Maya: Animation


“As long as the central figure is sincere, his actions can be broad and touched with humor without upsetting the pathos.” – Illusion of Life




Weight Centers
Movement and Silences



1. Lecture
2. Continue to work on dialog pieces.



Today we’ll be replacing the rig of our character to unlock some facial controls.

If you wish to continue with your current animation.
We’ll be replacing the rig. in the scenes/rig folder…
1. go to your MorpheusDialog_Project/scenes/rig and rename MorpheusBodyOnly_DoNotOpen.mb to MorpheusBodyOnly_DoNotOpen_old.mb
2. Download the file MorpheusBodySomeFaceControls.zipand unzip
3. Move the uzipped file MorpheusBodyOnly_DoNotOpen.mb into with the folder MorpheusDialog_Project/scenes/rig
4. open maya and make sure your project directory is set.
5. open your existing scene


If you wish to start from scratch and throw away the old animation.

1. download the project fileand unzip
2. set the project directory
3. open 01_MorpheusDialogScene.mb
Week 03 Joints Download



Katherine Omnanney
– Are the characters interesting lifelike and vivid?
– Do you become emotionally involved with them?
– Do the movements and gestures seem sincere, convincing, clear and properly motivated?
– Does all of the action help to delineate the characters and their situation for you?
– Is the action clear cut, realistic, prolonged sufficiently, and exaggerated enough to be seen by the whole audience?

In animation characters come alive in the change of an expression, representing that the character is thinking. Which is why inanimate objects can come to life so easily.

Luxo Jr. – Pixar



“In every art form it is the emotional content that makes the difference between mere technical skill and true art. ” Illusion of Life

“…many of the young men could animate beautifully, but that isn’t what make you laugh and that isn’t what makes tears come. ” Illusion of Life

“it was the mood in which we wanted our audience at the time” Illusion of Life

“When the story is well designed, the emotions of the characters will be so logical and natural that little else should be needed to make them work with an audience.” Illusion of Life



When figuring out a scene it’s always worth writing down the sub-communication of a scene not the literal dialog. It’s always best to animate to the sub-communication not the dialog. The dialog very rarely points to the communication of a scene. When there is a mismatch between the dialog and the sub-communicated meaning it creates very compelling drama.

Always write out the sub-communication of your dialog. It’s very easy to get sucked into the trap of mechanics and literal interpretation. Base your key poses and thumbnails of the emotional energy of the sub communication.


Requiem for a Dream – Literal Dialog
Sara: “I’m somebody now Harry, everybody likes me, soon millions of people will see me and they’ll all like me, I’ll tell them about you, you’re father, how good he was to us. Remember? It’s a reason to get up in the morning. “

Requiem for a Dream – Ellen Burstyn’s Monologue

Requiem for a Dream – Sub-communication
Sara: I’m hurting Harry, I’m lonely, I miss your father terribly. Loosing weight and wearing that red dress that he loved so much that’s is the way that I’ll feel loved. If I can just get back to that place then I have a chance of being happy again. Can’t you see that? It’s extremely important. I’m a mess inside.

Godfather – Literal Dialog
Michael: I’ve taken care of you Fredo

Fredo: always taken care of me? you’re my kid brother and you’re taking care of me! Did you ever think about that huh? Did you ever once think about that? Send Fredo off to do this, send Fredo off to do that. Let Fredo take care of some Mickey Mouse nightclub somewhere. Send Fredo off to pick somebody up at the airport. I’m you’re older brother Mike and I was stepped over.

Michael: That’s the way Pop wanted it

Fredo: It ain’t the way I wanted it. I can handle things I’m smart. Not like everybody says.

Godfather II – John Cazale and Al Pacino

Godfather – Sub-communication

Michael: You’ve needed my care Fredo

Fredo: Can you comprehend what sort of an insult that is to me!? Did you ever think about how it feels to be the older brother and you’re always telling me what to do. None of this should have happened. I’m the one who should have been leader.

Michael: You could never have been the boss (you poor creature)

Fredo: No body gave me the chance now I’m trapped and I’m scared. How dare you. I want to intimidate you but I’m frightened, you scare me.



Movement of the primary weight center of weight in a character can emphasise character and emotion. Weight centers are useful tool for movement motivation. Think of a character being pulled by his ear, or strutting with his belly pushed forward, or pulled to the ground by a gravitational field in front of his ankles.

High center of gravity can be more feminine or weaker characters, low around the hips for confident or masculinity. Play with different parts of the body for different effect.

Slow movements can come out of confidence, poise, wisdom or sick/weakness. Fast can be from energetic or nervousness playfulness etc.

In this memorable scene from Lady and the Tramp, Lady is lead/pulled by her nose almost floating around in a dreamy sense. Love guiding her despite her best intentions. Watch the weight centers of the secondary Italians too.

Scrat in Ice age has a high center of gravity, high in his chest and his limp wrists. His movements are quick and nervous.

The mystics from Henson’s Dark Crystal have slow movements due to age and wisdom, their belowing chant lifts the weight center from low to high as their song brings on an etherial heavenly feel.

Mike and Sully from Ice age have great contrast. Mike being the scattered nervous energetic ball and Sully being more of an agile strong guy with slower movements. Sully was noted as being more difficult because he is also very agile like a big football player who is capable of great mobility. This was a great challenge for the Pixar animators, see how they approached that dynamic in this scene.



Acting in the silences is very powerful, often the drama is in the listeners reaction and not the speaker. Take great care while animating characters who are listening rather than talking as their reactions can make the scenes.




Possibly not the greatest examples here but it’s worth watching good reality tv scenes where the participants have forgotten that the cameras are around them. Acting in such scenes is very natural and makes for very genuine emotional content. Be sure to take note when the characters are aware of the cameras around them as this can distort the way they present themselves.

In Big Brother the participants forget constantly watching cameras so it makes for great reference although the contestants are usually picked for a certain type of personality. Watch the body language in these scenes we should always be searching for motivation from real life. Reality is often far stranger… more interesting than fiction. Use it to empower your animation.

Big Brother – Salsa vs Hot Sauce

Big Brother – Drama in the House

Big Brother – Hot



For The Birds

Iron Giant

Head Over Heels

Lady And The Tramp


Wall E



Mulholland Drive – Betty’s Audition – Naomi Watts

Requiem for a Dream – Ellen Burstyn’s Monologue

Godfather II – Al Pacino and

Godfather I – Al Pacino

Animation And Acting Article

Some great Acting Tips on the 11 Second Club


Andrew Silke

Leave a reply