Dec 5, 2013

Another Video of Christmas Cheer!

I'm very thankful for our military, and for the long tradition of the bands that are maintained by the different branches of service. To promote their Christmas concert series, here's a flash mob by the US Air Force Band at the Air and Space Museum.  Absolutely wonderful.  Wish I could've been there when it happened!

Angels We Have Heard on High

In the spirit of the Christmas season beginning, and Advent now upon us, here's an incredible rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High".  Gloria in excelsis Deo, indeed.

Nov 6, 2013

Old Man

I've been working for a while on development for a personal project about an old man (my last post was an animation test for it).  Thought I'd share a few of the pieces I've done for it...a few have been posted on my portfolio page for a few months.  I really feel like I've hit my stride with the story, though, in the past few weeks, which has made me really excited to keep moving forward!

Oct 30, 2013

Old Man Animation

Been playing around with 2D animation more.  I really enjoy it and am looking forward to trying to make some more substantial shots in that style.  I especially like the animation functionality in Photoshop, which allows for real-time compiling of sketches, inks, and backgrounds.  I don't think it would work for any camera movements, but I'm just doing still shots right now.

Here's a very rough pencil test I did yesterday of an old man walking down a street.

Oct 22, 2013

22 Rules of Pixar Storytelling, What's the deal with rules, Joe Ranft, and Rule #23

A few months ago, the animation world was abuzz over former Pixar story artist Emma Coats' 22 tweets about storytelling. Many dubbed them as "Pixar's 22 Rules", as if following these, and only these 22 tips, is the way that the studio comes up with all its ideas. Some of them are definitely used by Pixar. I had the opportunity to attend a Pixar Masterclass in Chicago last year, with the first section taught by Matthew Luhn, story artist extraordinaire.  Probably fifteen of the 22 'rules' were discussed there.  Why?  Because they are excellent things to keep in mind when developing your characters because they keep the story from going stale.  For example:

#6 - What is your character good at, comfortable with?  Throw the polar opposite at them.  Challenge them. How do they deal? (think Marlin/Dory, Carl/Russell, Remy/Skinner)

#13 - Give your characters opinions.  Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience. (think about some of the greatest stories ever told: The Iliad ("Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles"), Romeo & Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, Moby Dick...all have driven characters who cause the story to happen.  Opinions give your characters places to go and things to learn).

#19 - Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating. (this is simply anti-Deus ex Machina, which is when at the end of a story, when there's no possible hope for the character, something miraculous and unlikely rescues them.  Toy Story 3 parodied this idea in the garbage dump scene, where the characters were literally saved from the maw and fires of toy hell by a machine.)

However, they are still simply tips, not outright rules, as Mike Bonifer at recently pointed out.  He ties it all in to the late Joe Ranft, the true master of the Pixar story process, who died in 2005.

Joe, he says, would've added a Rule #23 to the list, which would've been something off the wall.

When I reflect on Joe’s approach to things, and Emma’s 22 Rules, I imagine him (and others, there were always others, everybody got caught up in his infectious energy) coming up with a game called Rule #23.  The Game would need only one Guideline: There is always another Rule. The Objective of the game would be to come up with a new Rule #23. This is where Joe would shine. All a person had to do is suggest something like this to Joe and he’d run with it. Sometimes for days. Here are some Rule #23s I imagine when I think about Joe–

- Rule #23: To see if your story is working, tell it backwards, from end to beginning.
- Rule #23: Every character should be performed as if it’s a Best Supporting Actor role.
- Rule #23: Present your scenes in gibberish and pantomime to see if the emotional content of the scene gets clearly conveyed.
- Rule #23: Begin an original story with the conclusion of another story.

And I can’t imagine that Joe would have missed Rule #23s like–

- Rule #23: Ask WWWWD (What Would Willy Wonka Do? Or What Would Walter White Do? Or call random people in the phone book whose initials are “WW” and ask them what would they do.)
- Rule #23: To see how a character would walk up a flight of stairs, stage a Walking Up a Flight of Stairs contest. Everyone has to walk the winning walk for the rest of the day.
- Rule #23: CSI: Criminal Story Investigation: What have you done, you sick bastard?!!! Confess your story!

And finally–

- Rule #23: There are no Rules except Rule #23.

This is all really important to keep in mind as you create your stories; rules are often accumulated wisdom from generations of people learning what works and what doesn't.  But in a creative field, sticking only to the rules is staid and boring.

I was lucky enough recently to have lunch with Andy Crouch whose excellent book Culture Making is worth reading by anyone.  We began discussing stories and frameworks.  He had mentioned that before making any good creative endeavor, a creator must know what came before.  A filmmaker must have a knowledge of film language, a musician must have an understanding of music that has come before, etc.  Only by knowing the rules that have been developed can an artist truly break them in a new and innovative way. Take Picasso, for example.  The entire Cubism movement was born out of Picasso's deep knowledge of his predecessors and the principles of painting.  He learned to break the rules in an purposeful way.  But he learned how to sketch and paint in the classical manner first.  Did you know that the following were done by Picasso?

In a similar way, anyone telling a story should have an idea of what classic story structure entails.  Why do we have three acts?  Why are there character archetypes?  Now, how do you meld, edit, and transform them?  That's what has truly made so much of Pixar so excellent (Andy Crouch, in fact, mentioned how in Ratatouille, Anton Ego is not defeated, as a typical story would require.  Instead, he's made an ally and a patron, not only defeated, but redeemed by Remy.  Knowledgeable rule-breaking!)

So use Emma's 22 "Rules".  Use the classic structures.  Watch movies, read books.  All that.  And be like Joe Ranft!

P.S. Here's a beautiful tribute to Joe that's been around for years but I recently found.

Sep 20, 2013

Best Friends

A dog named Bella and an elephant named Bubbles are best friends.  This just seemed like important news to post.  I hope one doesn't squish the other on accident.

Sep 18, 2013

Poseidon (or Neptune?)

I just finished reading one of the Percy Jackson books (Mark of Athena) in preparation for the next one coming out.  Then, I was doing some reading in the Odyssey, because it's an awesome story.  It made me think of how unpleasant it would be to have a god pitted against you, especially if it were the sea god and you were, you know, on the sea, like Odysseus and his men.

So I came up with a character design for Poseidon.  He's got some barnacles, a kelp beard, and a trident that's made of pieces of an old dock.  He also has tattoos which are based on designs found in Minoan paintings.  This is not a guy you want to have mad at you.

scene and color adjustment

Sep 17, 2013

Hey, It's Been a Long Time!

Well, howdy, folks!  It's been a long time since I last blogged...I didn't realize it's been since June!  Life is crazy like that.  Before you know it, it's suddenly autumn.  We've already made a pie, watched a football game, and been all over the world since I last wrote!  From France to England to Sweden to Disney World, it's been a whirlwind two months.  Highlights include:

  • eating croissants in the Luxembourg Gardens
  • wandering random Parisian streets
  • happening upon a Mass at Notre Dame
  • driving through Devon and Somerset
  • discovering the graves of Emily's great-great-great-grandmother/father in a little churchyard in southwest England
  • enjoying the history of Bath
  • hiking in Dartmoor National Park
  • having lots of fikas with friends in Stockholm
  • eating Swedish meatballs and reindeer
  • Skansen!
  • quality time with family throughout Disney World, including a wonderful lunch with my grandma and grandpa at the Coral Reef restaurant in Epcot
  • seeing the new Be Our Guest restaurant and Fantasyland expansion

I'm happy to be back, but incredibly grateful for family, friends, and the ability to see and experience so many incredible things!

Here's the clan at Disney...what a good looking group!

And here's me, happy to be at Disney.  I love that place so much.

Jun 17, 2013

Smoky Mountains

I just returned from a delightful trip to the Smoky Mountains with my mom's family.  The mountains are gorgeous this time of year, and we had some fun experiences, including a five mile hike in the middle of a deluge where we lost the trail and a bear encounter in Cades Cove.  The bear we saw was in the middle of a meadow and crossed in front of my uncle's van, just a few yards away.  It got me thinking...what would happen if you were all alone on one of those trails and happened upon a bear?

Jun 6, 2013

Remembering D-Day

Taken from the internet:

You know what I did this morning? Maybe it would be better if I told you what I didn't do this morning.
I didn't have to spend over 12 hours on a transport ship in choppy water, then clamber down a cargo net into a plywood landing craft, all while carrying up to 100 pounds of gear on my back. Then, I didn't ride through the rough surf in that little plywood target, only to have the steel ramp (the only part of the little plywood boat that was even remotely bullet-resistant) flop down and drop me into the cold ocean water in front of a beach filled with steel obstacles, mines, flying bullets & exploding artillery rounds.
I didn't fly over enemy occupied territory at 1000 feet in a C47 cargo plane and then jump out of the plane into the teeth of enemy anti-aircraft fire. I didn't have to worry about my bright white silk parachute making me a good target for troops on the ground who wanted to use me for target practice, and after I landed, I didn't have to worry about engaging a vastly superior force with only the gear I carried with me (providing that said gear wasn't ripped off by the turbulence I encountered exiting the plane) with whoever I could gather together from the other troops dropped behind enemy lines the same as I was.
I didn't march into a plywood glider (PLYWOOD, as we've already established, is NOT very resistant to gunfire and explosions) and sit quietly while I was towed into anti-aircraft fire, only to be released and experience a controlled crash into trees, buildings or apparently open fields that were booby trapped with wooden poles and steel cables by the enemy. 
I wasn't asked to take my place in a McGyvered together amphibious tank, where I would most likely be swamped by the waves and sink to the bottom of the English Channel like....well, like a tank rigged for amphibious operations with lumber and canvas. And if I DID happen to get to the beach, I would have been the prime target of every enemy artillery piece for miles around. 
I wasn't asked to sit in a command bunker deep beneath London looking at casualty projections that predicted that we would lose 60% of the airborne troops committed to this battle and a good chunk of the troops storming the beaches, and I also didn't prepare a letter taking full blame for the possible disaster in order to protect my political leaders. 
You know what? Now that I've told you what I DIDN'T do this morning, what I actually DID seems pretty freakin' trivial. Veterans of the Normandy landing are becoming scarce now that we're sixty-five years down the road from that horrible day, but if you know one of them, make sure to thank them on this day. And don't limit yourself to D-Day vets - whether it was Normandy, Okinawa, the Chosin Reservoir, the Tet Offensive, Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu, Fallujah, or just some godforsaken mountain road at the ass-end of Afghanistan, EVERYONE who served this country in uniform deserves a hearty handshake and our everlasting gratitude on this day.

Many of them were 18 or 19 years old...barely even adults.

And here's Reagan's speech for the 40th anniversary.  Whether you love, despise, or are indifferent to Reagan, this is an unbelievable speech.

Jun 4, 2013

Some Singin' Ladies

Last weekend, a group of ladies from a sister congregation came and sang at our church.  They had great character and came in such different shapes and sizes, so I decided to draw them up.

May 8, 2013

A Color/Composition Study

It's a killer whale attacking an otter, all dramatically and stuff.  Kind of a followup to this one.

On a totally different note, apparently Alabama is the last state in the union where homebrewing is illegal.  I had no idea!  The legislature just passed a bill to legalize it, and I think the governor is expected to probably sign it (he hasn't committed though).  I was planning on brewing up a batch this weekend anyway, but now I'll do it in solidarity with the new Dixie brewers.

Apr 29, 2013


Arizona inspired me to draw a bunch of cactuses.  There were so many cool and weird ones out there!

Apr 23, 2013

Ever Been Mauled by a Cougar?

We just got back from a delightful trip in Arizona, where we had a great time visiting friends and doing a lot of hiking.  One of those funny things about the Midwest is the fact that there's almost nothing that can harm you.  Um, yeah, that's not true with Arizona.

I have a bad habit of researching the wildlife of whatever place I'm traveling to before going.  Sometimes that's cool.  Sometimes it just convinces me that I'm going to die.  This time, it was the latter.  Turns out everything in Arizona can kill you.  If it's not a saguaro cactus falling on you, it's a mountain lion mauling you.  Or a scorpion stinging you.  Or a black widow biting you.  Or a rattlesnake striking you.  Or a tarantula chomping you.  Or a gila monster chewing on you.  Or a javelina charging you.  As far as I can tell, you pretty much can't go outside without automatically being preyed on by something.

Luckily we beat my mind's odds and survived all our hikes.  They were beautiful, but I did spent the entire time absolutely convinced that this is what was happening:

Now I can just look forward to the next time I go swimming and get eaten by a shark.

Apr 17, 2013

Elephant Light Studies

I should be on an airplane to the sunny southwest right now, but there's a massive thunderstorm going through which has delayed my flight.  Therefore, I decided to do some light studies with elephants.

Apr 16, 2013

Orcas in a Plane!

Not quite Snakes on a Plane, but close enough.  I just found this commercial, which I remember thinking was the coolest thing in the world back when I was a kid.  I was sure that they really put whales in there.  It came out in 1992.  Pretty effective ad, I daresay.  Though more of a joke now, with all the annoyances of airlines taking away any semblance of comfort.

Zombie Dodos and Pigeons and Mammoths, Oh My!

A stranger thing that's been going around the science news lately (and around science for a decade or two) is the idea of de-extinction, or bringing back currently extinct animals:

That sounds so cool, right?  Do it!

Well, maybe not so fast.  Like any act of 'playing God,' this kind of thing could have serious and unintended consequences.  Just ask Dr. Ian Malcolm.

However, before we get too excited, we need to make a few things clear.

  • Jurassic Park won't be happening anytime soon.  Why?  Well, DNA has a half-life of 521 years, which means that after 521 years under normal conditions, half of the DNA sequence will be gone.  After 521 more years, half of the remaining half will be gone, and so on.  Scientists have estimated that the farthest back we could go with DNA would be a few hundred thousand years under ideal conditions.  Therefore, dinosaurs aren't the focus here.
  • More broadly, we need DNA to recreate anything.  If there aren't samples that have at least somewhat retrievable DNA, we won't be able to bring it back (unless we use the less exact method of selective breeding, which I'll discuss below).
  • I'm not going get into whether this the right thing or not to do.  That is a philosophical debate more than anything, with legitimate arguments on both sides.  But the 'cool' factor is pretty powerful.
  • We've actually already done it. (???)  That's right, we have, a decade ago, when a group of scientists brought back from extinction the bucardo, an ibex species in Spain and France, which had gone extinct in 2000.  However, the little bucardo that was born had an extra lobe on its lung and died after only ten minutes.  So, for ten minutes in 2003, we had de-extincted the bucardo.

So, how exactly does this work?  Simply enough, actually (in theory).  Let's assume that you have a full or nearly-full DNA sequence contained in a surviving cell.  You find yourself a suitable host (which can be difficult if the creature has no close relatives) and take an egg from the host.  You then scoop out the DNA of the egg and replace it with the extinct animal's DNA.  Then you implant it into the host.  Lather, rinse, repeat, and hope one of them sticks.  For that poor little bucardo who ended up dying, they tried 57 different hosts.  Only seven had successful implantations, and only one of those carried to term.

Now, that raises the question.  What happens if we can't find a suitable host?  Some extinct animals, such as the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon, and the buscardo have close relatives that are still living (Asian elephant, band-tailed pigeon, and domestic goat, respectively).  Others, such as the Tasmanian Tiger, the dodo, or the giant sloth, may prove more difficult (though for a dodo, you'd probably just need a big enough egg, which may not be that hard to procure).

Alternatively, suppose we have a host (such as an Asian elephant), but we are still struggling to find a full DNA sequence (such as the woolly mammoth).  In that case, I don't quite know what happens.  In Jurassic Park, there's that goofy video where they say they've replaced DNA holes with frog and lizard DNA.  I'm not a scientist, so I'm not sure if you can do that.  You probably can do something like it, though.  However, if they could use the soft tissue from mammoth remains to get a full DNA sequence, that would be just plain awesome.

And that's generally the situation we're in right now.  We're trying to patch together sequences of DNA to get a complete sequence from long-dead species.

One of the other de-extinction methods (though I don't think this one is really what it claims to be) is, by selective breeding, to reverse-engineer an extinct animal.  The most notable of these is the Tauros Project, which seeks to bring back the aurochs, the ancestor of the modern cow.  This is made possible because (a) the species only went extinct in 1627 and (b) there are many, many old breeds of cattle, which, genetically, are very similar to the aurochs (for example, see the image below, which shows the male and female of many breeds of cattle, with the aurochs at the bottom):

However, does that mean that a reverse-engineered aurochs would be an aurochs?  I don't think so...I think it would just be a cow that looks like an aurochs.  But, as I already mentioned, I'm not a scientist.

For a good discussion from a TED Talk on the state of de-extinction, check this one out:

Assuming this can actually happen, here's my top five list of animals that absolutely need to be brought back from the dead:

  1. Woolly Mammoth - luckily, this one is actually pretty likely.  There are tons of examples of soft tissue and hair, which may contain full DNA sequences.  Plus, we have Asian elephants, which would be great surrogates.  However, shockingly, we've never harvested elephant eggs before, so that's kind of a hangup right now, beyond the DNA issue.
  2. Tasmanian Tiger - We have videos of the thing, so know a lot about it.  We also have samples of it (I think).  I hope someone's working on this one, since it would be a cool, weird animal.  It also only went extinct in 1936.
  3. Saber-toothed Cat - Really any of them (since there are a few different species).  It would just be way too cool to see how one of these things eats and whatnot with the ginormous teeth.  I haven't heard anything about anyone trying to bring this one back, though.
  4. Dodo - Does this even need an explanation?  It's a dodo, people.
  5. Baiji - This poor little river dolphin recently went extinct (like, in 2004), which is totally sad.  There aren't enough river dolphins in the wild.  There should be more.

Honorable mentions go to the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet, the Great Auk, and the Giant Sloth.

I really want to see this thing happen.  For reals, y'all.

Apr 11, 2013

More Henry Stuff

I've been working on environments for the last few days, playing with what a Tudor-era village street would look like.  The buildings are a ton of fun to create, with all the interesting wood patterns and outcroppings and whatnot...

Apr 10, 2013

Anne Boleyn

As a followup to yesterday's post, here's a design for the ill-fated queen, Anne Boleyn.

Apr 9, 2013

Henry VIII Character Design

I've been doing a bunch of character designs lately, but one that I've been having a lot of fun with is crazy ol' King Henry VIII.  I was playing with giving him a nutty face, crazed eyes, and a nice complementary color scheme, with fiery reds and oranges for his clothing and face to push his temper and intense personality (and the fact that red was the kingly color of the middle ages), tempered by some bright blue-greens, which in my designs of him and his wives, is used for lusty desire.  So, as he he falls for new women, they are in greens, but as he falls out of love with them, they devolve into grays and browns, with the next in line being replaced by the greens.  I may have more on that later.

But here's Henry!

Apr 2, 2013

Finding Dory

UPDATE: Plot line will be roughly as follows (h/t Buzzfeed):

In 'Finding Dory,' she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way."

According to Stanton, "Finding Dory" takes place about a year after the first film, and features returning favorites Marlin, Nemo and the Tank Gang, among others. Set in part along the California coastline, the story also welcomes a host of new characters, including a few who will prove to be a very important part of Dory's life.

Pixar, via Ellen Degeneres, has announced that the rumored Finding Nemo sequel is, indeed, moving ahead.  The title will be Finding Dory.  What I wonder is whether this will be a true sequel (Dory gets lost and needs to be rescued/found) or a prequel (the story of Dory) or a mid-quel (what was happening to Dory up until the moment she ran into Marlin).  It could potentially also be her finding out where she comes from/who she is.  I have a hard time imagining Pixar passing on the chance to have an entire family of Dories floating about, forgetting everything.

Either way, having just recently watched Toy Story 3 again, I'm content that Pixar can make some pretty darn good sequels.

Mar 20, 2013

Someone Animated Calvin and Hobbes

Just a short, 30-second test, but it's great.  Good work, guy whose video I found via a link on the Internet.

Mar 16, 2013

Happy St. Patty's!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.  Congrats to all you Irish folk for making it through another year.  Emily and I celebrated this evening by watching Waking Ned Devine, a really delightful Irish comedy about a guy who dies after he wins the lottery and his tiny town in Ireland trying to claim the money, and drinking some green-tinted beer.  Additionally, here's one of my favorite animated films ever, Give Up Yer Aul Sins; a little kid tells her version of the story of St. Patrick.


Mar 9, 2013

How to Become the Pope

As someone who is not Catholic, this is a very helpful video to explain what goes into the choosing of a new pope.  It's entertaining to boot, so hey!

Feb 18, 2013

Some Mammoth Designs

Playing a bit with color in these two woolly mammoths, which I did today:

Feb 13, 2013

This Year's Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Few weekends ago, Emily and I went and saw the Oscar-nominated animated shorts for 2013 in a theater in town.  It was pretty cool, as I have never done that before (usually I just see who won without ever getting to watch the actual shorts).  Even cooler is the fact that most of them have been released in full online.  So here they are, in no particular order:

Paperman (Walt Disney Animation Studio)

There has been A LOT of buzz in the animation community about this short, which combines 2D, 3D, vector graphics, and more into a sweet little short.  While it breaks a lot of new technical ground (see the video I've pasted after the actual short for that), the story itself is a little bland.  I do, however love the character designs.  And the lighting!  Oh, the beautiful lighting!  And, as with all Disney animation, the artistry is basically flawless.


Head Over Heels (National Film and Television School, UK)

This is a sweet stop-motion film about a couple that no longer really sees eye-to-eye.  The sets are incredible, and the animation is good.  The characters' designs are a little creepy, in my opinion.


Fresh Guacamole (PES)

This was made by PES, a guy by himself in his kitchen.  It's really well done and got, by far, the most audience applause.  Clearly, more of an artistic piece than a character piece.  I didn't know anything about this short going into it, but I was really pleasantly surprised by it.


The Longest Daycare (Simpsons people)

I can't find this one in its entirety anywhere.  It got the most laughs (and is very funny), but doesn't really break any new ground or anything.  It felt more like an old-school cartoon from the 1930s or 1940s (in a modern style).  Here's a trailer for it:


Adam and Dog (Minkyu Lee)

I've been following this film for a while because I heard about it through other blogs.  It's an independent project by a CalArts grad, made with his friends from school who are now working for Disney, Pixar, and the other big studios.  Stylistically, it is right up my alley, and its execution is really wonderful.  The story idea--why are man and dog so inseparable?--is brilliant.  While there are a few times the shots aren't totally clear as to what's going on, overall, this film is my favorite and my hope for the win.  The background are gorgeous, too, and most of the compositions of shots are peaceful and dramatic at the same time.  It's like watching a wonderful combination of Disney design with a Miyazaki flair.

Feb 12, 2013

Downton Caricatures, Round IV

Sorry, I missed last week.  But here's a bigger one than usual--the three Crawley sisters! (...a little late for the one...)

This past week it came out (pun!) that Thomas is gay, and the Downton faniverse is abuzz over how accurate it would be that Grantham would keep him on staff (and promote him?) if we were really in the 1920s.  Also, Mary still isn't pregnant and Edith is a writer, so good for her, finally (but the guy has a whole Jane Eyre undivorceable wife thing going on).

On a different note, some of you have expressed interest in purchasing these (thanks for your interest!).  Right now, none of them are for sale, but I'm hoping to figure out the legal issues surrounding selling fan art.  So, hopefully they will be available sometime soon.

Jan 28, 2013

Downton Caricatures, Round III

Oh, what a sad, sad episode!  I shan't spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched it.  But we've finally learned who's going to be knocked off.  Such a shame.

And here's this week's caricature dump: Mrs. Patmore the cook, and Cora, the super-boring Countess Grantham.

Jan 26, 2013

Animating Dogs, Part II: More Gaits, and Examples

This is a continuation of my earlier post on animating dogs.

The Trot

The trot is a rather quick gait, between a walk and a run.  It is notable in that the feet on each side of the dog move opposite each other.  That means, for example, when the right front leg is forward, the right back leg will be backward.  When the front leg is backward, the back leg is forward.  See the image below to understand what I mean:

It's important to see that there are 'flying' stages, in which no feet are on the ground.  These happen, in the picture above, at frames 1 and 7 (or possibly 6, since 7 appears to have one foot touching the ground).

Another way to think of the trot is as a 'symmetrical gait' (which is how it's actually defined), where the diagonally opposing limbs of an animals body (e.g. right front/left rear or left front/right rear) move together.  This means that when the right front is going forward, the left rear is doing the exact same thing.  Timing-wise, they are almost identical, but the rear feet move a little more quickly than the front, meaning that the rear feet will hit the ground about one frame before the front feet, and they will lift up about one frame before the front feet as well.

Each side's cycle will take about 6-8 frames, so the full cycle will be 12-16, or about the amount of time of a fast human walk.

The Gallop/Run

This Edward Muybridge sequence is excellent for showing a typical dog run cycle.  A dog's run, like most animals, is notable for two things: (1) the very long period of suspension, where all legs are off the ground and (2) the compression and expansion of the spine.

In a dog's run, the head generally leads, and in many ways, the feel of the run is that the head is pulling the entire rest of the body forward.  Notice, for example, in the image above, how the neck between the first frame and the second goes from compressed to extended.  It remains extended until the next to last frame of the cycle.  The shoulders follow suit, extending fully by the third frame (notice how straight the back is at that point), and the hips follow about one frame later.

The spine is fully compressed on the last frame of the row (6) and full extended on the third.  When compressed, the head to the spine forms a beautiful S-curve, and when extended, it forms a very shallow, almost linear reverse-S curve.  It's this reversal of curves that gives the the run energy.

The hips are at their highest point on the next-to-last frame (immediately before the compression).  They are at their lowest on the second frame.  The shoulders are almost the opposite, at their highest on the third frame and their lowest on the fifth (when the hips are at their highest).

Now, to the legs.  In a run, the front and rear legs work in slightly offset pairs, more similar to a bound, like a squirrel:

For a small mammal like a squirrel, the front and back legs will almost be in total sync.  Both front legs will lift up and fall together.  Both back legs will do the same.  For a dog, the general movement is similar, but the timing is a little asymmetrical.

First look at the dog's back legs in the Muybridge series, since they provide the real 'power' to the run. You'll see that the legs lift off the ground one frame apart.  In this case, the left rear leg lifts off slightly before the right.  The two then travel through the air together, and the left rear contacts the ground just before the right.  The difference in that one frame, however, is enough for the legs to be very far apart when they push off again.  Notice in the first frame of the first row how far the legs, which only a frame before (frame 6, the last in the row) were almost symmetrical.  The same is true of the front legs.  The right front leg lifts off just before the left one, then they travel through the air almost symmetrically (with the left trailing slightly behind).  The right one then hits the ground one frame before the left, but in that time, they move very far apart from each other, forming a triangle-shape from the side.

Timing-wise, you can see that there is only about one frame of suspension.  The front legs touch down first, followed by the back, but by the time the back legs have hit the ground, the front are already in the air again.  As a general rule, each foot only touches the ground for about one frame, and none of them at the same time.

The whole run ultimately follows the pattern (based on foot touching the ground on each frame):

  1. RF
  2. LF
  3. compressed spine suspension (no legs touching the ground)
  4. LR
  5. RR
  6. extended spine suspension (no legs touching the ground).

Putting it all Together: Other Dog Moves with Examples from the Past

That about covers, very briefly, the basic gaits of a dog.  Naturally, there is more detail I left out, and endless variations.  We'll explore some of those variations below.

Like any animated character, the most important thing you can have isn't simply proper movements, but character.  Any animated dog should have a personality, readily identifiable by how s/he moves.  As you'll see below, the way Perdita (101 Dalmatians) moves is radically different from, say, Trusty (Lady and the Tramp), which is totally different from Dug (Up).

For each character, I'll explain what makes them unique and show how that uniqueness is expressed by his/her movements.

Side note: You'll notice that all my examples are Disney/Pixar.  That's both because they have done so many animated dogs and because they do them with a strict eye toward realism.  For cartoonier dogs (but still dog-like), check out Warner Bros. or Astro from The Jetsons or Scooby Doo or Odie from Garfield or even Disney's own Pluto.  For totally human-like dogs, which are effectively animated as bipedal humans with dog faces, check out Goofy, Brian from Family Guy, Snoopy from Peanuts, Wile E. Coyote, Gromit, or Underdog.

101 Dalmatians


Pongo's character is, first, that of the bachelor dog, and then, that of the consummate dad trying to rescue his kids.  What's wonderful is how you can see the change in his demeanor throughout the film.  It's subtle, but substantial, and very personal.  Pongo is a dog's version of the everyman; thrust into a situation in which he must first save his children, then agree to adopt and save many others, he answers the challenge, but changes from a boy to a man (or, in this case, a pup to a dog).  For example, watch this clip, where he first woos Perdita, and notice how puppy-like he is.  The bachelor's life is carefree and easy, without a worry, and all fun and romance.  Pongo is full of energy:

As an animator, you can see the poses which show off his excitable young self.

However, in his role of dad, he's protective and careful.  Still, clearly, energetic, but very determined and duty-bound.  In the next clip, you can see how restrained he is now.  His focus is no longer finding a wife and having fun, but instead it is being responsible for ninety-nine puppies.  You can see him count them, encourage the little ones, then pick up Lucky, the straggler.  He then runs ahead, with a burst of necessary energy to tell Perdita that they should turn around and head to the dairy barn.  Finally, when he's in the barn, you see the wear the ordeal is taking on him.  No longer is he the puppy he used to be.

His movements throughout demonstrate how his character changes.


Perdita, similar to Pongo, is kind of the 'everymom' (at least the everymom of the 1960's).  She's feminine and dainty, but also protective and determined, like Pongo.  Her character, in the film, is more of a supporting role.  She's the one who hates Cruella; she's the one who can outwardly sob and fear for her puppies; she and Pongo together can care for them.

Notice how dainty her walk cycle is.  I just love it.  Everything about both she and Anita says that they are reasonably upper-crust and very proper.  The juxtaposition of them versus flailing, uncontained Pongo and Roger is striking.


I love the Colonel (reading a children's version of the story was when I first learned how 'colonel' isn't spelled 'kernel').

The Colonel is big and old.  He's hairy and slow-moving.  He's the consummate old military bureaucrat.

I didn't find a good clip of him moving that didn't cut off quickly, but what I have gives you some idea of his gait.  The important thing to remember is that he lumbers.  The Colonel doesn't move if he doesn't have to.  He also doesn't stick his head where it doesn't need to be.  In that way, he's the exact opposite of energetic, quick Pongo.  When he turns to run, his heavy mass gives him a very slow acceleration.


The film, obviously, is full of puppies, so no is as good a time as any to talk about how puppies move. Like any young thing, you need to keep in mind the sizes of their various extremities and how that will change their gaits.

Generally, puppies move like normal dogs.  Their walk and run sequences are broadly the same, in terms of what moves at what time.  However, to get the characteristics of 'puppy' you can do a few things.

What makes a puppy a puppy?  They are smaller than their adult selves, with relatively bigger paws, bigger heads, bigger ears, and bigger eyes.  They're also a bit chubbier than when they grow up.  And, because they are young, they are far less sure (or overly sure) in their movements, meaning that their walks are either more shaky and deliberate (so, slower) or far more exuberant and bouncy, depending on the mood.  All of these give great opportunities for personality.

Here, for example, is a clip of Patch trying to be brave, but then being scared away.  Notice how as he barks, his entire body jumps up.  There's a full-body effect to everything a puppy does.  As he runs, his feet rotate all over the place, then as he runs into the corner, he lacks control over his weight and slides across the floor.  Also, notice the big ears, and the beautiful overlapping that happens throughout.

Another simple 'puppy' movement, is, during the walk cycle, to have the feet come up much higher.  To an extent, this will happen naturally, since puppy feet are so much bigger than in dogs.  But, like a young child walking, where their knees go up unnecessarily high, a puppy will lift its feet extra high to clear the ground, like in this clip, of an adorable puppy trying to walk on a treadmill (also note how his much his tail wags, and how it rotates his entire hindquarters; that's a very 'puppy thing'):

When a puppy runs, it bounds more than a dog.  That is, it's body goes up a lot higher and at a bigger angle.  Instead of remaining effectively horizontal, the entire body goes up at a 45 degree angle and then down.  Below is a run cycle copied from The Illusion of Life, based on Copper the hound from The Fox and the Hound.  Notice the angle of the body and the extreme angles of the spine (and how the head angles a lot between figure 1 and figure a dog, that would be far less of an angle).

Lady and the Tramp


Lady is a small breed, called a Cocker Spaniel.  Here's a bit of an intro to the breed:

Because Lady is a small and long-haired, big-eared dog, she isn't quite as nimble as, say Perdita, even while remaining very feminine in character.  She walks slowly and deliberately and keeps her head up, so to keep her ears from swiping the ground.  From the video above, you can see that Cockers have very active tails.  Because of their low center of gravity, they can also stand on their haunches fairly easily.  Both of these things are demonstrated here, when Lady first meets Darling's new baby:

As Lady gets older, she does a lot of trotting, which we looked at before.  In this way, it's used to add character, making Lady a little pompous, showing off her new license.


There's not much to say about the Tramp.  He moves very, very similarly to Pongo (especially young, bachelor Pongo).  His face is obviously hairier, and his ears are bouncier because they're held up on his head, but beyond that, almost everything he does is that of a basic, medium-sized, thin dog.

You can see from this model sheet that the Tramp's main feature is his very expressive face (of course, without good body animation, that doesn't matter!), but look at his expressions:

Jacques and Trusty

Jacques (or 'Jock'...not quite sure how it's actually spelled) is a Scottish Terrier, and he moves very similarly to Lady, though even smaller.  It's interesting to notice that, while he's about the size of one of the Dalmatian puppies in 101 Dalmatians, he walks with much more surety and fluidity than the pups.  His walk is quick-stepped, with low, sweeping feet.

Trusty the bloodhound, on the other hand, is big and gangly.  He has big feet, saggy skin, floppy ears, and long legs.  Whereas Jacques almost floats when he walks, Trusty seems to almost flop.  Like a puppy, his feet are so big that he must lift them higher for each step.  This results in a lot of bounce in his hips and shoulders.  Also, due to his age and nature as a tracking dog, he generally keeps his head very low, unlike Lady, who holds hers proudly aloft.  When Trusty sits, you can see how he usually holds his head far below his shoulders, while Jacques keeps his up, like Lady (see photo below).

The following clip demonstrates some great dog movements.  Beyond the gallop, like we discussed above, it shows off the sniffing/tracking that dogs are known for.  Trusty keeps his face firmly planted to the ground, as he quickly walks.  His head sweeps back and forth, being sure not to miss anything.  His sniffing nose takes three frames to get to its maximum height, then two to return to the ground

As they run, you can also see how flexible Trusty's long spine is compared to Jacques's.  He bends a lot while running.

Finally, you can see at the end of the clip how Jacques howls.  Again, a very 'dog' thing.  This is a slow, mourning howl, but it follows a general pattern.  First, he sits down, while remaining bent, with his head down, forming a C-shaped arch with his body.  He then reverses that C-arch as he goes into the howl, pulling his head up, and arching his back, resulting, with the haunches still on ground, in an S-shaped curve.

The Fox and the Hound


I mentioned him earlier, in discussing puppies.  There's not much to say beyond that, but I'll add this video, possibly the sweetest clip Disney ever produced in any of its films. Notice how much character there is in Copper's huge, floppy ears and then in his howl. He stretches his little body as much as he can, splaying his toes, and almost falling backward. He's doing exactly what a puppy (or a kid), mimicking his elders would do:



This is my final one.  I promise.  Dug is just so well done, I can't even handle it.  Beyond the movements that have already been shown, two things in particular (easily done in 3D, but harder to do in 2D) make Dug believable.

The first is Dug's eyebrows.  One of things that makes dogs so humanlike (and a reason, I think, that we feel so much more emotive towards them than to cats -- and this is coming from a cat person) is that they have very, very expressive eyebrows.  And the expressiveness is very similar to humans'.  For example, look at this growling dog.  The eyebrows, just like humans' are pulled into the middle, making the dog look angry:

On the other hand, when dogs are tired, or pouty, their eyebrows go up in the middle and down on the sides:

This technique is used really effectively on Dug.  For example, notice his eyebrows in this shot.  He's so clearly sad.  Add the darting eyes and the very submissive posture, and you have a very sad dog:

The other thing animators did for Dug was to give him a very dramatic tongue.  It's constantly hanging out, and, unlike most of the 2D dogs, it's hanging out to the side.  That little change gives a huge amount of personality, because it makes the dog come across as even more of a goofball than before (which is perfect for Dug's character).

Notice how effectively the tongue is used here (it moves his whole head!):

He also has a similar tail-wagging thing to a puppy, where his tail wags his entire body.  The character/realism combination that Pixar managed with him is, I believe, the best out there yet in terms of animated dogs.

Some other animated dogs you may want to use as reference:

Warner Bros. Bulldog - He's far more caricatured than the Disney dogs, but the guard-dog walk is just great.  Then, later, his tiptoe walk to keep the kitten from waking up.

Oliver and Company - The dogs in this film come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny chihuahua, to the massive Great Dane.  Georgette the poodle is a wonderful character.

Birdbox Studio's puppy - I love this video.  There is so much life to this puppy!

All Dogs Go to Heaven - I've never been a huge fan of Don Bluth's animation style, but this is a worthwhile movie, with lots of great dog reference (Itchy the dachshund has a great character walk).

In Conclusion...

Like people, dogs have so many ways to move, and so many behaviors.  Every dog you meet will act differently.  However, like humans, there are basic cycles -- walk, run, and (non-human) trot.  By keeping those cycles, basic dog anatomy, and behavior in mind, you can create some amazing characters.  Check out Youtube, find some funny dog videos, and try to animate the antics that you see.  There are tons of them, and only by practicing the movements will you really understand how dogs carry their weight.  I'm still learning it myself, but am getting better every day.  You can too!  Happy animating!