9 top tips for creating award-winning animated shorts

With Anthony Wong and David Tousek's award-winning Wildlife Crossing finally seeing release, the duo share some lessons learned.

wildlife crossing 1

Maya was the weapon of choice for Wildlife Crossing, used for modelling and animation

Back in 2013 Pixar's Anthony Wong and David Tousek, founder of the Anomalia Animation Training School, teamed-up to create Wildlife Crossing.

"As animation director, I like to block out the film with poses as soon as possible," Wong says. "The goal here is hitting the story beats. Believe it or not, these can be lost when a film goes from storyboards to animation, especially the jokes.

"Once the beats are clear and established, the animators can then polish and add subtleties to their shots. I prefer a simple, clean, entertaining presentation of animation, instead of busy and fancy movements."

The design process

wildlife crossing car final

”None of the concept artists had designed for 3D animation before so it was a great opportunity for experimentation”

This award-winning animation was the brainchild of Noro Drziak and created with a team of talented concept artists. Wong and Tousek had developed a great opportunity for experimentation.

Both classical and CG artists teamed up on the project bringing a unique range of skills. Concept cars designed by classical sculptor, Stepan Beranek, who had never worked in 3D animation before. These designs were then brought to life by CG expert, Martin Furak who specicialises in photorealistic CG car modelling.

wildlife crossing car

The design of the car evolved from a classical cartoon one to one that was futuristic with high-resolution detailing

"Designing the characters was a collaborative process that pulled a lot of ideas from many sources," explains Tousek. ”From the director, the animation director, the concept artists and myself as the art director, we all worked on it using an online forum, posting ideas and comments.

wildlife crossing snail 1

To make the snail come alive and offer balance, an eyes-mouth triangle was devised to keep the features in check

"We started to challenge the idea of the cartoon and suggested a stylised design, such as a snail with a hat and a tie. But that seemed too exaggerated a direction – the fact that the snails have human eyes and a mouth is enough!

snail wildlife crossing boy

The team used simple angles and shapes to create the body. The neck and head is angled up and way from the shell for realism and movement, the body is thicker for the male snail and is used to act out emotions

"After organising an animation team, keeping the quality as high as possible is the key to success to any animation project,” he says, "but even more so on a low budget, independent production, because animating takes the longest time, not to mention that it takes years to gain the appropriate level of quality, talent and experience.

David believes the tight deadlines that animators work to can encourage teamwork and even enhance the process

"The animation stage influences all other areas such as story, design, look, detail level, production complexity, timetable and budget. And because the resources are limited, and a team has to work faster in order to successfully meet its goals, all the planning has to revolve around the ability to assemble a good team that animates fast.

"And we believe that fast does not have to mean low quality. So keep in mind that you have limited time and resources, plan well and get collaborative people that understand the ups and downs of the whole journey."

wildlife crossing snail

The Wildlife Crossing project covered character rigging in production using Maya. The training was provided by Josh Carey from Reel FX, who rigged the main character

Tousek says having top animation supervisors on a team is the first step toward the success of an animated short. "Animation supervisors may be expensive, but they ensure your team has solid guidance, and that you have a decision maker that can quickly spot issues and steer the whole ship away from an iceberg," he comments.

Watch Wildlife Crossing below, and for more information click here.

Next: 9 top tips from Wildlife Crossing's creators