Real-life art principles boost animation skills

With credits ranging from “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” to current hit “Rio,” art director Thomas Cardone’s experience may seem high-tech, but he talks about his craft in terms of the basics: lighting and staging.

“When I was at Disney, I was teaching traditional background artists how to paint on the computer and they taught me how to paint backgrounds with real paint on canvas,” says Cardone. “When you do that, you learn about lighting and color, pulling certain elements toward the audience and pushing other things back.”

Cardone was a digital background artist at the Mouse House. The skills he learned there served him well when he worked on “Rio” for Fox’s Blue Sky Studios and needed to keep the aud focused on the main characters, like Blu the macaw. He manipulated colors, taking them down a notch at times to help direct viewers’ attention.

“We did things like keep the streets gray so that Blu would pop against that background. We kept the sand a neutral tone so the color of the umbrellas would pop,” says Cardone. “If we didn’t have those flat tones in the background, you’d miss the all the colors in the foreground.”

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