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: http://www.defectiveyeti.com/archives/001267.html

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...