Eric Goldberg, 2D animator on Disney’s newest animated film "Moana," came to campus for the latest installment of the Monday Night Series program. LMU was one stop on the Moana Artist Tour, which is giving animation students a sneak peek of the new film — premiering Nov. 23 — as well as explaining the process which went into creating the film. Goldberg is a veteran director, designer and animator who currently works at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some of his most memorable works include "Aladdin," "The Princess and the Frog" and "Wreck-it Ralph."
"Moana" is a coming of age story featuring a 16-year-old girl who sets out on a journey to save her people. According to Goldberg, the story — which takes place in Oceana — was profoundly influenced by a trip the directors took to the Oceanic region. The voice cast also includes many people with Oceanic roots. Goldberg gave an overview of each character and their voice actor and then showed exclusive clips both from the developmental stages of the movie and from the final cut of the film.
Following the clips, he took questions from the audience, giving insight into what it’s like working in one of the most coveted positions an animator can get with some dashes of humor and life advice thrown into the mix. When at a loss for words, Goldberg would effortlessly transition to a cartoon voice which he has used to voice roles such as Tweety and Marvin the Martian or give a hearty laugh which the audience would quickly learn is a signature Goldberg move.
Following the presentation, I got the chance to talk with Goldberg and find out more about his personal story as an animator. He told me that he knew he wanted to be an animator at the age of four. Part of what fascinated Goldberg about cartoons were the explanations for the animation process.
"Certainly Walt Disney devoted several Disneyland programs to it and likewise Walter Lantz of the Woody the Woodpecker show would talk about how animation was done, and even at four I just got so much enjoyment out of watching the cartoons," Goldberg said. "I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It’s interesting; I think part of it was their larger-than-life quality, their exuberance.”
From working on ground breaking techniques at both Universal Studios and Disney, animating the Emmy-winning "Ziggy’s Gift" and even starting his own studio — Pizazz Pictures — it is clear that Goldberg has made quite a splash in the animation world. But when asked if there was a defining moment he could remember where he realized he had made it, he humbly responded, “Have I yet?” Goldberg then expanded on a funny moment when he felt like he had arrived at his dream, which was when "Spitting Image," a satirical puppet show, ripped off one of his Thompson the cat ads.
Goldberg has done everything from directing his own animations to working on huge teams with multiple directors and animators and said he loves them all, but he is —in his “heart of hearts”— an animator. He explained, “the medium of animation is so vibrant that to be able to create a character out of a pile of paper is, you know, pretty awesome." Goldberg described the difference between animating a specific character and directing an entire film by saying, “as an animator you’re in front of the camera and as a director you’re behind the camera, so you are overseeing all the aspects of what goes into the film."
When ask about how his creative process differed from film to film, Goldberg responded, “While the process is similar, the characters are always different and there’s always new challenges." An example he described was "Louis the Alligator" versus "The Princess and the Frog." He said, “Animating an alligator three dimensionally was tough enough […] then I had to make him play the trumpet." If you know how to play the trumpet, when you watch "The Princess and the Frog" you will discover that Louis plays the actual chords that go along with the music. Goldberg said a character he animated in "Moana" that he is particularly proud of is Mini Maui, and that specifically in the song "You’re Welcome," "[Mini Maui] and hand drawn animation get to shine."
One piece of advice Goldberg wants to give to young animators is to observe caricature: “How the person carries himself, you know, is unique — it’s a signature. Everybody moves differently, behaves differently and the more you can observe that kind of stuff and caricature it so that it leads to people, in animation I think that’s really the best advice I can give. And never stop learning; absolutely never stop learning."