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.
Meet Doc’s friends – Stuffy, Lambie and Chilly:
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!