Following the Pixar masterclass, we asked Pixar’s Andrew Gordon to share his tips on creating a fantastic animated sequence and tell us how he came to work in the industry and at Pixar.
Here’s what he had to say:
What are your favourite animated films, and why?
My favorite animated films are generally those by Miyazaki – his films work on so many levels. The characters are so well fleshed out and human-like that he manages to create a world that’s real and tactile. I find the way his characters interact with the environment really inspiring. Paying attention to the smallest of details, to the point where he even considers how a character might turn on a tap is very impressive.
Looney Toons also holds a special place in my heart, with anything done by Chuck Jones my favourite. His amazing sense of timing and comedy shaped my sense of humor as a kid. Tom and Jerry as well as other MGM cartoons had a similar effect. I didn’t really watch Disney movies until I became an animator, but now I love them – technically they are the best animated films ever made.
What hints and tips do you have for creating a fantastic animated sequence?
Above all the story is the most important thing – a good film should make you forget how it is made. Once a good story is in place, everything else can come together. In terms of animation, doing a fair amount of pre-production animation is important, as is having a clear understanding of your characters before you start shooting. Also, the sequence should be varied in texture – you need slow and fast sections rather than a sequence that stays at the same pace.
How did you get into animation? Was it something you always dreamed of or just fell into?
I was always interested in animation since high school and I used to create a lot of computer images while I was there, but I didn’t realise until much later on that I wanted to be an animator. After college, I became impressed by the images in games such as Kings Quest from Sierra On-line and was intrigued by the stories they were telling. Eventually I went back to school to learn traditional animation and after spending only six months in a fast track animation programme I was hired by Warner Bros.
How did you come to work at Pixar?
I had always loved Pixar, but when Toy Story came out, it really sealed the deal for me –this was the place I had to work. I worked hard to create a good showreel and sent it out while I was still working. I had offers from some of the LA studios but eventually I was picked up by Pixar to work on A Bugs Life. I’ve been here 13 years now and have enjoyed every minute of it.
You must have been influenced along the way. Who are the animators you look up to, and did you have any mentors?
My mentor at Warner Brothers was a guy named Frank Molieri – he really showed me the ropes and helped me tremendously. I had various mentors at Pixar. I got to sit next to all the greats like Mark Oftedahl and Dylan Brown and I tried to soak up as much as I could. One of the reasons I teach now is because of the positive and negative experiences I had as a student and my respect for the great animators.
I’ll be the first to admit that many of the students I taught have surpassed me as an animator. Their work blows me away. They take the information you give them and make it their own. They put a new spin on it. Eventually the student becomes the master – and I think that’s how it should be.