Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Elements of Strong Posing Part 1: Attitude

I was going back through some old reference material and was reading up on the elements that factor into character posing. I'm constantly surprised how much I learn by just refreshing myself with some of the most basic principles. So I'd like to spend a couple posts going over some of the basic elements that factor into clear and expressive posing. The first element I'd like to talk about is "Attitude".

I just purchased one of the Looney Tunes DVD collections recently for my sons because if I heard one more episode of a screaming Nicktoon I would have been compelled to take my own life. So in the effort of saving me from myself and to preach the gospel of quality to my boys we popped in Chuck Jones' "Duck Amuck ". I probably hadn't watched it in about 7 years and I was smiling from ear to ear by the end of it. Not only did I have the joy of watching my 6 year old see it for the first time, but to watch my seventeen year old recite along with it like he saw it the day before. I began thinking about what it is that makes it such an enduring short. Clearly, it's a very imaginative premise, but then I tried to analyze it with an animator's eye and I kept focusing on Daffy's poses. They are so expressive and had such clear attitudes. When you watch the short there is never a doubt in your mind how Daffy is feeling or what his emotional state is. Attitude is how your body language and thought process comes through in your pose.

It's the tiny details that are easy to overlook that can help to strengthen the attitude in your posing. Explore all of the possibilities while you're working out your poses and ask yourself questions. "What if I drop the shoulders a little more?". "Should we see more of her face?". "What would widening the stance do?". It can also be as simple as showing your pose to a friend or colleague and asking them "How does this read to you?". We'll talk about more over the next few weeks. Andrew and I just recorded a new round table so stay tuned for that as well. In the mean time, watch a little "Duck Amuck".



Blogger Unknown said...

I think Duck Amuck has to be one of my favorite shorts EVER. Nice post.

2:45 PM

Blogger Rob Somers said...

Amazing short. The Jones stuff is worth taking frame by frame everytime. Also, for what it's worth, apparently there will be a video game based on this very short for the Nintendo DS coming out in a few weeks where - utlizing the DS's stylus and touch screen capabilities - you basically get to torment Daffy much the same way the unseen animator in Duck Amuck does. Y'know, a little light animating...on the go. The game is aptly called - Duck Amuck.

Here's the link:

4:52 PM

Blogger Kevin said...

I know what you mean about the screaming Nick toons Adam. For lack of better animation, story and character development, they scream instead. Screaming and sighing. That's all it is. WB Looney Tunes are a welcomed refreshment in the world of today's animated fare on tv.
Good post!!

7:43 PM

Blogger Robert said...

I notice that almost all non-animator adults have to give themselves permission for watching something animated by saying "it was really for my kids". I can't recall the last time I discussed animation with an adult and they didn't quickly bring in some angle about how they watched it because of their kids. Try it. I guarantee they will go there ASAP.

But, gosh, I despair when even an animator, a successful animator at the top of the field (!), has to resort to that old chestnut to explain why he was watching a classic cartoon.

Sorry, I know that wasn't the supportive kind of comment you're looking for here.

12:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing poses ! all the negative spaces are really making such clear poses. As a pixar animator, do you think it's too symmetrical sometimes and how do you approach your poses to avoid symmetry sometimes ?

7:58 AM

Blogger Dr.Burke said...


Do I think what's too symmetrical? The best way I've found to troubleshoot symmetry in your posing is by avoiding what feels stiff or unnatural. Usually symmetry is the culprit.

8:47 AM

Blogger Amrit Derhgawen said...

Thanks a lot for the wonderful post, Adam! Do you believe that doing pantomime based animations could help us bring clear attitude along with expressive posing?

Thanks! :)


9:45 AM

Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

Hi Adam!
That's a great topic! Concerning 3D-animation one of the most disadvatanges these days is, that a 3D-animator can't sit there and think about strong poses in that kind of way a 2D-animator can. In 2D i'm absolutly free. I can push each part of my character into my lines-of-action. But in 3D i'm totaly resticted in terms of what my rig is able to do. Of course there are amazing rigs done(for example in "open-season" or "the incredibles/ratatouille" anyway) But cartooy-animation like the old-warner/disney-style is still a challange these days. But maybe one day i can animate 3D the classical way. Imagine a kind of single "drawable outline-ctrl" which gives me the ability to pose and adjust. But until that day unfortunatly i have to model additional blendshapes/morphtargets for all my "special"-extremes and try to marry a gifted rigger ;) ...

Cheers Frank

1:46 PM

Blogger jdobres said...

Wonderful! Duck Amuck is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. It's nice to see that a high quality copy finally found its way onto the internet. And for legitimate educational purposes!

5:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that cartoon was just SO awesome as a kid!!! Just totally entertaining...great ending, too! And watching it older, and as an animation student, it's like a DIFFERENT kind of fun in watching all the poses work and breathe into each other, really pushing the limits of reality....and the crazy thing is Daffy Duck is Daffy Duck at his best, from beginning to end!

12:23 PM

Blogger Dr.Burke said...

I've updated this post and removed the link to the "Duck Amuck" clip I posted. I apologize to everyone but beyond my best and innocent intentions, it was made clear to me that posting the entire short is, technically, unlawful distribution. So go rent, netflix, or buy yourself a copy.

10:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I watched Duck Amuck in class as good exampe of strong poses. I think it is amazing animation to animators searching a good reference for Attitude and strong pose. I've always looked for some movies for it, I finaly gut it!
Thank you!

4:04 PM

Blogger RVG said...

I found this the other day on youtube, about the game they're making for DS...quite interesting animation style:

10:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As awesome as this cartoon is (my personal all-time favorite), the best way to see it is in a theater with an audience, as intended.

Like everyone else here, I grew up watching this cartoon on TV. I caught a "looney tunes" night at a local theater that included Duck Amuck, and a whole new dimension to the cartoon emerged. The timing of the gags, breaks in dialog, etc, were all masterfully handled, and the audience reaction wove in and out of the cartoon amazingly. Jones really knew what he was doing.

And when Daffy turns and addresses the audience? Well, there is just nothing like seeing that on a big screen with a bunch of other people. Priceless.

1:30 PM

Blogger Gabriele Scanziani said...

Beautiful post Adam! As Paul just said Jones knew what he was doing but I think that Ken Harris, Ben Washam and Lloyd Vaughan were 3 geniuses!!!

1:18 AM

Blogger Gabriele Scanziani said...

I forgot to ask you one question Adam. As you pointed out Attitude is a huge element to give strenght to our poses. My question is simple: can a looser, a spineless character have "Attitude" in his poses? And how? I mean, when Daffy is tortured by the "animator" (Bugs) he still maintain much of his attitude. It is possible to do the same thing in CG animation with a character much more "looser" than Duffy Duck? Do you think it is a good thing to give attitude to a jinxed character? How would you approach to such an animation? Thanks a lot, my questions are for everyone and I would like to have many different answers...

1:29 AM

Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

hey gabriele!

Maybe i missunderstood you but
looseness IS an attitude that has to be shown with strong poses. Think about Goofy's walkcycle. It is the looseness itself made with such brilliant poses! They look loose so they are strong, 'couse they perfectly fit the desired attitude. And this is not a question of the medium.

Cheers Frank

12:32 PM

Blogger Gabriele Scanziani said...

I wasn't talking about "looseness" Fränk, I was talking about a LOOSER, a SPINELESS character a jinxed one. Not a bad guy though... nor a Goofy like character... Someone like the old P.I. stereotype, someone that has personality but who is always fighting against bad luck, or at least so he thinks...I hope that I explained myself better than before...

12:46 PM

Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

Ah i see ... You mean a loser ;) But Goofy is a good example anyway, because he is allways fighting against bad luck isn't he? He is the "loosiest" loser you can imagine. But with his attitude to take everything the easy way he becomes a strong character with a interessting personality.

1:38 PM

Blogger Dr.Burke said...

Hi Gabrielle

Even though Frank misunderstood you he is still correct. The term "attitude" in reference to this post is meant to define a feeling or emotional state. If your character is "cowardly" or "spineless" those are both specific attitudes. Early in Duck Amuck, Daffy is trying to be "cordial" and "diplomatic". Those are two specific attitudes that clearly communicate in those poses.

I can see how the term "attitude" can lead you to think of "belligerent" or "having a chip on your shoulder" but within the contest of my point it is to define something more broadly based. A strong attitude in your pose should mean that your audience will have no question in their minds as to how your character feels. Thanks for your question. Just for the future, "Loser" is with one "O".

1:43 PM

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