This post follows on from part one of the story, if you would like to read it first it can be found here - Part 1.
To explain our review process on Legend of the Guardians at this time, our Animation Director was working remotely from LA while we were working in a different time zone in Sydney, Australia. We would send a movie of our work off to Eric Leighton in the evening with some notes that stated what we'd done and where we felt we were with the shot. Then Eric would review it during his daytime and send his notes back to us so we would have them when we arrived at work in the morning. He would then be available for questions, clarification and additional reviews via video link until around our lunchtime.
Publicity shot of Eric Leighton (left) with Ralf Zondag, Co-Directors of Disney's Dinosaur.
Although my idea for the shot seemed to work to my eyes I was a bit nervous about Eric's reaction, I had not had a chance to discuss in detail what I had planned for the shot. What I was proposing was quite extreme and there was a chance he wouldn't like it at all. He might feel that the embrace by Mrs P was too nimble for an elderly character or that the hug felt like a constriction. I thought there was a strong chance I would have to start again with only 6 days left.
Monday Morning (hours worked = 21)
I got to work on Monday and opened the notes from Eric to find just four words, "I need input here" next to my shot number. I wasn't sure what this meant but it didn't sound good. I wrote to the sequence lead and the co-ordinator a slightly panicky email -
Eric's notes for fy04_143 are "I need input here". I'm scared. Doesn't
sound like he likes it very much. Shall I hold off working on it for
now? Maybe he was hoping for something closer to the old version?
It turned out that I'd neglected to submit my comments on the shot and Eric just wanted to get an understanding of what my intentions for the shot were before passing comment. Andrew, who had also just seen it submitted some comments for Eric, I don't have the exact words but he stated that it was my first pass block, he liked it but felt like Mrs P's collision with Soren needed more impact and Soren should stumble around after being hit.
This was a good idea to add, it had been the proposed that Twilight and Digger's home was something of a bachelor pad with entangled roots all over the floor, to have Soren stumble would accentuate this.
Submission - [V02]
EL 28/06: Very interesting and cool first pass, I love the aggressive move from the snake… but totally agree, we need much more impact on Soren, both physically and emotionally. Physically, want the whole tripping backwards over the furniture thing, really shocked and taken by surprise. Emotionally he must be absolutely incredulous (as the audience will be) at the supreme serendipity of this situation, looking at the snake (and out to the room) with joy, shock and absolute disbelief.
He liked it! Or at least was willing to go with the overall idea. That was a relief. I had to add some stumbling which would be hard but at least I wouldn't have to start over. For the rest of the day I tried to imply a stumble at the start, I increased the amount he was pushed back, which meant I had to adjust the camera as well. I had a tender moment in the previous version at the start, I removed this as it was going against the idea of being shocked and taken by surprise. I also tried to add a bit more surprise into his facial animation and added more breakdowns to define the movement I envisaged. I also tried to get Mrs P's accents affecting Soren, trying to keep him loose while this excited snake talked at him. I submitted this new version with the following notes.
BB: increased Soren's range on the knock back and tried to imply his
stumble with a head turn to look where he's going (will hopefully be
clearer once in rough [animation]). Added a bit more disbelief to Soren's facial
animation and included a look out to the room. Felt like we were loosing
energy in the middle section so added the idea that Mrs P. keeps pushing
Soren back and shaking him with excitement as she says her second line
(again hopefully will be clearer once in rough).
Tuesday Morning (hours worked = 35)
Submission - [V3]
EL 29/06: EL BLOCK APPROVED pending [render with motion blur] so we feel forward progress, but all intent notes apply, anything to point at the incredible, absolutely insane serendipity of the moment (head shaking, gasps, broken up breathing, starting to say something and freezing/sputtering in disbelief, more looking out to the room, etc, etc) Brendan I think you have a good feel for this, so mostly the note is carry on and give us as much as you can in the time that you have!
Ok, he had approved the block of it and felt like I was on the right track but obviously I still wasn't getting enough energy and hitting the brief quite yet. However, my co-ordinator submitted a render of the latest animation. It wasn't very different but I had worked into the stumble a little at the start. I received these notes.
Submission - [V3.5]
EL 29/06: EL BLOCK APPROVED. Very cool progress on this one.
Good news indeed, he had seen my latest version and was happy with how it was going, I felt like I could relax a little, now it was just a matter of fleshing it out and refining. I was also at the point where I was trying not to work into anything too far in case Eric might want something different, I really wanted him to sign off on the overall movement, I hoped the breathing, head shaking and spluttering could be ideas that I could layer-in while keeping the overall staging of the shot the same. When I submitted the shot that night I tried to hint that it would be great to get Eric to sign off on the staging so I could move forward.
BB: Wip rough - have splined and worked into stumble, also added head shaking, trying to talk, etc. Still to add breathing and splined facial. If you're happy everything is here I can start to tie down and finesse.
At this point the late nights were beginning to take their toll, I was very tired but relatively happy, I felt it was going well. Maybe the tricky assignment I'd been given wasn't going to be as tough as I'd feared but little did I know what was in store ...