After the success of Despicable Me 2, which has grossed over $ 970 million worldwide against a budget of $ 76 million, Universal decided to relaunch a spin-off of the franchise, called Minions. The new movie focuses on more details and different aspects of the Minions themselves.
Mr. Liv has achieved significant success working as a 3D Animator on Minions, which has received significant acclaim including being nominated for a BAFTA, Saturn Award, Annie Award, and BVTA Award and has grossed $1,159,398,397 worldwide. In August 2015, Minions was the third highest-grossing animated feature of all-time.
In my critical leading role as a character animator, I animated a very important shot: the first shot ever done with the two villains. In essence, it was a long 10-second shot that would determine the nature of their entire relationship.
The audience had to feel the personality of each character with very particular movements. The dialogue was "Oh Herb, what Picasso is to paint, you are to illegal weapons and unlicensed barely tested survival gear." The voice actress is Sandra Bullock alongside Jon Hamm, who plays Herb.
Researching with open source's
It's important to have multiple sources of inspiration at the planning stage, and this inspiration can come from my own experience and from films that I've watched in the past. For this piece of dialogue in particular.
I started to study the images of couples on Getty Images/Shutterstock, to see how the couples hug. For me, I wanted to understand how couples embrace. By looking at the photo I can see how the arms intertwine, how the bodies are oriented so that they can see each other.
With a good understanding of the mechanic, I can adapt my pose according to the needs of my plan and which best illustrates the relationship of the characters I animate.
Life with Animation
The work of the animator is to caricature reality, and therefore the images only serve as a source of inspiration. I recorded myself performing the dialogue. The video reference gives a starting point of my inspiration and gives me a chance to be that character and understand how a character feels.
Thanks to this workflow I was able to find ideas for the actions they were going to do. For example, when Scarlet enters into the frame, she takes the initiative to take Herb's arm to put it on her waist, it shows her authority on Herb, and a little later in the shot she takes his hand to caress her face. This illustrates the dynamic of their relationship. Had I just copied the poses I would have a well animated shot but with less entertainment value.
More generally it's a good rule of thumb to be inspired by other art forms, like music or cooking, to enrich my work as an animator.
A slight panic erupted right after the test screening, which allowed Universal to see the reaction of the audience through a detailed questionnaire, which noted that Scarlet was too scary.
As a result, Universal decided to add humor and lightness to her character. I was responsible for making the shots to ease out her threatening aspect. I animated two shots, in both of which she is struck by a mechanical arm.
Test screening is now an essential part of production. The most famous examples were the X-men movies, Aquaman, and most AAA video games.
The questions are detailed and usually go like this: Which character did you like the most? Why? Who do you want to see more? If the screening is recorded we can even see when people reposition themselves on their chair and get bored; a way to remedy this and add a gag at that moment of the film.
Being on a project so long, we can have blind spots, so test screenings allow us to have a clearer vision of the movie and see how the audience perceives the film. For this reason, unexpected notes may arise, such as the fact that Scarlet looks mean. As an artist, I recognize that I am also linked to production and it is my duty to redo the shot as professionally as possible. Beyond that, I will try to take advantage of this opportunity to add entertainment and improve the basic idea.
The goal of Scarlet being struck by the mechanical arm was to make her more ridiculous and vulnerable. In everyday life, people are never 100% bad or 100% good; for example, a villain may have a "valid reason" to do what he does. This adds depth to the character and the audience can better relate.
Another way to add layers of personality is to add subtext to a character; the subtext is the underlying theme behind what's being said. Sometimes the dialogue supports the subtext and sometimes the action betrays what he really thinks. Being able to use this acting method allows me to give my performance more depth.
For this particular shot, as I knew the character well, I was able to add the idea that, instead of getting up by herself, she uses Herb's tie, which strangles her a little to get up. This portrays the idea that although she says she loves him, she just sees him as a prop. This addition not only remains in the character but adds loads of entertainment to the movie.