Carlos Cabral – Tangled

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Carlos Cabral, a character supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios, says there is a fine line between art and technology when it comes to today’s animated films.

“I’ve been interested in the intersection of art and technology all my life,” Cabral told me during a phone interview last week. “My mom is an artist and my dad is an engineer. I’ve always been equally drawn to both.”

In Disney’s newest animation, “Tangled,” a modern version of the classic fairy tale “Rapunzel,” Cabral helped design and implement a new system called Facial Rigging where his team of technical directors were able to add special interfaces into characters’ faces. This allowed the animated characters (Cabral calls them “virtual puppets”) to move in more specific ways.

During our interview, Cabral, who has also worked on animated films such as “Flushed Away,” “Shark Tale,” and “Bolt,” talked about Disney’s goals as a leader in the animation industry and how he sees his profession advancing in the next few years.

What kinds of cartoons do you remember watching as a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic?

Well, when the electricity was working we’d get to watch TV. They played a lot of cartoons from the U.S – a lot of Warner Bros. stuff. When we first got cable in the early 80s, the Disney Channel used to show all the Disney cartoons back to back, which was amazing.

Did you know animation was something you wanted to do back then or were you just like any other kid watching cartoons?

It was always just entertainment for me. The rest came later. I started getting into computers when I was 13. I started reading more books on computer graphics. I remember in the early 80s reading an article in the New York Times about this new company called Pixar that made the first computer animation. That’s what really made me want to start learning about it.

How much more advanced is the Facial Rigging system you helped develop for “Tangled” in comparison to other animated films?

This is cutting edge. I feel this is a huge step in the right direction. It’s very innovative and helps us give the characters’ faces more movement. Our goal was to develop the best computer-generated human performance. It’s stylized realism. We gave these characters life and emotion. Working together as a team we wanted to bring a classic Disney feel to the film as well. It was a huge challenge from an artistic and technical point of view to maintain those types of performances from all sorts of different angles.

As realistic as animation is getting, will we get to a point in the industry where animated characters won’t look like they were computer-generated anymore? Is that something animators are striving for?

I think a movie like “Avatar” really pushed that look to a pinnacle. I think what we are trying to do is different than that. Our goal isn’t ultra-realism. We’re still trying to keep it stylized and transport the characters to an imaginary world.

What was it about the story that resonated with you specifically?

I really like the way the directors re-imagined the story. They took this classic story and turned it into a comedy/action/adventure movie. It was a fresh take. It’s a movie that has a heart. I was completely blown away with what they did with the story and what they wanted to achieve in terms of character animation. We have so many characters in this movie that have to perform at such a high level. They’re not just background characters. We were trying to push it as much as we could.

Is there still room in the animation industry for 2-D? I know Disney was fairly successful last year with “The Princess and the Frog,” so is that something that we’re still going to see from time to time?

I think the goal at Disney is to let the story and the director dictate the medium. What ever way the story can be told best is the direction it should go.

Where does animation go from here in the next few years?

I think we raised the bar pretty high with hair and cloth, but even that has a lot more room to grow. We’re going to see a lot more muscles and skin advancements. The interaction of all these things is also very important. We’re going to see more and more of that as techniques improve.

Tangled

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Directed by: Byron Howard (“Bolt”) and Nathan Greno (debut)
Written by: Dan Fogelman (“Bolt”)
 
Disney knows a few things about princesses. Beginning with the unadorned appeal of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” over 70 years ago, the studio has since introduced audiences to a collection of distinctive stories featuring a diverse group of animated princesses all vying for the same thing: true love.
 
Sure, the image of a princess has evolved over the years to incorporate the more contemporary, independent woman (Princess Fiona from DreamWorks’ “Shrek” series can kick some serious butt), but at the core, the themes that connect films like “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and last year’s less enjoyable “The Princess and the Frog” haven’t changed much.
 
As Disney’s 50th animated film, “Tangled” fits in perfectly with Disney’s previous offerings. It’s a classic narrative combined with creative characters, beautiful computer-generated animation, and a gleeful soundtrack that matches some of the best Disney music since the early 90s. 
 
If “Tangled” really is the last of the fairytale-type movies Disney will make in the foreseeable future (a statement the company made last week), it’s definitely an impressive way to bid a fond farewell.

In “Tangled,” the reimagining of the Brothers Grimm fairytale “Rapunzel,” the original story is given a fresh take while still sustaining elements from animated films like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.” In the latest version, an infant Rapunzel is kidnapped from a king and queen by a witch named Gothel who locks her in a tower and raises her as her own child. Obsessed with staying young forever, Gothel takes the baby when she learns Rapunzel’s hair possesses healing powers and works like a fountain of youth.

Now, held captive in the tower (although Rapunzel believes Gothel is just an overprotective mother) with only her always-suspicious chameleon Pascal to keep her company, a teenage Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), whose extremely long golden hair keeps her mother young, dreams of one day leaving her tower and traveling to the kingdom to see a festival of lights that occurs every year on her birthday. Little does she know the lights released into the nighttime sky are for her and that the king and queen have always believed she would find her way home some day. Guiding her through the kingdom is an Aladdin-type thief named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) who scales the tower to evade the king’s soldiers who are in pursuit.
 
Directed by Byron Howard and Nathan Greno working on a clever script by Dan Fogelman, “Tangled” might not get to the highest echelons Disney has ever reached, but there is a brilliant sense of nostalgia as well as a touch of modern-day sassiness that reminds us even without Pixar there for support the Mouse House can still produce plenty of happily-ever-after moments.