Sunday, January 22, 2012

I spoke with DreamWorks Senior Animator, David Stodolny - who is one of the most humble and talented young animators in the industry. David spoke about the process of working on feature films and what it's like being in the world of feature animation.

YouAnimator: David, you have been given quite a few of the fighting scenes in Kung Fu Panda 2. How did you become the in-house “fighting expert?”

I would never consider myself the "fighting expert" at all but I did get a chance to do some really fun action scenes such as the shot where Po throws a wolf
into the air and is caught by Viper wrapping herself around the wolf, then landing on Tigress's back and then fighting off a pack of wolves with a sword. It was a lot of fun. I would say that I was given that shot based on the fact that I tend to get shots with a lot of characters done quickly. The shot had about 10 wolves in it as well as Viper and Tigress
and a number of different weapons and other constraints. I believe I was given that shot based on how fast I got another shot done in the movie involving 10 or more characters and a lot of crazy actions.
In this industry what you do early in the movie tends to stick with you for the rest of the project.

YouAnimator: Explain to us what the process of assigning shots to animators is at DreamWorks?

I would like to say that assigning projects and shots is very clear and predictable. However, it really depends on the team your working with and how you prove yourself from the start.
Dreamworks is such a big company that you get to work with a lot of different people. Even if you're the "acting guy" on one movie. You may very well become the "action guy" on another.
It totally depends on the team you have working with you and what they cast you on throughout the film.. Overall though it comes down to what shots are available or "in inventory" Everyone for the most
part works on a couple of acting shots and action shots throughout the movie. But it really does change and evolve over the project which keeps things fresh and exciting.

YouAnimator: Once you’ve received the shots – what process do you usually take to turn it into a finished piece?

Once we get cast on a shot we get "launched" by the director where he/she tells us what the overall feeling or point of the shot is.
We take those notes and inject any ideas we may have an then the whole team agrees on the best way to handle the shot. Then we go back to
our desks and block out our idea in rough version of the scene. We then show the director and our leads and in turn get more notes that narrow
down the performance. We continue to work through this over a couple of meetings. We add details until it's exactly what the director saw in his/her vision.
We get it approved and then it becomes part of the movie.

YouAnimator: You’ve had the chance to work on quite a lot of interesting shots thus far during your not-so-long career already. Do you have a favorite?

I honestly think my favourite shot of my career was in Surf's Up. The first time that Cody meets Lani. He's really uncomfortable and trying to act cool but
his inexperience talking to girls is evident. It was a fun shot to shoot reference for as well as animate. Whether or not I think this was the best shot I've animated,
I definitely think it's one of the shots I've had the most fun animating.

YouAnimator: I have noticed that Canada has a disproportional number of animators in the US industry? What is the secret?

Disproportional as in BIG? haha... I would agree. Canadian animators have always been a huge part of the industry. For years, Sheridan College which is in Canada
has always had a huge part in supplying animators to the industry. Although there are a lot of great schools now that are pumping out amazing animators, Canada has always been an incredible source of talent when it comes to the animation field. I mean it's cold as hell up there. We enjoy staying inside and honing our
animation skills and drawing and acting skills rather than playing outside in the snow........okay sometimes we miss the snow too.

YouAnimator: What short advice would you give anyone who is dreaming about working in the animation industry?

I would say if you love it........DO IT! There are so many of my friends in the industry that said their parents tried to stop them saying there is
no career in it. No Longevity in it. I'll tell you that if you work hard and stay with it there is a VERY successful career in it for you. For instance, I have a friend
who's parents told him he was wasting his time. He kept on applying to Sheridan anyway. He is now the director of a very successful TV show. I bet his parents
are proud as hell of him, as well as never admitting that they ever doubted him. Honestly if you love to create stories and characters, then stay with it. It really
is a really rewarding and exciting career.

David is one of the demo reel judges on YouAnimator. And if you're curious about his demo reel - here it is: