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Todd Jacobsen Lucky Charms General Mills

  • Client: Calabash Animation

  • Work Performed: Assistant Animation, Final Line, Ink & Paint

  • Project Dates: 2018 - 2020

"Sneeze" (Assistant Animation / Final Line / Ink & Paint on sneeze scene)

While I’d never before had the pleasure of working for them, I’d always admired Calabash Animation’s incredibly strong portfolio of work. What’s more, their reputation as a true “artist’s studio” had long preceded them. So when a former co-worker mentioned he’d given them my name as a possible Final Line candidate for a commercial he was working on, I followed up with them immediately. This opportunity turned out to be one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever had. The schedule was a bit tight — just a little over two weeks for this one very detailed scene — but the principals at Calabash in Chicago made absolutely positive all lines of communication were wide open for this freelancer in Los Angeles. I had such a great experience with them, I was truly sad when it was done!

The scene they assigned me was challenging, to be sure: a Tex Avery-style frenetic sneeze with some director notes, assistant animation in certain places, a mane and tail that needed additional and consistent follow-through animation, final line animation, tones and cast shadows, as well as an ink & paint process. And although the rough animation worked incredibly well, I could tell it was all completed with pencil and paper and scanned into a line-testing program instead of originating digitally. (This made for a bit of guesswork on my end, as the pencil test I was given was very faint).

Rough Animation by David Childers

Doing assistant animation often comes before final line in a normal animation pipeline, but given the schedule in which we had to finish, we agreed I’d have to do both at the same time. Thankfully, one of the senior animators at Calabash had graciously created a few key final line drawings for me to follow. And once I’d figured out where I’d need to fill in the missing rough inbetweens and which sections of the mane and tail needed that follow-through attention, having those key drawings became a godsend. Part of this particular final line approval process necessitated coloring the lines of both characters based on the model sheets, so once I felt like I had everything moving in a satisfactory state, I went back to the beginning and made sure the lines were colored correctly. (Not easy when two characters are interacting/overlapping like these are; I was asked to keep them combined on one level.) I was also thankful the cereal box would be added digitally, but I still needed to make sure the silhouette of the box stayed consistent throughout the scene.

Assistant / Final Line Animation

Once the assistant / final line animation was completed and approved, we went into paint. This is a fun process, one where I can literally turn my “animation brain” off and simply assign colors to areas. I was VERY thankful (in this area as well) that a paint checking process would be completed in-house at Calabash; I knew I’d have more than a few minor mistakes, as I had exactly one day to turn this task around.

Paint Process

I’m not a seasoned effects animator, and I rarely get the chance to animate tones and shadows. Often, this part of the process involves (for me, anyway) using a rarely-used spatial and logical part of my brain reserved for “seeing” objects in a far more three-dimensional fashion than my regular 2D animation brain affords, but I always welcome this opportunity as a chance to expand my global vision. I’ve always maintained that effects animators are infinitely smarter and more observant than character animators — while character animators (and most of the general populace) can easily mimic and exaggerate human and animal traits, effects animators need to make natural elements like shadows, water, dust, etc. move in a believable fashion. I feel it’s easy enough to behave like a unicorn or a leprechaun, but how do I behave like two shadows on two flat surfaces both cast by a single, imaginary light source?

Tones and Shadows Process

It’s always fun to see how projects like this come together in its final stages, and how many people play active roles in its completion. There were artists at Calabash who were tasked with creating the painted backgrounds, the glitter effects, the broken barn wall and the cereal box, as well as the various CG effects like twirling marshmallows and sparkles. Not to mention the film and sound editors, the compositors, the participation of the live-action characters, and all those who made sure this would be completed in a timely fashion and who helped to keep Calabash running smoothly on a daily basis. Again, I’m always thrilled when friends and family contact me simply to say they’ve seen something I’ve worked on, even if my work only amounted to a couple of seconds.

I’m really proud of the relatively small part I played in the creation of this incredibly well-crafted commercial, and ecstatic I was finally able to say I worked for such a fine studio as Calabash. I hope this is the first of many collaborations with them.

Here are three additional Lucky Charms spots I’ve worked on for Calabash:

"Unicorn Traps" (Final Line on second to last scene, as Lucky pushes wall down and exits right)

"New Unicorn Marshmallows" (Final Line on Unicorn as it jumps and lands in chariot)

"Staircase" (Final Line on Lucky as he jumps off stairs and onto cloud)


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