Breakdown of a Dragon Animation


She talks really fast but there is some good workflow content there.  I was going to do a tutorial like this because I have a student struggling to make a similar piece in class, but this should cover most of everything I was going to say.  You will just have to stop and start because she really does talk too fast, especially with such a thick accent.

Tutorials - Image Based Lighting in Maya

Maya - Basic Character Lighting Tutorial from Rahul Rohilla on Vimeo.

In this tutorial, we will discuss about basic character lighting with the help of Image Based Lighting technique and how to optimize your Final Gathering process for reducing your render time.

Aaron Blaise Live Stream - "Basic Physics & Timing of an Animated Jump"

This video starts the at 21-minute mark. Watch Aaron animate a jumping polar bear! Join Aaron Blaise Here on YouTube Every Thursday at 1:00 PM EST.

Aaron Blaise is also live on Facebook every Tuesday at 1:00 PM EST here:

Shane Olson - Beginner Zbrush Training: Creating a Simple Cartoon Character

Learn how to digitally sculpt a Cartoon Frog (and Fly) with Zbrush! 

Create parts using Dynamesh and Insert Mesh brushes. Also, learn how to pose your character using the transpose tool. Lastly, use polypaint to add color to your character.

By the end of this course, you should have the general knowledge to build your own simplistic, cartoon character from scratch using Zbrush.

Andrew Silke - Full 3d Training Courses

Andrew Silke, has set up some great courses on his website.

I encourage anyone studying with me at USC to sign up for a memebership and check out these sourses over the summer if you are at all interested in modeling, rigging or getting better at animation for next year!
Full 3d Training Courses By Andrew…


Animation software OpenToonz, which is used by many studios, most notably Japanese Studio Ghibli has been made open source and available for absolutely FREE! And you can also download the same tools that Studio Ghibli used for their process!

“With one announcement, the animation software game may have changed forever. Toonz, the software used by Studio Ghibli to produce films like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises, will be made free and open source to the animation community beginning March 26, 2016. The deal, which could have a potentially profound impact on the animation industry, was made possible after Japanese publisher Dwango acquired the Toonz software from Italian tech company Digital Video, which has been producing the animation package since 1993. Ghibli has been using Toonz since the production of Princess Mononoke, and the new OpenToonz is dubbed “Toonz Ghibli Edition” because of all the custom-features that Toonz has developed over the years for the legendary Japanese studio.  Atsushi Okui, executive imaging director at Studio Ghibli, explained that they initially chose Toonz back in 1995 “in order to continue producing theater-quality animation without additional stress,” and a desire for software that had “the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly.” 

However, Toonz is not exclusive to Ghibli and is used by plenty of other studios, including Rough Draft, which produced Matt Groening’s Futurama with it, and Folimage, which used it for its recent feature, Phantom Boy.

Simon Hayes provides a peak into using Studio Ghibli’s OpenToonz Plastic software feature to create cutout 2D characters animated using bones and joints. OptenToonz plastic feature is similar to After Effects’ puppet pin tools, however, OptenToonz is a bones or joint based system that surpasses Ae’s rudimentary puppet pins. For one, a bone and joint system will inherently have a hierarchy to them, making them ideal for character rigging and animation. A skeletal system is also the foundation for more advanced systems such as constraints and IK (Inverse Kinematics). Here, Simon Hayes lays out the basics and steps for easily creating a 2D cutout character using the Plastic tool.

Tutorial: Walk Cycle Through Space

Tutorial: Walk Cycle Through Space - Angie Jones from angie jones on Vimeo.

To get the rig go here -

This tutorial explains how to create a walk cycle through space - NOT IN PLACE! . Learning how to create a walk cycle through space will save you a large amount of time when you have to make a character or create change momentum, climb, walk and run over uneven terrain.It also teaches you about the real weight shift in the body and feet for a walk.Ultimately, no one will care how you created your motion if it looks believable and is entertaining. If nothing else, you just might learn something by trying a new way to move your characters.

In the world of CG/VFX you will rarely be animating your characters over a flat ground plane. When I tell people working in production that I am teaching now, they all ask me to "please teach my students how to locomote a character through space." The "in place" cycle for locomotion using the top node for translating trick is great for video games or getting a quick crowd scene together, but teaches you nothing about real weight shifts and the math involved in creating a clean walk cycle. In addition, I find this method next to impossible to keep from sliding without setting a key on every frame.

When animation through space, you cannot cheat. Every part of the body is moving in relation to the other and pops and breaks in the motion will give you away if they are moving incorrectly.

IBL for animators

IBL for animators

IBL for animators from Stephen Melagrano on Vimeo.

Want clean simple lighting without the fuss using mental ray and IBL?

Stephen Me4langrano explains how in this tutorial.


Aaron Blaise

Animation Lessons from Aaron Blaise

Learn animation in TV Paint from a Great Animator!
Aaron Blaise
Aaron Blaise posted his “Hippo Funk Dance” with the description:
“I’ve finally finished my dancing Hippo animation. I’ll be using this animation for two upcoming tutorials, one on animating to music and it will also be part of my upcoming course on character design.”

Using the Maya Sequencer

Using the Maya Camera Sequencer

My seniors at USC are deep into workbook and previz on their films.  I highly recommend using the Maya Camera sequencer when you are working on your own short films to figure out your staging, composition, EDL and cuts on action. This tutorial show you how to drop a storyboard into the camera and stage a shot according to the art direction in the board.  Nifty!

Session - Live Crits with Angie Jones

Live Critiques with Angie Jones - Thinking Animation Sessions

Angie Jones - Thinking AnimationI have now opened a shop on the website with three courses available for purchase. Most  questions can be answered on the shop faq, but if not? just drop me a line at 

I look forward to seeing you in the Thinking Animation Sessions!

Animation Critique - Angie JonesSNACK BITE – (1 HOUR)

In my “Snack Bite” Thinking Animation Critique Session we’ll go over concerns regarding your reel, a short film or a simple animation test to improve your skills and demo reel. I use my workflow and applied experience in animation production to guide you through creative and technical blocks. This crit is 1 hour long. You may add as many slots as you like for this crit.

Career Strategies Course - Angie JonesPOWER LUNCH – (1 HOUR)

My “Power Lunch” Career Strategies Session has three parts.  You may choose all three or just one part that addresses exactly the issues you are having with getting a job, finding longevity and creating a career in animation.  This course has nothing to do with keyframes, but addressing everything they do not teach you in school about getting that job and keeping that paycheck coming.

Applying to Animation School Course - Angie JonesBREAKIE – (30 minutes)

The“Breakie Thinking Animation Session is designed for the high school student/rising MFA student ready to apply to art school or University to study animation. With my counsel, you will create the best application possible to get into your dream school including your essay, letters of recommendation, portfolio, demo reel, and the dreaded application letter.

Easy Car Driver

Tutorial - Easy Car Driver Rig

Maya car rig from igorov3d on Vimeo.
 The EasyCarDriver script for Maya, is a tool that will automatically create a 4-wheeled car rig in Maya.

You can easily animate the motion for the vehicle by using a curve in the scene. The script will also make the wheels stick to the ground, even if the ground is a terrain.

EasyCarDriver give you a fast set up, dynamic suspension, automatic wheel ground contact, automatic wheel rotation and offset attributes for adjusting/animating you car on top off the generated animation.

EasyCarDriver can be found on 3DOcean for $15.00. Lab - #2

The second installment for Lab

Will Ferrel Commit to your characters

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #10 Commit

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

# 10 Commit:
  • Commit to selling your ideas 100%. Show land of the lost clip.
  • Mechanics should be second nature to you by the time you call yourself an animator. There is a lot to being able to make premeditated decisions about, “I am going to be here at a certain time; I am committing to this.”  
  • Creating a believable, feeling character that will make your audience cry takes commitment to the ideas you decided on. 
Will Ferrel understand what it is to commit.  He is always 110% the character he plays.  Above he believes he is an Elf from the North Pole and one of Santa's biggest fans and closest friends.  Do you believe his performance?  Of course you do because he believes it and is encapsulating 100% what an elf in that circumstance would do.



Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #9 Eyes

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#9 Eyes: (This particular lecture is much longer when I teach.  This is just scratching the surface regarding eye animation.)

Basic Notes on animating Eyes:

  • Eyes are windows into the soul and the soul is controlled by the mind.
  • Eye darts and glances tell more than any other gestures in the body when used in the right place in the scene.
  • Desire is always described in the eyes, even when hidden through subtext acting choices.
Overview of Eye Movement:
  • Never animate without a reason!
  • Force vs. Form
  • Look for patterns in the eye darts = Social Triangle – Right Eye, Left Eye and then mouth.
...eye shape:  when the iris moves around the eye the lid cuts across it changing its shape from round to oval.
...lid shape:  The lid itself changes shape as the eye line changes and the brow pushes down on it with emotional poses.  The lid also changes shape as it tracks with the eye line.  Even if you have a soft eye resolver attached to the lids, I still animate the lids as blinks and eye darts happen.
...darts:  Darts tell us the character is thinking, confused or trying to understand something.  It can also tell us if they are nervous, shy, present, angry and many other emotions depending on the timing.
...pupils:  Dilated and un-dilated pupils tell us more… Dilated shows interest, love, warmth.  Un-dilated eyes show fear, intensity or a bright light being show at the eye.
...blinks:  Never blink unless there is a reason!  Why do we blink? Dry Eye? Cut to next scene in our mind? Emotional Cues - Shy or nervous vs. Angry or High
...brows:  Brows shapes are reinforced in the lids.  They all move together to create the eye animation. Usually the break in the eyebrow relates to the highpoint of the eye. The eye is pulled by the eyebrow muscles.

Watch the eye darts as Charlize Theron plays Aileen Wuornos in the movie Monster.  They describe her insecurity, her uneasiness and fear that someone might overhear her conversation, not mention the fact she is lying.

Eye Darts:
  • No more than 1-2 frames then hold it to register what char is looking at.  If there is any ease, it happens at the end of the dart.
  • Linear Curves, I only put eases on slower eye motion. I tend to sculpt motion with tangents.  If you prefer to set a lot of keys to create your motion, then I would advise putting eases into your eye darts with your keys.
  • Dart then stay -and dart then stay, if you do not stay in one place the eye dart will never read.  You can use two eye darts to move the eye a far way, so it still reads as an eye dart.  Otherwise it’s just a look.
  • Triangle Motion: left eye, right eye, mouth.  This is the basic motion most eye darts take when conversing.  Even when the other person is not speaking we tend to look back and forth in this triangular motion to read the other person’s face.
 The social triangle of eye darts.
  • Be careful with how far you tilt the yes on the social triangle for eye darts or it will move into an intimate gaze zone.  When people approach each other from a distance, they look quickly between the other person's face and lower body to first establish what the sex of the person is and then a second time to determine a level of interest in them. This gaze is across the eyes and below the chin to lower parts of the person's body. In close encounters, it's the triangular area between the eyes and the chest and for distant gazing it's from the eyes to the crotch or below.
 The intimate gaze zone for eye darts.
  • Also be careful to not raise the darts higher than the brow line.  Then, you are entering the power gaze zone. Provided your gaze doesn't drop below the level of their eyes, the pressure will stay on the person being gazed upon. Never use this in friendly or romantic encounters. It works well for intimidation.
 The power gaze zone for eye darts.
  • When to use eye darts?  Thought process… shows thinking.  Stress, Assessing.  Moving holds are when they read best.  When your character has stopped moving so much and you can read them.
  • Eye Darts and the head and neck.  Nothing in the body is ever still. Occasionally the head will make a slight movement after the eye darts one way or another.  Very slight though.  Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?  The bike will go where you are looking naturally, so do not look at the curb!  Same thing goes for your head and the eyes.


Hugh Grant has signature blinking he uses for his 
fumbling characters who always seem out of sorts.


Blinks and Lids:
  • On most character designs the upper lid covers most of the eye and the lower lid, barely moves to reach.  The blink line is usually ¾ down on the eye, not in the middle. The closed position is actually an overshoot of the upper lid pushing on the lower lid.
  • Everything I just said above can be affected / changed by emotional cures, lid shapes and other triggers.
  • Lots of blinking shows insecurity, bumbling, nervous and confused.  A direct stare is connected to emotions like fight or love.  Check out the movie I uploaded to the social group on Michael Caine.  Fear = no blinking.
  • Length of blinks.  Get inside the head of your character… if they are sleepy the closed position would be longer than a “zoinks!” WTF kind of blink. Slow blinks can be triggered by sadness, boredom or sleepiness or drugged.  Half Blink and twitches again show uncertainty in what the character is seeing or hearing.
  • On average it takes more frames to open the eye than close it due to momentum.  Ease out to open, but less to no ease on a closed eye.
  • Offset shapes in eyes to create more natural motion and then the actual closed point should be on the same frame and then eases are offset again as they reopen.  I think the Pixar blink can feel sleepy.
  • Move the eye line on a blink when the eye direction changes, if you don’t it will look weird.
  • Double take usually involves all of the blinks = full, half and twitchy blinks.  Check out the double take example I uploaded to the social group.
  • Shape the lid to compliment the brow shapes… angles up and down create added emotion.  A blink that arcs down is more elegant looking.  A blink that arcs up usually works with a squint and is related to happy blinks.

  • Squints tend to happen on “T’s”, “S’s” and “P’s
  • An antic like a squint before blinking can help slower blinks or create emotional cues of a change in emotion during the blink.

Brows move down a little on a natural blink.  This is even more extreme for cartoony characters.  On a longer blink an eye crunch can happen.  This action happens before the lids pushing down on a blink and pulling up on the open.


  • If you have an extreme close up, you can adjust pupil size too.  Dilate = pleasure.  If you are excited, your pupils can dilate up to four times. Conversely, if you are experiencing anger or another negative emotion, your pupils shrink in size.  Dilating pupils are also signal of courtship. Maybe this is the reason why romantic encounters succeed in dimly lit places, because pupils naturally dilate in such light conditions.
Dilating Pupils...
  • Don’t occlude more than 50% of the pupil.  You will look interest and appeal in your poses.
  • If the lid covers the eye too much it looks sleepy or drugged.  A soft eye solution will have to be countered many times depending on the angle of the head and the camera.
Eye Accessing Cues:
To get an idea how your eyes move, consider the following questions. For each question, as you think of the answer, notice the direction(s) your eyes move (up down or to the side) or if your eyes do not seem to move notice if you have a sense that you are looking in a certain direction (even if only for a fraction of a second).
  • What is the color of your front door?
  • What will you look like in 15 years?
  • What does your favorite music sound like?
  • What would your voice sound like if you had marbles in your mouth?
  • When you talk to yourself, what type of voice do you use?
  • What does it feel like to be in a nice warm bath?
Did you notice your eyes had a tendency to look up for the first two questions, to the side for the next two questions and down for the last two questions? In general, if you are making a picture in your mind your eyes will tend to go up to the left or the right, for sounds laterally to the left or right, and down to the left or right for feelings or when you talk to yourself.
More specifically, if you are right-handed, you may have noticed the following (for people who are left handed, interchange left and right in the following text):
Question 1 - eyes up and to your left. This is a question about something you have seen before and hence you remembered it -- visual remembered (VR).
Question 2 - eyes up and to your right. This is a question about something that I assume you have not seen before and hence you constructed this picture - visual constructed (VC).
Question 3 - eyes on the horizontal plane to your left. This is a question about something you have heard before - auditory remembered (AR).
Question 4 - eyes on the horizontal plane to your right. This is a question about something you have not heard before - auditory constructed (AC).
Question 5 - eyes down and to the left. This is a question about your self-talk - auditory digital (Ad).
Question 6 - eyes down and to the right. This is a question about your feelings- kinesthetic (K).
Note: The above eye patterns are how your eyes would move if you are right-handed. The following picture describes the eye patterns for a right-handed person as you look at them - please note this distinction. These patterns are fairly consistent across all races, with the possible exception of the Basques, who appear to have a number of exceptions to the rule. For many left-handed people, the chart is reversed i.e. mirror image.

One last note on eyes...
Remember: The shape of the eye changes, as the eye direction changes.  Not literally.  It's an illusion.  This is why traditional animation literally changes the eye shape.  To simulate the illusion the lid creates over the eye.

Honesty in Acting

Ten Things to Think About - #8 Honesty

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#8  Honesty:

  • A shy character would never jump out front and center and do a dance, and an angry character wouldn’t act sympathetically to other characters.
  •  A great example of honesty is the cartoon character - Bugs Bunny.  Making Bugs looks stupid and inept is just too far out of character for him.  He is always in control even if he is losing.
  • In contrast to Bugs Bunny's cool sarcastic ways is the wacky, hyper and high-strung – never be nonchalant about things that happen in the story – Daffy Duck.
When characters act against who they are and what they believe in,
it kills the illusion and makes the acting and story weak.

Bug’s Life Bloopers show commitment to character and honesty.  You can find honesty ideas for your acting if you think of your character as a friend of yours.  If you picture going out and having beers with your character you get to really know who they are and how they would react to things.

Psychological Gesture

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #7 Texture and Psychological Gesture

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#7 Texture and Psychological Gesture:

  • Psychological gesture is a great way to illustrate subtext
  • A psychological gesture describes what the character is thinking through twitches and gestures like;  Looking around the room, scratching their head, yawning, biting their lip, etc.
  • Picture a stewardess giving her routine presentation before the flight takes off about safety on the plane.  Now picture her seeming preoccupied? maybe looking around or rubbing the nose. Or tired? Yawning, rubbing of head could illustrate this. Or visibly upset over a conversation she had just before? Tension in the body and face could be a cue.
  • Figure out how you would react in the same circumstances.  Without betraying your own character, put a little of yourself into the shot.
  • Discover your character’s motivation and how that can be revealed in the performance.
  • You goal is to create a character that moves you and your audience, not just the dialog.
  • Texture is what adds life to your animation.

Example of texture between two characters.  Tex Avery's Little Rural Riding Hood wolves.  Watch how the city wolf and country wolf move.  The city wolf continues to walk smoothly with his nose up in the air like Ronald Coleman.  The country wolf is going nuts.

"Psychological Gesture is the inner essence of something manifested in a physical form"  ~Michael Chekhov

How do you find the right Psychological Gesture?

One path created is called, Leading Questions, in which you cultivate your imagination by asking questions. Your imagination will respond instantly and your body will begin to express the movement in small ways before you can even verbalize your answers.

For example: if you are playing a villain, you might begin by asking what it is your character desires. Power? Okay, how do you go about getting power? By dominating? Okay, what is a physical movement that dominates? Pressing down.  Start with your hands as high as possible and press them down against an imaginary resistance. Picture the character's opponents as you press down to the floor. Add to the press a quality: rage, frustration, sinister, conniving, fear, etc. Try different qualities until you feel the quality and desire to dominate in every cell of your being.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite actors and this scene illustrates some great psychological gesture moments, not just with him, but the other actors in the scenes as well.  The clip above is the scene where Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) arrives in Atlantic City in big-style (private-jet, Full VIP admission).  After winning 9M $, he decides not to stop gambling and continues until he loses everything,
At 1:18 You can see the worry in the actor screen left (Bernie's) face and how he holds his hand to his face, the smugness on the actor's face screen right and the concern and preoccupation of the Casio security (Victor Foss') face and body leaning forward in the center of the frame.
Watch for psychological gestures from the actors like: pushing the glasses up, looking around nervously, looking at a watch, leading with the forehead in thought and concentration, licking of lips, blowing of air out the mouth like a sigh, rubbing of hands together, heavy breathing, lots of blinks, gulps,jaw clenching, head twitches and nods, looking away, covering eyes, touching forehead in thought, etc.  It's all there.

Acting Simplify

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #6 Simplify

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

The story goes... There is one shot in this sequence that was kicked back by lighting because they though the animation was lost.  The animator set one pose for the entire shot because that is all the shot needed, but it confused the lighters.  When they sent it back to animation, fearing somehow the animation curves had been lost, they discovered - "no" the pose was approved as the animation.

Can you get which shot it is?
It starts around 1:29 of this clip.

The point is not to stop animating your characters for your shots, but to understand that simplifying your ideas to create the clearest message is the best way to communicate with your audience.

#6 Simplify:

  • Too many poses and acting choices just muddle up the idea.
  • A memorable character is animated through strong, deliberate acting.
  • Simplicity will give the viewer time to rest and appreciate the moment.
  • The eyes follow what is moving most if the scene is quiet.
  • The eyes follow what is moving the lest if the scene is busy.
  • Be clear fist, add interest second.
  • Draw focus to the one thing that matters - heart of the scene.
  • Simplicity results when you have exhausted all other steps.

Empathy - Gregory Peck

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #5 Empathy

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#5 Empathy:  If the audience does not empathize with your character all is lost.

  • Empathy takes place when the audience sees something in the character that they have experienced.
  • Examples – Your crazy Uncle who likes to drink strawberry milkshakes and make shadow puppets on the wall. The sweet doting grandmother who makes scrapbooks of everything her grandchildren do. The bully who beat you up every day in the school yard.
  • Picture your character as a longtime friend to get inside their head.
Charlie Chaplin is the king of creating empathy for his "little tramp" character.  He always stays in each moment.  He is acting from a place of keeping his integrity as he navigates the many classes he encounters in his movies.  In this clip he fawn's over a woman in the display window whom he had met before in the film when she was blind and selling flowers on the street.  When she first met him, she thought he had a lot of money.

This time, she offers him a flower and some change from the window.  Once he realizes she is coming out to talk to him, he tries to walk away so she cannot see he is a tramp with no money because she did not meet him before as such. She doesn't know he is the person who paid for her operation to get her sight back. he is fearful of exposing his true self to her.  Observe he never leaves his own space to invade hers as he is reluctant to get close, yet he wants to.  We want what he wants, "To talk to this beautiful woman and have her accept him as who he is inside."

Here is some amazing analysis of Chaplin's brilliance.  He is always trying to keep his integrity as a human when placed in difficult situations.


  • All humans -- even the most vile -- act to survive. From birth to death, every waking moment, we act to survive. Empathic reaction depends on the actor finding in his character survival mechanisms.
This third year film from Cal Arts student Mike Rianda also illustrates a great arc of empathy for the character. Finding Empathy... you want what they want. I want to root for your characters in your animations... like I am hoping the little guy in this short will get what he wants - those moon shoes!  His arc then changes.  he no longer wants to work and wants to play again with his friends.  great stuff!
  • We empathize with emotion. If you see someone cut her finger, you flinch because you empathize with the feeling of pain. When the on-screen heroine's lover is reported killed at war, it is her emotion that we empathize with, not the information itself.

Why do we feel for Frank and Rita?  We have all seen a relative have difficult times with technology.  Especially since most animators today have to understand the basics of a computer.  Also, Frank and Rita are endearing because in this short clip their relationship is revealed.  You can tell they have been together a long time and have their own way of communicating.



How you occupy space and move within it is as important to empathy as the acting choices you make as an animator.  Butoh is about presence and the simplicity of a single gesture.  You become very aware of how you are occupying the space through one simple movement.  You become something without just acting it, but embody the emotion. Butoh creates a sense of space and time.  You become aware of the body in 3 dimensions.  Taking the body to pieces and bring it back together as a new form of communication.

  • Empathy is a survival mechanism. Find depth in your character. Justify their existence.
  • Villain = Normal person with a fatal flaw. Show a "window" into your villain's humanity.
  • To find that "window" remember gestures that are shadow movements of where the character is instead of what the character is saying. Scratching nose, sniffing, etc. replace overacting with these telling gestures.
  • Stifled emotions can be much better than the full blown emotion.
  • People do not share their emotions easily = we are guarded.
  • Example: If character is cold, don't shiver...have the character try to stay warm!!
  • EMPATHY, is the most important thing about acting. People to study, Charlie Chaplin = empathy; Buster Keaton = sympathy; Harold Lloyd, etc. People relate to emotion.

Chaplin Story to explain the different between sympathy and empathy.Let's say Chaplin gets his foot stuck in a bucket. Buster Keaton would try to shake it off erratically to get the quick, cheap laugh. Chaplin would try to keep his dignity and through embarrassment hide the bucket behind him causing empathy for his problem. This is more clever and more funny. The laughter can be stretched too through his trying to hide the fact his foot is tuck in the bucket. After the initial erratic move by Keaton the laugh is done and it looked practiced in the first place.

  • Act to survive, we all do it to live...what is the survival mechanism in this character?
  • Charlie Chaplin's Autobiography-- said "conceptual is common to people regardless to country--universals are important to silent film."
  • Empathy is different than Sympathy, this is why Charlie Chaplin was the bigger star.


Rhythm in Animation

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #4 Rhythm

cover of the book Getsure Drawing

by Ryan Woodward

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#4 Rhythm in Storytelling and Timing:  No matter how short a scene is, there is always a beginning, middle and end.

  • 3 points, ideas or emotions.
  • Rhythm helps build excitement.

Observe the rhythms throughout this first scene when mr. Incredible comes home from work.  Mr. Incredible shows us timing that builds as the scene heightens with his movements.  The bubble pop at the end is like the exclamation point, on the sentence.  If you were listen to this scene like it were a piece of music, what type of music do you think it would be?  Where is the scene quiet and where is it overly active?

  • Caesura: a poignant beat in music, break in flow of a melody making a point of division.  The quiet moments are as important - if not more important - than the active ones.

Another great example of rhythm throughout a story is Mickey's little Whirlwind.  From the innocent beginnings to the onslught of the whirlwind itself making Mickey look bad, this story takes you through highs and lows.  When choosing ideas for acting, remember that every GREAT scene, no matter how short has rhythm moving through it.

There is also Rhythm in Poses:

  • Arc one way and flow to the opposite pose.
  • Physics play a part, but you determine what the driving forces and physics of your scene are to keep the flow of the lines clean.
  • You are not a slave to the physics. You are manipulating the physics to the point where they still work, but everything is contributing to your pose.

There is a new book in town and I think every animator should grab one.  This is a great example of learning how gesture and rhythm work together to create an emotional pose. This book is a great resource for understanding rhythm in a gesture drawing.  You can get Ryan Woodward's 222 page paperback at

The book is available at in both paper and digital format.
And, below is his beautifully animated short film.


Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #3 Experiment

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#3 Experiment

Try every idea that comes to you!

  • Monty Python went with any idea one of them had even if the others didn’t like it. They gave anything a chance to live on.
  • Animation is a caricature.
  • The job is to capture the impression, not imitate.
  • Animation can play with time – compress or expand as well as push action to its limit.
  • The best comedians experiment and ad lib their scenes over and over.

In the clip above from the movie - A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese and Micheal Palin (1/3rd of the Monty Python players) do an incredible job of creating tension.  Palin stretches time as long as he can with his stutter to almost drive Cleese's character mad. Most of the best scenes you see in movies with professional comedians were either 'ad libbed' while on camera, or a warm up rehearsal of improvisational study of the lines created even more experimentation of the possibilities that could exist within the scope of the scene.  Expand your boundaries, when exploring and experimenting.  Comedy, especially needs to breathe.  Have fun!

This is one of my most favorite movies.  It makes me laugh every time.  John Cleese wrote the script with Charles Crichton.

Trivia:  A Fish Called Wanda has the distinction of being the only movie we know of that killed someone with laughter. OLE BENTZEN (Danish physician, d.1989) An audiologist who specialized in developing hearing aids for underdeveloped countries, Bentzen went to see the film A Fish Called Wanda. During a scene featuring John Cleese, Bentzen began laughing so hard that his heartbeat accelerated to a rate of between 250 and 500 beats a minute and he was seized by a heart attack and died. Ole Bentzen is number nine on a list of people who died from laughing.

BTW, you can read the screenplay for a Fish Called Wanda - here.

The clip below is one of the best blackmail clips ever...

Subtext in Animation

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #2 Subtext



10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

 This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#2 Subtext:Adding subtext is one of the best ways to get depth and dimension into your performance. Human beings are multileveled creatures.  Saying one thing while meaning another.   The clip above is subtext acted wihtin more subtext.  Matt LeBlanc's character is talking about the script, but he is really talking about his relationship with her... as is she.  they are both using the script to describe their own relationship - Great stuff!


The Iceberg:  The acting teacher above explains how the iceberg analogy works.  If you create a bio for your character, you will have created the fodder to pull from for any subtext your character will be exuding when they speak.  Again, we never really say what we mean.  I can say "I love you," and mean I really despise you.  Think about it - it's juicy scenes that have subtext.

Flaws: What makes us interesting are our flaws. Perfection is boring. Humans have flaws. They hid their feelings. They have a lack of boundaries. They have an agenda. They have a past that forms their perspective on the world, which can be skewed. Dig underneath the dialog to figure out what the character is really saying in between the lines.


Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #1 Listen

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

If you animate without a plan, you will waste bucket loads of time.
Think and Plan Your Shot Out:
  • Create and/or find reference, act the scene out
  • Take notes on what you see from these experiences
  • Draw gestures and make thumbnails for the most important storytelling poses
  • Use at least 3 words to describe the arcs going on in the scene - try to make them verbs, or action words
  • Share your ideas with others
It’s best to analyze for at least a day if you can... to figure out what the character’s desire is and what the obstacle to that desire might be.  Deadlines, may be looming, but the time you spend planning will create a more clear path for you once you pick up the mouse.
Simplicity is the key to creating a clear idea.  Until every idea is out of your system, overused and cliche poses will continue to arise as you animate.  Do not clutter storytelling poses with too many ideas.  Your first idea is usually too obvious and not as interesting as your 50th.  Try to see the entire shot in your head. before you ever pick up the mouse.
Improv actors play games b4 they go on stage to warm up.  This helps them work out all the trite and overused ideas.  Drawings also help you think about your ideas more deeply.  I encourage you to draw.  Take the most important idea in the scene and work out from there.
Questions to ask yourself…
  • Is the most interesting and clearest possible way?
  • Does the idea fit this character's personality?
  • Am I exploring the possibilities of the scene?
  • Is my ego too involved?
  • What is being said between the lines of dialog - is there subtext?
  • What significance does the scene have to previous and later shots?
  • What is the purpose of this scene in the movie?

1. Listen:
  • Listen to what your lead, sup and/or director tells you closely.  I have sat next to many newbie animators on a show and heard what they were told for art direction, only to come to dailies the next day and see that they didn;t heard a word they were being told.  Your supervisors know what is expected fo the scene so LISTEN.
  • Listen to the dialog and observe the pauses and accented points that you might not catch when you are actually listening to what is being said.
  • Loop the dialog and listen to it over and over. Stories unfold themselves if we really listen. Detach yourself from the shiny parts and let the story tell you what is essential.
  • Stream of consciousness notes: write down trigger words as you listen to the dialog with your eyes closed.
  • If you have an improv class nearby you can take, I highly encourage you to do so.  95% of improv is listening.  You have to listen to what the other person is saying to plus or heighten the scene beyond what it is.