In the run-up to the release of Sergio Pablos’s Klaus earlier this month, Sam Cabanac set himself a task. Every day for a month, Cabanac — who did character animation on the sneering ferryman Mogens — published a lesson he’d learned while working on the film. He then compiled the 31 lessons into a PDF, which can be accessed HERE.

The document is packed with insightful pointers. In some cases, the Montreal, Canada-based Cabanac cites familiar tips — work hard, be true to your vision, don’t worry about failing, work as a team, know your audience — and elaborates on them with references to his experience on Klaus. In others, he gives more targeted technical and creative advice to animators and artists. He also incorporates advice he heard on the film from director Sergio Pablos and animator James Baxter.

Here are some particularly useful tips:

Sam Cabanac
Sam Cabanac
  • Be aware of the full arc of your character(s) throughout the movie before starting a shot. Your character will always be at a precise stage in his development in every scene. So make sure you know it before coming up with an acting choice.”
  • A high quality shot is a shot where every single drawing is entertaining. I found that the more you flip (not playback…FLIP) through your scene, the better you see the potential for good poses.”
  • When the character is acting, make sure you give him enough time [for] the thinking process before reacting to the information/event. Give the character a good eight frames to realize what’s being said/done and then react.”
  • Don’t underestimate the power of warming up before attacking a shot. Little sketches in the morning (even if you know the character by heart!). It’s like stretching up before a big physical effort. I used to sketch for 20 to 30 minutes before opening my scene and it helped a lot.”
  • “This is more a storyboard tip. When you come up with a sequence, it’s very important to often remind the audience where the action takes place. Almost once every three shots, you can pull out and give the audience a chance to breathe through a wide shot.”

Aside from Klaus, Cabanac’s credits include Warner Bros.’s Netflix series Green Eggs and Hams and the Looney Tunes short Dynamite Dance, both of which he worked on at Montreal’s Tonic DNA. Check out his Vimeo page here.


Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.