s your cup of tea as well, definitely check out his clips.

2. Living Lines Library

Here you’ll find one of the more impressive collections of pencil animations and concept art from actual projects. Whether your goal is to find inspiration or you want to see how some of your favorite shows and movies started out, look no further.

Living Lines Library has everything from production drawings and character designs to model sheets and storyboards from movies and shows both new and old. A few of the many include content from classic Disney movies like “Bambi,” Hayao Miyazaki films like “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” and even 3D movies like “Rise of the Guardians.”

3. Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Don’t let the quirky name fool you. This blog is run by none other than Mark Kennedy, an animator and writer who worked on some of your favorite Disney shows and movies from the last two decades. His filmography includes “Tarzan,” “Hercules,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and “Wreck-It Ralph.”

In other words, Kennedy knows his stuff. His blog offers a wealth of knowledge that every animator can benefit from, including breakdowns of scripts, videos, and plenty of great advice. Although the blog is updated rarely nowadays, there’s already plenty of stuff on there to check out.

4. Deja View

This website is a blog run by Andreas Deja, a German-born animator who worked on some of the best Disney animated films of all time. During his 30 years working at the House of Mouse he had the pleasure of creating memorable villains for top animated films, including Jafar from “Aladdin,” Scar from “The Lion King,” and Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Deja uses his decades of experience and ever-growing passion for animation to help others sharpen their skills. He doesn’t just show sketches or drawings he made, he also talks about his process, inspirations, etc. One of his more recent posts is of him comparing the live action performance of Bill Condon’s Gaston in the new “Beauty and the Beast” to his own animated version from the 1991 film.

5. Animation Insider

This website serves as a hub for animators looking to land an interview for a new job. It offers various resources to push your animation career forward, including a jobs board that’s frequently updated with new gigs.

Animation Insider also has sections where artists from around the world post their work, informative videos, and more. Just from skimming the site we found a great video detailing why cartoon characters wear gloves. This site was started by Mike Milo, a two time Emmy award winning animator who has worked for just about every major animation studio you can think of.

Are you an aspiring animator? Learn more about your craft through one of New York Film Academy’s 3D animation and visual effects programs!

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Animated Series to Watch for Inspiration

Visual effects and 3D animation have really grown over the last few decades with the help of improved tools for animations. If you are interested in learning the theory of animation and visual effects, and getting the professional skills you’ll need, the New York Film Academy’s 3D & Visual Effects School is for you.

The professors of NYFA’s Animation School are working animators and visual effects artists who have designed a hands-on curriculum for students to help prepare them for a competitive industry. Our students use programs such as Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox, Motion Builder, and Nuke.  

Speaking of animation and visual effects, there is something about animated series that brings the kid out in all of us. If you’re feeling nostalgic or need some inspiration for your own animated series, take to Netflix, Hulu or just resort to some Saturday morning cartoons. We’ve rounded up some great animated series to watch for inspiration:

“Rugrats”

In the early years, “Rugrats” used cel animation and the show’s animators drew everything by hand. But by the time “Rugrats in Paris” movie hit theaters, the team used a combination of 2D and 3D animation. The animators created more than 300,000 drawings by hand and then scanned the drawings into Toon Boom Technologies US Animation software. For the 3D animation, the team used Maya. Once all the images were created, they used Animo Inkworks renderer to seamlessly combine everything.

“The Wild Thornberrys”

Nickelodeon’s “The Wild Thornberrys” was about 12-year-old Eliza and her family, who travel the world to record a nature documentary. It was full of travel and excitement for the family, and Eliza even had a secret power – she could communicate with animals. For a children’s animated series, there are a few notable entertainers who voiced characters. Lacey Chabert, who played Gretchen Weiner in “Mean Girls,” voiced Eliza. None other than Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers voiced Donnie, the jungle wild child. Tim Curry voiced Eliza’s beloved yet quirky dad, Nigel. The all-star cast is just another reason why we love “The Wild Thornberrys.”

Here are some other great child-friendly animated series to watch for inspiration:

  • “Looney Toons”
  • “Tom and Jerry”
  • “Scooby Doo”
  • “The Flinstones”
  • “Spongebob Squarepants”
  • “Pinky and the Brain”
  • “The Bugs Bunny Show”
  • “Dexter’s Laboratory”
  • “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
  • “The Jetsons”
  • “The Powerpuff Girls”
  • “Pokemon”
  • “Hey Arnold”
  • “Doug”
  • “The Fairly Odd Parents”

The list of animated series goes on and on. If you’re into animated series featuring mature content — which you can find on channels like Adult Swim — that’s cool too. There’s nothing like staying up late to get some good chuckles. Many of the animated series for older audiences rely on bawdy humor, adult topics, and mature language — a recipe that many animation fans appreciate as they cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood.

“Family Guy”

“Family Guy” follows the dysfunctional Griffin family and the animated series is now in its 15th season. Creator Seth MacFarlane attended the Rhode Island School of Design and, two weeks before graduating, received a surprise job offer from animation studio Hanna-Barbera. He moved out to Los Angeles and joined Hanna-Barbera’s team as a writer. Before “Family Guy,” he worked on other shows like “Johnny Bravo,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” and “Cow and Chicken.”

If that isn’t enough reason to love McFarlane’s “Family Guy,” actress Mila Kunis voices the outcast daughter Meg, and Carrie Fisher voiced Peter Griffin’s boss, Angela.   

“South Park”

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This year marks the 20th anniversary for Comedy Central’s “South Park.” The show focuses on the lives of four elementary students, Kenny, Kyle, Cartman and Stan, in the quiet town of South Park in Colorado. When the show first aired in 1997, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker used photos and cardboard cutouts for the show. Then they started scanning the cutouts into computers, where they imported the images into PowerAnimator and linked to a 54-processor that could render 10 to 15 shots an hour. Now, Stone and Parker use a 120-process render that produces 30 shots or more an hour. Watching how “South Park” has evolved with new technology and software is truly impressive.

On a side note, Stone and Parker helped co-write the book, music and lyrics for the hit Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon.”

Here are some other great animated series with mature content to watch for inspiration:

  • “King of the Hill”
  • “American Dad!”
  • “Bob’s Burgers”
  • “The Simpsons”
  • “Futurama”

What are some of your favorite animated series? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s animation programs to learn more about animation.

 

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5 Types Of Animation: Finding Inspiration In All Styles

As you pursue your 3D animation and visual effects studies with NYFA’s Animation School, it’s important to understand the history and techniques that shaped the field of animation and led to the development and popularity of today’s advanced technology. Whether it’s the cartoons we re-watched as a kid or the flipbooks we bought, the cute adverts on TV tempting us to buy certain products or even the “Madagascar” and “Ice Age” films we love to watch in 3D, animation is an integral part of how we understand storytelling. As you develop your 3D animation and visual effects skills, understanding the principles of other types of animation can open you to new ideas and inspirations. After all, animation is more than cinema — comics, games, graphic novels and even some toys borrow from this tradition. And your animation work can find inspiration in all kinds of places, as well.

Broadly speaking, there are five types of animation. As you develop your animation skills, interests, artistic vision, and software expertise, you can learn to draw from various theories and traditions in animation as you develop your own signature style.

1. Cel (Celluloid) Animation

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This is the original hand-drawn cel animation where the artist literally has to draw thousands of images on special paper and have them photographed, frame by frame. Before the digital revolution, traditional animation was the norm of the industry, including Disney.

Traditional animation is a great skill to have in your arsenal, especially if you particularly enjoy traditional media: color pencils, glass painting, water colors. The main drawback to traditional animation is that it’s a very lengthy process. However, don’t let the old-world flavor of this style put you off, as there’s plenty of inspiration to draw upon within this style of animation: take a look at A-ha’s music video “Take on Me” and the breathtaking Aleksandr Petrov film “The Old Man and the Sea,” based on the Hemingway tale.

2. 2D Animation

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This is vector-based animation, and has two distinct advantages: it is cheap and easy to access. You need a basic understanding of key frames and know how to use Adobe Animate CC.

3. 3D Animation

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3D animation and visual effects are, quite simply, the way of the future. 3D animation operates on different principles, and is more akin to puppetry than traditional animation. For this, you need to learn how to digitally model a character, sculpt it perfectly and give it a skeleton that you can move and manipulate. You’ll have to pose the model at certain frames, and then let the computer do the rendering.

Why is 3D animation so important to understand? Those who want to break into the industry frankly must master the ins and outs of 3D animation. CGI has become the norm for all blockbuster animated movies and in certain live-action sequences which requires a lot of VFX, because of its attention-to-detail and realism. This is why NYFA focuses on 3D animation and VFX, offering aspiring animators the training they need to develop professional skills.

4. Motion Graphics

This visual effect technique involves moving graphic elements such as text or logos, mostly using software such as After Effects.

Works Best For: Those working in the advertising industry or doing multimedia projects, or even designing the opening of film titles.

5. Stop Motion

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Stop motion is like traditional animation, except instead of drawing, you have clay models and a set that you have to carefully manipulate to produce animation. Stop motion can also be done with puppets, cut-outs, silhouettes and even action figures. In the past, stop motion was used as a form of special effects for live-action films, and has largely been replaced by 3D animation and visual effects work. However, there are filmmakers — like Tim Burton — who work almost exclusively with stop-motion. Think: Laika Films’ “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and recently “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

For aspiring animators, stop motion can be a wonderful medium to make art, on your own terms. Stop motion has its own flavor, which can’t quite be reproduced in any other medium, and is extremely labor intensive — much like cel animation. Understanding stop motion can also unlock a deeper appreciation for 3D animation and visual effects.

So, as you create your own original animations, think of the film or clip that you’d like to make. Ask yourself, what should this creative product look or feel like, and how can I best achieve that? Think about your artistic skills and the great history and traditions of animation you can draw upon and experiment with inspiration from all animation styles. Ready to learn everything you can about animation? Check out NYFA’s Animation School.

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Kids’ Films that Broke Ground with Special Effects

When you think of groundbreaking special effects, you likely think of summer blockbusters and big budget productions. But, children’s films are often a source of innovative special effects.

While early films were intended for general audiences rather than being targeted to specific age groups, some found inspiration in the kid-friendly fiction of Jules Verne and Lewis Carroll. Georges Méliès’ “A Trip to the Moon (1902) and “The Impossible Voyage” (1904) and Cecil Hepworth’s “Alice in Wonderland (1903) used pioneering special effects and editing such as multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, substitution splices, and creative use of set design and camera placement to bring imaginary worlds to life on screen.

Gertie The Dinosaur (1914)

One of the earliest examples of animation, Gertie the Dinosaur influenced animators such as the Fleischer Brothers and Walt Disney. In the film, Winsor McCay draws Gertie “live” in a clever sequence that is humorous and graceful. The short film also gives viewers an inside peek at the animation process when McCay references the 10,000 drawings needed to make a few minutes worth of film.

Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The Walt Disney Company’s 1937 film was the first full-length feature film using cel animation. Concept Artist Albert Hurter oversaw every part of the film’s design from backgrounds to individual characters. Disney’s team drew inspiration from German expressionist films as well as mainstream cinema. The Queen’s transformation scene is one example of where the Disney studios borrowed from the likes of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” as well as 1931’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Disney Studios developed the multiplane camera in order to create realistic depth and movement of backgrounds; it was first tested on the short “The Old Mill and used for Snow White and other classics. “The Little Mermaid” was the last Disney film to use a multiplane camera.

Toy Story (1995)

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story was hailed by critics and audiences alike. The film was the first feature film to be fully animated with computers. As Julia Zorthian discusses in her look back at Toy Story twenty years after its release, one of the keys to its success was excellent storytelling that has helped give the film longevity long after CGI has become an industry standard.

The Harry Potter series (2000s)

Creating a believable world of magic and Muggles has been a task for the director and production teams on each film in the series and they have used every trick from old fashioned optical illusions and model sets to CGI and green screens to pull it off.

Hugo (2011 )

Director Martin Scorsese wanted the opening shot of Hugo to be a seamless long shot from outside the railway station through the clockworks and into Hugo’s hidden home. To bring Brian Selznick’s book to life, Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato and Pixomondo Ben Grossman devised many tricks and transitions to create the signature opening and other scenes that pay homage to Méliès and other filmmakers of the earliest days of cinema.

The Jungle Book (2016)

Using a live actor with computer animation and motion capture had not been done on this scale, but director Jon Favreau and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato worked with hundreds of designers to create the seamless animated backgrounds and animal characters. And they did all the previz using VR headsets. The end result is also a testament to Neel Sethi’s talent as an actor, since he had to deliver an emotionally true performance while responding to puppets and stand-ins.

Want to know more about animation and special effects? Check out NYFA’s articles CGI Animation History: Defining (and Awesome) moments in Cinema or How To Do Stop Motion Animation.

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Behind the Visual Effects of “The Man in the High Castle”

One of the challenges of filmmaking is making sure your world feels believable. Even when you have “Star Wars'” many species and planets or you’re dealing with various races and magic like in “The Lord of the Rings,” all the visual elements need to keep viewers engaged. This task is even more difficult to pull off when you have a story set in an alternate universe.

“The Man in the High Castle” is a fairly new television show that took on the challenge of alternate history and got it right. The Amazon Studios series has already received numerous awards in only two seasons, including praise for its outstanding special visual effects.

Below are some of the creative hurdles the VFX team faced and how they overcame them:

An Alternate 1962

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In “The Man in the High Castle,” America lost WWII. The Axis powers emerged triumphant after WWII, leaving Nazi Germany and the Japanese to split the U.S. between each other. This means the entire country, especially the major cities the TV series is set in, would look drastically different.

But since the show is set in 1962, the crew had to first study what New York, San Francisco, and Cañon City, Colorado looked like half a century ago. They also had to consider how developed these cities would actually be without the post-war boom the U.S. experienced after the actual conclusion.

Amazon Studios clearly did their homework and created a scary, new 1960s America. Despite the series being shot in Canada, the audience is able to feel like we’re seeing a New York and San Francisco that has embraced an imperial Japanese and Nazi German society.

Getting The Details Right

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It took much more than slapping swastikas and Japanese Kanji all over to make this alternate history believable. Every department had to make sure the people and places look like they actually live in these fictional cities. Wardrobe, for example, had the job of recreating what fashion in America would be like while influenced by two different cultures.

Of course, the visual effects department had plenty of work to do as well. Everything from the signs and advertisements to even the cars had to be thought out and executed well. This is why you’ll see vehicles in the show without any American influence, such as the classic tail-fins made popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

They also had to consider the major differences in style between the two global superpowers. While Germany under Hitler used impressive statues and neoclassical architecture, the Japanese preferred neon lights and propaganda influenced by their Rising Sun Flag.

The Best Kind of Visual Effects

When most people think of visual effects they think of breathtaking CGI monsters and environments. Some shows and movies depend heavily on VFX to create their world, such as Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy. As technology advances, the artist’s ability to create believable visuals with computers gets better and better.

But most of the time, the best effects are the ones viewers never suspect. This was the case with “The Man in the High Castle,” where a lot of the visual elements you see in city streets and on buildings aren’t real. Instead, they were created with computers in such a way that you’d think they were actually there.

Amazon Studios had to rely plenty on their VFX team, especially when certain communities where the show was shot weren’t 100 percent on board. For example, some locations, including Canadian and Chinese communities, refused to allow their buildings to be covered with swastikas and imperial Japanese content. So many of the large Nazi flags and Japanese banners were actually placed in digitally.

Have you watched “The Man in the High Castle”? What are your thoughts about this show’s use of VFX to create an alternate world? Let us know in the comments below!

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