How They Animated Anomalisa

Animation supervisor Dan Driscoll of Robot Chicken fame discusses the challenges of making Anomalisa, one of the most lifelike, adult, stop-motion movies ever made. Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson and made at Starburns Industries, it’s a study in great performance, with spot-on attention to detail. Just the act of lighting a cigarette becomes a dramatic accomplishment. And then there’s the sex scene…

Bill Desowitz: Let’s start with 3D printing and the realism it brings to stop-motion.

Dan Driscoll: As a tool, 3D printing is amazing. It makes stop-motion more accessible. It used to be much more labored.

BD: For one thing, the resin makes skin look so much more life-like.

DD: To do stop-motion on this scale, this realistically, without 3D printing, it couldn’t have been made without it — easily.

BD: And not removing the lines is an interesting choice too. It makes it look like a mask and makes you wonder what’s underneath.

DD: Right, that was a conscious decision. This world that we’re living in for this movie is Michael Stone’s point of view.

BD: It’s about sameness and conformity and the opportunity to individualize Michael and Lisa. Movement is very important for performance. How did you achieve that?

DD: Their acting, the choices we had to make, there was a very fine line. We did tests early on shooting video reference and acting to that. It didn’t look right. You run into the same Uncanny Valley with CG. So we had to ride that line between creating a human-like performance and not being too cartoony, really portraying the emotion that we’re trying to get across.

BD: You had terrific vocal performances from David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan, which must’ve been inspiring to the animators.

DD: We definitely play off them. Of course, depending on the angle, the lighting and other conditions, you had to play to the camera.

BD: Specifically, how did you handle eyes and mouth?

DD: They were beautiful models that we created and a lot of light in the eyes is owed to our DP, Joe Passarelli. He did the highlights in there. Their eyes are twinkling so when you move them the eyes pick up the light — it really helped create the life of these puppets.

BD: What about hands?

DD: Hands are very important, and Michael’s hands were actually scaled up a little bit to get more action, more expressiveness out of them. There’s so much in getting a cigarette pose or with drinks…talking on the phone, going through the phone book, reading his speech.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Clips, How They Did It, Movies, Oscar, stop-motion, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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