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Animation and Anime

Quint's second visit to the Mouse House for BOLT! With Pics!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the second part of my continuing coverage of the production of Walt Disney Animation’s BOLT. I hope you were able to give my introductory visit a read, the one where I shadowed John Lasseter for 2 hours as he worked with the directors and animators to fine-tune new scenes and give pointers during the script meeting for new lines, jokes and character moments. I was able to swing up to LA just after Comic-Con and pay another visit to the Mouse House for my next visit, this time with director Byron Howard (co-director Chris Williams was laid up with the super-geek virus that he caught at Comic-Con) for a couple of hours as he looked over new or tweaked shots with all the individual animators. My time at Disney was rescheduled, moved back a few days from when it was supposed to be. As a result it butted against a previous commitment, so the visit was cut a little short. I was supposed to be a part of the “Sweat Box” which I was told did not, in fact, involve a naked fight with Viggo Mortensen, unfortunately, but rather a creative meeting with the heads of departments on the status of BOLT. I’m told on my next go ‘round at Disney that might be a possibility, but for this report you will read about my experiences as the individual animators brought their daily work in to be reviewed by Byron and give the overall impression of how the day to day is run on a flick like this.

Starting above and continuing through the length of this article you’ll see four pictures with this article that will detail the visual evolution of the animation from beginning (storyboard) to rough layout to rough animation to final lighting. The character in question is Rhino, the ADD hamster and Bolt’s biggest fan. Hrmm… fat with orange fur… fanboy… Nope, don’t know where I was going with that. Anyway, I was led into the screening room where Byron Howard was, surrounded by the animation department heads, sitting next to the device that sportscasters use to mark plays and stuff on a moving screen. Howard first explained why everybody was bearded. Apparently they were (at the time) two weeks away from finishing animation, so they were all not shaving, keeping their “play-off beards” until that was done. And then, when it comes time to shave again they were going to draw different kinds of crazy facial hair styles out of hat and force whomever draws it to shape their beards into that and wear it to work for a day. I told them they have to include the Hitler-stache… I mean, you need to have at least one that everyone dreads as they pull it from the hat. I think they said that the Hitler was nixed. Why not call it The Chaplin? Man. Fuck you, Hitler. Ruined a perfectly good mustache for everybody else. So, with that silliness out of the way, the ground rules were set up. In this room, if a shot is approved, everybody claps. If something falls onto the floor, everybody claps. Apparently the room has a curse on it that magnetically pulls things off of people’s laps and sends them crashing to the floor. I almost had it happen to me before I left, but thankfully my cat-like reflexes saved me from being applauded.

Before the main group of animators (about 60 people) were brought in, the heads looked over the shots of the day, which ranged from rough animation to damn near finished, from a half a second long to many seconds long. The clips were all scattershot, from all over the picture. On the top of the shots were information… number of frames in the shot, animator’s name/initials and any extra info. On one of the shots, up top was a “Hi, Quint!” so apparently my visit wasn’t secret. So, hi back to whomever that was! Just like on the last visit, what impressed me was the intense attention to detail. They broke down every scene into frames, saying one aspect of Bolt’s movement must have 4 frames more to look more realistic, or a few less frames, etc. I wish I could describe whole scenes for you, but these were really just pieces. Sometimes it was Bolt scratching behind his ear for a few seconds, sometimes it was Penny in danger, kicking off some ropes… There was one bit between Bolt and Mittens where bolt’s stomach is rumbling. Remember this is a new sensation for the dog who has been under the illusion that the TV series he’s been starring in since he was a puppy is real life. So, he’s freaking out, convinced that he’s been poisoned by the cat (all cats are evil). He pins Mittens to the ground demanding the antidote and she’s forced to try to explain hunger to the dog, trying to conceal her amusement.

One thing that did stand out to me as being really cool was watching Byron use the light pen and board to illustrate his specific thoughts. I’m fascinated by people who can draw and draw well. There were moments when Byron wanted Mittens’ head turned a little more, so he’d just freeze the image and draw the angle he’s thinking of… and skip forward a few frames on the video and sketch another outline and again and when they played it back at full force you’d see flashes of what he’s looking for over the rough animation, moving itself. I was once against struck on how friendly and collaborative the environment was. All the animators were free to throw in their thoughts, but nobody seemed snarky. Everybody was supportive and working towards the same goal. I didn’t feel any tension… not that there’d be anything overt while a reporter was visiting, but you can feel it if it’s there. Before I had to take off, they had just finished the dailies and asked if I wanted to see a scene from the last visit, a continuation on the progress of the LA pigeons. You can read a full breakdown of my experiences as Chris and Byron pounded out this scene with Lasseter and the writers in my first report. The scene had progressed from storyboards to rough grayscale animation in the month since the previous visit and it was just as funny. In fact, Kraken was with me and experiencing all this for the first time and the LA pigeons had him gut-laughing. I guess there’s something about scummy Hollywood douchebags that really work onscreen. I was able to see a few finished moments before having to run out and the animation was gorgeous, almost as shocking to the eye as going from a dark room to sunny garden. As an example, here’s the final pic of Rhino, with full lighting and texture:

Thanks again to the folks at Disney, Andrew Runyon, the dearly departed (from Disney) Jack Pan and of course the Bolt team (including Byron, Lino and all the animators) for letting me observe them at work. We got another visit in the works for next month, which hopefully won’t be truncated like this one was. Keep an eye peeled! -Quint

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:19 a.m. CST

    A disney remake of Eastern

    by tomdolan04

    Promises? <p> I'd by that for a dollar

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST

    Oliver Hardy was first

    by ArcadianDS

    with that stache.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:23 a.m. CST

    once again, Quint spends 8 paragraphs backpeddaling

    by ArcadianDS

    from that rediculous moment of AICN indignation about how the 'art' for this movie was cashed in for a fast buck, and that its original 'artistic design' was a triumph of animation and artwork that would revolutionize our planet like Bill & Ted.<p> For the second time, Quint walks into the animation studio with his god damned tail stuck between his legs and does nothing but whimper around the visit like an impish 13 year old girl.<p> This was your SECOND opportunity to drag out AICNs bitch and whine fest over the radical change in animation styles to go 'mainstream' instead of 'art-house' and instead, you held out a weak, cold hand and said, "hello Mister President."<p> Way to stick to your guns you pathetic wet noodle.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Looks like a fun family outing. - "I'll get my ball."

    by JDanielP

    What can I say? There still aren't enough QUALITY family flicks out there, for ALL ages to enjoy.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:39 a.m. CST


    by Quint

    How am I sticking to my guns when I never stood up for the first version of this story? I'll definitely bring up the craziness with Chris Sanders in my next few visits leading up to the release, but the aim isn't to dig up controversy, it's to see what it's like from stage to stage at Disney Animation. That said, it's a bit extreme for you to accuse me of whimpering and obeying a corporate master like I was once rallying against this movie and now I'm not. That's not true. I loved LILO & STITCH and American Dog looked great. But that doesn't mean that this incarnation of the story can't impress me either. That's like saying fuck Zack Snyder, Paul Greengrass got fucked over on Watchmen or Terry Gilliam and Sam Hamm. If I didn't like what I've been seeing, I'd let you know. No one's reading over my shoulder, no one's approving articles before they run.<BR><BR>End of the day, the movie looks very sweet. Do I wish we could see Sanders' movie? Sure do, but what these guys are doing appears to be working, at least in these early glimpses. No one can say what the final product will be until it's out, but I like what I see and I like the amalgam of Disney and Pixar.<BR><BR>I will bring up Sanders and his original vision on the next round, but as you can tell this isn't an interview set-up. I'm a fly on the wall in these reports, not questioning anybody, just observing. I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to go over the original vision in one of the follow-up visits. Just be patient.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 10:49 a.m. CST

    Whiny little bitch...

    by LordPorkington

    Thy name is ArcadianDS. Do you wake up in the morning and think to yourself 'I wonder what I can whine and moan about today?'?

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:08 a.m. CST

    Sanders' Version

    by BartholomewNeff

    My friend works there and has seen what Sanders presented to Lasseter. It was an utter mess he told me. The animation was good, but the story was incoherent collection of scenes. Lasseter gave him a couple more passes at it. He didn't want to remove him, but with each pass, little changed and he felt the audience wouldn't connect with it. He liked working with Chris on Lilo & Stitch, but felt Lasseter was right to remove him when the project wasn't progressing. I haven't seen any footage outside the trailer but everyone who has seen it thinks it's a really funny, really good movie.. and that can't really be said of most of what Disney has done the last five or so years.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST

    I saw a trailer for this attached to TROPIC THUNDER

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Is the audience for Tropic Thunder really interested in a G-rated Disney 'toon?

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST

    JDanielP is right on!

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    That "I'll get my ball" bit in the trailer made a grown man laugh like giddy four year old. I'm definately taking my 11 year old niece to see this. I'm sold.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:45 a.m. CST

    Fuck Zack Snyder

    by kwisatzhaderach

    Paul Greengrass got fucked over on Watchmen.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:51 a.m. CST


    by jimmy rabbitte

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:52 a.m. CST

    try again... kwisatzhaderach:

    by jimmy rabbitte

    hadn't heard about that... what happened?

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 11:55 a.m. CST


    by hulkbuster

    these video ads that play when you click the page are starting to piss me off

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 12:20 p.m. CST

    I am starting to just NOT read these articles...

    by IAmJack'sUserID

    I can't get over how ANNOYING those goddamn video ads are! I am starting to spend less and less time here on AICN. It's still part of my morning internet routine (so far), but it's the only site that has annoying video ads with sound. You guys really need to consider removing them. They're invasive, annoying, and plan RI-FUCKING-DICULOUS!

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 1:23 p.m. CST

    RE: IAmJack'sUserID' post above me.

    by nomihs

    YES! I totally agree with you, with everything except for the "spend less and less time here" part. There is another movie web site that has the "Congratulations, you've just won chance to receive a FREE ipod touch." and if I don't have my speakers turned down, HOLY FUCK! I get blown away. I have no problem with ads, I love them, I wish I had advertising dollars flowing into my website. BUT, let's keep it down. I don't have automatic volume adjuster on my pc yet.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 1:27 p.m. CST

    Quint = satisfactory retort

    by ArcadianDS

    fair enough. I will volume down the hyperbole.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 2:51 p.m. CST

    I thought this movie was about..

    by Toby Wan

    That fast ass Jamaican at the Olympics.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 4:02 p.m. CST

    I use an ad blocker.

    by DerLanghaarige

    So I don'T see or hear any video ads.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 4:16 p.m. CST

    The ads

    by Quint

    Should be gone now. We have a strict policy against those types of ads here so thanks for everybody alerting us to them so we could, in turn, alert the business end of the site.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 4:37 p.m. CST

    how could they

    by billnye

    already be making a usain bolt movie?

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 5:15 p.m. CST

    That little hamster thingy...

    by BrooseTheScharuk

    ...Rhino, I think?...Makes me squeal and stamp my feet like a tickled little girl.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 7:44 p.m. CST


    by visceralgristle

    Anyone else think that the rough 2d layout sketches for 3d movies almost always look more interesting than the final product? It seems like something is lost in the move to 3d.

  • Aug. 25, 2008, 7:48 p.m. CST


    by Banzai Rootskibango


  • Aug. 26, 2008, 12:55 a.m. CST


    by bunkyboo

    You talented mofo!

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 3:24 a.m. CST

    the first drawing is awesome!

    by quamb

    would be incredible if the guys could capture that much expression in the CG version.

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 2:08 p.m. CST

    I don't have kids so I don't care about this a bit

    by Rupee88

    but I guess some of you do have kids...hopefully it won't be too painful to sit through this.

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 2:51 p.m. CST

    Im only 22

    by imascooby1985

    And with no kids and not much love for animated films beyond Pixar, and I am fully interested in this. The trailer made me laugh. I doubt I will see it in theaters but this will definitely be going in my NetFlix queue.

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Main reason I'm not interested in this...

    by OBSD

    Travolta. Also, I think Bolt wins the award for being the one millionth CGI movie staring wacky mismatched animals on a wacky adventure. Yawn. Give me a new plot, please.

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 7:14 p.m. CST

    So Quint, were you looking at stuff in stereo 3d?

    by half vader

    Or are they just going to ignore how making a real stereo movie actually changes your shot choices, and 'bolt' it on after the fact by offsetting the 2nd camera/view from an 'already shot' 2d movie?

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 7:39 p.m. CST

    oh ArcadianDS still alive?


    I thought for sure the infection from that cock I broke off in his ass would have spread to internal organs by now. Awwwww well. We'll give it a few days and see what happens. That guy has gotta be in some pain right now though...

  • Aug. 26, 2008, 11:14 p.m. CST

    Why don't you just

    by potvsktl

    blow them?

  • Aug. 27, 2008, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Im not feeling so well, actually

    by ArcadianDS

    kinda feverish and woozy. beyond that, I think Im gonna pull through.<p> oh and you can have your broke cock back if you still need it. Im not using it anymore.

  • Aug. 27, 2008, 11:31 a.m. CST

    I'd like to place kick that rodent

    by Abominable Snowcone

    enough with small furry animals

  • Aug. 27, 2008, 4:01 p.m. CST

    question about the ads

    by ArcadianDS

    why does it take readers informing editors of these ads? Quint - you guys are using ad-blockers, are you?

  • Aug. 27, 2008, 10:46 p.m. CST

    I'll say "Fuck Zack Snyder".

    by Charles Sheen

    Just because it needs to be said. FUCK ZACK SNYDER. Fucking hack.

  • Aug. 30, 2008, 3:43 a.m. CST

    Will "The Glen Keane Of CG" Please Stand Up?

    by kevingeiger

    Find out at...

  • Aug. 31, 2008, 3:34 a.m. CST

    Target Practice

    by ConquestMelee

    That critter had it coming< p >Enter< p >Still looks cute on my plate

  • Sept. 3, 2008, 11:06 a.m. CST

    Looks really promising....

    by PullMyFinger

    Love the glimpse into the animation process and if ya'll have seen the trailer the hamster kills. Hands down. Sign me up.

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