View Full Version : Meet the Artist: Carlos Baena

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11 November 2005, 05:55 PM
hey carlos, thanks a lot for your replys and your Amiability and for share your holidays time with us. I would like to ask you a million of question, but, better, reply to other users :shrug: I can't wait to see Cars, ( i hope that film arrives in spain at same time that usa, but, you know...).

Disfruta de los dias que te queden por aqui en España, si no has vuelto ya a Estados Unidos. si vienes por Cordoba, me avisas, que veras que bien por las tasquitas clasicas y el buen vino y las buenas tapas!

11 November 2005, 06:31 PM
My question is, what do you think is the best animation practice anyone could do in thier free time? I mean, is there anything that's really good for learning animation in particular? Like the bouncing ball is for when you start learning animation?

Hi Raveen,

Big question. I could go for hours on this one Raveen, honestly. You know what I would do. I would go and check out these blogs:

These are posts, tests and work from students at AnimationMentor. The kind of exercises they have in there might give you an idea, of simple exercises that can force you to focus on specific areas within animation. From simple basic exercises, to acting. Also, these students are all really helpful people.

Hopefully this will help.


11 November 2005, 06:42 PM
hi carlos,
-it is good way to make cartoon movement with mocap or not ? what is your opinion?. (and also ı m afraid to lost my key frame skill).
-when working in a pixar do you have a chance to add extra something to scene. and what is your relationship with director? when the directors roll begin and end. how much power director have upon you? thanks ı m waiting cars with holding my breath.....

Hi Suleyman,

-Everyone has their own opinions regarding mo-cap and keyframe animation. They both have their place. For cartoon animation, my personal opinion would be NO. I would definitely not use mocap for something like that, as you wouldn't be taking advantage of this medium and all the possibilities it offers.

-I think I talked about this earlier. But yeah, you are working on making someone else's vision. You are helping the director bring his/her idea to the screen as good as you can. Along those lines, for me directors such as BradB or JohnL have given me plenty of free range in trying stuff out. Now, if me or any other animator are way off, they'll tell us. As directors, they have to keep the movie together and make sure it's not one shot that works, but instead, it ALL works. So they'll tell me what it is that they had in mind for this or that shot within the context of a scene.

So, basically, you are working on someone else's movie...but some directors will give you enough creative animation freedom that in some cases pluses what the directors wanted and can potentially make the movie stronger.


11 November 2005, 06:49 PM
-First, AM is a great opportunity for those of us that can’t move overseas. I’m going to start at AM in January and I can’t wait. Thank you (and your co-founders) for developing that idea into an opportunity for life for a lot of people.
-You said earlier that 2d has helped you a lot when you started out. I’m a terrible drawer. I guess it’s a part of the AM course to thumbnail and sketch, but can you give any advices regarding developing my thumbnail/2d animation drawing skills?
-How do you plan a scene? You have said something about inspiration, but how much time, in general, do you spend on planning, thumbnailing, filming reference…..before you actually start to animate?

Hi Martin, the pleasure is ours trust me. Bobby, Shawn and me are more than happy happy to see that all the time we've put into the School for the last three years, is making the students learn animation and the art regardless of where they are.

-Yes, definitely. Practice, practice and more practice. You don't have to be a master of drawing. It's not the point if you are going to be using the computer...BUT, it will help you for planning purposes to know how to draw certain things like poses, line of actions, etc.
Maybe some of these books can help you as well:

"Simpified Drawing for Planning Animation" - Wayne Gilbert.
"Atlas of Human Anatomy" - Stephen Rogers Peck.
"An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists" - Fritz Schider.
"Art Anatomy" - William Rimmer.
"The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression " - Gary Faigin.
"Cartooning the Head and Figure" - Jack Hamm.
"Drawing on the Artist Within" - Betty Edwards.
"Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" - Betty Edwards.
"Constructive Anatomy " - George B. Bridgeman.
"The Natural Way to Draw" - Kimon Nicolaides.

-Martin, check on earlier posts, as I talked about this a bunch.


11 November 2005, 07:13 PM
Have U any strong skills on drawing or did U have any long 2D animation ?

Hi Ramtin,

I've always drawn. Since I was really really little. I was the one that used to do caricatures of the teachers and other students in my class. I never had any formal training, it was just practice on my own. Same thing with 2D animation. Then over the last few years I've been trying to get a little better at it, especially figure drawing. It's really really hard. Some people are just born with a genius talent for it. For me, I struggle trying to put on paper what I have on my head. Yet, I've always loved drawing.


Rani N.
11 November 2005, 09:22 PM
Hey Carlos,

My question to you:

-When presented with a shot that requires subtle acting, you often hear of being in the moment before shooting your reference so that the acting is true and sincere when it comes out. But the problem I face is that although it might be true to me, it might not be true to my characer's personality. How do you deal with this and work your way around it?

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Carlos, ur work has been a HUGE inspiration for me!

Keep ROCK'n :buttrock:

Rani N.

11 November 2005, 05:30 PM
What do you think about the recent 2D, 3D (and both) efforts coming out of España? Like Pinocho 3000, El Cid, Nocturna, etc?

Hola Mauricio,

I really really hope these productions go somewhere. I also hope they make these productions for the right reasons and not because of the box office success of US 3D Animated Films. "Pinocho 3000" was a film definitely geared for kids. I enjoyed it myself but being a huge fan of robots and anything mechanical, I personally thought they could of done a lot a lot more with the characters and the story. Again, easier said than done on my end, since I don't know what kind of budgets, teams and environment the movie was made with. So overall, it was quite an effort from a non-US film, and I can only hope things continue that way.

"Nocturna" is something I'm very excited about, since I first saw their early work. I relate enormously to that kind of aesthetics and art. I know it has great people and studios working on it, such as Sergio Pablo's "Animagic" and the Studio "Monigotes". I think Spain needs a film that puts us out there, and people become aware of the talent going on in our country.


Ps: sobre el vino, pues oye, que me apunto. :)

11 November 2005, 05:39 PM
Hey Carlos how long did you skate? I also like to go out with my board all over the city.
finding new spots and gaps
I've allways enjoy to skate. :)

Hi Stanislav,

I started skateboarding in 1987. A certain movie called "Back to the Future" might of have had something to do with it. :) Part of the reason why I moved to California/San Francisco in the early-mid ninenties also had to do with skateboarding. I still skateboard, whenever time allows me to, which is honestly not much these days. But I've always loved it.

Last time I was in NewYork, I would go some mornings and skateboard around Manhattan listening to Frank Sinatra or even BeastieBoys. Sounds cheesy...but for me it was some of the best times I've had. That stuff is priceless.


11 November 2005, 02:50 AM
I hear alot that studios want people who just model, or just texture, or just animate. Well, of all those I seem to enjoy animating the most. But what if you want to make an indepent film, then you lack the other skills to do so. I was just wondering how that works.

I'm kind of a noob to the whole industry, so this really complicates me.

11 November 2005, 06:57 PM
Thanks for the reply Carlitos! I do hope these films boom. You guys do have some seriously good talent over there "en la madre patria".

Ps: sobre el vino, pues oye, que me apunto. :)

Cuando quiera señor! Just let me know :)

11 November 2005, 09:17 AM
I have had to let it everything to dedicate me to this, I have my family, friends, girldfriend, all in Canary Islands.I imagine that you had to pass by a similar situation like mine. so I have some questions for you.
-do you miss your birth place?
-it was hard go and to leave it everything, the friends, the family, all?
-could you tell us about your trajectory in your life, when you were young?
could you give me some advice?
Saludos desde tu tierra, Isidro (Promineo).

Hola Isidro campeon.

Leaving your family, culture and country is not only hard...but very emotionally changelling.

I didn't know anybody in the US...and my english was so limited, it made it really hard for me for a while. I couldn't rely on my family because they just weren't there. But this at the same time, made me learn about a lot of different things, and it forced me to grow. But even in very low moments where I didn't have my family with me, I always known I can count on them regardless of the distance.

These days, with technology, we have it really good. I use the internet to talk and listen to my parents a few times a week...sometimes for hours. There are things that act as phones over the internet that are for free...and are just priceless. Same thing with webcams. I usually see my parents on the webcam on the weekends in the mornings, for a bit, and it helps to make me not feel as if they are that far.

No matter what, it's always hard to leave your family behind. But now, with technology ,it's not as painful as it used to be. So I would defintely take advantage of that Isidro.
Best of luck tio.


11 November 2005, 09:23 AM
Hi Carlos! Better watch out for this crazy talented Spaniard. I remember he gave an interesting lecture when I was in college and scribbled stuff in my notebook. And when I look back on my first day in this industry I remember that day I started at Wild Brain and ran into you at Starbucks. Miss you!

Thanks Tracy. You are awesome.
Isn't it crazy it's been about a year already since Starbucks?
Wow. Time really flies.


11 November 2005, 09:29 AM
Do you find that it is better to actually lift or carry an actual object to get that felling of weight or just act like you do to capture that in a performance?

It's always better to get as close to what your shot is asking as you can. But in some cases you can't really get that anything else along the lines of what it is that you are trying to animate will help you. For the shot of Mr.Incredible carrying the Tiky Stone, I obviously couldn't carry something like that for reference...but I still wanted to find something really really heavy, and more important....something long, so that my arms would be wide enough to be able to study. So the weight part of what I was carrying helped me pay attention to whta my legs where doing...both timing and spacing wise. Then the lenght of the object and my arms postion allowed me to study the posing of the reference to then later apply what I studied to my actual shot.


11 November 2005, 09:34 AM
My question to is: What skills should a character animator posses to become great at his craft?

The more skills the better:

Acting, posing, drawing, improvisation, theater, film, composition, photography, sports, design, inspiration, willingness to keep learning, listening skills for feedback, collaboration, sense of comedy and drama, imagination, craft skills (both handrawing and technical), observation skills, and the list can go on and on.


11 November 2005, 09:38 AM
I just checked out your site and saw some clips from Hubert's Brain, made at Wild Brain (fantastic work)!
-Do you know where I could see the whole movie? I know it was going around the festivals and things, but I was hoping it might be online somewhere, since it has been a few years...

Hi Mechis,

You know I actually have no idea where you can find the whole shortfilm.
I'm sure Wildbrain will put it up for viewing at some point in their site.

I wish I could be of more help man...but I really have no clue.


11 November 2005, 09:20 PM
Hi Carlos,
-I really enjoyed "The Incredibles", congratulations to you and everyone at Pixar !
It was also very interesting watching the "making of / behind the scenes" material on the dVD. I didn't realize that the animators acted out / made their own reference footage. When I saw that, I thought, why don't they just use mocap? I don't really know much about mocap but I guess it's more expensive , and less flexible than keyframee tech right now. I realize that if mocap was sufficently sophisticated that it might eliminate your job,
but if the technology was advanced and affordable, wouldn't you be interested in it, if that meant you could crank out your own full length movie? :)
-You mentioned music as one of your passions. Do you have any of your music online ?
-Have you experimented with any of the "software synthesizers", like Reason or Fruity loops?

Hi Mike,

-Mocap I don't think has ever been an option at Pixar. For me personally, it's one simple reason. It takes the power of animation and our medium away. When you animate a shot yourself whether on 2D or can push the animation, you can stylize it, make a caricature out of a movement, you can pretty much do the impossible. With mo-cap, your starting base is realism. You can't really think of things such as posing to the camera, body staging, silhouette, appeal. That's my take on it. This has been a thread over the years in multiple mailing lists I've been on...and people always have their own version of what would work or not. I've never been a fan of mo-cap. I respect it, as I can see its beneficial uses in certain cases. But for my personal work I wouldn't use it, no matter how much time I could save in creating some sort of motion. I like to think 2D as much as possible when doing 3D.

-I do have old music on my site, which I haven't updated in decades. But, I will. :)
The music in there, is old...mostly testing stuff.

-Yes, I actually used the next version of Fruity Loops for about a year, it was called "FL Studio". It worked...but after I switched to the Mac for doing music stuff with both Logic and Live, and using Midi controllers such as M-Audio's TriggerFinger for patterns and drumming, or the simple M-Audio keyboards for composing...I honestly haven't used the PC for creating music in way over a year now. Reason software, I've never used it. But just like everything else, I've heard things coming from Reason that have absolutely blown me away.


11 November 2005, 02:23 AM
Hey Carlos
I find your work amazing. I'm 16 and am very interested in modelling and animation. I'm a bit unsure what area is meant for me at this point, but in either case, I know that this is something I'd love to do. I've been attempting to teach myself the basics of modelling and I'd like to move into animation. Working at Pixar would be a dream job. I love the Incredibles, among other animated films, and I find it extremely inspiring, as do many people I'm sure.

This is a bit of a vague question, but if you can, could you explain what the very first steps of becoming an animator consist of? Such as what type of college one should consider, what courses one should take etc.

You mentioned before that meeting people that work at Pixar (for example) who can pass your work around is a very helpful leg-up. I was curious how one would go about meeting such people. A point in the right direction would be highly appreciated.

Thanks for your time,


11 November 2005, 10:20 AM
-Is it really not advised to use premade rigs?

-Also, what sort of animations do guys at major houses like Pixar, BlueSky, and Dreamworks look for in a reel? Acting pieces, miscellaneous tests, or would it be a combination of several things? Because I see all these demo reels that have amazing renders and are much better eye candy than mine. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a modeller or texture guy so I feel inadequate in that sense. Should I worry?

-Well, it's always nice to see variety. For me, that variety can be on the acting. If you can get acting nice and convincing enough, then I don't care what premade rig or rig of your own you've used.

-Combination of things. It's nice to see strong acting, the creativity and imagination of the animator, understanding of physics, etc. For animation, eye candy doesn't matter one bit.
You can have playblasts...or nice renders, and animators will be paying attention at the animation itself. Now, if you want to make your reel a bit presentational, then I would maybe have some basic lighting (no fancy lighting).


11 November 2005, 12:17 AM
-de q isla por cierto? por curiosidad.
-where exactly do u live? its... funny living there? (talking about your spare time). The job situation defines where you are going to live so, I wanted to know how is the american life seen from a Spanish.

Pasa Jose,

-Aqui uno es Canarion hasta los 4 anyos de edad, aunque crecer crecer sobre todo en Madrid. Mis primas siguen en Canarias.
-In the US, I live in the Bay Area. More precisely in Oakland. I like it here. I have plenty of space to work, it's nice and sunny. It's great.'s really really different than the lifestyle in Madrid. It's two very different cultures. That I did noticed as soon as I got here.


11 November 2005, 10:57 PM
-Was "Cars" easier to animate than the others?
-As you had a realtime feedback for animation, did you animate straight ahead on "Cars"?
-How is this film anyway? Many people think that it´s not going to be so good as the others.

Hi Marcio,

-Each film presents its own challenges...and I can tell you, "Cars" was not easiest than others for me. The simplicity of the characters made it really tough to figure out the acting and choices in many cases.
-I mostly layered things. But still focused the acting from a pose to pose point of view, working through keys and breakdowns.
-Can't really discuss much on the Film and its content at this point because of confidentiality agreements with Pixar, and out of respect to what the PR department asked me before I agreed to do this Q&A. Next year when the film comes out, I'm sure things will be different. I hope you understand Marcio.


11 November 2005, 08:39 AM
hey what do u think about vancouver film school? is that a good place to start with..

11 November 2005, 02:26 PM
Just wanted to say it's been fun reading this thread even though I'm not really an animator. You guys at Pixar are really inspiring.

11 November 2005, 05:52 PM
I'm very curious about the techniques for facial animation in Pixar, because the characters are very expressive there, more than others animation studios. What kind of facial rigging do you prefer? Bones, muscles?
Can you explain the pros and the cons?

Hola J.Marino,

Facial Animation Rigging is quite a complex area, which I'm not as familiar as I would love to be. I've never dealt with bones or muscles myself. At Pixar, it's something that our riggers work with us in making our characters better, and they do a hell of a job and are more than patient, especially knowing how picky us animators are.

For my own work, I've always dealt with blendshapes. Now, it's on the deformation and the weighting you do, when you make it seem like there are muscles underneath pulling, and creating these facial expressions. I'm not a fan of things being too automated myself. So I like to have as many controls as possible, so that I can overlap different parts of the face. So that maybe if an eyebrow raises, then I'd layer a little bit of nose/cheek move. Very subtle. And then, not only that but I would layer that in a couple frames later, as if one muscle goes first, then it pulls, creating move or moving other muscles that aren't as active move afterwards. Also, you have to be aware of passive muscles moving in the face as consequence of active muscles working. They both work together. Also, some muscles around the face are bigger (therefore more visual) than other muscles, that maybe just affect a simple tiny for example, the sneers on the nosetrils compared to the cheek muscles.

There is a book that's just huge for that stuff:

Gary Faigin's "The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expressions" (

So, while this doesn't necessarily answer your question on the technical issues, because my knowledge on that stuff is rather limited, at least, that's how I approach dealing with facial stuff a bit.


11 November 2005, 06:27 PM
My questions have already been asked, however just wondering what it was like to work with Brad Bird, what kind of person is he,

Hi Chris,

Brad Bird is a very inspiring person to work for. His personality is contagious. He LOVES what he does, and he does a terrific job at making you feel the same way. John Lasseter does that as well. They both believe in their movies so much, regardless of whoever else thinks of them, and in my opinion, that gets reflected in the films themselves.

Brad is also very critical. He'll look at a shot, and analyze it from an animation, posing, staging, composition, continuity and cinematic point of view. So, now, you are not only learning about animation, but you learn about Film as well. For film geeks like myself that love to learn about that stuff, I can hear him talk about films for a month straight and not get tired. In addition to being one of the best directors I've ever met, he loves and respects animation, and for an animator, that's awesome. I would work with both John Lasseter and Brad Bird in a heartbeat.


11 November 2005, 06:36 PM
My question is does Animation Mentor accept many students that have no animation background? I keep putting off applying because I figure that there are more qualified people applying and my chances of getting in are pretty slim. Do you have any advice?

Hi Hector,

The answer is yes. If you feel like that's what you want to learn, our very first class (Basic foundations) does NOT require previous experience or animation background. I grew up having many limitations in the sense that, not always you are able to study, do or work where you want. So in terms of studying, we wanted everyone to have the exact same opportunity.

Now, after the Basic Foundations class (Class 1), we are critical as to who makes it to the later classes (Class 2, 3, 4, etc). This is because there has been cases (both at AM and in many Schools out there) where students are not as involved, they don't do assignments, and they are just trying things out, to see if it's what they want. We give students that chance in Class1...but in later classes, if the pattern repeats, it means, that they are wasting the professional mentors, the other students time (who give feedback as well) and the Schools' time. In other cases, the mentor will tell the School whether a student has to repeat a certain term, for his/her benefit, and because maybe that person is not ready to move on just yet. Therefore, for us is where the student is at Animation wise and motivation wise.


11 November 2005, 10:25 PM
Thank you very much, Carlos, aprecio mucho tu respuesta y el tiempo que te has tomado.

Suerte y éxito, ojalá algún día vengas a Gran Canaria a dar algun curso o similar, estaré en primera fila.

Un abrazo,

11 November 2005, 03:58 PM
Carlos, muchas gracias que tu has tomado el tiempo para contestar mis preguntas.
Thank you very much.
I have (ONLY) one critique though. When watching the Incredibles, at the scene where Mr. I lift up the giant monolith head, my wife and I said at the same time: something's wrong here.
Indeed the picking up didn't show any weight. You can see Mr. I strain a lot, but the result is that he is lifting a cardboard head or something. You (Pixar animators) should have studied construction sites where they use heavy duty lifting/ hoisting equipment. Even though the tools are powerfull enough, the heavy weight rocks back and forth a little and it makes the lifting machine rock/ vibrate a little too. I tried to ignore it, but somehow it breaks the scene.

The scene that Mr. I catches Mr. Sansweet in mid air and fall through the window with him, is almost the same animation when Sully fell of the sled into the snow. Were you the same animator too? Or was that piece of animation inspired by that scene in Monster Inc? Or of course it could be just coincedence. Pixar character tend to fall the same way :D

11 November 2005, 11:03 PM
I know you were studying at school with Bobby and Shawn, and you guys did a year or two and then moved on. During the time you were in school were you taking mostly foundation classes, or did you actually get some time to animate? I was just wondering how you found your learning of animation.

Hi Drew,

Actually I wish they had animation foundation classes when I was studying. It was all very software oriented on the teaching part, and while this is always good to get to know, in the end it felt as if you weren't really exploring the art part of animation. So a lot of the artistic part of animation at the time was hard to find, almost very underground. Random tapes of artists, talks, conferences would be passed among animators, sharing the stuff. But at the same time making it really really hard for those who didn't have access to these tapes because they didn't know people in the industry. Also, a lot of our learning was through our own friends. Bobby, Shawn, me and a bunch of other friends, would get feedback from each other, and tried to push each other constantly. We would also share whatever tricks we would learn as we were going...It was the most effective part of the learning. It was really hard as there weren't nearly as many resources as today. So, all these are things we've been keeping in mind when working on the AnimationMentor curriculum, lectures, etc over the last few years. We didn't want students to be limited in any way creative or technical (medium wise).


11 November 2005, 12:24 AM
*I wonder if you're making radical changes on your acting stuff when you're animating. Or does supervisor or director requires a radical change in the middle of a shot? If something like that happens, do they give you more time to finish it?
*when you plan your acting shots, what is your most important helper? thumbnails, reference shots, ideas from collegues? And You said in one of your previous posts, you animate what character thinks, not what he/she says... Do you use anything else to get into the mood of the character?
*If your character is making a long walk and even making turns, do you have any special tricks :) I know it sounds silly, but I always found long walks with a camera showing the whole body, tricky, umm hard for myself...
*Do you think having a feature film experience in any other company on your CV helps a lot to get into Pixar? I know one of the most important thing is your reel but what do you think?
*Are you interested in moving to a position like "director" in future?
*I enjoy your musics on your site, do you have any plans to add more in future :)

Hi Arslan,

-It always depends on how big of a change it is. It's more of a case by case basis.
-For me, my biggest helper, definitely VIDEO Reference and libraries of stuff I've found on movies, live-actiong, etc. Defintiely. I get ideas I wouldn't of think of. Also, music helps me to get in the mood of whatever it is that I'm going to animate.
-Not any real tricks. It really depends on the acting, and the type of walk that it is. That's dictate many many things. From a mechanics point of view, I'd say the main thing is to pay attention to the relation between feet and hips, and how it does what you want this character walk to do. Focus on one thing at a time. Then, go little by little afterwards focusing on other things.
-I think experience ALWAYS helps. Because it tells the potential employer that you've had experience working with directors, in a studio environment, etc. So yeah, I really think it helps.
-For the time being, I like being in the learning position myself. I do have dreams and goals, and yes, eventually I'd love to make my own films or shortfilms...but for the time being, I like the position where I am at, as I'm learning a great deal about many different things.
-Definitely. I would love to update my site or even re design it. It's been too long and I've had my head in other things for a long time...but hopefully with time I'll be able to add stuff.


11 November 2005, 01:52 PM
Hi Carlos, just another fan of your work here. ;)
How are the students of Animation Mentor doing? Are there any Pixar quality potentials? And is there going to be any work from those guys showcased online? I'm just interested to see how this online education is working for them and if you guys are good teachers. ;)
Good luck with your career!

Rocky Rococo
11 November 2005, 01:30 AM
Well, lucky me! I just so happened to need an animator to interview for my communications-technology class.

I have a few questions, but they're not very long.

- First off, do you think that there’s a large difference between animating for games and animating for movies?

- When you first started working in 3D, did you follow tutorials and the like, or try to figure things out yourself?

- Out of curiosity, What would you say is the most difficult thing to animate?

- What was your worst experience in this field?

11 November 2005, 11:38 AM
Gracias Carlos por responder, espero conocerte personalmente pronto.

Ya sabes que estamos por Madrid.

Un Abrazo.

12 December 2005, 08:36 AM
Because of my current schedule, I can't continue answering the remaining questions. I hope the ones I answered helped people in some way.

I would like to thank Leigh and CgTalk for the opportunity of doing this Q&A.


12 December 2005, 02:17 PM
:(.... :sad::(:(:(:(:(:(

12 December 2005, 06:45 PM
Thanks a million, Carlos! You've been extraordinarily generous with your continued responses :thumbsup:

All the best to you!