Show 011 – Eamonn Butler, Part Two

Eamonn Butler (on the left)

Conclusion of my interview with Eamonn Butler (he’s the one in the tux), Animation Supervisor on the films “Chicken Little” and “Reign of Fire.” Eamonn talks about how he approached many aspects of animation on “Chicken Little.” Part two of two.

Get the MP3 here: Show 11: Eamonn Butler, Part Two
Animation Podcast Show 11 MP3

(20.2MB, 43:59 minutes)

Or get the enhanced version playable only in Quicktime or iTunes
Get the AAC here: Show 11: Eamonn Butler, Part Two
Animation Podcast Show 11 AAC

(10.8MB, 43:59 minutes)

Continue for Show Notes…

  • 0:00:00: The Intro Voice
  • 0:00:04: Welcome
  • 0:00:15: Intro
  • 0:00:24: Combining 2d and CG crews
  • 0:03:47: Counter animation and “broken” rigs
  • 0:07:29: Pose to pose animation
  • 0:09:21: Simplifying the interface
  • 0:10:20: Training the crew
  • 0:15:59: Props to The Intro Voice
  • 0:16:30: Accomplishments of the crew
  • 0:17:13: On Supervising Animators
  • 0:22:02: The future of animation technology
  • 0:26:44: Speed of CG vs. 2d
  • 0:27:38: Bringing drawing in to CG
  • 0:28:24: Things to look for in portfolios/reels – Darrell Johnson’s early work (updated link)
  • 0:33:11: Eamonn leaving Disney
  • 0:35:47: Looking back on “Chicken Little”
  • 0:37:20: Wrapping up
  • 0:38:20: Conclusion of part one
  • 0:38:23: Feedback info
  • 0:38:50: Phone calls
  • 0:43:04: iTunes ratings and reviews – AP iTunes MP3 page, AP iTunes AAC page
  • 0:48:39: More about “Wild Life” – H.B. Lewis’ site

35 Comments on “Show 011 – Eamonn Butler, Part Two

  1. Great job Clay. This pair with Eamonn may be the best yet. It’s great to hear about the genesis of the tools as someone who has never used them. Mr.Butler speaks with humour, intelligence and charisma. Its great to have these accessible. Continued success in 2006 Clay, great job.

  2. Thanks James, I’m acutally surprised that you like these the most since your sight shows such strong 2d sensibilities, but I can understand why. I’m happy to get the feedback. Cheers!

  3. Great site. I just heard Andreas Deja and it was awesome. It was nice to hear a long conversation with such a great artist talking about his art by a person who really knows the business and art as well. Thank you for taking your time to do this for all of us who love to hear interviews about things we care about. You are the reason Podcating is great.

  4. Hey! Excellent interviews โ€šร„รฌ I can paint away AND listen to you guys. Sweeeet. I’m emailing all my friends (all two of them ๐Ÿ˜‰ and sending along a link to your site.

    Looking forward to more wonderful chats with perhaps some story artists and visual development people might be interesting too. And, and andโ€šร„ยถ *faints by the thought of all the great people out there that one wants pick the mind of*



  5. Hey Clay, Another great show! I just wanted everyone to know that I have moved my old site over to a place that I have control over, as I wasn’t responsible for hosting the other site. it’s at:

    I’m trying to find full versions of those animations, since the ones up at killersurf were shortened without my knowledge. And oooooo it’s painful to watch those things now!


  6. Hi Clay. great Podcast. Really inspiring!
    Cool to hear some more production stuff, and about cg animation.

    But I have one question, In the Eamon Buttler part2 Podcast. Eamon say that they developed new rigs, “broken linking” where you could pull in any part of the animation rig, instead of working with hierarchys.
    Did he mean that they used FK before, and now have IK ?


  7. Clay, this was a fascinating interview here, and since I’m a straight up traditional guy, I was a little hesitant at first about wanting to listen to a CG animator/supervisor. But boy, did Eamonn’s story and history (not to mention his humor and candor) put me at ease. It’s with interviews like this that help bridge that silly gap that can separate the 2D from the 3D at times. It’s good to see that on a production like Chicken Little that the gap became non-existent and that everyone was at “one” with each other. Artists converging to become a team. Love to hear stuff like that.

    I’ve always loved CG animation, but felt that some of it would fall into the too mechanical, too stiff, etc, categories at times. Listening to Eamonn helps remind me that behind all the zeros and ones there’s a whole bunch of guys trying to establish (or re-establish) the human element to this art-form.

    Thanks for the interview, Clay and Eamonn!

  8. This last podcast was pure gold. Definately the best one yet.

    I appreciate hearing Eamonn’s thoughts on animation methods like pose-to-pose, straight ahead, and layered, as well as his views on demo reels. He offered some unique insight on many subjects that often get dismissed.

    You are a very good interviewer, and have a good idea of what your listeners are looking to hear.

    Thanks for all your hard work in putting these podcasts together. They are a real treat.


  9. clay!

    i love it! i just added you as a link to my blog! animation podcast rocks. when do the pixar interviews begin?

  10. Agreed with all the above comments, this set was a great way to kick off the new year. His perspective on transitioning to 3D was very straightforward and insightful and something that I dont get to hear very often.

  11. I think this is your best yet, Clay. I am (begrudgingly) a business student by day. We watch a lot of crappy videos about how stuff should be done, or watch pointless powerpoint slides about this theory or that. Your Eamonn pieces run circles around them! I love the parts where he talks about letting people take ownership and finding ways to empower them. I think anyone in any industry would be well-served to spend an hour listening to this show!

    OK, I have to go to class. Hopefully in my rush-out-the-door this post makes sense. Keep up the great work!

  12. Wow! Lots of response to this one.

    Andrew – Thanks so much. I’m liking your shift toward podcasting too. I can’t wait to see what else you guys come up with.

    Frank – I’m glad you found the site. Thanks for responding. Although I don’t do this for the feedback, it certainly is rewarding to know that you are enjoying the work.

    Leo – Thanks for spreading the word. I will definitely cover all types of animation artists in the future. It’s only a matter of time.

    Darrell – Thanks for the update. I’ve changed the link in the shownotes to point to your new site. I still think it’s great work, but you ARE much better now!

    Patrick – Thanks. As far as I know, shows like Dinosaur used FK rigs. I don’t think the rigs we used on Chicken Little would necessarily be called IK because an animator could just select the hips, chest, or head and put it anywhere on screen and the rest would stay unaffected. The arms and legs were definitely IK. Now we’re using more of a combined approach, closer to what most studios are used to.

    Ward – I’m glad you got that out of the interview. It was definitely something we both wanted people to take away from it. We were just a crew of animators trying to find our way together – with a whole heck of a lot of technical stuff thrown at us along the way.

    Mark – Wow, pure gold? I couldn’t be happier that you feel that way. It makes all my efforts worthwhile to hear that. Thanks for the interview praise. I’m just trying to get answers to the things I wonder about. Maybe the fact that I really care about this stuff makes it real. I don’t know, but I’m having a great time doing this!

    Paul – Thanks for the link. Of course I’ll return the favor. Do I remember seeing your work on the Drawing Board forums? It’s good to see it all in one place. As far as the Pixar interviews, I’ve been planning those for a long time. I just need to get up there. You can bet if they send me up there on some sort of exchange program I’ll be bringing my mics. What a blast that would be!

    Bobby – Good to hear from you. Hope it inspires you to crank out some more tests.

    Brenton – Some teachers have told me they make their animation classes listed to these podcasts, but I never planned these to be used for corporate training. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As long as they are useful to people in some way, I’m happy with that. Your post made perfect sense, by the way. Thanks for writing.


  13. The podcast is great and all, but that man is handsome!

    Sharp. Real sharp.


  14. Lou – Do I sense good-natured sarcasm? There’s more than one reason why this works best as audio. Just kidding Eamonn. You’re a fine looking man.


  15. Hey Clay~
    great interview~!! all these are so inspiring~
    I am in the game industry, and it seems like we don’t have many of these great teachers as you guys do in disney~
    just really good stuff, I remember you sayin there were more interviews with Nik Ranieri? I would love to listen to the whole thing!
    one suggestion I would have is to make it longer~
    anyways,, i will be checkin this website everday for updates~
    thanks again for this podcast~


  16. Young – Longer? LONGER? Didn’t this last one cap out around 44 minutes? Don’t worry, I’ll take it as a compliment. You’re right, there is more Nik and I’ll be sharing it all with you. I’ve been joking that I’ll have to take a cue from Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” and do “Nik Week.” I definitely have enough audio for that. Sorry to keep you hanging on that, I just wanted to mix it up for a bit, especially to bring some timely Ron & John – by the way, I’ll have more of them too. I’m still working on how to bring out the shows in an orderly fashion, so bear with me in my first year. Thanks for writing.


  17. Hey Clay, Thanks so much for the great comment. I’m flattered beyond belief.

  18. Hey Clay,

    As a guy who leans heavily toward traditional animation in spite having worked at Pixar a few years, your Eamonn Butler interview was a life changing experience for me.

    I’ve never heard a CG animator present his love of the medium in such a clear, concise and humorous way. I feel like I’ve been given a whole new view of CGI animation. I was on “Dinosaur” back in those early days over in Glendale, now I have a clearer view of what those guys were dealing with.

    It’s fairly well known I’ve had issues with “Chicken Little,” but there’s no doubt in my mind that all you guys did one heck of a job turning out some of the best CG animation I’ve ever seen. Thanks for two super interviews with Eamonn, and it’s Disney’s loss to see him go.

  19. J – You earned it.

    Floyd – I knew Eamonn would be a fantastic guest but I didn’t anticipate the response this interview has garnered. You guys make me want to go listen to it again, even though it would probably be my tenth time. We all have our issues with “Chicken Little” but I’m glad you can see why we are proud of what we accomplished in those transitional years. Thanks for writing.


  20. Hey Clay,

    Great podcast with Eamonn… Nice job… Looking forward to more. Alma says you have a great radio voice.

    Chicken Little was a great achievement, and we should all be proud of what we did!

    Congratulations on your website.


  21. Eamonn mentioned Daryl Johnson on your last podcast. A reel you have seen with a dancing raisin. I am wondering if Daryl’s reel is still on line and if you have the web address. thanks Love the show

  22. Ramiro – Thanks to you and Alma for listening. How does it feel to hear your name on the air? I’ve been told I have a great face for radio too!

    Chris – If you scroll up on this page there are two places you can find the link. One is in the show notes and two is where Darrell commented and posted a link to his old tests.


  23. Excellent podcast, Clay. He’s an amazingly articulate fellow, and quite cheerful. He’s also a realist. Great combination: a cheerful realist.
    Say, if you have time (ha) I’ve just finished an animatic for a short and would love your feedback. It’s been DIY all the way, and will be for the forseeable future. It’s linked on the front of my blog.
    Thanks, and keep up the great work. You’re a fine interviewer, but that you know.

  24. Thank you for yet another head explosion ;). Although typing without one is somewhat inconvenient.

    I finally managed to watch Felidae, which wasn’t hard to track down thanks to *m*z*n. It’s a well done thriller, the characters just happen to be animated cats. Quite gory, definitely not for kids. Nice to see an attempt at animation for an older audience ouside of Japan, although that probably hurt it at the box office. I think the feline animation was well done and pretty consistent (If I counted correctly, 5 animation studios worked on it – but I don’t know if all of them did character animation).

    So much for “Spot the Eamonn in the credits” – I did my part, will you do yours ;)? May be Ron and John will elaborate on a new cat mystery in an upcoming podcast (is there any hope for “fraidy cat”)? Anyway – I’ll stop spamming your talkback now and order a new head.

  25. Josh – I’ll check out your animatic and leave some feedback on your site.

    Christian – Thanks for the info. I didn’t know what Felidae was about until now. Feel free to comment any time. It’s not spam at all.


  26. Thanks Clay. I nejoyed this one as well. He has interesting points. I think it’s very admirable to want to leave on a good note and strike out to push himself. These little podcasts are great.

  27. Darrell – Thanks for the update. By the way, can you tell us how long ago you did those tests?

    Joel – I agree. My approach has always been to attempt a job that is just beyond what I think I am capable of doing. You’ll always surprise yourself when you succeed.

  28. Given the amount of traditional artists at Disney who lost their jobs due to Eamonn Butler, i think it was insensitive to have this interview on your website.

  29. dvilliers – You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and I welcome it here, but if I agreed, I wouldn’t have interviewed Eamonn in the first place. Eamonn had very little to do with the machinations of feature animation’s transition to 3D. Of all the actions he took during that time, what stands out to me the most is the fact that he didn’t dismiss the traditional animators. He could have easily made it conveniently “difficult” to learn but instead he developed a comprehensive, eighteen-month curriculum and taught classes until his voice went hoarse. At that time the studio needed one crew to make one film and the days of Hercules when we had 75 animators on a movie were long gone. The bigger picture in the studio’s eyes of making cheaper films for more profit was the controlling force.

  30. yep… sending the work overseas because they can use cheaper labour (in particular asian countries…)…. Out sourcing is killing traditional animation…. it would be like Miyazaki (sp?) sending Princess Mononoke over to Europe… complete no-no… every country has a unique style of animation so it should stay in that country… unless for artistic purposes or the like… not sent overseas for profits… ๐Ÿ™

    I personally think chicken little would have been even cuter in 2d…. but every one has gone all “Shrekish” in their animation…. these studios, namely Disney at the moment, think that audiences care about how many pixels this and special effects that… i love innovation… but audiences… and little kids just dont care… they want good story lines and characters…. I personally think toystory is one of the best CGI movies around… but it is starting to look “traditional” with its retro, lack of depth in computer animation, large blocks of flat colour and cute generic computer patterns… but do i care… NO! because it has a great story line…. good characters and fun…

  31. Clay, the work you are doing is incredible, it is amazing to see that there are others sharing the wealth of information out there, and doing it for free. For a while there, I felt that there was nobody out there joining the open-source movement on the education side of the house, and so this has been a breath of fresh air.

    I am currently teaching at a Technical High School. It is part of the public education system, but rather than only having one school with the resources, we have a technical school where 9 schools feed into our one school offering 3D Animation. I am new in this arena, with a fine art background and a sculpture background and was asked to teach 3D Animation. Knowing nothing about it, I have been searching for any resources I can, and putting together curriculum as best I can based on books, DVDs and now your podcasts.

    One of the major crossroads I am at was brought up by Eamonn. If he were to see anything taken from someone else he would never look at that artist again. One of the difficulties I have found is taking a high school student through modeling, lighting, rendering, animating, camera work, then second class, character design, rigging and then animating their own fully rigged character was exhausting. I was losing so many students by the time we got that far because their heads were spinning. One of the things I wanted to try out this semester is, to get one of these pre-rigged characters from Highend 3D and have my students go through and animate a character that was not their own. In my understanding, it would show them what a quality rig looks like and acts like. It would give them an opportunity to get in and have fun with animating without an entire year learning how to model and rig first, and secondly, it would give them fast results to get them hooked on animation.

    My idea came as a result of seeing what animation mentor did, but listening to Eamonn Butler made me think this could be a bad idea. I fear that it might be seen as plagiarism, but I donโ€šร„รดt know how you could get the same result without a student using a rigged character created by someone else. Would you see value in using pre-rigged characters in a high school level animation class? If so, is that something a student could put into their demo reel as long as they put in the credits that the character was designed by ________?

    If you are interested in seeing what the students have done, and anyone interested in commenting on the demo reel and what we do well, and what could use improvement, I would welcome your comments. Here is the link to the demo reel.

    Once again, thank you for your podcasts, they are being used to define curriculum in the state of Utah where there is a fair amount of animation happening. I have passed your link on to 3 of the major universities teaching animation, and we currently have 8 high school programs teaching 3D Animation. I look forward to hearing from you or any of your listeners, feedback and input is always welcome.