How I became a Character Animator


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I was the typical super creative and dreamer child, with a wild imagination! I liked to play with conventional toys but….I liked most to play with the ones “invented by me”.

My nick name as child was “Blonde devil”….you can imagine 🙂scansione0003

When I was really young I started to draw (actually….retracing Mickey Mouse books), or…another of my pastime was to re-create the planimetries of the tv shows I was used to watch (I scansione0002ccshould still have the planimetry of the house of Brandon and Brenda Walsh or the cafè of “Saved by the Bell” somewhere….
I was so detail-oriented that I even had the list of menu’s prices! Don’t ask me why! Kids… 😀

Then I started to read comics, especially manga: Ranma 1/2 and Video Girl Ai my favourites! And that’s just stimulated more my creativity… so I started to write and draw my own comics tavo012

I created comics in secondary and hight school (of course, my only readers were my classmates and my sister, but they were always looking for next episodes! 😀

During my Art High School I also discover a passion for paintings and for a small period I was used to withdraw in my “studio”…painting my plywood covered by acrylic colors, sterile gauze pads, vinyl glue and stylized animals and human figures!

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During High School I followed a super interesting course in Cinema and that was the time that I became a movies addicted (I think I’ve seen something around 2000 movies in one year :D) I also started to write movies script on my own

Then…was time to decide what to do: University? I wasn’t so enthusiast, no one of the courses was really convincing me… so I started to make researches for some private course or school for cinema (my primary passion at that time) and I found an interesting school (actually was pretty famous in Italy but I never heard about that before) the “The Experimental Center of Cinematography” based in Rome, the oldest school about cinema art, with courses for: directing, photography, acting, scripting etc…

“Ok! This is the school for me! I’ll be a movies director!”

But… there was only one “huge” problem, my age: the Director course had a minimum age limit (I was 19 and the limit was 21…. I should have wait 2 years…)

So…I had a look on the other courses of the same school (with lower age limit) and I found a new course (based in a different city, Turin, in the north of Italy) about “ANIMATION”

At that time I had no idea of what this was about, yes of course…I watched all the Disney classic movies but I never thought to became an animator… but … I decide to apply for the course!

Then… there was another little obstacle: only 1 class per year, max 16 student would have been admitted…

“What???? Just 16 students?? I will never be one of them!!!”

I was a bit negative about my possible admission… I would have to overcame 3 “selections” to pass (the first one was the portfolio) so, I sent my application with my portfolio (some of my drawings and comics) but in the meantime I signed up for a University course in “Art of Cinema”…. just in case…

I was waiting for a response. I went to my first day of University and…just in the way back home I received a call:

“Hi Chiara! I’m calling from the Experimental Center of Cinematography, you passed the first selection, you are admitted to the second one!”

I was in the train and I think I started to cry! 😀 😀 😀

The second selection have been place in the school, it was an interview with the teachers and some test to do. I passed this selection as well 🙂

And then…the last one: the preparatory course, some days in the school with the other students to test our skills and attitudes!

After that…I was officially an Animation Student! 🙂

How the courses were organized? Well, the first year they teached us the History of Animation, the main softwares used, life drawing sessions

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mime/acting class and …of course…the basics of traditional animation (yeah…I animated on a light table for a year 😀

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The second year you had to choose which path to follow: 2D or 3D Animation. At that point I was still more oriented on directing and VFX, not on the animation part, so I chose 3D cause it seemed the one more closed to me and my interests

(me having milk time in the school/bedrooms floor kitchen)1196200303_adc12536df.png

The third year (absolutely the best one) was dedicated to the creation of a short movie, in small teams. My team was composed by me and other 2 classmates. We realized an “horror” short movie named “Rampicante – Hederae Sicarius” – for this short I was responsible for: directing (of course) and animation (I wasn’t really good at that time… :D)

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(me working in the diploma short movie’s room)

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(and … in XMas time)

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Watch “Rampicante – Hedeare Sicarius” here

That were my 3 years of Animation School. The best years of my life…still miss that place! And as any animator…I started to dream to work in Pixar one day 🙂

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(drawing of me, made by a friend)


Time to find a job!

-First steps in production-

Finished the school I went back home and I started to look for a job opportunity.

I live in a small town, in Tuscany, and I found an animation studio in Pisa, around 1 hour by train, that was looking for animators for a tv series.

I gave it a try! I wasn’t yet sure of myself and my skills, so I proposed me for a stage as 3D generalist

“We need animators! So if you want to do animation we can offer you a one year contract”

I was a bit hesitant, I didn’t feel ready to work as animator (my skills were really poor ’cause in school I focused much more on other aspects of production) and the supervisor of the studio was an animator with 20 years of experience in dreamworks… I definitely was a bit scared but….I accepted the offer!

The series was “Bird Squad”Schermata 2014-05-31 a 00.01.24.png

The protagonists were: a crow, a penguin, a bat, a flamingo, an hummingbird, a lady owl, a woodpecker, a blackbird and 5 ducks!

They fly around the world on a zeppelin to save other animals who need their help!

It wasn’t so easy to animate for a totally beginner, (at that point I was used to animate everything in LINEAR tangents, never touching the graph editor and without knowing the difference between FK or IK …Now I can confess it!! 😀

But… I won the challenge and I animated the series for 6 months with an amazing team of talented animators!

Watch some of my animations for “BIRD SQUAD”

After this series, I started a new one in the same studio: “Taratabong – The world of Meloditties” a crew of musical creatures that communicate through sounds and musicbfa0ecb6d577a1cbf322110c6948bb00

The challenge here was setted a bit higher: characters with no voice, no mouth or eyebrows, no arms… but… it’s still absolutely the project I loved most!

Watch some of my animations for “Taratabong”

This projects and the studio itself will stay in my heart forever, they were the first to believe in me and gave me the opportunity to start to work as animator

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(me and the meloditties made by a friend)

And… I can’t explain it with words but… in that studio there was a unique and great atmosphere…

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(me, wearing the awesome hoodie of the company)

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(playing Ping Pong during a break)

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(me and collegues in a cafè…an other break :D)


During that period I also started to create and sew (100% handmade)foto_chiara a series of puppets and portraits for my friends, you will hear about the PUPPETS again in my story 🙂

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volkswagen (puppets on the yellow van)

(friends and sister’s portraits)


– Moving in the capital: ROME –

After this second experience I moved to Rome with most of the team of Taratabong, for the production of an Animated Movie about an ogres family


It was my first movie and I had the chance to improve my skills, especially in acting

Unfortunately the production dealt with some problems and the movie was stopped.

But I still have a good memory of that experience!


– Taratabong 2 –

After this production I went back home, with my family. My dad (the greatest and best man I met in my life) passed away and I needed to stay home for a bit

So, I went back to the studio in Pisa for the Second Season of “Taratabong”!

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(some meloditties puppets I made for fun)

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(lunch time on the beach)

(snowy weekend with colleagues)


– Animating Gladiators –

Finished Taratabong 2, someone needed animators in Rome, in the Rainbow studio (best know for the creation of the successful tv series WINX)

I moved there and I started the production of another Animated Movie “Gladiator’s of Rome”. Set in the ancient Rome, it tells the story of a unusual gladiator!

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We worked first on the Layouts and then on the Animations

Watch “Gladiators of Rome” Progression Reel

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(me and my Gadiators Stickers Album :D)

(movie’s posters around Rome)

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(first preview in the movie theatre)

We had great times during the production

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(swimming pool in our residence)

Awesome team, funny moments to remember!


In the sparetime, I started a personal short movie “Felt in the Box”, using my puppets design for the characters

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The idea was pretty cool but in the meantime…things started to be a little too complicated and I had to stop the production


-The magic of Winx-

Just after the end of the movie’s production, I started the Season 5 of the very successful tv show for kids “Winx”

First we animated the Transformation Sequence, I made part of Stella and Tecna sequence! Very funny to do! I loved that rigs, so well done, full of controls in order to don’t put limits to an animator’s imagination! 😀

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Schermata 2014-01-10 a 16.27.53.pngWe were responsible for layouts and animations and the production was like….5/6 months long

Watch “Winx” Progression Reel

And here other Animations I made

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(me and my lovely Winx air mattress :P)

(me and my sister in the Rainbow Magic Land Theme Park)


– First time abroad –

After Winx, I felt to be ready to try an experience abroad and I moved to France

I found job in a studio placed in Angouleme, a small town in the Charante

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(my first day of work…under the snow)

The series was pretty complex, “Foot2Rue Extreme”, a lot of human characters playing football, parkour, roller blades and other crazy stuff! 😀

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Watch “Foot2Rue” Animation Reel

Very challenging and tought experience! With a GREAT ANIMATION TEAM

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– Back to Italy –

At one point, I felt the needed to go back to Italy and stay close to my family

For a while I stayed home working on a new personal project (with an other collogue), a TV series for kids with the Puppets as protagonists

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We created the Opening Theme (whatch it here), the scripts of some episodes, a pilot episode and a super detailed graphic bible

Here a Making Off Video (watch us working :P)

We developed two apps, connected to the series that have been available on the Apple Store for a while. An Alphabet App, a Coloring Book, a Puzzle and an Interactive book

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Here you can watch the Spot of the “Interactive Book” app

(my Awesome Puppets Birthday Cake :P)

And wee also participated to a famous event in Italy “Cartoons on the Bay” to pitch the series, but unfortunately…nothing happened! 😦


So, I went back to Rome, in Rainbow, to work on another successful tv series “Mia&Me” and this time I had to deal just with layouts

The only animation I made was the transformation of the main character, re-used for each episodes

MiaWatch “Mia&Me” – Transformation – progression shot

(colleagues :P)


– The big switch to VIDEO GAMES industry –

I had the chance to apply in a very big company based in Hamburg, GOODGAMES STUDIO in the extreme north of Germany!KIA01ENG

At the beginning I was a bit scared, I never worked in video games before

But…after some technical issues I just get used to it and I worked for 1 year and half on a puzzle gamesnow1

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(my workstation with the main character puppet made by me)

Watch my “A Little Lost” Animation reel

I was responsible to manage the animation team, we had several little cute animal/fantasy creatures to animate and make them interact with the gameplay

I’ve done so many idle, attack, win and lose animations…..that it’s hard to remember all of them! But I’m extremely proud of the work we have done! 🙂

(findind cooking on my desk in the morning ❤ …for those who don’t understand italian… stronza=asshole, with love of course 😀 )

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(me with Elisa, from the Onboarding team, those who helped us in burocratic stuff and relocation)

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(and our daily match with MARIO KART after lunch time 😀 )

You can watch other pictures about my experience in Hamburg here


– Life changes –

After the german experience, I had to deal with an other family lost, my great mom…. so I went back home to take care of our family stuff, that’s the main reason why at one point of my life I decided to work as freelance remotely

Right now I work as freelance for other italian and foreign studios, and in the spare time…I have this blog!

I was thinking to create this blog since a while but never find enough time to do it! I love this “project”, I like to teach and share what I’ve learn so far with other animators, so… I hope you appreciate it! 🙂

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Chiara

 

 

3 thoughts on “How I became a Character Animator

  1. vfx college says:

    It takes a lots of efforts to become a master in animations as it wants a lots of hardwork to make the best liveliness and you need to center around every last little part of the visual like the way you turn the body and its stances while strolling, tossing ad bouncing.

    Like

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