November 19, 2012

The Guardians Rise in Norris

SCA Students Invited to a Pre-Release Screening of Rise of the Guardians

By Valerie Turpin

At the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, students are encouraged to create worlds where anything is possible. They got a taste of how this can be done with an advanced screening of DreamWorks Animation’s new film Rise of the Guardians, in which an unlikely team consisting of Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny band together to save the holidays. Following the November 16th screening, USC Professor of Cinema Practice and renowned animator Tom Sito moderated a Q&A with the film’s Head of Character Animation Gabe Hordos to give students an inside look on what it takes to be an leading industry animator.

Character shots from Rise of the Guardians

One of the most difficult components in animation is keeping the visuals of the character consistent throughout the film. Hordos discussed this process on Guardians, saying, “In order to make that subtle arc that [the characters] go through, each character had to be super specific. And in order to have a character that’s super specific, you need to have them very consistent. So in order to be consistent, you need someone overseeing it. We had fifty animators on this film, and if you have fifty animators all doing what they want to do, you’re going to have a very different character in every sequence.”

Hordos has been animating since childhood but found his first industry gig in animation by working on Joseph: King of Dreams. Since then, Hordos has successfully navigated the animation industry and has found a home at DreamWorks Animation. Further credits include Shark Tale, Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda and as supervising animator of Toothless, the lead dragon in How to Train Your Dragon.

SCA professor Tom Sito and Gabe Hordos

Hordos explained a developing technique in the animation industry, whereby each character is created by a dedicated team of  animators. This allowed for consistency in character design. Hordos found this formula worked well with Guardians, noting, “It was so awesome to have a chance to just create a character [on Dragon], and I wanted that environment for everybody. I really tried to set up a system that would allow every supervising animator [to have that] – in the credits, we’ve actually credited every supervising animator with characters because we had specific teams per character.”

Rise of the Guardians follows Jack Frost’s quest as he desperately seeks his life’s purpose. While on his path to self-discovery, Jack is enlisted by the Guardians to help save the holidays from cold-hearted villain Pitch and to remind children everywhere that the legends are more real than fairy tales. The cast includes Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher and Hugh Jackman.

What Hordos described as the most valuable component next to the animation itself was the believability of emotions conveyed through these choices in animation. “In real life, we go through great extent to hide our emotions, and we’re really good at it,” said Hordos. But we’re even better at seeing those people hide those emotions. And when you can make your character feel like its hiding what he’s going through, the audience gets it.”

Rise of the Guardians opens nationwide on November 21 in both 2D and 3D versions.

For more information on the film, please visit: