Vancouver – At this month’s ACM SIGGRAPH Vancouver seminar, animation director Eric Darnell shared his journey from Pre-Med student to animated feature film director. Who would’ve thought that problems with Organic Chemistry and watching a televised football game would lead to becoming the director of animated hits Antz, Madagascar and Madagascar 2, with a third and final Madagascar installment currently in production.
Throughout the seminar, which was a fire-side styled chat with Glenn Entis, Eric shared some of his early, experimental work with the audience. While I did enjoy the innovative styling of the collage-animation done for REM’s “Get Up” music video, my personal favourite was animation short Gas Planet, seen below. Eric has a knack for capturing just the right expressions in his characters, to the point where dialogue is simply not required in getting the point of the animation across. Gas Planet was the recipient of the Ottawa Animation Festival’s Special Jury Prize.
I think that the one, most valuable piece of advice which Eric had for aspiring animation directors was using whatever personal time they had to create their own experimental pieces. He stated that by pursuing such interests, “the experience will make your future, paid work better, and can take you to places which you never imagined. Real life experiences make you a better director – seemingly unrelated events help you bring more to the table.” Eric also went on to state that “as the director, you are the caretaker of the story, and it is important that you have very strong writers on your team.”
Two books which Eric recommended to the audience for further learning were Story by Robert McKee (who, coincidentally is visiting Vancouver in June to present his Story seminar), and Acting for Animators by Brad Bird, Ed Hooks, and Mike Caputo. The original 2000 edition may be hard to come by, but there is a more widely accessibly updated 2003 version as well.
Near the end of the session, Glenn asked Eric what his biggest surprise was as he settled into his position as Animation Director for a feature-length animated film. Eric replied that is was most disconcerting for him “to realize that he was sort of the boss. He had to approve the art and work of people who were far senior to him in experience and talent, but that it was then he had to remember that the goal of the director is to serve the story, which goes back to being the caretaker of the story.”
Eric Darnell’s Animation Experiment: Gas Planet
This was once again a very well-presented Siggraph Vancouver event. The next event, Watchmen Revealed, will take place on June 17. Tickets are not yet on sale, but you should take this opportunity to become a member of your local SIGGRAPH chapter if you aren’t already. Membership is only $35.00 (+GST) annually, and with that membership you get reduced ticket prices for all events.
As always, a huge thank you to our event sponsors for their support and swag:
Gold Sponsors: VANarts, Sophia Books and Big Fish Games
Bronze Sponsors: Offload Studios, AnnexPro, 31337 Recruiters and Stash DVD Magazine
Friends: VEA[BC] and Society of Graphic Designers Canada – Vancouver Chapter
Check out our new Siggraph Vancouver photo gallery.