Variety has written at length about animation’s uninterrupted production workflow amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the rest of Hollywood has suffered with shutdowns and outbreaks. To discover how the magic of animation happens remotely, and in celebration of our annual 10 Animators to Watch list, we recruited writing-directing-editing animation team Todd Hansen and Doug Nicholas to let us in on their process. Hansen and Nicholas just completed work on the Phil Lord-Christopher Miller film “Connected” at Sony Pictures Animation, and have four “Lego” movie projects under their belt. Here’s how they get the job done. – Matt Donnelly
Check to make sure the sky is still there. Only somewhat ashy. What a relief!
Get dressed for Zoom meeting. This involves finding what T-shirt has the least amount of wrinkles. No need to change out of Muppet Babies pajama pants. They will be out of frame.
Early-morning Zoom with the director. The movie is almost done, and we’re down to the wire. Today’s edit assignment has to be finished by end of day. No wiggle room on deadline. We accept these terms. We are professionals, after all.
Go back to sleep.
Start to set up our remote Avid machines. We’re lucky to be able to edit from home. Most of the time this works great unless someone is working on the internet.
Log in to machines. Connect to secure VPN. Connect to studio server. Connect to the remote Avid session. If only we could make a human connection.
Get back on Zoom and discuss the assignment with each other. We split the assignment into two chunks. Flip a coin to see who gets the less desirable section. Unfortunately because we flipped separate coins it’s not clear who won.
Start to edit.
Take a break to watch a YouTube tutorial on how exactly to use Avid.
Start to edit for real this time.
Lunch break! Now we can get some real work done. Jump on Zoom to go over designs for our Halloween costumes. We decided to go with Mad Max this year. Not because we’re fans, but because it seems like the real apocalypse is rapidly encroaching and we like being prepared.
Listen to the production’s latest voice record session. Director is curious if the performance is better than in the previous session. We listen to the new session. We listen to the old session. Resign ourselves to the fact that the performances are indistinguishable from each other.
Edit session crashes. This provides a prime opportunity to discuss some of the more puzzling aspects of “The Phantom Menace.” Despite discussing this subject daily for around a decade, we still can’t put it to rest.
Apologize to assistant editors for turning the project file into disarray. Hope they aren’t plotting to overthrow us.
Discuss possible locations to begin construction on Panic Room. End up just talking about where to rank “Panic Room” in Fincher’s filmography.
Deadline growing ever closer; one hour left.
Told by director and producer to download Evercast application for meeting. Get confused and download Everlast’s “Whitey Ford Sings the Blues”album. Receive multiple texts asking, “Where are you guys?”
Combine work into one sequence and export. Stare at the progress bar and contemplate existence.
Deliver finished sequence. Proud of the work and anxious to hear if the director feels we nailed the notes. We should get a response shortly. The deadline wassuper strict.
Wait for feedback.
Wait for feedback.
Wait for feedback.
Shame spiral and eat 3/4 bag of Doritos. Outdated “Wonder Woman 1984” promo on bag. Remember when this pandemic thing was supposed to be gone by Easter?
Receive an email from the director! “Thanks for turning around the scene so quickly! We decided to cut it from the film entirely! Talk tomorrow!”
Disconnect from the server. Check the sky again. Still somewhat ashy. Maybe tomorrow’s assignment will be light.
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