Google Doodle: Chat with animator Ryan Woodward

May 11, 2011

Today's Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 117th birthday of dancer/choreographer Martha Graham. Chat with the Doodle's creator, "motiongrapher" Ryan Woodward, about creating the Doodle, working with Google, and his other work, which includes two of the "Spider Man" films, "Iron Man 2" and more.

Read today's story: GOOGLE DOODLE: Today's animation celebrates dance pioneer Martha Graham

Hi Everyone.  Let's chat!!!

How many Google animators are there? How many Google animations have you done?

This is my first Google Doodle!  I'm not sure how many animators or designers they have on staff at Google, but the team I worked with was great.

What medium do you use in producing your work: is it all on computer or do you work on paper? Have you ever, or would you consider, exhibiting your Google art in a gallery or possibly in an art book someday?

Little bit of both.  The computer is fast to work in, but sometimes the tactile experience of paper is necessary.  I'd love to be in a gallery one day if someone will actually do it.  I did my first gallery show in January and it was really great. Maybe more of that in the future.  Who knows.

Hi, Like many others I have been introduced to Ryan Woodward through his Google animation for 11th of May 2011. Drawing and art are inspired and inspire others. At what point did you know this would be your life? Thanks for your time, Jazz Raja from Wolverhampton UK

Hi Jazz.  Since I was a kid.  There were never any other options for me.  I always loved comic books, animation and just plain geeky stuff.  

Does Google have any criteria on what they expect and limitations on what they do not want in their animations?

I'm not sure what kind of stipulations they have.  They are big fans of Martha Graham and asked me to do this, and how could I say no?  They were fantastic and really allowed me to be creative.

How did you get to be so talented?! This is a fantastic doodle; your talent shows through! I always wonder in cases such as yours how much of this you can ascribe to pure talent and how much to hard work and a good education. Thanks and congrats on a job greatly done!

Thanks for the compliment.  I don't really consider myself very talented.  I look at other artists and animators that I aspire to and those are the guys I'm trying to be like.  I don't suppose an artist actually ever gets to the point where they think they're talented.  The moment they do, then the learning stops and they become stagnant.  Whoa, that's kind of profound!

Hi Ryan, what happened to the rest of your website? (everything is 404) P.S.: I'm sure everyone who saw Thoughts of You will recognised your style on the Google Doodle!

I think it's all fixed now.  The amount of sudden traffic caught me off guard and my hosting service.  Check them now though.  

When working digitally, what software(s) do you use? On the hardware side, is that a Cintiq? Thank you!

Yeah, I love the cintiq.  It's a really fast way to animate.  I also use a lot of After Effects for the compositing and right now I'm really looking into Toon Boom as my animating software instead of Flash.  But the reality is, I miss flipping the paper.  I miss my sore right arm from flipping paper. :)

Your inspirations? Muses? Motivation? Please detail the training that led you to this vocation. Advise to aspiring artists?

Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica (the old ones), Gi-Joe, all those great things that keep the imagination and creativity flowing.

Good doodle today! How long it takes with you to reach to an idea and carry it out?

It all depends on the idea.  I have big plans to make a feature one day.  That'll take years.  But I also have this crazy little idea picking at my brain for a 30 second short that should only take a couple months.  It's all a matter of free time, ya know?  Cause there's always a million other things that get in the way.

Hey Ryan, I saw your animation on Google this morning and I LOVED it. I am a student studying graphic design and I really appreciate the work that is put into the art. I am currently learning animation in Flash, so I was wondering did you use Flash for your animation? Also did you achieve the fluidity of the movements by rotoscoping? Thanks, I LOVED your work and will follow you on your website from now on.

Yes, I used Flash, but I don't use it like most people do.  For me its just a digital pen and paper.  I still write out my timing charts and do things the old fashon way.  I don't use scripting or really any tweening cause I like to be able to do all the drawings.  It's a bit teedious, I know, but I like it that way.

What were the steps in your creation of this design? What software do you favor?

It always starts with an idea.  Something that inspires me and then I try to visualize the whole thing out first.  Then I try to figure out how to do it.  It may be with computer software or it might not be.  But that thinking time is really critical for me.

Ryan- I know that you have hundreds of ideas running through your head and are constantly being inspired by everyday life. How do you decide which ideas you actually work on and take to completion? Cheryl Johnson from Salt Lake City (yep! It's me!)

Hey Cheryl!  Good to hear from you.  Strange in a venue like this, but still good.  I suppose it's the ideas that have the most impact on me.  The ideas that you can't seem to get out of your head no matter what you do are the ones that will stick!  I know you have them in there too.

How did the Google job come about? How long had you been working on that? JR Highland, UT

They contacted me back in March and it was absolute coincidence that the Martha Graham Dance Company was coming out here to perform only two weeks away from that first phone call.  A really "twilight zone" coincidence.  We met up when they were here and choreographed the dance with a fabulous dancer.  Then I drew like a mad dog!

what programs usually use in your works?

I like Flash to animate in.  After Effects to composite.  But I'm really looking into Toon Boom these days.  Paper animating is always a plus, but the digital drawing seems to go so much faster.

I find that my drawings have more life to them if somewhere in the process I've put pencil to paper, but it's becoming increasingly more convenient to work digitally straight through. Did you draw the frames directly on the Cintiq or did you start out on paper and scan them in? How do you mix traditional and digital mediums in your work?

I always like the exploration process to be on paper.  But when it comes to actually getting the job done, digital seems to be the most effective for me.  It's just faster.  And yes, I draw them directly on the cintiq.  

How did your exhibition Conte Animated turn out. Will that be on exhibit again? If so where and when? Thanks.

I hope so.  I have the whole thing sitting in crates waiting for some Gallery to want to show it.  I suppose if I had more time I'd actually go out and try to find a gallery, but my salesman efforts on that end had to get cut due to too much other work.  Hopefully, I can get back full swing into that arena cause I really do like the independent artist stuff.

Can I find my first love on google? I love Kristin

Kristen sounds like a very sweet girl.  Go for it!!!

Are you married?

Yes.  And happily at that.  With three kids that serve as huge inspirations to me.

When working with dancers (or anything else I guess), do you get more than one viewpoint video references? And when at the work table, how do you work with them? Playback on a screen or...? It's more than one question sorry :)

The process is very fluid and it changes a lot.  I obviously film the dancer in a lot of different ways and costumes.  I want to really get a feel for the move and the energy - that helps me to then think about the animation and what I can introduce to make it even more powerful.  I have to use live dancers for reference cause I'm not a dancer (at least my wife tells me so), so I don't know the proper technique like they do.  The collaboration between the dancers and the animator is really a great one.  I do play it back on a screen, over and over and over until I really understand what's happening.

Who are your favorite fellow animators?

The old guys!  I love the old Disney animators that had no idea what crazy process they were pioneering.  Today, we have animators reference that go back a hundred years, but they were looking at real life and trying to solve the illustion of life with a pencil. Absolute pioneers!

How has being a full-time professor at BYU influenced your career?

Big time.  I love to be around the passion that students have.  It keeps me wanting to create and invent all the time instead of just paying the bills.  I have a lot of freedom to explore artistic avenues here at the school and that is something I highly value.  

What do you think of 3D animation and the students heading in that field?

I think that every artist/animator needs to follow what they are passionate about.  If they are passionate about 3d, then that is exactly where they should go.  The same goes for any form of art or any part of the animation process.  The trick is figuring out what that passion is and always strive to compromise with other influences.  At the end of the day, when you're in your death bed and your family is looking at you, you want to say to them that you followed your dreams.

How does it feel doing storyboards? Although Disney and maybe some others have sometimes displayed them, does it bother you that very few public people ever see them? I presume you get listed in the credits at the end of a movie?

No it doesn't really bother me.  It's part of the process. I liek to call the disposable art.  It's so fun to be a part of the process of these films that it's no bother that they all get trashed in the end.  The ideas stick and that pretty cool to claim that

Hi Mr. Woodward I'm an animation student here in Cebu Philippines.  What is your secret in doing a wonderful animation product?

Keep a sketchbook and draw from life.  Your life makes you a better creator and animator.  documenting your life in a sketchbook gives you that connection and resource.  

What is your inspiration behind such great Artwork...as an animator how can we satisfy our craving to challenging stuffs, which we usually don't get to do in proffessional life?

Just don't be afraid to fail.  In fact, I expect it every time.  When I did Thought Of You, I let it sit in my computer for 4 months before I put it on the web, cause I didn't think it was that good and no one would like it.  Seriously.  I had other projects in the past that failed, so I wasn't too worried about it.  But you just have to do it, or that craving will start to eat you alive.

Would you believe that I've never even heard of Martha Graham before? I'm not a dancer or involved in the arts at all. I'm also not a dummy. I'm a hardworking, entreprenurial, single mom from Texas. I went to Google.com (like I do everyday) to do a basic search and unlike most doodles that keep me thoroughly entertained, your doodle intrigued me and had me wanting more. I looked up Ms. Graham on wiki and read about her life. Amazed. Thank you for opening my eyes and introducing me to someone that I had no idea about. How does it make you feel to know that your talent and reach has left a mark on someone like me?

Awesome.  I'm glad you've had a little spark of life this morning.  I suppose that's the real goal of most artists - to touch individuals one way or another.  Thanks for sharing, single mom from Texas!  Keep the stars big and bright!

Thanks, everyone who contributed. Glad you all like the logo. 

In This Chat
Ryan Woodward
Ryan Woodward began his career in 1995 as an animator, designer, and storyboard artist for major motion pitcures. He has worked on films such as Space Jam, The Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones, Spider-man 2&3, Where the Wild Things Are, Ironman 2, Cowboys and Aliens(2011) and The Avengers(2012). Ryan has also directed and animated several independent short films such as the contemporary dance piece, Thought of You and The Turtle and the Shark. He is currently an professor of animation at Brigham Young University and loves finding artistic inspiration through his family and long bike rides!
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