'Sonder' Status Update: Animation Is A Wrap

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Huge news! Production of our short film, Sonder, just reached a major milestone, with the animation department wrapping its work on the project.

A total of nearly 30 animators contributed to the film over the past year and a half. As Supervisor Stefan Schumacher notes, "animators would rotate in and out of working on Sonder depending on how much free time they had available," with roughly 12-15 people working on the film at any given time.

The team built a variety of custom pipeline tools on top of Autodesk Maya to complete their work. Stefan says that while production was "pretty smooth sailing," the inevitable challenges did arise—and the team was quick to identify solutions.

"Occasionally animators would notice rigging issues on a character while working on their scenes," Stefan recalls. "For example, Finn's eyelids might deform in an unexpected, squiggly way - but Foam [Laohachairoon] and her team of riggers would jump on these issues and have an updated version of the rig integrated in the pipeline within days."

One sequence that Stefan is particularly proud of—and excited for audiences to see—takes place in a dead forest, where our main character Finn is in peril. "Finn is supposed to be falling and running, all while fighting off these tentacle-y tree vines that attack him," Stefan says. "I thought it was going to be a really tough sequence to animate convincingly, but the animators were super keen to take on this challenge and absolutely killed it."

Having finished their work on the film, members of the animation department celebrated with an afternoon picnic in San Francisco's Presidio on August 27th. It was a well-deserved party for a team that worked largely remotely, communicating primarily via Slack and Sunday night videochat reviews.

"I'm gonna miss seeing everyone on a regular basis," Stefan says. "It was such a privilege for me to see everyone's smiling faces—albeit pixelated on a webcam—on Sunday nights."

With animation complete, production now heads into the final stretch, as lighting, sound, and other departments start putting the finishing touches on Sonder in the weeks ahead.