“The Croods” Character Animation
On March 22nd, “The Croods” will make their way into the world of film as they appear on screen in theaters throughout the nation! In February, I was invited with 22 other bloggers to attend the Family Blogger Summit hosted by DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox. It was one of the best events I had attended and it has left me and my family excited to go experience “The Croods” in theaters when it is released in less than a week!
During the event, we had the chance to meet with Directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, as well as the Head of Character Animation James Baxter. James Baxter talked about how the team sits and toils day after day – creating the performance of the characters frame by frame. This takes a long time to do. Baxter described the cavemen, saying, “The fun thing about “The Croods,” which was communicated to us by the directors, was making these cavemen different from any other kind of cavemen that you’ve seen before but to also make them really funny and entertaining. So needless to say, having that assignment was really a joy for us animators because we could go in and start doing crazy things.”
DIFFERENT STYLES OF ANIMATION
James talked about the different styles of animation.
1 – You can draw your animation frame by frame on paper, such as what was done in “Pinocchio” or “Little Mermaid.”
2 – You can do stop motion puppets, such as what was done in “Wallace and Gromit” or “ParaNorman.”
3 – You can do digital puppets, which are basically puppets that exist inside the computer. These puppets can be manipulated within the computer system and is a little bit like doing stop motion animation, but digitally. Once the models are built in the computer, they start playing with them and conducting performance tests.
James Baxter: “We wanted to try and get some sort of animal influences on a lot of these characters. So, Grug especially is sort of like this big silverback gorilla. A lot of The Croods hold themselves in this sort of hunched over way, and he doesn’t have to reach down very far before he touches the ground.” When conducting the performance tests with the digital puppets on the computer, they would mix it up with Grug. For instance, sometimes they put his fist down. Sometimes they’ll put his knuckles down like a gorilla or even with a flat hand down. Once it is tested and they decide on features for Grug, they animate.
James talked about how Eep is more like a cat – like a tiger. The way that she moves around is much more athletic, more dynamic, and more like a jungle cat than a monkey. When they started performance tests with Eep is when they discovered the joys of Emma Stone. When Lena Anderson, Supervising Animator, was reviewing Emma Stone’s footage, she noticed Emma’s incredible mouth shape. She is so expressive when she talks and this definitely added to Eep’s character
James Baxter: “Next up is Guy. He’s definitely the Human 2.0 of the group….His thing is definitely much less about being animal like. We wanted to try and make him special. And Yucca Bienson, who’s the animator for him, really tried to create a very individual way of behaving and moving. He did a lot of performance tests with Guy just to try and nail down the sort of frenetic kind of crazy ‘I’ve been on my own for too long,’ ‘I talk to myself’ kind of vibe that he’s got going on….We were experimenting with getting their relationship down because it was very important that Eep would be much physically dominant than Guy. She can just throw him around like a rag doll.”
Ugga is the mom of the family and the team definitely wanted to make sure that they had the relationship between her and Sandy (the baby) right. It was very important for them to save the classic “baby on your hip” pose until the end of the movie. Throughout the movie, she’s much more chimp-like with Sandy – tossing her on her back and so on.
James Baxter: “Sandy especially was a blast to do, and we modeled her after something like a little Jack Russell Terrier in behavior. Because she runs around, bites everything…Sandy was just a blast to animate this crazy little feral kid…..Very mercurial, emotions changing immediately, she was all over the place.”
Thunk is based a lot on this little baby chimp with these incredibly floppy arms! Hand Duster did a beautiful job animating him.
James Baxter: “I love the concept of Gran, this sort of crusty old lady in a hollowed out lizard skin. We wanted to infuse her a little bit with that sort of crocodile vibe. You notice in the movie, sometimes she sort of slinks around and does this slippery movement, but that coupled with like the classic sort of crunchy old lady vibe.
James Baxter: “Belt was a sort of last minute promotion in the film….He became this unintentional star. He’s a lot of fun to animate, too. He started out being a little bit more sloth-like….a little bit slowwwerrrr….When we only had two gags, they could play that slow, Belt started getting a bit more lively.”
CREATING CREATURES IN THE CROODS
James Baxter: “We had another couple of creatures which were really fun to do. This is the turkey fish. We were experimenting with how he would swim around or not swim around. And it was just bizarre trying to come up with believable ways that these ridiculous creatures would actually move so you could believe it. Everyone’s other favorite is the tiger.”
ABOUT THE ANIMATION PROCESS
James Baxter: “The art director and the production designer do a lot of paintings really defining the color for the entire film, and they’re very good about refining the composition and making sure that every character’s gonna fit into the backgrounds properly, all that kind of stuff. The process of animating, largely is sitting at our desks animating away, manipulating the puppets. Occasionally, we find we have to get up and jump around to figure out what we’re going to do with the shot.”
ABOUT THE CROODS FAMILY
James Baxter: “That’s one of the things we wanted to get with The Croods as a whole, were a little bit different. They had much less or no personal space boundaries, you know, they would just go right up into your face, and they would grab each other a lot and touch each other and bite each other and all sorts of unsuitable things.”
THE CROODS SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Visit the official website.
Like The Croods on Facebook
Follow @DWAnimation on Twitter #TheCroods
Re-pin great DIY tutorials, printables and more from The Croods on Pinterest!
20th Century Fox and Dreamworks provided hotel and accommodations for my attendance at the Parent Blogger Summit. All opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine.