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SURF'S UP

About The Animation
As any member of the voice cast would say, creating the character only begins with the voice. When the actor has laid down the track, the torch is passed to the talented team of character animators at Sony Pictures Imageworks, the digital production studio where Surf's Up was made.

David Schaub, the senior animation supervisor, says the film's conceit – that it is a documentary or reality-television show – informed the characters' performances. "The illusion in Surf's Up is that the camera just happens to be there to capture the moment,” he says. "In animation, we rarely get the opportunity to play out such long, extended performances, where characters carry the shot completely. It is an animator's dream come true!

"The animation style of Surf's Up is caricatured reality,” Schaub adds. "The realworld dynamics are pushed to caricature without breaking the fundamental rules of physics and gravity.”

Art director/character designer Sylvain Deboissy was inspired by the same idea. "When you think about it, penguins are a caricature of humans – we share the same silhouette,” he says. "Audiences identify with them. In designing the overall look of our characters, it was our goal to strike a balance between a realistic look and anthropomorphizing their characteristics. We gave our penguins just enough unique qualities to make them stand out in a crowd.”

Deboissy says that one of the greatest challenges from a design point of view was Lani, the beguiling lifeguard. "She's smart and tough, but very feminine,” he says. "The gentoo penguin has a much more elongated silhouette than the others. In addition, we wanted her to have very expressive eyes.”

Another challenge solved by the eyes came when designing Big Z. "Because we see him as both Geek and Big Z, we couldn't give too much away, but we also had to make sure that there was an unmistakable match.”

Other characters had direct inspirations. "Chris Buck knew exactly what he wanted Chicken Joe to look like,” says Deboissy. "He provided the template and we stayed true to that vision throughout the process – though his torso is a little more elongated, to make him believable as a surfer.”

With the design in place, four supervising animators took the lead on Surf's Up – Peter Nash, Renato Dos Anjos, Chad Stewart, and Chris Hurtt and their teams were responsible for animating entire sequences rather than specializing in a particular character. Working closely with each other and with Schaub, the directors, and producer, the four supervisors met every day to compare notes, watch each others' scenes, and offer suggestions.

"Each of us comes from a different perspective and naturally looks for different things in the performances and animation,” Stewart says. "We meet together and look over the work and sometimes one will notice something that another didn't. The animation is stronger for it.”

Nash was responsible for a portion of the Shiverpool sequence of the film and got to know Cody very well. "A lot of the subtlety of Surf's Up is a character saying one thing but meaning another – it's all about the subtext,” he says. "We'll have a character position his body a certain way, or perhaps give it away with their eyes – maybe a left-right eye dart that shows they're thinking about something while trying to be composed. Even something like a few quick blinks can show that the character is off-kilter.”

One example of this idea comes during the Shiverpool sequence, when Cody puts on a brave face when talking about his father, who died when Cody was a small penguin. "He's confronted with a deeply emotional feeling for him and he's trying to play a tough guy, so he overcompensates,” says Nash. In addition to the vocal inflection given the lines by Shia LaBeouf, Nash's animation gives several telltale clues th

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