I had the opportunity to be a Directing Animator on the TV special “The Toy Story that Time forgot. I thought I would share a few things that I learned on that special.
• The world of Toy Story really requires a different style of animation in that the characters we animate need to look like toys not people in Toy suits. What does this mean? It was very much the same idea on Ratatoullie. We wanted Rats to feel and move like Rats, not like people in Rat suits… Toys have limited ranges of motion. This is important to sell how they are constructed. John Lassiter likes to talk about the truth of a material. Plastic needs to behave like plastic, metal like metal. It was the same for this world.
• For the Battlesaur characters, we wanted to set them apart in terms of there acting and locomotion. The animation needed to be heightened in order to achieve the idea that these characters were in the genre of the 80′s cartoon. Their lore and history needed to come through in the animation. One great example in the design of the animation was the character of Reptillus Maximus, whom I helped develop. For Reptillus, we wanted to create the classic Hero. We looked at a lot of reference of leading men i like Eryle Flynn in Robin Hood. Reptillus needed to always feel like he knew how to look best on camera. We tried to have him lead with his shoulder and gesture in such a way that was a bit theatric. We did try to design a specific way of moving for all the toy characters. In terms of the facial performance, we wanted to have a believability that it was a toy. We were always stripping out animation. We always wanted it to feel like a toy and not organic. We also pushed that sense of design in areas like the brows.
• Trixie was our leading female character. It was difficult get a range of expression since she is a pretty simple character. Her mouth has a very limited range of expression and her legs are meant to look pretty stiff. The challenge to squeeze a performance out of a limited rig. This was done by pushing in the right places such as the eyes. A great example of this is a shot that animator Becki Tower did of Trickie trying on the battle gear. When she prances out it was pushed in such a way that gave trixie a confident demeanor. We were always asking how we could push an expression or a moment to read better.
All in all, I really enjoyed working on the short. The animation team did an amazing job bringing these characters to life. These days, its working with really great people that is the most rewarding part of my job.