Thursday, March 22, 2012

Croods Crew: Jamaal Bradley

For the past few years, Jamaal Bradley (Surf's Up, Tangled) has been spitting in the face of God and nature, boldly and blasphemously creating life as a Senior Animator on The Croods.

While the title 'Senior Animator' sounds like it would involve either (a.) the hazing of freshman animators or (b.) shakily sketching things 'like they did in the good old days,' this couldn't be further from the truth. Senior Animators are often assigned a film's most important and emotional scenes. They are expected to deliver only the highest quality animation. They are also relied upon heavily to help train Junior Animators.

Or, to use an awkwardly assembled Lord of the Rings analogy:

If the Junior Animators are like Hobbits (wide-eyed, fresh faced and eager to take on whatever assignment is laid before them), and the Supervising Animators are like Gandalf the Grey (wizened elder statesmen able to impart important, hard-won life lessons while guiding the group to their goal), then Senior Animators are like Aragorn -- badass motherf*ckers at the top their game who seamlessly serve as leaders, teachers and long-distance lovers to the daughters of the house of Elrond.

Wait, what?


In addition to animating, Bradley has also been busy blogging. First, he has his personal site, Jamaal Bradley: Release the Excess. The site features a smorgasbord of Bradley's sketches, scans and short video tutorials.

"This blog is about...letting out the garbage in my head," Bradley recently wrote. "Some of the content is fun, some useful, some weird, and some things are just ridiculous."

Then there's Bradley's newly web-famous Pencil Test Depot. The subject of a 2/12 Cartoon Brew interview, this site is an animation nerd's nirvana. Showcasing dozens of pencil tests from everyone from Andreas Deja and Glen Keane to Milt Kahl and Ollie Johnston, it's the sort of site you could easily lose a day exploring.

Another thing worth mentioning about both these websites is that while browsing them, you never get the sense that Bradley is using them to promote himself or pump up his own ego. Instead, they feel more like someone sharing things that they genuinely love. With the video tutorials on Jamaal Bradley: Release the Excess and damned near everything on Pencil Test Depot, Bradley is offering up an ongoing class in animation and acting -- for free! The stuff he's teaching doesn't just apply to working or aspiring animators, either. I'm nothing more than a popcorn purchasing audience member, and I'm gaining a deeper and more nuanced appreciation for the art form with each post. This all goes back to Bradley's role as a Senior Animator, I guess. The knowledge, the skills, the ability to teach.


I get an honest-to-goodness scoop via my one question Twitter interview with Bradley:

Ju-osh: ‏ @JamaalBradley Are you animating a particular character on The Croods?
11:35 AM - 21 Mar 12 via web

JamaalBradley: @Ju_osh #Croods- Animating mostly the father
12:05 PM - 21 Mar 12 via Twitter for iPad

Bonus Bonus!

A scene Bradley did for Puss In Boots:

He captioned it, "This is one of the shots I did for Dreamworks' Puss In Boots. This is the first time we see Puss behind bars after being captured. They wanted an emotional moment, but have it go into something funny. I don't know if many people laughed in the theater though..."

Related: Croods Crew profiles of Louie del Carmen and Christophe Lautrette

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