3 Tips on Achieving an Awesome Animation Performance

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Leigh Rens Animation Performance

We have an awesome post from long time mentor and WETA Digital animator, Leigh Rens! Leigh talks about 3 unique tips on how to approach your animation from philosophical ideas. This adds a whole new dimension to your character’s acting performance. Read, ponder, and go animate!

– The Animation Mentor Crew


    As animators we face the prospect like any performer in the arts to come up with a dynamic and original performance. At the same time we are also constrained by the deadline that producers set to achieve awesomeness. It is often the case that we end up compromising by falling back on the tried and true just to get shots done and subsequently left with regret that we could have done better. It is with this in mind that I present three factors to achieve an awesome performance.

  1. Playfulness
  2. This one is simply the concept of playfulness. As grown ups we have lost that sense of imagination and silliness that created some of the most amazing memories of our favorite toys and times with friends playing with our action figures, dolls. I did this early on in my career without being conscious of it. By using the idea of muppet movements to work out dialogue accents, all of sudden I was able to work out a few different performances of the same sentence, simply by being playful, give it try.

    Some opera singers have fun at a supermarket


  3. Metaphor
  4. The idea of metaphor, goes without saying but it wasn’t till I had listened to a lecture given by Ray Bradbury that a finally learned the value and impact it can have. The most common metaphors to channel are that of animals, actors and movie scenes. Humans by nature emulate success, so it is only natural that we follow and add to what’s come before but the trick is to do it in a new way and once you learn to combine the old and the new. It is only then that you learn the infinite possibilities and how to make performances your own. Classic examples are Silence of the Lambs – Anthony Hopkins says he combined the metaphor of a alligator with that of a butterfly, another would be Johnny Depp’s performance of Jack Sparrow who he based on Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.

    Johnny Depp on becoming Jack Sparrow


  5. Verbs
  6. This is a strange one but works wonders, its the concept of verbiage. Yep doing words have long been used by writers. For animators its similar but different. Here the idea comes from how the pros would explain stuff by talking through what they were doing. So combining this with doing words you can talk your character through what he or she would do in a shot or scene. Simply give voice to your character’s thoughts.

    If you are still stuck on coming up with something awesome after you have tried the above then the only thing left to do is to go memory sketching, which is the art of hanging out – people watching – memorizing an incident and sketching it later on when you get back to some paper and pencil. If you want to plus this even further, then you can build a sketchbook of ideas and you will have a pantry of poses from which to cook up a ton of performances. Happy animating with AM.

    – Leigh


    Leigh Rens

    Want to learn from mentors like Leigh Rens?

    Leigh Rens is a 15 year animation veteran. You can see some of this work in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He is also a veteran mentor at Animation Mentor since 2007. He’s taught Body Mechanics, Advanced Body Mechanics and Introduction to Acting.

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