This post is part of a series based on my recent trip to the Pixar studios, courtesy of Disney.
Woo hoo, morning meeting at work! Whether you’re flipping burgers or in the boardroom, you’re familiar with the idea of a staff meeting. Well, the animators at Pixar have their own version, which is part of the reason the films are so painstakingly detailed. Called “dailies”, they are Pixar’s version of a morning meeting and during my recent visit to the studios in Emeryville, I had a chance to meet with several artists about how they did their work for the upcoming movie Inside Out, which opens June 19.
Of course, Pixar animators don’t convene in sterile conference rooms. The dailies are held in a screening room, sort of a little movie theater, but instead of the usual flip up seats, there are plush blue velvet couches, complete with bolster pillows. We met with Tony Fucile, Victor Navone, Jamie Roe, and Shawn Krause, who explained to bloggers how the meetings work.
Each day animators show their progress on their work to the group and director Pete Docter gives them feedback. The animation crew on Inside Out is a relatively small group — just 45 people, compared to 80 or 90 in other Pixar films. To hear it described, the meetings sound sort of like a lively, free-flowing time for brainstorming on how they can make their images better.
One thing I’ve always wondered about animation is how they establish continuity with so many different cooks in the kitchen. It turns out that animators are assigned to certain characters (they may be working on more than one) and they can sometimes request certain characters or scenes. The actors are videotaped while they record their voice-overs so the animators can watch the actors faces for reference.
The first pass at animation can be a really rough draft, since Pete Docter might give very broad feedback, for example,”Could you have her hand move a little right?” as Joy grabs Sadness. Animators are known to base their character’s facial movements on Docter’s own very animated expressions as he talks about each scene.
During our meeting, sketch artist Tony Fucile sat at his computer situated in the middle of the screening room as he would during the actual dailies. As the animators chat, Tony’s stylus traces over poses on the screen. And they do this every day… sketching, brainstorming and refining. Each shot is shown to the group for several days before Docter approves the images, calling out, “Let’s final it!”.
Want to see the fruits of the 1 1/2 year process animation process? Inside Out opens in theaters everywhere June 19.