Animation: Beaver and Platypus



Here’s a project im working on at uni. I’m studying a bachelor of creative industries (communication design) at QUT.
I’m using Maya 5.0, mental ray, maya fur effects

My story will be about a canadian beaver who has somehow found himself in australia where he
meets up with an aussie platypus and wombat.

The characters still need to be given more ‘character’. They’re a bit too generic right now.

The style of the character came from one of the first sketches i’d done.

Here’s basically where I’m at:


Toon Shade

Different fur styles:

I like the goofy look of the second fur, I’m thinking about using that style for the beaver and the smoother fur for the platypus.

I’ll post some test animations real soon aswell.
Of course all crits + comments + ideas welcome :slight_smile:


its funny, and promise for a good animation. One crit at the moment would be, during your ToonShade make the beaver have 2 teeth, or at least a line in between to show its two teeth. Do you see what i mean?


woops. this post shouldnt be here. wont let me delete so disregard


Yeah, I need to get the toon shader working properly and tweek the model a bit but i intend to have a line between the teeth

The story’s gonna have alot of good ol aussie humour in it and I’m going to be spending alot of time on this so I hope the animation will be good.

Anyway here are some animation tests to see how the fur would deform. There are alot but I want to show how I’ve got to the point I’m at.

Please note that I haven’t got the toon shader working properly in these animations and the rig and animation are just quick setups to test the movement of fur and are not what is going to be used for the final animation.

Model Rotation

I extruded some edges to see how it would hold as a simple fur


heres more tests

This is a quick test to see how this style of fur would deform

I liked the look of the edges but I didn’t like the flatness and the way the lighting/shading seemed to flicker over the surface. So i started playing with maya fur effects, The following are just playing around with different fur style’s/colours
A close up to see how the fur deformed


Here’s the 3rd part of the fur tests

Started to play with some stylized fur

I really liked this one, the fur is clumped together and looks more scraglly, makes the character look more goofy

And finally i was thinking about using floating arms and eyebrows, this is just a test to see how it would look

Crits and comments always welcome

Hopefully ill have some more to show soon, im goin to start sketching/modelling the wombat


hey man!

I love your stuff - these guys are deffinitly funny-silly-goofy-good

I cannot help you with the decission on which chader or look to give them. this depends on the overall style you wanna have.

but all versions look good, also the real rendered.

I like the idea of lfoating arms and eyebrows.
they also could be a bit unsymetric … as long as they stay as simple as they are

go on, make your scene and a animation
I will sit in the first row, clap the loudest and pee in my pants with every joke they make

a fan


in your first post you write that you want to give your figures more character - this is true but also no.

I like them as simple as they are.
looking at the first images made me smile.
there are so many toon charcters arround that look a bit strange or creepy cause they are overdone … you see what I mean.

what I could imagine is that they are real animals, but they refer a bit to toys. so one could have a patch on the knee or an eye could be a button

or perhaps not.
I simply like them, so keep them simple and focus on the animation :slight_smile:

you could give them a different brown so they dont get confused

but it is nice that they have the same body shape (peanut)



thanks for your comments :slight_smile:

I think i’m going to keep them as simple as they are, maybe just give a little detail in the hands and I need to add a mouth as this is going to have voice acting. I’ve got a really sweet, professional recording studio lined up for free :slight_smile:

I am going to give them a different brown and the same peanut shape was intentional (not lazy as some of my friends thought). I wanted to sort of compare and contrast the beaver and platypus in the animation.

Someone also said at uni that the platypus could be really scraggly, old and have a wooden leg. I thought that would be cool but I dont think I’d put it in the animation. Not really what I’m after but maybe a side project? But I do have a feeling I’ve seen that somewhere before

Anyway thanks again for you comments



Just working on the environment at the moment.
I wanted an environment with water, native aussie trees (gum tree’s etc) dry orange/red dirt, big rocks etc
This is a what i’ve got at the moment for layout, might be a bit hard to see

The image is just a composite of about 6 different photos.
Still needs a lot of work but I hadn’t posted anything in a while. I’ve mainly been working on developing the story. I’ve kinda changed my idea, its going to be about a about a beaver who has moved to australia and the platypus and wombat are teaching him how to act more ‘aussie’.

If u’ve got some story ideas feel free to post em.

Anyway keep on truck’n


I think I’ve just about finished modeling the hands (i think i might have to add a bit of detail around the fingers so it’ll deform right). I’m still going with the floating hands idea.
Here r some pics:

Toon Render

The story has changed a bit again but it’s coming along well. I’ll post the basic idea once it’s finalised. Hopefully soon!



Just a quick update of the toon shader working and the line between teeth


wow…this is really coming along!

I love the enviroment, extremely stylish. The models seem very clean and the renders are looking great…keep it up!


could you perhaps tell how you did the toonshader in maya … post a hypershade skreenshot or is ir tomcat?



–updated with a little more detail–
Thanks again for your replies
The toon shade is just a relatively simple shading network using mentalray. It was shown by my 3d lecturer in class but I’m not sure where he origanlly got it from sorry.
Here’s a quick tute for the toon shade
(sorry about the big pics but I havent really got time to play arond with them)

Most items in italics are explanations of what things do and are not actual steps.

The following is a brief explanation of the process of setting up the toon shader.

In short, the RENDERER, MATERIALS and CAMERA’S all need functions/settings to tell the renderer to draw the outlines.

The Renderer (part 5 of tutorial)
The renderer needs to be setup with ‘contour store’ and ‘contour contrast’ shaders. These tell the renderer where to draw the lines. ‘Contour store’ decides what kind of information to store at an image sample location. ‘Contour contrast’ uses the information from ‘Contour store’ to decide whether two samples are different enough to place a contour line between them.

The Materials (parts 2 and 3 of tutorial)
The materials need to be assigned a ‘contour shader’ or ‘material contour shader’ to tell the renderer the contour color and width (and optionally motion, normal, material tag, and label). The material is also assigend a ramp shader to simulate a the cell shading look.

The Camera (part 4 of tutorial)
The camera used for rendering needs to tell the renderer how to composite the rendered image and the rendered contours. This is done with a ‘contour output’ shader.

For more information see section ‘3. Contour Shaders’ of the Mental Ray Shader Libraries Help file.

Part 1 (setting variable)
This sets up the mentalray libraries for use in maya.
Firstly, you need to set an environment variable to reference the mental ray libraries.
Open windows system properties (right click my computer)
Click the ‘advanced’ tab
Click on environment variables
Click new under system variables
Enter variable value: 1
Click ok and its done

Part 1 Pic

Part 2 (create material)
This sets up a material that shades with a toon look.
Create a new ‘surface shader’ material. Setup the shader in the hypershade according to the network shown in the diagram.

(see if your a beginner and need detailed instructions on how to setup the network)

Note to see the Shading Group (labelled Beaver_Fur_SG in diagram) you need to click on the show input and output connections icon in the hypershade (see I/O Button Pic).

The surface luminance utility is needed to tell the ramp to shade according to the light direction. If this is not included the ramp shader would render straight up and down the uv coordinates. (Try deleting the surface shader to see what happens)

Part 2 Pic

I/O Button Pic

Setup the ramp similar to that in the Ramp Settings pic. Play around with the settings here to get the look you want.
Note the ‘interpolation’ setting changes how the ramp smooths out, change to none if you want a hard edge cell look.

Ramp Settings Pic


–updated with a little more detail–

Part 3 (set outline settings of material)
This section sets up the material to render the ‘outline’ effect.
Open the SG tab of the material
Under mental ray click on the checkered icon next to ‘contour shader’
In the ‘create render node’ that pops up, click the mental ray tab and select a material. I used contour_shader_simple but each material does a different effect. Experiment and look at the help file for what each one does.

Follow this link: to see pictures of some of the different ‘contour shaders’ that are available.

The ‘simple’ shader attributes look as follows
Change the colour and width of the line with these options

Part 4 (camera settings)
This sets up the camera to work with the toon shader
The camera used for rendering needs to tell the renderer how to composite the rendered image and the rendered contours.

In the outliner, select the camera you want to render with.
Under the mental ray attributes set the output shader as contour composite (similar process to part 3).

‘contour_composite’ generates a contour image composited over the rendered color image
‘contour_only’ generates a contour image with a given background color in the color frame buffer, discarding the rendered color image.
‘contour_ps’ creates PostScript code with black contours. The PostScript code can be written to a file with a separate output statement that specifies the file type ps. This shader does not touch the rendered color frame buffer.

Part 5 (render globals)
Sets up the renderer
Open the render globals window
Set the ‘render using’ option to mental ray
Select your settings as you want (eg file type size etc)
Select the mental ray tab
Under the contours section set the ‘contrast shader’ to ‘contour_contrast_function_levels’ and the store shader to ‘contour_store_function’ --(see post below for missed step)–
Play around with the settings to get the desired results.

(In the contour_contrast_functions you can check Diff-Index to turn on wireframe rendering (only renders triangulated wireframes)).

(i recommend setting the sampling quality min and max samples to-2, 2 to get nice smooth lines, the first toon pic i posted was set with the deafult -2,0 the pic of the beaver with hands was done with sampling quality set to -2,2)

Part 5 Pic

‘Contour store’ decides what kind of information to store at an image sample location.

‘Contour contrast’ uses the information from ‘Contour store’ to decide whether two samples are different enough to place a contour line between them. The settings for ‘contour_contrast_functions’ are as follows:

zdelta is the minimum depth difference required to cause a contour, measured in coordinate units.
ndelta is the minimum angle difference between normal vectors required to cause a contour, measured in degrees.
diff_mat if set to on, causes a contour between different materials.
diff_label if set to on, causes a contour between different object labels. It can be used to outline objects.
diff_index if set to on, causes a contour between different triangles. It can be used to draw triangle wireframes.
contrast if set to on, causes a contour between colors that exceed the contrast threshold specified in the options block. In the case of semitransparent object, contrasts caused by other objects behind the semitransparent object are taken into account.
min_level and max_level limit contours to ray generations of at least min_level and at most max_level. Every reflection and refraction counts as one level. For example, to exclude contours around reflections and refractions, set max_level to 0.

I think thats everything, but I’ve probably forgotten something or made a mistake.
I would have gone into more detail but I’ve got alot of assessment coming up and haven’t really got time but if you have any questions ask me and ill be more than happy to explain.


Missed Step in Part 5
I missed a step in part 5. When you set the ‘store shader’ in the render globals and click on ‘contour_store_function’ the connection editor pops up (sse pic). Set the ‘point’ output to the ‘contour store’ input. This can also be done in the hypershade as seen in the pic below

go to for info on how to setup lights for the toon shader

On another note, I sat down with my 3d lecturer yestereday and we’ve got the story nearly finalised with a draft storyboard drawn up. I’m extremely happy with it, its finally coming together. I don’t want to give too much away but heres the final idea, hopefully:

There’s a beer shortage in canada and a canadian beaver comes to australia to try ang steal some beer from a local pub.

What do u’s think?


just a quick update on some wooden floor boards for the bar


I didn´t look into this post anymore after asking for the shader tutorial.

thank you so much - this is brilliniant.
will check it out as soon as I am free.
thnx a million

hope to see some beavery updates soon


you’ll have to tell me if it works or if i missed something. No one else has replied since I posted the tute, hope its all good :slight_smile: