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Todd Jacobsen Curious George Universal Pictures

  • Client: Universal Pictures

  • Work Performed: Animation / Rough Inbetweens

  • Project Date: 2005

“Curious George” was my third foray into the world of big-studio rough animation. While we were under a lot of pressure to finish the film in just under a year, I had an incredible amount of fun working with the small crew that was based on the Universal Studios lot.

My first week on the film was one I’ll never forget: the artists were given a backstage pass to a live animal show on the studio tour to study a retiring, sanctuary-bound chimpanzee. At the end of observation period, the chimp’s handler asked if anyone would like to “meet” his friend…so naturally, I volunteered.

It was easily one of the most profound experiences in my life. I’ve read over the years there’s only 2-3% difference in humans’ and apes’ DNA, and getting that close to an animal so closely linked to my own genetic makeup was truly overwhelming.

Todd Jacobsen Curious George chimp

I did rough inbetweens on George under the guidance of Lead Animator Anthony “Tony” DeRosa, whom I met while working on “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” a couple of years earlier. To say Tony was an excellent mentor would be an understatement: there were a number of times when he invited me into his office, just to spend time looking over his shoulder and listening to his thought processes as he animated; he had me take acting and staging notes for the satellite studios working on the film as they submitted scenes for his approval; and he gave me an incredible amount of opportunities to flourish by giving me scenes he’d started in their most basic forms, with the admonition I finish them and “make it my own.” One of the earliest scenes was a two-shot of George and Ted (“The Man in the Yellow Hat”). After I’d finished the rough inbetweens on George, Tony asked if I’d take the layout of Ted’s body and do the entire rough animation to match Will Farrell’s dialog.

About halfway through the film, a scene came up where George needed to be added into another artist’s existing Ted animation. Tony asked if I’d like to do all the animation on George, and I gladly accepted his offer. However, upon conferring with Ted’s lead animator Darlie Brewster for guidance, I found she wasn’t entirely happy with the animation on Ted that had been done, and asked if I wanted to re-do it. Both lead animators approved my work upon reviewing my first pass.

I even got the chance to do some effects work. I’d finished the rough inbetweens on the scene where George had a mouthful of fireflies and had to spit them out, so I asked Tony if I could do those to see if director Matt O’Callaghan would be interested in seeing my take on them. I was happy to receive another “first pass approval” from both Tony and Matt.

Two years later, during a bit of downtime on “The Simpsons Movie,” I took an old layout from “Curious George” and set about to do a two day rough animation self-test, just for practice.


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