WE are all drawn to the colourful world of animation brought to life by the creative works of Hollywood filmmakers, with likeable characters, fantastic backdrops and compelling storyline. Former Pixar Animation Studios’ Sketch Artist John Nevarez, was in town recently to share his inspiration and ideas on how these movies are made.
During the one day interactive session with art students from The One Academy of Communication Design in Bandar Sunway, Nevarez shared his story on how he turned his passion in drawing into a successful career with Pixar Animation Studios after being inspired by The Lion King (1992); he went on to handle huge portfolios like Monsters University, and latest films like Inside Out and Angry Birds movie.
“I am proud of working on these movies, and I was lucky to work with a great crew, and it was a great experience,” said Navarez, who had no animation background, but his love for drawing got him the job.
During his talk, Nevarez also shared about the production pipeline. He said everything starts with the storyline, which comes in the form of a script or treatment, followed by the storyboard and visualisation by the art team (including character designer and set designer).He went on to discuss the principles of design, character development, and storyboarding elements, animatics, and how to build a professional portfolio.
The seminar was organised by One Academy as part of its ‘Masters Train Masters’ programme by bringing industry experts to engage with its students and educate them on real life aspects of the creative industry, how to open doors to a fulfilling career. In this Q&A, Navarez expounds on the integral aspects of these inspirational work of art.
Q: What’s the magnetic appeal of good animated movies, compared to live action films?
I think there is more imagination involved and you can do more things with animation, compared to live action films, although with CGI, now it is easier to create these stuff; but you can bend the rules in animation. Some people have the idea that animation is just for kids, I don’t agree; I think animation is just another form of film, as we still follow this person going through a journey.
The basis of a good story is about one or more characters going through a journey or an experience, and how they overcome the obstacles, with many things happening along the way. And after they go from`point A to B’, they are usually a better person at the end, because they have learnt or overcome something,
Q: How do you create the right look and feel for the film?
Finding and achieving the right look is one of the most important thing. The vision starts from the director and it is the job of the art director and product designer to create the look and feel through research,taking inspiration from movies, art and people; going back and forth to refine the looks. but the most important questions is does it serve the story?
For example, the movie “Up” was simple compared to “Big Hero Six” ; but they are equally beautiful In Monster University, we took a lot of effort to design the main entrance to differentiate the human world and monster world, You want to do the research and put it all back into the art, whether it is an imaginative world or our own backyard. It depends how far you want to take it, but you should do it right, as it about believability and authenticity .
Q: What makes a memorable character?
I think for the movie to standout, you must have memorable characters and it is usually starts from situations we can relate to. When you have an appealing character,the audience will root for them right away, and it is usually about the emotional connection. These characters who go from point A to B, usually become better, stronger, or have learnt something in the end. For example the Rocky story is about a down-and-out boxer who works for a loan shark, but he is also a sweet guy; he happens to like Adrian, the shy Petshop girl, and he likes Brutus the dog, and you get to see that he wants to be better. Wait, he is not that guy we thought he is, he has a heart and now here is his big chance to fight for his life, and you start to feel for him and want to be on his side. Now he’s got something to prove but nobody believes in him, and we root for him even more. Although he loses the fight, he truly wins because he gains the girl and he gains self respect.
Q: How does Branding play a part in movies these days?
Snow White and the Seven Dwards took 5 years to make and Brave took 7 years; Generally, it takes anything between 3 to 5 years, and the most important thing is the release date. No matter what, we must have the movie ready strictly by the release date because there are so many people involved; as you are making your movie, others are designing the toys. When it comes to branding, movies are now about franchises and you want create memorable characters that become toys and products. It is a very big business now, more people are putting their voice into what the design should be put onto jackets or blankets, etc.
For more info about The One Academy of Communication Design, go to www.toa.edu.my