As part of my 2012 resolution to be more creative and study animation more, I want to take some time to write some posts dissecting bits from movies. This past Christmas, my fiance bought Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on DVD. There’s story here, let me blast through it real quick.
Libby and I work together, and we became really good friends for a year and a half before we decided to just give dating each other a shot. Our first date(I’m still not sure it was a clear date but she assures me we both knew it was) was to the movies to go see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. We work at a 3D software company, and she knows I wanted to be an animator, so she didn’t mind going. Like a true jackass, I didn’t pay for the date(something that irked her badly at the time). So our first date, I just flat out blew it. However, she let me stick around, and now we’re getting married this year. Anyway, she bought it on DVD with a little note that said something like It’s a good thing I decided to keep you around.
Now about the movie, I think it’s a great movie. I never read the book, so I only know the movie. I remember when I saw a pic of the movie the style of the characters bugged me. However, I’ve seen the movie many times. I really love this movie, I think it was the best movie of that year(The year of Up), or at least the most enjoyable. It’s goofy, off the wall and great. If you haven’t seen it, get off your ass and go watch it. It’s got a beautiful rendering going on, funny gags, snappy timing, just very cartoony.
So let’s take a look at just 1 frame.
This is a great frame. It’s clear just by the poses, that Flint on the left is hiding something(poorly) and that Earl on the right knows something fishy is going on(if you know the movie, you know that that was just an excellent pun!). Let’s look at this frame in depth. This pose, is held for like 16 frames before he lowers his arms a little bit. So it’s quick(It’s from a sequence of jumpy poses). But let’s look at this a bit more.
This is the silhouette of each character. Oddly enough, when I look at them, I think Earl’s is clear, but I don’t think Flint’s is all that clear. We know he’s hiding something but this pose, at least in silhouette, seems not quite as clear. It seems like it could be pushed, maybe his spine is curled a bit and hes like really trying to hide it. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a prick, saying a silhouette isn’t very clear, but after looking at it, I realized why he’s posed in such a way. Let’s go back one shot in the film though…
Earl has just startled Flint and said “WHAT’RE YOU DOIN’ FLINT LOCKWOOD!?” He knows something is up, but is not sure what. If you look at this frame in silhouettes, it’s pretty clear. And sure enough, Flint is leaning back a bit more like I would expect.
So, why would they have him like that there but not on the other scene? Well, a few reasons. First, Earl is really all up in Flints grill. Earl is big and buff, so Flint’s a bit scared, so he doesn’t want to be very close. That’s why he’s leaning away. But the intent of this whole shot and the next one is that Earl is watching Flint. Check out some of these flowlines(as I see it).
Everything about Earl, is focused on Flint. Everything about Flint is saying “Get Me Out of Here”. So this whole scene, is Earl saying I’m watching you(flint) so Flint is his focus, and he’s making him the audience’s focus. His mass, his size, the amount of space he occupies compared to Flint is making the viewer focus on what he is focused on. Everything is about Flint now. So let’s look at the flow of the first shot we looked at.
Everything is pointing at Flint. Again, he’s the focus of Earl. So He has this unassuming position If he’s leaning more in the spine (for like more of a Reverse C Curve) he’d be directing your eye OUT of the shot(to the left). So he’s standing there just being the focus. and Earl is just directing the viewers eye to Flint still. The other cool thing is not only is Earl, but the perspective directs your eye towards where Flint is, both sides of the building converge to where Flint is.
The image above, shows a rough(because im still no good at drawing) drawing of how I naturally wanted his pose to look. A sexy curve and line of action, smooth and a curve are always better I think sometimes. But knowing what I think I know about this shot and it’s sort of intent, Seeing that pose is kind of…jarring. It absolutely doesn’t fit and it breaks things up. I mean even his almost vertical pose, the straightness of it, coincides with the straight lines on the building the ground etc. Flint’s side of the screen is mostly straight lines. So him being curved would just kill that.
So what does this teach me? Well, it tells me that sometimes, you don’t need a pushed pose. Sometimes your line of action can be vertical or straight, and it’s ok, as long as it supports the story. This is the benefit to working in a studio(so I hear). You get a brief or a treatment, so you know where your shot is in the grand and smaller scheme of things. If I had no idea about the previous scene, I would have made a bad decision to that wouldn’t fit the story. The director, and sup would probably give me five across the eye! So, when they say story is king, they mean it. Make your animation, your poses, your animation follow the story, and you’ll be in good grace I imagine.