the Plausible Impossible

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Rusty works in the animation industry doing Storyboards, Timing, Animation and Directing. Recently he has worked at Disney TV Animation and Universal Animation Studios. He's best known for his Directing and Producing for Warner Bros. on "Animaniacs" and "Pinky and the Brain".

Friday, June 30, 2006

Inspiration from John Lounsbery

I find my animation inspiration from many places but my favorite animator is John Lounsbery. To me his animation always had a freshness no matter how similar the scene was to a previous scene he animated. Here today I present a few extremes of his from a scene in Robin Hood which was replaced. Seems Milt Kahl was directing this sequence and when he found out there was a Shakespere line of dialog that Robin Hood would deliver he threw out this beautiful scene of Lounsbery's and redid it himself. You will notice the design on Robin Hood is slightly different than the final design we see in the film. Notice the overlap of the head to the body movement and the hat and ears to the head movement. These kinds of extra movements are what give the true feeling of life to the animation. Because of this I find many times it works best to get the major movement pinned down then build upon that. This might mean I have to go through my scene several times but the result is worth it.
Another thing to notice is the amount of squash and stretch given to the character. Depending upon the style of animation you are doing will depend greatly on how extreme you will want to go with distorting the character. By constraining this (without eliminating it) you will come closer to getting the feeling that there is a solidity to the character or object. In this scene you can just feel his cheeks and without drawing each individual hair you can feel that he has fur above a solid structure.
In this simple movement the animator has also kept solid arcs in his motion. When flipping the individual drawings the head moves in a nice arc up to the highest point. Notice also that he leads the arm with the elbow instead of just dragging it behind. This gives it a deliberate action so you know the character meant to do what he's doing. Closing the eyes as he moves up then opening them at the top of the action gives accent to the action and can help punctuate the dialog.
Although I have a collection of inspirational scenes that more closely match the characters in my film I find that sometimes it's best to study scenes that aren't so close. It can be very easy to fall into the copy trap. In order to keep things fresh I can study scenes like this and refresh my animation rules without getting lost in how the character is drawn. Sure, I can look at the poses and gesture but I find it best to not copy them directly. This freshness is what I strive for in my work. To me the audience should enjoy the film and not directly notice the animation. I would prefer them to be entertained and later notice that it was animated nicely too.
Robin Hood images ┬ęDisney

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Quick Trip

Over the past week I was on a trip to Illinois with my family. Seeing the wonderful green vegetation made me want to pull out my paints and fill one canvas after another. I had a wonderful time with my family and relatives. We went to a cousin's wedding where they had a reception on the shores of the Fox river. It was also my parents 50th anniversary and we had a nice party for them. After that we spent a couple of days in Chicago and visited several places including the Field museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. As a relief to the extreme heat here in Southern California it was nice to have rain showers and lightning storms while we were there. Of course the trip wasn't long enough. I did get to finish another scene to my film while on the plane and have started a new one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Idea for another day

As I get ready for a vacation I always pack my sketchbook so I have a way to jot down ideas. Not to mention airports or train stations, even truck stops are great places to sketch people. On one such trip (though not a vacation) to Tokyo I spent my time planning out a film. I boarded the entire film in a scketchbook during the two 10 hour flights there and back. I will eventually do this film but at least I got the idea down. I find that sometimes it's best to just get the feeling of the film and actions though not nessesarily the complete comosition. So here you see not only some composition ideas for some scenes but just some sketches of the relationship between the man and his dog. The nice thing about working like this is it allows a more stream of conciousness way of getting the ideas down. Ideas can be arranged and changed at will. Once the ideas are down they can be brought into a program and arranged or altered as needed. I always liked the feeling I got in these drawings and will probably do the film somewhat in that style. I may have done this 7 or 8 years ago but the ideas are now down on paper and the drawings still feel fresh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Building a Scene


Click here to see Sc-6 Story Reel
Every animator has their own method to get to the end of a scene. First there is usually a story reel / animatic/ leica reel of the scene. This comes from shooting the storyboard drawings at the proper time to the sound track. Having the storyboard in this form helps give a good idea of how the cuts are working and if the basic acting will play out clearly. Above you can see the leica of Sc-6 from my film (the term leica comes from the name of the camera which used to be dedicated to filming the story boards). It it you can clearly see the character is looking behind him to an offstage voice. At the proper time you can see his reaction to the O.S. character and finally his reaction to an O.S. snap sound. It is clear that he knows there is a pending problem.
Click here to see the Rough Animation
Here you can see the completed rough animation of the scene that is based on the storyboards. See how I elaborated on the acting. I also turned him around more giving a feeling of space beyond the frame of the film. I also was able to play up the contrast between his anger and his reaction to the O.S. snap. The pose at the end of the scene is more natural and I didn't have to make him look directly towards the sound. Previous scenes and the scene that follows gives the audience a clear placement of where the sound is coming from.
As I started this scene I headed in the wrong direction and ended up scrapping the first version. The actions were not natural and where too predictable. By this I mean the acting felt too much like something I had seen before. I always try to think of a different way to act the scene so it has a fresh feel. This can sometimes be difficult because you run the risk of making it feel forced. It helps sometimes to think of a particular person or actor when planning the action of a character. Sometimes it's the voice actor who can inspire it. In this case I've had Lewis Black in mind. This character gradually gets more and more angry as the film progresses and I felt Lewis Black personifies that type of personality.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Am I pursuing my art?

When I find myself in this conundrum or in a discussion regarding a fellow artists questioning their own artistic endeavors my first suggestion is to step back and look. Of course there's the "be thankful for what you've got" feeling of guilt when I even question my current state of work. I do agree with the fact that you should feel thankful. Having been in the situation where I was unable to pursue animation work I definitely am thankful that I do get work in my industry of choice. I also realize there are many more people in the world who don't get to choose their career. So for this, yes, I am certainly thankful.
But that doesn't answer the question that titles this entry. To come to a conclusion I still have to step back. This entails examining what I am trying to pursue. Of course for each artist this will be different. Pursuit means you must have an end point or goal. Much like constructing a good story. It's best to know where you are headed in the end before you start. Otherwise you tend to wander aimlessly and lose track. With a clear goal you can always focus again on your end point.
I can choose to be lazy about the answer and not really examine my goal by saying, "my pursuit is to better my art". If I BS myself with this kind of lame answer then I might as well give up and wander aimlessly. What specifically is the goal, for example specifically for myself I want to work on refining my abilities to see the drawing on the page before pen or pencil touches the surface. Building these skills will help me see the forums and structure better. This type of skill can be worked on no matter what it is I'm drawing. So even though the work you are doing at a job on a daily basis may not seem to be helping you pursue your art you can find ways to use it to help pursue your art even though it's not your own personal work.
And of course always keep sketching!
A recent sketchbook page I did while riding the train. The sketchbook has heavy paper and I use mostly brushpens but also some pencil.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

"Yeah, I got a film I wanna do about...", "Wish I had the time to make a film", "That'll be great when it's done...", "I'm jealous". I'm sure I've uttered these words just as people have to me since I started working on my film. People I've known or know that have completed their own film find the time and make the commitment. Sure, family and other interests take up a lot of my time but the battle really isn't finding the time but being willing to allow the time. What I mean by this is to not expect it to be done now. I work under deadlines and schedules all week long so why put that kind of pressure on myself. Many people may argue that without a schedule they'd never get done. Hey, if that's what it takes to get you to do the work you never really wanted to do the project in the first place. Oh you might want the elation of having a completed film but you didn't want to do the work. Now I'm not saying it's all easy to do. There are certainly times when I'm tired or decide to do something else but seeing various parts of the film get completed drives me to do more.
I have included here a few of the storyboards from my film. I created them using Mirage by Bauhaus Software. I am creating the majority of the film in Mirage. The first big milestone of my film was when I did one complete scene. I did this before the storyboard (I already knew the shot and had an old track from my student film). This scene gave me my production pipeline. It helped me figure out exactly how I was going to work and also that it would be possible on my Tablet PC. It also was a great boost because I could show it to people to get reactions. You can view the scene here:
Animation Sample

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jump Start

I've decided to jump into the world of Blogging. Hey if Eddie Fitzgerald can do it I figure I can too. I have several reasons for doing this blog but first about the name. The term Plausible Impossible is often used to describe certain abilities in animation. For example the idea that a character will hesitate in mid air until he realizes there's nothing below them and then fall. Walt Disney even did an episode of "the Wonderful world of Disney" built around this term. So because it describes so many things I do it felt right.
Now some of what you'll see here on my blog:

First I've been working on my own paperless 2D film as I ride to and from work on the train. Everything is being done on my Tablet PC. I've gotten far enough into it that I thought it might be interesting for others to see my progress. So periodically I will post some images and status of my film named "Gotcha Covered". It is a remake of one of my student films I did while at CalArts. Like most animators I looked back at the old film and saw how I could make it better. The story I thought was good and funny but I wanted to put back in some pieces I had to leave out when trying to make the end of the year deadline at school. I also felt some of the staging, acting, and timing could be better. So I started from scratch and redesigned, reboarded, re-recorded it and am now reanimating it.

Second I do plein air painting with friends of mine and will be posting some of that work. I hope it will help me paint more. My preferred medium is oil on canvas. I also tend to like the "widescreen" (can you tell I work in the motion picture industry) format. I also tend to like to paint larger but recently have worked on smaller canvases in an attempt to not get lost in the detail.

And finally I plan on posting thoughts and artwork I have collected over the years. Some will be mine some will be by friends and some will be by artists who helped define their genre, both fine art and animation art. I plan to post at least once a week and hopefully more. So I hope you'll want to spend some of your bandwidth here on occasion.