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Jeremy Collins (Blizzard Entertainment) – Being an animator is an amazing job

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AK74 – You’re favorite “Labyrinth” character? Just don’t tell me it’s Jareth!

Jeremy Collins – Haha! My favorite character in Labyrinth is Hoggle. There’s something really appealing about his character.

He’s conflicted. Does he help Jareth and hurt Sarah in the process? Or does he follow his heart and stay true to his only friend? We liked him so much we named our family pug dog Hoggle!

AK74 – I took a peek at your bio and noticed you worked on “Tangled.” My daughter’s a huge fan of “Tangled.” When I told her I’d be talking to someone who worked on her favorite animated film she wanted me to ask you: do you have even the tiniest bit of Rapunzel’s hair?

JC – Oh man, I animated a lot of CG hair on that movie but I forgot to grab some actual hair! If I did have her hair it would be grey and lifeless anyway, just like when Mother Gothel cuts it off at the beginning of the movie!

AK74 – When thinking about work as an animator, the image a lot of people get in their heads is someone who earns a lot of money, working in this huge Hollywood studio on cool films. What’s it really like? What does a typical day for an animator such as yourself look like?

JC – Being an animator is an amazing job. I consider myself so incredibly lucky to get to be paid to basically make cartoons for a living.

On a typical day, I get to work in the morning, I’ll check my email and drink a cup of coffee, and then I’ll check my animation tasks for the day.

On any given day I could be animating a giant tentacled beast or a Pandaren brewmaster. Once a week all the animators get together and review each other’s work and talk about what we think is successful and what needs work.

Then, in the evening, I go home and have dinner with my family, read my kids a book and then put them to bed.

Two nights a week I also teach an online animation class called Games Workshop 2 at iAnimate. Check out my class if you’re interested in learning character animation!

AK74 – Films and games are not that far apart nowadays. For many people, Blizzard is the most epic gamedev company in the world. What’s it like going from films to making video games?

JC – Great question! It was a really interesting transition. When you’re animating for feature films it’s often times very compartmentalized. We would only animate scenes. Very rarely would we do any rigging or modeling.

We were given the time to focus completely on the performance of the characters. Games is a different kind of challenge. In some ways, it’s a much more collaborative experience—especially for an in-game animator.

We have to work very closely with tech art on the rigs; we work with the designers to make sure we’re providing them the kind of animation they need for their quests; and we work with programmers and engineers on the implementation and tech of getting our animations into the game engine.

But at the end of the day, it’s all still animation—moving characters and trying to convincingly simulate weight and give the illusion of life.

AK74 – While working on “Alice in Wonderland” you met Tim Burton. Does he really draw all of these characters?

JC – I actually never met Tim while working on that film. I wish I did! We interacted mainly with our animation supervisor for that one. But I do know he is heavily involved in the pre- and post-production of those films.

He had some really awesome drawings and they also hired some really talented concept artists to help visualize the characters in that first Alice movie.

AK74 – I remember reading an interview with a high-ranking manager at Nvidia some time ago. He said that the rate at which graphics cards are becoming more powerful makes games only 2-3 years behind CGI quality we see in films. I think that’s an optimistic way of looking at things, but the huge advancement in visual quality of AAA games we’ve seen during the last 5 years is undeniable. Do you think we’ll eventually see truly photorealistic games?

JC – It’s possible! Even in film there’s still some struggling to get past the “uncanny valley” effect where CG humans aren’t believable enough. I’m more excited about what we can do in the other direction.

That’s why I love games so much. They’re very personal at times and you can really immerse yourself in other people’s worlds very easily. Sometimes more easily than even film!

AK74 – I like to ask people in the games industry about their thoughts on VR. Do you think this is the future of the industry, or a dead end?

JC – I don’t really have an opinion about VR yet. I’ve spent some time with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive and I’ve enjoyed both. They were INCREDIBLY immersive experiences.

But I’m actually more excited for what VR can do outside of games than I am for what they can do for games. Areas like industrial design, medicine, and education can all benefit from VR.

I think entertainment is the obvious venue for VR right now in its infancy, but there’s a whole world of possibilities for the medium to explore.

AK74 – I was born in 1974, meaning I’m a fan of films like “Aliens”, “Predator” and “Star Wars”. I’m starting to feel that with the prices for CGI getting cheaper and cheaper, a lot of the current science-fiction films are becoming overloaded with special effects.

The script doesn’t matter. What matters is there’s a lot of things going on on screen. I went to watch “Transformers 3” and left in the middle of the screening. I just couldn’t stand how Michael Bay is treating the viewers…

JC – I think visual effects are a powerful addition to film but they have to be used judiciously. But most importantly, every element of a film should exist to further the story.

AK74 – You’ll be attending the Promised Land Art Festival this September. What are you going to talk about in Łódź?

JC – My presentation is called “Crafting Keyframes: Creating Epic Animated Cycles for World of Warcraft.” I do a deep dive into the processes that make our animation on WoW special and what it’s like to help bring Azeroth to life.

I’ll also be doing a live demo where I walk through my animation workflow in Maya and show some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned about animation in my 12 years of working in the industry.

I’m super excited to visit Łódź and extremely thankful to Promised Land for having me come out this year.

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