I've received quite a few messages about the walk cycle I did for Eric the zookeeper. "What's your process?" is often the question so I thought I'd do a post showing the steps from beginning to end. Anyone serious about animated walks need look no further than Dick Williams' wonderful book "The Animator's Survival Kit" for tips and tricks by the way.
When working on an actual scene where there is probably more going on than just walking or running, it's nice to go straight ahead after the first blocking as the result tends to look more spontaneous and organic, but in this case it was just a simple cycle so it became more of a technical exercise. First I roughed out the main walking positions, very quickly, without much detail: step left, down, middle, up, step right, down, middle, up, so we can return to step left. I shot the eight drawings on 4s:
Right away I saw I didn't like the movement of the cap, it's too much, and there's some jerking and twitching going on in the upper arms. Also, there is no sense of dimension or perspective yet. I didn't want to go overboard with this as part of the charm of Uli's designs is that they should read as flat drawings, but I thought that at least I should add a little feel of Eric's face and body moving away and towards us as it adds a slightly more sculpted feel. Otherwise I felt quite confident going in and starting to add detail:
It's starting to look like something now. I left the cap and hair out at this stage as I thought I might still change the spacing a bit; add more drawings when he's at his highest perhaps, maybe take some out when he's down so the steps are a bit more bouncy. The body and head are now moving a little bit more in perspective, though everything still feels quite flat. The main thing I noticed is that I went overboard a bit with the nose and upper lip. It looks nice and funny but they really are bouncing up and down too much, Eric isn't made out of rubber. I tend to go too far (cos it's so much more fun to go wild!) and then have to reign myself in a bit. I also found the wrists snap too much on the arm swings. Breaking the joints in movement adds a lot of sexy looking flexibility, but here the eyes are drawn to it too much:
The cap now adds more dimension to the face, and I've changed the eyes as well so on the step right position the face is almost profile. My experimenting with the spacing is done so I went straight ahead over the drawings to do the hair. I'm noticing that the nostrils and teeth are jumping around and that the belly volume isn't up to standard yet, that still needs fixing. Other than that we're almost there. I could keep fixing a lot of other things I'm not happy with (those wrists could be toned down even more) but at this point we're not looking for perfection, this is just a test so we can figure out a pipeline for the film. Uli took my drawings and went over them to put Eric on model, and he put the whole thing on 1s as well(my final version was still mostly on 2s) adding an extra smoothness to everything. Needless to say he can draw circles around me, it's amazing how much better everything instantly looks the moment he touches it!
And there you have it. You can see the coloured clip below.