Here's How the 2019 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts were Made
Insight from this year’s animated short filmmakers show that there are no hard and fast rules, and you don’t have to go to animation school to be an animator.
Animated films are incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming by nature. From 10 months to 10 years, the five nominees for the 2019 Academy Award for Animated Short represent an array of different styles, techniques, budgets, and productions.
Take a look below and read first-hand accounts of how they were made.
Director Louise Bagnall sat down with No Film School to talk about her Academy nominated film that follows a woman suffering from dementia sifting memories of the past and present. As Bagnall explained it, they had exactly 10 months to make the film, so they had to get into gear very quickly in order to pull off the film with Bagnal’s signature graphic style that is both rich and simple, tailoring to the story to be more emotive than descriptive. As she described a bit of the production to No Film School:
“I basically jumped straight onto storyboards, which is jumping from script into a much more visual way of showing the film. I was boarding shots from the film, and then putting that straight into an animatic, and doing a scratch version of the audio for just the dialogue, and a very temp track for all of the audio. Then on the other visual development side, we had Aine and Stefano, who were basically doing concept art. They were trying to figure out what the colors would look like, how would we imagine the backgrounds looking, and their memories, and how important the color was in the film. So that was a very big part of the film to evolve.”
Here’s a video explanation of her process:
Her advice? You don’t have to go to animation school to be an animator. From Bagnall to No Film School:
"I do think that you don't need to go to film school to be good at film, and it's the same for animation. It's a lot of hard work, but that goes without saying. It doesn't matter if you go to college, or not. It's still gonna be a lot of hard work. You can learn the craft, and then just focus on what you're interested in doing with that craft. What do you want to achieve? What kind of stories do you want to tell? Don't worry about festivals and things like that. I know it's hard not to, but they're not the proof of success. The proof of success is whether you finish a project that comes out as you intended it to come out."
Director Trevor Jimenez sat down with No Film School to talk about his ten-year process to make his hand-animated film Weekends. Jimenez draws the storyboards as well as the backgrounds in charcoal, and production designer Chris Sasaki brings them to life with color and texture. Here’s a featurette on their collaboration, and check out their Instagram account for more BTS and before-and-afters.
You can read our full interview here, where Jimenez offers this advice based on what he learned on his long journey. His advice?
"It felt like this thing that if I got to my deathbed and I hadn't made it, I would've had this deep regret. That is what kept it alive for 10 years, even when I didn't want to make it or I didn't believe in it... I think just make sure what you're working on, you love, and nothing else really matters."
Alison Snowden and David Fines are no strangers to the Academy when it comes to their collaborations in animation. The duo, who met at animation school in the early 80s, have actually been nominated multiple times and won an Oscar before with Bob’s Birthday. To create Animal Behaviour, Snowden and Fines, who had started their careers on cel paint and cels, wanted to learn to use TVPaint 2D. After just over two years, they had come up with the 14-minute short about a group therapy session of animals led by a dog. How Fine and Snowden described the process to AWN:
“We really wanted it to look like a personal film. And TVPaint had all the tools to do that, even shading, because we wanted to put shading on the characters as well to bring out that handmade look. And I love that look. The Breadwinner was made with TVPaint, and it’s beautiful. I have nothing against CGI films; I love lots of CGI films, but I also like 2D. I like height and width; don’t need depth as much.”
Here’s a featurette where the two discuss not only the making of Animal Behaviour, but also their history of successful collaboration. (You can also watch Part 1 and Part 2 on this film on the National Film Board (NFB) Vimeo for more.)
How have they worked together for so long, so successfully? Snowden has this tidbit of advice:
“Tea breaks are very important because the work is very repetitive! You need to get up, stretch, and get a cup of tea!”
The creators, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, are collaborators at TAIKO Studios (Head of Development and Art director respectively) where they strive to bridge cultures to create memorable stories with universal appeal. It’s no wonder then that their CG opus was put together from a production emulating just that, with one team based in Burbank and the other in Wuhan, China!
You can watch an in-depth panel with Chesworth and Bobby on the logistics of making of the film here, and in fact, they even have a book released about the making of the film. Here’s a little glimpse of the stages of their process of going from storyboard, layout, and the final CG character animation:
Here’s how Chesworth describes his motivation behind One Small Step.
“One Small Step is our love letter to everyone who chased that impossible dream, and the family that supported them through it. We wanted to reflect on the real and personal costs of Luna's ambitions. Her relationships to her goals and her father change as life presents new realities. Dreams that seed in our hearts when we are young take on new meaning with experience and age. That core sentiment has defined my deep connection to this film. I'm so thankful to have been on this journey with such a sincere group of artists and dreamers. Luna's story is filled with the rich life experiences of the talented, diverse team here at Taiko Studios. We are thrilled to share it with the world!”
On the Pixar end of the spectrum, you have BAO, created by the first woman director in the company’s history, Domee Shi. She storyboarded BAO for about a year by herself before getting to the computer animation. Pixar released this making-of featurette on Facebook to show how for Shi, it was all about figuring out the design of the mom, and from there, building the rest of the world around her. And it helped to have Shi’s own mom come into the studio and make dumplings for the team to help them get the idea for the visuals!