Report on ILM's SIGGRAPH 2003 Special Session

by Manuel Alducin

During SIGGRAPH 2003, Animation Supervisors Dave Andrews, Tom Bertino, Colin Brady and Dan Taylor appeared in front of thousand of SIGGRAPH attendees on the special session about animation at ILM.

The ILM Animation Supervisors Talk About Their Careers

On Monday July 28 ILM Animation Supervisors Dave Andrews, Tom Bertino, Colin Brady and Dan Taylor appeared in front of thousand of SIGGRAPH attendees on the special session entitled "Creatures, Critters & Clones: Styles and Techniques Unique to Industrial Light + Magic". For approximately two hours they discussed not only their work at ILM but also their background and how they came to be involved in CG animation and VFX, what the future holds and even answered a few questions from the audience. Jill Smolin, from Cinesite, served as moderator for the evening. In particular I would like to thank Ellen Pasternak and Suzy Starke for all their help.

Tom Bertino

Tom Bertino

Tom Bertino started at ILM in 1986 in the Rotoscope Department and recently finished tests for The Son of the Mask. As a way of introduction a reel was shown with clips of some of the many projects he worked on which included: Flubber, Star Wars Episode I, The Mask, animation from the aborted Frankenstein project (which included a girl, the monster and a rat in a dungeon), the ILM short Work in Progress and Men in Black II.

For Tom it all started with Saturday morning cartoons when he was 4 years old, which would take him from cartoons, to comedy, film and eventually VFX animation. During high school he got detention and a teacher challenged him to do an animated film as Tom would often talk about it but he never had done anything big. He took on the challenge and eventually won a Kodak award in the early 70s. His approach back then was to learn animation "in the street corner", jokingly saying much like sex for teenage boys.

Back then not much animation was being done and he heard CalArts was one of the few places where it was being taught. After that he went on to work on such shows as the Baby Seal Adventures and the Smurfs.

He eventually joined ILM where he started working in the night crew on Howard the Duck, and as they say the rest is history. Tom made a very interesting observation, he doesn't believe in the question "what inspires you". He believes inspiration comes from inside, you have to be inspired to do something you love, and he couldn't imagine himself doing anything else. He does believe that creative influences come from outside, seeing different styles and techniques. And with that he concluded with a tape of some of the films, shows and people that have creatively influenced him, some of which are: Buster Keaton, Chaplin, The Honeymooners, the 3 Stooges, Elvis, Laurel and Hardy, Kurosawa, blacksplotation films, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Bugs Bunny, Willie E. Coyote, Fantasia, Nosferatu, El Santo vs los Marcianos, Frankenstein and The Searchers.

Dave Andrews

Dave Andrews

Dave Andrews got an English degree from Western Ontario University, but it was Tron that became his first big influence, the other being the Tex Avery cartoons. He also went on to win a Kodak award after which he worked as a freelancer for 6 years. He then joined ILM in 1993 and recently completed the work on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He also confirmed that he will be ILM's Animation Supervisor for the follow up, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

His proudest moment was the work he and the crew did on Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! and he wanted to thank Jim Mitchell and the rest of TDs and crew for their work. He recalled the challenging moments in those "earlier" times of CG animation, when TDs would say it was not physically possible to have the martians walk like Popeye, or shadows would be wrong, etc. But in the end the whole crew pulled it off.

He then went on to show clips of such projects as Joe Rockhead, Droopy McCool, Mars Attacks! and Dobby from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He concluded by thanking in particular animators Jenn Emberly (now an Animation Supervisor), Steve Rawlins and Chris Armstrong. He also mentioned that he himself identifies with Dobby, his inner struggle, just as there is a struggle between doing CG and traditional animation.

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor joined ILM in 1994 and since then he has worked on such projects as The Mask, Jurassic Park 3 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. His initial inspiration came from watching Ray Harryhausen films, which eventually led him to study cinematography, make films, including stop motion ones in the 50s when he was growing up. In the beginning it wasn't an easy path since he is from Buffalo, New York, not exactly the hub of film and animation. It all started when he was about 7 years old and watched The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and wanted to find out how that magic was done.

His first films were done with toys using an 8mm camera his father gave him. He mentioned that a good thing about preparing this talk was that he went back and looked for his films (which were transferred to tape) and he actually showed several clips from them, which was great fun. Later on, King Kong would be another influence as it was a film with emotional content and not just a simple showcase of the FX. he continued to refine his techniques, first doing a dinosaur movie for which he built a tabletop set, using forced perspective shots, and even doing a Wolfman makeup. After seeing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he became impressed on the techniques of storytelling, like how shots were set up, editing, etc. So at 17 years old he set out to make a cowboy film with his friends as an homage and to try to practice some of the techniques in the Sergio Leone films. He never did finish it until 35 years later when he edited at ILM the way he thought it was best.

He started working in TV commercials and then opened a company, named Taylor Made Images, in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. There he worked on things like TV station animations and trailers, like one of a dinosaur hitting the Washington Monument as an opener for a movie showcase time slot. Some of the challenges were that people wanted something like Star Wars on a $1.00 budget, jokingly saying that it hasn't changed much at all like the work for the Star Wars Special editions.

At ILM he would work on such projects as The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, Deep Rising, Wild Wild West, Jurassic Park 3 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. His favorite project so far has been Jurassic Park 3. He concluded by thanking everyone at ILM, even management, for all the hard work and support.

Colin Brady

Colin Brady

Colin Brady is one of the newest Animation Supervisors, having joined ILM in 1999 after having worked at Pixar and Rhythm and Hues. At ILM he has supervised the work on the 20th Anniversary of E.T. and The Hulk. He then showed a reel not only from some of the projects he worked on but also some of the ones that influenced him like: Casablanca, The Hulk, the E.T. 20th Anniversary Edition, Toy Story 1 and 2, and even showed the reference footage of himself which he used for shots in Toy Story like Hannah's facial expression and the cord throwing shots. He also showed the now (in)famous Ang Lee reference footage (in the mocap session) for The Hulk.

He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and like many others Star Wars made a huge impact on him. He decided to make a stop motion version of Star Wars, which he started in 2nd grade and finished by 3rd grade. Initially he went to USC for a Mechanical Engineering degree, which in retrospect was misguided. He took an Animation elective which completely turned his life around. He and his professor clicked together and advised him to go to CalArts. He dropped all his courses and got into CalArts, where he did several student films and after finishing school started in TV commercials.

The Hulk proved to be a formidable challenge and was told that the Hulk should emote like Jennifer Connelly. Animator Jamy Wheless made a test where the Hulk replicated the scene where Ms. Connelly is crying in San Francisco after the Hulk has erupted from the street and sees the plight of Bruce Banner. It convinced everyone that they would be able to pull off the film.

His philosophy on animation is to force animators to either act out shots first or find video reference and always observe people. The goal is to strive to take the floatiness and "splineniness" out of animation. The mystery of animation and the little details is what keeps him interested in the field.