Graphic Design

Brave – New Reality For Pixar’s Animation Team

You may not think with a movie about people SPOILER ALERT: turning into bears, that one word used more to describe the newest Pixar sensation would be real. But that’s just the consensus among critics and movie-goers across social media alike. While Merida may have a bright orange mane, the color of which isn’t found in any nature I’ve seen, the team that created her Scottish backdrop did an excellent job capturing the feel of the terrain. The mountains and forests, albeit filled with fairies, are true to life and seemingly touchable.

BraveHow Did Pixar’s Team Achieve It?

However, this was no easy feat. Pixar’s team of animators, 80 deep to be exact, completely became one with Scottish culture, terrain, and tradition. This strict adherence to folklore and aesthetics far excels the groundbreaking work that was done on Finding Nemo less than a decade ago. Every blade of grass and every strand of hair, even freckles, come to life in this ‘animated’ wonder.

3D & Animation Software

In order to do this and make it look effortless, Pixar had to create its own proprietary software called PRESTO, to control the 130+ characters. It’s a daunting task, especially on that scale, to create individual characters and movements. Then to have them come together in one overall scene seems impossible. And it was, until Pixar created this new internal software.

This is especially evident in the scene where Merida is on the back of her horse, galloping through the dense forest, all the while sewing a large tapestry back together. If any one of those multiple elements was out of sync, the entire scene looks choppy. It doesn’t flow, and it snaps the viewer back to reality at a crucial plot point.  Also, there’s a scene where Merida, her mother (in bear form) and her horse all interact together. You have two large muscular, heavy, animals who must move true to form, next to a ‘dainty’ little girl.

But with the larger movement of these huge beasts, comes the secondary movements that are just as important. If the bear pounds its chest, there will be a ripple of movement throughout the rest of the smaller muscles and fur. It was imperative to purvey the weight and mass of these beasts, as well as the intricate facial features. The bear is, after all, still her mother. And you watch the transformation of the character from ‘momlike bear’ to plain old bear. It’s subtle, but definite.

It Also Requires Research To Get It Right

A lot of background research in biology, physiology, and physics had to go into creating this entirely new software and animation process. The truth in movement for each character and environmental feature had to be perfect before animation even began. It was all programmed into the PRESTO software with each movement painstakingly coded.

Each wisp hair, blade of grass, and muscular tissue was moved along with the overall body at the time of the movement. Previously this was done in post-production, giving the feel that it was an afterthought. But Pixar made sure every movement was accurate before moving onto the next.

No Substitute For Real Actors

Another important feature of the film, and production, was the triplets. Merida’s young brothers were modeled after the son of Directing animator. The son was given full access to the animation room. After just a short amount of time watching him it was evident that the team had the animation all wrong in the beginning.

It was important to capture the essence of childhood with the boys, the sheer joy that could be had at the simplest of tasks. That’s why you don’t see the boys actually ‘walk’ much in the film. They’re running, skipping, and jumping to their destination. Because that’s just what kids with tons of expendable energy just do.

This article was written by @Edictive, a film software company focused on delivering innovative cloud toolset to the creative media professional.

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