Postgraduate Study

Review of “The Art of” books

Yesterday I spend a few hours in the library reading “The Art of” books that I mentioned in the previous post as I hoped to find parts of them relevant to my research. Apart from “The Art of Dreamworks Animation”, “The Art of Disney Pixar Brave”, “The Art of Tangled” and “The Art of Frozen” books, which I all planned to review beforehand, by a lucky chance I also stumbled across “Timing for animation” by Harold Whitaker and John Halas. Even though I have read the book awhile back, I decided to check if there is any relevant information in it as well, to possibly use it later in my research.

My approach for working with these books was rather straightforward – I would find books on films that had horse characters in it, then scan the book to see if there is any chapters dedicated to those characters. If there was not, I would look through the book to see if there is any information or illustrations with horses being supporting characters to one of the main characters in the story (e.g. Hans’ horse Sitron in Frozen). That way I make sure I am able to collect as much of the limited information available to support my research while not having to spend too much time reading through entire book.

At the end of a day I had some worthwhile information gathered from the mentioned books. While overall there was even less data on horse characters than I anticipated, I was still able to collect some details that would give me insight into production process and help me analyse film itself more accurately. I found “The Art of Disney Pixar Brave” and “The Art of Tangled” most useful as it had separate chapter dedicated to the equine characters and, even though they were brief and limited, featured descriptions and comments from the designers (which, at the very least, gave a clear idea of what artists were trying to achieve with particular character design).

Two other books were not as thorough but I was still able to extract some information that I could potentially use to help through my research. “The Art of Dreamworks Animation” had a chapter dedicated to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it mostly focused on use of environment designs throughout the film while not really discussing the characters. However, it did feature some concept art with horses that I found really well captured the essence of the main character as well as the nature of his relationships with others. Finally, “The Art of Frozen” did not have any description or comments concerning horses in the film, but it did present two illustrations of early concept design for Hans’ horse. While the horse’s design evidently been completely redone before the final design featured in the film was created (the concept art shows a light riding horse build while in the final movie Sitron is a draft pony of Norwegian Fjord breed, which is evident of its characteristic two-toned mane), it is fascinating to see how artist intended the horse to be a supporting figure to Hans character – he is introduced as “prince in the shining armor” and his horse shows similar proud and regal features as the rider.

The last book that I managed to scan through yesterday was “Timing for Animators” by Harold Whitaker and John Halas. While the book has a lot of practical information for animating any moving thing or creature, I was pleased to find that it also had a few pages on animating horse walk and gallop. While it only provides a very basic approach, I decided to take a note of it as it might be useful as a starting point when I begin animating.

All in all, while I was disappointed with very limited information available, I was able to gather some data that will be useful in my research. The biggest part of the findings is concept art images and character sketches, but I was also able to find a few comments from artist and producers on what traits where emphasized in character creation and what is character’s role in the story. I believe that this information will not only give me an insight to creating strong equine characters but also help me better understand and more accurately analyse character in the film.

Postgraduate Study

Finding the Right Resources on Horses in Animation

When I decided to start the research into horses in animation, I thought that the best approach would be to see what books and research papers are available on the topic. Having in mind that horses are such an integral part of many animation films from the late 1920s (Horace Horsecollar debut in The Plow Boy (1929)), be it as background characters (e.g. two mares in Once Upon a Wintertime in Melody Time (1948)) or even as main protagonists (e.g. Spirit in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)), I was surprised that I could not find any published books or academic thesis on the equine characters in animation. After further investigation I was able to find other kinds of resources that I should be able to use in my research, though it is obvious that this topic lacks large scale research and further analysis.

To overcome the issue of lacking academic material and books on horses in animation, I decided to search for alternative research material. I presumed that since I am unable to find resources exclusively on horses, I should look into books and other material that could possibly feature horses among other characters of an animated film. Based on my past research, I remembered that some of the best ways to get insight into character creation process and well as different stages of production of animated films are through “The Art of” books and videos on making of different animation films. Though this makes information on horse characters rather limited, as these resources focus on entire film creation, and gathering information from parts of book or video that apply to the topic requires time and dedication, it will still allow me to get an understand of character design decisions and creation process which will contribute to more in-depth knowledge than what I would be able to get from just watching the character on screen. Furthermore, this way I will be able to gather information on a variety of equine characters which will hopefully make my research more thorough.

The resources that I am currently investigating include A Brief History of the Animated Horse by Gregory Singer in Animation World Network (which was very useful as a quick overview of a number of different horses in animation), videos and articles on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and a few articles on Horace Horsecollar in Disney shorts. Furthermore, I am going to borrow “The Art of Dreamworks Animation”, “The Art of Disney Pixar Brave”, “The Art of Tangled” and “The Art of Frozen” from the university library as all these books focus on films featuring horses as animation characters.

Postgraduate Study

Research Blog Inspiration

To give me some ideas on how to use blog for academic purposes, I decided to look at how other people used it to journal their research. While I was unable to find blogs that would specifically relate to my situation (Master’s student blogs that would focus on topics related to animation), I found that blog called The Thesis Whisperer, edited by Dr Inger Mewburn, has a post with a long list of various PhD student blogs. And while the list is way too long for me to properly read through each one of them, I took the liberty investigating several by choosing them randomly.

Luckily enough, I was able to find a couple that really gave me some inspiration for my blog:

Postgraduate Study

Starting Postgraduate Research

A month ago I officially enrolled for MA Independent Study: Leicester Media School, where I am going to be focusing on improving my 3D character animation skills and my academic knowledge as an animator. For several reasons, including some snags in course management from university as well as my personal transition from taught undergraduate to more or less fully independent postgraduate student and confusion and uncertainty that comes with it, it took me a month to finally get settled, but I feel like now I am more aware of where, as a student, I am at the moment and what my path is going to be like as a Master student.

To begin with, my research supervisors are Tim Gray and Steve Abrahart. They both were my tutors in undergraduate study and I found their knowledge and experience in 3D animation as well as academic background was the most suitable for my particular study field. They were kind to accept this responsibility and for the next year T. Gray is officially my main (which means he will be working more closely with my research) and S. Abrahart is my second research supervisor, which I am very happy about.

While I am not entirely comfortable or very experienced with using blog to log my research, I decided to give it a try as I think it might be overall beneficial as compared to paper journal that I usually keep. Firstly, it will allow the research notes to be accessed at any time by me, my supervisors or anyone interested in my research. Furthermore, I hope that blog will work better as “public writing” tool, encouraging me to write more coherently and thoroughly as opposed to my personal notes, where majority of text is usually listed in brief bullet points. And finally, maybe these notes will be useful to somebody else and sharing it online will make it more easily accessible.

Talking about my specific area of research and what exactly I will be doing this year, so far it looks like I will be focusing on quadruped animation, namely animating horses in 3D. I feel like horse movement will provide plenty of challenge technically, the importance of horses in art will make for a good academic research to support Master study and my personal interest as an equestrian will keep me motivated through the year. By the end of the year I hope to create animation that showcases the quadruped animation skills I gained and my knowledge of horse anatomy and movement as well as overall push my ability as an animator.

Student Life

The Marathon and The Sprints

As the students are embarking on the last few weeks of the semester and exams/hand-ins/final presentations are just around the corner, it is no wonder that most people are highly stressed out and loosing sleep to complete the work on time. It might seem to be natural but sometimes the stress and extreme pressure that students put themselves through can have long-term consequences and lead to mental and physical health issues. And no one really enjoys the overwhelming feeling of running out of time and exhaustion.

I believe there are ways to make your life as a student so much easier and work better just by setting the right pace. To help explain the ideas on it, imagine your whole university career as a marathon, which requires a lot of endurance and patience, and parts of a single project as sprints – much more intense yet shorter.

Continue reading “The Marathon and The Sprints”


Planning the Character Rig

During my years in university I discovered that many animation students struggle with rigging and quite a few believe it to be the most dreadful part of animation pipeline. Unarguably, it can be a nerve-wrecking experience as for a beginner animator getting the rig done right is difficult and the smallest mistake can lead to a broken rig and, most likely, the pain of rigging the character all over again.

Even though the best way to decrease the chance of failure and the number of times you need to redo the rig for it to work properly is obviously practice, thorough thinking through and some planning beforehand can make the entire process more bearable and save valuable time.

To help make the process more enjoyable, here are 7 steps to planning your next rig. Continue reading “Planning the Character Rig”

Student Life

The Story of Becoming an Animation Student

I first started having any real interest in animation exactly three years ago.

I was finishing high school and sending out applications to universities. I chose animation as my degree and when people asked me about it I gave them serious reasons why animation is my passion and a great career choice, sounding like it is the most well thought decision ever. But honestly?.. I had no clue.

Continue reading “The Story of Becoming an Animation Student”