Early on in the production of The Brothers Brimm came a discussion about their mouths? As a cartoonist I tend to throw reality (specifically anatomy) out the door. So when it came time to rigging the mouths of Waffles and Syrup there was a pretty big question mark in place. Fortunately or me, Matt the director, had worked on a previous DAVE School production (Creature Comforts: The Lost Episodes) inspired by the work of the Aardman Animations. Those wonderful people that gave us Wallace and Gromit, Flushed Away, Chicken Run and most recently The Pirates!
The mouth of Waffles is of that same ilk. Part vintage cartoon, part clay animation character. We constantly referred to Waffles’ head as having the movement of balloon-shapes. Syrup was another issue all together. That is until Matt and I had a phone conversation that changed my view of not only CG animation but of collaboration forever.
Above: Side by side views of screen grabs of the Syrup rig next to a piece of concept art. Look at that range of expression!
Below: Six of the two dozen or so sketches I did for Syrup’s mouth lip synch.
What follows is a synopsis of our chat from early in the production of The Brothers Brimm.
MATT: I think we figured out Syrup’s mouth. See the way you draw him in the comic he has this huge range of mouth shapes and we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to accomplish that, until today.
PATCH: Can I take a look? I can’t wait.
MATT: Yeah. But before you do, did you see the trailer to the new ‘Peanuts’ animated feature?
PATCH: Yeah, why?
MATT: Well we were looking at the way Charlie Brown’s mouth moves in that, that’s how we want Syrup’s mouth to move. So we e-mailed the guys working on that…
PATCH: You e-mailed Blue Sky Studios (20th Century Fox) to see if they would help you with our production?
MATT: Yeah, but before they could e-mail us back we figured it out.
PATCH: You figured it out. You figured out how they rigged/worked-out Charlie Brown?
MATT: Yep. (sends me the file of Syrup’s mouth moving). Patch are you still there?
PATCH: Yes, I’m here. I am just trying to process the fact that I am watching one of my characters come alive. It’s fricken’ amazing! Melissa come in here please!
(I shouted, Melissa thought there was something wrong at first.)
MATT: Are you guys still there?
PATCH: Yes. Melissa and I are in awe right now. I am at a loss for words and THAT never happens. Just ask my students.
Above: The video that Matt shared with me as we discussed what went into Syrup’s mouth rig.
MATT: SO you LIKE it?
PATCH: LIKE it? Let me get this straight you are not only bringing my characters to life in way I never fathomed, a way I could never do myself, you guys gave me the Charles Schulz treatment.
By the way Schultz is cartoon royalty, he’s one of my heroes. You are treating me like one of my heroes.
MATT: And your cartoon will be out before his…
PATCH: You do realize that I am going to hug you the next time I see you and I cannot guarantee that I won’t kiss you. My thanks to everyone involved, across the board!
MATT: No problem. Glad you like it.
PATCH: Did Blue Sky ever get back to you?
MATT: Oh yeah they did. They apologized, but they couldn’t help us due to confidentiality reasons. But they wished us luck.
PATCH: You clearly didn’t need it.
Later, at The DAVE School graduation I would retell this same story. Citing how we could have stopped right there. That they treated my like royalty from beginning to end. To be treated like one of your heroes may be one of the greatest feelings on the planet. Best gift a guy could get and on top of that they gave me The Brothers Brimm, 5 minutes of pure animated joy!
I will be forever grateful to the Awesome 22.
Below: The Syrup Rig Demo posted by animator Eric Mills. Eric was one of the aforementioned Awesome 22.
Eric Mills – Syrup Rig Demo from Eric M on Vimeo.
• We have officially entered The Brothers Brimm into five (5) different film festivals. We are already ‘in consideration’ for three out of the five. Couldn’t be more excited on this front!
• The blog post about the creation of the character Necro was shared on the Library Company of Philadelphia’s tumblr.
• We are currently at almost 10,000 plays on Vimeo and Youtube combined. That’s up approximately 7,000 views since last week!
• As part of UArts Day next week I will be leading a Character Design Boot Camp, complete with another 3D screening of The Brothers Brimm.