I was getting pretty caught up in doing research for my pencil test today in terms of action. HOW do you climb a tree without gear? I can think about how I might climb a tree, but what about a manic middle aged man chasing a squirrel? So I spent some time looking for reference and even considered heading out to a park and filming some footage of myself climbing. I decided not to bother since I'm probably not as fit as my character and I'm pretty sure I can figure out how a character would climb a tree without actually doing it myself. I can find a bit of footage of people climbing to study and then consider how this particular character would climb this particular tree in this particular instance.
I found this video on youtube which was the most helpful in terms of the physical action of climbing trees without gear:

Now I believe that it's going to be more important for me to consider how the characters feel instead of how they can get around. The old man is feeling manic, spurned, determined, he's experiencing an adrenaline rush and he's a bit winded. The squirrel moves only when she needs to, she is scared but scatter brained enough that she forgets to stay scared. Her movements go between smooth and bouncy runs to frantic and twitchy little movements.

The old man character in my animation exercise is, well he's not that old... About 40 years. I found this great video on youtube called "Sikkimese energetic old man ". I can't tell what is being spoken by anyone in the video but it looks like some young men, possibly grandsons or sons or friends of an older man are filming him being active. The old man is from Sikkim. The old man seems very sharp and he's quite stylish too. I love the way he holds in his energy when he's not showing off. And he stores a beanie in his fedora!

As for Squirrelly, I've been watching videos of squirrels just being squirrels to learn more about how they live and act. As far as movement goes, this video has a bit of everything, in slow motion:

Some interesting squirrel facts:
-they can fall 100 feet without injury
-they are constantly looking around and aware of their surroundings, even while eating
-they have great eyesight via their huge glassy eyes
-must always be wary of predators since they have few natural defences, save flight
-sometimes ground squirrels work together to warn each other of approaching danger with a whistling call
-they have four front teeth that never stop growing so that they don't wear down from constantly gnawing.
-grey and red squirrels do not hibernate in the winter
-grey squirrels tend to be shy but when they are fed, their feelings of bashfulness tend to disappear
-grey squirrels are inherently friendly and curious
-red squirrels are very solitary and defensive of their territory
-red squirrels are considered aggressive, moreso than greys
-a red squirrel is about half the size of a grey squirrel, around 12 inches from their nose to the tips of their tails - the average length of a gray is 18 inches and half of that is the tail
There are lot of famous animated squirrels out there, including Scrat, Sandy, Secret Squirrel, Foamy the Squirrel, the ones in Sleeping Beauty and in my mind most notably; the squirrels from The Sword in The Stone. The part of the film when Merlin and Wart become squirrels is super entertaining and emotional! Loved watching that. Andreas Deja put together a fantastic post discussing the squirrel sequence from Sword in The Stone on his personal blog here. He links to these thumbnails that Frank Thomas did and they are scribbly but just what Frank needed to do to think out the scene. They're so clear!

I've actually got a ways to go on my thumbnails for this scene, I'll share those when they're done.

I found this Disney confession astonishing:
So here is a very rough pencil test that I've been crafting for the past day. I intend to animate this in Maya. I found a rig of an appealing and cartoony middle aged man, a cute, big headed squirrel and a sprawling and beautiful tree that looks like it would fit into an Australian landscape. I picked the pathway up the tree that seemed to have to most potential in terms of staging and picked camera angles to show that off. Then I screen captured images of my camera angles and took those into Flash to make a quick scribbly pencil test to further carve out what I want to do with these chraracters. Here's what I've got so far:
Speaking of pencil tests, I just found this cool tumblr called http://penciltests.tumblr.com/!
The next two Fridays and Mondays (so, starting tomorrow), I will be taking off of work for a staycation. My highest priorities these days include learning more about animating in Maya and working on my short film; Pickled. I've had some opportunities to practise using Maya as of late via an online Animation Mentor workshop and at work. I've been animating a test scene at my day job with a nice character rig from a game to be released in the near future. I spent nearly 2 weeks creating a test of this character doing a spin kick in the air and got 3 rounds of feedback from my supervisor which was excellent. I'll post that test online when I am allowed to!
Anyway, back to the staycation. Before I left the office today (Thursday evening) I had a look at my many belongings cluttering up my workspace and noticed my inline skates. I thought to myself that I already had a bunch to carry home today and would only have room for another item... either my work laptop, or my inline skates. I decided to take the inline skates home since it meant a chance of fun exercise and I couldn't be tempted to start doing dayjob related work on my days off. I have a hard time putting the work work down. I try to fight my own bad habits by making the less healthy choices more awkward and difficult as I did in this circumstance.

So I will be enjoying coffee and eggs for breakfast and getting in some exercise as well and really knuckling down and getting some satisfying personal work done. I will keep my distracting internet surfing to a minimum, I'll blog as I please, and I'll focus as much as I can on animating in Maya and working on Pickled.
AuthorAndrea K Haid
I finally finished animating the Guardian Dragon! I've been working on this project for longer than I care to think about. It was a fun project and I worked really hard on it, but it made working on it made me want to be a better and faster animator. There is an adult and a baby state to this dragon. I did the adult first and started that off with a hand drawn pencil test on paper. I scanned the keys and then from there I did the rest of the animation in Toonboom. The first portion of the adult was animated by me and the second portion after the pause when he/she turns back to face forward was animated by Greg Eichholzer. I animated the tail for the whole shot however.

The baby was animated entirely digitally. I whipped up a pencil test in Flash just because it was super easy and fast that way and then did the rest in Toonboom.

When all the work was done Greg took the animation into After Effects to add some filters to make them look a little more rounded and to better fit them into the world of Dragons of Atlantis; the webgame by Kabam that they call home.

And then... most awesomely... my voice was recorded while I spoke about the various stages of work in progress about the animation and added to the making of video to be put online to promote the new dragon!
I've been taking a Maya workshop at Animation Mentor and this coming week will be the last week of my course. I've just completed a homework exercise in which a robot arm picks up a can and moves it. I loved this exercise because I learned so much about animating in Maya! Constraints, digging deeper into the graph editor and setting keys next to each other on the timeline and then adjusting their timing later was all new to me. And the amazing thing about being an animator is that there is always more to learn. Now that I've finished and I can watch my animation exercise on loop I can see things about it that I might like to change or polish further. I'm going to leave it though since I've got another homework assignment to do and then personal work after that. (Like animate on Pickled!) A new goal for myself is to be able to work more quickly. My brain feels like it's bursting with new knowledge that I've picked up this last week at work (my dayjob) and while doing Animation Mentor homework! I feel like I'm emerging out of a dark age. I actually had two epiphany moments the past week. And there's so much more to learn. I can't wait.

Check the video to see my Animation Mentor assignment!