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THE NEW DISNEY SHORT FEAST – INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR

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Feast directors

 

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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Disney and my travel and expenses were paid for to attend this event. As always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You may have remembered me mentioning the Disney Short called Feast that was shown before the Big Hero 6 Movie. I am a huge animal lover so I love the fact that it was all centered around this playful loveable Boston Terrier named Winston. Feast shows the relationship between Winston and his master

PO : I'm the kind of person that when an opportunity to pitch a short comes along, I just want to try it out, I was loving what I was doing at the time, and like Kristina said, I started out with video of one second with my meals every day. And there's something really cool about the context you get in your life of seeing these kind of, these meals kind of pass and the, the hearing those moments, the sound design in those moments.
It, it tells a big story, and on top of that, the design of food and plates on the table and the colors of food would be something that would be very cool to animate. The big thing that kind of cracked, that was just like a constant stuff that I thought would be interesting, and then you think of what, what the character needs to be. And a dog underneath the table kind of following the life of the family through the meal seemed like a really cool place to start.  So when you're getting the pitch together, you start doing little concept paintings, figuring out what things might look like, calling in favors and did a couple of early character designs and ideas for what the dog might look like
The production designer helped me out with the pitch also doing the D-P, just to get the idea across visually of what, what things could start to look like, you end up with three boards and you pitch it to a bunch of directors at the studio and Lasseter and hope for the best. I was very lucky to be able to be selected to do this it was kind of a once in a lifetime thing and very cool.
So you develop the story, once the thing is green lit, you spend a couple months getting storyboards together, and also figuring out what things are going to look like visually.  I had worked on Paper Man about two and a half years ago as head of animation developing the unique look, a different way of having C-G- computer animation to have a much, much more tactile and hands on sort of feel.  I definitely wanted to keep playing with that type of thing it's kind of what I like doing most is kind of taking tools that we have and  breaking them and bending them and doing them in unique ways to make a really interesting cool look.
We started by drawing up a, a rough poster hang it on your door so you feel like you're doing something. I like to have something that represents the project, and then we, we painted a bunch of really early concepts paintings, and Jeff did this one. And I felt like when he picked this now that's really cool looking and really beautiful and still feels cinematic and naturalistic. And it's sort of an impression of light and an impression of a real place but it's really just simple shades of color, simple color plays, and a little bit of line work and textures edges that’s kind of unique.
It's really great when you're starting a short and it's starting to look real, you need something to guide the team towards a solution. It's, it's easier to point to something visual than it is to kind of hand wave and talk about it, so it's great to have that, so we start with that, as a goal, and at the same time we start designing characters. One of our character designers starts by doing hundreds of dog drawings from scary homeless Chihuahua to our Winston or something close to, to what ended up, to what ended up being Winston.
But at the same time you start designing the, characters, you give them names and jobs like James and Kirby.  James is a photographer and Kirby went to culinary school and is working her way up in that business. You start putting these characters in moments right away, it's really good to design characters like in the scenes that you want to see them in, uh, just so you can kind of get a feel for their personality and how it fits their design.
Then I bring in a couple of puppies from the studio, because we like to sit there and draw puppies, it's a nice afternoon and it's really neat to kind of for the animators to sit and watch them play around and observe how- I didn't want him to be a dog that acted like a human, I wanted him to have real dog characteristics and, and only really, only really be anthropomorphic in its, in his choices.
So we refined the character design from there and she ended up with- after we, after she ends up with hundreds of drawings, you pick a few that feel like they're going the right direction and hone those in on something that could be useful for the short and this is what we ended up with.  Then we have a couple of two-D animators who have been here a long time, Dale who is a Two-D animator has been around since Fox and the Hound here at the studio and it's really cool, in the beginning, before you have any characters really made, you can start to play around with acting and performance on paper.
Just to see what kind of things you're going to be able to do with this dog and to make it unique and interesting and short. At that point you start to- we're going to, we're going to make this with the computer eventually, so we start to kind of turn the characters and, and draw them in ways that we'll be able to model in three-D. And then you also design all the costume changes you're going to need, I wanted this to feel like it's taking place over time. So you want to have a sense of, of this guy’s life’s changing, just a little bit.
Stuff that you're not going to really, you're not going to hit the audience over the head with it, but you want to kind of notice that things are changing in his life a little bit, he's changed the way he dresses. I was trying to hit like a early nineties era kind of feel with the outfits when you get close with these double, the double shorts were very big in the early nineties.
The cat too, she's like, you know what dress that is?  Then again in Lee one of our animators here who is really good at two-D and three-D animation. She was pretty important in getting the details of the design worked out, you know, she- and what she delivered was very rough so it takes it and kind of polishes it up to be really detailed, and then we design food. It's kind of the final character of the short. So I wanted to make sure that it was iconic and simple and that you identified what the food was really quickly and right away just by first glance.
So all these things were I think they were like little modern works of art that did to make this food breathe really quickly. So when you're trying to get a look that's interesting, like I said, we wanted to a little quick test to make sure that we were headed in the right direction, so we started out doing this really simple test of Winston early on. And I felt like we could do a lot of the stuff we wanted was a flat shaded look the textured edge. These are a little bit of line works. So we brought in the Paper Man tool to do like that little bit of line work on the end as a final step.
Then let me take you through one really quick shot just to see how it all kind of assembles together. So we start off with planning so after the storyboards are done you plan what each shot is going to do be visually, you want to have like a general idea of who’s in the light, who’s in the dark, Winston’s, what is your value structure of every shot going to be. And you start with that as a plan, combine it with the storyboard and a shot see what it looks like. It goes into three-d lab, which is just a place where we can kind of rough in the character, it's not acting yet, it's just with the camera in a set.
And roughing in what the lighting might be. Then the animator goes in and blocks in the shot, this is just a really rough like another version of the kind of energy that's in the shot, and the feel of the drawing to, to show that. Then they block it out and once an animator blocks it out, we show it, we show it in dailies, and we have dailies every day. And it's where we all get together and talk about the shots there's a lot of video of me acting like a dog from the production.
Animators like to record video as reference a lot, so when you act stuff out, a lot of times people have their iPhones. So after that happens, we give notes through sketching and it's the easiest way for us to kind of remember what was talked about in dailies, you can open it up at your desk when you go back and just see it really quickly. And then we use that, this neat little tool we made for the shot called sketch, which lets you very exclusively design the exterior shapes of the dog.

We did- we wanted to make sure, because you- you wouldn't be able to go into detail and realism but the silhouette was really strong, we were able to do that pretty easily with that tool. This is the final animation, this is delivered downstream, and then we also use this little bit of dust particles in the air, a little bit of naturalism and they're not as big as this, in the actual story you'll see they're only little specks. This kind of represents their motions and how they would look and how they moved. And then SethTrilley delivered this beautiful guide this painted color scheme, this is saying this is what we want the shots to look like.
A lot of movies it's sort of an inspiration and in this case we really wanted it to be there. So lighting goes through, does their color path and you can feel little specks in the air stuff like that, so that's what we end up with. So after making the short, I kind of realized, this is Adam Green drew this, this is me and I get made fun of for tilting my head and looking at animation sideways all day. And I feel like it's interesting, something I do when I draw and it's to get a fresh perspective on, on what you're working on.
I feel like you get, when you look at something all day, over and over again you get a little bit stale on it and in, in the story it's a little more difficult to do that it's- it's really neat that if you learn as you're doing the story, I mean as you do the full process of making the short, that's what gives you the fresh perspective again is seeing it through other people and seeing it through new audiences every time, so thanks for watching, I appreciate you guys giving me that, and every audience that I watch it with is fantastic, but there's only one thing. This is only like the fifth or sixth time it's been shown in the world, so it'spretty cool to have you guys here. We have quick question time.

Feast
Q : How long did it take to go from beginning to end?

PO : This short was green lit a year and a month ago. And our shot production was sixteen weeks, with a month of sound in the end. Our sound and music after our visuals are put in. I think we were green lit January thirteenth this year and then we finished at the end of May.
Yeah it's amazing that, it's, it's daunting when you start the project when you realize it's going to be like, the potential to be a movie that's seen by a lot of people and it's a, a lot of pressure to deal with.

Q : Do you have a dog and kids that were inspiration?
PO : I don't have kids. I've had wiener dogs my whole life, but I feel like there's too many wiener dogs in animation, it works out and this is because we're going for a simple look, we needed a two toned dog that you could tell it was rotating. So I'm sure they're disappointed.

Q : What's your favorite part of the animation project
PO : I'm an animator, so that's my favorite part. I've been doing it for twelve years, there's like there are certain parts to it that are a little more free and creative. Like Story is wide open and all these things can happen, but your work is never on screen, you never finish it. Animation is very creative and it's on screen, so there's kind of a neat, sort of- You feel like you're finishing things out that way so all steps, every step is, is fun in its own way, uh. But I'm biased too I know.
Q : What was your intent when you were making the videos of your food, like the one-minute, what were you going to do with that project?

PO : Nothing really.  I was making three different one second videos, one was just regular life, one was like at work, and the other one was food. And the regular life one is really- it's sort of just like it's me just through the year at the end of year, so a six minute video would be one second every day. So the concept of just having the six minute like version of that year is pretty neat.
And you get to, you start to pay more attention to what you're doing every day.  If you want something that's worth it, like it's going to be interesting on that. So I feel like when you, when you do those videos you kind of, you're more aware of what's happening and then it's- the meal thing made me realize I should diet because it made me look healthy.

Q : How long have you been doing those videos?

PO : For two years.

Q : Is your dog this well fed?
PO : He eats really healthy. Other than when we were filming him.

Q : How many people does it take?

PO : Well you start out very small and then we worked- in shorts here you work in between the big features, which are sort of the like ocean liner of everybody is working on them, so you get people here and there when you can.
A lot of people get to touch it, but for not very long. So there's a few story artists that helped out in the beginning and then you bring on a core crew about five people like the head of animation, the production designer, a visual effects supervisor who’s in charge of like making things really happen on screen and you work with them for a while and then animators will come on, I got I think we had fifteen animators for about three weeks, three four weeks something like that.
And we did a few earlier and a few that hang on later to help out with finishing things up, but it's all very, uh, it's all very quick. So it's, it's kind of who can we get, who- who’s available to help out on this little thing for a few minutes, that kind of thing. But it's really fun you get to meet all kinds of different people that you normally wouldn't interact with just being an animator. Thank you guys for this.

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