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Cordell Barker on animating the documentary Cat Crazed

Cordell Barker (Runaway, The Cat Came Back) recently did some animation for a new documentary by Bountiful Films entitled Cat Crazed. After posting the trailer for the film on our Facebook page, a fan asked about how he did the animation. Here’s what Cordell had to say:


Cat Crazed was a great opportunity for me.  It seems that I’m forever associated with cats – specifically animated cats.

For this project I had to create about 17 clips of cat animation as well as the opening and title sequences. In total it added up to about 3 ½ minutes (not sure of the actual count). As a result I had to keep it fairly simple. Perfect for me as that’s all I can do. I’d rather spend time on the timing than slave on the drawings themselves.

I spent a fair bit of time working on the cat design. I liked the squared off head look and I knew that I wanted an orange tiger stripe cat. And since the cat was orange, I kept the backgrounds mostly in the blue green range so that the cat would stand out.

The original intention was to create the backgrounds in a gouache look using Corel Painter, but that proved to be a bit too slow, so I ended up using Painter to create paint textures and patterns and then cut and assembled bits and pieces of these patterns in Photoshop. I’m much faster in Photoshop and I liked how it all came out considering the speed at which I had to do it all.

The animation was created traditionally, starting with drawings on paper. My assistant, Chris Cormier, would do a bit of the animation, but mostly cleaned up my roughs into a finished line. The clean drawings were then scanned into the computer and coloured and composited in Animo (the animation program that was absorbed by Toonboom).  If I did this again I might have been inclined to do it in a paperless process using Toonboom, though I like how Animo is able to preserve the actual pencil line rather than recreate a pencil line by generating a vector line facsimile. The old pixel line vs vector line debate.

Did you follow that?

It may not look like it, but it was a mountain of work. But it was really a very nice project for me. The people at Bountiful were fantastic to work with and I got to animate cats again. What more do I need?

Well, back to my next film!


Cat Crazed airs Thursday, January 6, 2011 on CBC Doc Zone. Check your local listing for details.

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  1. I am very familiar with Toonboom products – I use Animate. I can appreciate the vector vs. pixal debate – fortunately many app developers (like the people who work on Illustrator) have heard that we really like the ‘rough’ visual tactility of the pencil on a toothy paper, so they’ve been creating more brushes to accommodate that desire. It’s only a matter of time before we have beautiful, rough pencil style brushes in Animate. However, in the interim, I think a compromise is to use gently textured patterns, like you’ve mentioned, to keep the piece from looking too ‘cold’ and machined.
    Thanks for giving us a peek into your production process! 🙂

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