What is your name and your current occupation?
Robert Weaver, Lead Cinematics Animator at Hydrogen Whiskey for Microsoft and LucasArt’s Star Wars Kinect game.
Hmn, crazy? I can’t think of anything crazy… Washing dishes back when I was 14 maybe…What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Shrek 2, Prince of Egypt and Spirit over at DreamWorks Animation. Those folks put a lot of quality into every project, but those are the ones that stand out as special for me. Medal of Honor (the relaunch) with EA/DangerClose and of course Star Wars Kinect with Hydrogen Whiskey. How can you NOT love to get to animate Star Wars characters?
How did you become interested in animation?
At the tender age of 16, I happened upon two animated movies that pretty much sealed my fate. The Little Mermaid and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There was just something about the charm and humor that you can only do in animation that really appealed to me.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from outside Toronto, Canada, and I got into the industry after a Job Fair at my college, Sheridan College. Recruiters were out as they are every year and Dreamworks Animation saw potential in my work. I had done some TV work dring summers at that point, but this was going to be the start of my actual career. After being recruited, I went through DreamWork’s animation training program for a year, then got onto production on Prince of Egypt, at first doing Cleanup/Final Line work, then I moved into a Junior Animator spot.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It depends on the day. Some days are spent planning or setting things up for shots or moves you’re going to be doing, and others are days where you’re just getting down to animating. Typically I will review notes etc, or instructions about what I’m going to be working on. Then I thumbnail out ideas for the acting before I haul out my digital cam-corder and shoot some reference. I find when I shoot reference after absorbing the ideas and characters I’ll be working on, I can come up with performances that are far richer than what I could just think up sitting at my desk. I then use the reference to put the “tent-poles” of my acting together… once I get that signed off on, I’ll knuckle down and start fleshing everything out.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I have to say finding the performance is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. When you can “feel” your character, really get inside his head, then the process or translating that to movement is really enjoyable. You continue to find little ways you can plus your shot or move, giving it character and personality.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I’d have to say the technical snags working in 3D invariably leads to. While they’re necessary and can’t really be avoided (since forecasting every possible way in which something needs to be done is pretty much impossible), they are aggravating, especially when I’m in “animating mode”… It’s a left-brain right-brain gear shift I have trouble making at the drop of a hat. If I’m in what I call “search and destroy” mode for finding or figuring out why something isn’t working as expected, then it’s not a big deal, but if I’m in “creative mode” where I’m more on my right brain, then I definitely find the little (or big) tech snags to be a source of aggravation, but you learn to roll with it, or failing that, bitching about it to friends and family later that day..:D
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Mostly it’s the difficulties involved in working with producers or executives who don’t understand the animation process… I have been blessed with amazing producers and the like who really “get” what we’re doing, but I’ve also had to deal with some who don’t have animation backgrounds and tend to treat animation like a live-action shoot. Some seem to believe that if they don’t like something, it’s just a matter of an hour or so to completely re-do the animation on it. When you combine this with capricious changes or not knowing exactly what it is they want, this can get tiresome. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened a lot for me, and is also just one of those things you learn to deal with. Obviously not everyone is an animator or has an animation background, so you can understand where the disconnect comes from, but it also doesn’t make my job easier.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
PC’s, varying editions of Maya, video editing software, several great tools developed over the years, a camcorder and PhotoShop.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Another area I’ve been blessed with is having gotten to work for or with some of my heroes in animation. James Baxter, Kristof Serand, Duncan Marjoribanks, Rodolph Guenodin to name a few. Getting to work on Shrek 2 would also count as “great” for me since it was such a successful movie, and was also fun to work on.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’m always thinking up new things I’d like to do… tho it’s hard to find the time to get around to actually doing some of the more ambitious ideas, and I do some illustration work (or hobby) on the side at times. It depends on my schedule.
Well, I guess my unusual talent is being able to do fairly dead-on impressions of both Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog (and a few others of his characters)… Don’t ask me how the same voice can do both characters, it just does.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Network, Network network network… trust me, in this business who you know counts for a lot. I don’t just mean recruiters, try to find ways to connect with your fellow animation pros.. we’re mostly a bunch of great guys and gals, and we’re not given to biting too often. Beyond that, keep plugging away at it and learn to become your own harshest critic. While “good enough” will sometimes be good enough, great is always more memorable…