There was never any event that expanded students' artistry so greatly within such a short span of time. Held for the first time in the Asia Pacific, aspiring animators from The One Academy received precious guidance on Hollywood animation and entertainment art from 3 top-notch masters, namely current Head of story in Pixar Animation Studio, Matthew Luhn, Production Designer and Character Designer Ricky Nierva, as well as Animation Director Andrew Gordon.
During the launching ceremony together with the 3 Pixar experts and Nur Sharija, senior executive of event sponsor Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC), Principal of The One Academy, Mr Tatsun Hoi once again emphasised the rationale behind the series of Masterclasses. “By exposing local enthusiasts to the pristine standard of Pixar, our budding creatives will undergo accelerated transformation to emerge as a highly capable expert in the booming world of animation and entertainment art, as envisaged by our Masters Train Masters teaching philosophy.”
Sharing the best from their experience, these 3 brilliant Pixar experts would certainly equip students with the essential tools to conquer the world animation market. No doubt, it has also strengthened the quality of The One Academy's team of dynamic industry lecturers.
Andrew Gordon has taught animation throughout the world over a decade. He is famous for animating the characters such as Mike Wazowki from Monsters, Inc., Gill from Finding Nemo and Edna Mode from The Incredibles as well as Linguini from Ratatouille. In the masterclass, he has explored the topics of Pose Design, Locomotion, Acting & Gestures, Planning and Facial Animation.
Andrew advised students to observe how human beings and animals such as centipede or octopus move. To create believable animations, animators must observe the correct centre of gravity of all movements. Andrew also taught students to avoid bad acting, including those that are not convincing, full of cliché, lack of gesture, or those without proper subtext in dialogues. To quote him, “Sometimes, less is more.” Instead, funnier design, believable acting and better timing make people laugh. Students should also do things differently and push the limit.
Explaining on the importance of planning, Andrew said that, “Spend some time think about your shot and explore all possibilities. Every time I jump into a scene, I fail.” Therefore, animators should always take notes, ask questions, try act the script out, and spend time to think about the shots and explore all possibilities. Also, don't treat reference as clutches, make planning a ritual before start animating, and try to consult others' opinion whenever necessary.
Story Supervisor Matthew Luhn lectured on Story Development. With more than 20 years of experience, Luhn has contributed to The Simpsons, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up, and Monsters University. Matthew defined storyboarding as testing theories and avoiding mistakes. For him, stories are developed from premises, for instance, what if a rat wanted to cook, what if a robot fell in love, or what if toys came into life, and turn these premises into “controlling ideas”, i.e. the main character's transformation journey.
Matthew emphasised that “Nobody watches a dull movie without the main character facing a dilemma.” Exposition of films is usually created by injecting passion into the main character or takes it away, triggering an emotional roller coaster ride for the audience. For example in Up, home was the old man’s memory of his wife, yet it would be taken away from him. By identifying the fear, arrogance, anger, anxiety and flaw of the main character, the story will revolve around how the he overcomes inner and outer conflicts to love or to be courageous.
As the main character picks up new resolution, he will have to face the extra complications too. Confronting the crisis resolutely, the movie will reach its climax, and the mantra of the movie is revealed. For instance, Finding Nemo tells us that no matter how much we love somebody, we can't watch over them all the time, thus must learn to let go. He also touched on creating depth through cinematography, which will determine how audience feels.
A veteran Pixar Artist since 1997, Ricky Nierva lectures on Character Design. He was awarded the Annie Award for character in Finding Nemo and was the Production Designer for Pixar’s 2009 Academy award-winning films Up and Monsters University. Based on the story spline, Ricky suggests students to design refined, whimsical characters with more depth, with proper apparel and hairstyle. If necessary, designers may try to mix and match different sizes of eyes, nose, teeth to create the most suitable and believable look.
There goes a saying in the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), one should “Go to the zoo and draw the animals.” To design characters for Finding Nemo, Ricky’s team visited California Science Centre in San Francisco for a closer look at different types of fish. And to design the robot Wall-E which cleans up tonnes of waste, his colleague paid visits to garbage landfills.
Caricature drawing is the basis of creating characters. According to Ricky, “Good caricature comes from good observation of persons and personality.” He encourages students to take risk in exploring new ideas and directions, as “Everything has been done before, but not done before your way.” To succeed, Ricky urged students to listen to different opinions, stay positive and be passionate about things we do. Mixing with the right crowd with the correct mentality is also important, as “If one puts a banana in a bag of avocados, it will ripen faster.”
With such a fruitful exploration of related topics by towering professionals, students were overwhelmed with joy that the mastersclass has facilitated the exponential growth of their understanding on various aspects of animation. Confident that this exposure would put them ahead of their peers, the students were determined to put the insights they have learnt to good use. They were also eagerly looking forward to other similar learning opportunities in the future.
Having discussed and demonstrated the key skills related to story development, character design and animation in line with the ‘Practical Coaching Approach’, the Pixar experts have successfully geared our aspiring designers towards the world class results as promised by The One Academy. It once again underscores The One Academy's consistency in nurturing future creative leaders according to the well-acclaimed ‘Masters Train Masters’ teaching philosophy!