Wee! The first official post of 2010!
And what better way to kick it off than the second part of my interview with Paul Briggs? You can find the first part of my interview with the ‘The Princess and The Frog’ story artist, here.
What’s a ‘typical day’ for you as (current) Head of Story when you’re in production?
A typical day as a Head of Story is managing a team of Story Artists to help the Director get their vision up on screen.
That doesn’t mean I completely buy into it. In fact, I feel the biggest part of my job is always being honest and open in questioning and confirming what the Director wants. Together as the story team, we work really hard in supporting or challenging the idea that is being presented on the screen.
There’s also the scheduling side of it all, but that’s no fun!
Is there a process for assigning certain story artists a particular sequence to work on? Do you go with their strengths or is it the ‘luck of the draw’ for them?
We have some pretty incredible board artists at the studio that can do a wide range of scenes but most tend to gravitate to sequences that appeal to them more. So you want to assign sequences that people will have the most fun boarding.
You know you’re going to get incredible work from them but I always like to try and push people out of their comfort zone for a sequence or two. It really challenges them and forces them to keep their skills sharp and grow as a story artist.
The best artists are the ones that you can hand any sequence to and know you’re going to get something special back.Click on image to enlarge.
Are feature boards still done with paper and pencil and set up in a story room? Or have things gone completely digital? What are your typical working tools?
You know it all depends on the artist. Some guys here still work on paper but a lot of us work digital now. Whatever makes you comfortable but also allows you the freedom to quickly sketch your ideas down and not become precious with them.
I normally work in Photoshop on a Cintiq and use another program to pitch in. When I’m boarding I actually limit myself to 2 custom brushes, 3 to 4 levels and only 4 different gray values (no color unless absolutely necessary to make a story point.) This limited palette forces me not to get caught up in all the bells and whistles.
I concentrate more on the just getting the idea down rather than a pretty drawing. We pitch all digital on screens that our boards are projected onto.
What is your process for working?
Whether I’m issued script pages or not I always start by breaking the sequence down. I’ll ask myself – “What’s the point of the sequence ? Why is it in the movie? Where is the character at in this point of the journey?”
Once I’ve established all of that then I’ll thumbnail – I usually do 2 – 3 thumbnail passes. I try and get all of my thinking out in these rough thumbnail stages. My first pass is usually really, really rough like jotting notes and scribbles down on a legal pad. Then I’ll do a second pass of thumbnails on a long story pad.
I’m not so much concerned with staging and cinematics – I’m more focused on character at this point. I do a third pass of thumbnails and in this pass I refine a lot of things. Finally, I pin my third pass up on a story panel and redraw it all digitally. That sounds like a lot of work but it’s really not. I work really rough and I never get precious with my early drawings.
After that, I pitch to the directors and the story crew and get notes!Click on image to enlarge.
How was it to go back to traditional animation for this film? Is there really much difference for the story team as opposed to working on a 3D film? If so, in what way?
The biggest difference in boarding for traditional versus CG animation is the camera moves. You’re limited in how much you can do with the camera because it’s a painted set and not virtual environment. However, that can be a blessing more than a curse – I think a lot of times camera moves are obnoxious and unmotivated in a lot of CG films.
Any thoughts on the subject of 2D vs 3D? (Not that it’s a war or anything…)
As long as it’s an emotional and entertaining story I’ll watch/work on it whether it’s hand drawn, CG, stop motion or paper cut outs!
Do you think hand-drawn animation is back for good? Are there more hand-drawn films in the works at Disney now?
I sure hope so. I love the art form so much. It was so exciting when The Princess and The Frog was starting up and hearing that ‘paper being flipped’ sound again. There’s nothing like taking a stack of animation paper and rolling a scene.
I remember the first scene I saw was of Dr. Facilier by Bruce Smith and I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. It was like seeing an old good friend return again.
I believe we have more hand-drawn films in the works… but I’m not sure I can say what!Click on image to enlarge.
What’s your best piece of advice for people who dream of working as Story Artists in feature animation? How important is education? Experience? What should they have in place before applying? Who has the best shot? (I gotta ask…the people want to know.)
This is a great question!
It’s difficult to be a Story Artist because you have to be skilled at two things.
Being a storyteller and an artist! Hence the name.
The artist part of it is difficult enough and people struggle with just this for a long time. It doesn’t matter where you get your education, but your drawings should convey entertainment, staging/composition, cinematics, mood, acting, gesture, anatomy, perspective, strong silhouettes, energy and tone.
That’s a lot and even once you’ve got it down, you never stop practicing and improving upon these things.
Never stop learning.
When you’re confident with your drawings you can focus on visually telling the story. This is the most difficult thing to learn and practice because you’re basically writing with drawings.
It’s about communicating an idea through your drawings. The people that have the best shot at working in Feature Animation as a Story Artist are able to submit a portfolio of entertaining fresh ideas that read clearly in drawings.
Here’s my biggest teaching advice: It’s okay to eavesdrop! The greatest education I always get is in listening to people talk about their lives. Engage them and ask questions. Old people are always the best to listen to!
People make some very important decisions in their lives – some good, some bad, but it defines character and that choice in my opinion is what makes a great story.Click on image to enlarge.
What’s your all-time favorite animated Disney film as a *viewer* and why? What was your favorite one to work on and why? (Besides ‘The Princess and The Frog’, of course!)
My favorite animated film is Pinocchio. It’s a story that’s perfect for animation and it’s a beautiful film. There are so many great moments and messages in the film. Dumbo is a close second with The Incredibles coming in third.
I’ve worked on some amazing films but… I think my favorite is still to come!
~Thanks so much Paul!~
Visit Paul Briggs’ Blog at:
For more information on submitting a portfolio to Disney Animation please visit: www.disneyanimation.com
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