Greg Maguire


Greg talked to us about his career in the industry and mentioned a few artists to look up…

Ralph Eggleston: Joined Pixar in 1992, art director for their first feature film, Toy Story.

Design with a Purpose, interview with Ralph Eggleston regarding Wall_E where he was production designer:

Greg also mentioned that he worked on the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban using cloth simulations, at the link below you can find out a bit more about the other work ILM contributed to the film…

Matt Cioffi: 3D character modeller, told to take note of his use of edge loop and knowledge of anatomy.

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Then regarding cover letter….

We should know who we are sending the email to: send separate emails so that the cover letters are personalised to each company. Also research the company.. know what they’ve worked on. Your cv needs to be searchable and direct them to a website where your showreel and breakdown can be found. Have a contact on everything, every page: name, number, email.


Commercial Animation: Race, Gender and Sexuality…

Animated film in context:

It was during the 1990’s that the major studios started to produce computer animated features that were aimed not only at children but adults and parents too, changing animated film genre: from childrens movies into family movies, these major studios included Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and Fox studios.

Due to the change from children to family movies Disney did not want to offend anyone and wanted to make their features politically correct, meaning that they would side step the racial issue completely by not including blacks at all.

Womens roles in animated film have also changed over the last few years, women now appear to be more active and empowered by defying authority and making their own choices, stepping out from the boundaries of their gender roles than when compared to some earlier films (Disney Princesses) where they are waiting for their true love to come and save them, having a much more passive role in the film and not really driving the overall plot of the film.

The Croods and Frozen are recent examples of changes that have occurred:

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However these films still box women into dependant roles, they still need a man to save them, sexualised and supplemented positions through the portrayal of a heterosexual romance, Eep falls in love with Guy and depends on him to save her family and Anna falls in love with Kristoff, depending on him to get her up the North Mountain to Elsa:

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Changes in the mode of production and consumption of animated movies were also evident. Animated films were at one time completely hand drawn, but the big change came in 1955 when Pixar introduced CG animation resulting in almost every film in this genre being rendered digitally. Animated film is now produced for global audiences, it may have been previously produced for and consumed by children but today shows that animation is no longer considered a children’s film genre, it is consumed just as eagerly by adults.

Being produced globally calls for different posters and trailers to be made, suiting the style of that particular country/culture and what appeals to them…

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Until Toy Story came along commercial animation still reworked the well known classic Disney formula centring around fairytales and Princesses when needed saving by their true love, these films also ended up being musicals with their songs featuring in the charts. It was 1955 before someone decided to break the Disney formula by not focussing on a singing princess but instead centres around a male character, taking place in a real world setting. However nowadays animated film opts to move away from the fairytale category and feature a real world or futuristic setting, poaching ideas from popular culture to appeal to adults as well as children.


Within animation the characters, Disney Pixar and Dreamworks productions in particular often show racial and sexual pedagogies, the characters are often racialised whether they are human, animal or even an anthropomorphised object.

The crows from Dumbo show stereotypes of African Americans, this is reinforced by type of language they use, never mind the fact the lead crow is called Jim Crow.


and the more obvious issues.. the Disney princesses…


Shark Tale is a feature that is full of racialised animals, based around American and Italian gangsters:


The film seems to play off roles that the actors are famous for portraying, the character of Don Lino is a typical Robert De Niro role: an Italian American mob shark who is the master of the reef, the personalities of each character strongly resembles that of the actor, its almost as if they are characters of the actors themselves.

The characters are highly racially stylised, Oscar’s blackness is her through his accent but also through where he resides, his mannerisms, behaviour and the jewellery he wears.


Lola is an extremely sexualised character, highly resembling the look of the voice actress Angelina Jolie…


Animated characters, especially that in Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks always have a heterosexual romance. Heterosexuality is seen as the normal, it’s traditional and easier for the audience to associate with…

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Femininity and Citizenship:

Throughout the classic Disney storylines the portrayal of female characters all follow a similar pattern, they need rescued by their Prince Charming, each female is kind, patient, graceful and passive and have no other opinions… they are limited by their gender…



However in recent animated features the female characters are much more assertive…



Snow White is portrayed as house wife, targeted by another woman because of jealously, Snow White is a passive character who is literally waiting for her Prince to come and save her… Meanwhile Elsa who may not be as dependant on men as her sister Anna is, still needs help even though she is incredibly powerful but this help does come from another female character so it is an improvement… However Merida is an unconventional portrayal of a female character, she is not graceful, she does not depend on a man, she avoids being a typical disney princess and at the end of the film she stands her ground and firm in her beliefs, she does not conform to anything unlike in some early disney films…


Walks and Personality

The Illusion of Life gives some good examples of walks that show attitude and walks that show a little personality:

Grumpy: a great example of a character with attitude, Snow White gives him a kiss on the head and he stomps his way to work…


Robin Hood- the Sheriff of Nottingham has a slow bounce to his walk, this is due to the portrayal of weight, he is a large character and his weight needs to be seen affecting his movements…


Slue-foot Sue from Pecas Bill: She has a sassy walk, due to the swinging movement of her hips…


Pinocchio’s loose skipping images show that even though he is made of wood this does not have to affect/restrict his movement…


Some videos I came across on youtube..

A range of personalities can be seen in the video compilation below:

Woody showing off just how chill and cool he can be…

Bare Necessities shows an upbeat walk though the double bounce and curve of the spine:


Ducky’s .walk cycle is a good example of overlapping action due to the fact it’s a dinosaur, the tail and body will have a delayed reaction to the movement of the legs.

Mr Bean is great example for a goofy character, however he does show a lot of different attitudes depending on what he gets up to…




Commercial and Experimental animation

Commercial Animation

Commercial animation has several key elements which differ to that of experimental:

  • Configuration
  • Specific Continuity
  • Narrative Form
  • Evolution of content
  • Unity of Style
  • Absence of Artist
  • Dynamics of Dialogue

Configuration is the way in which parts/elements are arranged, in commercial animation this is how the characters are featured, most are figures/ things that are easily recognisable. A few examples below…

A scene from The Croods

The Croods: Humans, even a sloth.


Cars: Speaks for itself.


Even a Snowman.

Specific continuity, the film has a logical continuity to it which has been achieved through prioritising the character and their context, for example in the films below the characters fit with the surrounding environment…

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The narrative form is based on how the film delivers the information, does the audience see all the elements? or are some points hidden from them? Most often the narrative is driven by character conflict and chase sequences…

The conflict between the characters below drives the narratives along with a few chase sequences (Croods: Over protective father and a rebelling daughter: running from the animals and the volcanos, Frozen: disagreement between the sisters over marriage: Kristoff and Anna chase by wolves, Tangled: conflict between mother and daughter over leaving the tower: Flynn being chased down by palace guards.)


Evolution of content concentrates on constructing the character while prioritising the content and evolving the self contained narrative…

The Croods  – Grugg an overprotective and fearful father keeps his family locked up in their cave – not really living but surviving, the conflict between father and daughter progresses as she meets Guy and the family are forced to follow him to escape armageddon- The narrative develops as Grugg feels threatened as leader because of Guy and his great ideas, his role of father is also in peril due to the growing attraction between Eep and Guy.

Dynamics of dialogue, the plot and character can often be driven by key aspects of dialogue – develops the narrative and coveys the story to the audience.

The style of the individual artist is absent as the studio style is more important. The studio style allows us as the audience to depict between the larger studios, there may have been a range of different directors but ultimately the studio style should still be a prominent feature…

Pixar’s 3D style is easily recognised when compared to Disney’s 2D…

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Studio Ghibli’s unique style is easily recognised due to the realistic and old style nature.


Experimental animation

The key elements of experimental animation:

  • Abstraction
  • Specific non- continuity
  • Interpretive form
  • Evolution of materiality
  • Multiple Styles
  • Presence of the artist
  • Dynamics of musicality

To quote Robert Russett and Cecile Starr’s ‘Experimental Animation, Origins of a New Art’ (1988):

“They settled on the title Experimental Animation, for want of a better term, as the only one broad and elastic enough to embrace the extraordinary range of cinematic works… Despite the obvious limitations of the word “experimental,” the editors have used it to suggest individual techniques, personal dedication and artistic daring.”

Experimental animation doesn’t have a specific form, it is abstracted from reality being more illustrative in nature. Specific non-continuity meaning that it rejects logical and liner continuity, rejecting storytelling completely and prioritising illogical and irrational forms. Through interpretive form experimental animation resists telling stories of any sort, it is completely subjective and explores form in an unconventional way. The main elements on which it concentrates are form, colour, shape and texture, these elements create the evolution of materiality. Another noticeable difference between commercial and experimental animation is that experimental combines different modes and techniques of animation to deliver the message the artist is trying to deliver and the presence of the artist can be seen through their unique style, they don’t have to conform to one style used by a studio. Finally experimental animation has a very strong relationship with music, often reacting to it onscreen.

A particular artist that comes to mind especially when considering the presence of the artist and the dynamics of musicality is Michel Gagne. His style is incredibly unique and is recognisable across many of his films,

but most importantly it is the strong relationship with music that is evident across the animations below…

Prelude to Eden:

Glen Keane, another artist with a unique style of his own:

Ryan Woodard, thought of you, the music really connects with what is happening on screen:

Experimental film can be described as any film which doesn’t use cinematic techniques to achieve it’s goals, the early twentieth century saw artists strive to capture life in their paintings – advancing on from still photography into the abstract…

Italian painter Giacomo Balla strove to depict movement and speed, essentially life itself.

The hand of the Violinist (1912)


Dynamism of a dog on a leash (1912)


Nude descending a staircase (1912) Marcel Duchamp


Walter Ruttmann is one of the men considered to be a pioneer in producing abstract animation, his film Lightplay Opus 1 (1921) is said to be the first screening of abstract animated film, consisting entirely of colour, shape and an exploration of a relationship with music which was composed specifically for it by Max Butting…

Swedish Avant Garde artist and film maker Viking Egging is considered as another pioneer in the field of absolute film and viral music, Symphonie Diagonale has a visually contrasting nature with the forms and shapes used… (hard to find one with the correct audio)

Oscar Fischenger tries to convey music in a visual form using geometric movement with his film An Optical Poem (1938). Considered a pioneer in the field of abstract animation, creating his musical abstract animations years before music videos started to appear…

“The visuals of An Optical Poem grew out of a short sequence at the end of Fischinger’s earlier, independently-produced Composition in Blue (1935), in which a group of circles rise from the background and, in depth, head toward the viewer. Such effects would form the basis for the entirety of the new film.” –

Composition in blue: Every motion is synchronised to that of the music…


Len Lye established an international reputation in experimental film making, “Lye began to develop a style of art based on ‘doodling’ from an early age, which stirred his interest in the ‘pre-rational’. He was deeply interested in movement and wanted to portray kinetic energy within artistic works.” –

A pioneer in camera-less film making, the technique used to create his film ‘a colour box’ (1935) where he painted directly onto the film itself, allowing him to create a sense of offscreen space, the shapes flow seamlessly on and off frame. “Lye fashioned a collection of expressive hand-tooled films, many of which illustrated methods rarely seen before in the cinematic medium…” – 

Can experimental animation influence commercial? Usually discussed in terms of the differences that set them apart however visual overlaps between the two fields have been noticed, in some ways experimental animation will have formed the basis of commercial, the artists have explored the different techniques available through shape and form, allowing commercial animators to develop and push these aspects further.

Disney’s 1929 Skeleton dance  as an influence for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride? The characters perform similar actions to that of the skeletons in Disney’s short, playing each other like instruments, similar dance moves…

Corpse Bride: ‘Remains of the day’: this time the skeletons appear in a more realistic manner, their movements are more believable due to the characters now having a sense of weight…

In a deleted scene from Hotel Transylvania Johnny leads a hip hop song where the Zombies in the background can be seen doing the skeleton dance…

In the 2007 film Ghost Rider, Nicholas Cage’s character watches the skeleton dance unaware that at night time he will take the form of a skeleton.

In Disney’s Mickey Mouse haunted house, Mickey is forced to play music so that the skeletons can dance…

Feeling from Mountain and Water produced by Shanghai film studio under director and master animator Tei Wei (1988) is minimalistic in design separating it from the Western Culture’s style of animation, containing typical Chinese aesthetics such as the use of ink and water and the style in which the characters are drawn. This film contain no dialogue only the sound of wind and water along with a musical element, being considered a landscape painting in motion…


Feeling from Mountain and Water, Te WEI, 1988 by shortanimatedworld

Elements of this short main be seen in Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda, the backgrounds are of a similar minimalistic style. This allows for a Chinese aesthetic feel to be given to the film even though produced by the Western Culture…

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A few of Pixar’s shorts can be seen as influencing their commercial animations, the three below can be seen as inspiration to the creation of Toy Story through giving life to inanimate objects which is the essence of Toy Story…

Luxo Jr.

Luxo now being the mascot for Pixar appearing before every film since his creation – Jumping and squashing the I the same way he does to the ball, Luxo senior appears in Toy Story although he is non anthropomorphic and painted red, the Luxo ball also appears in quite a few of Pixar’s movies…

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Red’s Dream: Here the pattern of the ball has been used for the floor design, along with Luxo Senior being clearly seen on the counter…

Tin Toy: An experiment where Pixar try to realistically animate a baby although still looking mechanical in his movements. From Tin Toy grew the idea for Toy Story…

Another Pixar short experimenting with creating and animating real life is Geri’s Game which is later present in Toy Story 2, where the same character is now cleaning and fixing Woody, the character has been improved and developed from experimental animation into an element suitable for commercial…