This last weekend I was sitting with my son trying to help him with his art homework. He’s working on making a story and he has to come up with characters for his story. He was told to make his main character and then use that and shapes to determine the sizes of all his other characters. It reminded me of the time I was at Pixar and I learned all about how they brought COCO to life, in particular the skeletons. Let me walk you through what I learned about making skeletons for COCO.
For the skeletons, it began with Hector and getting him right.
Hector is going to be the guy that helps Miguel find his way through the world of the dead in search of his grandfather, Ernesto de la Cruz. Drawing this guy by hand doesn’t seem so hard right? Well try letting the computer take over and all sorts of crazy things happen. To get the skeleton right, they had to make rigs, and other tools, even tools to help their tools to keep the skeleton moving and staying in the correct form. Also, putting clothing on the skeletons because a challenge because there isn’t really anything keeping the bones together.
The steps that they had to take in computer animation to make the clothing work is insane. They had to cover cerain wholes that our bones leave with “cloth” to keep the clothing from bunching in between the bones. They had to tell the computer what to do in different ways. So much of what they had to do, you won’t see or notice, except in how real the clothing looks on bones.
So some of the outtakes they showed us were so funny because they had a skeleton running around and then clothing just falling off. But before they did all that, (let’s get back to what I was talking about) they also took character shape and size into consideration.
People are different sizes so their characters had to be different sizes and shapes. And different shapes mean different things, as my son will tell you, but we didn’t cover that at Pixar so I won’t get into that right now.
We chatted with four people and each one of them had a different background from animation to computer programming. It takes a true creative team to animate something at Pixar and each of them said that getting skeletons just right was much more challenging than they ever expected. It took all those backgrounds working together to create COCO.
The skulls had to be just right as well because that’s where we get all the emotion from a character. The eyes, lips, nose or lack there of give us so much. Shading is another step in creating the realism in a skull. It is broken into color, texture, and response to light. Expressions are part of the acting – FACE – They had to stay true to the bone, but for bones they had to break that a bit to add something. One. They committed to eye balls. They also decided to keep the jaw fluid and not separated. Using the mouth really well helped emphasize the emotion. And the end result was nothing less than magic.
COCO is in theaters November 22, 2017.