Rotoscoping Done Right
On the making of 'When the Day Breaks.'
Happy Thursday! We’re here with another issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter — and, this time, we’re talking about rotoscoping. To be specific, the rotoscoping of When the Day Breaks, a Canadian film from 1999.
Directed by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, When the Day Breaks is about death, life and animal people. It’s well known and well loved — a critical favorite and an Oscar nominee. Tilby and Forbis remain huge figures in animation, with a new project at Annecy just this week, but When the Day Breaks still looms large over their careers.
Which, in the animation world, is a little strange. Rotoscoping has a wobbly reputation — many animators write it off as artless. Drawing over live actors gave solidity to the story in this film, though, and made possible its singularly eye-grabbing style. Tilby and Forbis did something special with it.
Today, we’re trying to understand what makes the rotoscoping in When the Day Breaks work — and whether this technique gets an unfairly bad rap. Enjoy!