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London Feature Animation Workshops



Who: Kyle Balda co- director of Minions and The Lorax, Illumination Studios

Andrew GordonDirecting Animator, Pixar.  

Over 50 years of experience between t

What: A two day Directing for Animation Masterclass.  Everything from the fundamentals of animating character to best practice for feature direction.  These are going to be two highly interactive days full of practical exercises and lectures.hem.

Where:  The University of Greenwich – King William Building

When: 3rd, 4th June

Why: To give you the benefit of skills, techniques, insights and lessons learnt from working with two of the world’s leading studios.
This class is a rare opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated due to the hectic schedules of our presenters.
Don't miss your  chance to learn the industry best practise in all aspects of animating and directing.


This June Kyle Balda (Illumination)and Andrew Gordon (Pixar) are passing on their years of experience in a two day Feture Animation workshop.

Andrew Gordon


This lecture is my journey to Pixar and some of the things I learned along the way that might help the new generation of animators and artists be successful.


Starting with the why we move characters, we look at how and why a character moves. Through lecture and exercise we explore the big poses of a walk. Then get into the finishing techniques for a walk. We also take a look at animal locomotion and what to look for in order to get it back into your work for creatures with more than 2 legs. Discussion of actors methods of creating character through walks are discussed as well. We also talk about acting while locomoting.

Posing the Body and the Hands**

In this exercise we look at the base principles of what makes a strong pose in the body and the hands. We also take a look at previously posed work and break down what is working and what is not by looking at detailed draw-overs. Discussions such as stacking, overlapping shape, appeal, simple to complex and more are discussed. Discussion with other animators are also part of this lecture.

Acting for Animation

In this lecture we break down the basics of good and not so good acting. Exploration of motivation of character, reactions, status, as well as common mistakes. We also get out of our seats and try a few assignments in order to explore how a character might do something. This lecture is all about giving your characters emotional resonance and includes insights from the best directors and animators in the business.

Gestures in Animation.

In this talk we look at how gestures work in animation. From gesturing with hands to what it means to not gesture we will explore how to come up with interesting choices for your characters. We look at acting patterns and use some exercises to get us used to staying away from those cliché gestures we so often see in animation. This talk is designed to help you come up with better acting ideas for your characters in a fresh believable way.

Planning Process

Many people just sit down and begin without ever thinking about what a scene or sequence calls for. Many of the master animators would say that planning was half of the work they did before putting pencil to paper. In this talk we look at the 2016 version of what planning is at a major feature animation studio. Attendees also have an opportunity to plan a shot given by the instructor and pitch that plan to the audience. Pitching techniques are also talked about in the section.

Blocking Techniques

Layered, Step, Pose to Pose, Straight ahead, Keyframe, sketch blocking… All these and more will be discussed as we dive into a look at the different styles of blocking I have seen over the 20 years I have been working at studios. Blocking action, Blocking dialogue, Blocking multiple scenes, Blocking multiple characters..Blocking acting.. Too much? Too little? This talk is a must see for any computer animator wanted to know if there is a magic bullet to use when blocking.

Facial Design and Animation

In this talk we look at what makes a good facial pose and how we animate it to make believable acting. Breaking down the face into three parts: Eye Mask, Nose Area and Mouth we discuss the attributes of feature quality animation in the face. Dialogue, Eye Blinks, Brows, Nose, Appeal, Naturalism etc are just some that get us thinking about the topic. The face must look convincing for people to believe our characters exist in the real world as the gap between real time animation and rendered feature work closes. Lets look at what is most important.

Finishing Techniques

It is said that the last 5% is what really makes a scene come alive. What does it really take to polish a shot on the level of an animated feature in 2016? In this talk we look at some of the things we need to look out for in the finishing of a shot. Topics such as physical polish, emotional polish, contacts, facial polish, tying in the environment as well as many, many more topics are discussed at length. The spline is our friend in this talk.

Demo Reels and other.

Having run the Pixar animation internship 4 times I have seen many types of reels. In this talk we take a look at what makes a great reel and how to present your work so that it hooks your intended viewer. We talk about best practices of rig use, and also take a look at some reels that made the cut.

Kyle Balda


-Changes: A detailed look at deconstructing the story from its larger parts, acts and sequences to its smaller parts, shots and beats.  We will examine all the thresholds that mark the changes between these moments.

-Motifs in Storytelling:  All stories share archetypal patterns regardless of genre.  Here we will explore the classic “Hero’s Journey” or arch-plot to ground ourselves in the key themes that relate the story/character dynamic.


-Archetypal patterns in Characters: What are the major themes in character?  Here we explore the archetypes of Hero, Mentor, Trixter, Shape-shifter, Shadow.  What makes these classic archetypes ubiquitous in films and how to new original characters are crafted?

-First Impressions: A detailed look at how characters are introduced in the story and what this says about them.

-Developing the Character: What are the conflicts and problems we put our characters through and how do we deepen the relationship of the audience to them as they go through their ordeals?

-Completing the Arc: Where are our characters at the end of the story? What has changed in them? In which way was the story relevant for them never being able to go back to how they were before


-Creating a rooted interest in the characters: What is it that makes us care what happens to the characters? How can this investment be amplified and manipulated?

-Raising and keeping the stakes high: Once we have a vested interest in our characters, how do we turn up the heat and put pressure on them to see what they do next?

-Unexpected turns: Cliches are death to the emotional investment of the audience.  How can we infuse a sense of surprise into the experience that keeps interest at a peek?

-Grounding the audience & earning the payoff: Having won the trust of our audience we must deliver a credible payoff and conclusion.


-Beat by Beat: The beat is the smallest level of change that gets communicated in the story and are the building blocks of the animators/actors performance.

-Subtext: “Show, don’t tell” the audience how a character feels.  Especially (but not only) in the case of dialog, characters often say one thing and show another.  Subtext is the ability to communicate these multiple dimensions to the beats of a character’s thinking and feeling processes.

-Eyes:  The eyes are the single most important feature of the character to express and humanise a performance.  This is a detailed look at techniques to create expressions of subtext and feeling.


-Character Staging: How does the overall placement of the characters in relationship to the camera (and its lenses) lend themselves to the emotional enhancement of the storytelling?

-Editing’s relationship to staging:  Layout and editorial are closely linked in the filmmaking’s process.  This section will describes the relationship and the important processes of visual story-telling.

-Ahead and Behind the Story: Audiences can enjoy knowing more or less then our characters.  This is an exploration in staging at how we can ?

-Tying it all together: How does does STAGING and ACTING come together to create memorable and emotionally entertaining screen moments that sweep our audiences away.  Story, Character and Emotion.

Most sessions involve in seat work that the participant can take part in using a workbook supplied.

Friday, June 3, 2016 - 8:30am to Saturday, June 4, 2016 - 5:30pm
Submission Deadline 
Friday, June 3, 2016 - 8:15pm
University of Greenwich
SE10 9LS
United Kingdom