Art prints for sale!

I’m offering a couple prints for sale on my blog. Each print is a limited number and is hand numbered and signed. Check them out! Hope you like them!
http://artofmalconpierce.blogspot.com/

Just click the link!
Thanks!!
– Malcon

Finishing animation on Tangled.

CTL + Save.

all done…

Reflecting on all the work that's been done.

Finishing my last shot on Tangled is a bitter-sweet feeling. This Film has been on such an incredible journey, and now that its wrapping up there is an amazing sense of energy, excitement and hope. I know that as studio, we have poured ourselves into this film, and I think it shows on the screen.

This is a shot I animated for the Teaser Trailer. Kira Lehtomaki also worked with me on this.

I Feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to work with so many wonderful artist on this film. Getting to work with Glen Keane on a daily basis is something I never expected. It is quite a treat to be able to pick his brain, as well as him pick ours. It’s so wonderful to get to work on something that you truly believe in. Dailies was always a place for inspiration and open artistic collaboration. The animation department really fed off of each other to push our ideas and make our shots better. It was obvious from the beginning that we all wanted to push ourselves and our skills to learn as much as we could while working on this film.

To talk a little bit about the animation aspect of this film, I had to learn to approach animation in a much different way than I was accustomed to. The animation in this movie is much more contained and “real” than I have animated in the past, and by real I’m not saying we were trying to animate in a hyper-realistic style, but we were really pushed to make these characters really feel alive, and to exist beyond this movie. We all knew that these characters existed, we just hadto learn how to translate our thoughts to the screen. Our Supervisors, Glen Keane, Clay Kaytis, and John Kahrs did an amazing job of guiding the  team down the right path, and keeping these characters true to who they are as well as keeping the look of the animation consistent throughout the movie. Glen said to me once, (talking about Rapunzel) “I know this character better than I’ve ever known any other character, and I’ve never animated her”.  But in reality, It was like Glen had already animated this film and he just wasn’t telling anybody. In dailies sometimes glen would draw over our shots and make everything look and feel so much stronger, the illusion was that he did it with such ease and precision he made it look easy…but then you get back to your desk and realize what a challenge you had ahead of you. The Directors, Byron Howard, and Nathan Greno were great as well. They had such a high standard for this film and they didn’t drop the bar once. It has to be right, no matter what it takes to get there. It was a very interesting way of Directing animation. I find we were treated like actors and not so much animators. The majority of notes we would get in dailies were less about animation, and more performance notes. “The animation looks great, but instead of Flynn thinking this, maybe he does this instead… because earlier in the film, this happens” etc. Everything was about performance and who these characters are, not about arcs and movement. Although the principles of animation are very important and were held to a high standard, the directors really focused on the performance of the characters over all. So I think with them focusing on the performance and trusting the supervisors and the animators as artists to produce great animation. This type of direction really made us push ourselves even harder.

This team has been so much fun to work with. Everybody has had something special to add to the movie. The team really worked great together. Everybody did a great job of helping each other and motivating each other whenever there was a hurdle in the road. I’ve made many great friends from this film and that is one of my favorite things that I will remember about this experience. I think, watching the film and seeing all the work on the screen is one thing, but being able to relate everything you see on the screen to things that were going on in the studio or in people’s lives at that time, that’s amazing. I married the love of my life during the making of this film. I even animated a shot just for her! 😉 That’s something that to me will always have its place with this project. I think if you work on something like this and don’t have the stories and memories to go along with it, you’re doing it wrong!

-Malcon Pierce

Finishing Up

I hope everybody loves this movie as much as I do! I think its going to be a lot of fun for everybody!

I can still remember being in 2nd grade, and the teacher would ask everybody what they wanted to be when they grew up. There were alot of police men, a few lawyers (all thought most didn’t know what that meant), some doctors, and firemen, But I remember saying I wanted to be an animator for Disney. I dont think I even knew what that was at the time…but I liked Disney movies, and I figured everybody who worked at Disney was an animator… so I wanted in. Well, 20 years later I’m walking these halls. Still a kid a heart, as most of us are, its a dream come true.

50% ANIMATED!

We are a little over 50% animated on Tangled So to celebrate, we had an animation crew party. Here is some awesome video of the party! I thought it was really cool how it was edited etc. Enjoy the flash back…..to about a month ago.

Featured Alumni. Animation Mentor Newsletter – May 2010

Click below to see Newsletter.

Animation Mentor Newsletter – May 2010

Animation Mentor:

Why did you select Animation Mentor to study animation?

Malcon Pierce:

I chose Animation Mentor to study animation because I really wanted to focus on character animation. I was attending the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and found that although the Art Institute was a great school, it focused on the entire CG animation industry, not just character animation. Also, I knew that the mentors at Animation Mentor were working in the studios where I hoped to someday work, so I knew that attending Animation Mentor would be great for networking and finding out firsthand what it was like working on a feature animation project.


Animation Mentor:

What did you learn from Animation Mentor?

Malcon Pierce:

I learned how to create animation that had more than just a character moving around. I learned how to really get inside a character and understand how the character needs to live in the animation, and then I learned how to get that to show on the screen. I learned how to properly approach an animation so that I was animating with focus and reason. I learned that animation is a community where we all motivate each other – it is an encouraging and fun-filled environment. I learned that networking is vital for growing and for finding work in the industry. Animation Mentor has taught me many invaluable lessons relating to character animation as a craft and as an industry.


Animation Mentor:

How was the experience unique?

Malcon Pierce:

The experience was unique for me because I attended school online and still gained so many friendships. Most people think that if you go to school online, you’re lazy and a bit of a recluse, but with Animation Mentor it is quite the opposite. You’re talking with people everyday about what you love to do, and you’re working day and night because you love it.


Animation Mentor:

What were some of the challenges?

Malcon Pierce:

Where to start? Being able to correctly use the software to show my idea was a big challenge for me. It’s one thing to have an idea for a shot. It’s quite another challenge to show that idea through the character. Another challenge was finding out when enough was enough. I tended to have the “bite off more than you can chew” mentality. The biggest challenge that I experienced then – and still experience now – is holding myself to a higher standard than I may be able to produce. I find that it is easy to take short-cuts and ignore problems in my animation. It’s so important to hold yourself to that higher standard so that you keep learning. It takes a lot of determination to keep working on your animation until it is perfect in your eyes, or at least as perfect as you can get it. When you look back at shots you have animated in the past, you will usually find things you would have done differently. This is a great thing! It means that you’re getting better!


Animation Mentor:

Did you get a job after graduating from Animation Mentor?

Malcon Pierce:

I was fortunate enough to get a job while in Advanced Acting (Class 5) with ReelFX working on Open Season 2. While I was in Polishing & Portfolio (Class 6), I got an offer to work on Ice Age 3 with Blue Sky Studios. Knowing that I couldn’t do both, I took a leave of absence from Animation Mentor. After Blue Sky, I went back to Animation Mentor and finished Class 6. After graduating, I got a job at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and that’s where I’m working now.


Animation Mentor:

What is your position and what do you enjoy most about it?

Malcon Pierce:

I am a character animator at Disney. The thing I enjoy the most about this job is hanging around a group of really talented people all day and getting the chance to challenge myself everyday with my work.


Animation Mentor:

What kind of projects are you working on?

Malcon Pierce:

Right now I’m working on Tangled.


Animation Mentor:

What is something you learned at Animation Mentor that you use at your job?

Malcon Pierce:

Use your friends and coworkers to help take your animation to the next level. Always get other opinions and ideas for shots. This is a collaborative industry, and if you keep that in mind, you will grow much faster as an animator.


Animation Mentor:

What is the animation moment that you take the most pride in?

Malcon Pierce:

I take the most pride in polishing. Polishing my shots is my favorite part of the process because I know the animation is nearly finished, and I can really focus on making things shine. I can really get deep into the shot, and make sure every frame is exactly how I want it. For me, those final touches are what raise your shot to the next level.


Animation Mentor:

Do you believe mentorship is important?

Malcon Pierce:

Mentorship is very important. It is so motivating to have somebody that you are inspired by pushing you to put your best work out there for people to see. You’re learning more than you ever would alone, and gaining a friend out of the deal as well. It makes the learning process feel more personal and true. This isn’t a textbook industry, so without having someone to guide you, it’s really hard to learn and find your path to become a great animator.


Animation Mentor:

What is one valuable thing you learned from your mentor?

Malcon Pierce:

Hold yourself accountable for your work. Keep your standards high. Give it all you’ve got and you’ll never be let down. You need to keep pushing forward or you will not be satisfied. Stay hungry.

“FINAL” thoughts on Refining and Polishing a shot.

My thought process when I’m refining and polishing animation.

With 3D animation today, we as animators are able to reach an entirely new level of performance because of the ability to control the most subtle of details, tiniest performance quirks, and it is all visible at 24 animated frames a second. Now with films being released in IMAX, and then on Blue Ray high def DVD, the level of polish in an animated shot should be pushed to the highest mark possible. I can’t stress how important it is for an animator to take charge of his or her shot, and make sure that it is held to the highest level of the animators abilities.

Polishing an animation is my favorite part of the process. This usually means that your nearly finished with the animation. Now its time to relax because the performance is at the right place, and now it only needs refining. This is the time to really dig deep and make sure you can be proud of every frame of animation. Taking this extra care with your shot will make your shots exceptional, and really show a deeper skill set.

These are some things I think about when I’m going about refining and polishing my shot.

I make sure I have a solid foundation to work with.

-Am I hitting all the right beats clearly.

-Is my phrasing helping my shot move forward.

-If there is dialogue, is it leading to a point, is it stagnant or boring?

-Are the physics in the shot working and believable.

I make sure the actions are smooth (if they need to be) and there are no hitches in the shot.

-I’ll track the nose through the shot to make sure the arcs are smooth.

-Depending on the action and what Is moving I’ll track all the arcs of the movement. starting with the base of the movement and working my way out from that. So the elbow, then wrist, and fingers, so on and so on.

-Along with tracking the arcs I’ll check my spacing to make sure there are no hitches in the spacing aswell. Sometimes you can have a clean arc, but if the spacing is messed up it will still read as a hitch.

-I’ll plus all my ease ins and outs to make sure there are no hits or floatyness.

Then I’ll do a facial pass.

-I’ll make sure my facial poses are appealing. I’ll usually start with the eyes, and brows since they are somewhat connected to each other. I’ll make sure all the lid shapes are appealing, and work with the brows.

-Make sure I have asymmetry in the face. I treat the brows and mouth like the shoulders, and hips. I offset them to each other when I can to keep the expressions more dynamic.

-I’ll make sure all my mouth shapes are clear but interesting. I usually off-center the mouth shapes to give a little more asymmetry and organic-ness to the expression.

-Animation wise, I track the corners of the mouth to make sure they’re traveling in arcs, and not hitting walls etc. This makes a huge difference in the readability in the lip sync.

Final Polish

-I’ll usually start to offset things in the face. With the brows, in most cases I’ll have them lead when the eyes are opening, and drag when they are closing. Sort of like they are pulling the eyes open, or the eyes are pulling the brows down when they close. Offsetting them slightly helps get a more organic feeling to the face. I’ll also lead with the inside of the brow when bringing them down, and the outside when raising them. This will also break things up. Be careful though so that you down get wavy brows. Sometimes its only a matter of sliding the curves over half a frame to get the feeling you need.

-I’ll go through all my blinks and make sure I don’t lose the pupil. I’ll also add a compression frame on the closed position so that you read that upper lid pushing down on the lower lid. Sometimes I’ll also lead or drag one side of the lid or the other to help get a more fleshy feeling.

-eye darts!   Usually this is the last thing I’ll do. I’ll add eye darts when I feel they should be. I usually do eye darts on two frames. The first frame favoring the end position about 60-80% or so. This keeps them from feeling to clicky. I’ll also add the lower and upper lids following the eye dart. I usually do this in three frames. I really make sure the lids follow the eye dart so the eye ball feels connected with the lids.

-Sometimes I’ll copy the jaw animation curve to the nose and cheeks. This helps me get the tip of the nose, and the cheeks following the jaw animation. After I get that working I can go in and refine the animation but it gets me most of the way there quickly.

-The last thing I do usually is start offsetting the keys in the face. I’ll offset the brows and lids depending on how I want to lead the eye of the viewer etc. I’ll usually only offset things by half a frame, and usually only on the breakdowns. I still want the lids to open and close at the same time, but everything in between I like to keep offset from each other.

So These are some of the things I think about when I’m polishing and refining a shot. It’s so important that you start off with a strong animation or all the polish and detail you put into the shot will be wasted. If you have a hitch in the arm, nobody will notice the detail you put on the fingers etc. Another thing I think is very important is that you don’t polish just to polish. Everything needs to feel supported. You don’t want to just noodle the curves to death. This can cause a shot to lose all its punch and energy. So it’s a fine balance between polishing a shot, and sanding it down to nothing.

I hope this is interesting for some people! Its my favorite part of animation so I really wanted to share my thoughts on it. This is only the tip of the iceberg on whats possible! So thanks for reading and let me know what you think!

Malcon Pierce

Some great examples of animation with wonderful polish

-Ratatouille

human animation at its finest!

-Horton hears a who

Excellent cartoony animation!

-Runaway Brain

(hand drawn, but still by favorite animation to date)

-How to Train your Dragon.

Very nice subtle creature animation

-Ice Age 3

anything with scrat!

and many many more.

Lets over Analyze a 260 Frame shot. (And learn something from it.)

This is a write up on my thoughts on a 260 frame shot I animated. Out of all the choices I could have made, I feel I learned alot from the ones that ended up on the screen. This is an over analytical overview of what I was thinking, when working on the shot, and why. In the end, The shot got a 4th place finish in the 11 second club’s aug 2009 competition. Thanks for all the kind words and support!

While I was between jobs I needed to keep animating in order to keep learning. I wasn’t around many animators at the time so feedback was minimal. While I did have feedback from what I would post online, I really wanted to dig in and just see what came out the other side. After working in a studio for a while, I was excited about getting to animate a shot how I wanted to. I checked out the 11secondclub.com to see what the AUG 2009 audio clip was. Usually I dont really like the clips on the site, but I thought the Aug. clip was fun. I started brain storming ideas and the only real solid Idea I had was that I wanted to have the character typing at one point of the shot.

Not having a very strong idea of what I wanted to do, I started thumb-nailing shot ideas while listening to the audio. I could only do this for about 30 min before I felt like throwing the speakers out the window. ha. Eventually I had this idea of a mad scientist. It was one of my first ideas so I figure it would be to cliche’. And it was…There were about 9-10 mad scientist shots in the contest, BUT I decided that I would still have fun with it, and that this was for me, and not so much to win a contest. I knew that I could do whatever I wanted with the animation, and that was all i needed to motivate me. I only had about two and a half weeks to come up with an idea and animate the shot so “pre-production” went out the window.

here are the thumbnails…I didn’t do alot of thumb-nailing. I did some video reff, but it ended up being pretty useless in this situation.

I had some fun ideas for the shot and I decided I’d like to try all the ideas out with the animation. I know I wanted to have the character Type… I know that sounds like a strange thing to want to animate, but I had never animated typing, and all the shots I’ve seen of characters typing always felt the same. It usually feels very muddy, and broad. I wanted to try a new type of typing animation. Another thing I wanted to do was to see how I could try pushing the Lip-Sync. I felt like I needed to get the personallity of the character to read through the mouth shapes. I wanted to try animating the mouth first, before the eyes and brows… Normally I find that this is done the other way around.. but I was thinking that if I could get the personallity to read with the eyes closed.. then maybe that would lead to new “methods” of acting, and or animating…. In the end it led to a bunch of over-animated lip shapes…. but I did learn from it. And I’ll take that anytime.

One thing I really wanted were to get some cool posing and contrast into the shot. I did some thumb-nails that I really liked so I figured I’d try them out in 3d and see if I could get the same feeling as the drawing. I feel like I got most of the way there but when I played the animation I felt like I just had to much going on. It felt like I wanted to animate breakdowns instead of story telling poses…Well I could blow it all away, or see if I could make it work. Knowing that I was getting very “pose to pose-y” with the shot I decided to go ahead with it, and see if I could still make it work. Why not… I’ll only learn from this. The new challenge for me was to now playing with breakdowns, and making the Lip sync read through these poses. I feel like I did ok with that part. over all, I find the shot has a very “animated” feel…and because of this, the character seems flat.

my layout idea.

Another thing I really wanted to play with is seeing how I could simplify the lip-sync and still have it read as strong as the characters actions. Its a find balance between chattery lip-sinc, and a performance that is soft and muddy. I feel like I got both the Chattery feeling at some parts and the soft and Muddy at others. Although some of the lip-sync works and is interesting, I think I could have done a better job at animating the lip sync to help the movement of the shot. But I gained some knowledge from it.

So While animating this little clip I was constantly trying to figure things out, and try something that was a little bit out of my comfort zone. Most of the shot was animated straight ahead, so it took longer than it needed to, but I wasn’t in a hurry so I didn’t mind that I kept having to redo things.

If I had to crit this shot, I’d say its way to over animated. There are to many poses in the shot. I could have probably done two  or three and it would stronger. The lip sync is competing with the eyes and brow animation a little to much. The same with the acting. It reads as a battle between the facial animation, and the body movement. Because of all this the shot seems very flat, and there is no real point to connect with the character. So over all, the shot feels very animated and flourishy.

BUT!!!

What are some things did I learn.

1. Keep things simple. This doesn’t mean the character cant move and act. but more so, keep the main idea of the shot clear, and supported. Dont add to much fluff.

2. Make sure your animation complaments itselt. For example. the facial animation isnt competing with the body animation. Its like watching tv and listening to the radio at the same time.. you’ll loose focus on one or the other.

3. Keep your Lip Sync moving some place. think of the lip-synch sort of like phrasing. you dont want the shapes and movment to be the same all the way through. Have it lead to an accent, or into a pause etc.

4. Dont just “animate” the character. some of the breakdowns in the shot seemed too animated. There is no reason for the hand to do a real flourishy arc. Its distracting, and feels fake. Make sure everything is supported. If its an animation style, thats fine, but the rules still apply.

What ended up being my favorite part of the shot….

My fav. part of the shot is the tiny adjustment the character does on the microscope with his fingers. And thats one of the first and easiest things I did.

I hope you find this interesting. Its sort of tearing apart the shot from the inside out.

I think its so important with animation that you keep pushing yourself and trying new things. If it gets easy, you got lazy…

As animators, we have to keep out own standards high so that we never stop learning. If something In your shot seems weird, keep taking passes, and talking to people to figure out the problem. If you just pretend it’s not there then you have wasted your time. Keep pushing and learning and you will always be satisfied with your shot, untill the you have animated your next shot.Try to explore new ways to animate, this is an art form so please try new things. This will only make animation grow. The last thing we want is for every film to be a cookie cutter version of another animation style.

So thanks for reading! Let me know what you think!

-Malcon

ICE AGE 3 Dawn of the Dinosaurs Showreel

These are all my shots from the move ICE AGE 3, Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Hope you enjoy!

thanks for checking it out!