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Animal Logic on animating a character

By ACMI, 2009 2:09 minutes

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Aidan Sarsfield had the role of character supervisor on Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006) and was responsible for implementing the ‘character pipeline’. This role required managing the way the characters looked, performed and emoted as well as design aspects such as wardrobe. In Happy Feet, motion capture was a key way that the character’s performance was created, and the benefit to director George Miller was being able to interact with the performance in real time and physical space. In the meantime, the surfacing technicians created the physical appearance of the character, and it proved to be very exciting when these two elements of the character were put together.

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Discussion Points

Feature filmmaking is a highly collaborative process and this is intensified when making a feature animation, particularly now that CGI (computer-generated imagery) has become the norm.

  • When making a computer-animated feature, what are some of the steps involved in ensuring that all the separate pieces come together successfully?

Pixar did not use motion capture in its Toy Story films, but its website details some of the planning involved in a large animation project -

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) is a combination of computer-generated animation, live action and motion capture. Burton describes the making of the film as being like putting the pieces of a puzzle together (Hart, 2010).

As character supervisor on Happy Feet, Aidan Sarsfield was responsible for bringing the animated characters together into a seamless whole. Much of the success of Happy Feet was attributed to the appeal and believability of its animal characters.

The 3D feature animation Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) took digital characterisation to a new level.

  • For a description of the way the characters were created, read the Inside Film interview with John Rosengrant, who headed the Avatar special effects team (Appleyard, 2010).
  • Creating digital humans that are not filtered through a fantasy lens is particularly difficult. Find out more about the idea of the ‘uncanny valley’.