So I went to a seminar at the Dutch Film Festival this weekend. It was quite enjoyable since the topic was animation scripts. Some of the speakers were Piet Kroon (Shrek 2, Rio 2) and Gideon Defoe (Pirates! Band of Misfits!) among others.

They both had great talks about the process of animation and the studio system. Gideon definately instilled his great british humor into his talk as well.

But the most interesting talk I found was from someone I did not expect. It was from Fernando Trueba (Chico and Rita), even though he was not talking about animation for 80% of the time.

He talked about music, a live-action documentary and the inspiration for most of his work.

I was captivated.

This was strange to me, seeing as I was there with a purpose, to hear about scripts and specifically how to write them. The other speakers talked about animation and the script writing process. Why then, did I not enjoy their talks as much?

Why was I more interested to listen to a director who spend most of his life making live-action films, and who only made one animated short in his life which I’ve never seen?

In retrospect, it’s because of a very simple reason.

It’s amazing that I only realized this now.



Fernando talked with such great passion, he captivated me, and I totally forgot about animation. He made me want to listen to Cuban music from the 40s. He made me want to get to know him as a person.

His passion was contagious and I felt passionate about all the things he felt passionate about.

Passion is super-contagious. Being born in Spain, passion comes naturally to him, ofcourse.

At one point he said something a long the lines of “Oh I’m sorry, I’m here to talk about animation”. Obviously his passion made him want to keep on talking about something else entirely than what he was there for.

The audience did not mind one bit that he was talking about inspirations and cuba. It just felt completely honest.

We do, however, all want to go to Cuba now…

So if you want to captivate your audience, be passionate.

When doing a talk, be sure that the thing you’re talking about is something that resonates with you and that you could talk about it for hours without even preparing (Fernando did not prepare, he came on stage saying “I thought this was going to be more of a Q and A type thing?”).

Equally when making an animation, make it about something you love! I love miniatures and comedy. Hence Gracht.

Make sure though, that the thing they are hiring you to talk about is also the thing you are passionate about. Otherwise you’ll wind up with a bunch of convinced beekeepers, buying MG convertibles, driving to Sweden all the while screaming “Je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf.

So be passionate, or Spanish.







I’ve always had a hate/love relationship with 3D animation. On the one hand, it can look really appealing and inventive. On the other repetitive and creatively lacking.

The amount of work you need to do before you actually get a visual picture of what you’re doing can get quite annoying. Therefore I always try to avoid that kind of work. Why not make it look the way I want to from the get go, instead of creating every aspect that, when finally combined, might give me something I don’t want?

  •  Don’t follow the mainstream

This might sound really obvious to a lot of animation creators, but this is something I always have to actively look out for.

As a viewer of content, you automatically get influenced by everything you see. And what do you see a lot? Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks style animation, that has been made on a huge budget, and has proven it’s formula throughout the years.

It, however, has not been very inventive and kind of stuck in a strange 3D visual realm that feels a little bit disconnected from reality, but also too far away from the 2D world.

I’m not saying it isn’t appealing, it actually is. But to me it just feels strange that even though so much money is invested in these films every year, the visuals do not change a lot.

Copying these visuals should not be your goal if you want to optimize your creativity. Pinpoint a single design element you really love from these films, put that in your work if you want, but try to find your own solutions for design problems.

  • Avoid ‘ultra-realism’

Some people love copying reality as close as possible in 3D. I find this kind of work to be incredibly tedious and super time consuming. I bow to you if you are able to do this kind of work.

To me, I love the idea of new realities that need to be discovered. Not going into detail on every little thing. But looking at bigger shapes, simplifying objects and trying to tell a story with less. Keeping it really simple.

If you want, you can loose yourself in grooming 3D hair, or getting the wrinkles on the face just right.

I just want to discover and ‘sketch’ in 3D. Don’t think about details untill you get the main shapes right, and try to find ways to show the beauty in that instead of going down the rabbit hole of copying reality.

  • Cheat!

Great cheats are:

  1. Re-using old geometry.
  2. Finding a new purpose for an old Character.
  3. Re-using animation curves, copying them on other body parts.
  4. Faking the animation towards the camera. Put the body were it looks good, instead of making it physically believable.
  5. Copy live-action, and then just make it more cartoony. Exaggerate. (You are in fact acting it out as well. So it is not even stealing. And when I say copy, I mean the main motions, do not do the Ultra-Realism thing I talked about earlier).
  • Use 2D in 3D

This is something that has been done a lot, in good ways and bad. But using 2D elements like drawing or pictures in 3D animation will boost your creativity immensely. Why? Because 2D gives you results, fast.

Results give you one thing that is really important in 3D animation. Motivation. Technical difficulties can drain the energy out of you. And the endless modelling and shading you need to do before you get something you can feel something about, can ben overwhelming.

So start with some results! Add 2D in the mix.

  • Mix the Media

Basically this is the same point as the one above. But it stretches it a bit further. Take our Short Film Gracht. For this film we took the rules and limitations of Stop Motion and applied them to 3D.

This limited the work we needed to do for the end result. We knew exactly where we were going, and the results started to come in pretty soon after starting. Limitation is the friend of creativity.

So, start cheating, start limiting yourself,  start using 2D in 3D whilst avoiding Ultra-realism. And above all do not do mainstream stuff. You will find yourself being more creative, unique and the rewards you will get from all this are immense.




A little while ago I worked with 3 other great animation artist’s on Gracht, a 3D animated short.

The short was really succesful, we had about 100k views in the first 2 weeks. I think this succes relied mostly on two important factors.

Firstly, our film had unique visuals. We tried to avoid something that had already been done in 3D animation.

Instead we tried to replicate what had been done in the world of miniatures and TRANSLATE that to 3D animation. So we took the concepts and rules of one type of media and applied those to another.

This gave us the visual image of Stop Motion, but with the unlimited possibilities of 3D Animation. This combination proved to be really powerful and gave us flexibility in both visuals and execution.

We tested if people liked our newly found style, by releasing a really short teaser trailer. Most people that saw our teaser immediately became excited and got really curious about how we had achieved this style.

They also started following us on social media and vimeo, which ultimately helped a lot when we finally released our short. In short, we already had fans before the short was finished!

Secondly, we wanted everyone to see our film, so we plugged our film to every relevant blog or channel we could think of. We had a template e-mail we customized for every other contact, to keep a personal feeling to it. We also directly approached the Vimeo viewing staff, to make sure our film got Vimeo Staff Pick status as soon as possible.

Getting noticed is all about enabling the influential channels to get to know you. You’ve got a great short film that will help them get more traffic, and in turn they can expose your work to a targeted audience. You’re helping each other out.

If someone has 1000 followers, and they share a link to your film, you’ll immediately get a potential audience of 1000. Furthermore, that audience, if they like it, will share it with their group as well. So your work automatically trickles down the groups you targeted.

So don’t start at the bottom with individual users. Start at the top. We approached people individually as well, because if you contact enough people, your audience will grow horizontally as well. But the big fish will really help you get amazing results the quickest.

We also send it to a lot of festivals which in turn helped our online plays as well.

The things that worked for us might work for you as well. You must never forget, however, that the work you are trying to promote needs to be something you believe in. Otherwise it will be really hard to sell it to potential influencers.

Getting big results, requires big efforts. We actively promoted our short for about two weeks online. We already set-up our own channels well before the end of production as well so a lot of work went into getting quick results.

Don’t forget to be grateful to those that help you, this will serve you greatly in the long run.