Friday, November 13, 2009

Animazing Spotlight Pt. 2

The next panel was "The Incestuous History of Technology & Animation" with Bill Kroyer, one of the main animators for Tron and a cofounder of Rhythm & Hues. He gave an amazing presentation on the earliest days of motion graphics, where he was literally programming every dot on the screen. After these vectors came parent chains, and he showed a simple but awesome animation of a 'block woman' swinging from a point. He showed us a test woman walking around that he did for Mick Jagger, which resulted in the "Hard Woman" video below:

He didn't screen this clip, but he had told us that he was unable to do planar rendering . . . I guess they had figured it out by then, but were unable to deform objects.

Bill mentioned that he shot the test footage frame by frame with a 35mm camera off the computer screen. It was a long test, and I asked afterwards if he edited the footage afterwards or if the computer was able to run such a long simulation. He said no, it was literally frame by frame - he had to wait for each image to render before exposing a single frame of film. He also said he projected an image of Mick Jagger onto the screen, but I'm not sure if he meant to animate over or to photograph.

In 1988, Bill Kroyer made the short "Technological Threat," a half 2D, half 3D short about workers being replaced by computers that was nominated for an academy award. It told the story of an organic life form fighting back against the machines that replaced him, but Bill was too late! The Academy also nominated Cordell Barker's "The Cat Came Back" and John Lasseter's "Tin Toy." "Tin Toy" took the prize.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Animazing Spotlight: Weekend of Animated Shorts

I spent all weekend at "Animazing Spotlight: Weekend of Animated Shorts," a festival which I learned about just last week when I got the chance to meet Yvette Kaplan (Beavis and Butt-Head, Doug). She gave a talk about MTV and her show, and will also be at CTN next week. She gave me some 10% coupons for CTN if anyone would like.

The first segment on Saturday was "A Crash Course on Character Animation - Eric Goldberg." Eric said his inspiration to make cartoons came from the Woody Woodpecker show, when Walter Lantz would do a weekly segment on how cartoons were made. He called them cheesy, staged pieces, but the closest to an animation education that he could get as a kid. They're actually pretty thorough:

Eric showed his work from Hercules and Aladdin while going over bits from his book "Character Animation Crash Course."

He mentioned things like not letting a second character go dead while the first one is talking and giving proper time and space to strong poses. He talked about establishing a rhythm for an action, and then changing that rhythm as a character reacts to a situation.

In the next segment, Bob Kurtz showed 'the shortest shorts,' tv spots from several decades. In addition to the usual great older (new york produced) stuff, he showed this piece:

It's called "Grrr," made in 2004 by a studio called "Nexus" in London, and it looks as if Lisa Frank had to grow up and get a serious job. Garrison Keillor's magical voice takes you through the slowish opening, but the visuals quickly get together and match the oddness of the lyrics. The actual animation is stiff and odd, as is the render, but I enjoy the overall flow and design. And who doesn't feel proud when rabbits don't have to wear sound proof earmuffs anymore?

Animation Calendar

One of my friends said recently "wouldn't it be great, if like, someone were to put together a google calendar filled with all the animation events in L.A.?"


Right now it's gathered from the Silent Movie Theater, New Bev, Aero, Egyptian, Asifa Calendar, AWN and Cartoon Brew. Did I miss anything?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opera Postcard

My very talented friend Jennifer is going to be in The Celestial Opera Company's production of "Abduction from the Seraglio" at the end of November. Check out this postcard I made:

It's an updated adaptation, where Turkey meets 50's America.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mary & Max

Usually it's a bad sign if you can't find a decent quality trailer, but Mary and Max is a great film:

It opened Sundance and you can see it today on . . Movies on demand. This work is from the director of Harvey Krumpet (which I haven't seen,) the academy award winning short from 2004.

Overbearing piano theme aside, Adam Elliot's Mary and Max is the perfect blend of an engaging, messed up story and slightly disfigured appealing visuals. It takes a lot for me to feel badly for a character, especially if the director comes out before hand and says 'this is a dark film,' but at the end of the movie I was feeling bad about myself.

Half of the story takes place in the claustrophobic, dirty, monochromatic New York as seen through the aspie eyes of Max. They nailed the sound of police sirens - distant, but constantly echoing off the buildings around you. Made me homesick.

Mary's world is equally terrifying and confined. She is trapped between an eternally 'wobbly' mother who pursues the perfect bottle of cooking sherry and an overwhelmed father who shuts himself up in the garage tending to birds who have been hit by cars.

Adamn Elliot is not afraid to shy away from any of his character's defects. It makes the film uncomfortable to watch, not because these flaws are offensively sordid but because they strike too close to home. This is the thorough soul searching that Tatia Rosenthal's $9.99 failed to achieve.

The director spoke after the ASIFA screening, and I was impressed to learn that (outside of one comped in 2D sequence) the whole thing was really done in camera. As in, he would animate the tv shows and project them frame by frame inside of a television on set. He also said it was a 'true' story: A man much like Max in New York picked up a telephone book of animators and called him up.

It's a shame this didn't get a theatrical run, so you've got to watch it on cable.

Here's Harvey Krumpet, which I will get around to.

Monday, September 28, 2009

San Diego Film Festival

I drove down to San Diego this weekend to give a talk to high school students about going to school for animation. I told them everything I wished I had known back then, the most important being to purchase the Animator's Survival Kit and read it. Their eyes lit up when I told them it was written by the animation director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so that was a good sign. In three/four hundred art students there were about seven who kept asking lots of animation questions.

My hero.

There was even one kid who wanted to go to NYU for animation. I thought it was all going rather well, right up until the very last question, when someone raised his hand and asked about the technology the first Disney shorts and Pinnochio were made with. I started to answer about multi-plane and had to be cut off by the host because my time was up. I went up to the kid afterward and started to explain again, then realized he was asking me how you made a movie before computers existed. I asked him if he knew what a cel was, and he said no. D:

I gave him a quick explanation and told him to read "Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination" so he'd learn all about the Alice shorts and Silly Symphonies and such. I told him to look for the popping colors in older shorts, they would tell him when an additional cell was being laid on top of the bunch.

Well, you can't have it all. If I'm asked back next year I'll try to do a quick technological history of the medium.

This is a cel. This is only a cel.

I only saw one entirely animated short, entitled "Daniel Finds His Walking Stick."

The animation was ok, I really liked the lighting and environments. I spoke to filmmaker Gary Herbert about it afterward, and he said it was created entirely in Cinema 4d. Apparently the program has its own cloth and fur systems but lacks a good particle system. He used it mostly for motion graphics, but wanted to turn his story into a film and stuck with what he knew. I asked about how he lit the film, and he said it wife was a DP who helped him out with the set up. My own lighting skills are not that great so I'm always impressed when people do it well. Daniel was a horribly sad story, and I called my grandparents when I got out of the theater.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walt & El Groupo Part II

A bit about the panel discussion: it was moderated by Tom Sito, a fellow New Yorker! And someone who shamefully I knew nothing about before I saw him on a panel at Comic-Con. He's worked on all the biggies that came out after I was born: Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He was president of ASIFA, teaches in colleges around L.A., and wrote several books including an update of "Timing for Animation" (which i have yet to buy.) He's got a cool website here:

The panel included director Ted Thomas, producer Kuniko Okubo, D.P. Shana Hagan, and composer James Wesley Stemple. They discussed the challenges of tracking down the people and places Walt came across, and their fidelity to the music and photography of the trip. Most of the documentary is shot is super 16 (film!!), which made D.P. Hagan giggle with delight. The filmmakers used local crews and processing facilities.

Composer Stemple spoke at length about the effort he put into the soundtrack attempting to create an accurate musical map of South America, both geographically and temporally, and of the limited number of artists and instruments he had to work with. He also composed music that complemented the narrative of the documentary. They screened one segment M.O.S. and again with his soundtrack, and it sounds like he did a great job.

We went to see Moon this weekend instead of El Group, so hopefully I'll see the documentary itself during the week.

Now for the last half of Saludos Amigos:

Aquarelle du Brésil (Watercolor of Brazil)

The snippets that we saw contained a lot of Mary Blair's work, and it's astonishing to see how faithfully it is recreated in this short. I'm used to concept art looking nothing like what appears in the final film. Those black and white wavy lines Donald and José walk over? They're not abstract, but are actually mosaics that cover the streets of Rio de Janeiro. This does not come across well in the short, but "El Groupo" has great footage of them being created.

This short introduced José Carioca, who Wikipedia tells me is kind of a big deal in Brazil. He's on a soccer team, has a secret identity called the Green Bat, and is a bit of a man-ho. I've seen him in the "Baía" segment of "The Three Caballeros." He's in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" too.

El Gaucho Goofy

I can't find an embeddable English one, so clicky here:

Ted Thomas explained that Goofy had done a series of 'how to be a' shorts, including how to be a cowboy, so it was natural to make him a Gaucho. This is perhaps the most educational short in the film, and it appears to be the most accurate. "Walt and El Groupo" includes the footage Disney shot of these cowboys. Tom Sito commented that a movie critic back in the day made fun of the impossible dance move Goofy does, moving his feet really fast while his upper body remains rigid. The documentary shows concept art and footage proving that this is a real dance.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Saludos Amigos" and "The Making of Walt & El Group Panel Discussion

On Tuesday I attended the American Cinematheque's "The Making of Walk & El Groupo" panel discussion about the upcoming documentary. I had first heard of this documentary by running into one of its crew members at a random party; I overheard him talking to someone about Walt Disney's 1941 trip to South America. I had heard of the film the trip had produced, "Saludos Amigos," but had only seen one flip book with a sequence of the film. (The flip book had a Mickey Mouse cartoon on the other side I think, and I don't remember where we got such a thing.)

The documentary, directed by Frank Thomas' son Ted Thomas, visits the same places that the Disney artists went to on their tour. We saw snippets of the documentary which featured footage and artwork from the 1941 trip. A brand new 35mm print of "Saludos Amigos" was screened afterward, and it was great to see where all the designs and music and dances had come from. The documentary also follows Mary Blair's transformation into one of Disney's favorite artists as a result of this trip.

I'm going to go see the documentary this weekend, so I'll talk about it later. Here's the trailer:

For the benefit of those who were born after 1942, I've included the four segments of "Saludos Amigos" below.

Donald Duck Visits Lake Titicaca

This is where my flip book was from! It was the segment where Donald bows to the boy and gets his hat fills up with water. I don't know why this whole film isn't better known (to my generation,) perhaps because it is a collection of shorts?

Donald's lip sync is so . . casual! "El Groupo" features much of Mary Blair's sketches and water colors, and you can see them faithfully translated in townspeople here. You can also see the work of the artists who did NOT go on the trip, such as the dancing llama sequence. I can see them nodding and smiling at the descriptions and photos of these animals - then designing something that looks like a shaggy pool toy.

Mary Blair

and some of her new-found Parrot friends. It seems that Mary illustrated many of the golden books I grew up on.


I frikkin loved this one! Wonderful character animation for his brave little struggle. Totally makes up for the fact that you nothing about Chile except that it has a mountain. The narrator gets a little toooooo into things, I can see the poor man shaking and convulsing in his sound booth. He reminded me for a second of the Mickey and the Bean Stalk narrator - but only for a second.

I'll do the other two shorts and the panel tomorrow. Got work to do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

IB Technicolor Shorts at the Silent Movie Theater

Went to the Silent Movie Theater last night to see Jerry Beck's Animation Tuesday. It was a great presentation of films from the 30's to the 50's, including Mickey, Baby Huey, Tom Thumb, and lesser known characters. He included one Tom and Jerry short that had slugs from an Eastman Kodak print (to preserve the audio and timing) that were completely pink in comparison.

He started with an early 30's short called "Woodland Cafe":

It's got double bouncing characters AND grasshoppers in black face.

This next one, "Mickey's Garden," was on a tape my mother got for us when we were little. Although I vaguely remembered the images and storyline, it was the sound design that I remembered beat by beat:

He played a "saccharine" Raggedy Ann short about a blind girl who accepts a rag doll from a policeman that stops by everyday to hit on her mother, and for the first time uses her imagination to guess what her mother looks like. She imagines a blonde princess, when in reality her mother is a perfectly attractive brunette. Thanks, Raggedy Ann, for gettin em while their young and can't see.

We always get a cupcake from the SMT, because they are Crumbs cupcakes and they are awesome.

Crumbs Cupcake: Cookie Dough

Description: Vanilla cake with chocolate fudge filling covered in our signature vanilla cream cheese frosting mixed with soft chocolate chip cookie pieces and topped with a chocolate chip cookie.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Sprinkles. Very good, but not the best I've had from them. The 'cake' part did indeed have a delicious rawness to it, but the chocolatey surprise in the middle was a bit unwelcome. The cookie on top was too soft.

And I learned about this brilliantly simple childrens' series from Spain today. So simple! So direct! So easy to make and understand!

Aniboom History Contest Submission

My brother and I made the following animation for Aniboom's "The People Speak" contest, sponsored by the History Channel. They provided an audio clip of a celebrity reading from a famous document about war, racism, sexism, etc. and had users made a 30 second storyboard. The top animation gets a development deal with the History Channel.

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at Aniboom

Aniboom uses 100 pixel wide thumbnails, woot.

You can vote us up if you like, but we're not going for the popularity contest this time. We chose a clip from Emma Goldman's "Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty," a condemnation of global leaders who try to impose their superiority on others through slaughter.

Tristian made the storyboards and 2D elements in Flash, and animated his section. He also drew the background in Corel Paint. I created the 3D environments in Maya and comped everything together in After Effects. I edited down Sandra Oh's clip for time and dramatic purposes.