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The Process: JoJo Baptista Talks About Animating For Bakshi

Character Studies
JoJo’s Nifty Poses

My friend Joseph “JoJo” Baptista worked with Ralph Bakshi making an animated commercial for his Kickstarter campaign. JoJo produced an excellent bit of animation for Ralph, so I asked him to share his process with you. I’ve uploaded the videos to YouTube in HD, so click through the link below each video to go to its page and select HiDef. -Stephen Worth

JoJo BaptistaJoJo BaptistaOver the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work for Ralph Bakshi. I’ve been a fan of Ralph’s films since I first saw them when I was in college. The fact that I was able to test and receive direction from him was an absolutely amazing experience. I’ve done some design jobs and even a little bit of storyboard too, but I had never animated before, so I was very fortunate that Ralph took this chance on me because it was the first scene I had ever done. Ralph was very encouraging. He and I communicated over phone and e-mail. He would come up with ideas and tell me how to improve the performance by adding more frames to certain actions. He also explained to me the importance of anticipations.

I drew the animation on a Cintiq using Toon Boom Animate Pro. Toon Boom has been a tremendous help to me. No more shooting your animation with a camera. It’s been so easy to delete the drawings you’re unsatisfied with and start over. I even get to be my own ink and paint lady!

Bakshi Character Design
Bakshi Character Design

Here is the doodle Ralph sent me. Ralph explained that the characters think they’re total hot shots, but they’re really not. He wanted them smoking, scratching, spitting, yak yak yak! So before I did any animation I decided to pose them first, just to get a feeling of how to draw them and hopefully get a better sense of their personality, as well as a feel for Ralph’s unique proportions and design sense.

Character Studies
Character Studies
JoJo’s Character Studies

I felt the relationship between these two characters was natural: The short bossy little guy and the big dumb oaf. The little guy, or “Nifty” as we ended up calling him, really doesn’t care about the oaf, unless he’s got something he wants.

Character Studies
JoJo’s Tight Drawing

So I began to do some rough layouts of situations the characters could enter. I sent these to Ralph, but he thought they were way too tight. He was right, they were. In fact, it wasn’t until I started animating where I really started to loosen up. So I jumped into it.

View Nifty Pencil Test at YouTube

First I began animating some simple stuff where I could easily showcase some personality. I wanted to figure out how these designs would move. No interaction yet.

Character Studies
JoJo’s Character Interaction

This drawing showed me how I could really show a relationship between the two. One has something the other wants, the perfect concoction to drown his years of sorrows and regrets, alcohol!

View Booze Pour Pencil Test at YouTube

The oaf has had his fill, and complies with Nifty’s request. I originally came up with this fountain pose for the pour. Ralph didn’t like it. Looking back I think it looks too flamboyant and doesn’t display how drunk he is. Instead he suggested leaning the oaf back as he pours, he said he didn’t care how long his arm got! I came up with the head wobble before the lean. I think this helps give a clear sense that he’s tanked.

One of the things I learned on this scene through Ralph was the importance of anticipations and breathing spaces between actions. Anticipations are crucial when you want to jump into one action from the next. For example, many of the broad actions done by Nifty have anticipations before they’re executed. Pay close attention to the way Nifty goes into a squashed pose before shouting, “HEY!!” It’s very short, but it’s there. This is what helps give the following extreme pose some oomph. If it wasn’t there it just wouldn’t read well. Putting spaces between actions is also essential when you want certain actions to read against another character who may be in a moving hold or doing a much more subtle gesture. Otherwise, with so many actions happening at once you won’t know where your eyes are supposed to look. It’s all about the control of motions.

Character Studies
Color Models

Once the animation was done it was time to add color. Steve provided me with color cards, and I made color models in Photoshop. Kent Butterworth had been experimenting with colors earlier on some of my sketches (above) so I went with those. As soon as that was figured out I began painting the characters. This part was very time consuming. Because the drawings are very rough, I had to create another layer in Animate Pro and paint each frame of animation and in several passes too. One for the main color, another for open mouths, hats, shading, etc. It took forever!

Next, it was time for music and sound. Steve was a great help here; he knew the perfect piece of music for this sequence, Naftule Brandwein’s, “Nifty’s Froelich”. It’s also where we got the name for the little guy. With the music in we added sound effects. We not only added sound to actions but also where an accent was hit in the music. Just like anticipations add the space to the action clearly, the placement and choice of sound effects make the sound clear.

View JoJo’s Finished Animation at YouTube

I hope you enjoyed this and found it helpful. Since this article was published originally, Ralph’s kickstarter achieved its goal and then some! As we speak, Ralph is hard at work in New Mexico animating “Last Days of Coney Island”. I’m really proud to have helped him get the chance to make a personal film. Ralph’s work is totally unique to everyone else in animation, and his films are still very relevant today. The Last Days of Coney Island short is sure to be another incredible experience.

Bakshi Doodles
Bakshi Doodles
Bakshi Doodles

Ralph regularly posts updates on his progress to Facebook. Like his page and cheer him on!

Bakshi’s Facebook Page

Joseph Baptista
Hollywood, USA
February 15, 2013

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