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 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?


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.

Wednesday, November 15, 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!"

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Alex Williams, the Strip King!

 Last month, FLiP's very own Alex Williams won The Cartoon Art Trust Award for Strip Cartooning for his "Queen's Counsel", which has run in The Times of London for the past 25 years. This is a huge honor, the comics equivalent of a BAFTA Award.  Alex is typically modest about it,  saying, "Actually I felt a bit unworthy about the whole thing."


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Prefab Messiahs and The Man Who Killed Reality

Xeth Feinberg, the mad genius behind "Bulbo" and "Papu" tells FLiP about a new venture with his old band, The Prefab Messiahs.  It's a new song and animated video called "The Man Who Stole Reality".   FLiP approves of this message.

FLiP:  Who the heck are the Prefab Messiahs?

Xeth: I like to think of THE PREFAB MESSIAHS as an audio-visual collaborative art project. It seems more respectable and 'sensible' that way.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our Next 4 Years

Immediately after the November election, I was contacted by Carolyn Bates, a long time friend and colleague.  She wanted me to create a public service announcement for a grassroots organization called Our Next 4 Years (ON4Y).   I wrote, designed, voiced, and animated a piece called "Make Cheese, Not Walls".   Enjoy!

I asked Carolyn some questions about Our Next 4 Years.....

1.  What is ON4Y and how did it come to be?

Our Next 4 Years  is an all volunteer organization of almost 300 animation professionals.  We are partnering with progressive organizations in order to create animated PSA’s that can counter the regressive policies of the current administration.  Our group’s members include Oscar, Emmy, Annie and Humanitas award winners and nominees from studios big and small.

Following the election, producer / director, Mike Blum of Pipsqueak Films, reached out to me and broached a grand idea. Mike was motivated to action after reading a fervent Facebook post by his animation supervisor, Ramiro Olmos.  Ramiro wanted to lend his animation skills to help support progressive causes and create change.  Mike has tremendous creative & organizational skills and a good dose of chutzpah to make that happen. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Remembering John Watkiss 1961 - 2017

John Watkiss 1961-2017
John Watkiss, the brilliant animation artist famous for his stunning visual development work on "Tarzan", has been taken by cancer at the far-too-young age of 55

I first met John when I was just 16, when I used to tag along with my sketchpad at the life drawing classes that he taught at my father's old animation studio in Soho Square, and later at "The Diorama" Arts Centre in Regent's Park.

John wouldn't just tell you how to improve your work - he would sit down and show you how to make it better.  Anyone who attended his class took home his drawings - on the corner of the page, mocking your own unskilled efforts, and encouraging you to do better.

At the time I thought all art teachers did this.  It was only later that I found out how few teachers have the confidence and ability to personally correct their students' work. John knew he was better than the rest of us put together, and he didn't hesitate to show you where you had gone wrong.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Erin K's Latest Music Video

Erin K and animation Producer Nathan Erasmus have just released their new video "Assholio", described as a "classic fairytale - classic as in 1600’s nightmarish and disturbing fairytale". And, of course, "who doesn’t want to see a unicorn pig?"  The end result is "somewhere in between a super detailed animatic and a simplistic animation; kind of an "anti-mation".

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yay for Sarah May: Self Help for Animators

Sarah Bates' 2007 FLiP article "Animation Brat" was reposted the other day as a precursor to this brand spanking new interview with her, where she talks about her latest online venture, Yay With Me. Sarah has been doing a self-help blog and podcast called Help Me Be Me that is so fantastic, it has prompted me out of my widower's funk and refueled my interest in old passions like FLiP.  "Self Help for Animators" is a bit of a misnomer; her blog is not aimed at animators specifically. But it does touch on many emotional and psychological issues creatives wrestle with daily.

FLiP: What prompted you to create  Yay With Me?

Sarah: Back in 2010 while I was writing commercial scripts and shooting spec spots, Zooey Deschanel asked me to contribute to Hello Giggles, a pop-culture site for women which she and two other savvy gals were about to launch. She’s my best friend since kindergarten, so I immediately said yes though I didn’t know what I was going to do about the content. My first thought was, “I’ll just be hilarious and Tina Fey will hire me on 30 Rock.” I thought my blog would be the perfect forum for promoting myself as a comedy writer – I pictured Tina Fey running across a shoot-out and immediately sending me a plane ticket. That is… until I started writing blogs.

In my opinion – there’s so much fluff out there that is of no value to the world and I didn’t want to make more of it – in other words, listicles are not my style. I started asking myself, first – what do I have to offer strangers that’s of unique value, which as it turned out – was the most important learning I’ve done for myself. Hence, the current content I create for Hello Giggles – a blog called Teaspoon of Happy.

Once I started thinking in terms of value, the blog became about translating the greatest learning I’ve done in my life – all of which came through hardship.  That insight – I call it “the why,” - is what I try to give to audiences, because truly it’s the missing link to making change of any kind.  You just have to be able to understand what caused the symptom and then you can figure out the solutions.  More importantly, you can forgive yourself because you can finally see it’s not your fault, you’re not broken – the blocks you are hitting are the same ones I’d hit, if I lived your exact life experience. Success comes from having the right tools, and a lot of us haven’t been given the right ones from our own lives.  Plus, a lot of the catalysts for stuck-ness are painful, complicated, and layered, so I take them apart and make them understandable – in my own words (A lot of them are cuss words).  I do a lot of research, but I learned the majority of what I preach through personal experience – including years of therapy with an amazing psychologist that I can’t thank enough.  If this were an Oscar ceremony I’d thank Dr. Sharon Flynn – she gave me a gift I can never repay.  And if you’re in the LA area – she’s practicing!  I highly recommend her to anyone who needs to do some self-work.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Animation Brat

The following is a re-post of one of my favorite articles from the old format FLiP, from 2007.  Enjoy! - Steve

by Sarah May Bates

advertising art director/copywriter/voice-over/commercial actress, and former “animation brat”.

When asked to write this, I have to admit I had no idea what the term “animation brat” meant. Animation and animators are really all I’ve ever known and are still a central inspiration and influence in my life. I grew up with “cool” parents, but when you’re a kid, you don’t know that kind of thing. It was just normal to me. For context, my mom is Carolyn Bates (former BG artist at Fred Calvert, Xerox checker at H&B, moved up from Duck Soup Ink & Paint to Disney producer), and my dad is Nick Bates (Vis FX supervisor at Pepper Films in Los Angeles)*. Everything cool about me stems from my parents, which in certain social spheres, I don’t necessarily cop to. My first exposure to Miyazaki, John K, Tim Burton, classic Sam Raimi - my parents. I was always inspired to draw, be weird, create.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Steve Speaks!

I was honored recently to be interviewed for The Tiara Talk Show, a podcast series created by Tammy Tuckey.  The show is about all things Disney, though it is not a Disney production.  Since its premiere in August of 2013, Tammy has done 103 interviews, with the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Ed Asner, Don Hahn, Jerry Rees, Gary Trousdale, and now me.  Slow news week, I guess.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nancy Beiman: "No Longer Proud" To Be An Academy Member

Photo: Gary Krueger.
Nancy Beiman, supervising animator at Disney, Professor at Sheridan, and friend of FLiP, has told the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that she is "No Longer Proud to Be a Member of This Organization". 

Nancy announced her intention to resign her membership following the new rules which have been hastily introduced following accusations of racism in the current roster of Oscar nominees. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Animator Benn Garnish Introduces Retrofit!

Retrofit from Imagescope Productions on Vimeo.

Animators are film-makers, and it's not unusual to find animators who bridge the gap between animation and live action. Been Garnish, animator and friedn of FLiP, who is responsible for much memorable character and creature animation on films like "Harry Potter", has made a short video titled Retrofit. It's a science-fiction fantasy, set in the near future, "when death is just a new beginning - for those who can afford it."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Amber's Elf

Bringing some Christmas spirit to FLiP, veteran storyboard artist Amber Tornquist Hollinger shares the adventures of Stewie the Elf, her whimsical creative spin on the Elf on the Shelf  phenomenon.
Stewie's Christmas card to Amber's kids.
Stewie, being an Elf on the Shelf, has a whole book to explain his genesis upon arrival to one's home. As it has been told to me, each Elf arrives at each home in his own manner. Last year, right before Christmastime, the family was sitting down eating what could only be described as an out-of-this-world home cooked meal by Mommy.  We heard a knock on our front door.  When answered, we discovered only a gift bag with no note attached. Inside, it turned out, was said Elf.  We sat down in surprise and read the origin-book he had with him, and discovered we needed to name him for him to become part of our family. He was to watch over us and report back to Santa each night.  The children-- stoked as shit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tom Sito Reviews Richard Williams' "Prologue"

A still image from "Prologue"
Animation director Richard Williams recently completed his long-anticipated short film Prologue, premiered at Annecy this past June and recently released in selected theatres in Los Angeles.  Tom Sito, Animator, Director, Historian and President Emeritus of the Animation Guild, wrote us a review of the film.  As a far as we can tell - this is the first review of "Prologue".

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Richard Williams' "Prologue" to Screen in Los Angeles

A still image from Prologue
Animation guru Richard Williams, who directed The Thief and the Cobbler, and was animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, has released a first look at his new six-minute animated short Prologue.  The short film was first screened at Annecy in June of this year, and will be playing soon in selected theatres in Los Angeles. Williams is the author of The Animator's Survival Kit, now the essential textbook for all aspiring animators, as useful for 3D artists as it is for 2D practitioners.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Short of Expectations

Chief, Your Butt's on Fire from Steve Moore on Vimeo.

Two years ago, I finished a short film called, "Chief, Your Butt's on Fire".  I wrote about it in FLiP as my wife, Donna, submitted it to umpteen film festivals.  Thousands of dollars in entry fees later,  we had what can be only described as a flop.  Only two festivals picked it up.

Was the film that bad?

When I started working on this short, Disney still did hand drawn animated features.  By the time I finished, chipping away at it in my spare time over many years, the animation world had changed completely.   Festivals were not even accepting film anymore.

So maybe my little film was too old fashioned for today's scene.  Or maybe it just sucks.  At any rate, here it is, decide for yourself.