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Shown Their Work / Animated Films

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Creators showing their work in animated movies.

  • When playing the guitar in The Book of Life, Manolo is making the correct chord shapes.
  • Disney:
    • Bambi was the reason that almost all animators (even to this day in age) are not only asked, but required to draw animals in their studies. The story goes that when Disney himself saw the first few rough animations of the deer moving, they looked like what could be generously described as two people in a horse suit doing the peepee dance. So ashamed of this, Disney brought in a live deer the next day and forced his entire staff to spend the next few weeks doing nothing but deer drawings. It paid off, and not only is Bambi known for its beautiful animal animations, but animal anatomy has become a permanent part of nearly every single animator's training.
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    • The Lion King also deserves a shout out due to two things.
      • During the process of designing the characters, the animators brought in lions ranging from small cubs all the way to adults even bringing in a baboon to hold a stick in order to figure out how to animate Rafiki. To add to this, many field trips to the local zoos were involved to better understand animal anatomy. The zoos that are credited include the Los Angeles Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Miami Metro Zoo.
      • In order to understand the landscape of Africa, a select group of animators were sent to Kenya to tour the reserves and learn about the culture. It's thanks to this trip that the catchphrase "Hakuna Matata" is so commonly used nowadays.
    • For a movie sorely lacking in proper research and mired in Politically Correct History otherwise, Pocahontas does manage to get one detail correct. The settlers fly the Union Jack that was the English standard from 1606 to 1800: the modern one, but without the red stripe on the cross of St. Andrew. For those who don't know, the Saltire (St. Andrew's Cross) with the red St. George's Cross superimposed represents the union of Scotland and England. The second red cross added later represents Ireland (now just Northern Ireland).
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    • In Mulan when Mushu reads a newspaper, he turns the pages left-to-right since it's in Chinese, not right-to-left as though it were English.
    • Although Walt didn't have the time or budget to devote as much effort into the realism of Dumbo as his past features, he did have live elephants brought into the studio in order to study their movements and appearance.
    • Tarzan has many examples, and one of them is how Kerchak pounds his chest. Both times, he does it with open palms, rather than with clenched fists like most cartoon primates doing this would do.
    • A language consultant was brought in to invent the Atlanteans' language in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. It has a full vocabulary, at least one relevant to their culture, a character system, and consistent grammar and syntax. The only time in the movie this ever becomes relevant is the fact that Milo can read ancient Atlantean. Whereas the Atlanteans themselves have long forgotten how. While the shield runes are done using a letter-by-letter English cipher, an equivalent to the I_eland letter string is in the time-and-culture-appropriate names for Iceland and Ireland.
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    • Lilo & Stitch: When Lilo announces that she wants to call her new "dog" Stitch, the woman at the humane society says, "That's not a name." Nani shoots her a dirty look and she quickly adds, "-in Iceland!" In Iceland, there actually are strict rules about what parents are legally allowed to name their children.
    • Another small Disney moment: Apparently, the animators watched chefs preparing food at a local Benihana to properly animate Long John Silver preparing food in a short animation in Treasure Planet. Disney staff may not always do perfect research, but when they do, they do it right.
    • Brother Bear, like Bambi and The Lion King, did extensive research on animal anatomy.
    • In Disney's Tangled, the tactics used by Mother Gothel on Rapunzel are disturbingly accurate, such as Gothel's refined verbal and emotional abuse, lying to her "daughter" and trying to make Rapunzel dependent on her. There's some Fridge Brilliance in this as well, as the way Rapunzel reacts and behaves throughout the movie (with mood swings etc.) resembles how a victim of lifelong emotional abuse would realistically behave.
    • Wreck-It Ralph has a ton of Shout-Out moments that double as this trope. Noteworthy ones include: getting Sonic's voice actor in for a cameo appearance, which doubles as a plot point; Vanellope's kart's asymmetrical textures being caused by Ralph breaking the baking game reminiscent of glitched racing characters and karts; blink-and-you-miss-it clips in the arcades opening time-skip showing how characters like Sonic, Eggman, and Bowser (typically home console characters) end up in an arcade; right down to Zangief being at Bad-Anon, not because he was a villain, but because he was a pain in the ass for one of the producers, and many other players of Street Fighter II, to beat. (His speech to Ralph even highlights it, he is not a villain for evil's sake but a villain because of his strength and notoriety.)
    • Frozen includes a montage of historically accurate ice harvesting techniques, which is particularly impressive considering that Real Life ice harvesting died out in the middle of the 20th century.
    • Zootopia:
      • Judy Hopps, a rabbit, doesn't have paw pads. It's a little known fact that real rabbits have fur instead of paw pads.
      • Nick nearly gets caught sneaking by a guard shack because the wolves guarding the facility catch his scent on the wind, a subtle joke about how foxes have musk glands. Also, the film notes that Nick eats fruit which is possible for foxes as they're omnivores and actually love blueberries, apples and plums.
      • The eyes of the victims of Night Howler poisoning take on real life tapetum lucidum.
      • It's noted that the predators in the city make up only 10% of the total population. This is based on the real life fact known as the 10% Rule, where each layer of the food chain needs ten times as much energy in the layer below it to sustain it. However, it doesn't explain why the situation still exists now that civilization has eliminated the traditional food chain.
  • DreamWorks Animation:
    • The commentary for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas claims a lot of this. From the rigging on the ships to the design of the lock and dam system, a lot of details were taken into consideration.
    • Kung Fu Panda was so well praised in China for getting their culture so dead on in a great movie that the Chinese government set up meetings that essentially asked, "Why can't we make an animated film about China that good??"
      • In fact, one of their lead animators was a martial arts expert, and eventually all the animators actually took kung fu courses to help them better draw the moves of the various characters and stay true (for the most part) to the different styles. Other research shows in the authentic Chinese landscape, art, and architecture.
      • For even more evidence of this, Exhibit A: The Art of Kung Fu Panda. You'll be blown away by the extreme attention to detail in absolutely everything. There's the landscape (example: the visual team looked to the works of traditional Chinese paintings for inspiration, and when designing the sugarloaf mountains in the Valley of Peace, they made sure to choose the right number of peaks to represent both openness and security, as well as emphasize mist because of the Chinese concept of beauty in emptiness). Then there's the architecture of the Jade Palace, where the roofs are not only properly designed to allow maximum light in any season and for rainwater runoff, but there are even dougongs, or interlocking wooden brackets, tucked up under the eaves that the audience will never even see. And there's the character designs, such as Tigress's stripes being incorporated into her costume, Mantis having a real Chinese robe design put on his carapace, and Viper's coils being tattooed with Chinese poetry. For added fun, listen to the directors' commentary where they wax eloquent on the color theory and symbolism of different parts of the film. All in all, it does seem to be crossing over into Doing It for the Art territory.
    • Dreamworks nails it with How to Train Your Dragon. Toothless' movements, behavior and flight reflect a myriad of animal behaviors, and as such comes off as one of the most "realistic" dragons.
      • The sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a darker case in Drago's Bewilderbeast, who acts like an animal that's been abused its entire life, particularly performing elephants. Drago's weapon of choice is a bullhook/elephant goad, an item used in the training of elephants and the use of which is considered animal abuse by most animal rights groups.
  • While not always accurate, Osmosis Jones portrays human physiology rather more correctly than a cartoon about a talking white blood cell might be expected to. When reminiscing about his family's history on the police force/immune system, Jones refers to his ancestors having come over on the umbilical cord; before it has bone marrow, a human embryo's blood cells really are manufactured in a yolk sac, which connects to the belly via the umbilical cord (as does the placenta). The creators also worked with a real martial arts expert to accurately portray Thrax's fighting style.
  • Pixar has become noted for this, especially in some of their most recent films. Some highlights: (just watch the DVD extras for all the details)
    • In Toy Story, animators wore shoes bolted to 2x4s to figure out how toy soldiers would actually walk.
    • Coral reefs and particularly how things move underwater for Finding Nemo.
    • Cars is full of an astounding amount of detail. The King is Richard Petty's iconic 1970 Plymouth Superbird, down to virtually every detail, and his crash at the end of the film is a chillingly exact recreation of Petty's 1988 Daytona 500 crash. The sound engineers recorded engine sounds of the exact make and models of each kind of car featured in the film so they would sound exactly right even though virtually none of the audience would know any difference. The King's wife is voiced by Petty's Real Life wife and was modeled after the car Mrs. Petty drove in to follow her husband to races earlier in his career.
    • In Ratatouille,
      • Pixar consulted with chefs and restaurateurs and key animators took gourmet cooking classes to make sure they could get as much right about the way a restaurant works as possible. They even got a haute cuisine chef to show how the craft works and used Collette's mentoring montage to show that research off. Every scene that sets up how the restaurant operates is true to life. Up to and including how a restaurant deals with pushy big-name food critics.
      • They also actually cooked some of the recipes used in the movie themselves, so that they could accurately render how foodstuffs look and react when being prepared via various cooking techniques.
      • The ratatouille variant that Rémy prepares for Ego at the end was invented for the film; Chef Keller was asked what he would do if a critic like Ego were to suddenly enter his restaurant and, in a moment of inspiration, created the dish.
      • If one looks closely, one can see that the chefs have small burn scars on the undersides of their forearms. Some real-life chefs also have these, from accidentally touching hot pans while cooking.
      • For the scene where Linguini jumps into the river after Remy, one of the animators jumped into a pool wearing a chef's uniform so they could accurately portray a soaking wet uniform.
      • Even the rats' social organization underwent a little research, as they properly refer to their group as a "colony" rather than a pack, and don't have obvious leaders aside from older rats advising their children.
    • The WALL•E crew spent considerable time studying and using actual film cameras like the 70mm Panavision and consulted with famous cinematographers Roger Deakens and Dennis Muren to make the the movie appear as if it had been filmed rather than rendered. (These experts noted wryly that many of the effects Pixar used — like lens flare, motion blur, and limited focus — had been viewed by camera-using cinematographers as errors to be avoided, eliminated, or minimized whenever possible.) They also spent a lot of research on silent acting, because of the limited expressions of WALL•E and EVE. In fact, the little dialogue in the film, and how they got WALL•E and EVE to express so much emotion despite not having faces, is what got the movie so much praise.
    • The Incredibles: Not only is Elastigirl's radio chatter while flying a plane accurate, Holly Hunter researched what the jargon actually meant, meaning it sounds realistic as well. The only snag was substituting the aircraft's tail number from the "proper" N-number so that it could be a Shout-Out.
    • Up: Several Pixar artists went to a South American plateau for a realistic look and inspiration. The rock shaped like a turtle is based on a real rock they saw, as well as the rock they mistook for a person. Considering how alien and fantastic the place looked, it is amazing when you realize how accurate it is, especially since very few people would be able to notice any inaccuracy. Even the seemingly random changes in the film's weather (such as how quickly mist clears away) is actually par for the course on those real-life plateaus; according to the DVD commentary, the research team almost got trapped there because of sudden rainstorms.
    • An archery teacher who watched Brave's trailer commended the film for showing the characters who get their archery wrong do it in the right ways, the way real novice archers mess up, while the main character does it right in the right ways, right down to the nonintuitive slow-motion physics of archery.
    • Quite a bit of research in psychology went into the making of Inside Out. Riley's Emotions are based on Paul Ekman's theory of six basic emotions (Fear borrowing some elements from the sixth emotion in Ekman's model, Surprise), and the short-term memories being sent to long-term memory when Riley goes to sleep are based on current ideas as to the purpose of sleep. Also, the shots of San Francisco are heavily based on locations in the real-life city.
  • Surf's Up lists multiple surfing consultants in the credits. Who would have thought that a CGI film on surfing penguins would go the extra mile?
  • One scene in Titan A.E. shows that the producers did their research on vacuum exposure.
  • Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery deserves some praise here:
    • The animators worked hard to recreate the moves and entrances of the wrestlers. Sin Cara's movements, in particular, are really fluid. They even note Kane's heterochromia.
    • The movie also goes to great lengths illustrating Kayfabe and the nature of the WWE as an entertainment business. Vince McMahon, whose ring persona is that of a ruthless Corrupt Corporate Executive, is portrayed as a fairly pleasant, reasonable guy in private and Kane, portrayed as a vicious monster in the ring, is a Graceful Loser to Shaggy and Scooby. Most fictional portrayals of pro wrestling tend to gloss over this aspect of it, only giving it a passing mention if they mention it at all.
  • In Yellowbird, windmills can be seen spinning in the background when the flock arrives in Holland. In use since the 14th century, windmills served many purposes, such as bringing water from the lowlands to water crops and grinding grain.

Alternative Title(s): Film Animation


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