Saturday, August 8, 2020

Mr. Rees' Ukulele

 Last night there was a story on the local news about Harold Rees, a luthier (maker of stringed instruments) who was still at it at the age of 100.  For years, concert violinists have purchased his work, or entrusted him to repair and restore their precious instruments.  It was a really wonderful story made more wonderful by the fact that I know this man. 

Harold Rees is the father of my longtime friend and animation colleague Jerry Rees.  Over the past 35 years, I have seen Mr. Rees at Jerry's house on many occasions.  I've also seen many of his handmade instruments - violins, violas, banjos, and ukuleles.   After one such visit to Jerry's with my wife Donna,  she commented on the incredible craftsmanship in Mr Rees' work.  I confessed to her that I had always wanted to buy one of his ukuleles but was afraid to ask.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The New Masthead

For post #501, it's time to switch it up.

Friends of FLiP know that every few years, I like to change the logo.  It keeps it fresh for me. and hopefully for you readers as well.  

FLiP started out as an e-zine website - do they even use the term e-zine anymore?  Monthly, I would post four new pages, plus a cover page.  As I explained in the first issue in May of 2007,  "Each letter in the word "FLIP" corresponds to a differently themed web page.  The F page has articles on animation specifically.  The L page has creative writing by animation professionals.  The I page has non-animation art done by animation professionals.  The P page focuses on animation people and their extracurricular interests."  For the index page I animated four characters (one with an extra head) singing the FLIP theme song - yes, a theme song.  It was sung by my kids, my wife Donna, and me.

I really enjoyed doing the FLiP e-zine as both a writing exercise and means of meeting new artists and hearing their stories.   Three years on,  it became a chore instead of creative outlet, so I stopped.



In 2010,  I was vacationing in London and met friend and colleague Alex Williams for dinner.   Alex proposed that we team up to restart FLiP as a blog. On Jan 9, 2012, we relaunched FLiP in this format.   Between the two of us, we were able to post fairly regularly for years.  Then my wife passed, Alex became a father, and the blog sat moribund for a long while. Despite the dearth of new posts, there have been a slow, steady stream of readers - over a million so far - from all over the globe.  Not bad for a little hobby. 

The COVID lockdown and other current events have brought me back to FLiP, hence the new look. 
I went back to the original logo for inspiration, with drawn characters.  And the flying pig is back!
Viva la hunched and goofy!

-Steve

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jill vs Pornhub

Emmy-winning animation Art Director Jill Daniels has set her brushes on a serious subject - to help fight human trafficking.  She is part of an art competition to promote awareness on the subject.  Check out the entries, and show your support by voting. 


By Jill Daniels

ARTXFREEDOM  is an art competition to raise awareness on human trafficking and the deep darkness of slavery and bondage that is in the porn industry sponsored by Exodus Cry.  When I read the emotional stories of the victims my heart just burst with the piece (above) and it felt like my hands just followed along as best they could.  :)

I became aware of the work of Exodus Cry after a dear friend told me about how good their “Nefarious:  Merchant of Souls” film on you tube is - I have added the link below. 

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls | Human Trafficking Documentary - Full Movie  

Watch the film, pray, sign up with the website, donate to the cause!  By supporting the light that this organization is shedding and all standing together we can make a difference and truly set people free from lives of bondage that are not their own choice.

Voting ends today!  Check it out!  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three New Far Sides, Here at Last!


Six months after it was announced, Gary Larson has posted the first three NEW Far Side cartoons in 25 years on his website.  He picks up right where he left off in terms of the humor and staging.  Stylistically, he has ventured into the digital age, working from a tablet.  He explains on his site that experimenting with digital tools has given him a renewed enthusiasm for cartooning, which led to this casual revival of the strip.  The end result is an evolved Far Side, more painterly,with little line work.  It's a fresh look that puts the Far Side smack into the year 2020.  And yes, they're hilarious.

Bookmark his site, www.thefarside.com!

-Steve

Monday, July 6, 2020

Premier: The (animated) History of White People in America

Industry veteran Ed Bell writes to about his new project, The History of White People in America (not to be confused with the Martin Mull's 1985 program).  Ed tells FLiP what this new project is and what it took to make it to screen.   It premieres TODAY, and FLiP's got it first.


By Ed Bell

Think of The History of White People in America as the School House Rock for the racial history of America.

When the Pilgrims arrived, there was no notion of white, black, or red as we understand race now. In 1950s Georgia, Chinese immigrants were perceived as white or black depending upon what town they lived in. Today, academics say some Latinos and Asian-Americans are “white.” What does that mean and why does it seem so important to our nation’s story?  This series that will tell the story of how whiteness and non-whiteness were invented and continue to evolve, morph and drive the American story.

In 15 animated short films, we will tell American history as it has never been told before. We wanted to at least make the attempt to offer people a platform or an inducement to actually talk about the real problems we face as a country, let alone as an industrialized world.  I won't pretend to know who the target audience is anymore. I won't BS about it: everyone should see and contemplate these shorts.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Zoom Toast to Kelly

Top row: Kevin Lima, Steve Moore, Chris Bailey, Fred Cline.  Middle row: Kirk Wise, Dan Jeup, Rob Minkoff, Wendell Luebbe.  Bottom row: Tim Hauser, Butch Hartman.
Friday night I took part in a toast via Zoom - the pandemic's next best thing to being there.  We were toasting our friend, director Kelly Asbury, who had passed away a week earlier.   There are hundreds of industry people who would have turned up for this, but we kept it to a core group who hung out as CalArts character animation students in the early eighties: Chris Bailey, Fred Cline, Butch Hartman, Tim Hauser, Dan Jeup, Wendell Luebbe, Kevin Lima, Rob Minkoff, Kirk Wise and myself.  These guys are more than an animation who's who to me - they are my brothers. 

For the most part, the gang looked the same - a testament to living the animation life, I guess.  Most of us wore glasses now.  Kevin was rocking a new, bearded cue-ball look. And me with my COVID lockdown '70's hair  (cowbell band, anyone?).  The only real sign of age is that we were on Zoom for more than three hours and never talked shop once. 

Stories I either didn't know or had forgotten kept us laughing for hours - the crazy shit that makes us glad cell phones and social media did not exist back then.  These were not the flattering stories told at funerals, but hilariously human stories about Kelly.  Maybe you had to be there. I'm glad I was.   

"He was like the Sun." Kirk said.  "People just gravitated to him."

Cheers, Kelly!

-Steve

CalArts dorm, July 1984.  From left: Mark Rouse, Kirk Wise (white shirt), Butch Hartman, Steve Moore, and Kelly Asbury. Photo by Kevin Lima

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mr Morgan's Wild Ride - for Charity

Thorfinn, aka Richard Morgan - the nicest viking indeed.
Richard Morgan has authored and Illustrated heaps of childrens' books in the UK, such as his latest series Thorfinn the Nicest Viking.  I met him in New Zealand working on my Redux Riding Hood short, and we've been long distance pals ever since.  He shares with FLiP his plans of bicycling to raise money for cancer research. 

by Richard Morgan

My daughter and I have started cycling together during the lockdown and felt we wanted a goal, so we joined the Cancer Research UK Cycle 300.  I lost my Mum and my wife's Gran to cancer, plus I have lost several close friends to this disease and seen the horrible upset it leaves in its wake. However, I have also seen close friends fight and beat cancer due to the amazing treatment available now.

Living in Cambridge, its all road bike for us.  We've been building momentum since the Tour De France came to visit.  I have always cycled its like second nature. I got my first bike from Ellis Briggs in Shipley, Yorkshire, and rode it everywhere.  As I learnt to drive I got a mountain bike and took it to the lakes in Cumbria to hoon down mountains. When I moved to Auckland NZ to work for Disney*, I treated myself to a new Marin and cycled all over, it was amazing.  So at 53, this seems like a wonderful thing to be doing with my daughter before she goes off to university in September, hopefully!

The cycle is over the whole of September and my daughter is keen to do it as lots of short rides and avoid the pain in the bum.  I would rather do one or even two bigger rides for the adventure, so we will see who wins.   I will be updating the charity page as we do the rides so you can see us on the road and follow our progress.

People can donate on my Just Giving page.

Or join ... and get on your bike .   Cancer Research cycle 300 website.

*Toonz Animation in Auckland produced shows for Disney TVA, including Redux Riding Hood.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Kelly Asbury Saved My Life

Kelly at the "Nightmare Before Christmas" wrap party.  To his right, Allison Abbate dances with Joe Ranft.
When I got the news of Kelly Asbury's death yesterday, I immediately thought of the night he saved my life.

In April of 1992, I started working on The Nightmare Before Christmas in San Francisco. The studio was set up in an old, two story industrial building with a sprawling floor plan and no air conditioning.  It looked like it was once an old factory, making ball-bearings or sausage.  For reasons I have forgotten, faded hand prints of Herve Villachaize were set in the sidewalk just outside the front door, which opened to 7th Street, several blocks south of Market. I worked in an open bullpen area doing storyboards with Mike Cachuela and Joe Ranft.  In an adjacent room, Kelly worked in the art department with Kendall Cronkhite and Deane Taylor.  

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a trial of four cops who beat Rodney King senseless was wrapping up.  On April 29th, they were acquitted of using excessive force despite video footage to the contrary.  The streets of south central Los Angeles erupted in rage with violent protests.  

At the studio the next day, there was a general buzz of disbelief about the verdict.  The locals knew that San Francisco was not to be outdone when it comes to street rage, and kept an ear on their radios for local unrest.  Just after lunch, Kelly came around to the bullpen.  

"Hey Steve, do you pass Market Street going home?" he asked. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What's Going On

Ed Bell's professional animation career spans 34 years, including stints at Disney, Kroyer Films, Hyperion, and Collosal Pictures.  I've known him since we were CalArts kids in the early '80's (and he still returns my calls).   In the wake of the George Floyd murder, I asked him a few questions.  He has generously shared with FLiP his raw feelings about our times, his experience as a protester, and of life as an African-American artist in the animation industry.  Please read and absorb.  -Steve 

By Ed Bell

The times are hitting me hard, this time around.

In ' 92 I was helping clean the streets post Rodney King, volunteering for Maxine Waters in South LA. I saw the place I grew up in after National Guard had rolled in, and there was so much work to be done. So my sense of deja vu and dread is dark and heart breaking. This won't be a well written essay. There's some rambling, off the subject.

So, How were the protests I attended?

Last week I was at the rally at City Hall where I've been many times with the same purpose. With the Mayor, we took a knee.  News cameras and vans were everywhere. Helicopter presence. Police had guys in high windows watching everything. My son said he assumes they were snipers. He is 16. That was a very full block of protesters. People kept a few feet of distance. Wore masks. We heard from the mayor and civil Rights leaders. Jamie Fox spoke. Mothers who have lost their kids to law enforcement spoke. Synchronized voices, calling for justice and for peace in the streets, there was no looting or throwing things. It felt like a familiar ceremony. A little catharsis. A smidgen of solidarity. But I've been a little numb for days at this point. My kid spent hours on his phone watching other cities go bananas, at the same time as we gathered in a well behaved but tense crowd at City Hall. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

FLiP-ping Out


What can be said that is not already being said about the state of affairs in our country?   And who cares what an animation blog thinks of national affairs?  All I know for sure is that the protesters are on the right side of history.  I know for sure we have a President who only represents those who agree with him and rejects the rest - loaths them, calls them names, belittles them.  We can surely do better than having a school yard bully as leader, someone who only cares about himself.  But what do I know, I'm an animator.  But for what it's worth, I'm with them.
-Steve

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Plugging into Work from Home


On March 16th, the studio where I work announced that we would all be working from home until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control.  The IT department had worked through the weekend on the logistics of this large, sudden shift in production.  Now this computer-tech luddite was tasked with applying their plans to my computer at home.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Great Day for America - The Far Side is Back!


The overwhelming majority of Americans can agree that the return of Gary Larsen's "The Far Side" comics is great news.  I read about this yesterday on CNN's website though it was not headline news for some reason.  In the CNN article, Larsen explains that he decided to make an official Far Side site because so much of his work was posted online without his permission - fan sites, but more irritatingly, sites exploiting his work to promote their own products or services.  His new site will feature the old strips, but promises some new stuff to come.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Santa's Other Helpers


While Santa Claus gets the glory for pulling off Christmas every year, it is common knowledge that he has 'helpers'.  A team of little elves - the Merry-Makers - work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring joy to the world.  But did you know there's a second rank of helpers, an off-shoot of the Merry-Makers?  These are the Havoc-Makers,  Santa's Dipshits.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Brave Little Toaster gets Dental Surgery


     Years of brushing my teeth too hard had caused my gums to recede to the point where I needed oral surgery.  And so I found myself reclined in a dentists' chair, having just had four shots of novocaine injected into the roof of my mouth.  Yes, it hurt.
     While the oral surgeon left me to numb up,  a woman with a clipboard asked me some questions.  One of them was "Occupation?"
     I answered, "Animation." 
     "Animation?"
     I elaborated, "I work on cartoons."
     "Oh, interesting."  she said.  "Anything I would know?"
     "How old are you?"  I asked.
     "Thirty two."  she said.
     I did some quick math, then said, "How about 'The Brave Little Toaster'?"
     She squealed.  Like a girl.  She squealed so loud the dental assistants rushed in to see if she was alright.  She turned to them and said, "He did 'The Brave Little Toaster'!"
     Then they squealed.  Right before me, four professional women morphed into cooing little girls, talking over each other how they had loved that movie growing up.
      The one with the clipboard broke through the cacophony.  "Oh my god!  There's a scary clown in that movie that scared the crap out of me!"  She was referring to Toaster's nightmare sequence.
     I laughed. "I animated that sequence."
     "Really?" she said.
     I nodded.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Unbearable LightBox of Being


There's a new animation expo in town - LightBox -and yesterday, I went.   The last such event I attended was the World Animation Celebration in 1998, at the same location - the Pasadena Convention Center (newer building).  My aversion to crowds keeps me away from such events,  but every once in a while I nudge myself to get out there and network.  Still, I dreaded the thought of it.  
     I convinced myself Friday would be less crowded than the weekend.  20 minutes before opening, there was a line of cars around the block for parking.  I found an alternate lot a few blocks away and walked in the stinking September heat to the expo.  To clarify, this was not specifically an animation expo.  The LightBox site describes it as, "Over 250 of the best artists from the animation, live-action, illustration, and gaming industries coming together for the ultimate celebration of art."  Being the first such mish-mash event I had ever attended, it was, by default, the "ultimate". 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Three from My Storyboard Graveyard

In the process of updating my personal website, I came across storyboards that never made it for three Illumination films: "The Grinch", "Minions",  and "Despicable Me 2".  I worked for months and months on versions of these films that were later abandoned.  Nothing I boarded for "The Grinch" made it onscreen, but here is a clip (without sound) showing the Grinch's "Aha!" moment - the plot to steal Christmas...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Eat, Drink, Animate! By Tom Sito

Who knew animators could cook? Tom Sito, USC animation professor, co-director of Osmosis Jones and Emeritus President of the Animation Guild, has written a cookbook celebrating the recipes of animation artists.

You might think animators can't cook, but you'd be wrong. "Eat Drink Animate" is where you can learn the secrets of Walt Disney's chilli and and Tissa David's Hungarian Goulash.

I should declare an interest here - the book includes one of favourite recipes, Poisson a la BAFTA, which was reverse-engineered a few years ago from a dish I liked so much while dining at BAFTA Piccadilly that I decided to try and make it myself. I wrote it in French to make it sound posh.

Tom is a prodigious author, with many books on animation and animation history to his name.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ross Anderson Pulls a Rabbit from a Hat

We first interviewed author Ross Anderson back in 2013, about his research project into the history of the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - the pioneering film that is 26 years old this year.

Six years later, Ross's book "Pulling a Rabbit from a Hat" has finally hit the bookshelves; he was signing copies at this year's Annecy film festival.

Ross's book aims to be the definitive history of the making of the film. It is well researched and very detailed, and appears to very accurate down to the smallest details,

I've been looking forward to buying my copy for years. Among the highlights are Tom Sito's hilarious sketches and scribbles that documented the roller coaster ride that was the making of the film.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Forgotten Art of Kathleen Bell

Kathleen "Kay" Bell 1937
Kathleen Bell was a 20th Century illustrator whose work is now almost completely forgotten. She was also my grandmother and, if she is remembered at all, it is as the mother of, and major influence on, my father, the animator Richard Williams.

Kathleen "Kay" Bell was born on 19th May 1909, and lived in Toronto, Canada, where she worked as commercial illustrator. Of her vast body of work for newspapers and magazines, almost nothing survives.

All I have of her published work is the illustrations for one book, so long out of print that it doesn't even show up anymore as a listing at Amazon.com. A few years ago I managed to buy what was most likely the last remaining copy available for sale, and since then the listing has been deleted.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Grinch Who Left an Easter Egg


In May of 2014, my wife Donna was a patient at Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, being treated for complications from the cancer she'd been fighting for 3 1/2 years.  The doctors were treating her aggressively.  They were the best in the country, so we were confident she would beat it.  As she rested, I sat next to her bed with my Cintiq, doing storyboards for Illumination on "The Grinch".

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Fossils" Lunch in Toluca Lake

From left: Charles Solomon, Bob Kurtz, Scott Johnson, Howard Green,  Eric Goldberg, Tom Sito,
Alex Williams, Ruben Aquino and Ross Blucher.  Photo copyright the nice waitress at "The Counter".
Animation historian and critic Charles Solomon organised a "Fossils" lunch today, a meeting of various former (and current) Disney and DreamWorks animators to talk about the olden days, and wonder what the heck happened to our industry.  Little did I know that Eric Goldberg, master of 2D animation timing is still doing hand-drawn animation at Disney, working on special projects for the Parks.  Bob Kurtz is still doing freelance jobs,  James Baxter is still flying the flag for 2D animation, and animator-turned academic Tom Sito trains his students at USC in the correct use of exposure sheets. And I still use Ruben's model sheets from "Lion King" to teach quadruped locomotion to my students.

Who says 2D animation is dead?

---Alex

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jettisoned - "Radiohead meets Hawkwind"


Welsh filmmaker (and friend of FLiP) Nathan Erasmus has teamed up with young psychedelic rockers KOYO to produce a new sci-fi inspired animated video for the band’s new single ‘Jettisoned’.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Andrea Torrejon Talks Character Design

Andrea Torrejon is a London based character designer, best known for her work on Rovio's Angry Birds.

Character design is one of the most fun parts of our industry, but also one of the most competitive, and hardest to break into.

We asked Andrea to talk a little bit about her work, and what is involved in being a professional character designer.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tara's Lasting Impressions

Last May, I was having lunch in the new courtyard at Nickelodeon (where I work) with writer Andrew Blanchette.  There were some guys sandblasting cartoon characters into the concrete benches. Working in the midst of them was a model-pretty woman - not the type you would cast in a blue-collar role, unless it was a "Flashdance" remake.   I told Andrew. "We need to go talk to her."
 "We need to go talk to her."           
And so we met Tara Tarrant, owner of LaJolla Stone Etching. She was putting the finishing touches on a very impressive Ninja Turtles etching that wrapped around a bench. So how does a gal like her find herself sandblasting for a living?
Tara gave FLiP the scoop:

"I come from a long line of artistically gifted individuals, mainly on my mothers side. My grandmother and mother are amazing oil painters and my mother is a muralist as well. I believe I must have picked up any artistic talent that I possess from these amazing and talented women. I do not have any formal art schooling, but I have always loved art and being creative.  It's in the blood!"