“Animation For Those Who Can’t Draw!” Sanjiv Waeerkar

When 250 plus people show up for a workshop titled “Animation for those who cannot draw!”, you know you are doing something right! We at TASI had planned this workshop with the intention of initiating a new outlook towards animation.

The encouraging response was proof enough that there are many who nurture a desire to animate but fear their own lack of drawing skills. The 5 hour session was held on 19th Jan. at Mumbai Educational Trust (MET) in Bandra, the heart of Mumbai city with registrations open students, professionals and novices alike. Sanjeev Waeerkar, Creative Director, UTV, who conducted this interactive workshop is also a former TASI committee member.

Sanjiv started by questioning a few pre-conceived notions about animation. He asked the participants to share whether they thought drawing was or was not integral to animation and the reasons for their beliefs.

The answers were varied and the participants had a lot to say.

1. Drawing helps translate one’s imagination on to paper
2. Drawing is essential to successfully communicate one’s ideas to others, especially when working in a team
3. A fair idea of weight, volume, proportions etc. helps better animation
4. Observing and analyzing poses is important
5. Being able to draw well helps with framing of scenes through story-boarding
6. Drawn animation (or 2D) is a lot faster than 3D animation
7. Good observation skills are crucial
8. Good acting skills do not necessarily translate into great animation
9. A deeper understanding of anatomy aids animation

Sanjiv then put forth his views saying “If one’s brain is filled with brilliant ideas but cannot get his hand to realize these, his creativity can go to waste. But at the same time, a creative thinker needs only to learn the necessary skills, whether drawing or software, through an institute to be able to put forth is ideas in front of the world. Take advantage of the fact that today most animation is done by teams of specialised people. There is a person assigned to take on various tasks, eg. for a modeler, the knowledge of anatomy is critical but not for the rigger.”

“If you like a scene, you must analyze why you like that particular scene, why it works for you. That is what will sharpen your observation and animation skills.” Sanjiv also showed some of his studio’s work.

Sanjiv took the participants through a few scenes from famous Disney films – Peter Pan, Bambi and Lilo and Stitch along with a detailed breakdown of each of them. He explained staging, the setting up of the mood of the scene and drawing the audience’s attention to a particular point in the scene. A particular scene could be enacted in multiple ways but it is up to the animator to choose which is most effective. He talked about the use of audio cues through voice (dialogue delivery) and sound effects and how they influence the action in the scene.

“It is a skill to make the audience anticipate the character’s next move through the composition of the scene, the pose of the characters and the direction of their motion.” Putting the spotlight on certain background or foreground elements also guides the audience’s eye through subtle hints at where the next action might take place. Sanjiv showed examples for each of the points that he presented before the participants who were glued to their seats, hanging on to his every word.

While Jai Natarajan presented his counter-point on the scene from Peter Pan, Ranjit Singh added that one must look at the sequential context of the scene. When planning a single scene, one must not forget the holistic picture into which the scene must blend in.

Sanjiv concluded the first part of the workshop with 3 key observations:
1. Most institutes ask students to demonstrate their drawing skills when they seek admission. Without judging the institutes for doing so, Sanjiv declared that he felt the question itself was unimportant.
2. Drawing is not critical to animation but it was always an added bonus to know any art form.
3. What is most important for good animation is understanding and observing everything around you.
“Animating is about movement, not drawing alone. The movement has to be conveyed really well.”

Vaibhav Kumaresh spoke of the National Film Board of Canada’s animators and film makers. They have created beautiful animated films where even though each individual frame is not an example of brilliant drawing, yet the entire film is a piece of art. He cited Paul Dressen’s style of animation. His drawings are almost like squiggles, the lines are shaky and most certainly not illustrated masterpieces. But the animation is outstanding. It is not the quality of drawing but the soul of action that matters.

Addressing the students in the audience, Ranjit Singh spoke of the two most commonly asked questions in his 6 years of conducting seminars and workshops with TASI –
1. What makes a good portfolio?
2. Is drawing really important for animation?

“The gist of good animation is the performance. Not effects, not modeling. Do not try to pack all your work into the portfolio. Only showcase your best work. Focus on what you are best at. Amateurs are very often picked up by studios for the potential, not for what they already are. What matters is how good you are in your grasp of the subject. You must identify your strengths and play to them. If it is texturing, then your portfolio should be biased towards it. Nowadays all studios have specialized departments and jobs. You will find your place based on your strength.

For the second part of the workshop, Sanjiv chose 8 volunteers from the audience and split them into 2 teams. Each team was given a situation to enact which was captured on a digital camera. One team was led by Vaibhav and the other by Tony. There was no dialogue and the teams had to convey the story through their acting and performance skills. The audience had to draw their own conclusions from the performances. For every correct guess the team got points. This activity enabled the audience to fully gauge how crucial body language, actions and gestures are to convey not just the story itself but also to give the audience an insight into the characters themselves. At the end there was no winning team, but it felt like every participant came out feeling like a winner! Sanjeev liked the performances of both teams so much, specially keeping in mind that none of them are professional actors, that he decided all 8 of them deserved the prize – TASI T-shirts!!

Finally for some audience feedback. It was extremely heartening for us at TASI to know that our endeavour is benefiting students. One of the participants summed up what she felt all of them have gained from TASI events. “At our institutes, there is only so much that we learn. But here, there is always something new and exciting that we are exposed to. I have attended every TASI event since I became a member and I have never been disappointed. Thank you, TASI!”

Thank you, audience!


About Sanjiv Waeerkar:
Sanjiv is a commercial art graduate (specialising in illustration) from the LS Raheja School of Art (Mumbai). The son of late Shri. Ram Waeerkar, his interest in animation was fuelled by his father’s illustrations for Tinkle comics. Sanjiv has won various domestic and international awards. As a director he has worked on animation production with companies from across the globe including the famous ‘Meena’ and ‘Sara’ projects for UNICEF. Sanjiv has personally trained many animators and has been instrumental in setting up one of the larger animation companies in India. He is now the Creative Director at UTV and is currently working on a full-length animated feature.

The event was supported by: