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Genndy Tartakovsky Answers Animation Questions From Twitter

Animator Genndy Tartakovsky answers the internet's burning questions about animation and cartooning. Why are there so many cartoon characters that don't wear pants? Why are Genny's Clone Wars episodes so short? How does one direct an animated show? What's the difference between animation and a cartoon? Genndy answers all these questions and much more. New episodes of “Unicorn: Warriors Eternal” premiere Thursdays at midnight on Adult Swim and next day on HBO Max. Encores air Fridays at 7pm on Adult Swim and Saturdays on Toonami. Director: Sean Dacanay Director of Photography: Matthew Sweeney Editor: Jordan Calig Expert: Genndy Tartakovsky Senior Producer: Efrat Kashai Creative Producer: Justin Wolfson Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi Associate Producer: Paul Gulyas Production Manager: Peter Brunette Production Coordinator: Kevin Balash Talent Booker: Paige Garbarini Camera Operator: Shay Eberle-Gunst Audio: Gray Thomas-Sowers Production Assistant: Ariel Labasan Groomer: Vanessa Rene Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen Additional Editor: Paul Tael Assistant Editor: Justin Symonds

Released on 05/09/2023


Hello, I'm Genndy Tartakovsky.

I'm an animator and director and creator of Dexter's Lab,

Samurai Jack, Primal, and Unicorn Warriors Eternal.

I'm here to answer all your animation questions on Twitter.

This is Animation Support.

[percussive music]

@tatsumology, How is 2D animation

so smooth and fluid, tell me.

For animation, we go at 24 frames per second.

Let's say my arm goes from here to here in 24 frames,

which is one second.

So one-1000, it'll be really smooth.

If I don't have the time or money to do it

then I'll start going to 12 drawings.

And now, all of a sudden, it's not as smooth.

And then if I really am running outta money and time,

then I'm gonna do it faster

and I'm gonna do it in six frames.

[pops tongue] And here, now you're losing the fluidity

but I'm gaining money so I could do the rest of the episode.

But it's a fake.

Nobody cares about fluid or smooth.

You want great acting,

you want good jokes, good stories, good characters.

If it's a little choppy, I don't care.

So don't obsess over smoother fluidity,

obsess over stories, [keyboard tapping]

character, humor, storytelling.

@Piech42, Why are there so many cartoon characters

that don't wear pants?

That is a old, timeless question.

It's haunted me in my dreams sometimes.

It's just somebody's choice

to have a character be naked.

And it's okay if he has a bow tie on.

[keyboard tapping] Let's keep thinking

about this one, all right, thank you.

@Bezzeroo, Do voice actors try

and time their voice to animation

or do animators have to animate

what the voice actor's saying?

The voices come first, before the animation starts.

We have the actor come in,

they'll read the line,

we edit it into the shot,

and then the animator starts to animate to the lip sync

and we break down the waveform, right?

So what's loud, what's accented,

and then we'll follow that for the animation.

Now interestingly enough, for Primal,

I just have grunting.

[dramatic music] [Spear screams]

We did our dialogue recording after the animation was done.

Aaron LaPlante, who voiced Spear,

he would then come in,

we would play him the picture,

[Genndy grunting]

and then he would do the grunting to the picture.

A lot of anime is actually dubbed,

sometimes, after, with the voice cast.

But for our style of animation,

our mouths are very articulated.

We have to do it [keyboard tapping]

to the voice recording, not after.

@weischoice, or Weis Choice, maybe.

When they make sequels [muted Latin music]

to animated movies,

do animators repurpose shots or elements of them

from the former movies?

I don't really know much about animation

so this could be a very stupid question.

For Hotel Transylvania,

from the first movie to the second movie,

we repurposed most of their character designs

and the castle itself.

But on the other hand,

because technology's going so fast,

within a couple of years,

Imageworks, the studio that we used,

they reprogrammed all their tools

so they couldn't just use it.

They had to input it,

and then change it and upgrade it.

But yeah, usually for sequels,

unless you change locations, [keyboard tapping]

there is some savings in that.

@miiccams, What're the 12 principles of animation?

Basically, there's squash and stretch.

You have a circle, it gets hit by something,

and so then it squashes.

That's squash and stretch.

Then anticipation, before you can go straight,

you have to go backwards.

For a big, cartoony character doing a punch,

the anticipation is crazy.

So this's a big anticipation for a punch.

And then the punch would be,

you know, completely off the page.

So there's your anticipation and there's your punch.

And follow through is if you go to grab something,

things move at different speeds.

So if the hand is anticipating this way;

and we're gonna grab;

then when we move it, my wrist'll go first,

my elbow'll go back.

And so, you see the wrist is leading, here.

And then it catches up after.

So that's all about overlapping action and follow-through.

And you can put the squash and stretch in there too,

because then the hand can be delayed a little bit

then there's a little stretch.

And really, those three will get you started.

There are 10 maybe, maybe there's eight.

And I'm not gonna give them to you

'cause those are the earned principles,

that you have to first learn the first five principles

and then when you get to the eighth principle,

sometimes we'll throw in three more principles.

And by, you know, 30 years in the industry

I know 27 principles.

But I'm not gonna talk about them

'cause you can't even comprehend those principles.

You know, I'm probably gonna get reamed

for forgetting a whole bunch,

but, you know, start with those.

@ [beep] disorder.

How often do animators forget to animate

the characters blinking

and how often do we just not notice

they haven't been blinking for like, five minutes?

Blinking is part of keeping a character alive,

and sometimes, even breathing.

That's an odd thing, because it's really creepy

'cause you almost feel like they are kind of alive.

We did that on Fang in Primal,

where we had her breathe more

'cause she's such a big creature.

Sometimes you forget about the little things,

and sometimes the little things say a lot.

We're always kinda thinking about it.

So I usually, if the character's just standing there

we'll always remember [keyboard tapping]

to use a blink.

But good observation, though.

@slowbeef, 3D modeling/animation question,

is an armature and a rig the same thing.

Rigging, we use the term for...

You know what, I'm not gonna explain it.

It's hurting my brain.

An armature's basically a skeleton.

[laughs] This's the worst drawing I've done today.

That's your armature.

But rigging is actually, in CG animation,

you put a point here and you put a point here,

and now your elbow and your arm can move.

So that's called rigging a character for movement.

And the armature is really the proper beginning

to the rigging process.

It's something I hate [keyboard tapping]

to talk about.


Why's 'Hotel Transylvania's' animation so good?

Hotel is good because we took the principles

of classical animation,

stuff that was done in the '30s, and '40s, and '50s

and we translated it into CG.

And what that means is adding,

you know, new sculptures to the model

and every new expression and pushing the squash and stretch

and forgetting about gravity.

And actually, one really interesting thing that happened

was because our animation was so extreme,

what happens is you animate,

like, a naked puppet, basically.

It goes to a different department

and they put the clothe dynamics over it.

The computer then knows how to fill in the dynamics.

But not when you're moving from here to here in one frame.

That doesn't happen in real life.

So constantly, the clothes dynamics were broken.

The animators had to go back in

and actually start animating the clothes,

like, how we would do it on paper.

And then they would put those key frames in

for the dynamics,

and then they would follow them a little better.

Everyone had so much fun, I think, doing it,

because the results [keyboard tapping]

were so unique.

@iammeessence, or I am Essence,

it's a little Popeyeish.

[Popeye] I'm me essence.

Who knows how to create a cartoon character?

I like to really think of a character inside out.

Is it a happy character?

Is it a sad character?

And then you're gonna start to find shape language

that suits those personalities.

I'm gonna draw it because I like to draw.

Let's say we're gonna draw a happy character.

Then the posture of that happy character

will usually be happy, arched,

and there's already a positive vibe to this character.

Now, in the same respect,

let's say it's kind of a sad-sacky, sad character.

And the body posture has to work with the attitude.

And that's really the beginning principles of it all,

how it all works.

Also, once you start drawing your character

they're gonna start changing.

It's like having a baby.

The baby starts as a pile of mush.

And then its starts to tighten up,

and grow older, and have a personality,

and all those things.

When we first designed Dexter,

Dexter was really tall even though we knew

we wanted him to be short.

And as we start drawing him as a rectangle,

we do hundreds of storyboards and we keep going with it.

All of a sudden the shorthand,

he starts to shrink.

And he gets squatter, [laughs] right?

So you can see the the difference.

And it's funny, 'cause Dee Dee didn't go through

the same transformation.

I think her torso maybe got a little smaller.

We call it pushing proportions.

She was kinda like this, right, in the first season.

And then as we, same thing, we drew her,

we drew her, we drew her more,

and more, and more, and more.

And then she became this.

Nothing that we really thought about on purpose,

but just something that happened organically.

So don't be so hard on yourself

and draw the character exactly the same

every time you gonna draw them.

Give yourself the freedom to get comfortable with it.

The character will become

who they organically wanna be [keyboard tapping]

without trying to think about it too much.


Why're the 'Clone Wars' episodes so short?

The truth of it is,

we were really the first ones to do Star Wars

besides, like, really just doing commercials.

And initially, George only allowed Cartoon Network

to do one-minute episodes

and I said Well, one minute is basically a commercial.

I don't wanna do that.

I need at least three to five minutes.

They went back to George,

and George and his son, especially, I think,

liked Samurai Jack.

So they said, We've got Genndy

and the team from 'Samurai Jack',

but they want more time.

And so, then George said,

Okay, they can have three to five minutes.

I think he was afraid we were gonna mess it up.

And I don't blame him,

[laughs] 'cause that's like your baby, you know?

I wouldn't want somebody else taking it

and just doing what they want with it.

That's the truth behind the shortness

of those first Clone Wars.

@She_Ascends, Why did my parents let me

watch 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' at such a young age?

I don't know why.

I think it's okay, it's not that bad.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? helped,

actually, bring back animation.

Basically, around '88,

animation was in really bad shape.

TV shows are really bad quality.

Even Disney feature animation was about to get sold.

Then they were making Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

And it kind of reminded people how fun animation could be.

And not only technically did they blend

live action and animation,

but they combined Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse together

in the same movie,

so it felt something more special.

And it was great because of it.

@simmykierra, How do you direct an animated show?

It's all about having a point of view

and having everybody help you to create that vision.

I was doing Dexter's Lab,

an artist would draw the storyboard.

We would pin it all up,

and then they would pitch it.

We had one storyboard artist,

when he pitched the storyboard

it was in, like, this funny voice.

And so, Dexter come over here.

And then there's Dee Dee.

And so, the whole room was crying laughing.

After he finished I was like,

Well, how the hell am I supposed to transfer

this performance into this episode?

'Cause he doesn't sound like the characters at all.

They don't talk like that.

But there was something about it that worked.

And so, I realized, Oh right, that's my job.

My job is now to take this performance

and translate it into something entertaining.

And it was like a really big epiphany in my career.

Like, Oh right, that's actually what I do.

@twistedlilKim, What was your favorite

'Samurai Jack' episode,

and why was it the 'Jump Good' one?

It's not the Jump Good one,

it's probably the Blind Archers one.

Because it's the first episode

that everything worked at such a high level.

The story was simple and super cool,

the design of it was very simplistic and great,

and we did that thing where we blinded him

and it was black,

and as the audio came up we started to see it.

So it was so artistic but still had badass action.

There was something about it that really clicked.

You never wanna pick favorites,

but that's probably the one that had the most impact on us.

@chris_cull, As someone who doesn't work in animation,

how often is a storyboard made?

Like, every cut in the scene

or is it a set number of frames?

Generally, the whole rule is every time you cut

there's a new storyboard.

Every time there's a change of emotion

there's a new storyboard.

Every time anything semi-significant happens

there's a new drawing in the storyboard.

Our storyboards have now become,

basically, almost extremes.

Because the storyboard is so important,

now we're drawing more and more panels.

Lucky for you I have some storyboard examples

for Unicorn: Warriors Eternal,

for the first episode.

This is Copernicus, who's the robot

coming out of his little grave.

We'll cut to the hole,

and you see his arms come out,

[Genndy imitates machinery]

a bunch of steam that comes out,

and he starts to lift his body up.

And he continues up.

And now we cut to a different front angle,

and he rises up

[Genndy imitates rocket]

and then [imitates thud] lands

and then we start cutting close.

And then when I draw this,

I'll maybe even break it down even more to a degree.

And this, you know, this is all the first episode.

I like to do it like this first

so then I don't get bogged down with the drawing.

All the emotion, and the speed,

and the pacing comes out.

Storyboards, they're the most important

because that's your story.

It's everything. [keyboard tapping]

Without a storyboard, you got nothing.

@Smomotion, Writers often give animation notes.

Where do animators get to submit notes for the writers?

That's a big question.

In a situation,

sometimes a writer has too much opinion.

And then the artists don't have as strong of an opinion,

but the writer gets to tell us what to do.

Artists and storyboard artists are a proud bunch.

And we know what we're doing, but sometimes we don't.

And so, we'll forget the writing,

we'll throw it away,

and then we'll do it on our own.

And it's equally doesn't work.

So usually the healthiest relationships

are the writer and the animator are both together

and they're a unified team.

That's why I always write my own stuff

for the most part,

because I want to have dual power. [laughs evilly]

But yeah, usually animation folks

don't get a chance to give writers critiques.

We just complain about it [keyboard tapping]

at our desks for three years.

@_qp96, Do you know the difference

between animation and cartoon

or should I mind my own business?

Animation, cartoons, anime, whatever.

It's all the same thing.

But yeah, in the industry, especially in features,

cartoony might have some negative connotations.

I love all the old style of animation,

the Warner Brothers Tex Avery, all that stuff.

I love to use the word cartoon,

it's one of my favorite words. [keyboard tapping]

So I think you're good!

@95vevo, My character design homework

is to draw cartoon character using the golden mean.

How the fuck?

I'm not really familiar with the golden mean.

I think what it's trying to say is to be dynamic.

We used to say this thing,

Keep the proportions of the design special.

If you have a character,

you don't want all of the elements to feel even,

because this's just boring.

What you want is your elements of the design to be special.

If I'm designing a football player,

you can design him like a,

you know, human proportions,

or it's that.

And same thing for composition too.

Usually we think of the camera broken down into thirds,

and where do you put your horizon line?

If you put it in the center

and then your character in the center

everything is kind of boring.

But if you take, you know, your horizon line

and you lower it,

and then your character's on the side, here,

all of a sudden we've got drama, and interest, and scale.

So when it says your character design homework

is using that principle, it's just big, small, and medium.

And think about it as what's special or unique?

@unorigusername, Cartoons're better

because you can create a world.

What limitations do animators face that they can't surpass?

It's all about how well you draw.

If you can draw it, it can exist.

If you can imagine it and you can draw it, it exists.

So the only things I can't do're the things

that I can't draw.

And in my position,

I'll then find somebody who can draw those things

[laughs] and I'll hire them.

But yeah, usually you're just limited

[keyboard tapping] by your drawing ability.

There is no limitations.

And, I guess, your imagination.

[mouse clicks] Well, I think

[muted Latin music] that about wraps it up.

Thank you so much.

Thank you for all the questions.

And really, thank you for the last 30 years

for watching all the shows.

It's super special to me

and I appreciate all your time,

and thank you.

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