December 20, 2004

Goodbye PDI DreamWorks, Hello Sony, Blog on Hold

Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.
So this week marks the end of my contract with PDI/DreamWorks. I've decided not to renew my contract. Instead I decided to accept an offer with Sony Imageworks. I'll be working on Sony's first animated feature film: Open Season. The decision was not an easy one. The people at PDI/DreamWorks have been good to me. The animators that I worked with are some of the most talented, humble, down earth people that I've had the pleasure to worked with. I hope I get the chance to work with them again in the future. PDI/DreamWorks also has some nice projects coming down the pipe that I'm sad that I won't be a part of.

So why did I choose Sony? Sony has a lot of things going for it. There's a lot of talented people there, but the thing that pushed me over the edge towards Sony was when I found out that Jill Culton was one of the directors of Open Seson. I know Jill from my CalArts years. Her last year there was my first year. Then on my last year she came back and taught a class. I've never met anyone who was more passionate about animation then Jill. While she was at CalArts, she would buy season passes to Disneyland just so she could sit and draw the people there. She would come back with sketchbooks full of life studies.. Her passion has served her well. She worked on such films as Cats Don't Dance and Toy Story. Then she became the head of story at Pixar on Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc.

Once I found out that Jill was one of the directors I knew that I had to work on the project. If she can translate even a little of her passion into the film, it will be a very good project to be a part of.

But the bad news is I'll have to put this blog on the back burner for a while. I'll be packing the house, and moving to LA. I'll be looking for a house and starting a new job. All of that will have to take priority for a bit. So I'll be putting this blog on hold until after I get settled.

Stay tuned tell then.

Read of the Day

The Ward-O-Matic has an intresting essay on what is wrong with Polar Express. It's worth a good read:

December 16, 2004

Reference Anyone?

Doing good animation isn't just about planning ahead. It's about doing your research. Often I'm surprised by how something moves in real life. One of the best examples about video reference is with the bird in Pixar's: A Bug's Life. Apparently a bird was flying around outside the studio in Redmond. One resourceful animator grabbed his video camera, ran out and video taped the bird. That one videotape bounced around all the animators who animated the bird in the film. The results were fantastic! The bird could have been animated in a hundred different ways, but I think the refrece helped the animtors pick a way that had perfect "True To Life" timing. When you watch it it just feels right.

If your looking for video reference on the web, here's a couple that I find useful:

The BBC has released their stock video collection on line. You have to sign up for a free membership, but it's worth it. They have tons of reference video. You can even buy the photage if you'd like:

Also Yahoo has a just started a video search. I find it can be useful:

If you know of more please let me know!

December 15, 2004

Today is going to be a weird day I can tell already.

So I got this mail telling me that someone is putting someone else work on their reel. Apparently Justin Kurtz from NYC downloaded animation from someone's website and put it on their reel and sent it to a company. The guy reviewing reels at the company saw the stuff and recognized their friends work so they mailed the reel to their friend. This happened at CalArts as well. Apparently someone took a tour of the animation facilitys, saw artwork on the walls. Pulled the artwork off the walls, put it in their portfolio and submitted it to CalArts. Well of course CalArts recognized the artwork (they already knew some of it was stolen) and told the guy never to apply to CalArts again and not to expect to get his portfolio back.

I don't understand whey people think they can get away with this. It's a small industry, it's worse then the Six Degrees of Separation Kevin Bacon game. Everyone knows everyone, and if they don't know everyone they know someone who knows everyone.

This isn't that weird fuzzy ground where six people worked on the same shot and you all want to put it on your reel. This blatant stealing and you will get caught. DON'T PUT SOMEONE ELSE WORK IN YOUR PORTFOLIO AND CALL IT YOUR OWN. EVER.

Secondly I got this news story about employees at ILM who are on strike (kind of). They don't want a pay cut and they want their benefits. With the recent layoffs and the move to India my hart goes out to the people at ILM. They're facing an uphill battle I'm afraid. The movie industry makes billions on the movies they work on, yet the people who work on them have to fight for ever inch of every paycheck.

I'm also keeping a close eye on the lawsuit at EA. EA is well known for employee abuse. I hope this is a wakeup call for EA. I don't wish to see the company go away. But I do want to see them start to treat their employees right. If the employees win that will send a clear signal to the rest of the entertainment industry (not just video games) that you can't get away with employee abuse.

Weird morning, I hope it doesn't get any worse!

December 6, 2004

Animation Mentor Meeting

Last night I had a meeting with the Animation Mentor team. The meeting was hard on me, I was at the tail end of a somewhat nasty cold. So I hung out in the back drowsy on DayQuil, sucking on throat lozenges and OJ. But even drowsy on cold-meeds I couldn't help but get excited about the program. Bobby, Carlos and Shawn have really outdone themselves putting this together. It's one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen. And for what you get I have to say it's pretty darn cheep. Richard Williams charges $750 for his weekend classes and you only get 3 days out of it. This gives you far more for your money.

I can't talk much about it, obviously. But I've been to CalArts, this program promises to be every bit as good as CalArts is if not better. It's focuses on teaching you the art of animation. About character and acting as well as the basics. If you don't have the basics down you won't get very far with the acting. I even learned a thing or two about animation just by attending the meeting.

I have to say one thing, you can't just sign up for the classes and expect to learn animation. You have to do the assignments, if you don't have time or intrest to do the assignments you might want to save your money.

They have a power-house crew of mentors as well. Some of the most talented animators that I have ever met showed up at the meeting. Some of them I had new, the rest I had heard about and was glad to get to finally meet. I hope I didn't give any of them my cold. I read that your only infectous at the beginning of the cold not the end. If I did, I hope they'll forgive me.

That's about all I can talk bout. I"m really excited about this program! Keep an eye on the graduates, if they work hard, I'm sure they're sure to go far!

Review of: Dream On Sill Dreamer

Animated Cookbook has a review of the documentary "Dream On Silly Dreamer" and the review is quite good. I can't wait to see this film. I like this aspect of the review:

But this is no "sour grapes" account. Nor is this documentary the detailed "tell-all" history of the Disney management miscalculations and machinations that lead to the Animator's Trail of Tears (...a drama we hope is one day committed to film as well...).

I'm very glad to hear that the film will be a positive account of what happened and just a bunch of bitching and moaning. Although all the animators who went through this have every right to bitch and moan.

Apparently Roy Disney saw the film as well:

Roy says, "I was recently given the privilege of viewing 'Dream On, Silly Dreamer,' and I have to say how very human a face it puts on an institutional tragedy... the slow, cruel an insidious death of Disney Animation over the past several years under Michael Eisner. It should be seen by everyone who still believes in the magic of Disney. These are the people who made it happen. Their treatment was appalling."

Check it out:

I can't wait to see this movie myself!

December 2, 2004

Dream On Silly Dreamer

If you haven't seen this you should check it out. It looks like a bunch of former Disney animators made a documentary about the fall of 2-D animation at Disney. I can't wait for this to come out! You can see the trailer here:

December 1, 2004

Animation Mentor Prices

A friend of mine at work showed me this link where people are talking about the prices of Animation Mentor. Before I comment on this, I should point out that I'm one of the Mentors. But I have had no say in how much it costs, I found out how much it was going to cost by looking at the website when it was published along with everyone else.

I knew people would complain about the price no mater what price they put on the program. $500, $2,000, $10,000 they'd all get complaints about being too expensive. It ended up being a lot cheaper then I thought it was going to be. I was expecting it to be about $10,000-15,000/for 6 months.

I attended CalArts and that's not a cheep school. If it wasn't for the grace of my parents I would have never been able to attend. When I went to CalArts I was in a class of about 150 students, 8 of us graduated. Most people went there for a year or two and got a job, or they left because they just couldn't afford to attend for all 4 years. Everyone talked about how expensive it was to go there, one thing they all talked about was how the students learned more from each other then they did from the classes.

A group of us came up with the idea of pulling our money together, buying a pencil test camera and a down shooter and renting a place. We would learn from each other and every once in a while we'd use our contacts to get an animator from the studios to come over, lecture us and critique our work. We figured it would be cheaper and we'd probably get a better education that way. We knew that we didn't need a sheep skin saying we graduated collage, studios don't care if you've been to collage, just that you could animate.

We never did it. We all just kept paying for Collage as long as we could afford to. Animation Mentor reminds me of this idea that we had at CalArts, but better, much better. I think it will really work. What better way to learn how to animate then to get critiques from people who are out there doing it! What better way to get a job then to get to know people who are out there doing it! I can't think of a better program. I don't know if they ever talked about this but I'm pretty sure the price is necessary to make sure you only have students who are serious about doing it. If you plop down $2,000 then you'll be darn sure to do the lessons, and complete the program.

Over all I think the Animation Mentor program will prove to be an invaluable program. I can't wait to see it grow.