Horton Hears a Who! Comparison Reel

Horton Hears a Who!

Blue Sky animator Jeff Gabor recently posted on his website a comparison reel from Horton Hears a Who! that shows his live-action performance alongside the scene blocking, animation and final render passes of his shots. The bad news is that Fox made him take down this wonderful behind-the-scenes look at his work, but the good news is that plenty of people saved the file and have posted it online. Go to this video sharing site for an embedded Flash version, and make sure to download the file located on this site to see it in all its hi-res Quicktime glory. As to whether using this much live-action reference actually helps or inhibits an animator’s performance…well perhaps that’s a discussion for another post.

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  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    I think it’s pretty clear that Jeff’s live action was used more for timing than anything. I don’t think this method of reference hurts the animation one bit. You can see in several of the shots where he went in a slightly different direction than the live action would have otherwise dictated. It’s nice to see this level of planning and forethought in the animation. It would seem the animation schedules (and the animation in general) at Blue Sky have improved greatly from the first “Ice Age” days. Nice stuff! Too bad Fox can’t see the value in an animator sharing his process with the community like this.

  • D

    “As to whether using this much live-action reference actually helps or inhibits an animator’s performance…”

    Spoken like a true person-who-has-never-done-character-animation. Even if it’s not recorded, it must be acted out first, right? Can someone controvert this statement and show me the resulting animation? I’ve never heard a good character animator say that they just dive in and invent acting choices.

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    Yeah, that was a wierd comment. Definitely never heard a [ studio / production experienced ]character animator say something like that.

    About the reel, really great stuff, does anyone know the official reason why it was taken down? Concept artist get to show all their work, what’s the big deal?

  • Jim

    Kevin Koch recently posted twice about the use of video reference in animation, and his remarks (and the comments below) are thoughtful and well-stated:

    http://www.synchrolux.com/?p=201
    http://www.synchrolux.com/?p=203

  • Cody

    “Even if it’s not recorded, it must be acted out first, right? Can someone controvert this statement and show me the resulting animation? I’ve never heard a good character animator say that they just dive in and invent acting choices.?”

    The animation in this example follows the live action recording very closely indeed. If that’s the kind of animation required for the job, then there’s no problem with it. In this case the character moves far more like a human than an elephant in my opinion, but again, maybe that was intended.

    More extreme (maybe along the lines of Tex Avery for example) stuff obviously can’t be acted out as such, not beyond certain poses or gestures, anyway.

  • amid

    D : Limiting your acting to the range of emotions and movements that can be recorded on a camera is a waste of the animation medium. The art form is richer and filled with much greater potential than that.

    I obviously don’t have an issue with acting out the scene first. Rather it’s when that acting performance becomes more than reference and begins to dictate the performance. In one of Koch’s posts (linked above), animator Keith Lango refers to this as roto-lite and I tend to agree with that assessment.

  • Paul N

    In Koch’s first post, he refers to this video as some of the best reference ever shot for animation, and I agree with that assessment. :0) It’s over-the-top, exaggerated, and beyond what any actor (aside from Jim Carrey or Bill Shatner) would commit to film. Gabor clearly knows what needs to go into an animated performance, and does his reference accordingly.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    Cool stuff.

    He’s really not limiting himself to what the camera could capture. You can see that in some of the shots where he’s cut together more than one take to create an ideal that he didn’t do live.

    And we dont’ see all the takes that he rejected after watching them. He’s not a slave to the camera, he’s manipulating it to create reference material.

    I think the by far more limiting factor is he has to comeup with something that matches the already recorded voice performance. It might be a great voice, but he still has to stay in lock step with it.

  • D

    I realize that the medium is great and unlimited, etc. But for things like eyebrows and eye-dart patterns, I think that it helps to observe (either the mirror or video of somebody).

    Some of the motions are pretty close, but…. what if he did a lot of earlier acting, and then composited his favorite acting choices from the previous references into a single performance, acted it out, filmed it, distilled it, transposed it onto an elephant, made it fit with the character design…This is still cheating? It’s a long way from motion capture!

    Regarding the voicetrack — I think that it might be productive to have some boundaries/limitations, but if it can’t be at least suggested by human gestures (and then perhaps amplified in animation), then it will not read as meaningful gesture by any character. Even The Dot and The Line made vaguely humanoid gestures that could (and probably were) acted out by a human beforehand, even if they weren’t videotaped.

  • victoria

    All I can think about is, did that guy who posted the original get fired cause its still on the web.

  • Dave

    Did anyone think the acting in Horton was good ?

    Some stuff was ok (Horton on the bridge, but that was more broad comedy action than “acting” , and the Mayor’s limp arm resulting from the novacaine in the dentist sequence … the only time I laughed during the movie )

    but overall a lot of the acting felt really self-conscious and over the top . Maybe it as because of the voice tracks . Carrey and Carrell were “wacky-zany” over-the-top . Blech.

  • http://people.umass.edu/jgchan jchan

    Arthur and the Invisibles is a great example of how video footage can limit animation.

  • robiscus

    i think there are some golden examples of OVERacting in those clips.

  • Steve

    I think this quote gets the point best:

    “If you’re shooting reference to copy from, rather than to learn from, then you won’t advance as an animator. ”

    I don’t think there’s any problem acting something out to get a feel for how the character would do it. I’ve come to realize that being a good character animator is basically being a good physical actor. You have to know how your character would move with a given personality in a given situation. So really, using video reference is just an optional step in the animation process; it still is the creative choices of the animator as far as how he/she interprets the character. I actually think it’s a bit more problematic when animators base their poses and expressions on the voice actors during recording sessions, because that’s when animators stop making their own choices.

    And I won’t even go into motion/performance capture. That is a sin.

  • Jean-Denis Haas

    I was thinking the same thing as Victoria. Since Fox told him to take the clip offline, then why is it posted here? Fox wanted to limit the exposure of that clip, and putting it on Cartoon Brew is definitely not doing that.

    Isn’t that a bit irresponsible on Amid’s part IMHO?

  • amid

    Jean-Denis Haas: If you had gone to the link I posted above to Jeff’s website, he says on it: Well the real deal is I was instructed by Fox to remove all my Horton stuff for good…GOOD NEWS though, tons of people saved the file and with a little sleuthing you can find it…promise ;)

    That sounds like somebody who is encouraging people to find this, and not trying to bury it.

  • Jean-Denis Haas

    I did visit the link (in fact I did a while ago before it was posted here) and was, to be honest, a bit surprised by what he wrote. I wouldn’t have done that.

    It must be a contract thing which stipulates that he can’t post anything involving Fox since he works for them. And since you (and other people don’t), you can do whatever you want.

    But the clip still shows a process or content that Fox doesn’t want to be public right now and by spreading it Jeff could get into trouble. That’s all.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    “But the clip still shows a process or content that Fox doesn’t want to be public right now and by spreading it Jeff could get into trouble. That’s all.”

    Which is why you most likely won’t see any Blue Sky people posting in this thread. It’s a shame that they should be so hampered by their parent company, in the exact moment they should be able to take the spotlight. “Horton” has been a great success for the studio and all those who have worked on it. Rather than being able to receive public accolades for their work as individuals, they are forced to be silent, or take down any and all reference to their work on the movie. It’s a shame, really.