My amazing trip a couple of weeks ago did not end with the Pixar’s Monsters University Premiere, I was also able to get a first hand look at the making of Disney’s Planes at DisneyToon Studios! Growing up I was always fascinated with Disney movies and the thought that there were people behind the scenes that created each of them. I would watch the movies in awe thinking that someone drew everything that my eyes saw on the screen, so being at DisneyToon Studios to meet several of the artists behind Planes was pretty exciting for me.
The first artist that we got to interview was Ethan Hurd, assistant animation director for Planes. When we walked into the room we were greeted by Ethan who was sitting in front of a computer and a giant screen that projected an image of Dusty, the star of Planes.
The approach toward animation here at DisneyToon Studios is not any different than the approach that Walt Disney established 50 years. We want the character to feel alive and living, just as Walt did. – Ethan Hurd
Ethan started off by showing us a scene from Planes starting with the storyboard process, then the rough animation, animation, and final color of one shot that they worked on.
First the storyboard artists take the script and turn it into a comic strip. The comic strip has the audio and basic story points. The storyboard artists then turn it over to the animators. The animators will then talk with the director to find out more about the character and what they are thinking in that scene. They will then do a rough pass. They are not really worried about lip synch or too many of the details yet, they just really want to hit the main story piece. What is the emotion? What is the character thinking? The animators will then show the rough pass to the director to make sure they are doing everything correctly. Once things are the way the director wants them, the animators will do the final version that includes the lip synch, eye movement, and fine details. Once that is finished, they hand it off to final color. They fill in the reflections, textures, the lighting, and basically make the shot look good and ready for the big screen.
While watching Planes, you could tell that they worked really hard to make sure there was a seamless transition from Cars to Planes. Ethan told us that they talked to Pixar animators and got a lot of the notes that they worked on. It was a learning process to make the characters move around so it felt like the same universe. Ethan said he knows Cars and Cars 2 like the back of his hand. He would watch the films with the audio off just to see how the tires or eyes moved to help him get the movement right for Planes.
When asked who his favorite character was that he animated throughout his career, he laughed and said that is hard to answer because it is like picking your favorite child. Ethan said that Planes is definitely the best work he has done so far. It is his most recent and probably his favorite to this point.
Each of us then got to animate Dusty using Maya, the software package they use to animate the characters. That was a blast! How fun would it be to bring drawings to life for a living?! No wonder why Ethan loves his job.
I love my job! Basically I get to work and play with an action figure on the computer all day. – Ethan Hurd
Disney Planes takes off in theaters August 9!