This was an incredibly valuable lesson in the workflow for polishing an animated feature, which has some lessons we can directly employ for our own peer-review processes. The initially self-deprecating yet entertaining animator Andy Schmidt took us through the challenges of creating the characters for Ratatouille, (namely, how to turn vermin into an appealing character) before moving on to Pixar’s general approach to taking a scene through various levels of polish.

Notes on Pixar character development:

Each character was given a signature movement style to differentiate themselves from one another, this is something that would be great to explore with a game containing only a few diverse characters, as game animation is often diluted to facilitate sharing among multiple characters.

Much research was undertaken on both rats and the cooking world, with the team joining a local cooking course and live rats brought in to the studio and hooked up to a web-cam. This unfortunately offered nothing more than lots of footage of sleeping rats, so old favourite the BBC Motion Library proved invaluable for rat movement.

Among the many character-development sketches on show were what Andy called “Mechanical Sketches”, where the artist would envision how the skeleton rig might be placed inside the characters – something that is clearly considered at every stage of the process.

Extremely finished paintings were created over the top of in-progress models to provide early lighting/material tests.

Pose character sheets were devised to illustrate various correct-vs-incorrect methods for animating the characters – essentially style sheets setting a brand bible for each character.

A decision made late in the character-development process to begin the movie with the rat characters walking on all fours necessitated a complete rebuilding of the character rig to allow optimum animation for both biped and quadruped storytelling experience.

Much more:

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