Peter Nash Conceptual Animation Talk


Last week AC was treated to a visit from Sony Pictures Imageworks Animation Supervisor Peter Nash. Peter’s Filmography is impressive and includes well-known TV series and Oscar Nominated feature work.

Peter’s talk focused on conceptual performance animation and purposefully breaking fundamental animation rules while still suspending audience disbelief.

This approach was developed as a way to push the envelope against the current 3D animation trend of realistic fluid and somewhat over animated work, which has been commonplace in many 3D animated features.


Peter pointed out that there was a stigma in the industry when CGI first came in, that it was soulless and the industry opinion was that it really needed life injected into it constantly, otherwise it really did appear lifeless. Shying away from the common 2D practice of using holds to break action, the use of moving holds has become standard in CGI to make sure characters are always moving, which can have an adverse effect making characters appear ‘floaty’ or weightless.

This stylized and deliberate approach to animation was pioneered by revolutionary animation studio UPA (United Productions of America 1940’s – 1970), who were a group of Disney animators who broke away from the herd and founded a studio based on a more graphical, purposefully flat and stylistic approach to character animation, which denied physics and strict realism rules imposed by Disney.

This style and conceptual approach is best illustrated in 1951 UPA short ‘Rooty Toot Toot'.

The characters in this short embody social commentary at the time; with the wrinkly tired face of the Judge; who flaccidly disperses ‘justice’ with loosely failing arms, the slick Lawyer; who dances around the truth with goat-like fidgety legs and the accused Franky; who slinks through scenes with rhythmical and very deliberate action.

The death scene which plays out also illustrates perfectly UPA’s willingness to throw out the rules of physics, in favour of more exaggerated performance. Strutting, darting and leaping up to the point where it appears that rigamortis sets in instantaneously.


This character specific ‘science of motion’ was applied to ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’, where the characters personality is actually broken down to describe exactly how this character moves and acts.

This when applied to the script and combined with character motivations is really the essence of comedy in ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’.

Peter took AC students through a series of scenes from both ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 1 and 2’ talking us through decisions Animators were making, subtext in performance animation, feedback from the Directors and how scenes really differ from anything else out there currently. These insights and inspiration including UPA shorts and ‘The Muppets’ are really apparent in some the films wacky, zany and out-of-the-box scenes. We encourage any animator-in-training to view Cloudy frame-by-frame to see what Sony Animators get away with.


Peter’s breakdown of Cloudy 2 character Chester really illustrates how far you can push exaggerated 3D character performance.

This approach really distinguishes Sony Pictures Imageworks animated feature films in the market breathing new life into CGI cartoon performance in feature films. 

Peter’s inside knowledge on character motion, performance, comedic timing and what Sony looks for when hiring Animators were real pearls of wisdom, which AC students no doubt took away with them.

AC was really fortunate to have international talent such a Peter Nash visit and we’ll certainly be looking out for Peter’s project ‘Angry Birds’ later this year.

Article by Gene Harris

'Rooty Toot Toot' © UPA 1951 DREAMWORKS

'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' 2009, 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' 2013 © SONY PICTURES IMAGEWORKS



facebook.jpg  youtube.jpg 

book an interview today