Ever wonder how animators design a character and develop new animation to make that character do what they need it to do? Hank is the cantankerous yet lovable octopus in Finding Dory voiced by Ed O'Neill, and he was created from initial character design to being animated to his final look in the film with Supervising Technical Director John Halstead, Character Art Director Jason Deamer, Supervising Animator Mike Stocker, Character Supervisor Jeremie Talbot, and Character Art Director Jason Deamer. We sat down and chatted with the four of them to learn all about how they develop a new character from scratch and what developing a new character and animating a new animal that they have never animated before looks like.
Here are some fun facts about Hank
- In order to animate an animal, they first learn about the species of animal. They research all of the useful and interesting things about the animal first.
- They essentially deconstruct the octopus before putting it back together in animation.
- They wanted to mimic the texture of skin. The wanted the animated octopus to matching pattern, color, texture, shape. They experimented with that gooiness that octopuses have.
- Character Supervisor Jeremie Talbot knew Hank would be the hardest they had ever done from the get go. The hood-like webbing needed to spread out flat onto a surface as Hank moves. They applied that hood-like webbing in the most organic way possible as it spread across the entire octopus.
- Did you know that the octopus camouflages through Chromatophores in an octopus skin that are controlled by an octopus’ brain?
- Supervising Animator Mike Stocker said Hank was really exciting yet super challenging. “Our ultimate responsibility is the performance of Hank. We needed to deconstruct and figure out how that (octo) works. It’s a mess, but a beautiful mess.”
- Did you know that an octopus' elbow moves out to the tip? It's a classic octo thing. The elbow leans to the tip. The arms are connected all the way up the body and to the other arms. It took them almost TWO YEARS to figure out how to animate this!
- They do 2d modeling simultaneous with 3d modeling because it's a faster way to do it. They figure out what looks appealing? What works?
- Disney • Pixar created a tool to draw a shape and snap the tentacle to it. This is one of the things that makes them an industry leader in animation. They drive the industry because they develop tools that don't exist. Innovation driven by need.
- That little triangle between Hanks eyes and mouth is where they are communicating all of the emotion in animation. That is where the acting happens. That is where the character is emoting.
- Supervising Technical Director John Halstead said they do all of their final polishing after animation. Details such as the suckers (or siphons as they are formally known) not penetrating into the ground got worked out toward the end; they needed to flatten on the ground. The top layer of the octopus wasn't quite right. They added on a layer of jiggle because Hank needed to be soft and squishy. They add these pieced of attention to details to make Hank (or any character, really) as believable as possible and enjoyable to watch.
This movie is going to be fantastic. Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory reunites everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang, Dory, with her friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale?