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Animating The Characters
"Toy Story 2" turned out to be a dream come true for the film's talented group of animators. Just as Lasseter and the story team enjoyed revisiting their friends, so too did the animators. Additionally, the story for the sequel called for a diversity of acting styles ranging from subtle movements to slapstick comedy and heartfelt drama. Compared to their previous assignment on "A Bug's Life" — which had a large cast of complicated characters with multiple appendages — working on the toy characters was a change of pace for the animators.

Supervising animator Glenn McQueen observes, "We know exactly who these characters are. It's like slipping on a pair of shoes that have been in the closet for a couple of years. They fit perfectly, they're already broken in, no chafing, no bunions. It's just comfort from the word go. Buzz and Woody are like our Mickey Mouse. The other real advantage we have here is that our animators have a lot more experience so the animation is far better on this film than it was on the original 'Toy Story.'"

"Toy Story 2" also offered the animators lots of new and improved tools for doing their job. Technology is faster and more sophisticated than on previous Disney/Pixar films, allowing the animators to concentrate on their performance. Despite its many advantages, computer animation is still a labor intensive art form where even the most skilled artist creates typically four or five seconds of animated footage in a given week.

Working closely with McQueen on this film were directing animators Kyle Balda and Dylan Brown. Balda had studied traditional animation techniques while attending CalArts but was attracted to computer generated imagery. He went on to create special effects for such films as "Jumanji" and "The Mask" during a four-year stint with ILM before joining Pixar to work on "Toy Story 2." Brown was already interested in computer animation when he saw "Jurassic Park" in 1993. The film blew him away and led him to pursue a position at Pixar.

"The thing I really like about animation is the motion," says Balda, "and computers let you concentrate wholly on that aspect. You don't have to worry about being on model with the character; you can just focus 100% on the performance and the timing. Working on the sequel to 'Toy Story,' gave us the added advantage of having an entire film to look at for reference. It would be like a painter studying Picasso. You're trying to match that style but at the same time you're doing something completely original. The original 'Toy Story' gave us something to live up to. You have to make sure that these characters remain consistent from one show to the next."

He adds, "'Toy Story 2' is a real animator's film. Unlike 'A Bug's Life' which was a big epic tale with so much to look at in the world around you, this film is a little bit smaller and more about the characters themselves. What's happening in their lives; what's motivating them. I think you get into the heads of the characters a lot more. From an animator's point of view, there's much more acting and performance so it gives you a chance to really explore a lot of different things."

Unlike traditional animation, where a directing animator usually specializes in one particular character, the animators on "Toy Story 2" tend to be generalists who work on whatever characters are needed in a shot. Still, some animators gravitate towards and excel in bringing specific characters to life.

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