Monday, June 18, 2007
Who cooked the Ratatouille?
I've been too busy to post much lately as I prepare to move into a new apartment, but with sneak previews and reviews of Ratatouille now pouring in, I'm happy to say that I can finally - finally! - tell my family and friends just what I've been doing over the past two and half years!
I can't think of any other studio out there as committed to pushing the Art of Animation as much as Pixar. Having worked fairly early in the production pipeline for well over two years, it's been a wonder to see so many talents come together to create what might be one of the most beautiful animated films ever produced.
Most of my time on this film was spent Modeling and Articulating the film's human characters. Those are some fairly esoteric terms, so to explain: "Modeling" refers to the sculpting of the static three-dimentional polygonal "Model" representation of a character inside of a computer program. "Articulation" refers to the process of giving that static Character Model animation controls; Much like puppet strings would give a puppeteer the ability to manipulate an otherwise lifeless doll, the process of Articulation is the technical preface to a Character Model's animation, giving Animators the "strings" they will need to make our characters act. Working with Artists and Animators, Articulators figure out what a Character Model will look like in motion - how its skeleton will move the skin, what its range of facial expessions will look like - and create animation controls to accomplish every sort of subtle movement animators will need to get those Models acting convincingly in scene.
Rat does a wonderful job of pushing human caricature, so I feel very fortunate to have played a significant part in tackling the Articulation and Modeling challenges behind its villains: Chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) and Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole). Watching animators push those models as far as they did was both thrilling and frightening ("We need the left nostril to do what?!?"), but an incredible sense of energy and life was pumped into the characters in the end. Responsibilities toward each character's model development on this film were highly shared among Articulators, but I also provided many months' worth of work towards Horst, Lalo, Mustafa, Lawyer, AdMan, Health Inspector, Colette, and numerous other background humans, background and pre-production rats, and character props. My last few months on the film were spent on animation fixes and cloth simulations.
I'm very proud of the job my friends and co-workers did on this film, and can't wait to see it in a public theater on opening weekend among a completely fresh crowd! Please get out and support Rat in theaters if you can; skip the latest inevitably disappointing big-budget Sequel* and try something fresh! If you can stay for the film's very entertaining credits, you'll see my name under 'Characters' and 'Additional Simulation Support'. Enjoy!
*ok, well see Transformers after Rat :)