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The animation industry comprises numerous roles and areas of specialization, but they all begin with the same foundational principles.

In this three-part video tutorial with Jazno Francoeur — a former Disney visual effects animator and the current program director for the BFA in Digital Art and Animation at DigiPen — we look at how to draw an avalanche in motion using basic gesture as the starting point for our final composition. From the white board to the light table to the drawing tablet, we invite you to follow along and try it out yourself.

Before teaching at DigiPen, Francoeur worked on nine Disney animated feature films, as well as shorts, video games, and more. From the sparkle and fury of fiery explosions in Mulan (1998) to the fluid, splashing waters of the raging rivers in Brother Bear (2003), Francoeur brought these and many other eye-popping visual effects to life on the big screen. With this three-part series, he demonstrates some of same methods and drawing techniques used in those classic films.

PART 1:

Francoeur begins with a gesture drawing using just a marker and a white board, emphasizing the importance of line hierarchy, silhouette, and motion.

PART 2:

Francoeur continues to explore through gesture, this time going to the light table to draw a series of sketches showing how the avalanche will change form frame-by-frame, based on the viewer’s perspective.

PART 3:

We move from gesture study to actual animation, using a digital drawing pad to see what happens when we composite our finished frames onto a painted background with a corresponding audio effect.