Tim Allen

Feature Film Showreel from Tim Allen on Vimeo.

We had the pleasure of getting a talk from Tim Allen at my university last week. He is a stop motion animator who has worked on a number of projects such as the feature length films: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie and Fantastic Mr Fox (films that I've really enjoyed in the past), to commercial projects and TV animation. 

Allen always wanted to do art, doing a BTEC in art at college, but he didn't know what he wanted to do with it, so applied for a model designing course until someone mentioned animation, something ’clicked’ and he decided to do stop motion as he enjoys being hands on.

After university he got work experience for Bob the Builder after sending his showreels off to lots of different companies, calling and pushing to get meetings. For the audition he was given a simple puppet to create animation with, something which every intern did, to see how each compared.

Allen continued with work experience for a year and half, sometimes for free, until he started work on a children’s educational program called El Nombre, which he worked on for 10 months. He admits this was boring at the best of times with the repetition.

He worked mainly on children’s programs, including Fireman Sam. Which is his longest ever job, probably staying for so long because it was had such a variety with emergencies and rescues in each episode. It was also on this job that he learnt how to do walking sequences as there was a scene with each character using a treadmill, each character needed their own running style. 


His ‘big break’ came from Corpse Bride, where he had 3 days auctions. He had to create a walking sequence and lip sync for the main character Victor, he was giving all previous information on the character so he could get his walk right. Allen found that the characters were so long and thin it was difficult to make the balance and weight physical correct. For the lip sync he asked other animators what the director liked to see, so he could add these all to his audition. He created a scene with lots of eye movement and no still poses, giving the character quick movements.
He became the animator for the ‘bad guy’ of the film, which he enjoyed as the character had lots of movement in his face. By working on one character he was allowed to develop the character.
He found that feature films were much more detailed and consistent with the animation, with 2 seconds a day being created.

His also worked on Creature Comforts, which allowed him to try out their unique month shapes which he found were very detailed. With two characters talking to each other in a scene it was important to draw the audience’s eye to where it should be. The character not talking would have next to no movement to stop it from distracting. If the attention wants to be on the other character they would look at each other, or make little movements.

The most recent feature film Allen worked on was Frankweenie. He would start with a moving storyboard, an animatic so he would know how the scene should look; there would then be a rough for the lighting and camera movements. The camera’s movement is pre-programmed so animators need to follow this carefully, to make sure the character is all in shot and in focus. It works out that the camera will start moving 6-8 frames after the character.

It was such an interesting talk to see how stop motion animation actually works, and that it really is as hard as it looks. Also to see how Allen had gone from student to professional, and all the challenges along the way.  


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