Angus Maclaine (Directing Animator) discusses the making of Wall E.
“In the life of an animator you learn not to throw everything into a scene. If you just have one scene to animate on a film, you’re going to animate the hell out of that thing, and you’re going to put lots of stuff in there, because you want to show everyone you can move stuff around. As a Directing Animator on the film, my goal is not to get in the way of the story. Animation added a lot – seeing stuff move around or not move around really brought it to life – but at the same time the context of the story was what was most important.
If you see a shot of WALL-E staring off screen left, then you see a shot of tumbleweed going by, then you cut back to WALL-E and he’s staring at it and his head slightly rotates and then goes up and down with a sound of a sigh, there’s a mood established by it. That’s mostly story. Animation-wise, you’re mostly still for one shot and in the next shot you’re just going up and down and rotating the head a little bit. There’s not much there. It was easy in that sense because I didn’t have to do very much! But to be honest, a lot of it was not doing very much, and having the courage not to do very much comes with time and confidence.
Because the camera was handheld-operated, it didn’t make everything feel still, so then we just tried not to get in the way of the storytelling with our animation. I think story should take a bigger bow than animation here, because the context they provided for the story allowed for a simplicity of animation that seemed like great animation, but only because it wasn’t doing that much.
Ultimately, everything we needed we had for both EVE and WALL-E. That was fortunate, but we spent a lot of time upfront getting that. The way we eventually came upon the arm design for WALL-E, allowing the arms to slide along the body, let us move the arms in front of the face, which gave us this unsure hand-wringing pose that was key to any scene with EVE where he’s unsure of his approach to her. That, to me, is huge, and largely unrecognised as a big thing in addition to the expressiveness of the eyes.
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