For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No. 118, How I Got It Right--and How I Got It Wrong: Maquette, Part 2

Off and on I have slowly been working on my Sculpey maquette, which I began soon after publishing post no. 116 in which I declared that I needed to do that for one of the characters.

First, let's review the front and side view drawings that I made.

Working directly from the drawings, I built a basic armature on a block of wood. An armature is an inner support like a skeleton that bears the weight of a clay or other plastic (i.e. malleable) sculpture and holds it in place.  I neglected to photograph the naked armature, but here I got a shot before it was completely covered up. It consists of a length of heavy gauge steel wire stapled to the wooden block and then bent and shaped upward around a 3" (8 cm) screw that I had driven firmly into the block. The screw is the basic neck support. The upper end of the wire was then coiled around to support the skull space. The exact size front and side images were carefully studied to make certain that the wire would not extend outside the volume of the head. I then wrapped the wire and screw in aluminum foil; this saves on Sculpey material both in weight and volume, and a hollow layer of Sculpey will cure easier than a big solid lump.

Working still quite closely with the drawings, trying to get the linear dimensions and contours of the model to exactly match them, I began adding the modeling clay a little at a time. This is a painstaking process, and at first it doesn't look like much.

You have to work hard to keep the sculpture symmetrical, repeatedly examining it from every angle. Now it is beginning to come together.

And now with the eyes in place, it begins to look like what it is supposed to be.

Well, so far, so good. It is on the way to being a good match for both the front and side views, right? We just need the ears and hair and a few other details, right?

But wait. What of that 3/4 view that I also drew? If it was a well-done inbetween, it ought to be looking good also--right? Let's take a look.

Well, part of it looks accurate, but the head shape is wrong. Note how close to the eye I have shown the side hair to be. Why would that have happened?

The answer is that cartoonists and cartoon animators are used to working with character heads that are basically spheres. But Kevin's head is not a sphere.  Here is a view of it from the top looking down.

The head is actually longer front to back than side to side, a shape
that hat makers call "long oval".
So, the maquette is proving useful already. Here is a new drawing of a 3/4 view based on observation of my unfinished maquette.

Check back here soon where I will do a post showing the finished Kevin maquette.


  1. I've faced a similar experience this week. Although I'm not the one building it, but my girlfriend. To know how a dog character we will animate looks like from different angles.
    But we didn't go for the wire structure. Just went for the rigid model

    1. As long as you get something that works for your purpose, it doesn't matter your technique or material. The inner structure just gives the piece more strength, basically. I once made one out of ordinary modeling clay, the kind with an oily base. I used wire from a coat hanger and after a couple of years it began to weep rusty oil out the base. I had to get rid of it.