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Bolt: Storyboard vs. CG


AICN recently posted the above two images as part of a preview of Disney’s Bolt. So, as I understand the animation process at Disney, here is how you translate a board drawing into a final CG film frame:

1. Remove all the funny shapes in the character design and turn the character into a nondescript blob.

2. Take out any asymmetry (like the angles on the arms) and even out the pose.

3. Tone down the funny expressions.

4. Just in case there is any appeal still left in the CG model, add flat lighting and excessive texturing so the characters and background mesh into an indistinguishable dark muck.

5. Repeat this process until you have blown $150 million dollars.

  • Yup, that pretty much covers it.
    You da man, Amid! (Better watch out though! Someone might be… offended…)

  • John A

    But, but but, the other one looks like it’s covered with real fur! Doesn’t it get extra points for virtual taxidermy?

  • Mike

    Long time reader, first time poster. That is dead on, such a clear example of what you can lose when you move from 2d to 3d.

  • I agree, the final CG (in this frame at least) lacks the strength, appeal, and… well, LIFE of the cool previous sketch.

  • I’m still looking forward to Bolt, but you’re right on the money here.

  • Amid = Hamster Hater

  • EHH

    CG Models do have their limits. That doesn’t stop Pixar, though.

  • I don’t know that I agree that 2D is by definition better than 3D. I’ve seen great work done in both arenas. Wouldn’t most of you agree that Pixar does some beautiful posing and lighting?

    But, Amid’s right: The above image is pretty muddy and uninteresting.

  • But but boring is what’s in and popular right?

  • Andreas

    The storyboard is infinitely cuter. Still in all likelihood going to see it.

  • autisticanimator

    The drawing looks a little too much like Michael Fry and(/or?) T Lewis’s style…the character itself reminded me of ‘Hammy’ a little bit…

  • While it may indeed have been even more enjoyable in 2D, I seem to recall that particular scene, actually animated and in 3D, is still pretty funny even if it lacks a particular charm the storyboard drawing had.

  • phil

    yikes, don’t judge out of context!

    come on now!

  • At least the teeth are asymmetrical…

  • The third image in that link of the 3D model actually looks fine, but then for some reason the 4th and final shot totally loses the character that they at first had looking good in 3D. The pose seems to be completely lost under all that fur and the lighting has ruined the eyes so it just looks like a stuffed emotionless toy.

    I love watching storyboard versions of animated CGI films on the DVDs, even Pixar ones, for all the charming 2D art before it has been refined by countless people to the final project.

    Kinda off-topic, but does anyone else find the way all those ‘Ain’t it cool news’ animations in the top corner bounce all the time rather annoying? Rubs me the wrong way for some reason.

  • Keep looking Amid

    This pose is obviously pushed and not Rhino’s default pose. The big eyes, the head pushed in the body. I agree with Phil on this. Taking these stills or frame stepping through a trailer is a really sad and very unprofessional way of critiquing a movie. Poor judgment Amid. At least AICN knows what they are talking about.

  • Storyboard are NOT character designs. If they were, you’d see the character mutating from sequence to sequence. And any loss of appeal from storyboard to final output is ultimately the fault of the director, who approves everything. I can pull out just as many examples of 2D films that have lost their charm along the way, when the boards are compared to the cels.

    Having said that, this scene as I recall it from the trailer is pretty funny. Are directors not permitted to let their films evolve organically and make aesthetic decisions that deviate from the boards, lest they incur online snarking? ;-)

  • Dustin

    Amid flat out nailed it.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Thanks CGI for making things boring like they should be ! ;)

  • Believe it or not, you make an excellent point. All the fun has been drained from the sketch. However, this sort of thing tends to happen in 2d as well as 3d.
    Let’s be fair.

  • DanO

    Kevin the CGI image is consummately less interesting, less funny, sterile in its symmetry and lost in the attempted dazzle of photorealistic detail. Thats not “evolving”, its devolving. This isn’t something new, but one example of the shortcomings of CGI that we have all waited for a solution to, but none ever comes. How many years has CGI been used in features and the characters are still this static? Still this limited in their expressions?

    No one wants storyboards to be character designs, but the film should come close to the expression in the boards. The expression is the emotion, and its not conveyed in 3D puppets as well as it is in drawings. Photorealism doesn’t make up for that.

  • Ira Owens

    You hate it now Amid but will you feel the same way when Disney asks you to write the art of book?

  • amid

    Kevin: I’m well aware that boards are not character designs. But that doesn’t change the fact that somebody somewhere along the line decided that this character would look best as a bland blob, and the storyboard drawing only illustrates what a more dynamic and interesting design this could have been.

    Also, next time I see an unreadable character onscreen I’ll be sure to remember that it was an “aesthetic decision” on the part of the director :)

  • Gotta agree that Amid is out of context again. I look at storyboards on classic animated films and the results, and the characters, do not match the storyboard. Because, well, the storyboard is about expression, not model sheets.

    I am as disillusioned as anyone over the CGI that gets praised – yes, Shrek made my eyes bleed – but this is not fair, and betrays a bias Amid cannot seem to shake. He hates Disney. I get it. I don’t love them. But I can judge their films on their merits when done, not halfway done, not sketches, not frame grabs. And for every 25 turds there is one rare gem. You know what? That’s better odds than any studio, animation or otherwise, delivers.

  • ghoest

    wow we have Geiger weighing in. If anyone knows about Disney directors it should be him.

    Amid just hates 3d animation as he’s shown many times. Every film evolves from the storyboard at the behest of the director, this is a lame comparison. Besides rhino is what seems to be the heart of the trailer anyways.

  • Angry Anim

    Yeah, you’re right… but I’m sure it’s not the animator’s fault. CG is brutal in how strict you need to keep the character on model… especially one covered in fur like that. If you push it too far, the model starts to break and THEN you have to deal with the damn the tech people breathing down your neck about it.

    The animator would run into serious problems if he tried to push the character that far… the character would need to go back to rigging and be customized for that shot specifically which, of course, costs time and money.

    It’s just the nature of the beast right now. It keeps getting better, tho.

  • Kim

    The storyboard sketch had more appeal, because of the expression the characters expresses. Sure, the bottom one is colored and finished, but it’s not the same.

    I mostly enjoy PIXAR movies as 3D films and at rare times, other 3D projects. I’m more into the 2D animation, and I hope the medium is revived soon. :)

    Maybe “The Princess and the Frog” (or whatever it’s now called), will help with that. jst hope Disney didn’t rush through just to appeal the 2D fans.

  • Jason

    I still plan to see “Bolt”, but yes, Amid, you nailed it. I noticed the sad difference between drawing and finished product when I saw the pics at Ain’t It Cool News. It’s easy to see the vast difference between hand-drawn art and computer-generated imagery. Frankly, I think your average audience is getting a little tired of CGI. The bloom ain’t off the rose yet, but it is starting to fade a little…

  • Phil Crow

    If that animator can’t push the pose into that position of the original, can it do anything that is good then?? I believe that Chris Sanders would be a better movie if this is what the result is of the switch.

  • FP

    Eh? Both pics are weird. The storyboard creature looks like a purple blob with huge breasts and no arms, psychotically happy to be a busty amputee. The 3D render resembles a two-toned Meatwad.

  • Kyle

    I hope people aren’t blaming the medium for the differences between the board and final result. if they wanted to they could have made it much more like the drawing, but they obviously didn’t want to or they would have.

    that being said, I do wish sanders was still on the project, the art style is now pretty bland looking. its one of the very few times Ive had to question Lasetter’s judgment.

  • Hmmm…not sure, some aspects of the final design are actually cuter than the original one I may say. However they could have probably kept the pose while changing the model. The color in the original does look quite better in the storyboard cause it’s not so real and there’s some contrast.
    I’d add, though, that I’ve seen OTHER Bolt’s sketches that look a lot better than the final product, but like some other people has said that happens with 2d films as well, the original art they show in the Art Books is usually more interesting.

  • Dan

    Amazing. The real “uncanny valley” is the space between 3D animation exec’s ears. Has the time come to stop hoping that anything truly artistic will never come from a big studio or block buster film again, and maybe took for the small studios that are producing something exceptional, or doing something yourself?

    Consider every other art form in American — it’s all just as plain.

  • > Kevin the CGI image is consummately less interesting, less funny,
    > sterile in its symmetry and lost in the attempted dazzle of
    > photorealistic detail.

    DanO, I recall laughing at a funny scene – not a still frame.

  • > CG is brutal in how strict you need to keep the character on
    > model… especially one covered in fur like that. If you push it too
    > far, the model starts to break and THEN you have to deal with the
    > damn the tech people breathing down your neck about it.

    Only if you’re letting the tail wag the dog. ;-)
    On “Chicken Little”, we pushed things pretty far:

    Of course, that was back in the early half of this decade. :-)

    One of “The Damn Tech People”

  • The character designs for Rhino look like the lower production image, not the storyboards.

  • Amid doesn’t hate all CGI: he likes Pixar and that’s it.

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Amid, just skip the movie & enjoy Pixar designs as they were meant to be seen – 2D in Little Golden Books.

  • DanO

    “DanO, I recall laughing at a funny scene – not a still frame.”

    Point. Missed. Entirely.

  • Mr. Semaj

    That hamster is a pretty ugly character.

  • Alex

    Thank you Amid for this post. I hope someone, somewhere notices.

    The ugly reality is that the storyboard could’ve been faithfully translated into a working rig capable of that pose/expression.

    Why do they bother storyboarding if they don’t use the gold from it?

    I’m in college for this stuff and the more I learn, the more I come to realize that studios are blowing money on….godknowswhat, instead of using the medium’s full potential – which is lightyears away from something as simple as this. They just need to hire people who know how to use the software, instead of the software using them.

    Too bad the original, nice character designs didn’t make it, anyway.

  • Well this has really helped to ignite a OMG cgi sux 2d is teh best when in reality all you are commenting on is this movie and Disney’s recent cgi films.

    The fact that model is less interesting and the lighting isn’t as moody as it could be has NOTHING to do with the fact that it is CG and has everything to do with the art direction. From those storyboards the edict must have been made to play it more safe in design and execution, and art was made to play ball. But nothing about those shapes or expressions are exclusive to only 3d. Those could ENTIRELY be modeled and animated as expressively in GC, they were just limited by the studio not the medium.

    The only thing cg has yet to replicate is the organic line quality, such as the beautiful line weight on his arm closest to the camera. The organic touch of pencil or ink to paper may never be replicated, and I hope it isn’t. I think that allows 2d to be a more sophisticated vehicle if it chooses to be, and I would love it.

  • BreadBox

    From a viewer’s point of view: The cg one’s eyes are too close together. So it looks kind of uhm… not cute.

    Perhaps, one of CG’s disadvantages is a character has many sides(or angles) A CG character may look pretty in front view, but change the angle to worm’s eye view the character will get a fat belly or a big nose from that angle. It’s hard to avoid all those mix ups while trying to get a “realistic” perspective from a “dynamic” shot. It’s hair-pullingly tedious!

    That’s why some people ask “Did you get my good side?” When you take their picture.

  • John

    Anyone have an example out there where the final 3-D image came out looking better than the 2-D character design drawings?

  • Ridgecity

    Not all designs translate well to 3D, look at anime and Fairly Oddparents for examples. I’ve wanted to make really crazy designs in 3d and they end up scaring people.

  • zaireekoid

    Well, I think 3D’s like anything else. It can be awful or cool. Of course, with the big time companies, it’s normally very bleh.

  • …You know what’s sad? That’s why I gave up on being an animator and went into illustration. I got tired spending all my time texturing crap on models instead of…animating.

  • The one thing I really don’t like about CG films is that you can’t REALLY exaggerate squash and stretch like you can whenever you’re drawing anything, but I thought the industry was past that point when Ratatouille and Horton Hears a Who came out.

    That’s the BIG thing that this frame lacks- exaggerated poses (which is only enabled through squash and stretch). The animators are still staying withing the realm of working physics and biology, but then I suppose Disney’s ALWAYS been about aiming for lifelike believability, huh?

    I’m still waiting for more of the 3D studios studios to pull a UPA and say “Screw believability! We’re gettin WILD!” like Blue Skies did with Horton (and I’m pretty sure Ratatouille qualifies too).

  • Ridgecity

    I wish for the day that people will look at 3d and stop looking at the physics instead of looking at the monkey jumping. People never judged the Merry Melodies cartoons for the unrealistic squiggly arms or Pluto bending his legs backwards to walk on his back, yet in 3d people will jump and say “nah, that looks fake, a dog can’t move like that!”…

    maybe in 80 years, CGI will be allowed to use unrealistic stuff like drawings… by then I will be a golden age CGI artist, and probably have a small website devoted to me and my crazy laws of physics…

  • I’m not convinced the storyboard drawing is all that clear.

    I don’t think I would have known those squiggles near the teeth were suppose to be hands without the 3D version to A/B it with. And without knowing they were hands the round things nearby might well have been breasts.

  • Well, I liked the little rodent until I saw that storyboard panel. That drawing definitely is better.


    Sometimes I regret 3D has been invented… I’ll keep on flipping my hundreds of pegged sheets, thank you.

  • Zing! Oh snap! Total burn!

    I don’t think this comparison is the epitome of 2d versus 3d debate/competition but a single case on the Bolt production aspirations and priorities.

    It’s only about Bolt, and this particular hamster in this specific scene.
    And when you don’t have to weigh the credibility of entire industries you can thoroughly critique without the flame wars.

    Hence, both sides can conclude: Much of the life (expression) and appeal (composition) was lost in translation from the story-board to the animated rig. Still funny in a tragic-ironic sense though.

  • Disney is evil! They ruin everything! So if Amid hates Disney, I agree. Not that I think Amid hates Disney. But I do.

  • Skip

    The boards are the boards. The film frame is only ONE film frame–not the entire scene. The SCENE is funny as hell.

    And I though Kung Fu Panda, while a very weak film overall, captured plenty of cartoony expressions via cg in a terrific way.

  • Long ago, there was this corny filmmaker who made corny films. He admitted they were corny films. The critics constantly harassed this filmmaker cause he never met their expectations. They called one of his greatest achievements his “Folly”. His name was Walt Disney. And his corny films make up the classic film library of any serious practitioner. Funny, we don’t remember any of the critics’ names.

    I like to analyze, critique, and break-apart these box office behemoths just like anyone. A film, in the end, can only be judged by a combination of all the elements that create it. To judge a moving image with sound, voices, music, pacing, context, and plot twist by looking at a single image… well, do I really need to point out this frivolity?

    Granted, we can find “omens” in these images and make predictions but as long as people pay money to see these suckers Hollywood will continue making them. So quit going to see them, or stop the bitching. It’s a cold, heartless and irrevocable formula.

  • I’ve seen about ten minutes of the film, and what I saw was pretty good. A more interesting production analysis of “Bolt” would be the huge turn over after the film wraps (many have left already). Who wants to bet that they are replaced with a cheaper, newer (as in right out of school) crew. I thought the company was going to change after Lasseter took over?

  • Thalia

    While, as an avid 2D fan, I may have found this mildly amusing… I really don’t think it’s very fair.

    3D animation seems to have every bit of capacity in translating poses and energy as its traditional sister, and that’s been demonstrated in a handful of recent films…
    And although I hate to point out flaws in my own beloved medium, 2D animation has just as much capacity to render expressive and sumptuous board poses into lifeless and static junk animation.

    While I can agree that the drawing has a lot of energy and awesomeness that are unique to the board, in this instance I don’t relate that to the acting in this particular scene being bad, or the posing, or even the ‘art direction’
    But that boards sometimes go off model :)

    I thought this scene from the trailer was kinda cute :3

  • Oh well. At least Mark Walton does a funny voice for the character.

  • Marshall

    Taken as two still images and nothing more, the drawing has class. The CGI image has kitsch.

  • > Point. Missed. Entirely.

    Enlighten me, DanO. :-)

  • I keep on saying this-

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 3D as a medium, in my (student) opinion.

    But with every 3D studio out there trying to copy Pixar’s style (visually, thematically, the way the characters move, etc.), the results probably aren’t going to be as great.

    How many years was it before Avery, Clampett, and Tashlin hit the scene after Steamboat Willie? I’m holding out that things will eventually turn for the better, but that might be me hoping to just get a job after I’m done with school.

  • Joe

    Hey, for all you know, this guy could be spouting some classic writing like “Oh, that’s GOTTA hurt!” or in the final frame of a burp joke.

  • Chuck R.

    How many of us animation enthusiasts crowd our bookshelves with one thirty-buck “art-of” book after another. Why do we do that when we have thousands of still frames on every DVD we own?
    Because the pre-production art is always more interesting than the final frames. It’s always been that way.

    I’m not in the CG animation biz, but from my experience as an illustrator and character designer, every job has two stages: The first is getting to that really great expressive sketch. The second is getting that sketch in usable final form without losing all the spontaneity and charm. The second part is always harder.

  • Bobby D.

    Huh…now I know why I’m just a writer…I don’t know what you guys are talking about…but it’s fun nonetheless!

  • Funny to see you posted this, and the reactions to it. What you posted pretty much represents my exact thought process as I scanned through that AICN article myself yesterday.

  • Jesse Jordan

    Does anyone happen to know the board artist responsible for this particular drawing? Just curious.

    BTW, good to see you in the posts Kevin (Geiger).

  • AmidIsAPhony

    I love how Amid is such a “fair weather” fan. Pixar is the best, and so he hates everything else. But I remember when his fanboy loyalties were ONLY to Spumco, and anything that wasn’t JohnK, was crap – even Pixar films. Remember that review of ‘Monsters, Inc.’ on your AnimationBlast site, Amid? I do – you spoke of it, and Pixar, in much the same way you speak of ‘Bolt’ and Disney now. Oh, how things change.

    Because you saw that Pixar is on top, and that (lo-and-behold!) they have very talented people working on those films. So to maintain a little journalistic credibility of not looking like a complete idiot, and maybe by opening your eyes a little, you became a fan(boy). But in order to make a name for yourself, you choose to trash everything else.

    Well, guess what? There’s a hell of a lot of talented people working at all these studios – Disney, Sony, and yes, even Dreamworks. But you dont care about that.

    You’re out to build up YOUR fanboy base by strutting your feathers in the face of, at worst, mediocrity. Very bold. These ‘audacious’ commentaries are nothing more than a device you use to sound intellectual and artistic, when you dont have much of the first, and none of the second.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I’m still going to be looking forward to seeing Bolt. Spoiler Question:are there any scenes involving bears in it?

  • The Animator

    A little harsh don’t ya think Amid? I’m all for 2D Animation heck it’s my major in college right now, it’s all I want to do. While the transition isn’t perfect it feels like a different emotion hard to tell from a still from the movie, without knowing the entire scene, I’ll wait until the film is finished til my final judgment. However, I would like to see nothing more then Disney turn back and return to it’s roots.

  • Bryan T.

    Actually “AmidIsAPhony,” I don’t think Amid is a big Pixar fan. Every once in a while he throws out a casual dismissal of them and then pretends to be surprised when people disagree. The most recent one was when he tossed off a one–line dismissal of WALL-E in some unrelated post. As far as I can tell he only enjoys TV commercials and French student films.

    I don’t really agree with the point of the post, but I do agree that the storyboard (like the earlier concept art before the director changed) is much more appealing than the bland look of the movie. In particular Bolt is a bland looking character which I’m guessing is a problem since he is the title character.

    I suspect that Lasseter was right about the story (Lilo and Stitch is cute but I trust the director of Toy Story more on story issues). But if so it’s too bad they couldn’t have improved the story while keeping the far more interesting and original look of the earlier incarnation.

  • Mike Watt

    It’s funny that folks are so critical about CG visually when the real issue is abuse of artists and the make it cheaper/faster mentality of studios. 2D had the advantage of the drawing barrier and thus artists could make valid claims for decent wages. The supposed ease at which 3D is learned and the current high level of animation specific instruction has created a flood of new world-wide talent chomping at the bit to work for any major US studio, at any price. Unfortunately, the level of animation has dropped, poses are all the same, timing is the same and characters have become more generic, except for Pixar character of course. But at Pixar, seasoned pros can mould the young talent, or simply fix the scenes, to ensure a certain level of excellence.

    A large bulk of the “Bolt” animation staff was laid off before production even wrapped. Most of those lay-offs being the higher salaried animation veterans. Another large number of seasoned pros were put on “probation” which a of course is a thinly veiled threat of being laid off unless they don’t get their act together. I assume by “getting their act together” Lasseter and team expect them to work extra off clock hours like most of the staff at Pixar in order to reach that refined level of animation JL demands. This, my friends, is the big dirty secret about animation and especially Pixar, Pixar doesn’t pay a living wage. I know for certain that 10 year vets have been offered $1650 a week as an animator at Pixar. In addition, a few animators from Bolt are going up to work at Pixar for the whopping sum of $28 an hour. Pixar and JL also don’t like titles, like Senior animator or Lead or Supervising animator. Of course, this makes it easy to keep wages low since an artists has no claims to a place in the studio hierarchy or level of responsibility and thus can’t demand higher compensation for more work.

    I can’t even go to a pixar film knowing how cheaply they pay their staff. I am certain it’s a wonderful place to work and I am sure “some” people make a living, but I think Pixar expects artists to take a massive pay decrease in order to have the privilege of working for JL and crew.

    So all the hemming and hawing about 2D vs. 3D is silly considering the fact that studios, including Pixar, want more work for less money and a living wage be damned. That’s the issue in animation, not some fabricated medium war.

  • matt

    So here we are again eh…

    Amid, your picking-and-choosing of which specific/easily dismissed posts to reply to is as transparent as your bias blinding you to otherwise thoughtful and intellectually critical views.

    Here’s another post for the ages like your infamous “that nerd smelled” and other “jump the gun” threads. You gleefully seize on the cg-bashing like some sort of overexcited 5 year old.

    My point is this – what you’ve essentially done this time is dismissed the evolution in storytelling between a storyboard and a scene that needs to honour character consistency, reaction to other characters, making a story point, and on and on, on a per-frame basis. You’ve made it as simplistic and misguided as “this picture looks nicer than this one”, neatly bypassing your usual understanding of the whole process of animation.

    Not to mention you can choose a frame where the character is mid-blink and make the same ‘argument’.

    So tell us, exactly what reaction is that initial board expressing? And is it in context of what came before or after? And appropriate to the scene? Exactly. Note also that it doesn’t even take into account 3d (isn’t this stereoscopic too?) and uses the usual long-lens 2d animated look. May be appropriate, may not.

    Oh and don’t take this as a dismissal of boarding. I’m a board artist amongst other things but at least I can be objective (although I guess I should praise you for saying “make it like the boards”!). It IS a lovely standalone drawing, but you can’t possibly say it’s ‘better’ without knowing the context, story or acting involved in the scene. Otherwise you RE judging them as separate character designs. Surely some of the character appeal in the cg version comes through the, I don’t know… “animation”?! As others have said, judging a board frame meant to represent part of or the whole of a shot against 1/24th of a second of a shot is disingenuous at best.

    Hopefully you post this and hopefully all those who instantly jumped on the “ZOMG CG SUX” tb bandwagon notice the mounting anti-kneejerk posts.

  • Matt, what you’ve dismissed is that these images were given to AICN as an example of how drawing leads to finished image. It’s that simple. And that’s all it is being judged as.

    Yep, that’s ‘simple’ but ‘misguided’? No. The only things being looked at here are exactly what Disney gave out to be examined. Any misguidance came from Disney’s decision to throw these out in isolation if they wanted any of the things you mention to be considered along with them.

  • matt

    Here’s another thing, that no-one has mentioned in terms of shot efficacy. The board (if it’s not a standard choice usually made for ease of animation due to it being 2d) seems to go for the standard but proven method of using a long lens to get ‘closer’ to the subject and by focusing on them through depth-of-field and framing make the expression effective through this proximity.

    However, this film is stereo3d, right? Another way to achieve the effect AND take advantage of a new film-making palette/shot choice, is to go with a wider lens, but use the character’s position in SPACE to get closer. At the same time we can play up ‘cuteness’ through a true sense of the character’s small scale (lost in 2d), rather than just expression or design. And it can be done in concert with the other approaches, telescoping it’s effectiveness.

    So these are two different approaches after ostensibly the same goal, with one arguably taking advantage of its technical abilities for storytelling purposes the other can’t achieve. It’s just up to the subjective decision/predilection of the director.

    Now let me say I’m not a 3d guy, I’m not involved with this film, I’m not an ‘expert’, but this seems a reasonable hypothesis and like my earlier comments about stereo-shot design requiring a different approach, hopefully flies in the face of all those “3D is novelty crap” simpletons. It doesn’t HAVE to be!!

  • Mike Russo

    “Hopefully you post this and hopefully all those who instantly jumped on the “ZOMG CG SUX” tb bandwagon notice the mounting anti-kneejerk posts.”

    You’d like to think that, right?

  • Oh man you guys are soo bitter! Ha ha ha!! I love how you guys bash the industry that you feel your part of. Don’t forget that this is a business and that at the end of the day we are all trying to earn a paycheck and do what we do to the best of our abilities. In the end nobody but us “industry people” see or even give a crap about how the boards look. The boards are only meant to serve as a visual for the directors to buy off on sequential content and then editorial uses it for the animatic. On rare occasions we are able to use the boards for inspiration but the reality is, every board artists draws the characters different so I’m sure that another board artist at Disney drew that character even more different than the one you posted. Who do you think these movies are for?

    You think Disney is making Bolt for you Amid? Or you Jerry? They make these films for a young audience for entertainment and to sell toys and happy meals. I see nothing wrong with this, nor do most of the other 200 plus employees just trying to earn a living doing their job on a production like Bolt. If we just said screw it as a studio and decided to make what you consider “worthy” animation the studio would be out of business after its first release. While I don’t always agree with the choices that the studio makes, 3d is very young still and there are limitations to what you can do with this medium. Stop trying to compare 2d to 3d! They are two separate things and trying to solve those limitations and find new ways to push what we do is what makes it fun for us. In the end of the day no matter how I feel about our industry I still have to think about my compromise between being a starving artist or an artist that can find joy where ever I can in what I do while earning an income to put food on the table and buying cloths for my kids. Its pretty simple really, there is a place for eclectic art pieces and short films that fit the style you enjoy and people do them. That doesn’t mean that DW or Disney or Blue Sky is meant for that. This is a business period.

  • Storyboards, I feel, usually suffer by being “refined” by other people as a project is rushed through production. I’ve met people who never look at the storyboard and just “follow the layouts”, and their work often shows as something different from what the storyboard intended. Often it’s for the worse, but not always.

    As I’m not privy to Bolt’s creative process, I don’t know what sorts of decisions were made, nor for what reasons. Maybe something closer to the storyboard than the render would have been the “better”, but would it have fit in the scene? Did the expression suit the character’s personality? Perhaps they did try the pose from the panel; Could it have stood out as “too good” against the rest of the sequence?

    Either way, I’m not looking forward to Bolt. The story and visuals just don’t appeal to me. Neither do John Travolta and Miley Cyrus as draw cards, come to think of it…

  • “So here we are again eh…”

    Did we ever leave “here” in the first place?

  • I actually think the 3d one looks a lot better, the storyboard one is very unappealing to me.

  • Jason

    Man, reading posts like Mike Watt’s makes me glad I decided against becoming an animator. It sounds like a very hand-to-mouth career to me. Especially now that the almighty computer has leveled the playing field in terms of actual talent. I think I’d go crazy if I, as an artist, had to junk my pencil and use a damn mouse or one of those tablet pens, and never do any actual drawing – just move the characters around like a cyber-puppeteer. Yeesh. The golden days of the Nine Old Men have passed indeed…

  • mando

    Thank you, matt.

  • Fidel

    Is it just me…or is this one of the most unimportant posts to be arguing back and forth about? ‘BOLT’ will make money. We all know CGI is the devil…ahem…blah blah blah…let’s move on and wait to that highly anticipated masterpiece-to-be ‘The Princess and the Frog’…neeext!

  • Wow, really. How bitter can one be? Amid, you have grossly overlooked the “process” of “Disney animation”. (I’m pretty sure it’s the DA fault more than Disney’s, but, hey, whadoIknow, right?)

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “How many years was it before Avery, Clampett, and Tashlin hit the scene after Steamboat Willie? ”

    That’s an idiotic question because they were all very young then. Clampett was only 15 when Steamboat Willie came out and it’s a remarkable feat he started directed cartoons at only 24 years old.

  • I don’t think it’s fair to compare a 3d image with a 2d drawing. Both have their strenghts AND weaknesses. I think it’s almost like takin a photo and a drawing of the same subject and comparing it. That one point, and my other is that there seems to be a bias as to drawn subjects in your post.

    Honestly to kids, the quality of the animation doesn’t matter. It’s the story and if it makes em’ laugh. They’re not gonna be like, MAN who choose those keyframe poses?!

    I personally am looking forward to the movie. As for the hamster, from the trailer, he moved and looked like a hamster to me, and any clips I’ve seen have made me laugh.

  • Well, finally Mike Watt has nailed it.

    Now, you know what the REAL problem is. All the rest is just fan boy talk.

  • I believe Amid was specifically criticizing the charm-killing process at Disney, right now, rather than “all 3D CGI,” or all Disney ever, since here is what he wrote:

    “So, as I understand the animation process at Disney, here is how you translate a board drawing into a final CG film frame:”

    All CGI doesn’t – and doesn’t have to – do this, and yes this can – and does – happen with 2D as well. But Amid’s point remains spot on, a well illustrated example of what often can and does happen to the visual soul of art and acting in over-processed productions.

    I appreciate Mike Watt’s insight into employee mismanagement, which is related to the aesthetic results Amid is critiquing. Employee abuse also isn’t unique to 3D, or 2D, or modern times.

    Regarding aesthetics, I saw “Kung Fu Panda” on a plane back from Korea last week, and liked the design and animation. It was like 3D with a very strong 2D aesthetic (poses/extremes), and it worked, at least on the little airplane screen.

  • Keith Paynter

    Agreed, nice post Mike.

    I liken the storyboard image to a John K. “Stimpy-esque” look of joy. The final result has lost a lot in translation. The CGI garb is just so tame by comparison.

    “It was all started by selling out a mouse.”

  • Thad Komorowski

    $28 an hour? That’s more than most social workers with 25 years of experience and 2-3 kids are making. But you probably don’t get a medical plan, right?

  • christy

    ‘Honestly to kids, the quality of the animation doesn’t matter.’

    thats so not true!
    i remember as a kid thinking things like ‘why does that look so crappy?’ and ‘wow that looks so cool!’. i remember seeing yellow submarine thinking ‘this is crazy’ (crazy in a good way!).
    don’t underestimate the kiddies!

    besides, most of the stuff that comes out of these big studios, 2-D AND 3-D is crappy! touche’!

  • Tom Pope

    “Most of the animators just aren’t artists. They’re just people who have no artistic integrity, no desire to produce something they can be proud of or something that they can inspire the next generation with. They just want to make it move vaguely, grab their little wad of dough and go home.”

    Wow. You don’t say.

  • Robert Schaad

    Wow…where to begin (literally). I prefer the storyboard image…much more “lively”. Definitely something lost in translation/transition. That’s all…no Disney hating here.

  • Silas

    In response to Aleksandar:

    Wow… animators aren’t artists now. Directors know everything and it’s the animators fault CG films look so lifeless? So the directors and executives are not responsible at all for the final look of film right? Just the animators? Something’s a little twisted about this.

    You know what’s funny to me? It’s the fact that everyone is so hung up on “animation”. Whatever happened to STORY?! Why don’t we start getting onto the people who make the story decisions and “push” them to churn out better work eh?

  • Wait till they do the CGI version of “Family Guy”. You’ll be able to collect pieces of Amid’s exploded head as far away as Kankakee, Illinois.

  • Alex

    I came back to this board to read up on other people’s opinions, since there were far more than last time I looked.

    And it all makes sense. Most of the animators just aren’t artists. They’re just people who have no artistic integrity, no desire to produce something they can be proud of or something that they can inspire the next generation with. They just want to make it move vaguely, grab their little wad of dough and go home. And that’s what’s wrong – animators won’t change the industry or bring the quality of films up from the depths that they are currently in, it takes a director to look over their shoulders and push them to do better.

    You can tell a good animator from a bad, right? That’s an artist vs. non artist. Artist is somebody who has the drive and/or desire to improve in their craft and to spread the message.

    And what people don’t get is that you can make a very high quality animated film with the same budget spent on a film with bad animation. That’s – what – sucks.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “Whatever happened to STORY?! ”

    Since when is animation and story two seperate things ? I never understood that thinking.

  • Dirk

    As for Mike Watt’s very important issue regarding working ‘off the clock’, where does the animation union stand on this illegal practice, or are they just looking the other way because there is presently so little work and Disney is a very big fish?

  • Dan

    Wow! There’s a lot of commentary on something I thought was not really significant. That particular board panel is great, but I’m sure you can do another comparison on a different scene and have a terribly realized board drawing in contrast to a great final shot. Especially in animation, I don’t think you can pick apart one frame and critique it like that. that might not even be the key pose that represents that board panel. Nonetheless, I’d still rather see the hand drawn film-it does look more fun.

  • Guy

    You’ve got to love all the posts complaining about how this is taken out of context and, of course, within the movie it is part of an expertly crafted scene where this seemingly bland frame is essential to the intense pleasure of watching it. Because we’re really supposed to believe that this frame is anything but a bit of blandness in a sea of bland, occasionally interrupted by that certain brand of ugliness only CGI can provide.

    Though it’s not as if most of you guys know what the alternative to intense blandness is, (besides, possibly, vague stereotypes of John K and Bob Clampett) so there’s not much point in arguing about it. I think this quote illustrates the perspective you’re coming from very well:

    “And I though Kung Fu Panda, while a very weak film overall, captured plenty of cartoony expressions via cg in a terrific way.”

  • Paul N

    When one creates the parameters of an argument, it’s very difficult to lose said argument…

  • Not all designs translate well to 3D, look at anime
    Wrongest thing i’ve ever read in my life.

  • Aleksandar,

    I understand that you’re just a kid in college, so your ignorance can be excused to a point. But you should really learn to temper your highly uninformed comments until you get a little production experience under your belt.

    This observation is made with the best intentions for your welfare. You’re better off keeping your hand on your work and your foot out of your mouth. :-)

    Once your own contributions have surpassed that which you abhor, THEN you can criticize with legitimacy. But not before.


  • Guy

    “Since when is animation and story two seperate things ? I never understood that thinking.”

    Because they look at modern animation that they like mildly and notice that the animation isn’t any good. Thus, it must be the story that causes their mild pleasure.

    They just never think about where, exactly, the story is supposed to be coming from. Because the only other source of story is dialogue, and I’d hope the “STORY is what matters!” guys here acknowledge that dialogue isn’t the only thing that matters in animation.

  • Eric

    I am truly dismayed over the fact that animation students all over the world are being brainwashed by this (well, the Amid side of this) website to get worked up over and focus on all the wrong things. Sometimes this website can be a great service to the animation community. Other times, it is destructive masochism.

    Your tactics for inspiring discussion and getting hits are hugely effective, but nobody is enjoying the discussion any more. This industry was better off back when Amid wasn’t ‘Leading the Animation Conversation’.

  • “As for Mike Watt’s very important issue regarding working ‘off the clock’, where does the animation union stand on this illegal practice, or are they just looking the other way because there is presently so little work and Disney is a very big fish?”

    Read for yourself:

  • Brandon Cordy

    Amid’s Disney Haightâ„¢ is unparalleled. He’s got even me beat.

    The character designs are awfully generic, though.

  • I agree fully. I enjoy how the story board looks WAY more interesting than the cg one.. it’s totally boring. The character is far more appealing with the goofy expressions and slight imperfections.

    I wish Disney would hurry up and get off this cg band wagon and start doing 2d features along side of 3d.
    It impresses me so much more to see something done in 2d.
    Like it looks real neat and all to see a big fiery explosion or just fire in general. But that’s just software and particle systems.
    If someone did the same thing in 2d, I’d be FAR more taken back.

  • Mike Russo

    “Your tactics for inspiring discussion and getting hits are hugely effective, but nobody is enjoying the discussion any more. This industry was better off back when Amid wasn’t ‘Leading the Animation Conversation’.”

    THANK YOU, Eric.

  • matt

    Dave Mackey;

    Brilliant post. But I can’t work out whether Amid’s head will explode because the 3d is worse than the 2d version (and if that’s possible), or because he can’t work out WHICH is worse, and his brain enters a terminal conflict loop.

    Amid? :)

  • OM

    …Jeez, that looks like Alvin crossed with Jabba the Hutt!

  • mike watt – you are my hero…

    The saddest part is how these young animators work for free…(I have seen it first hand) and they do not understand they are shooting themselves in the foot. By taking less money and working all night on shots with no pay – they are setting THAT as the standard for themselves and the industry.

    In a couple years, these same artists will be replaced with young kids straight out of school willing to do that and MORE. Who can argue with paying a kid 700$ a week and he will work a 16 hour day for that and sleep under his desk just to get shots on his reel? It doesn’t matter if it takes him 30 tries to get it even close, because no one is paying for him to learn how to animate.

    It’s a vicious cycle that started about 4 years ago and has now become the back biting atmosphere of animation today. As a friend of mine put it, “It is a dirty little secret. A little union would fix all that. It’ll just take someone with some balls.”

  • Rhett Wickham

    Don’t agree with Amid, seldom do in fact, but Amid has every right to critique it as he sees it, and to use this site to make a statement about his style, approach and perspective in advancement of his career. It’s his dang site.
    Trouble with this post is that we’re not really looking at the outcome intended from a set of boards. Good boards are about setting the stage for what will be a completed scene played in real time, not in key frames. Key framing, whether in graphite or pixel animation, is seldom going to lock in on an exact board panel. There’s so much more to putting boards into action than looking for a way to make certain a beautiful illustration makes its way onto the screen for 2 or 4 or 6 frames. Great boards inspire, and great boards do set a bar that every animator hopes to sail over when animating that particular scene. Sometimes that board is right there, almost stroke for stroke. Sometimes that’s amazing. But most of the time, the intent of the moment is lost in favor of the “perfect pose” and it becomes a breathless, precious moment of art that everybody just loves, and for which collectors long to own “that” cel. Snooze. Pretty, but not much good to the story.
    Nope, key framing doesn’t show you the intent of the scene. It seems an unreasonable comparison that takes the argument out of the realm of character design, appeal, staging, anything that factors into a moving picture, and puts it entirely into the realm of debating the graphic appeal of an artifact of art? Should a scene or a single frame compare to an illustration (and worse, was this particular storyboard created to be a great illustration or something more?)
    A great storyboard fixes on the staging and the intended emotional punch of a beat; repeat, not a frame but a beat. If you look at this segment from “Bolt” – and I have seen this segment – then you’ll know that the film hits this beat perfectly. No, it doesn’t hit this exact board in a single frame (although, as I remember it, it gets pushed pretty close and I don’t think what we’re looking at is the extreme of this beat in the finished film, so I don’t think it’s a fair side by side comparison, but that’s the license a critical editorial can take – pulling the frame that helps you make your point, not disprove it…I’ve done that at some point, probably.) What the scene does to is rise to the challenge this board presented and it delivers. Great boards. Great scene. Does the film hit the same notes, and does the final design work in service the film? I say yes, but go see it in December and decide for yourself. Then, if you don’t think so, go dig into the hide of the folks who made it. Until then…well…a spleen needs a rest once in a while, don’t you think?

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “Your tactics for inspiring discussion and getting hits are hugely effective, but nobody is enjoying the discussion any more. This industry was better off back when Amid wasn’t ‘Leading the Animation Conversation’.”

    How is Amid effecting the Industry ? Boy people are so dramatic around here when they hate something that they hear. Yeesh, just go to the Toon Zone forums were everyone loves anything and no one has any sense of taste.

  • tom

    Thank you for this post. I hope everybody in any position of creative management or authority in animation reads this and memorizes it. That lower image stinks on ice.

  • Johnny

    Kevin I completely agree with your comments about Aleksandar except for the one about his ignorance being excusable. The absolute lack of any real production experience resonates in the words this guy chooses to spout off with.

    Aleksandar says: “You can tell a good animator from a bad, right? That?s an artist vs. non artist. Artist is somebody who has the drive and/or desire to improve in their craft and to spread the message.”

    Aleksandar, do you really believe that any animated movie belongs solely to one artist or animator to make judgment calls as they see fit? Do you really think that this topic is that black and white? If you do you really are the fool you sound to be in your post.

    No film belongs to any single artist. Films belong to every person that worked on them as a TEAM. Being on an artistic team takes cooperation and a sense of compromise on sensibilities that you may have as a single artist. You may want to push something further because of your drive or sensibilities, but at the end of the day, you must to realize that the film DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU! Some of the worst animators I know animate off model, pushing characters completely into different directions than precedents previously set by supervisors or directors, simply because they are following their own “artistic sensibilities” and they think they know whats best for the film. The truth of it is that most of these artists lack the ability to listen and hear what the most important person on the film wants. To simplify it one more level for you Aleksandar, the most important person on any film is THE DIRECTOR and at the end of the day, the film you animate belongs to him/her!

    You proclaim so arrogantly that you know what makes a good animator. Take it from someone with real industry experience, earning a living as an animator – the best artists/animators that I know in the industry know how to do one thing very, very well. That is, give the director what he/she wants. They listen, interpret and work to the level that they are instructed by the director because they are being paid to do a job for that director! The job is to make the director happy and bring HIS/HER vision to life rather than their own vision. Its NOT your vision Aleksandar! If you want to “leave your mark”, or “spread your message (whatever the hell that means…)” then do your own short film! But if you plan to work at any of the major studios and earn a living as an artist/animator, you better learn to listen, do your job well, and make the DIRECTOR happy!

    Your conceited remarks have put up a major red flag on you buddy. All I know is that you’d better hope you had the foresight to use a fake name on this posting because if I ever see the name “Aleksandar Vujovic” on a demo that hits my desk, its going right in the trash. Your kind of selfish attitude is not welcome on any “team” trying to achieve a vision of the director.

  • Guy

    “I am truly dismayed over the fact that animation students all over the world are being brainwashed by this (well, the Amid side of this) website to get worked up over and focus on all the wrong things.”

    What, like art that’s completely bland?

    Oh, and don’t worry, story guys, everything else is bland or worse, too.

  • Alex

    >Kevin Geiger
    Defeatism is no way to progression. I don’t mind your opinion, it can exist perfectly alongside mine. I just think that the problem is in too many places at once in the production of Bolt and ultimately the entire mouse house. Of course, I forgot to mention that there are good animators working on Bolt, and also a good number of unmotivated animators. It is those that need to be pushed by the director to take their work in a better direction. Do animators fall out of the sky with all the knowledge already in their head? No, they learn throughout production and should be encouraged to keep learning and doing research on their work.

    Fact of the matter is, that even though Bolt will probably be a big commercial hit, the production is driven to make as much money as possible with as little investment as possible. It’s not about making it the best film it could be, so it lives on for generations and could eventually be looked up to like we look up to the work of nine old men. The problem isn’t the CG, it’s the people with the money. And that’s just business. Personally, I blame the production quality on the fact that the whole production was robbed of its original pre-production but kept the same release date. And the animation briefings weren’t issued until very late. I’m still going to go see Bolt on opening day, but I’ll always sigh and wish I could see Bolt the way it was supposed to be and hope that one day, the people with the money will correct their mistakes instead of masking them.

    So perhaps, next time, before throwing empty insults, you’ll stop and wonder whether there is some truth to it. I am rooting for change for the better. And from what I’ve seen of Bolt so far, production quality isn’t better. The story’s great though.

  • alex

    I actually agree with everything you said, as it doesn’t conflict with what I was trying to say. I am simply saying that you can make the director happy, or you can make the director even happier. I am capable of biting my own tongue when working in a team, as long as the decisions are motivated, and not lack of attention to detail. I’ve never heard of cutting down on quality, and if that’s the director’s decision, then I’m sure the director has a vision. I believe that what Amid pointed out about the images on top of this page don’t merit an artistic decision, but rather a lack of interaction between director and artist and excessive streamlining.

    I will always try to do work as high a quality as I can make it rather than leaving room for improvement.

    I don’t believe Bolt will be the best animated film ever made. But why not try for that?

  • This may very well be one of the funniest posts I’ve seen on Brew. Way to go Amid!

  • Hi Alex,

    I said nothing insulting to you. Quite the contrary, I took the time to give you a little professional advice, in response to your own insulting and ignorant observations:

    > Most of the animators just aren’t artists. They’re just people who
    > have no artistic integrity, no desire to produce something they can
    > be proud of or something that they can inspire the next generation
    > with.

    “Just aren’t artists?” “No artistic integrity?” “No desire to produce something they can be proud of?” Ignorant talk from a college kid with no production experience. And STUPID talk from someone who aspires to work in the industry. Who do you think is going to be reviewing your demo reel?

    You’d be wise to take a page.

  • Barbara

    this really blows my mind. I’m not going to comment on the topic posted, but what really kills me is the overwhelming typhoon of CG hate. I’m not a CG person and I don’t root for particular sides, but really, what the hell? When did 2D become the be all, end all solution for how to make a fabulous animated film?

    There are different mediums available to us, and we use them for our films to achieve different things.

    I’m really glad that you guys are lambasting yet another CG movie that hasn’t come out yet for simply existing, but how often do you hear a person say “that 2D looks FLAT!” “that stop-motion looks STIFF! bah!” People like different animated mediums for what they can do and their unique aesthetic. There are people in the world that find appeal in every kind. Hating on something won’t make it go away, so I suggest turning off the computer, or maybe going outside and getting some fresh air before your heads explode from all of this misdirected anger.

  • haha

    “Like it looks real neat and all to see a big fiery explosion or just fire in general. But that’s just software and particle systems.”

    Um… and ARTISTS.

    Seriously. The folks on the Bolt Effects Crew are killing themselves right now to deliver shots that will blow your mind. It’s NOT just software and particle systems. That’s like saying hand-drawn animation is “just pencils”.

  • Wes

    Simple fact, you can’t push poses in cg like you can in 2D. It’s just a fact. I’m also bothered by the trend that everything in cg revolves around making movies photorealistic.

    John K has a great recent post on the flaws of CG as well.

  • elan

    Wes, go watch Horton Hears a Who and tell me you cant push poses in CG like you can in 2D.

    Also, Id like to see a side-by-side comparison of The Incredibles storyboards and final images. I bet you’ll find the same problem, yet everyone loves that film.

    I think Disney was just staying true to the material (a Pixar mantra) and trying to keep the hamster entertaining and believable at the same time (therefore keeping in line with the tone of the rest of the film) What would you have him do, morph into a dragon and spit fire? I mean, thats easier to do in 2D too.

    Nothing to see here but whining. Moving along…

  • tim!

    I think this post is a tad unfair, and in all actuality the lighting in the image is quite striking, and the texture, pretty amazing, remember your talking about filmmaking, an art where image and tone need to work together to stir emotions, with your chosen image, your acting a little like John K. in the fact that your bitching at CGI for bitching sake it seems. Yes, the image lacks the energy of it’s story board counter part, but the story board is not some piece of art, it’s a part of the puzzle that has to surmise many sequential images that create a movement, and you are comparing it to one frame of actual animation. Your critique is unfair. lets wait for the movie to come out and then return to a critique of this scene, for now you’re yelling at children for being young…

  • Dan

    Rhett, incase your essay is directed at my above comment, all I was trying to point out was that the two images don’t relate to the same emotion (apples to oranges). If there is a key frame that matches the board panel’s emotional beat than this might be a worthwhile comparison. Unless, we actually compare the model sheet to the CG model, this whole post doesn’t hold water to me.

    It’s amazing that this simple post stirred up all this dialog . There’s some serious animosity going on here. I think Amid should pick out some of the topics above and create some real arguments for us. Obviously, we enjoy arguing.

  • Tom Ruegger

    Your post is right on the money. A great board drawing of a character who’s packed with personality and humor and life has been turned into a cgi blob of fur and fatness. Sure, 2d cartoons can take great board drawings and turn them into bland animated figures as well…but it’s easier to correct the error in 2d. Not so in cgi. By the time the blob has been achieved in cgi, you’ve spent millions…and at that point, no one wants to spend the time and money to fix it.

  • ĐorÄ‘e

    I usually do not post in debates like this one, but I cannot stop wondering why almost everybody is pretending to be ignorant? or you really are? (i think not, but I am still confused and amused)

    everything started like this:
    here is how you translate a board drawing into a final CG film frame:

    so, hear, hear, brave citizens of planet earth:

    YOU do NOT translate board drawing into final frame!
    and one more time… (I am joking)

    YOU DO translate CHARACTER DESIGN into board and final frames, often making board looks much more simple and ”repeatable”. Oh, and STORYboard is about, guess what :)

    so real debate should be:
    1. 2d character design (if there were any picture of it) vs. final
    2. board drawing has more appeal then character design/final

    but since there where NO original character design involved in this, chit-chat is based on pretty wrong base…

    There are some interesting points… but base is quite wrong…

    If you don’t get it, check some boards… or talk with someone who works in studio (big or small), and you trust him/here.

  • DanTheMan

    That’s probably one of the most interesting and most personal discussion I’ve ever read on cartoonbrew. It’s funny because everyone is kind of right in his opinion, and it’s great to see that there are so many passionate and motivated people out there with their hearts deep in Animation and Filmmaking. Thumbs up Amid!

  • greg manwaring

    well, with all that said, it would have been nice to have achieved a little of that cute ‘biting the lower lip’ expression of the board. (maybe it’s in the actual scene though, and just not in this image)

  • Dan

    Johnny-he’s a student: it is excusable. This is the second time I have come across a borderline-threat. And, to see Aleksander respond to you with his tail between his legs only confirms that threat. Hopefully, people realize there really are people like “Johnny” out there who will go out of their way to ruin someone.

    And to your point: There are plenty of lackluster directors out there who are shouldered by talented underling artists. If say, the “nine old men” didn’t contribute as much as they had, do you think the director’s would have made the same movies? Furthermore, I think you could almost say that some of those artist do “own” particular films irrespective of the director. Just say the names to yourself and attach the corresponding movie. Greatness comes from people with opinions and talent. It’s not a good idea to try and quash those people as “Johnny” is posturing. Try Kevin’s tact of enlightenment and encouragement, and I’m sure more people will admire you.

  • See “Will The Glen Keane Of CG Please Stand Up?”


    Design :+10

    CGI: +2

    How long does this game go on?

  • Franko

    Hey Aleksandar. There’s other students observing the dynamic between industry animators and a student in this debate. I’m a bit jealous that your getting to toughen your hide mixing opinions with some heavy hitters.

    Kevin’s comments are probably wise words but I hope I’m misreading an intention to gag opinion in his words.

    You have a legitimate right to speak from your point of view as a student, as has Amid as author of the post, and both of you have produced passionate responses across the spectrum.

    It’s much more interesting an industry to be entering than, say, er um … and this is where I take on some of Kevin’s wisdom. I don’t want to put goldfish polishers off side or anything (they only make $27.50 an hour).

    I often get advised to not open my mouth in the middle of a sheep storm. Since most of it seems to have passed, I thought I’d make my comment now. When it most likely won’t be seen by most of the flock.

    On comparing the two images presented. I think the CG character image has lost some emotion when compared to the drawn character. My observation is it is the loss of the lower lip chew psychological gesture, and the brightness and shape of the eyes.

    I understand about the other consideration that a storyboard character is not a character design etc, but I’m just working with in the constructs of Amid’s post, and testing my slowly opening animator eyes. This debate has fot me looking like the 2D critter.

    Aleksander, I hope your animation will create as much passionate debate one day as we see in this thread.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “Will The Glen Keane Of CG Please Stand Up?”

    See, that sounds like an oxymoron to me.

  • They made the very same mistake in Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons…

  • FoFo

    Hehehe. I didn’t see that coming. This isn’t the worst of it; there are some TERRIBLE CGI productions especially in TV,and the CG isn’t even GOOD! I say make a really stylistic 2D animation similar to the likes of the introduction to ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (which was Po’s dream).

  • Good point,Amid
    I’m beginning to wonder if 3D films should be planned as 3D setups by story artists using computer models. I know this could make the already slow and exacting process of storytelling even slower, but maybe working with the 3D models will give the director a better sense of the limitations for character expression.Of course,as it is, we don’t see enough great 2D artwork anyway, to inspire us and doing it ( with 3D models) only encourages less of what we all love; pure line art. Anyway, most of you are saying what I’d say; that 2D and 3d are in very different camps, in terms of the art form. And 2D has generally always captured emotions easier. But 3D is trying hard to catch up.

  • Hallelujah!
    You know you’re in trouble when the storyboard drawings are more visually compelling than the final product (subjective, I know). The big houses are treating animation projects as though their “lack of realism” is a hurdle to be overcome. While it is true that 2D and 3D animation are very different artforms, it is also true that somewhere in the process large companies make the decision to produce a 2D or 3D movie, and it seems like these decisions are generally made on financial grounds, as opposed to aesthetic ones.

  • Again, you nailed it in a way that made me laugh out loud.

  • I’m not a fan of this movie but this post seems totally unfair.
    Most movies and cartoons have storyboards from multiple artists who each bring their own style and approach to the work. But the final film has to have a consistent look and not change styles each time a new person handles the scene. The final film may still channel the spirit of the original storyboards when it’s in motion. If you look at any ART OF book for any film there’ always production art that has more emotion and energy than what ends up in the final film.

  • Fonky T

    Wait Mike Watt, $1650 a week is like $85000 a year. Is that really not a living wage in the bay area? What would you expect a Pixar animator to be making?

    Now I feel underpaid.

  • Jacob

    All this back and forth over a character….WHAT ABOUT THE BACKGROUND!!! I mean, if we are going to compare the two images…lets be fair.

  • > Kevin’s comments are probably wise words but I hope I’m
    > misreading an intention to gag opinion in his words.

    You are. :-)

    I’m simply observing that opinion is best tempered with informed experience. Folks are free to shoot off their mouths and insert their feet to their heart’s content. But there *are* repercussions from time to time… as I can attest from personal experience. ;-)

    BTW, I was informed that the artist who drew the storyboard image above is the very same individual who approved the model, look and fur groom of the CG character and also the same person who directed the animator assigned to the shot that the rendered frame is taken from.

  • Guy

    “But the final film has to have a consistent look and not change styles each time a new person handles the scene.”

    That explains the unpopularity of Looney Tunes.

  • amid

    A blog post from Steve Meyer, an animator on Bolt:

    Misinformed fanboy rants have begun…

  • Jo

    I thought that each department was supposed to “plus” the previous departments work, not degrade it. The Animators poses should be much more entertaining then the storyboard artists poses, but it’s clearly not the case here. Looks boring and bland….

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Geiger’s comment on meyer’s blog just shows how much things are watered down in CGI. We have the evidence right here.

  • Rhett Wickham

    >>Rhett, incase your essay is directed at my above comment, all I was trying to point out was that the two images don’t relate to the same emotion (apples to oranges). If there is a key frame that matches the board panel’s emotional beat than this might be a worthwhile comparison. Unless, we actually compare the model sheet to the CG model, this whole post doesn’t hold water to me.<<

    Dan, I wasn’t directing my comment to you, I’m less cryptic than that. LOL Your points, both of them are pretty spot on, and I think we’re saying similar things. The two images aren’t a fair comparison because they’re not keyed. The high point of the scene or “beat” shown in the board is not shown in the still frame because that frame is not the high point in the finished scene. The whole argument from the original source seems very slanted as a result.

  • No, what it shows is that artists have choices. Of course, one person’s choice is another person’s compromise.

    For example, I think that the painterly look of “American Dog” has been severely compromised on “Bolt”. but that was someone’s choice. And as explained to me, I understand the reasons that went into that choice – even if I don’t care for the result.

    Don’t get me wrong, things certainly CAN get watered down in CG, but they can (and do) get watered down in ANY medium.

    Any translation introduces the opportunity for degradation and deviation. This principle is not intrinsic to CG.

  • MattSullivan

    I think they are both great in their own ways. Granted, there is less stylization to the CG, but it hasn’t seemed to deter the appeal of the hamster. Every time I saw that trailer the audience howled with laughter whenever the hamster was onscreen.

    I think BOLT is gonna make bank. With or without Chris Sanders, with or without 2D designs like this one.

  • your_homework

    Unfortunately, the overall reaction from Meyer is just a throwing away a decent criticism by Amid. It’s a misreading that “CGI sucks except for Pixar,” and overall merely a reaction to the hostility. Though I guess Amid should have actually taken the time to write a nice, respectful critique and then this would have played out differently.

    Meanwhile, Geiger’s post does not convince me since two untrue assumptions seem to be in play. The first is that a style wouldn’t, in his terms “really identify with the characters.” From hand-drawn animation, I have seen that, on the contrary, a certain style can enhance one’s understanding of the characters. The second is that I don’t see why there needs to be one cohesive style in a movie–though maybe I’m out on my own island on that one. At best I can understand what miscommunication and “too many cooks in the kitchen” and not enough time can lead to, and I really hope animation can move further to things that cannot be expressed well by live-action. I hope that there will be improvements in the technology to provide assistance as well.

    On a positive note, I like the design of the board and the grass.

  • Jim Engel

    For every single CG animated film that’s also had a prerequisite simultaneous “Art Of” coffee-table book, I’ve come to the exact same conclusion as I’ve perused the book—

    All the concept, storyboard, and character design art is a thousand times more lively and APPEALING than the every lousy hair & pore/veins in the ears/billiard ball taxidermy-eyed CG imagery that ends up onscreen.

    This reminds me of that.

  • Thad

    Having read “The Art of The Incredibles,” I’d have to say that I agree 100% with Jim Engel.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Engel speaks words of wisdom. I liked THE INCREDIBLES but it’s good quality wasn’t even a third of what the production artwork was.

  • Guy

    “No, what it shows is that artists have choices.”

    A choice is only a choice if there are actually two or more options. With CGI, you have only one: blandness.

    “Don’t get me wrong, things certainly CAN get watered down in CG, but they can (and do) get watered down in ANY medium.”

    But NO medium can ONLY water down. Except for this one.

    When are you guys going to stop repeating the same old justifications and admit that CGI has flaws? Namely, its inability to produce anything visually interesting.

  • Funny

    It’s fascinating how 3D people respect, love and cherish 2D. But a lot of 2D people trash 3D, show no respect for the artists who work on CG movies. Sad. It reminds of those people who trashed rock n roll back in the day, calling it the devils music. That’s how stupid you 3D haters sound.

    3D is a new artform, it’s here to stay, so get used to it.

  • Hi “your_homework”,

    Just so that I am not misunderstoood, what I specifically said is that HIGHLY STYLIZED characters tend to distance audiences, as you get more caught up in looking “at” the style as opposed to being “with” the characters.

    I do agree with you that animation is capable of more than has currently been achieved, but that level of innovation is perhaps too much to ask of studios engaged in a COMMERCIAL art where tens of millions of dollars are at stake. That’s why I keep holding hope for (and working to support) a healthy indie scene.

    And “Guy”… what can I say. You’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s pretty insipid. Rock the ignorance, dude! ;-)

  • Guy

    “Just so that I am not misunderstoood, what I specifically said is that HIGHLY STYLIZED characters tend to distance audiences, as you get more caught up in looking “at” the style as opposed to being “with” the characters.”

    That explains the unpopularity of Looney Tunes. (Assuming that you define “highly stylized” as “anything that’s interesting to look at and has an expression that isn’t completely vague”)

    “And “Guy”… what can I say. You’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s pretty insipid. Rock the ignorance, dude! ;-)”

    It’s nice to know that the best you have to offer in response are cutesy dismissals. I’ll make a pointless request: If I’m really so ignorant, name a single example of CGI visuals that aren’t bland. Oh, and I don’t care about the “possibilities” of CGI if they’ve never been taken advantage of, so don’t reply with that.

  • Mike Russo

    “When are you guys going to stop repeating the same old justifications and admit that CGI has flaws? Namely, its inability to produce anything visually interesting.”

    This is probably the most ridiculous, biased nonsense I’ve read in this entire post. Every medium has flaws, and even the CGI supports aren’t going to say the technique is flawless. But to say CGI isn’t visually interesting is not only just an opinion but an ignorant one at that.

  • Rhett Wickham

    Guy – “name a single example of CGI visuals that aren’t bland.”

    Okay, I’ll bite:

    I’ll bite again:
    Pines of Rome

    And again:
    Kung Fu Panda

    And, yet again:

    and just wait until you see Rapunzel….want any more?

  • Kevin

    I can’t access Meyer’s blog. IT’s by-invitation only. Does he say anything seminal?

  • elan

    Or how about…

    The Incredibles
    Horton Hears a Who
    Monsters Inc

    Very good visuals in all those films, good animation, expressive characters…

    This whole argument is stupid. Yes, I agree that there are things that you can do in 2D that are fantastic, and not as easily done in CG, but that doesnt mean CG is worthless and everyone who does it isnt an artist. Anyone who says that sounds like they have a huge ego, and need to insult others to make themselves feel better.

    Regarding the actual images in the original post, I already gave my reasoning behind the difference in style earlier in this thread, and having worked on the film, Im pretty sure I’m correct. Disney wanted to keep Bolt with the realms of reality (Bolt is real dog, Mittens is a real cat, Rhino is a real hamster), which is a style CHOICE. They didnt want them to be all cartoony in one scene and realistic in the next. So, the boards were drawn to push an attitude, and the animator met that attitude while still keeping it within the realms of reality (what an anthropomorphic hamster could really do). Do I think the animator twinned too much in this particular pose? Probably, but so what, thats a little mistake, but its not indicative of the quality of the film as a whole.

    And complaining about the background is just stupid. There’s a thematic reason it looks the way it does right there (Bolt is down in the dumps during this part, among other things) and so the tone of the film is very grey in this moment. We’ve done our color work, thank you very much. Also, its supposed to be a realistic film, so take a camera, point it out the ground in the middle of the night, and see what you get.

    Here we are, grown, professional adult animators, having a discussion about a cartoon, and people are getting so ugly. Its silly. Please try to express your ideas and differences without insulting an industry full of people, who, in probably more ways than one, are much more talented than you.

    And…finally. This film is going to be WELL LIKED by kids and parents and regular viewers alike. Its an action-packed, heart-felt film with hilarious moments, and it’s just very well-done. (and for the record, MUCH better than the Sanders version, and that’s inside info you can trust) For Disney, this is a step in the right direction, so bashing it will just make you look stupid come November. And, it’ll make a killing. So who wins in the end?

  • matt

    Fosters? (that’s cgi) I think that one rises above the stigma of flash animation.

    And if you can call Studio AKA’s “Jojo in the Stars” bland, then I don’t think you and everyone else agree on what actually constitutes ‘bland’.

  • The “Oktapodi” short was visually (and beyond that) very well done to me. Same with the “Burning Safari” short. I love 2D, but I really wouldn’t say that CGI can’t produce anything visually interesting, that statement is just too broad. That’s like saying that 2D can’t do anything bland.

  • Paul N

    “name a single example of CGI visuals that aren’t bland.”

    This is an unwinnable argument – all the person issuing the challenge has to do is disagree, and you’re right back where you started. You’re chasing your tail on this one gang; this guy will never agree with you, regardless of how many examples you cite.

  • Peter

    Man, talk about defensive. It’s sad to see “professionals” wasting so much time arguing with a critic on his blog. Pathetic, really.

    Amid & Jerry — does this endless, pinheaded outrage in the comments section reacting to two men’s opinions depress, or amuse you? I wonder if it might be a better idea to just disable comments on your otherwise excellent blog until the whiners give up and go away…

  • Jacob

    Thank you Elan for proving my point. I never said there was anything wrong with the backgrounds or the direction involved…Just drawing attention to it. Attention to the fact that you outlined in your response. A single storyboard image evolves into a moving living shot. changes are made along the way to a final product. A final Product that lives on screen for the audience to enjoy. I highly doubt anyone outside the animation industry will say…”WAIT, Pause the movie,….Yup that pose could have been better…anybody got a storyboard I can look at?”

    Simple…People will go see Bolt and enjoy it and it will make tons of money. Us animators will buy the art of book and soak up all the lovely drawings and cringe at how it evolved.

    My one post was the first ever on cartoonbrew…tongue in cheek. This is my second and last.

  • your_homework

    Kevin, I can’t completely agree with you and it’s because highly stylized movies have been successful in the live-action arena. I understand that it is a risk to take, though, and that’s why I am unsurprised that Disney has taken the ultraconservative way out again.

    However, Amid’s critiques are still valid in the sense that it’s really frustrating to watch such good art be reduced to something so banal. I think that it would really behoove one of the so-called “lesser” CGI groups like Sony to push a strong style, as it looks to be the best way to surpass Pixar/Disney (though you can’t blame Disney for not fixing what is not broken). I am, like you, hoping for indie CGI, but I can see how that might not happen for awhile–few can afford the time and money of a full-length CGI feature.

  • Jacob

    Sorry Elan…I must retract my last statement thinking it was directed at my comment… I got so wrapped up in the 168 comments below I failed to realize amid did plenty of bg and color bashing in his post…All in all I stand by what I said…

    Edit…Third and last post.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Rhett Wickham: I don’t agree with a single example you posted. Kung Fu Panda ? That is the epitome of CGI blandless. Generic expressions and weightless characters zipping and flying around the screen. Ratatouille ? What dose that have ? Generic character designs that have been recycled by Disney for over thirty years. Oh no wait ! It has photo realistic backgrounds ! I’ll go outside or watch a live action for that.

  • Dan

    P.C. Unfunny,
    I’m sure you’ll hear it from others, but your opinions are debatable. Which is the problem I see with highly stylized design and animation. What one likes compared to someone else is so subjective. And, I’ve noticed that the more graphically sophisticated something is, the harder it is to convey in full animation, and it leads to cheats or other more zippy ways of animating, which is fine, but also has it’s limitations and can get old. As a character designer I know how frustrating it can be to please everyone you have to in addition to your own sensibilities. And on a show like mine, when I stray to an area that excites me, it seldom gets approved. Because, someone along the way had to set perimeters to keep things in line. So, when I read these posts that point to design being the end all, be all I disagree. Check out that newer post about “Adventure Time”. Ultimately, it’s in the story, timing, and overall direction that makes something shine, in my weathered opinion.

  • Firstly, I’ll preface my comments by saying that I’m NOT an animator and thus have no creditable knowledge of the mechanics and working behind the images under discussion. I do however, have a pair of eyes and can therefore write about what’s appealing to me.

    I’ve been writing an animation project for two of my friends who are animators, and naturally I’ve been trying to convey my ideas for style/theme via any method I can think of. My thoughts for my project are that I’d like my characters and backgrounds to be 3-D, but with a 2-D feel.

    I’m sure if I asked to go down the full CG/Pixar road I’d be asking too much of them as it’s a very difficult (and expensive) skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s either superior or inferior to 2-D. I think the current plethora of CG movies has begun to wear thin on me and I can’t remember any “big” animated film having a style that appeared truly distinctive in recent times.

  • Paul N

    “Rhett Wickham: I don’t agree with a single example you posted.”

    See? What did I tell you? :0)

  • Eric

    If its not moving, you are not critiquing animation.

    We should be critiquing all the talking and exposition in modern animated films.
    Usually comprised of…
    Frolicking Talking Walking Talking Horror Talking Running Talking Sulking Talking Running Talking Hiding(or being captured somehow) Talking(about feelings) REALIZATION(AHA!!!!!) Fighting Talking Jubilation! Talking Ending dance sequence Frolicking(inside the Credits)

    I am glad that WaLL-E came along and relied heavily on pantomime, and well….animation. I am hoping BOLT is good. I really want it to be fun first and technically and artisticly excellent second. And not be basically at its core about a delusional TV star….

    To that end, I would hope that all the studios invest in some non-writer, non suburban story people, regardless of artistic “talent” or school affiliation going forward. Folks really need to get in touch with their “inner hayseed”(TM) and not rely on rehashed movie and tv knowledge…..

    I mean seriously…..could we get back to the truth about how people who lived through the depression and had other kinds of jobs and knew other kinds of people than animation and hipster folks knew what was “real” and funny?

    The first question on any application for new story people:
    Have you ever worked a paper route? ;)
    Washed dishes in a restaurant? :D
    Herded Children? :P
    Made friends with anyone not grafted to a mouse or pencil? ;)

  • elan

    >>Man, talk about defensive. It’s sad to see “professionals” wasting so much time arguing with a critic on his blog. Pathetic, really.<<

    What, “professionals” arent allowed to have opinions? Heck, Ive seen Brad Bird himself posting in the comments section before. Not kidding.

    Hey Eric, that was a great post, and I think you brought up some sensible stuff

  • Jasmine

    It seems that we all should stop bickering for a moment and focus on the fact that studios are taking advantage of us… we should be working together to fix this issue…

  • Logan

    Yep, but even thought Pixar films lately have less and less visual style, they’re still great in the story department.

  • Yeah, it’s right.

    But, there are two different ways of work.

    I think than differents technical lead to different results…

  • Sean

    Mike Watt. Although $1650 a week sounds luxurious to me I very much appreciate your post. It’s a strong enough topic that it deserves it’s own thread. I’m on the bottom end of the industry animating in Flash on a cookie cutter T.V. show but it’s where the bulk of North American animators work. After reading your post I looked at some old invoices and realized that I’ve had a steady decrease in my footage rate over the past 5 years while my output has increased. The push for lower production costs combined with the surge of recent graduates willing to work 60+ hours a week for minimal pay is killing the careers of experienced animators. I’ve reached the point that I can no longer maintain my earnings. The pay has bottomed out so that even working 60 hours a week I make less than I did on my last gig.

    Amid and Jerry. An article touching on this would be welcomed by many animation veterans and educational to students about to enter the workforce.

  • I don’t know but this guy looks very genius. As Its very difficult for me to Judge any movie just by looking at Single Frame

  • I really dont see ne point of this post. What are we trying to prove here. Why to compare 2 entirely different mediums. Its stupidity. Every medium has its own advantages and disadvantages . Story board is visual representation of the story. And finally what matters is the final outcome. No one can comment looking at one frame of the board and go all ” oh yea,, this is all crap”. Oh come on. Just respect both the mediums and appreciate the performance . “2D vs 3D” is an outrageous discussion.

  • Chris

    Sighhhhh….. Why can’t we cease and desist with the whole CG vs. hand drawn thing? It’s a tired argument, and useless. The aforementioned techniques are two completely different animals, used for similar purposes. Its like saying that horses are better than zebras. Or, no one would say that drawing/painting is better than sculpture; thats silly, they’d say. There’s room in the art museum for both. But that is essentially what we are doing here. CG animation is virtual sculpture that moves. Its nearest analog cousins are stop motion and claymation, (not cel animation) and it has similar limitations and similar advantages to those techniques. But I never hear anyone trashtalking Ray Harryhausen or Nick Park. Frankly It just sounds like sour grapes on the part of those who work in hand drawn animation (a noble profession IMO), because CG seems to eclipse hand-drawn in popularity. And it does, but there’s good news tonight: the only reason that CG is so popular right now is because its shiny and new. That’s it. And since nothing stays new forever, the playing field will even out, probably sooner than later. So chill.

  • destiny

    so not cool but still cool