Faking It Faking It

Faking It

Bee Movie

Animator (and Animation Guild Local 839 prez) Kevin Koch has a useful post on his blog entitled “Faking It”, which addresses the topic of what’s an animator to do when assigned to animate shallow and superficial characters. Having working in the animation department on seven DreamWorks features, Kevin is certainly well qualified to speak on the subject. Koch offers a number of solutions, including just doing the job as well as you can:

“If you’re not in a position to make story/character contributions, if that superficial character and shallow, unbelievable story aren’t going to improve no matter how many suggestions you make, then just do the best you can. There are times when I have to remind myself that I’m a pro, I’m being paid to do a job, and the least I can do is a solid professional job. Think of those shots as a technical problems. Look for ways to emphasize the basic principles of animation. Are the arcs as full as they could be, can you pack in a touch more overlap and follow-through, are your poses as clear and well staged as they can be? If you’re stuck having a minor character walk around for no particular reason, make it the sharpest walk in the movie, without upstaging the main action. Remember the oft quoted line, “There are no small scenes, only small animators.”

  • Yep, that was a mantra we swore by while making many Disneytoons sequels – the stories might suck but they’re going to look DAMN good, anyway.

  • Having worked on a few features (CG), I can testify that sometimes you’re directed into a corner. Schedules and technology often dictate to “just throw in that walk from Shot_060 and we’ll fix it later”… or “We’ll never even see this guy back her in row seven”.

    While I appreciate what Kevin is saying (and I agree with him), sometimes the deck is stacked against you in a large production.

  • haha

    Hey Amid, nice jab with the Bee Movie image and the “certainly well-qualified” crack.

    Stay classy.

  • Yikes! Uh, thanks for the shout out, Amid, I think.

    Okay, let’s be really clear about a few things. First, despite the photo with this item, I didn’t work on Bee Movie. I left DW after Over the Hedge.

    Second, I’m really proud of the work I did at DW. I worked with, and learned from, some of the best in the business, and I think I made real contributions to some pretty good movies. The experience of having to “fake it” was rare. My general experience was working with directors and supervisors who knew what they wanted and why they wanted it.

    Third, I’ve worked at several studios, and I was speaking to the experiences of character animators at ANY studio. These comments weren’t specific to DreamWorks, or even to myself. None of us, whether we’re at Disney or Blue Sky or Pixar or a little independent studio (like I am now), always get shots with great voice work and great story points and clear character motivation. As I point out in the full post, sometimes that’s an opportunity to do something special, to actually help build a character or a story point. Sometimes you’re really a collaborator, and you need to be ready to embrace that moment. And, as you quoted, sometimes you can’t do that, and you just have to hitch up your belt and do the best you can.

    My blog is mostly dedicated to passing on animation ideas and techniques to beginning character animators. This post grew out of some questions from one of my former Animation Mentor students, who’s working in the industry at a small studio. It wasn’t meant to be a snarky tell-all kind of post, but some general advice on dealing with something that, as the first commenter above noted, is an occupational hazard for animators working in a studio system.

  • Bobby D.

    Amid, are you inferring The Bee Movie is “shallow and superficial”? Even if it’s not what you meant to say, it certainly comes across that way….and probably not a good idea to link that “opinion” to Kevin’s article…maybe it was just an honest mistake?

  • amid

    Bobby D.: No, I wasn’t inferring that Bee Movie is shallow and superficial; I was clearly stating that Bee Movie is shallow and superficial. The Bee Movie still is a piece of editorial illustration that matches up quite well with the point of Kevin’s article.

    I should also point out that I was fully aware that Kevin had not worked on the film when I chose the image. I did that out of respect, so it wouldn’t appear that I was linking his opinion to any specific film that he had worked on.

  • Bobby D.

    Well, having really liked ‘Bee Movie’, I guess you’ll just have to consider my comments “shallow and superficial”. But, I appreciate your clarification…really!

  • Pedro Nakama

    The Bee Movie was from Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld had a TV series that was about nothing. Couldn’t his movie also bee about nothing?

    I never saw it. I got caught trying to sneak into it at a local theatre.

  • However, it DID appear you were linking his opinion with a specific film: Bee Movie.

    It looks like you are spinning his article in order to attack “Bee Movie”. I’m not saying this is what you are doing, this is just what it looks like you are doing.On this subject, however, I take Robert Mckee’s advice. When I used to find myself on something I didn’t like, I try to “Take pleasure in the doing of the thing.” I bury myself in the drawing, or try to come up with the coolest shot, or the funniest expressions.

  • Kevin has an excellent informative blog. One thing that seems a bit odd is that he is the president of the animation union, yet has been working on a non-union show since 2006. Or did MeniThings productions go union?

  • Amid: But who would have know that he didn’t work on Bee Movie? Why would we not assume he worked on and was referencing his work on that film with his comments.

  • K

    What a totally unprofessional introduction to the article, Amid. You do the work of many talented professionals great disservice with your constant jibes.

    For shame.

  • greg m

    The true sign of a pro. Well said Kevin. I remember James Baxter talking of his assignment of the cricket waiter on Rescuers Down Under, where he thought “Okay, it may only be a cricket, but it’s going to be the best darn cricket anyone’s ever seen” (quoted from memory)!

  • Erik

    Bee Movie was shallow and superficial. I’d thought with Seinfeld working on it, it would at least be funny. But it wasn’t at all. The visuals were horrible. Most humans look like pre-Toy Story ones, and a lot of backgrounds were very dead. Especially the airport at the end of the movie. Great post by Kevin BTW.

  • Gerard de Souza

    In other words if you can’t work on the greatest film you can still work on your demo reel.

  • Chuck R.

    Great blog, Kevin! There’s a lot of great professional advice that can be applied to any creative task, big or small. There’s also a lot that can be twisted for bloggers with an axe to grind. Bummer.

    Greg: thanks for the bit about the waiter cricket. He’s the best-looking character in the film. I remember when I saw RDU for the first time, thinking: why didn’t that guy draw the kangaroo rat?

  • Having been underwhelmed by ‘The Bee Movie’ I saw the direct link between the image and the text.

    This architecture of this article is prickly like a porcupine (hedgehog or echidna) and needs careful study before picking up the main points.

    Having read the text I deduced that Kevin had probably not worked on ‘The Bee Movie’, but also got the message that the Disney sequels were not very good in the storyline or the development of character.

    However the animators working on all the projects mentioned, still had the opportunity to animate their sequence(s) to the best of their ability. And despite the handicaps imposed by the bean counters found satisfaction (maybe even joy) in their work.

    I find that inspirational as an animation student.

    p.s. Gerard de Souza’s comment has particular immediacy and value to me. Very good advice.

  • Jim

    Just another excuse for Amid to post his anti-Dreamworks drivel.


  • UltimateX

    Nice. Great job. I like people are condemning Amid for personal opinions he has the right to make, as if it’s really their business or place to criticize someone so sharply for something they simply don’t agree with.

    Way to show how childish and self-centered you commenters actually are towards someone that actually makes a decent point.

    It never fails to amuse me when a bunch of self-righteous readers congregate together on a blog post, with their assbackwards pretensions and their egotistically disgusting condemnations of “for shame” for someone who simply expresses an opinion.

    And seeing as Bee Movie flat out sucked in all forms and was a complete and utter waste of a film, it’s twice as funny to me to see fools that actually deluded themselves into liking a shallow and superficial film poo-poo’ing Amid’s valid and worthwhile opinion just because some sourfaced losers simply disagree.

    If anyone should be ashamed, it’s the lot of you for being so unable to get over yourselves, that you would actually start pissing yourselves over someone honestly expressing that a crap film was truly a crap film.

    Amid had some balls to post his honest opinion, and it’s followed up with a bunch of whiny and lame comments making crybaby faces over sour grapes. Seriously. That’s pathetic. Get over yourselves. You’re almost as bad as the whiny pissers and moaners on John K’s blog.

    It’s because of crap like this that the internet is a completly ridiculous place to me. Because whiny easily offended people who can’t accept someone else’s opinion on something make it so.

    Cry the river. Build the bridge. Get over it. We aren’t in 2nd grade anymore.

  • Amid has obviously made a deliberate choice in linking the two and as such changed a bit what Kevin was infering but well…. isn’t this the reason why we come back so often to Cartoon Brew? for a bit of polemic?

    The viewers are allowed to comment here so no real damage.

  • mawnck

    OK … I’m trying to decide if UltimateX’s post is intended to be serious or satirically ironic. Either way, it was certainly entertaining.