Each year, the world’s top animators gather in Burbank, California for the CTN animation eXpo, an artist-to-artist social enterprise who’s mission is to connect, develop and inspire creators in and around the animation, visual efx, and video game industries. This year, Sarah Hanson, an associate professor of animation at Villa, and Joel Murphy, a 2012 graduate of the same program, flew across the country to hear some of the greatest working animators speak.
Hanson, who described the event as the conference to attend for getting a job in the industry, said the schedule was packed with presentations, screenings, and a Career Camp directed towards getting students jobs. There was also a lottery for studio tours around Burbank that gave attendees the opportunity to visit Disney, Sony, Hasbro, Dreamworks, and more.
One of the more notable presentations that Hanson attended was hosted by Michal Makarewicz.
Makarewicz has been an Animator at Pixar Animation Studios for over 13 years and is currently working as a directing animator on an upcoming feature film. Since joining Pixar in 2003, Makarewicz has worked as an animator on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up (supervising animator on the Up DVD short: “Dug’s Special Mission”), Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside Out, and worked as directing animator on Cars 2 and Finding Dory. He was also a supervising animator on “Toy Story of Terror.”
Michal was awarded an Annie Award for “Outstanding Character Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille. In addition to his work at Pixar, Michal has been teaching animation since 2005. He has contributed lectures as well as taught classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, and instructed classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.
During his presentation, “Polish for Feature Film,” Makarewicz discussed ways in which animators can create polished shots that belong in professional, high-end films and offered valuable advice to aspiring animators. Of creating complex characters, he said: “The ball bounce is the foundation of everything,” he said. “You can break most actions and characters down to a combination of bouncing balls. Take Bambi, for example. The hips, shoulders and head are bouncing balls. The hips and shoulders are connected with a flour sack. Then you just need to add the legs. The whole deer could intimidate you, so just break it (and every character) down to simple shapes.”
Makarewicz further explained that animation is half instinct and half control. “Animation is 50% instinct. This is why it is so important to take an acting class. You have to learn how to be vulnerable,” he said. “The other 50% is control; things you are trying to potentially balance and control in a shot: status, betrayal, honesty, empathy, circumstance, thought process, etc.”
Next, Makarewicz encouraged his audience to be honest with their work. “Don’t try to be phony or fancy. Express yourself honestly,” he said. “Justify the actions of the character that you are trying to animate so we can identify with the character. Be honest, but don’t be generic.”
Finally, Makarewicz spoke about convenience in terms of animation. “If you just animate what is most convenient in a shot, it probably is not going to be believable,” he said. “Convenience is not relatable and it is always too good to be true. In real life, nothing works perfectly. Your character should not be able to pull off every action flawlessly every time. For example, your character tries to push a door to enter a building, only to realize that it is a pull door.”
Hanson looks forward to returning to CTNX next year, and bringing Villa’s strongest animation students with her.
To learn more about Villa Maria’s animation program, visit villa.edu/academics/academic-programs/animation.