Tuesday, November 25, 2014

KINGDOM of the SUN - Rough ' Nina ' sketches and Animation Test

Here are a few of my rough sketches during the beginning months of Walt Disney's feature ' Kingdom of the Sun '. I was cast to the lead character ' Nina '  supervised by Doug Frankel

This was to be my 4th Main female lead character that i was to animate at Disney's. The others being Esmeralda, Meg, Mulan and now, Nina. I really liked the work Doug had done on her design up to this point. Having the face be wider in design but still keeping the appeal. And I loved the large shapes to work with regarding the hair and outfit, even the earrings. I love having shapes to play with regarding overlapping action and I was already visualizing how the hair could move in and out of actions, looking for appealing shapes and using the drag and follow through action as a nice accent to a movement.

We had some time at the beginning to discover the character, learning to drawn her to understand how her design could move around. 


BELOW is a rough animation test i did of  ' Nina '. I was one of around a dozen animators or so that were on this film for around half a year. Production stopped on this film as the company reworked the story and recast the direction. The new film became ' The Emperors New Groove '. This film was more classic Disney in it's animated style - more traditional than the more comic style of ENG. This test of Nina is just a rough i was having fun with before scenes were cast out. It's rough, off model, not completed. It's also based on a good family friend Lisa Salamone Smith { Disney TV } who I tried to capture some of her personality as I have her walk towards the camera. At times Lisa would have her hair flop down over the side of her face while talking and then take her hand and brush it aside. I tried to put that in the test just to add a bit to the appeal of the performance. As mentioned, the test isn't finished, still in the rough stage, but you can see where I was going with it. :-)

Mark Pudleiner - Kingdom of the Sun - Rough ' Nina ' animation test from Mark Pudleiner on Vimeo.


Here are 3 key poses from the first scene where I animated Nina. I was sorry when this story was stopped and along with it all the work done on the character. We moved on after a break to the new film 'The Emperors New Groove' which was a completely different story being animated in a completely different style. And that ended up being another positive experience.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2 Videos - 28 years apart.

2 Videos showing me a few years apart. The top video is a recent 2014 Video clip from VANarts where i teach Character Animation and Story. It shows one of our recent graduating students Emily Cooper discussing her experience coming to the college in Vancouver Canada to learn Animation. The 2nd Video below shows me much earlier in my career as I am filmed during my early days at Don Bluth Animation - 28 years earlier { Yikes ! }

2014 Video

Emily Cooper - VanArts Graduate from VanArts on Vimeo.

click HERE to go to VANarts Website

1986 Video - 
This video is from my good friend and amazing animator and designer Sandro Cleuzo.  
who worked at Bluth but I met during our years at Disney Feature Animation. 

Check out Sandro's beautiful work at his website here > click
The video below shows the DON BLUTH studio as we were working on the features :
 ' An American Tail ' as well as ' The Land Before Time '. 
I am definitely a younger version as at the video time of 4:24 it shows me at my desk
working on a Fievel scene from 'Tail' as I am doing Key Clean-Up. This is taking the animator's
rough animation drawings and putting down a final line, making any corrections to putting things on model 
{ while keeping all the animators energy and life in the drawings }.
Time flies - it doesn't feel like almost 30 years that this is where things were at.
Constant learning and amazingly good times working with all the various talented artists during those days.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hello World ....

Our senior students here at VANarts Media College in downtown Vancouver have 1 more week to go until they walk out our door for the final time. It's been a busy week as they finish their final senior short films and gather their best efforts to create their portfolio to show the studios. Many have also made the short walk over to Siggraph 2014 to visit the job fair, their best scenes in hand. 
With positive thoughts, some anxious and nervous energy, they hope for the best. 
And so do I for them.
I had to stop for a moment in class today to sketch out this little drawing of how it all must feel, the excitement of finishing college and stepping out into the future.

Here's hoping the future is nothing but successful :-) 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Memory Lane 11 - My desk @ Disney during Hercules Production - 1996

At my desk during the production of Disney's animated Feature 'Hercules'.  This was most likely taken early 1996. My friend and supervisor on the film, Ken Duncan { he was supervising my animation of the female lead 'Meg' } , was going around at times taking photos of people working on the project. He came into my room, stood on a chair and pointed the camera as i looked his way. Looking over my shoulder I recognize that was my first scene on the film, meg walking through the forest as she is about to meet the characters 'Pain' and 'Panic'. 
It was the first time I was to deal with those round Meg hips as she snapped from pose to pose. Also the overlapping hair and dress that was part of her design. I've always loved that challenge of animating the female character with all the overlapping design elements. They are great assets to use for adding accents to a performance. 

And yes, I have no idea why my glasses are so damn big  :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Getting into Disney Feature Animation in 1993

Late 1993 I was wondering if I should take the Disney Animation Test that I had heard about. One of my friends at the studio warned me to not take it as Disney never hires anyone if you do a test. Instead, to get in, I should just hand in my portfolio. I thought about it and decided to do the test any ways. I thought, I will take time off work, a holiday, and work on the test during my break, doing my best. And hopefully it'll work out.

It was a Friday afternoon as i drove over to the Disney building in Glendale where the production of Pocahontas was in full swing. I walked into the reception area and asked for the animation test. The girl behind the desk handed me the one sheet i scanned below and told me to hand it back in 2 weeks later.

So i quickly went home that night and started. I had to animate one scene of Alice picking up a pot of tea, pouring the tea into the cup she was holding and as she lifts the cup to her lips ' something ' happens and she reacts. 

I thought I'd be clever and make a test that would make someone laugh. I roughed out a first blocking test of Alice picking up the pot, pouring and just about to sip the tea when suddenly the facehugger from the Alien movie shoots out, grabbing her face, throwing her backwards and all we are left is seeing Alice's legs thrash about.

I asked my college friend , Ken Duncan , {who was directing a small role of the young man Thomas on Pocahontas} if i could drive over to his house in simi valley and see what he thought. Thankfully Ken said yes and after seeing what i was up to he asked me to shift direction with the test. "Know the audience Mark" he said, " You need to understand who is looking at this, it's Disney feature. You have to think of their sensibility and what they are doing. Think more charming. Something more Disney-like. "
Strong advice. Thank you Ken ! 
I truly believe if i had continued with the violent test, I would had been passed over.
So, instead I returned to my apartment and started over. It was Wednesday night when I drove to Simi and saw Ken. It was now Thursday morning. Blank paper on disc. Drawing one.

I returned back to the studio 2 weeks after I first received the test, handing them my work.
I hoped for the best. 
After talking to Ken, I decided to have the Cheshire Cat pop out of the cup and grabbed the twirling cup in mid air then smiling at the young Alice. I studied the Alice work from the film and tried to make her reaction as close as Alice-like as i could. React but a bit constrained, keeping her ladylike as the young lady she is.

I was told by a friend, Dave Goetz { who lived near us in Santa Monica } that the test went really well and that the producer Roy Conli on Disney's new film, Hunchback, wanted to have me phone him.

{ note to students : if you know the studio that you will be focusing on, if possible, make at least one animation test fit into their world {design + performance}.

I started my first day on Jan 17th 1994 joining the Hunchback Crew as an animator. 
That was the morning all of  LA woke up around 4 in the morning ... but that's another story :-)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hips with attitude

 Here's a quick note I left on one of my animation student's desk.

While she was doing a good job working hard on her senior project, she was overlooking one thing.
She was animating the upper body yet not having the Hips be part of the action. Suddenly the body
parts were not feeling connected.

Upper Body rotating slightly, hips with attitude saying " Nope, we're not going along with this. "

Ugh ... Hips. Always causing problems.
She liked the note. And she's working in the industry now :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Calgary Comic + Entertainment Expo 2014

I will joining the Calgary Comic Expo this coming weekend and will be giving a talk on the 'Breakdown of the animated scene'. If you're there, feel free to stop by and also visit the VANarts booth as I will be at the booth Saturday afternoon and most of the day Sunday.

Below are the details of the talk I will be giving. Hope to see you there. 

Breakdown of the Animated Scene
Room: Palomino D
Time: 1:45PM - 2:30PM
Various animated scenes are broken down in detail explaining how the scenes play out their own moment of Storytelling in a clear and entertaining way. We learn what isn't moving is, at times, the most important moment of what you're seeing on screen. By approaching scenes early on in a simplified way, the animator can direct where the audience will look as the scene plays out it's action and performances.

- See more at: HERE

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Don Bluth - Storyboards - The Secret of NIMH - Part 1

Back in 1985 while I was working on 'An American Tail ' at Don Bluths Studios in Van Nuys California, I noticed some boxes with some old storyboards from earlier productions. I still remember the feeling as I stood there holding storyboards in my hands from one of my favourite features 'The Secret of NIMH'. As a young artist, my eyes were wide open flipping through the panels taking in Don's amazing ability to tell the story with such appeal in his drawing. Each panel had such life with such a strong sense of design. He made it all seem so easy with every pose explaining the action and performance.

So, hoping they wouldn't mind, I headed over to the xerox machine and copied some panels for my own reference. I had a feeling they wouldn't mind as Don, Gary and John were amazing to work with and they were all so open for us learning and pushing ourselves to only get better as artists. They truly believed in passing on the knowledge, not keeping it to themselves. It was a great time to be with them during those early productions. 

Back a few years Don released a great book were he talks about his approach when it comes to Storyboarding. The book is hard to find but you can look here : 

I really like Don's insights that he shares. Here is one of his quotes from the book :

' Read the script and come to believe it. If you can't believe in your script, you'd better choose another. Once you have your script, sit quietly with your eyes closed and envision the picture in your mind, finished if possible. Don't edit yourself at this point. Select a section of the script that you like and try to view it in your mind's eye. Envision the characters - their actions, costumes, and facial expressions. Hear the voices, the music, and the sound effects. My brain is not always willing to do this exercise on command, so I don't force it; often, it wakes me up in the early hours of the morning when it's good and ready.
Keep a sketchpad handy to jot down the ideas and special notes when this inspiration session is over. Don't edit your ideas, but collect them. I have often recounted these small visions to John or Gary to see if they make sense. Good ideas stand up under scrutiny, whereas poor ideas do not. With that in mind, let your friends' reactions help you filter out the bad ideas.'  - Don Bluth


Below are the 1st panels from NIMH that I have. I just love the design of his panels. Don's approach to drawing feathers has always stood out as he finds ways to make them read and feel so appealing with the grouping of feathers, turning a ' Wing ' into a ' Hand ' when the story needs a hand to be shown. Also the way the feathers arc off Jeremy the Crows head, the use of negative space giving the feathers a feeling of looseness yet also being seen as very solid. Some beautiful design work here. 
Also, notice how Don draws out through the panel, allowing himself as the story artist to really know and understand how the characters will be balanced in the composition. 


I love this Sequence below as Don draws Jeremy land on the ground and roll around in laughter. Don is a master at drawing birds. There is such the solid structure of the bird anatomy as Jeremy's poses explain the action. I love the design of the wings once again using space and then grouping feathers together to create the feeling of wings as arms as he hugs himself. I can almost hear the voice actor, Dom Deluise, laughing as these panels are played out in order. Beautiful work. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

John Pomeroy's Clean Up Notes 2 - All dogs go to Heaven

 Here is another one of my notes I got from JOHN POMEROY while we were working on Don Bluth's production of  'All dogs go to Heaven '. It was around 1987- early 88 and we were still in Dublin Ireland.
I was supervising the Clean Up Department for the production and every now and then I would knock on John's door to ask for his thoughts regarding design.

Again, as a Clean Up Artist I have always loved the challenge of searching for appealing designs while keeping the rough animation of the animator intact. 

Below is one of the animators rough key drawings of the character Anne Marie as she is quickly turning her head, making her hair swing upward and around in motion.

The next drawing is John's Version of how the design of the hair should be drawn. 

John was able to explain the action of the hair beautifully showing the weight and drag of the hair while adding to the design making the animation only stronger.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

James Baxter the Horse

Below is a quick Video of my latest interview on October 23rd 2013 with Dreamworks Animator JAMES BAXTER.

Once again, James agreed to talk with our students at VANarts Media College in Vancouver B.C. Canada and answer any questions regarding his approach on animation.

It was another great morning as James and his wife Kendra joined us for over 2 hours of their time. I'm very thankful that they are willing to join us.

I took the opportunity to ask him about how he became involved with his work on the TV series Adventure Time episode  'James Baxter the Horse'.

James explains the details of how the Idea was originally thought up over 10 years ago, { At least the Idea of a Horse balancing on a beach ball } and then years later how the idea grew to become a new character for the show.
James animated the character as well as the voice performance.

It's a great moment hearing the details so I hope you enjoy this as well


James Baxter the Horse from Mark Pudleiner on Vimeo.
VANarts Animation + Story Instructor Mark Pudleiner interviews Dreamworks Animator JAMES BAXTER regarding his work on the TV series Adventure Time episode 'James Baxter the Horse'.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Just a quick note saying Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all of you that come by the Blog for a visit. Just noticed that we have had over 200,000 views ! Not bad for a small little blog out there in the big internet universe :-)
I have lots more to post as we go forward { once I finish some freelance story work }
All the best in 2014
- Mark

Monday, November 25, 2013

Marks Notes 10 - All Dogs Go To Heaven 1988 - John Pomeroy's Clean-Up Notes

Late 1987 - Dublin Ireland

My Clean Up Supervisor Vera Pacheco was leaving Don Bluth Studios in Ireland to join the Disney production of ' Who Framed Roger Rabbit ' in England. She mentored and promoted me to fill in her position as Clean-Up Supervisor for the next Don Bluth feature 'All Dogs Go To Heaven'. 

It was a great opportunity working at the level of supervisor, being responsible for keeping the  Quality of the Clean Up art work as well as producing the needed footage for each weeks quota. It was also very much a learning experience being apart of the weekly production meetings learning how the business side of things worked dealing with the pressures etc.
I still remember a few times where Don would point at me and ask where the numbers were.
I always had to explain any reasons if and why the department was behind, any issues with certain scenes etc. I learned from Vera that sometimes adding a few extra artists on one scene for the end of the week push could help fill in some gaps every now and then. 
Art and business. Always lots of pressure but very fulfilling when you get the needed numbers for the week and the director comments on how good a job your department is doing with the Quality of work.

Being new at the position I thought I might create some notes that could help the Clean-Up Artists as they got to learn this new film with the new characters.
So I asked the studios Leading Supervising Animator JOHN POMEROY if it was ok that i borrow a few moments of his time for him to go over some drawings every now and then.  
John led the animators with his beautiful sense of appeal and design in his drawings. If you know this BLOG you'll know I frequently post his work.

John really liked the Idea so once we were able to meet with our schedules I went up to his room and watched over his shoulder as he would draw over a Key clean up drawing from one of my Key Artists. He would be explaining to me the reason for each change. I scribbled down his thoughts as he continued looking over the drawing.
Once back in my room I would put together a hand out note that i would then give to each artist in my department. 

Below are the BEFORE drawing and the Pass showing John's drawn changes.
At the very bottom is the actual hand out showing the side by side differences as well as the notes that i wrote down explaining what John had told me while he was going over the drawing.

CLICK on drawing to see it Larger