Working as Animation Director on Doc McStuffins has been a real treat! It’s such a fun and energetic show, not to mention beautiful-looking. By the way, excuse me for being so positive but I honestly can’t describe the production of this show any other way!
We had such a great team on this show – firstly, Chris Nee, the creator of the show who is a a great comic writer. Director Norton Virgien has a fantastic eye for kids TV and never fails to add energy, fun and life to an episode. Norton would always push the bar when it came to giving me notes on the animation in order enhance the believability, actions and performance acting of the characters.
Bronagh O’Hanlon, Art Director on the show, designed amazing characters and made the show look so beautiful. Jean Herlihy, our Animation Lead, was also an integral part of the production, never failing to deliver top quality animation and always looking to surprise us with attitude and agility in the characters. I especially loved Stuffy’s walk – he’s such a numpty! Our TD James Stacey made sure the pipeline was working for the show and was the main man in overseeing the modelling, lighting, textures and shaders.
In Animation, our main challenge was to try and create convincing human animation for TV. We spent a lot of time working on the facial blend shapes to achieve a organic appearance to the human faces, at the same time keeping the UI (Facial Controls) controls to a manageable amount for TV animation. We were able to achieve a good result in our time frame as the human designs were stylized and weren’t supposed to look exactly like humans. In other words, the humans never got into the ‘uncanny valley’ zone. For our facial rigs we started off using bones in the face, relying on skinning to get shapes. After some R&D on this we ended up using Blend Shapes instead, as it was a lot easier to direct the modeled mouth shapes through blend shapes than it was with bones and skinning.
In contrast to the humans there were the toy characters. These characters all had to move in their own unique way, taking their designs and real world materials into account. So the Gulpy Gators (plastic alligators) had to move as if they were stiff plastic, with hinges on their head, legs and tails. The Gators had South Carolina accents which was hilarious. Then there is Lambie who is a stuffed lamb, and Doc’s best friend. She had to move around with finesse and her body was to be like a soft cushion. We actually added some squash and stretch to her feet pads so they squashed and depressed as she walked along.
These key animations were essential to establish the traits and personalities of each and every character in the show. Our talented team here in Brown Bag Films created these key poses, walks, runs, acting and dialogue pieces, which provided a solid foundation and reference for animating the rest of the episodes. We worked on the animation for Doc McStuffins with Sparky Animation in Singapore and they were great to work with. I spent a few months in Singapore working closely with the animation team, particularly the In-House Supervisor Hoong and Brown Bag’s Overseas Animation Supervisor Christian Cheshire. It was important for the Singapore team to understand Western culture - in particular the humour - and feed this into the show. The team I worked with were really into the show, and I remember one girl in particular who always sang the Doc McStuffins songs as she walked around the studio!
I look forward to seeing Doc McStuffins on our screens soon and I know its going to be a huge success!
Hi Aaron, thanks for the reply, and yes the humans were a challenge. We hadn’t done this level of 3D human characters for a TV show before. The characters went through a few stages of development. The design started out flatter with a more 2D influence, then after reviewing a few animation tests we decided to build up the volume on the faces more to pull out the human features – brows, cheeks, lips etc. This allowed for a much more organic feel to the faces, we also added extra shapes that morphed when the characters mouths opened and closed so the cheeks contracted and expanded automatically, sort of like a simple flesh movement on the face. Thanks again for the reply, enjoy the rest of the shows. Regards, Shane21 March 2012 by Shane Collins
Great to see you doing human characters too! This looks particularly polished just like all your other shows. Was surprise to hear animation wasn’t done in Dublin. But I guess they can’t do it all. :)21 March 2012 by Ken
Hi Ken, actually the key animation was done here in Dublin, including walk/run cycles, character acting pieces, key poses etc. Then these were sent overseas to be used in the show. But thanks for pointing that out – I’ll update my blog. I have to say a big up to the BBF animators who created some amazing key animations :)21 March 2012 by Shane Collins
The final product definitely shows all the hard work you folks put into this show. I was curious as to what the human animation would look like, but after watching an episode, I found the entire production so particularly smart and creative, I realized it probably should never have been a concern of mine in the first place. Great work.21 March 2012 by Aaron B.
Just happened onto this show. Love the animation, the characters, and especially the music.21 March 2012 by ellen
Nice blog Shane – Great job on the animation!22 March 2012 by Doc
He Ellen, you know what… ME TOO! :) Hope ya enjoy the rest of the series. Thanks, Shane22 March 2012 by Shane Collins
Hey Doc, Thanks for the compliments from me and the animatioon team, much appreciated! Cheers, Shane22 March 2012 by Shane Collins
My six year old daughter loves this show. She got to watch the preview last Saturday on Disney Jr. She’s been home sick this week with the stomach flu, and she’s looking forward to watching the full episode this Friday. Thank you for making this character beautiful inside and out, and for giving African-American children a positive outlook on life, and the possibilities of being someone people can look up to. God bless.23 March 2012 by Victoria Taylor
Thank you for the creation of Doc McStuffins, my three year old, wife and myself all enjoy watching the series. It is well though out and gives young African Americans a positive character that they can both relate to and serve as an additional positive influence in their lives. I look forward to watching the rest of the series and will support it by spreading the news about this great program.7 May 2012 by James
It is great to see that you are very knowledgable about your writing. Looking forward to more of the same.Cheers
I didnt know Doc McStuffins was made by you guys , i hope to be studing animation in BCFE next year and i was just browsing the site and came across this! well done guys amazing cartoon! i love it even more now :) gotta love the home grown:)11 January 2013 by Rachel