Friday, December 28, 2012

Animators with Shotguns

In 1992, I was in San Francisco doing storyboards for The Nightmare Before Christmas.  My friend and colleague James Baker called to see if I'd be into going skeet shooting.  Dave Gordon had shotguns and wanted to go to a shooting range in Oakland.  My experience with rifles was strictly of the arcade variety, but I had a car, which made me an ideal person to let tag along.

We headed over the Bay Bridge to a grassy firing range I swear I have seen on Mythbusters.  The first thing I learned about shotguns is that their recoil hurts.  On my first try, the gun kicked back so violently, it whacked me in the mouth.  I saw cartoon stars for a few seconds as I rolled my tongue along my teeth, taking inventory.  James didn't do much better, and Dave had to give us a lesson on how to hold on to the beastly thing.

After a few rounds, the range pro (or whatever he's called) came over and not only fine-tuned my rifle holding, but also adjusted my stance.  By simply pointing my toes in a certain direction, I became a clay pigeon killing machine.

Pull!   BLAM!   Pull!  BLAM!


Film Review - The Life of Pi

The Life of Pi
The Life of Pi is a remarkably good film, well written, beautifully directed, and an incredible achievement given that the subject matter feels essentially un-filmable. But what is especially notable is the visual effects work. I don't think I have ever seen a film in which, from start to finish, I simply could not tell where the real animals ended and the CG ones began.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paul Harrison Talks about Getting a New TV Series off the Ground

Dolly
Paul Harrison and Evgenia Golubeva are two very talented animation artists who are developing a new animated TV series for kids. FLIP asked them some questions about how an independent artist gets a new TV series off the ground.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What was the best animated Feature of 2012?

First the BAFTAs, then the Oscars

Award season is almost upon us. Every year in December a swelling tide of BAFTA DVDs and screeners arrives by post, a satisfyingly large heap of swag that makes me very popular at my in-laws, and makes Santa himself look like Uncle Scrooge.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past

1987
Every Fall, the annual challenge of designing my Christmas card creeps up on me.  I really like doing it, and love getting cards from animation friends who do the same.  I thought I'd share some of my better ones from the past 28 years.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Merry Christmas from the REAL Tiny Tim

Spot the Difference
Way back in 1971 my Dad's animation studio at no. 13 Soho Square in London took on their biggest project to date - a TV adaptation of Charles Dickens'  A Christmas Carol. The 22 minute TV special was produced by Chuck Jones and many scenes were animated by Ken Harris, one of Chuck's star animators from Road Runner days.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bob Camp Visits Newtown

A shrine for the victims.  Photo couresty of Bob Camp.
Bob Camp, of Ren and Stimpy fame,  lives not far from Newtown, Connecticut; a place most people had never heard of until last Friday.  Like everyone, Bob, a father of two, was deeply disturbed by the senseless, cowardly act of violence inflicted upon helpless children and school teachers.  He posted this on his Facebook page today, and generously let me share with you:

"Last night Gwen and I went to Sandy Hook had dinner and went to see the things people left in a huge makeshift memorial for the shooting victims and the people of Newtown. 

The Snowman and the Snowdog


Christmas Eve in the UK will see the airing of The Snowman and The Snowdog - a new adaptation of Raymond Briggs' beloved children's book The Snowman. The original animated version of the Snowman was broadcast on 26th December 1982 and was nominated for the 1982 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Producer Claus Toksvig explains how to make an independent animated film

 
Claus Toksvig in an independent Producer based at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, recently returned from the Creative Talent Network (CTN) Expo in Burbank, Los Angeles. Claus talked to FLIP about the challenges of making independent animated films outside of the studio system.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Like FLIP? "Like" FLIP!


Hey readers!  If you like FLIP and Facebook, "Like" FLIP on Facebook!  You'll hear about our new posts on your Facebook wall, as well as updates on previous posts.

Click Here!

How to Make an Animated Film

One of the biggest challenges for an animator is to tackle a short film project. Most working animators don't - they're usually too busy. But at the best animation schools, students usually tackle a group film project in their graduation year. Short films are a ton of work and they present a huge variety of film-making challenges.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Uli Meyer brings Ronald Searle's St Trinians to life.


Uli Meyer is one of the most talented 2D animators of his generation, and a huge admirer of the work of legendary British cartoonist Ronald Searle, creator of St Trinian's School and the Molesworth series.

Uli has been working for a while now on an animated adaptation of Searle's work, not an easy task given the complex, subtle drawing style and the challenge of bringing the eccentric characters to life in animation without losing their charm.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Francis Glebas and The Animator's Eye


Francis Glebas is a director, designer and story board artist with a long career in the animation industry. We asked him some questions about his work and his latest book "The Animator's Eye".

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Rocking Horse and the End of the World

As the Mayan doomsday approaches, I thought I would dust off this true story, one of my favorites from the old-format FLIP , from 2007. -Steve

by Nancy Beiman

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY. OCTOBER, 1962.

We were living in a 1900 house that had splendid quartersawn oak floors with the planks laid in a herringbone pattern whose texture I can still feel. I loved to run my hands along the colorful shadow cast on the living room floor by the small stained glass window in the sun room.

There wasn't much of anything else to play with since my father's salary as a music teacher in the local high school was just enough to get us into an apartment in this once-elegant neighbourhood (Dad told me later that "I knew it was going downhill since I could afford to live there.") The elegance did not extend to the heat - there wasn't any. The twisted radiators produced nothing but noise, vibrations, and the rumor of monsters in the basement. We had frost inside the windows. So, at age five, I was an expert at getting dressed under the heavy blankets in the bedroom I shared with my three year old sister, Paula.

Imagine, then, the sensation when Dad brought home a rocking horse - a magnificent creature, molded in finest plastic, mounted on springs that attached to a cruciform metal frame. It had a wild eye and a beautifully sculpted head. The springs made a crinking sound when you rode it. A glorious horse, and purchased amonth before Chanukah! But my sister and I were too small to question why.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Scott Petersen talks about founding Golden Street Animation


Golden Street Productions was founded by Scott Petersen in 2009
Scott Petersen, founder of Golden Street Animation, talks to FLIP about the perils and pitfalls of setting up his own independent animation company.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Phantom Harbor's "Hurry Home for Christmas"

I have to share my favorite Christmas video, created by friend of FLIP Shannon Shea.  I have known Shannon since our days at CalArts thirty years ago, when he was a frustrated student in the Film Graphics Department. He has had a long career as a frustrated make-up effects artist, with a resume as long as Santa's gift list.  He's worked on films such as Predator, Terminator 2, Dances with Wolves, and my favorite Drag Me to Hell, just to name a few.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ravi Shankar and the Freshman


News of the death of Ravi Shankar brought to mind a time when, as a CalArts student, I saw him perform live on campus.  It was 1981 and I was a freshman, straight out of South Jersey; meaning, I knew NOTHING.   I ran into my friend from the music school, Dave Coste.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pinewood Studios, and the Secrets of Motion Capture Revealed


Pinewood Studios - home of 007
Yesterday FLIP visited the motion capture studio Centroid, based in Pinewood Studios, with a group of students from Buckinghamshire New University. Motion Capture, sometimes called "Performance Capture", is an animation technique which captures real-time actor's performances and turns them into digital data which can be used to create animated characters - like the character "Gollum" played by Andy Serkis in The Lord of The Rings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Andy Serkis, Imaginarium and Animal Farm

David Davis is an animator who has just joined Andy Serkis' new motion capture studio Imaginarium, a digital animation studio based in Ealing, London, dedicated to the creation of digital characters using Performance Capture technology. On 20th October 2012 the studio acquired rights to The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and also a new motion capture adaptation of Animal Farm, which Serkis will direct. FLIP asked David to tell us a little about his new job.
Andy Serkis will direct Orwell's classic totalitarian satire Animal Farm

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rusty's Memorial Service

As you most likely have heard, Rusty Mills passed away December 8th.  His wife, Andrea, has welcomed all to his memorial service tomorrow:

2:00 pm, Tuesday, December 11

Glen Haven and Sholom Memorial Park
Glen Haven Mortuary
13017 N. Lopez Canyon Road
Sylmar, California 91342
Phone: (818) 899-5211

And you can still donate to the relief fund.. Over $16.000 has been raised to help with medical costs.  

So long Rusty.  I'll always remember the fun times at CalArts.  
CalArts Halloween party, 1983.  Mike Show, Rusty (as Boris Badenov0, Rob Minkoff (Sammy Claus), Steve Moore (blue meanie), Leon Joosen, Mona and Brett Koth. 



The Hobbit - Some Unexpected Visual Effects

The Hobbit is in cinemas from Thursday
Film producer and friend of FLIP Bob Thompson went to a private screening of The Hobbit - an Unexpected Journey in London on Sunday, followed by a Q&A with the director. We invited Bob to share with us some of his thoughts about the film, and especially some technical notes on the highly unusual way in which it was made.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Brief Plea for Freedom of Speech

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, also known as The Bill of Rights
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pups of Liberty now on DVD!

Hear ye!  Hear ye! A message of independence!  Friends of FLIP Bert and Jennifer Klein announce the DVD release of their independently animated film Pups of Liberty.  When I say 'independent', I don't mean 'small studio financing their own film', I mean 'animators working out of their living room for free'. Bert and Jennifer enlisted heavyweight animation talent such as Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, Frans Vischer, Hyun Min Lee, Tony de Rosa,  Jay Jackson, and James Lopez to lend their skills to the cause.  The resulting film is  the top quality production you see here.....



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Graphic Storytelling at the Animation Workshop

Gateway to the Animation Workshop
The Animation Workshop in Denmark has announced a new Graphic Storytelling Programme starting in September 2013. This is excellent news from a school that is already in my opinion among the very best English-language schools for animation anywhere in the world. They produce world-class talent; students who are pretty much production-ready as soon as they graduate.

The new programme aims to focus on "drawing, sequential storytelling, lay-out, scripting, story boarding for films, cross media and developing original graphic universes". Students will also learn about "working as a freelancer and starting up your own company focusing on graphic storytelling".

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Thief & The Cobbler - The Recobbled Cut - Part 2

Garrett Gilchrist's Recobbled Cut

Independent film maker Garrett Gilchrist has spent many years trying to re-assemble the original director's cut of one of the great might-have-been animated feature films - The Thief and the Cobbler. In this second part of our interview (you can see the first part here), Garrett explains what inspired him to create his latest version of The Thief: The  Recobbled Cut - Mark 4.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Film Review: The Hobbit - an Unexpectedly Long Journey

The Hobbit, part 1. But why three parts?
As anticipation builds for the December 14 release date of Peter Jackson's latest journey to Middle Earth, FLIP invited Animator Andreas Wessel-Therhorn to review The Hobbit - an Unexpected Journey. Andreas caught up with the first part of the new trilogy at a special Academy screening in Hollywood on Sunday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Taking Care of Dad

Oscar H. Moore, a.k.a. Dad.
I spent the first 19 years of my professional career living in an industry Never Never Land, a place where my life could be all about animation.  My troubles were cartoon troubles.  I knew that heavy, grown-up problems existed in the world, but I had somehow dodged them for twenty years while pursuing  animation glory in Hollywood.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Film Review - Persistence of Vision; The Untold Story of the Greatest Animated Film Never Made


FLIP invited animator and storyboard artist Michael Schlingman to review Kevin Schreck's new documentary film Persistence of Vision - The Untold Story of the Greatest Animated Film Never Made, about the making of The Thief and The Cobbler. Michael worked on The Thief, and was also interviewed for Persistence of Vision. He went to a special screening of the film in Leeds last week.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Thief and the Cobbler - The Recobbled Cut Mk 4

Cover artwork for Garrett Gilchrist's Recobbled Cut
Garrett Gilchrist is an independent film-maker with a passion for animation. He has spent many years attempting to rebuild the original director's cut of one of animation's greatest might-have-been epic films: The Thief and the Cobbler. In a two-part interview, FLIP asked Garrett to talk a little about his latest edit - The Recobbled Cut (Mark 4).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For Rusty


Rusty Mills needs your help.  He is near the end, suffering from cancer, but is leaving behind a wife and a lot of hospital bills.  A fundraiser has been set up on his behalf.  Please help.

Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design

The Noble Approach - Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design
Animation designer and director Tod Polson has been working for over a year on a new book about the life and art of legendary designer Maurice Noble, who had a 60 year career in the animation business and was responsible for the look of some of the most famous Looney Tunes shorts, including What's Opera Doc?, Duck Dodgers and the Road Runner series. FLIP caught up with Tod at the Animation Workshop in Denmark and asked him a few questions about his new project.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Some Unique Gifts to Fight Over

In the United States, unless your TV has been broken, your newspaper shut down, and your internet connection failed, you know all about "Black Friday".  This term is not in reference to post-Thanksgiving bowel movements.  This is the day, the awful day, when media advertisers rile people into such a frenzy as to act out as a mob of deal-hunting vigilantes.

So what's a mild mannered, somewhat sane, hunched and goofy person to do?  Well, let FLIP rile you  into a geek frenzy with some cool, unique gifts from people who have been featured in this year's FLIP!

Ready?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The day the Chancellor of the Exchequer called me a Luddite


Me in my 2D days
Years ago, back in 1999, I was working at DreamWorks in Los Angeles when some old University friends came to stay. They were Frances Osbourne and her new husband, George. At the time George was a wannabe Tory MP, working his way up the greasy political pole and hoping to get elected, far from the financial and political power he wields today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mickey & Me in the 21st Century

Red pants day at D-World, July '74.

I share the same birthday as Mickey Mouse - November 18th.  He is a cartoon character.  I draw cartoon characters.  I am 50 and aging.  He is 84 and not - though you could argue that he's been dead for decades.

When I was 27, I worked with a guy who had been a clean-up artist on Sleeping Beauty.  I remember thinking, "Old-timer."  Now that I have screen credits older than 27,  the term must now apply to me.

I'm an old-timer.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The birth of Queen's Counsel, plus a very nasty letter



In 1993 I was a law student in London, working occasionally at Disney during my summer vacations to pay my way through school. I also had a part-time job working for a Member of Parliament, a kind man called Peter Thurnham, who let me run loose in the Palace of Westminster pretending to be on important business.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why do animators hate Motion Capture?


Andy Serkis at Comic Con 2011, photographed by Gerald Geronimo
Animators hate Motion Capture. We hate it because it threatens us, threatens to replace what we do so carefully and painstakingly and slowly with fast, inexpensive, automated technology. I first heard about it way back in 1987 on the set of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" when it was rumoured that a technology existed whereby a computer could capture an actor's motion and express it instantly as a piece of 3D animation. Well, that'll never catch on, I thought (or hoped, more likely). Phil Nibbelink, one of the most talented animators on The Rabbit, called Motion Capture "the battle cry of the untalented". How we laughed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zoom Rockman takes on the world of comics

Zooming ahead - a new force in comics
Move over Marvel, DC and The Beano - Zoom Rockman is in town. His new comic, appropriately titled "Zoom", has been on sale at newstands in the UK since 2009. This award-winning cartoonist has created new characters such as Crasher, Grumpa Grouch, The Nutters, Freezer Man, a Yorkshire terrier called Rocky, and an annoying little brother named Ace. Zoom has an agent, distribution outlets and a growing fan club. But, most surprising of all, Zoom is just 11 years old. Back in 2009 when he published his first comic, he was nine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

TRON 30th: Memories From the Grid (and Beyond!)


TRON dropped audiences into a glowing realm of Bits, Programs, Systems and Game Grids – the unseen computer world manipulated by its Users. As one of the Users on the original crew I still feel that glow in memories that refuse to fade.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pixar, Brave, Mark Andrews and The Importance of Wearing a Kilt


Last night I went to a screening in Soho of Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman's charming celtic romp - Brave - which features a red-haired heroine in a Scottish setting (Readers of Flip will already know something of the origins of Merida's fiery hair).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Enough of the Blade Runner Future Already!

by Aurelio O'Brien


Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 1950-60’s. I was 11 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I rode GE’s “Carousel of Progress” and Monsanto’s “Adventures through Inner Space” in Disneyland, humming along with it’s theme songs, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and “Miracles through Molecules.” The view of my future back then was bright and rosy, with the promise of abundant clean energy, candy-colored plastic everything, marvelous, genetically-enhanced foods, and the best thing of all, personal hovercrafts.
The future yesterday.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haunted in A-113

This time of year always makes me think of Cal Arts' Halloween parties.  They were the wildest, most bizarre galas only a school of artists could conjure.  The parties were exclusive to students and alumni, who could bring two outside guests.   Locals were always trying to crash the party, keeping the old men in yellow who were CalArts Security running all night.

In October of 1985, the Character Animation Dept. had its own 'haunted house' tour in the now trivially-famous room A-113.  They created a maze of horrors through which I found myself getting totally lost, even though I had been in this room hundreds of times as a student.

Sue Nichols, center, as a gypsy woman, Juliet Duncan, right as a dead woman, and Dave Cutler wearing a voodoo mask, behind.   Halloween, 1986.   
Sue Nichols was one of the student masterminds behind the haunted house.  She told FLIP:

"We did those Haunted Houses for ...what...3-4 years...? (Yah, I was around after graduation to see the tradition carried on.) Best room ever was the year we ended the maze with Jim Reardon in a small dark room with a baseball bat and bullhorn. People would rise up out of the maze into a seemingly safe room.  Jim would blow the rrrrrreally loud horn as Rich Moore flashed a light on him and opened the door.  The scared people fell out into the hall ... right into the middle of the line of people waiting to go in.  Screaming people falling over themselves to rush out of the haunted house put the waiting virgins into a state of panic!  They were in the right state of freak before they even entered the maze.  Anything we did would make them scream after that.  Awesome idea!  And of course the screaming people had to save face and never admitted that they jumped at the sound of a horn.  They made the house sound scarier than it was to the line of waiting guests.  Egos make great PR.

Dale McBeath and I made a graveyard on top of desks and made people crawl into a grave and through a maze underground.  As you climbed down into the grave, Juliet Duncan (dressed as a dead woman) sat up in her coffin and screamed right into your face.  She also played a dead bride with Dave Cutler as her butler one year.  They made you crawl under the wedding cake table into a room of mirrors."

My own most vivid memory was crawling through a tunnel (think Bruce Willis in Die Hard) toward a 90 degree corner around which a strobe light was flashing.  Dan Jeup was ahead of me, crawling along, laughing at how cool everything was.  Ten feet from the corner, an evil gremlin stepped out from around the corner and stood in the strobe.  

"What the hell is that?" Dan laughed.  

The creature had long pointy ears and a head full of wild hair.  It had a square body and tiny little legs with long, pointy nails on its feet.  "What the hell IS that?"  I said.  It appeared to be real - not a mannequin or prop.  Was it a chimp in a costume?  

"What the hell is that?"  Dan and I said in unison.

Then the thing began to run toward us!  "Oh shit!" Dan shouted, putting it in reverse.  He slammed into me, and I slammed into someone behind me and we were all freaked out for a second until someone shouted "It's Broose!  It's Broose!"  

Broose Johnson was a student with prosthetic legs.  He had simply removed them and was walking on his hands in costume.  It was very effective.  He ran right up to Dan's face, paused, then casually walked back around the corner, leaving us in a dark tunnel that now smelled like farts.  

Sue recalled Broose's antics:

"Broose loved taking off his legs for this haunt and played a monster running around several times. I think he was a broken statue one year too." 

Brenda Chapman played the Bride of Frankenstein with Alan Smart as the mad doctor.  She recalled the tunnel:

"They brought in live bugs and cockroaches and put them in large clear plastic boxes the you had to crawl over to get away from Broose. Really creepy! If the fire marshal had found us out, we would have been shut down. Once you were in the maze, there was no other way out but forward."

Sue Nichols elaborated:

"We also had a room devoted to bugs one year. Spiders, I believe. Filled the floor with packing popcorn and draped spiders on cobwebs everywhere. Under a strobe, the room crawled!!! Simple yet effective effect. Loads of fun, fond memories."

To truly appreciate these productions, just consider the talent pool involved; Sue, Brenda, Broose and the whole gang herein mentioned have all had very prolific careers in animation.  It's true "ya hadda be there", and I'm glad I was. 

-Steve

Read about the CalArts party in "THE Halloween Party" from the original FLIP.  

Georgia Woods, Bullying, and Cyber Mentors

I have been doing some teaching lately at Bucks New University and I came across this excellent short film done by a recent graduate of their Animation and New Media course. The film is by Clare Hunt and is narrated by Georgia Woods, a 13 year old girl who was subjected to cyber bullying at her new school.
The film packs a surprisingly strong punch for a student film and it shows how animation can be used not just to entertain but to tackle important social issues. I also love the simple animation style - which does exactly what it needs to do.

--- Alex

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy and Me

Hurricane Sandy landed on my town last night.  Port Norris, New Jersey sits at the Delaware Bay, on the southern edge of the state.  It was a once prosperous town due to the robust oyster industry.   But since the mid 1950's, it has been known mostly for "the good ol' days".  I grew up here and credit this town for my blunt manner.  "What the hell do you want?" is just our way of saying "Hello." in good ol' Port Norris.

Moore Studios building, before and after renovations
Not an animation mecca by any stretch, I found myself moving back here in 2004 to help care for my aging father.  I bought a commercial building for studio space and renovated the 1890 structure with modern conveniences like central air conditioning, heat, and plumbing.  Yes, plumbing.  And because it is in an area with no municipal water or sewer,  I had to pony up for a well for water and a septic system for you-know-what.

During the renovation process, an old timer - a very old timer - stopped me in the post office to ask, "Are they going to make you put a toilet in it?"

"Yes."  I said.

The old timer shook his head incredulously.  Back in his day, the local septic system was a stream called "Dickey's Ditch" that snaked through the town.  It runs directly behind many of the old commercial buildings along Main Street, including my studio.  What was then a place to pee is now protected wetlands.

After a complete overhaul, I set up shop and have worked on features such as Coraline, Despicable Me,  and The Lorax with a half-mile commute from my house.  I cannot underscore how great it is to work without daily visits from an art co-ordinator, throwing me out of my drawing zone to ask me how my drawing is coming along.

Sandy, last night, a little past high tide.
Yesterday, Sandy came to visit.  At about 10:30 last night, an 18 foot wave came charging up the bay and over  into Port Norris, flooding Main Street.  There had not been a flood like this since the '50's, with water cresting about a foot high on the ground floor of the studio.  My house was on higher ground, undamaged (whew!).  Water had receded by morning, and I found Sandy had curiously rearranged things inside the studio.  I had a large plastic storage bin full of animation papers dating back to The Nightmare Before Christmas - all personal stuff saved from these productions.  The bin was tilted against the wall, perilously close to tipping.  Had that happened, everything in the bin would have been wrecked.  I immediately move the bin upstairs (duh!).  Had I stored this stuff in a cardboard box....ugh.

Let that be a lesson for youse!

Evidence of Sandy's visit.  A very dirty girl. 
All in all, it could have been much worse.  A half-mile south of the studio is a clam processing plant under eight feet of water.  Holy Clamato!  My first floor is a soggy mess right now, and Moore Studios has temporarily relocated to a corner of my bedroom.  Stealing a nap at work has never been so easy.

-Steve
My Dickey's Ditch over-floweth.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Animation as Propaganda

As we approach election day, the airwaves have been blackened with rhetorical flack as the two parties try to pick off what undecided voters remain.   But of all the political propaganda I have seen this fall, this short, Why Obama Now is the best.  WHY?  Because the filmmaker, Lucas Grey, took one of President Obama's stump speeches and illustrated it in animation.  And while this may not sound interesting, it is very well done.

The still frame is very misleading - this is not another silly Jib-Jabesque cut-out photo face thing.  Grey uses the medium of animation to visually sell the President's views on economics.  The graphics - a stylized animation reminiscent of U.P.A. - is a perfect counterpoint to Obama's monotone delivery.  Grey not only animates the content of the speech, he adds material to support the speech as well.
It's as intelligently done as it is skillful.   You may not agree with the viewpoint, but I don't think anyone could argue with the quality of the short.

Why Obama Now is another great example of the magic of animation.  Ideas are communicated with stripped-down, simplified visuals that entertain as they inform.
-Steve

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Double Negative lays off Bond Workers

"You're fired"
According to the London Evening Standard, Double Negative, which did a lot of work for the latest Bond film SkyFall, is laying off staff. These days the word in London seems to "Vancouver", as projects and jobs get exported to Canada, which offers a Producer tax credit of 40% to film-makers who carry out their work there. Add in some regional subsidies and you can finance over 50% of the value of your film courtesy of the Canadian tax-payer.

According to Double Negative: “The number of people we will be making redundant is not significant. From time to time we need to grow and contract to reflect the needs of the films we are working on. Our policy has always been — and will continue to be — to hold onto people where possible."

And there is a lot of truth in this. Big projects come and go, companies expand and contract. DNeg took on hundreds of people a year and a half ago to crew up the epic John Carter, a film that - for reasons I don't fully understand - no-one wanted to see.

Meanwhile Soho visual effects artists wait for the next big project, wondering if they should be applying for a Canadian visa.

----Alex


Monday, October 15, 2012

Memorial for Tissa David in NYC

A memorial for Tissa David, who worked on many animated films including Raggedy Ann and Andy will take place at the Academy Lighthouse Theater in New York City on Tuesday October 23rd at 7pm. 

The program will include five speakers and will include clips from the many films that Tissa worked on, including: Eggs, Everybody Rides the Carousel, Cockaboody, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Candide, The Soldier’s Tale, The Red Shoes, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, The Marzipan Pig, The Dancing Frog and POE.

Where: Academy Lighthouse Theater, 111 East 59th Street, NYC

When: Tuesday, October 23rd, at 7pm. Admission is free

--- Alex

A dispatch from the bizarre alternate universe of the PGCLTHE


Last week I began part-time study for a PGCLTHE, that is to say a Post Graduate Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Not a very snappy title for a course but, If you want to teach in higher education in the UK, at least in the public sector (which is almost all of it), this is a piece of paper you must have.

I have been teaching animation in schools all over the world for over 15 years and I adore it. I love seeing the light come on when students start to "get it", and the sense of achievement that they get from having successfully done something they thought they could not do. And I think I have figured out pretty well by now what works and what doesn't. 

However I have absolutely no formal training in teaching and in order to teach at a university I am required to have a PGCLTHE. So I have to admit I joined up slightly unwillingly. Still, I was looking forward to my first class, hoping that I would learn plenty of new stuff to make me a better teacher. 

The odd thing is, the PGCLTHE doesn't seem to be about teaching at all. In fact, I am not at all sure what it is about. During a 3 hour lecture I didn't understand anything the instructors said. Actually, it was worse than that. I thought I understood, but it turned out I didn't. The things I thought I knew turned out to be completely wrong. It was as if I had stepped into an alternate universe.

The class was about digital portfolios. The instructor, Julie, asked the class if we knew what a digital portfolio was. Well, I thought easy stuff, and put my hand up. "A digital portfolio is a website or a blog, showcasing your best work" (We animators know about these - we all have one). Yes, said Julie, enthusiastically, that's right. "And what is it for?" Well, "to get a job", I replied. "yes", said Julie, but in a tone of voice that meant "no".

The digital portfolio, Julie explained, was to be our first exercise, - to build one. Excellent, I thought smugly, I already have two websites, a blog, and an online animation school. This will be a doddle - I have already done the work.

Except that it turned out that an online portfolio or blog was not what Julie was talking about at all. It finally dawned on me that what she meant by a digital portfolio was something entirely new to me - something called an electronic academic portfolio, or "eApp" - a sort of internal invitation-only site where I am supposed to write "dimensions and "documents" which "cross reference one another" with "tags".  

"I'm sorry Julie", I said, "but I have no idea what you're talking about".

"Well..." Julie began, looking a little anxious that I was being so slow. At this point Jim, the course leader, took over. "It's about professionalism", he explained. "It's your professional journey". But what is it for? I asked, baffled. Patiently,  Jim tried to explain. "It is about your "learning and teaching philosophy". "It maps what you do", he said. "It logs your journey". "But what goes in it?" I asked. Jim tried to explain again, talking to me as if I were very young and very dim. He used the word "professional" a lot, and made round inclusive gestures with his hands. I still didn't understand though, but I stopped asking questions because I could see I was getting on their nerves.

Later on I went through the online documents to try and figure it out. As it turns out, here's an example of the sort of thing that is supposed to go in an eApp:

1. Articulate an overview of professional practice from curriculum design to differentiated delivery with reference to scholarship & pedagogic theory.

Huh? 

And:

2. Demonstrate a capacity for sustained reflective & evaluative discussion of teaching practice & for action planning for educational development needs.

I mean, I don't know about you, but I'd say that, whatever teaching is or is not about, it has nothing to do with demonstrating a capacity for sustained reflective & evaluative discussion of teaching practice & for action planning for educational development needs.

What it definitely does have to do with is:
1. Knowing your subject
2. Being enthusiastic
3. Preparing your classes
4. Talking in a clear voice so people can hear you
5. Not talking down to your students
6. Being patient.

After the class, from which I emerged totally depressed, one of my colleagues said to me: "Alex, the thing you have to understand is this: If those that can, do, and those that can't, teach, then those that can't teach - teach teaching."

--- Alex

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Rocks in my Pockets" trailer.

by Signe Baumane

Rocks In My Pockets is my first feature.  I used to call it "a funny film about depression" but it is more complicated than that; funny, sad, then funnysadfunny.  Honestly, how can depression just be funny?  If I had to put the description of the film in one sentence, it would probably be:

"A silent killer from my family's secret past is trying to get me. Will I survive this fight?" -very dark and dramatic!

We just finished (3 hours, 32 minutes, 12 seconds and 6 frames ago) a trailer for the work in progress, and I wanted to share it with you....

WORK IN PROGRESS TRAILER from Signe Baumane on Vimeo.

We were going to have a Kickstarter campaign in September, but things didn't pan out as intended (too busy with making the film ). We do need money for post-production, so we will postpone the the campaign until January, 2013. It would be great if you could click on 'donate' button on the film's website, http://www.rocksinmypocketsmovie.com/, but if you can't it, would be amazing if you could help to spread the word about the film. Show the trailer to your friends, post it on forums, help us to connect with the mental health community.

Or simply give us a feedback on the trailer -
1) does it intrigue you? does it make you want to see the film?
2) how does it flow? is it too long? too short?
3) do you have enough context to connect with the trailer/film's message?
4) do you understand who these creatures are - one in the water, the other in  forest?
5) do you care for the 4 women?

We are going to make another trailer in January, for the finished film and we want to learn from your feedback. If you want to read about the making of it, here's a bit on my blog:
http://rocksinmypocketsthemovie.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/trailer/.

And read more about Rocks in my Pockets in FLIP!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Drew Barrymore Gives Birth to Olive


In 1999, I had the honor to direct Matt Groening's Christmas special "Olive, the Other Reindeer".  It was based on the book by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, who based the character Olive on their dog of the same name.

Last Wednesday, Drew Barrymore, who voiced the title character, gave birth to a girl and named her Olive!  I, for one, think this is very cool.  As the Christmas special was concerned, Olive was Drew.  The charm in her voice brought so much character to that  bizarre-looking little dog.  

A few years after making the special, I saw Drew at the Dresden in Hollywood.  I said, "Hey Olive!"  and her face lit up.  She clearly loves this character.  

Congrats Drew!  And Happy birthday, Olive!
-Steve

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Pitch from a World Class God Gifted Movie Story Invention Whiz Kid


The following is an actual e-mail I received, bad syntax and all.  Enjoy!
Steve

I wish to approach you with a request that would be of immense benefit to both of us, I am john Oliver a world class God gifted animation movie story invention wiz Kid From  East London  Republic of south Africa with specialty in animation movie story concepts and cartoon character inventions at pencil drawing stage,

Below are the titles of (Four) world class Hollywood grade animation movie stories alongside treatment and synopsis invented by me which are of high Entertaining USA and European Market viewing quality,

 (1) Millennium Goliath

(2) Phones at war
 

(3) Mystic cat
 

(4) Crazy tourist
 

In search of a reputable publication production funding partner, who will help out financially as an Executive production partner?
 

in order to transform animation movie story ideas files invented by me as a freelancing animation artist, into comic books Aimed at young children international market age of 12 to 14 with reputable 
 production investors,

 Who understands the importance's of a strong cartoon concept as to make revenues out of my creations
Upon your responds, I shall then provide you with more details and relevant information that will help you understand this transaction,

Be rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us
 

Awaiting your urgent reply
 

Thanks and regards’
 

John Oliver
 

Animation movie story inventor


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chuck and Aaron fight to save "The Legend of Tembo"


Chuck Williams and Aaron Blaise, fresh from the recent closure of Digital Domain, are fighting to save the feature film "The Legend of Tembo" which they spent two years developing. According to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, they still have a fighting chance to save their picture.

The Beijing company Galloping Horse has bought out the remains of Digital Domain for $32m at a bankruptcy auction. Chuck and Aaron are now hoping that the Chinese investors will also have the stomach to finish "Tembo", the story of an African elephant taken from his home and forced to go to war.

All power to Chuck and Aaron - and what a triumph if they can pull it off.

---Alex

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Creating a Web Series for Fun & (ahem) Profit


This is a cautionary tale about selling a web series.  It has been fictionalized to protect the guilty. 

Last spring, I got a call from Jenifer “Toddy” Totsworthy, producer from my glory days at Usher House Pictures in the ‘90’s.  She was now involved in a capital venture, producing original web content for a dot-com called “Phfirt!”.   She wanted to know if I would be interested in  creating a web series from soup to nuts.

She responded to my stunned silence  by giving me the back-story.  Phfirt! is a website of things amusing to teenage boys and underclassmen, with a message board for snarky teens rants, a page for cool and uncool products, videos of music mash-ups, college high-jinx, and cartoons where characters are mutilated.  It is the brainchild of Dylan Wankler, the 20 year-old son of Jerry Wankler, Toddy’s old boss at Usher House.   Usher had tossed  Toddy and Jerry to the curb in 2009 after shutting down the studio’s 82 year-old animation department in favor of a motion capture studio in Vancouver.  Ironically, it was Jerry’s idea.

Dylan started the site as a high school sophomore. Now a college sophomore, his site is worth $4.5 million.  For his out-of-work pappy to muscle in on the fun was a no-brainer.  Jerry aimed to take Phfirt! to the next level by posting professionally made original web series .   Knowing he is universally despised by artists. Jerry hired his old whipping girl Toddy (using  Dylan’s money) to lure professionals to the site.    I was on the call list. 

“Good money, for the internet.”  she said.  Good wine, for a box.

Then she dangled the BIG CARROT.  “If the web series is a hit, it could evolve into a TV series or feature film.”  Toddy knew me well enough to stop herself mid-pitch. “Yeah, yeah,, I know it sounds like horseshit.  But I’d like to work with you again and I think you could have a lot of fun with it. “

Fun?  Well sign me up!

A few days later, I was on a conference call with Toddy, Jerry, and Dylan, pitching my idea for a web series, Son of a Bitch.  It’s about a wolf-boy with a chip on his shoulder.  Dylan laughed, and I sold the show. 

Enter Phfirt! attorney Adam Pickelhauben – a good attorney, for the internet.  He e-mailed a contract – their standard form with my numbers plugged into it.  It seemed friendly enough, just standard legalese.  Toddy underscored this point, “It’s the same deal all the artists get, but your numbers are better.”  I was getting a special deal with the money – lousy pay,  but great for the internet - so why sweat the legal mumbo jumbo?   Plus the  BIG CARROT. It’s all good!

I called my lawyer, Brent Wood.  As soon as I said the words “web series” he groaned.   “I could do a lot of work and spend a lot of your money, but it would still, ultimately, be a shit deal.”  He said.  “With the internet, there are just too many unknowns.  I wouldn’t get involved with it. “  I thanked Brent for his frankness, and for not spending a lot of my money on a shit deal.   I also thanked him for warning me of the imminent screw job.

I gave the contract a real read, and gave it some real thought.  Everything seemed on the up and up, there was nothing objectionable in the deal.  I thought about what could become of the project vis-à-vis the BIG CARROT.  TV and/or movie deals! Money! Cartoon fame!  I thought about what I wanted, in terms of rights and guarantees, and discovered the problem was not what was IN the deal, but rather what was NOT in the deal. 

I e-mailed Adam Pickelhauben with a list of demands:

1. I want a guaranteed attachment to Son of a Bitch in any future form, TV, feature film, whatever. 

2. I want right of first refusal to write and/or direct future web episodes, as well as any future forms of the project.

3. If the project goes nowhere and is terminated, I want the rights to, at some point, revert back to me.

4. I want right of first refusal to produce the series, in all forms, through my company, Moore Studios.

Adam promptly replied “No.” to all of the above.

I replied,  “So even though this deal calls for me to create an original web series to be written, directed, and produced by me, at my studio, hiring my own people, your company, Phfirt!, who stands to profit greatly from my creative efforts, won’t get my back.”

To which Adam replied,  “The other artists are happy with this deal.”

If there were an app for strangling lawyers…..

 “I’m out.”  I said. 

I really didn’t want to be out.  I had already done design work, story outlines,  wrote two episodes, and Toddy had created a budget and schedule for me. I could see the series so clearly, but it was like a hologram. Adam called my bluffs in such dick-ish fashion, I had to call it off. 

Three and a half minutes later, the phone rang.  It was Jerry Wankler.  He had on his “smooth executive” voice.  He dismissed Adam’s jerk tone as just a web-lawyer thing.  “He’s really a good guy, for a web lawyer. ” After hashing things out, Jerry agreed to everything I wanted.  “I’ll have Adam write it up.” 

“Wow!”  I thought, “I’m a baddass negotiator!”

A few days later, Adam e-mailed the new, improved deal, with a very pleasant note, saying this is the deal as per my conversation with Jerry, and politely urged me to sign and FedEx three copies to him forthwith.  Toddy called to likewise usher me along, “We’re losing production time.”.  We had already spent three weeks volleying over this deal.  By my own schedule, I was to start recording in a week. 

I was very eager to get started on Son of a Bitch now that the deal was all straightened out. I was tempted to just sign and send, but a little voice, the one I ignore after a third beer, was saying, “You’d better slow down and read the contract again, doofus.”  

I sat down and went through the whole contract again.  Bla bla bla, yadda yadda yadda……where are the changes? The language was slightly different, but the content was unchanged from before.  I called Wankler.  “Adam didn’t change shit!”  I said. 

I expected Jerry to be surprised; he wasn’t.  He said the company couldn’t give me what I wanted.

“Well who the fuck is the company, Jerry? “  I snapped,  “YOU’RE the fucking company!”

Jerry had to admit that he, indeed, was the fucking company.  He was Phfirt!.  He tried to soft sell, saying this was all standard, and hey, the other artists are okay with it. 

“I’m out.”  I said.  This time, I really wanted out. 

So Phfirt went on without me, launching original animated shorts four months later.  I'm glad for the guys who were happy with their deals, but also glad I didn't get sucked in.  It would have been four very intense months of work, and after paying hired help, I would  have ended up with next to no money and absolutely NO attachment to the project.  Maybe Adam Pickelhauben wasn’t a jerk after all.  Maybe his deal-making was a subtle warning as to what disasters lay ahead - a web-lawyer's wink that the deck was marked.  

Thanks Adam.  You're a swell lawyer, for the internet.  

-Steve