November 23, 2005

Just Draw

I saw this quote the other day and liked it:

"All Artists are willing to suffer for their work. But why are so few prepared to learn how to Draw?" -Banksy

Over and over again I get asked the same question, it comes phrased in many different ways. But it's allwase the same question: "Is it easer to animate on a computer because you don't have to draw?"

WTF? I love to draw, I've probably spent what accumulates to years in life drawing classes. I know that's not enough. As my old teacher and guru: Cory Cole used to tell me: "You draw, and draw, and draw, and draw and draw and draw and draw. Then after that you draw some more, and draw, and draw, then you draw some more. After your done with that you draw even more. Then you draw and draw. When your done drawing you draw more. You draw more after that. Then you draw, and draw and draw. And then, you die."

I would encourage all of you to draw as much as possible. It will help your animation. Don't just draw from imagination, but draw from life as well. Draw as often as possible. Draw even if you "can't" or especally if you "don't know how to draw". Buy a sketchbook. Use it. Draw every day, after your done drawing draw some more. If you can't think of something to draw, start drawing something and it will come to you. Draw early, draw often.

Just draw.

November 22, 2005

An Eye For Annai

Nice short film by Jonathan Klassen and Daniel Rodrigues:

Thanks Drawn

November 16, 2005


Check it out you can watch John Kricfalusi's Demo reel here:

I love the Nike commercial that he did (red ridding hood), it was never aired because Nike changed their mind and decided to go with a superhero image not a cartoony image. I love John Kricfalusi's cartoony style, cool stuff!

Thanks BoingBoing

Change of Hart

I saw the new Open Season season trailer again and I decided maybe I was being a little too harsh with it. It's actually not that bad, it just wasn't what I expected it to be. It still gives away two jokes that I think work better in the film itself. I recommend just waiting for the film to come out, but if you can't wait you can see the trailer on the open season webpage. Just go here and click on the picture.

Warning, the web page has lots of flash, lots of sound, and it will try and make your web browser the size of your screen.

November 14, 2005


It looks like the Madagascar DVD is coming out tomorrow. It also looks like they've added a bit more extras to it. Most of those extras seem to focus on the "I like to Move it Movie it" song that was stuck in my head for about six months of production. I remember singing this song to my daughter a lot for the first two months of her life. Mostly when I was learning to change her diapers. It's not that I especially liked the song, it just stuck there like a sticky thing. I hope they added the deleted scenes to the extras list. Like I said, they cut a lot of stuff from this film during production, there were a few cuts that I didn't like but most cuts were for the better. A lot of my shots got cut ane they were all cut for better. It's not that I did a bad job on those shots, they just came up with better stuff while I was working on them. I hated to see my hard work go away so I'd like to see them on DVD.

One other thing, there's also a new Open Season Trailer. I hate to even mention it, the trailer isn't that good. I think the film is going to be good when it's done and I can't wait to see the reaction it gets. I suspect that this trailer was put together to attract a more teenage crowd, it has a pop-song sensibility to it. But it does give away a lot of good jokes. Those jokes are good in the film, but not so good in the trailer. I recommend not looking at it and waiting for the real thing.

November 11, 2005


Do you remember back in September I posted about this cool shot that I was assigned to at work, and how I didn't want to fuck it up so I wasn't going to post very often on this blog? Do you remember that? Do you? It's been a while.

Well, I finaled that shot today.

As Jason would say "woot!"

And none too soon, today was the last day that I was assigned to the shot. It was a big long shot with lots and lots of stuff going on. It's a huge relief to have it finaled, it was supper stressful, I planned it out as much as a could, but at some point I just had to go for it. One of the big problems with a shot this length is that you spend weeks blocking it out and you go home feeling like you haven't made any progress. Then, because it takes so long to block out you don't get much of a chance to show it to the director, and when they have changes it takes so long to get them in. I don't like big gaps in time when showing a shot to a director, I like to know that we're on the same page, plus I like to have input, it kinda pushes me forward and keeps me from getting stagnant.

Anyhoo, the shot is cool, I think it's going to be memorable. I'll tell you more about it when the film comes out. Right now I'm to paranoid to say anything more.

Also, I think I'm starting to get used to Maya. At least I'm no longer trying to look for things, I seem to know where they are without having to think about them. That's good.

What the...

I didn't see this coming, you've probably seen this on Cartoon Brew. Ollie Johnston, third on the right just received the National Medal of Arts. My head is still spinning on this one. Over the years I've come to believe that everything that Bush does is evil is some way. Then this happens. I keep having to remind myself that it's the The National Endowment for the Arts that's giving it to him, not Bush. Bush is just the scaly hand that happened to be there to hand it to him. I just hope Ollie was able to stand the smell of brimstone.

Good for Ollie, he deserves it. I only wish the other 9 were there to receive theirs as well!

November 10, 2005


Last night was Wednesday, and as some of you readers may remember that Wednesday is Allison and my Date Night. I know this is terribly strange concept to all of you single swinging readers, but those other readers, the ones with kids, you understand. Don't you? Just lie and say you do, I can take it.

Anyhoo, Allison's one request last night was to see a movie with: and I quote "Real People in it." I guess watching cartoons wasn't that romantic. So we ended up seeing Jarhead.

What, isn't Jarhead romantic?

Well you see, Allison wanted to see something like Elizabeth Town or Derailed. But because Derailed wasn't out yet and we couldn't find a theater near us that was playing Elizabeth Town we ended up at Jarhead. I win again! Okay it's not a cartoon but it's defenetly a guy flick.

The first Gulf War was the war that was the war that was going on when I was growing up, so it's the one, like it or not, I identify the most with. Also Anthony Swofford, the author of the autobiography that the movie is based on was asked several times to be on This American Life. He has a great way of describing the current Gulf War. These two things, pluss the fact that it was directed by Sam Mendes peeked my interest, so I had to see it.

I have to say, that's one good movie. If your even remotely interested in this film go see it. The characters are solid, the situation is one that I can relate to. It has a really good story, which isn't common for an autobiographical kind of film. You can't really change what happens in someones life so it's difficult to work in a character ark, but this one had it, and it was pretty solid. Visually it's very good too, it's worth seeing on a big screen.

November 9, 2005

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppet Show

Wow, check out Michel Gagne's Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppet Show.

Just shows what you can do only working in silhouette, great stuff!

November 7, 2005

Good news everybody! Animated films are becoming move violent!

Sorry guys, I'm feeling a bit angry this morning and I decided to take it out on this article that popped up on Animated News. Really, this is a bit of un-news in my opinion. The article is a bunch of BS. (Actually, I think that the ratings system is but that's another story BS.) Even the article admits that cartoons have always contained a lot of violence. Hell that's what made them so good, everyone wants to see Goofy get the crap beaten out of him by his own stupidity. Even so, I almost wet myself when I read this line kuzz I was laughing so hard:

Glickman said the MPAA ratings system is "somewhat subjective."

Yha, somewhat subjective, 13 people watch movies all day and decide it's fate. Who are these 13 people, what qualifies them to make this opinion?

I'd like to ignore the MPAA, lord knows that I do when I decide what movies that my family and I watch. But they do end up making my day to day life difficult, so they're kinda hard to ignore. I've seen great storys get thrown out because the story involves someone a gun. Or I've seen great sight gags get tossed because they involve someone getting hit on the head with a mallet.

I know that some parents want to know the content of a film before they let their kids see it, but why does that mean it has to be watered down for the rest of us. There are plenty of resources for parents to choose from to find out about these kinds of ratings. When I was growing up, I remember this family down the street from my house. They would rent movies, and using two VCRs would edit out the parts of the movies that they objected to. I remember trying to watch Ghostbusters with them. They tried to edit out all the "supernatural" stuff out of the movie. They cut out the Stay Puff Marshmellow man for christ sake! The movie was down right disturbing to watch. It's not just crazy people like them. I've seen on TV "Duck Seasoning" edited down. The networks took out the gunshots from the cartoon. They left the aiming and the puff of smoke with the comical results, but they took out the actual "kaboom". Disturbing.

November 4, 2005

Cartoons and Yam Roll

Go make a cartoon:

Hopefully it'll be as cool as this one:

(No they're not related, they both appeared on my desktop on the same day and I liked them both. Just thought I'd share)

November 3, 2005

Jay Clay is selling copys of Tim Hittle's Jay Clay shorts and for only $15! (thanks for the heads up splinedoctors) I love these shorts, some of the best stop motion I've ever seen. I got the chance to met Tim Hittle when I was working on TS2. He's a nice guy, and very dedicated to his work. We were working long hours 7-day weeks on TS2, and Tim would still go home and work on his shorts after work.

Check it out


I finally got to see MirrorMask last night. I've been following the production of this film for quite some time. I'm a big fan of Dave McKean's work so I knew I would like it visually. I'm also a big fan of Neil Gaiman so I knew that I would like the story, I wasn't sure if I'd like it as a film though. It's not a perfect film, it does have a lot of pacing issues and story problems. I have to agree with Roger Elbert's review of the film, it does follow a generic fantasy type plot line. It does have some new ideas. But I enjoyed the film quite a bit, probably becouse I'm a real sucker for this kind of film, but I can't say I'd recommend it to too many people.

I knew that Dave McKean made this film for very little money, I think it was bout 4 million, which is very little money for such a heavy effects driven film. Dave McKean had to work with smaller CG Effects houses to get the film done and I think he gave diffrent parts of the film to different people. Becouse of this the creddits looked diffrent, diffrent in a way I realy liked. The credits at the end list each of lead animators and underneeth they list sequences that they worked on. I've never seen that before, I wish that they'd do that for all films. It'd be nice to see which lead worked on which sequence in a Pixar film for example.

Over all I felt like the animation was either really good or was passable. That is to say there were some parts in the film where the animation turned out really well, then there were other parts that looked jerky or to pose to pose. Like someone needed to clean up the curves some more. There were a couple parts where I felt like the characters were too much of a cycle. But when it was good, it worked really good, I did like some of the animation, I liked the Gryphons a lot and the Librarian and I enjoyed the Giant sequence. The Giants moved really slowly, but they were smart enough to sprinkle in fast movements at the right time. It was nice to see.

I haven't been keeping track of how well the movie is doing, but for a first film this is really good. I hope that it will allow Dave McKean will do another one.

October 31, 2005

Anyone want to chip in for Pixar?

Anyone want to pool their money together and buy Pixar? It's only 5Mil+ er..that should be 5Billion:) I figure we could all chip in a few dollars and buy it from Disney. I'm sure we would all enjoy taking care of it, and feeding it, taking it out for walks, encouraging it's short film department. But we all have to share taking out the little box or I'm taking it back.

October 26, 2005

No Postie

Sorry for the no postie for a while. I've been busy. I've been working lots of OT and also doing Animation Mentor stuff. I'm a substitute and it looks like everyone wants to take time off around October-December (no surprise). So I've been up to my eyeballs with work.

In the meantime, who doesn't want to read a blog done by Pixar animators:

October 14, 2005

I like me an old CARTOON!

Anyone who knows me very well knows I'm an animation history fan. ASIFA-Hollywood is working on creating a virtual archive of old animated cartoons. I love this idea. They have a blog, and they're currently trying to get the blog itself to be noticed. Apparently Google has removed it's submit form, so ASIFA is trying to get recognized by having bloggers link to it.

Here's my small effort to the cause:

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Project Blog

Thanks Jim for pointing it out.
Don't worry, your forgiven for your spoiler:)

October 13, 2005

First 4 of Chicken Little

You can check out the first four minutes of Chicken Little here:

I'm not so sure about the several false beginnings. The old gag of "Once Upon A Time..." is tired and old. Especially in this context where Disney has their bookend beginning, the the new Disney logo, then false beginning, and another one, another one, etc. It makes you want to say: "Get on with the film alredy!"

But once you do get into the film, I think it looks really good. I have to say that I'm pretty excited about this film. I hope it stays good.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wendsday night is date night for my wife and I. It's the night that Allison's mom takes care of our spawn and we get to do something my ourselves for a little while. Sometimes this involves seeing a movie. We were tempted to see MirrorMask, and part of me wonders if we should, I don't know if it will last in the theater much longer. But my wife said it was my decision. Wallace and Gromit was playing at my favorite theater: The Cinaramadome and I just couldn't miss seeing it in such a good theater.

I have to say, not only is this one of the best animated films I had ever seen, it's one of the best films I have ever seen. This is easily the best thing that Aardman has done, and I'm a big fan of Aardman's work. I don't want to say anything more, I don't want to spoil anything (unlike Seward St did last week, I really wish he would not have done that). Talk about classic film making techniques, he really established the characters, their historys, and their obsessions with one camera pan before the credits even came up. It reminded me of Hitchcock's Rear Window. All the characters are top notch, with great animation. The rabbits are just amazing, I don't know how they did so many at once. It also has great references to Jaws, Teen Wolf, and American Werewolf in London to name a few.

Go see it, you'll enjoy it quite a lot. I certainly had a great time.

It was also nice to see that they listed the baby's born during production of the film (Production Babys). A couple good friends of mine had a baby named Felix who I was happy to see in the list. I was really hoping Quinn would make it into Madagascar's credits but they didn't do that:(

I should add that the night was toped off by gong to Ameba next door and finding not one, not two but three really rare DJ Shadow Live CDs, all used, all for under 8.99. It was just a good night all around:)

October 12, 2005

Awsomest rock video EVER!

Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.

It took me a long time to see this video by Joel Trussel: "War Photographer". His website has been hit a lot after getting rave reviews on Drawn and ColdHardFlash. But the video was moved and I was finally able to check it out. I have to say it's one of the coolest things I've seen. Awesome character design, awesome idea, great timing. Very cool. Check it out:

October 10, 2005

Fire Destroys Wallace and Gromit

I haven't been able to make it to the new Wallace and Gromit film (I have a 14 month old at home, I'm lucky if I get to see The Daily Show let alone the cinema). It looks like the warehouse that housed all of Aarman's history, including the sets to all the Wallace and Gromit films, and all of Aardman's stop motion history burned down lat night. Thankfully no one was hurt. To read more look here:

It's sad to loose all this history. I don't think this will stop them from making new films. Especally with W&G opening the number 1 spot with: 16.1M

October 4, 2005


You were talking to your friend at Resfest waiting for the second screening of Cinema Electronica to start. I was the nerdy one with the Harry Potter book also waiting for the show to start. You were talking about uploading your latest homework and about Jason's grease pencil tool. I was sitting next to you. You asked something about the mentors. Before I turn and say hello, the show stared.

I hope you got your homework uploaded.

Explenation: (In Seattle, in the newspapers have a persanalls collum for people who see other people and would have liked to say hello, but for some reason or other didn't get a chance to. The collum was there to help those people get a second chance. I'm not trying to pick up on anyone here, but I thought they style was appropreate for this.)

October 1, 2005

More Spam

If you see a lot of deleted comments, that's not because someone said something I disagreed with, it's because I've been hit with a lot of spam in my comments area. I'm trying to get rid of them as fast as they come to me. Feel free to comment, and/or disagree, I'm open to discussion, but do not to spam. And if you see a link in the comments field, something that doesn't look like it's really an animation comment, please do not click on it. I do not get paid for anything I write here so you can only hurt me by clicking on it.

September 30, 2005

More Open Season Pics

Here's more picture's from open season:

I didn't do any of them. Over all I'm pretty happy with the way the film is turning out. I'm way to paranoid to say anything more then that, you'll just have to wait to see for yourself.

Jarry Juhl

The first employee hired by Jim Henson Jerry Juhl passed away from Cancer on Monday. He was originally hired to be the puppeteer who replaced Jim Henson's wife Jane Henson, but he soon became a writer for the studio. This is no small task for the Henson company was working on a lot of shows including the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, as well as the movies.I'm a huge puppets fan, this is a sad bit of news.

For more you can read this great writeup on filmforce, and there's the Henson's Official Announcement. I originally found this out at The Disney Blog.

September 29, 2005

The Feel Good Movie of the Year: The Shining

Check out this great movie trailer for the Shining:

It just goes to show you how important editing is. Kinda reminds me of most movie trailers you see today, any movie can be misleading if edited differently.

USA Today Article about Open Season

USA Today has an article about Open Season. The article doesn't say much, it tells a little more about what the plot is like and, like most articles on animated films, it spends a lot of time talking about the voice talent. I don't think it tells anything new. In any case, check it out if your curious:

September 21, 2005

Plan Ahead

I have to agree with Jason on his blog.
Planning your animation before going at it makes it much more enjoyable. It's temting to just jump right in, but that's the worst thing you can do.

Thumbnail, Thumbnail, Thumbnail, get out of your chair, act it out, and thumbnail some more. Work small, I like to work small because you can get a lot of ideas down quickly and it forces you to think in silhouette. You can't draw that much detail small. The great thing about thumbnailing is that you don't have to be tethered to your desk to do it. Recently I was stuck in a long boring meeting, I took my sketchbook, instead of waisting an hour I felt like I was able to work on my shot for an hour. When I got back I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It saved a lot of time.

If you look on page 236 of Illusion of Life there's a great page of thumbnails that Mark Davis did. This is kinda like what I like to do (except my thumbnails don't look as good). I like to explore the idea firs, get a bunch of crude drawings down and don't think about the order of things. This is where I think about how a character would do something, like hold a glass, or open a door. This is also where I try and come up with the most entertaining way of doing an action. Then after I've come up with a dozen or so different ways of doing that one action, I video tape myself, so I can see the subtle things I might be doing without thinking about it. Then I'll go through the video tape and pick out the actions that work. Then I'll thumbnail again, this time I do things in order. I try and let the flow in at this point. This is where I do a lot of improv, I get the thumbnails down quickly only focusing on the forces and the action. After that do I launch Maya and pose out the characters.

Even in Maya I work in the lowest rez possible, shutting off anything I don't need. Get the poses down quickly, flipping between poses as best as I can.

I'm working on a 500 frame shot right now. So you better believe that I'm planning the hell out of it.

September 19, 2005

What to do this weekend: Resfest 2005

I'm going to Resfest this weekend:

If you haven't been to Resfest, you should really check it out. It's pretty darn cool, I try and go every year. It's a festival where they show the latest and greatest of film graphics techniques. My personal favorites are the music videos: "Videos that Rock" and "Cinema Electronica". But this year I'll also be checking out the feature film Infamy by the director Doug Pray who's previous documentary "Scratch" I've seen a number of times and has a warm space in my DVD collection. I also plan on catching the Panel: Street Art or Not.

Should be a good show.

Crap, I should look at a callender once in a while, it's next weekend.

September 15, 2005

Madagascar DVD artwork...again!

New Mad Cover
Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.

Okay, again with the Madagascar DVD artwork. It looks like they've realized that there are indeed four different penguins and they've lightened the beach. Still the same crummy innards though.

I'm looking forward to seeing Corps Bride. What I've seen looks great. Two Stop Motion films this year, that's awesome. Who said that computers would kill the art of stop motion.

September 13, 2005

Madagascar hits the #7 Spot

Thanks Jason for pointing out Madagascar hit the #7 mark for computer animated films. Bookended by Toy Story films. That's pretty darn cool!

September 12, 2005

Cool Shot

So, I got like this really cool shot to do. I really like it, and I don't want to fuck it up. So you probably won't be hearing much from me as I focus on the the shot.

In the meantime check out these cool blogs:


Donnacha Daily's:

Harald Siepermann:

Alfred Jodocus

John Nevarez


Wow, they really make me want to draw more!

September 4, 2005

Mad's revised DVD cover

Mad's revised DVD cover
Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.

I don't want to pretend that my little blog has any power to change things. But DremWorks improved it's cover art for the Madagascar DVD. It's much better, not perfect. Now if I could just get them to change the inside. How about those deleted scenes? How about DTS?

September 2, 2005

Madagascar Box

Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.

So it looks like they've released the info for the Madagascar DVD. It goes like this:

Universal Home Video has released early details on Madagascar which features the voices of Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer. This recent Dreamworks film will arrive in a single-disc edition from the 15th November this year. Retail will be around $29.99. The film itself will be presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, along with English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks. English, French and Spanish subtitles will also be provided. DVD Extras will include the first ever Penguin commentary as they give you their unique take on the film, some untamed games and activities (including Foosa Whack and Learn to Draw), a Behind the Crates featurette, a Tech of Madagascar featurette, a Mad Mishaps featurette, a 'Crack the Code' game for a special prize, and plenty more.

$29.99? I have to say I'm pretty disappointed with all of this information especally for thirty bucks! I mean I like the the Penguin short, and the Penguin Commentary sounds like a good idea. But it's only on one DVD and there's no mention of deleted scenes! There was a lot of good work cut out during production of this film. They easily could have filled a second DVD with all of that stuff. Pluss the box looks like it was designed by the intern at "Food For Less." What's with the yellow line that makes it alredy looks like it's already headed for the bargain discount bin?

Yha, I'll end up buying it anyway.

September 1, 2005

Force Vs Form

Carlos has posted one of my favoret Don Grahm notes. It's called "Animating Force vs Animating Forms" I first read this in school and it made a big diffrence in my animation. Check it out here:

Draw the Looney Tunes

I was in Borders Book store last night and I ran across a new book called Draw the Looney Tunes: The Warner Bros. Character Design Manual. Now I've seen a lot of how to books, how to draw bugs bunny and the like. But this one was printed so nicely. It was hardbound with foldout pages and good paper. It was obviously not meant for young kids so I had to take a look at it and I was surprised to find that it was a really good book. It was all about drawing, no real mention of animation, but it was as good as most life drawing books I've seen. It had big sections on the line of action, rhythm, line quality, perspective, you name it. I was pretty impressed with it. I don't know if I would call it a mush have animation book but it's definitely worth a look.

August 29, 2005

Monday Morning Inspiration

Every once in a while I'll get a short shot, and I'll be tempted to skip the "thumb nailing-acting out-planning ahead-thought process" part and just jump on the computer move stuff around and get the shot done. And I've also noticed that when I do this, these shots tend to be the hardest to final. Even when I know what needs to be done, just jotting down a few sketches can really save me some time in the long run. For me thumnailing my ideas doesn't just help me explore the idea, it gives me a bluepritnt as to how I plan on animating the shot. That way the third or fourth day working on the shot, after staying up late the night before, I won't screw up the shot in a sleepy like daze.

This morning I was reading a page or two of my Walt Staunchfield book and I came across a chapter where he quotes a bunch of the masters. It's all about planning ahead, so I thought I'd copy them down here for your monday morning inspiration:

Milt Kahl: "9 out of 10 times before I animate I know exactly what I'm going to do" "The worst thing you can do is to get into anything before you know what you're doing."

Art Babbitt: "Think about your work before you sit down to do it. You must think and plan - you can't wing it."

Grim Natwick: "Planning it so that you know exactly where you're going..."

Ollie Johnston: "I think its in the planning. If you can plan the stuff out so you really know exactly what you're going to do...if you know exactly what you're going to do - and have it visualized - why you can do it pretty fast."

Ken Harris: "The only advice I know is to think it all out in your mind and then draw it the best you can..."

August 26, 2005

Toshiba Resurch

I went to Best Buy during lunch. I went there on the off chance that they had the new Toshiba M4. They didn't, but they did have an earlier version of the Toshiba Tablet PC. It was unlabeled so I don't know what it was. I wanted to find out if the screen would bother me. I wanted to know if the lighter "View Anywhere" was better, or if I'd prefer a 14" screen with higher resolution. That seems to be the triad off, either a small light view anywhere or bigger and better but heaver.

I found I liked the Toshiba a lot, I still wish it was lighter, four pounds was pretty heavy and the pen that they had at the shop wasn't pressure sensitive. I must find out if the M4 is pressure sensitive or not.

Then I have to decide if I want to wait longer or buy now.

I had to turn off the comments on this post because of all the spam it's been getting. If you want to comment feel free to use the previous post.

August 25, 2005


I'm one of the many animators guilty of listening to music while they animate. I've read Richard William's book, and his opening chapter about unplugging. The excuse I always used for not unplugging was that it gave me extra energy to work with. Well these past few weeks I got board with my music collection and I put my zen away for a while. And I'll be damned if I didn't noticed that my photage count took a big jump. And my work looked better to boot. I wouldn't call myself a disciple to RW's unplugged theory but I don't think I'll be listening to music much any more.

Waiting for a Tablet PC

Everyone is telling me to wait a little while before buing a tablet PC. I find this frustrating, I'm already to buy one today. I'm pretty sure I want a slate model and I've pretty much decided that the TC1100 or the LE1600 is the right one for me. I am tempted by the Toshiba M4 because of the faster graphics card, higher resolution and 14 inch monitor. But I think it would weigh to much, I really want to use it to do observational sketches and I don't think I'd drag around a big heavy laptop to do that with.

But I think I'll wait a couple months to see if the graphics cards improve. If the LE1600 had better resolution I don't think I would need to wait, but we'll see.

I do like the idea of Wacom coming out with at tablet PC though.

I did find a couple useful links regarding tablet PCs:

Here's a pretty active forum where you can ask other tablet owners about their computers:

This is Chad Essley's blog, he's a cartoonist and a big fan of the tablet, he has a cool demo video of his experiences:

And of course if you haven't seen it already there's Jim's post on "Why Every Animator Should Own A Tablet PC

August 22, 2005

DAMMIT, Tablet Envy

A friend of mine flew down for my daughter's first birthday. She's a good friend of mine from way back. I knew that she had just bought a tablet PC, and I knew that she was going to bring it with her. After Jason's and Jim's posts on tablet PCs I knew it was something I would like. But I also knew they were bloody expensive. I had a really bad experience buying an over price computer so I didn't want to get burned again. I wanted to resist it, I really didn't want to see the darn thing. I've got a very fine sketchbook after all. What do I need with a expensive gadget. She showed it to me, I stayed up tell two in the morning playing with it.

Now my only question is which one should I get?

I must reasearch.

I get you back for this Mel...

August 18, 2005

Joe Ranft Memorial Information

Here is the Memorial Information for Joe Ranft:

Joe's family will be having a funeral and memorial this Sunday and we will be having a celebration of Joe's life on September 17th here at Pixar for his friends and colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, the Ranft family respectfully requests that donations be made to the ‘Joseph Henry Ranft Memorial Fund,’ and sent care of Pixar Animation Studios, 1200 Park Avenue, Emeryville, CA, 94608.

I first met Joe at CalArts, he was a story teacher there. Later I bumped into him at Pixar. At the time I didn't know much about him. I knew he was good, and I thought he was a very nice guy. I had no idea that he had worked on so many projects and touched so many lives. He was so humble I just assumed that he was a story teacher who got into Pixar early on. Boy was I wrong. Ever sense the news came out I've been floored by how many people he's known and has worked with. He has had a truly memorable life, it has become clear to me that he will be missed by a lot of people.

August 17, 2005

Joe Ranft

I heard some very sad news today. Joe Ranft died on August 16th in a car accident. Joe Ranft was a story artist at Disney, Skellington and Pixar. He did some incredible story work and was one of the best story guys around. He was also the voice for a lot of animated characters, my personal favorite was Heimlich, the caterpillar in "A Bugs Life." He will be missed. I don't know the details of the accident, but everyone please, buckle up and drive safely.

August 15, 2005

Hard at Work

I've been up to my eyeballs with work so I haven't been able to write anything. Work is good.

July 29, 2005

Cats Don't Dance in CG

Speaking of Cats Don't Dance, take a look at this:

Apparently some Japanese studio named Mirror Ink Animation, took a scene from "Cats Don't Dance," and tried to reproduce it in 3D. It has an interesting look to it and is a valet effort, but I still like the origanal a lot more. You can download the mpg here (warning, it takes a long time to download).

July 28, 2005

Mark Dindal's new film: Chicken Little

Check out the new trailers for Chicken Little. As usual, I like the Japanese trailer the best:

I think these new trailers look great. They make me really excited about the pictures.

I've always been a big fan of Mark Dindal. He's directed "Cat's Don't Dance," "The Emperor's New Groove," and now "Chicken Little" I love the other two films and I expect this film to be as good, if not better. I feel for Mark Dindal, every film Mark has worked on there's always been some trouble with the production. In Cat's they wanted to change the cats to ducks halfway through pre-viz. Emperor's New Groove was handed to him as a re-write and in Chicken Little, the main character started off as a girl. But he's always pull them though. I can't wait to see how this one turns out. I also love the snap of his animation. All three films have really snappy timing that's energetic and fun to watch.

I'd like to make a prediction, I think that this film will effect the Disney-Pixar negotiations a lot. I'm not sure how exactly, but I think this film will be very successful and that Disney will feel like they don't need Pixar. Personally, I'd like to see Pixar become it's own distributor. It would be the hard road for Pixar, especially because that would mean that they'd go up against Disney and Dreamworks. Both of those studios have proven that they like to play dirty, but I think they could pull it off. And in the long run they'd be a bigger better studio because of it. But really, what do I know, I'm just pulling all of that out of my ass:)

Really, I hope this turns out to be a winner. It looks great already!

July 22, 2005

Shut-Up and Animate

I started a reply to this blog entry at: The Business of Animation. And I felt like my reply got a bit too long. So I thought I'd post it here instead. You should probably read his post first, but to sum it up, in his post, Staloren talks about the kind of CG animators who used to do traditional animation and now belly ache about the fact that they're not drawing their animation anymore. This is a familiar story to me. I've talked with a lot former traditional animators, not all of them hate working on the computer, some even learned to like it, some have even preferred it. But some tend to put on airs about how it's not a "true artistic way to animate." To those people I just want to tell them to drop the mouse and go back to the stick. But there's another side to all of this. I think I have a fairly unique perspective, I feel like I can agree with both animators. Rather then come off as a hypocrite I should explain.

When I was in High School I knew I wanted to be an animator but didn't know how to go about doing it. My mother was eager to encourage my interests. At the time we were living in New Jersey, and there wasn't a lot of animation schools or studios around. She looked in all the community collages that were in driving distance from our house and found a public school named: Mercer County Community Collage that offered a class in Computer Graphics and Animation. This was in 1989, so computer animated logos had just started to annoy people who watched television. My mother signed me up for that class and a class in Life Drawing.

At the time I didn't know anything about animation, I had never heard of the 9 old men, or "The Illusion of Life." I had never heard of Squash and Stretch or any of the principles of animation. So the class didn't teach me any of that, it basically showed you how to use the computer and how to create graphics that moved.

The computer graphics class was in an odd political battle at the school. The computer science lab wanted to do away with the program. They saw computer graphics as a waist of processing power. They wanted the classes to be canceled and all the computers given to them. The Art department hated them as well. They saw computes as a threat, and computer graphics as not a "real artform." (sound familiar?) I took a lot of flack in my life drawing class for taking computer graphics classes.

In the long run it was one one of the smartest things I did. CalArts had just received a donation of computers, and my combination of life drawing and computer graphics was just what they wanted to see. They really wanted someone who was going to work with their new donation of computers, little did they know that my experience at Mercer had turned me off of computer animation and I had no intention of ever touching a computer again. But it helped me get into CalArts, and that's where really learned about animation.

Now the argument of art vs computer didn't stop at Mercer, it got bigger at CalArts. I didn't want to do computer animation but because I had become friends with the people in the Mercer CG lab, I felt inclined to defend computer animation. This didn't win me any friends at CalArts.*

(Now days the argument at CalArts are different. I hear that the teachers have to drag the students into Life Drawing classes. They all want to become computer animators not traditional animators. Oh the irony...)

A few months ago, a good friend of mine put together a demo tape. She cut together a bunch of traditional animation. Stuff that was animated by the old masters, shots from Disney and Warner Brothers along with computer animation from Pixar, Dremworks and Blue Sky. She did something really clever. She tried to find shots that were similar. You couldn't find shots that were exactly the same, but you could find two shots where the characters were doing the same kind of action. For example, two characters arguing, or reacting in fear, running, walking, a big dumb character and a fast smart-aleck, you name it. She then cut them together in order to compare apples to apples as best as she could. The results were eye opening. The traditional animation has so much life to it, next to it, computer animation was down right robotic. Even the best Pixar work was nothing compared to the masterful work of people like Milt Kahl. That's not to say the computer animation was bad or no good, it was really good, amazing in fact. But the animator could only work with the controls that were given to him, and that was nothing compared to the true mastery of form, volume and line control that the traditional animators had.

Computer animation is slowly getting better. And it's not really a fair comparison, traditional animation had around over 100 years of experience by the time my friend dug up the clips and cut them together. Cut together with CG animation which has, what, like 30-40 years on it? But as I said, Computer animation is getting better and one day it might become better then the traditional animation of the great masters, maybe not. But that tape proved to me that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do! The one thing that traditional animation has over computer animation is that you can naturally come up with the poses you need. The flow is better. Computers are still way to clunky to be that natural. Maybe I'm just too old. I was trained classically, I didn't touch a computer for most of my CalArts education, my 11 month old daughter won't have the same kind of apprehension that I had towards the computer when she's my age. So maybe that clunkyness will go away with my generation.

But let's get to the real hart of the agreement for traditional over computer. I do agree with the traditional animators on one fact. I do feel that the education of the animators are being cast aside. Without someone with deep pockets to support traditional animation, the techniques of the masters that were passed down from Frank and Ollie to Glenn and Andreas are going to go away. Some of the techniques these guys taught can be traslated directly to CG animation, but not all of them. And for me, that's a sad thing. Unless we can find someone to fund traditional animation the way Disney funded it in the 90s, this skill will go away and will have to be re-invented.**

At the same time If traditional animators are true to their craft, they shouldn't let it die off. I'm much more impressed with James Baxter for setting up his own studio then I am with the people who use a computer "because they have to." No one is going to hand you a traditional project to work on, so get off your ass and create one. John Lassiter fought tremendous odds to get Toy Story on the screen. He stuck with what he new, story and Character, he saw that new tools could be created for the computer.

I was classically trained but I decided to go into computer animation mostly because I wasn't that good at drawing. CalArts was good at teaching me how to be a good draftsman, but they couldn't teach me how to draw. That's not to say I can't draw at all, I can draw and I have a lot of fun drawing. I draw as often as I can. But I can't draw as well as I needed to in order to work on feature films. In the end I discovered that I liked to animate more then I liked to draw, so for me, computers saved my ass.

I've run into a lot of people all the time who want to work on feature films (live action and animated). My first question I always ask is: "What do you want to do?" If they say: "Anything" I tell them to go find another line of work. Film and television in itself is not inherently fun to work on. If you like to draw or paint, then find a job drawing or painting. That could mean a job in pre-production, mat painting but it could also mean something outside of film/tv. Basically if you like to draw, draw. If you like to act, act. If you like to build things, build things. Basically, first and foremost you have to like doing what you do, not just like the idea that you work on films. That only leads to misery and there are easer jobs that pay much better.

So for me that's what it boils down to, if you like to draw, find a job drawing. If you like to work on the computer, find a job working on the computer. Just shut up and animate already.

*ironically, a lot of students from my class are now working at Pixar. I feel that Pixar brought art to the computer, so I don't think these people lost their arguments, but it did shut them up.

**Not that re-invention is all that bad mind you.

Please allow me to toot my own horn:

Look who's in The American Chronicle, that's right it's me!
They interviewed me for my work on Shrek 2. Check it out:

July 20, 2005

Inspiration Wednesday

Here's two Trailers you should see. They both inspired me this morning. It's great to see such great work out there.

There's a sneak peek look at Henry Selick's new project "Moongirl" it was produced at Will Vinton Studios (anyone know if that studio has a new name yet?). It's looking really nice, it definitely has Selick's look to it. I don't like it as much as his stop motion work, but it has a nice look it it all the same. (I've always had a soft spot in my hart for stop motion, so that's part of the problem). I'm looking forward to seeing how the film turns out:

The other thing you should see is the trailer for the animated film Giacomo's. I don't know much about this film, but the animation is looking great! It looks like it's being produced by Sergio Pablos. I hope it gets translated and put out in America. Check it out:

July 12, 2005

Heading to the Con

I'm heading to the San Diego Comic Con tomorrow. I find it funny that some people at work know when and where Siggraph is but they don't know anything about the San Diego Comic Con is. And while other people know all about the Con but don' t know anything about Siggraph. If I had to chose to only go to one, I'd choose the Con. I used to volunteer at Siggraph when I was in High School. Back then it was awesome. I got to see the Electronic theater, all the floor show, I could go to any lecture I wanted, the art show. I found it to be a lot of fun. But these days I just can't afford to go, it's just to expensive to get in for me to consider going. I could get Sony to sponsor me for a ticket that just gets you in the door, but I wouldn't find that ticket to be worth while. The Comic Con on the other hand lets me get the pro-badge for free. Again I can do anything I want, go to the exhibit hall, go to any lecture and visit the art show all for free.

I don't mean to come off as such a freeloader, the hotel rooms in San Diego are steep enough.

Anyhoo, I'll be bringing my camera and I'll post lots of pictures here.

July 5, 2005

PJ's King Kong Trailer

Wow, I mean wow. To be honest, I wasn't to excited about this movie before. I mean, so a giant ape gets loose in NYC. What new thing can they do with that old idea? Now I know:

July 1, 2005


On Stward St, there's a great article about a letter that Kevin Koch
wrote. It was published in last months issue of the Pegboard. I'm not
a union member so this is the first time I've read it. It's really
worth checking out. I'm republishing it here, I hope that Seward St and
The Pegboard don't mind.

Mostly what I like about it is the optimism and the reminder to still be
an artist and to not get too caught up in studio life (hardships,
gossip, etc). This couldn't have come at a better time for me. Lately
I've had to section my life off quite a bit. I have the work bit and
the home bit. We've been teaching our daughter to put herself to bed
and to sleep on her own. It hasn't been easy, she's a stubborn girl,
who's recently learned to hit us in the face. But I still want to come
to work and put energy into my shots and do the best that I can.
That's why this article brings it all home for me.


Last month at the Marc Davis Academy lecture honoring Frédéric Back, Ihad the honor of meeting the creator of The Man Who Planted Trees,Crac, and other equally brilliant films. He's eighty-one, and as articulate and passionate about art, animation, and the environment as ever. He now does illustration and is still quite busy. I was writing a letter on Mr. Back's behalf when I heard that Joe Grant had passed. Mr.Grant died at his drawing table, at the young age of ninety-six. It struck me that these two men are of a piece in many ways, and both are men I wish I were more like.

Mr. Back is that rare person who is so immediately open and accepting that deep conversation happens moments after meeting him. I came away with the sense that he is one of those too-rare people who have genuinely good souls. I never met Mr. Grant, but know many who knew him well, and I gather he was much the same - easygoing, intelligent, unaffected by tremendous personal accomplishments, and most of all genuine.

I had similar thoughts at our recent Golden Awards. We honored over seventy people who had loooong, productive careers in animation, and they seemed to have fond memories of it all. They worked on good shows and terrible ones, for good bosses and jerks, stayed in the rank and file or started their own studios, the whole spectrum. It was a little overwhelming for me as I contemplated my meager not-quite-one decade in animation.

I think of these two, and others like the late Ed Friedman, and I feel sheepish at how caught up I get in the trivial day-to-day nonsense at work. Mr. Back worked independently, almost single-handedly, and created masterpieces. Mr. Grant spent his animation career within the Disney machine, and made crucial contributions to some of the greatest features ever made. Mr. Friedman had a long productive career and a record-breaking term as a Guild officer. Each faced tall odds against successfully expressing themselves, yet all three did, beautifully, time and again.

What does it take to have these kinds of careers? How does one navigate around the minefields of animation without becoming negative, jaded, and burned out? We all know plenty of people who have succeeded in animation and, in the process, stopped being the open, humble people they started
as. We know people who made it exactly because they were only too willing to climb over their peers and back stab their way to the top. And, or course, we've all had to work with plenty of production and management types who, let's say, don't get the difference between supporting an artistic process and running a cannery. So how do people like Frédéric Back, Ed Friedman and Joe Grant leave huge legacies, and not end up bitter and regretful?

I suppose the column is as much about me as it is about the giants of the field who have come before. I think I've gotten a little bit burned out lately, and I find some of the day-to-day nonsense of the biz less tolerable than before. I'm irritated (or worse!) too much of the time.
Not that I still don't enjoy animation, or still get a charge out of working around dozens of people far more talented than I am. We all know that feeling we get when we see a bit of art or animation that's so right it makes our hearts sing. Being on the inside of the process, and
knowing how hard and special that is, makes it all the more enjoyable. That's what keeps me going - when I see something that just makes megrin, or especially when it's something I've done that makes someone else smile.

My guess is that people who have been both genuine and productive were able to pour enough of themselves into their work to lift it from craft to art, and yet have not over-invested their passion into their jobs. That, I think, is the key: balance. We're generally too prone to making
our work lives the end-all and be-all of our existence. It's easy, when you're working on cool movies and TV shows, and the people you work with are talented and fun to be around. How many of us have stayed later at work than we were paid for, simply because we wanted to? How many of us
have taken it personally when a producer or director changed their mind about something, even though we'd done exactly what they'd asked for? How often have we been asked to give a hundred and twenty percent, andyet we never seem to quite get that in return?

This is a great industry, but it is an industry after all. Keep your life balanced, and don't let the small-minded people get you down.

June 30, 2005

To Start With Deep Impressions

I read something interesting in one of my Walt Staunchfield notes today. In this paper Mr. Staunchfield is talking about technique. He says everyone has a different technique in drawing, and this is good. But it also can lead to habits and some habits can be barrier in your drawing skills. He goes on to explain how you should make sure your drawing habits are biased on good drawing principles and not bad habits. But he had one section that stood out to me. He's talking about how some people always start drawing with the head, or the shoulders or what ever. So he quotes a book by Robert Henri "Art Spirit" about what you should start with when you start a drawing:

"...start with a deep impression, the best, the most interesting, the deepest you can have of the model; to preserve this vision throughout the work; to see nothing else; to admit of no digression from it; choosing only from the model the signs of it; will lead to an organic work. Every element in the picture will be constructive of an idea, expressive of an emotion. Every factor in the painting (drawing) will have beauty because in its place in the organization it is doing its living part. Because of its adjustment, it is given its greatest power of expansion."

I thought that it was a good quote. It's a good idea when animating your character to keep yourself in check and make sure every pose, every key frame, every angle is fitting in with the "deep impression" of the idea. The whole body works together, the whole shot, the staging should be about this idea. It's a good way to think abut it.

Different Animators, Different Styles at WB

Ken Harris Coyote
Originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.

Wow, I'm impressed.

Did you ever listen to other animator go on about the different styles of the different animators who worked on classic Warner Brother's cartoons and wonder how they knew who did what scene? I was allwase able to spot the different styles of animation, but I never was able to tell who was responsible for what style. Jaime J Weinman on his blog: Something Old, Nothing New has a great breakdown of the different styles of the different animators. It's a great read, I recommend checking it out:

(orignally found via cartoon brew)

June 29, 2005

RSI Worries and Other Things

Starting Friday my wrist started hurting and my fingers were feeling tingly. I've been warned a lot about the possibility of developing RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury). So this made me hyper worried about my chances. I stopped using the computer for a while. I only used my left hand using the computer over the weekend. Now I got a Wacom tablet on my computer at work and I've started to force myself to learn to use the pen instead of the mouse, which has been difficult. It's my fault really. I never really set up my desk to my comfort level. I have several friends with constant RSI problems, I have no desire to join them it doesn't sound fun.

My wrists have started to feel a lot better, I will continue to use the pen and switch back to the mouse occasionally. I've heard of this animator who worked at Pixar, he had really bad RSI. He said it forced him to think more about his work. It hurt his wrists so much to work on the computer that he would think about what he needed to do with his shot, he would think about it over and over again until he knew what controls he needed to use and how it needed to move so that when he did work with the computer he didn't have to work on it for very long. He said it really helped with his animation. This is good advice. I do dick around with my shots a little too much. Sometimes that's good, and I discover new things. Other times it's bad and I loose a lot of time. I should strive to be more like him.

The San Diego Comic Con is coming up. I'm looking forward to it. I alwayse try to go Wedsday-Friday, but I might be there the weekend as well. I missed last year because my daughter was due to be born that same weekend. This year should be a lot of fun!

June 24, 2005


I'm trying to finish up a shot today. I'm down to the end, I'm doing the overlapping action now. I find this part to be one of the toughest parts to do. There's something about it that's hard, it just doesn't look right until it looks right. It's like your animating it over and over again, wrong, wrong wrong, wrong, right. There's this "sweet spot" it hits when it just looks right, until then it looks like it's on a string or it has a life of it's own. Sometimes I don't know how long it will take to finish the overlap. Sometimes an hour, sometimes a day or two.

June 22, 2005

Neil Gaiman on Mo-Cap

I don't want to talk about Motion Capture. It's not that I don't have anything to say about it, I have lots to say about it. But it's all been said before, and it's been said by much smarter people then me. I just feel like the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

But sometimes I can't.

Some of you all know that I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman. And I was a big fan of mythology as a kid. So you might guess that I was tremendously excited to hear that he was turning one of my favourite mythology's into a script for Zemeckis to direct. You can also guess my deep disappointment when I found out it was going to be another mo-cap film, al la "Polar Express".

I'm not against mo-cap, I just don't want anything to do with it. It's not a process that holds any interests for me. It's like cleaning up bad animation all day.

Anyhoo, soapbox rant aside, I feel like Neil Gaiman had interesting (if not misguided) things to say on the subject of mo-cap I thought I would post (and make fun of) them here. Needless to say, I'm too much a fan-boy of Neil's work and will probably go see it no matter what method they use to make it. If it was up to me Popsicle sticks and glue would be a better approach to the work then mo-cap (at least it'd be more fun to work on:)

I'm curious as to why Beowulf is being made as a performance-capture piece. Was there an artistic reason for this choice or does Zemeckis just want to play more with his new toy?

I ask this because I'm not fond of the idea of performance-capture - I think it wastes a lot of the possibilities of animation and gives animators less chance to create their own characters. However, I admit that I did not see Polar Express, and that there may be advantages that I just haven't realized yet to using performance-capture in certain films. Is there a reason that this technique was chosen for Beowulf instead of traditional computer animation or live-action? (And don't worry - this certainly won't keep me from seeing the film!)

I also just wanted to let you know how much I admire you. You're an incredible author, and (from reading your blog regularly) I know that you're also an incredible person. It's comforting to know that I can respect you as much as your writing. Thanks for everything!

- Jess

Hi Jess. I think the thing you're failing to take into account here is the speed of technological progress they're making on this stuff. At least from my conversations with Bob, he feels that Polar Express was the v. 1.0 of what he's trying to do, and that Monster House (which he's producing but not directing) will be version 1.5, and Beowulf will be, at the least, version 2.0 (It's going to be released in October 2007, remember). So while all your criticisms have weight, at least from Bob Zemeckis's point of view they're like someone complaining that early talkies sound unrealistic and lose the dreamlike resonance of the silents, or that colour movies with their big, immovable cameras and static shots are incapable of capturing the painting in shadows-and-light-and-silver capacity of black and white films.

Neither argument was entirely wrong, but it missed what the new technologies would be able to do instead, which leads me to suspect that arguing from a perspective of technical limitations seems a bit problematic. I think it's a very good bet, based on everything I've seen so far, to assume that the problems of Final Fantasy or Polar Express aren't going to be the problems of Beowulf. Which is not to say that Beowulf won't have and create its own new set of problems.

Personally, I miss some of the things Roger and I had in the script when it was live action, but also cannot wait to see some of the things that we came up with once, er, liberated from the flesh, for the motion capture incarnation.

The part of the technology that fascinates me most is simply that as a filmmaker you are no longer tied to the physical shape and size and age of an actor to have that actor perform for you. I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that the actor playing Beowulf doesn't look like a heroic 20 year old, any more than he looks like a muscular, scarred, but still preserved 70 year old. On the other hand, he's an amazing actor. I love that he still gets to play the character at both sides of his life, and that he actually gets to perform it, not just "do the voice". (As a note on performance capture, I was fascinated at the animation panel at Sundance to see not only that Andy Serkis' Gollum was performance capture, but how much of it was performance capture -- that every expression and motion and tic and hiss was Serkis's, not the animators.)

It may well be that performance capture is going to be viewed, a hundred years from now, as a blind alley that a few people went down for a time, and as relevant and as interesting to what's going on as Smell-o-vision or Sensurround. But I don't think it will be, just as I don't think it'll be The one and only Future of Filmmaking. I think it's a really interesting area and only if a few obsessed filmmakers (like, in this case, Bob Zemeckis) go off and explore it, they can come back with interesting discoveries.

So that's what I think. We'll both find out what worked and what didn't in October 2007...

I just have to say this: Everyone says that Gollum is undoubtedly the best example of what Mo-cap can do. I don't buy it. With Gollum they hired Andy Serkis not just supply the voice, but go in and do what actors do. Figure out the character, who he is, where he came from what his feelings are behind every line, posturing, etc. Everything that you can find in a good Stanislavski or Uta Hagen "Method Acting" book. That is what Serkis brought to the character. I have no doubt that if you removed mo-cap from the equation and had Serkis work with the animators you would have gotten the same results, if not better.

That, and the large body of work that the animators had to do to get "every expression and motion and tic and hiss" to read.

But then again you should probably ask someone who actually worked on the film.

That said, they did use Mo-cap in LOTR in a way that really impressed me. It was with the early pre-viz work. It was when they handed Jackson a stick with a capture ball on it and gave him VR goggles. The stick became the camera and he was able to shoot on set (virtually). That was most impressive use of mo-cap in the film. (In my humble opinion)


There's a follow up by Neil, follow this link if your interested:

June 21, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle Subtitled

"Howl's Moving Castle" is in theaters, though you'd never know it. So much for Disney advertising. I haven't been able to escape my squirrelly duties to get out and see it. I fear the dubbing of this film, thankfully the El Capitan plays it subtitled on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Hopefully I'll be able to escape long enough to see it soon. If I do I'll post my review, I expect it will be great. So far everyone I've talked to said it's his best.

Anyhoo, if your intrested, the IFC Blog has a list (short) of theaters that are playing the film where they have subtitled prints. You can find that list here:

June 17, 2005

Check Out This Cool Stop Motion Shot for GQ

It's all done in silhouette style animation, which is very cool, especally for Stop Motion.

It was done for GQ magazene. I found it on the stop motion plog: Notes From the Box.

June 14, 2005

That's a First

I went to a sequence launch meeting today. During the meeting one of the directors of the show (Tony Stacchi) turns to me and says: "I saw your blog the other day." I was surprised by that. I know people read my blog, but this is the first time it has come up in a meeting at work, and the first time a director said anything about it. He went on to say that he liked the idea and I should keep going. He also said it was too bad that I couldn't get the rights to my shots so that I could publish them. I have to agree with him. I really wish I could publish the things I'm working on so you had a better idea what my job was like day-to-day, but I'm pretty sure that I would get fired if I did that.

Q&A on Madagascar!

A couple of weeks ago, all the mentors who animated on Madagascar did a making of Madagascar Q&A for all the students of Animation Mentor. It was pretty fun. I went over to Dave's house and Jason talked over the web from the San Francisco area. Matthew Kelly snapped some pictures of the event and posted them on his blog. (I found them via Shhh-Life!-er?)

BTW I finally saw Madagascar over the weekend. I really like how it turned out. I think it has the best computer Animation that DreamWorks has put out so far.

If you haven't seen the film you should stop reading now.

No really. Kuzz I'm going to give away some stuff.

About the movie.

The timing of the animation was very snappy, which is a relief to see (and do) after all those Shrek films. After doing those Shrek films I feel like PDI had built up a complex over "slow & drifty" animation. The animators who worked on the Shrek films had also worked on such films as: "The Lion King," "Nightmare Before Christmas," "LOTR," "Toy Story 1 & 2" and "A Bugs Life" to name a few. So it's safe to say that the Animators could recognise "slow & drifty" animation when they saw it, or created it. But "slow & drifty" was the style that was chosen to be done with Shrek. And (amongst animation circles) this got a lot of criticism. After doing 3 1/2* Shrek films PDI was pretty eager prove to the world that they could do "fast and snappy" type animation. I fell like they proved that they could do this in "Madagascar." Even the softer sentimental shots had snappy animation in them. You could make the argument that maybe it was a little too much, maybe too snappy all the time not enough texture. That would be a valid argument. But the animators couldn't wait to do snappy animation, and it was fun to do, so they did it!

The only thing I was disappointed with in the film is the ending. My contract ran out before the film did, so unfortunately I had to leave a couple months before the film wrapped up. I wish I could have stayed to finish it, but that wasn't to be. When I left there was about a dozen or so endings in the works, and I didn't know which one they would chose. Of the endings they made I think they chose one of the better ones, but not the ending I wanted.

The basic idea I liked in the film was the idea that our main character, the protagonist doesn't know where meat comes from. And when he finds out that his best friend is meat, he has an emotional crisis. Now we have a struggle, what is more important friendship or survival. One of the reasons I love this idea is because it truly can only be done in animation. Now there are only two possible outcomes that I can see. 1) Decide never to eat meat again because your friend is your food, and friendship is more important. 2) Decide to eat meat even after you know where it comes from, just not meat that you know, i.e: don't eat your friends, but eat strangers.

I'm not a vegetarian, and I know the directors are not either, but because of the events that take place the story has a very vegetarian type feel to it. Which is why DreamWorks probably backed off of it. They don't want to fight political battles in kids films. That's also why I feel like it was so weak. I felt like in order to make a satisfying ending they had to make a statement, even if the directors don't believe it. Instead they wimped out and chose to say Sushi isn't your friend, so it's okay. Which is B.S. but leave the doors open for the sequel when Alex finds out that Sushi comes from fish.

Now you could make the argument that if it doesn't talk it's okay to eat it. I'll buy that. The bugs didn't talk in the "Lion King," but the juicy pig did. So it was okay to eat bugs but not pigs. But, as I said, it wasn't a terrible endings, and for what it was, it was well done. It just wasn't satisfying to me as I think it could have been.

For once I'd like to see an animated feature film like this make a statement.

With this and "Chicken Run," DreamWorks is building quite a vegetarian cartoon library!

* I consider it to be 3 1/2 films, technicly this isn't true, but I'll let you decide for yourself.
These are all the Shrek films that were done (not counting TV adds):

1= Shrek
2= Shrek Imax (never published)
3= Shrek 2
1/2= Shrek 4D, Shrek And The Swam Karaoke, & Shrek American Idol.

June 10, 2005

ABC of URL - Friday Fun

So it's friday, and I thought I'd start the day with a little URL fun. Here are my ABCs of animation websites. It's not perfect, I know I missed a few. and I found "E, Q, U, X and Z" fairly difficult to fill. Anyhoo, have fun:

These are my URL ABCs:

If you'd like to make your own go here:

June 6, 2005

Open Seson Trailer Out

Guess what?
The Open Season trailer is on line!
It was in front of some of the showings of Madagascar, but not all of them. So if you missed it in the theater then check it out here:

June 3, 2005

Back, But I'm Up To My Eyeballs With Work

I'm back, and recovered, but I've been busy catching up at work. It's been hard finding time to write. Madagascar is out and getting mixed reviews, but the box office looks good. I still haven't seen it myself if you can believe that. I can't believe it myself, but as I've said I've been super busy sense I got back. I missed all the premieres by going to Europe, and I haven't been able to make it to the cinema. Jason, Dave and I will be doing a Madagascar Q&A on Animation Mentor this Saturday. It should be fun. We're still moving into our new home, I'm still figuring out the best commute to work.

More to come...

May 26, 2005

I'm Back

I got back from my trip to Denmark. I'm back at work but I'm experiencing waves of jetlag driven tiredness, so I'm not posing much today.

Madagascar comes out tomorrow, woop-ee!

May 17, 2005

Animation Class

Here's a picture of my students in the animation class that I have been teaching.

I have started posting pictures of my Denmark trip on Flikr. You can see the set here, I will be posting more later. So keep checking back if your interested:

Denmark Photos

Also, for fun, I've been taking pictures of the food I've been eating. As some of you know, I'm a big fan of good food. So they get their own set here:

Denmark Food

May 16, 2005

My Weekend in Denmark

So I screwed up this weekend. All week I was thinking about how I wanted to rent a car and drive around. Then when I go to rent a car I find that all the car rental agency's are all rented out. No cars. I reserve one for next weekend so I don't run into the same problem, but that doesn't solve anything for this weekend. So Saturday I decide to check out the town that I'm teaching in. Viborg, it's a small town but there are some shops and interesting pubs. Little did I know that at 2:00 everything shuts down for the weekend. I'm not kidding, when I say shuts down, it shuts down and stays down until Monday. Except for a couple restaurants the whole town is closed, if you've ever seen the beginning to the movie "28 Days Later" you'll know what I mean by closed. What to do? I spend most of the day planning my trip for Sunday.

Sunday I head to go to Århurst I take the train and check out some of the museums. The art museum in Århust is quite nice, and there's a place called: Old Town that's nice. Old Town is this outdoors museum, where they've restored a section of town into it's sixteenth century glory, complete with cotton gin, one room schools, boat shops and gift shop. It has a lot of places where, you get to see how they turned raw cotton into cloths, barley into beer. You get to marvel as the old toilets and lacy beds. Think of it as a permanent renaissance fair, without the England, or the renaissance, actually it's nothing like renaissance fair, forget that I said that. To me, the Old Town reminds me of a Star Trek episode where they land on planet: "Sixteenth Century Denmark", (or for all of you born after 1980: The Holodeck Program gone terribly, terribly wrong).

There's also an interesting shopping district, but of course it too is closed, So I walked my feet off in Århust and head home to a couple beers, a hot bath and a subtitled movie staring a hard nose detective and his wise cracking dog. (Not much else to do).

Allison arrives on Tuesday, I'm sure she'll want to rent a car but we'll see. She says she needs some rest, I'm pretty sure she'll get the chance to rest.

May 13, 2005

Denmark Day Three

So day three is comings to an end. Over all I think the classes have been good. There are parts of the lectures that I think went over real well, and there are parts that I think went over not so well. When I sit down with the students at their desks and work with them I think we make more progress. Today I tried something new. They have a screen that projects what ever I do on the computer. So I loaded up maya and started animating a shot and let them see my work flow. I think that helped a lot. Animating is more skill then vocabulary, so it is always easer to show them then to say it.

Denmark is great, I have yet to master the skill of ordering healthy food. I thought I was ordering a healthy vegetable sandwitch the other day and it came back with Bacon and smothered in soft cheese. Don't get me wrong, it is good food, but rich. Part of the problem is that I can't read a word on the menu and the waters seem to only know English when I'm around Tim or someone else from the school. So I look for a word that I recognize and point to it. But those words are usually cheese, or names of meat. All I want is a nice salad. I will try again this weekend.

The bread here is truly amazing though.

Allison joins me on Tuesday. I can't wait to show her around. I have the weekend to play tourist. I haven't decided what to do. I'm tempted to go to Lego Land, or the island of Samsø. But I'll have to rent a car to do either. My guide book recommends seeing the cost, I hope I can find a castle.

May 12, 2005

Day Two of Denmark Animation Class

Today is day two of my animation class. Yesterday was great. The students are eager to learn, eager like the way I remember we were when I was a student at CalArts. This school reminds me a lot of CalArts, except that there are 18 students. There was well over 100 students when I went to school (around 25-30 students per teacher in each classroom).

yesterday I ran into Lawrence Marvit, he's teaching over here as kind of an artist in residence. I know Lawrence from CalArts. He left Pixar to create his own graphic novel named Sparks. He's working on his new comic book, he let me see some pages of it, I have to say the artwork looks quite good. It was funny running into him. I had not seen him in years and didn't expect to see him. Small world. The artist in residence thing sounds quite tempting, apparently they have a few people say here and work on their own films or comic books, just as long as they teach on the side. It's something I want to keep in mind if I ever have something of my own that I want to create.

yesterday in my class I went over the basics of lipsink and talked about the different approaches to lip sink. I showed examples from Family Dog and other cartoons. Today is my technical class. I'm going to focus more on how to break down your audio, I hope I don't bore them too much.

As far as Denmark goes, the place is quite nice to look at. The food is great, I now know why they call it a Danish. And the Espresso is real nice!

May 10, 2005

Here in Denmark

I landed in Denmark about four hours ago. Tim, the director of the animation program, gave me a tour of the school, I met with the students, and the students made me an amazing dinner.

The school looks amazing. It reminds me of my old calArts days. Lots of drawings on the walls, the students seem supper excited to learn. It's great, it has a lot of energy to it. I just hope I can be as energetic as I fight jetlag and teach my first class tomorrow.

The school has a lot more going on for it then I originally realized. The have a lot of artist in residence kind of classes, so there's a lot more then just computer animation. There's stop motion, and traditional animation going on as well. They're also expanding, two new buildings just went up so they can have more students. I'm super excited about it.

The flight was all right. The school bought me the tickets, so the airline was different then I was used to. I'm used to an American airline flying to Europe, this one was definitely a European airline flying away from America. All the announcements were in German first, and English last. They served wine and tea during the whole flight, and the food was smaller. I had sausage and bread at the airport as soon as I landed. Yep, it was good.

I had to pack up our temporary apartment and move into our house on Sunday night. Then Monday I moved into the house and got on the shuttle to LAX. I only got 3 hours sleep before I left, and I've been trying to stay up sense then, so I'm very tired.

May 6, 2005

Madagascar International Poster

originally uploaded by ejhdigdug.
I've always thought that the international posters for animated movies tend to be better then the American ones. And Madagascar's poster is no different. I do have to admit, this is an odd looking poster, but it's a lot of fun. At least that's my opinion:)