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 :)

8 comments:

Dave said...

I, like many other artists and designers across the country, am so envious!!!! But Pixar's work on every level is so inspiring. I will be there opening weekend! Looking very forward to it!!!

And PS, if you know where I can get my hands on a die-cast Dinoco Chick Hicks and Snow Monster Truck, I'd be in your debt!!! ;-)


Dave

Richie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richie said...

Yeah, I can't wait for Ratatouille. Those podcasts are addicting.

Tony said...

Dude, I am so excited about this movie. More than my daughter is, probably. Can't wait to see it.

Ian said...

Thanks for the kind words, guys!

Dave, some of my co-workers seem to go through the same difficulties finding Cars toys: they've been very popular!

Tony, I don't think Rat's advertising accurately reflects the movie's spirit: You may very well end up enjoying this movie a lot more than your daughter!

Nick said...

Just saw Rat last night and my jaw is still on the floor. I think the most visually stunning animated film ever made...

Nick said...

and...

when i saw the movie, there were a few kids in the theater (night show) and they seemed bored with the film and got restless. Don't get me wrong, the movie is wonderful, I just don't think that this one is for young children as the story is a bit involved.

Ian said...

Glad you liked it, Nick! Relative to Cars, Ratatouille does seem to have a more sophisticated sense of humor and plot, with the hope that there's enough slapstick to hold onto the toddlers. Some of my favorite reviews came from professional and hobbyist cooks!