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Toon Tuesday : Why Cundo Rabaudi is the model DreamWorks Animation employee

Toon Tuesday : Why Cundo Rabaudi is the model DreamWorks Animation employee

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Back in the old days, when an animator had trouble visualizing what a particular prop and/or problematic character looked like from a certain angle ... Well, the usual solution to this problem was that that artist then had to construct a model. So that they could then literally see things from a different angle. Spin that model around to see how that prop or figure looked when it occupied three dimensional space.

Here are two examples of models that were made by the sculptors who worked in Disney's Character Model Department back in the mid-1930s. With the hope that these three dimensional pieces would then make a little easier for the animators who were working on "Pinocchio." This is a scale model of the stagecoach & team of sad little donkeys that are used to collect all of the stupid & lazy boys who want to go to Pleasure Island.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, LLC

And this (as you have probably already guessed) is a three dimensional recreation of Monstro the Whale that was built during the pre-production phase of that classic Disney animated feature.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, LLC

Of course, now that animators work on computers, when virtually any object can be rendered in perfect perspective with just a few keystrokes, there's no need for models ... Right ?

Guess again, friend. These days, artists & animators still sometimes have problems visualized what a particular setting looks like. Or how a building appears from a specific angle.

Take -- for example -- the "Shrek the Third" production team. Which was having trouble coming up with new ways to stage scenes at King Harold & Queen Lillian's castle in Far Far Away. Which is when they turned to PDI / DreamWorks Animation visual development artist Cundo Rabaudi for help. And he then created this beautiful three dimensional version of that fairy tale castle.


Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

Which looks like it would be an arduous undertaking. But truth be told, model making has always come easy for Cundo. But that may be because of the many hours that he spent indoors as a child.

"I lived in upstate New York, where you really can't go outside for half of the year," Rabaudi recalled. "So -- to kill time -- I'd work on model kits. Model cars, model planes. Whatever I could get my hands on."

And even from an early age, assembling those Aurora model kits of famous film monsters like Godzilla, Cundo showed a real aptitude for this craft. Of course, that may have been because Rabaudi's grandfather was a model maker himself and his great-grandfather built model ships.

Cundo continued this hobby well into his late teens and twenties. But then -- when it came time to chose a career -- Rabaudi opted for culinary school. Heading out to San Francisco to learn a trade because ... Well, who could ever earn a living by building models ?

Well, as it turns out, Cundo was about to find out. For -- one night -- a member of Henry Selick's production team dropped by Rabaudi's apartment and saw his incredible collection of models. After noting the incredible attention to detail, the obvious care Cundo used in assembling each kit, this film-maker turned to the would-be cook and said: "You know, I could probably get you a job on the movie that I'm working on now."


Visual Development Model Maker Cundo Rabaudi
Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

"And what film was that ?," you ask. "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas."

Rabaudi started out as a lowly character fabricator on that Henry Selick film. He also painted some of the sets that were used for this cult classic. And then from there ... Cundo just found himself sucked into the world of stop motion animation. Working on big budget studio films like "James and the Giant Peach" and "Starship Troopers" as well as little Saturday morning shows like ABC's "Bump in the Night." Not to mention TV commercials for places like Pizza Hut.

But as much as he enjoyed seeing animation that he worked on up there on the big screen, it was the model-making aspect of movie production that had the strongest appeal to Rabaudi. Which is why -- in 1996 -- when he heard that art director John Bell was looking for someone to build a few concept models for "Antz," Cundo immediately jumped at this chance to join the PDI / DreamWorks Animation production team.

"I basically created my own position," Rabaudi remembered. "My job was to create these highly detailed reference models for the matte department. So that they'd then know what to do with the film's backgrounds. From there, I graduated to building miniature versions of the props & settings for the various other projects that PDI / DreamWorks had in the works. Which then help the animators and technicians plan out camera moves and/or stage new bits of business that would then make the most of a particular setting."

And Cundo's models were particularly helpful when it came to working on "Shrek the Third." You see, even though this sequel obviously featured a number of settings that had already appeared in "Shrek" and "Shrek II," the folks at PDI / DreamWorks made a point of expanding this ogre's turf to include a new circular stone pier.


 Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

Which is where Puss in Boots says "Good-bye" to the many fine felines that he has met during his stay in Far Far Away.


 Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

And -- in the background of the above photo -- you may notice a large wooden sailing ship.


Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

Well, this is the vessel that Shrek, Donkey and Puss will take as they voyage north on a most vital mission.


 Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

You see, our three heroes are headed to Worcestershire Academy. That oh-so-exclusive school for the fairy tale elite ...


Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

... Where they hope to find Fiona's cousin, Artie. Who is now Far Far Away's rightful heir to the throne.


Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

But -- of course -- as happens with all the "Shrek" films, things don't go quite according to plan. Instead of heading straight back home, the ogre and his traveling companions wind up taking a side trip to this rather humble dwelling.


 Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

Which is where Artie's old schoolmaster, Merlin the magician now lives.


Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

Meanwhile, back at the castle, things aren't going all that smoothly either. Fiona and her mother find themselves locked in the dungeon ...


Photo courtesy of PDI / DreamWorks

... With only (L to R) Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White for company.


Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

"Wait a minute !," you say. "How did Fiona and all those princesses wind up being locked up in Far Far Away's dungeon ?" Sorry. To get the answer to that question, you're going to have to buy a ticket for "Shrek the Third." Which opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.


Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

As for Cundo's contribution to the third film in the "Shrek" series ... You know, what's kind of ironic about all this is that -- in spite of the hundreds of hours that Rabaudi puts into the creation of these elaborate reference models -- none of his work actually appears in the finished films.

I mean, sure. These models do serve as the inspiration for all the artists, animators and technicians who actually work on these movies. And typically -- just prior to the release of PDI / DreamWorks' latest production -- one or two of Cundo's creations will then be placed on display at the Glendale campus. So that visitors to this animation studio can then "Oooh" and "Aaah" at Rabaudi's amazingly detailed work.

But this time around, the folks at DreamWorks decided to do something different. They wanted to make sure that it wasn't just studio insiders who got to appreciate Cundo's artistry. Which is why they made arrangements to have three of the models featured in today's article -- King Harold & Queen Lillian's castle. Worcestershire Academy and Shrek's boat -- put on public display.

Soooo ... If you're out in Hollywood this summer (To be specific: This Thursday through early June) and want to personally take a closer look at Rabaudi's handiwork, be sure and swing by the ArcLight Cinemas. Where this trio of models will be on display in the lobby.

Which is kind of cool, don't you think ? I mean, Cundo's models still didn't make it into the actual "Shrek the Third" movie. But -- this time around, anyway -- they at least got as far as the lobby.

All joking aside ... Doing all of this great behind-the-scenes work on an animated feature, only to have absolutely none of your enormous effort wind up in the finished film ... That might frustrate a lesser craftsman. But not Cundo Rabaudi. As he puts it:

"Who wouldn't want a job like mine ? Where you get to go into work and then do what you loved back when you were a kid ? Which is build models all day ? I'm the luckiest person in the world."

FYI: If you enjoyed those "Pinocchio" models that you saw toward the very top of today's profile, Animated Views has this great article in its archives about the exhibit that those particular pieces were featured in. So do yourself a favor and go check this story out.

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  • “To get the answer to that question, you're going to have to buy a ticket for "Shrek the Third." Which opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.”

    A repeat of last year when you ran those “Over the Hedge” articles…  Jim, are you sure you’re not on the DreamWorks payroll?

    I hope, come June, we’re going to get some in-depth Ratatouille articles like these ones you’re writing for these ridiculous DW movies because otherwise things are going to start looking a little fishy here at JHM.  

  • Only one comment on this story and it's already started... ugh.

    Look, I'm not expecting to particularly enjoy Shrek 3, but can you at least appreciate the craft? This is good stuff!

    I'm especially impressed with the look of that circular pier for some reason. It looks like it would be great for staging scenes.

  • Are you serious Falfa31?

    (shakes head in amazement)

    I'm not even going to waste the time setting you straight. Totally not worth it.

    Interesting article Jim, thanks.

  • You know, it's sort of sad when you think that a talented man like Cundo drones 100's of hours of shear talent for a mediocre piece of celluloid like Shrek the 3rd... only to have it never show up in the actual film-- I mean, it must sting at least a little to know that fresh out of ITT Tech talentless animators who pump out the monotony year after year, dollar by dollar, will ultimatley dumb down the real artisan's masterpiece. It's like watching "flushed away"... a bitter disappointment. I find that movies are a great deal more interesting when I know artists actually tangably put effort into something. watching Wallace and Gromit I approach the movie with resect knowing that real craftsmanship and work went into produsing each frame--while flushed away is another pick it up throw away movie trying to cheat people into believing they did the work when really, to borrow from Jurassic park--

               The problem with modern CGI techniques is that it

    didn't require any discipline to attain it.  They read

    what others had done (Pixar, Disney, Frank and Ollie) and took the next step.  They

    didn't earn the knowledge themselves, so they don't take

    any responsibility for it.  They stood on the shoulders

    of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as they

    could, and before they even knew what they had, they patented

    it, packaged it, slapped in on a plastic lunch box, and

    now they want to sell it.----(shrek the 3rd)

          Their studios and it's CG animators were so preoccupied

          with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to

          think if they should.  

    A nice segway-- But watch "Jurassic Park" and tell me your not impressed by the live action animatronic dinosaur shots! especially for 1993! I don't know about everyone else-- but just knowing that Stan Winston's team put hour after hour into it makes me appreciate it that much more. Even the CG team at the time had Dennis Muren on board-- who had a great understanding for movement and character alongside others who understood color and how an environment alters it.

    It was believable when you saw the Dinosaurs moving, unlike every other Spiderman or CG plagued movie where the characters are like rubber toys flailing about due to the horrible lack of understanding the modern CG artists and animators at dreamworks have concerning movement and color.  

    And thank God some are actually catching on to the idea that status quo is NOT good enough, and that actual hard work=respect-- The jim Henson Company, Decided that the 2nd Dark Crystal will be completely done with animatronics and puppets with the exception of CGI backgrounds-- But because they realize that it's their awesome tangable craftsmanship that impresses their audiences who resect them dearly for their hard work henson fans and moviegoers alike are pumped about this new installment--like "Hitchhikers Guide" fans were...

    As for the mistake that is teh Shrek Franchise-- you better believe Frank and Ollie would have shown them a thing or two--

  • "Are you serious Falfa31?

    (shakes head in amazement)

    I'm not even going to waste the time setting you straight. Totally not worth it."

    Huh?  What are you talking about?

  • (sigh)

    Okay. Since you asked I will spend a little time on you.  :o)

    If you havn't noticed already (and I'm assuming you havn't based on your comment) the name and description of this site says:

    "Jim Hill Media

    News, reviews, history and commentary about the entertainment industry

    (But mostly about the Mouse)"

    Is not Dreamworks a member of the entertainment industry? Doesn't Cundo Rabaudi work in the entertainment industry?

    The definition of 'mostly' is not 'all'.

    Granted we mostly come to this site for Disney related info... and mostly that is what this site is. But to complain whenever it's not (and someone always does) is not only pointless, but wrong.

    Fair enough?

  • PS - I forgot to mention this too. Sorry Falfa31

    Just because Jim says 'If you wanna know more - go buy a ticket' doesn't mean he's a shill for that company. Only a Dreamwork hater would tell you to not buy a ticket.

    And yes, I too am amazed at what seems like a preference for non-Disney studios at times, but that is Jim's opinion and he's entitled to it.

  • Hook,

    I was merely pointing out how JHM always seems to be plugging these DW movies, but when it comes to Pixar output, we get nothing...unless the movie does poorly and then we have to hear about how Disney overpaid for Pixar, blah, blah blah...etc.  

    You know what I'm taking about.  

    When Shrek the Third underperforms next weekend (compared to Shrek 2) I can't wait to read about it hear first.

  • Here, here Falfa31! I second that! I am a fan of quality and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if we should hear more from Jim and other sites concerning Dreamworks; as their PR department is most likely a door knock away--

    Now, I am in no way saying that Jim Hill is in kahoots with Dreamworks, but really, lets look at the quality of the films soon to be released... "Shrek 3: Rise of the Mediocrities" is soon to come out and there are a whirlwind of articles due to purposley leaky PR to over compensate for bad entertainment. Really, all they are doing is shoving Shrek in our faces... I mean really-- An article about the painstaking tiny changes underneath Shrek's Crudley developed appearance to give him more character? Is that any kind of excuse to see the film? That sounds like a team of "bubblegum mechanics" trying to sell us on the idea that the Bubblegum holding your engine together makes your engine run smoother-- It's ABSOLUTE NONSENSE! It's like using white out on an inkblot but the ink still comes through-- covering up the mistakes they can't erase... When really it's a ploy to make us think they intentionally wanted the movies to look so bad...then they call it "style"...more like "a lack of talent"... It's called, "Declining by Degrees"...

    Then you have Pixar's, "Ratatouille"-- a Brad Bird film (The Incredibles) whose PR is as tight lipped as it gets... Now, I truly believe Pixar's PR department doesn't feel like they need to "blow their load" before the film is released...Because to be honest, because there is no need for over compensation due to the striking quality we've all seen and come to expect from the guys and gals in Emeryville (I mean that's how Disney made their name-- sheer quality).

    Sure, both Studios have PR departments--everything from Green straws at McDonald's to a giant traveling Cheese slide for kids, but really all these "insider" articles on "Shrek the Mediocrity" are a little too "in the know" if you know what I mean-- the kind of article that you wouldn't really need to work hard to write-- while making you wonder who's really writing it. So I can see your point.

    But really, I'm not saying that this is the case with Jim Hill and in no way is this true-- It's just my opinion. In fact, to be quite fair, I know Jim Hill isn't in "kahoots" because he wrote an article last summer exposing a Critic from 1450 The Boomer (a small radio Station an hour away from LA) who was and probably still is Paid to say wonderful things about bad movies so the  PR teams for those movies could flaunt those "Paid-reviews" as a last chance to get people to see the movies so they won't fail as bad. You know the kind of reviews I'm talking about here-- when a commercial for an obvious box office bomb has that ONE review saying, "FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR" with a small font type so tiny you can't read who wrote it... So obviously Jim is on our side...

    I just think that being a fan of quality (which I know Jim is as well), I'd love to read more regarding quality films than trying to convince myself that my standards are just too high and that mediocre is good enough... because I won't have it. My guess  is that today's article was the result of a slow newsweek... But to be honest, I wouldn't mind waiting a day for a great article if I knew a great one was coming up... Anticipation is better than a spoiler just ask Pixar's sealed lips...and Al Lutz.

  • Love the models, too bad that dramworks does not add that kind of etail into terrible movies like shrek.

    Guess i will never find out why the Princesses are in a dungeon because i will never spend $10.00 on a very short (movie runs at 80 minutes inclduing credits from what i am hearing) movie that rehashes the same fart and vomit jokes every other shrek movie has.

    Those models are just gorgeous and hopefully after the movie ends its run, dreamworks does not just detsroy these pieces of art.

  • Wow, such whining.

    While the Shrek movies are lowbrow, they have a different intention than the Pixar/Disney stuff.  They are intended to make people laugh, and for many people they hit a bullseye.  And the fact that they're the biggest animated moneymakers is nothing to sneeze at either.

    As far as technical and artistic skill goes, the backgrounds in the shrek movies have been pretty incredible, certianly competitive with the Pixar movies released at the same time.  And the dreamworks animators have done a great job with CGI humans - I know that Pixar goes for more of a cartoony look, but I still have yet to see them do humans as well as dreamworks.

    As for the notion that CGI is not real "work and craftsmanship", that's just silly.  Sure, there are shortcuts that can be taken, but the same is true of hand drawn animation (rotoscoping anyone?).  The cheats are the fault of those who take them, not flaws inherent in the medium.

    And as for CGI versus animatronics or other sorts of effects, it comes down to how well they are done.  Look at the Lord of the Rings movies or Pirates, which had absolutely amazing CGI, some of it completely photorealistic.  Would anyone be able to do Gollum or Davey Jones with animatronics?

    The ranting just sounds more like sour grapes that CGI is used so often than an actual critique of the technique.

  • Just to touch on MinderBinder's comment...

    I agree with you fully that the Shrek movies are out with different intent for their audiences. I do agree, because rather than telling a compelling story or using endearing characters, tasteful comedy and wonderful animation to develop and tell a wonderful story, they throw "Fad" and "Fart" jokes at you for 80 minutes with an all star cast (most of whom you won't recognize because they aren't allowed to be themselves) and crude animation insulting our intelligences with every eye straining minute. All this tells me one thing, they aren't out to tell a story--they're out to make a buck. Entertainment Declining by Degrees...

    On another point being quite honest, I have never seen fuller emotion evoked from a CGI Human more than in "The Incredibles". If you want humans to look human-- fine, hire humans. The human characters in the Shrek movies are so badly designed, stiff, ridged and downright crude that it hardly compels you to feel what the characters are feeling in between the badly done contemporary jokes that won't hold their water in 15 years. Which only adds to my point that the Shrek movies aren't about family entertainment--but rather how much money they can squeeze out of you.

    As for Davey Jones or Golem -I do believe they could have realized them with animatronics and puppetry--But CGI is used far too much as a "crutch" for anything that might take a little "effort" in a movie's production--when CGI should only be used in moderation--which is why Henson's "Dark Crystal 2" has the right idea. But to my point, the problem isn't the Davey or Golem roles portrayed because of the talented teams behind them--What I'm saying is that for every Spotlight CGI character portrayed there are 1000 lesser ones being developed with no intent for bettering our entertainment, but rather squeezing something out in time to make a few extra bucks...(Spiderman, Shrek, the cast of Madagascar-- everything Dreamworks has done anyone?) And those characters speak for themselves.

    And backgrounds? I don't believe they have any weight compared to Pixar...watch the Finding Nemo features and look at the comparisons Pixar did to actual sea life for backgrounds...they are so realistic and well done that to be honest--Shrek doesn't hold any water to your statement--but I guess your entitled to your opinion…

    P.T. Barnum said there's a sucker born every minute... But don’t worry--I'll admit I'm a sucker too--only I’m a sucker for high quality entertainment—and expecting better standards when I pay for a movie.

    You can point out talented CGI roles all you want (I'm not disputing those roles) in fact I'm not disputing the medium at all—for a vulgar example-- the team behind Shrek, is like a child who found his father's gun not knowing the consequences of what’s about to unfold—sure, the gun looks enticing and appealing like a big shiny toy but soon enough the consequences are rendered. What I’m trying to say is that Guns don’t kill people, PEOPLE kill people—CGI isn’t to blame, it’s the ones who use it with out a full understanding of when and even how it should be done… they don't understand that trying to make the most money isn't the best way to keep a customer--it's the service you provide that makes the customer return and all Shrek is good for is an expensive let down.

    I'm merely pointing out the frauds out to make a buck --only to let you down. So have fun watching Shrek 3! You earned it!

  • "for every Spotlight CGI character portrayed there are 1000 lesser ones being developed with no intent for bettering our entertainment"

    And for every spotlight hand-drawn animated character there are a thousand lesser ones.  For every spotlight live action performance, there are a thousand lesser ones.  You complain about CGI, but none of your complaints really are unique to the medium.  As someone once said, 99% of everything is crap.  And that applies to CGI just as much as anything else.

    For the record, Shrek came out two years before Finding Nemo and three before Incredibles.

    And while I haven't seen Spidey 3 yet, I can't disagree more in the case of Spidey 2.  While every movie wants to make as much money as possible, that's certainly not a case where the art and craftsmanship took a backseat to finance.  It was a great movie, well written, well acted, and well directed.  Sure, there are some FX that don't look completely real, but most of them look pretty darn good, and couldn't have been done without CGI.  And the rest of the movie is good enough to forgive the occasional "rubbery" animation.

    We get it.  You don't like CGI, and you have highbrow tastes.  But that doesn't mean that the people who like those movies you mention are "suckers" (if they have a great time at the movie, how exactly were they taken advantage of?), and it doesn't mean that the people making those movies are "frauds" or that their intent is commerce over art.  And you do realize that you're in the minority on Shrek - the "customers" obviously have returned and weren't let down.  And aside from the box office, let's not forget that the first two Shrek movies got solid reviews from critics, and the first one even beat out Monsters Inc for the animation oscar.

    Finally, hasn't Pixar had at least one fart/poo joke in just about all their movies?

  • Cundo's stuff is awesome- miles better than the comparison film stills.

    Which makes me wonder- wouldn't just compositing those sculptures into the movie

    1. Look better

    2. Render faster

    3. Cost less ?

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