What goes through an animator’s mind when they animate a shot? There’s only one person who knows the answer to that question, and it’s the animator(s) who created the shot.

It’s always unique when an animator takes the time afterward to break down their thought process and share the challenges of creating a shot, which is what Kubo and the Two Strings animator Kevin Parry has been doing recently on his Instagram account.

In the shot below, we see a time-lapse of Parry animating the Moon King in the climactic battle, followed by the finished shot:

A video posted by Kevin Parry (@kevinbparry) on

With Parry’s permission, we are sharing below his notes and insights from working on this shot. More Kubo breakdowns with insights can be found on Parry’s Instagram account.

  • You can count the number of days this shot took to animate (3) by seeing how many times I change my shirt.
  • You can see all of the rigging supporting the Moon Beast, all on top of a large, rotating tabletop. This puppet was essentially a long cable with 3D-printed shells attached to it – meaning it could not hold a shape on its own, so it had to be animated with an external support system.
  • Because of this, we often animated the Moon Beast looking upward at a down-facing camera, so that it wouldn’t be fighting gravity as much. The camera is about 5-6 feet above my head, looking down at the puppet.
  • I watched a lot of footage of alligators and crocodiles swimming in water as reference.
  • I spent roughly a year working with this puppet, and I’m only really happy with the last few shots I animated. This shot falls somewhere in the middle of that year, so I was still figuring out a lot about the movement and how to control the puppet.
  • I really like the initial tail whip and the shape it creates. But as the Moon Beast comes toward the camera, I think I overcompensated by having the tail break so far down and to screen left. I think it would have been stronger if the tail remained in-line with the head and body, and he had a more dramatic dive down and toward the camera.
  • I also think I didn’t need two major legs pumps – I could have had the legs remain back for the start of the shot and build into one major push for the attack towards camera.
  • If I could animate this shot again, I would also leave more of a beat after the Moon Beast turns towards the camera, before the attack (and have the mouth open during that beat). So the choreography would be something like big sweep toward the camera, anticipate the Moon Beast upward and pause for a beat, and then dive! I think the overall path and dynamics of this shot feel a bit too even.
  • No animator is ever completely happy with a shot.

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