Computer Graphics World

September / October 2017

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22 cgw s e p t e m b e r . o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 EMOTIONAL STATE Sony Pictures Animation expresses its animation techniques in The Emoji Movie BY KAREN MOLTENBREY n the age of electronic communica- tion, it is easy to misinterpret a text, email, or message. How many times have you wondered, did I say some- thing wrong? Is he mad? Why is she being nasty? To clarify messages or to commu- nicate a state of emotion or feeling, people started attaching emojis to their notes, simple graphic emoticons, such as a smiley face, to illustrate a point, feeling, mood, or even as a substitution for a word. Perhaps once a language of teens and tweens, emo- jis are now used by people of all ages – albeit not always correctly. With so many emojis available (and used), it can be difficult to decipher what the writer is trying to convey – muddling meaning instead of clarifying communica- tion. If this weren't confus- ing enough, what would happen if an emoji could not retain its assigned expression? It could lead to many mishaps for the user, as it does in the animated feature The Emoji Movie from Sony Pictures Animation (SPA). The film is about the "meh" emoji Gene, born without a filter and bursting with multiple expressions. Gene lives inside teen Alex's phone, within the bus- tling community of Textopolis, as do the other emojis. "Textopolis serves only one purpose: to help Alex communicate," says Tony Leondis, one of the writers and the director of The Emoji Movie. "They wake up in the morning, go to their jobs, and each emoji has a central and ever important role to play." All emojis have to express the emotion they are assigned, no matter how they feel. And Gene's unlimited expressions lead to problems, especially for Alex, who is trying to communicate with a girl he likes. Determined to be like other single-expression emojis, Gene sets off with his friends – the once-popular Hi-5 and the code-breaker Jailbreak – on an "app-venture" through apps on the phone to find Code that will help Gene. Realizing the social relevance of the characters, the movie production kicked into high gear very quickly. Shot production started in September 2016 and finished in mid-June of this year for a summer movie release. All the pre-production and design work was done in-house at Sony Pictures Animation, and the animation was done at Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) by approximately 400 artists, including 125 animators, 100 lighters, and others across multiple departments. The animation was split between two SPI locations, I THE UNIQUE EMOJI MOVIE CHARACTERS.

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