Thursday, January 24, 2013

Croods Crew: Dave Hardin

After almost a decade in the animation biz, Dave Hardin now sits near the top of the heap, lording it over the little people as one of the Senior Animators on The Croods. How did he attain this position of power, you ask? Well, ever since I took that tour of DreamWorks, I've been dutifully deleting any and all references to the murder and mayhem that goes on behind the studio gates. But suffice it to say, Dave Hardin left a long trail of bodies in his wa--

What's that?

No, no, no. OF COURSE I know that Dave Hardin is not a murderer. Or a man of mayhem. Nor has he left a long trail of bodies in his wake. (At least, I hope not.) No, I was just using a little 'creative license' to try and rope in the readers. I'm well aware that Hardin worked his way up the ranks the old fashioned way, first graduating from The College for Creative Studies, then animating on such films as Open Season and Boog & Elliot's Midnight Bun Run, and then on Surf's Up -- the film that garnered him a 2008 Annie Award nomination and his current gig at DreamWorks. But seriously, if I just went ahead and listed all of that, who's gonna want to read it? Kids today don't want to hear about hard work and education. They want over-night sensations and sensationalistic sleaze. Trust me on this, okay? I'm an unpaid, unofficial blogger. That pretty much makes me an expert on everything.

I'll tell you what. Read the rest of this profile piece. If -- AT THE END -- you still have any lingering questions or concerns, I'll be more than happy to take your suggestions into consideration. We cool? Okay, then. Paragraph two:

Dave Hardin is a master manipulator of CG characters AND human emotions. This treacherous blend of tech savvy and sociopathic tendencies can be found in virtually ALL Senior Animators working in today's cutthroat corporate cartoon indus--


No, I do NOT think I am being a tad overly-dramatic. What I was trying to say -- albeit with a pinch of pizazz -- was that Hardin's job as Senior Animator requires him to not only be a top tier animator, but also a people person, able to delegate responsibility and act as a mentor to the Junior Animators working with him. That was pretty obvious, if you ask me.

Now, as I was saying...

Dave Hardin and a CIA assassin have one very dangerous trait in common. Their outwardly innocent appearance is just a front for the chameleon-like personality and mercurial skill-set they hide within. This diabolical duplicity--

Seriously? Already? That was what, two and a half sentences? One of 'em was a run-on, I'll grant you that. But if you're going to interrupt me every time I try to compliment the man, it's gonna start to sound a little back-handed. I mean, would you rather I just cut-and-pasted the portion of Hardin's interview with his alma mater where he described the wide variety of animation styles he's worked in by saying:

All of the animated movies I’ve worked on so far have been completely different from each other. Open Season was very cartoony with exaggerated squash/stretch. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had a UPA style animation to it, very rubbery arms and static poses held throughout a shot. If a character walked across the room, the feet and legs might be the only things moving, while the upper body never changed position. I Am Legend, Alice in Wonderland and Speed Racer were all more based in a realistic style of animation, where gravity and weight wasn't exaggerated so it would look believable when composited next to the live action actors.

Yeah, and then I'd probably have to shell out some sort of expensive copyright fee for the 'privilege.' No, thanks. I think I'll do this my way. Now where was I?

Oh, yeah.

Nothing delights Dave Hardin more than watching his victims' reactions. He RELISHES it. If, on some dark and stormy night, you happen to encounter Dave Hardin in the back of a dimly lit bar, you may want to curry his favor by asking him to tell you the story of 'The Little Girl on the Plane.' It will send shivers down your--

What do you mean, "misleading"?! I have bold-print quotes to back all of this up. Oh, you want to see them? Fine. Here:

I love watching people react to movies I’ve worked on -- seeing them laugh or get emotional during shots that I animated; that really is the biggest payoff.


Once on flight back to Michigan, a woman and her daughter were watching Open Season on a DVD player next to me. I got so excited because when I told the mom that I animated on that movie, she smiled and said that it was her daughter’s favorite film. She said that she’s watched it over 100 times!

Shivers, right? Shivers of sweetness. Now I think that you owe me an apology. No? Well, how about you just sit tight while I try and finish this thing, then?

They say an assassin never forgets his first kill. A similar thing can be said for some CG animators. Hardin originally enrolled in The College for Creative Studies intending to enter the field of film special effects. One of his first assignments was to animate "a very simple object within a short story." That was all it took. To hear Hardin tell it, he took to animation like a junkie to the Mexican Brown Horse.

No, make that, 'the China White.' No -- 'Mr. Brownstone.' Howzabout, 'the Black Stuff'? Ooh, so many colorful choices!

"I was hooked after that," said Hardin. "By animating this very simple object, I was able to see that it had a personality and people could relate to it. Things just snowballed soon after. I was doing walk cycles, lip sync and short films with other classmates. I am really glad that I am doing character animation now because the art of bringing something to life is very rewarding."

If I may be permitted to interrupt myself here, I've gotta admit, I'm pleasantly surprised at your new found restraint. You've let me type two whole paragraphs (and one editorial interjection!) without a single complaint. Perhaps I'm winning you over. Perhaps you've come around to my way of thinking. Perhaps you finally see the method to my--

Oh, the bathroom? Well, it's très gauche to share such things publicly. Now zip your lips while I bring this bad boy home.

Despite his many artistic and financial successes, Hardin is haunted by a host of inner-demons. His self-doubt is relentless, as is his insatiable need to animate better, faster, more. But instead of allowing the weight of his own expectations to crush him, Hardin uses it to make himself stronger. This metaphorical weight is the metaphorical fire that metaphorically tempers his metaphorical sword. Heaven help the underling or overseer who dares stand in his--

AND WE WERE SO CLOSE! That was it! The end! The parting words of wisdom and encouragement! The answer to every aspiring animator's first question at an open Q&A: 'How do I do what you do?' And you had to go and--

You think I should just cut-and-paste Hardin's actual advice? Alright, I'll do it. Not because you're right, mind you. But because I want to prove to you how amazingly amenable I can be. Unlike SOME PEOPLE. Anyway, take it away, Dave.

I tend to be critical of my work. I always watch my shots and say, "Oh, I could have pushed that expression more'" or "I could have made that emotional moment last longer." I think that is what makes a good animator -- being able to critique your own work and know the difference between something that looks good and bad. Otherwise you'll never improve. You have to be hard on yourself and want to impress people.

Great advice, and pretty much EXACTLY what I'd said above. Still, this isn't about me. It's about Dave Hardin. So let's close this out with a 4 1/2 minute highlight reel of Hardin's hard work. He's clearly adept at the big action stuff, but keep an eye out for smaller gestures and facial expressions. Hardin's got a real gift for those.

NOTE: All quotes from this post were lifted from an interview Hardin did with The College for Creative Studies. To read the full interview, click here.

Croods Crew: Jamaal Bradley
Croods Crew: Jennifer Harlow
Croods Crew: Louis del Carmen
Croods Crew: Christophe Lautrette


  1. Replies
    1. I'm not usually the biggest fan of 'All Star' voice casting, but Jack Black does an AMAZING job as Po. I can't even imagine the character voiced by anyone else!

      p.s. I like your new Hiccup icon!

  2. Dave Hardin..the only truth is HARDWORK! will continue to be an inspiration..and I will meet you someday.