Sunday, July 29, 2012

From Slumdog Millionaire to 2012 Olympics

A big congratulations to Brendan Houghton, a super-talented story board artist who recently boarded the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics. I worked with Brendan on Joseph - King of Dreams, and bumped into him years later on Valiant, a worthy attempt to found a full-scale animation studio at Ealing Studios in west London. Since then Brendan has gone on to board many live action films, including Slumdog Millionaire - which is presumably where he met Danny Boyle, who directed the Opening Ceremony.

What fun it must have been to story board - though the best roles seem to have gone to Daniel Craig (how many actors get to star next to The Queen?) and David Beckham, who got to ride a speedboat under Tower Bridge.

Brendan wrote on his Facebook page
"Thank you all so much for your kind words...I think it's a great British success. So blessed to have been a part of it...It has meant so much to me, and therefore to you my loving family."

Awesome job, Brendan! - Alex

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Letter from Xeth (Sent Postage Due)

My old pal and mad genius Xeth Feinberg has been bugging me to have reader comments on the FLIP blog.  Here's his latest rant, word for word. 
-Steve

Hi Steve (and Alex)...

I've been enjoying the 'New Flip' as usual.  For reasons perhaps dealing with deep seated personality issues of my own I feel compelled to make one suggestion, again.

I'm no big fan of Today's Manic Social Media Frenzy and understand the impulse and reasons behind not having any sort of reader comments on the blog. (As expressed by Steve in the past.)  But I also can't help feeling that in FLIP's case you guys are missing a small opportunity to allow your readers/fans to have some sort of direct connection/interaction with the stories and each other.  Maybe you've had experiences being overwhelmed with spam-like, trollish posts and it's just too much bother. And yeah, the world doesn't even need another Cartoon Brew...

I agree, who cares how many comments and posts and shares Flip gets... the world is lousy with that sort of crap these days.  But often I read your posts and have (maybe) some encouraging word, question, comment, 'like' sort of feedback that I'd be happy to post... but isn't worth writing directly to you about.

And FLIP is one of the few things that is low key and topic specific and 'real' enough to make me wonder who else is reading, what they think, if they have any memories or thoughts to add to the posts. I'm always amazed how you guys seem to have known/worked (or almost worked with) everybody...

So there ya go... just a respectful suggestion to reconsider allowing readers to post comments on the blog... and I say this as someone who probably won't even post much themselves....

Anyway, if it doesn't work out, you can always switch back to the current 'Anti-Social Media' set up.

ZZZZZ,
x


For the record, I'm the anti-social one.  Alex is all for comments.  If someone has something of substance to add, I would certainly post it.  But I don't feel a burning need to be another outlet for armchair geniuses and stunted adolescents to wax snarky on "the biz".
-Steve 

Have something of substance to add?  E-mail us at flip@flipanimation.net

Read more about Xeth in this FLIP article from May, 2008.
Read even more about Xeth in THIS FLIP article from Aug-Sept, 2010.

Enjoy this Xeth cartoon, Papu!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Counter Con is Born

By Jerry L. Brice
Future animators awaiting the start of the first Counter Con.
On Friday July 13th, during the week of the world famous San Diego Comic Con, an audience of kids, teens, and adults from throughout the greater San Diego area were treated to a panel of professionals from a variety of areas in the arts and entertainment field at a Tubman/Chavez Multicultural Center in the inner city of Southeast San Diego for the first time ever.

The goal was to expose a couple hundred underprivileged inner city kids to the possibility of a career in the field of comic books, animation, game art, or the behind the scenes business involved in these businesses, from people that are well known for doing that professionally, at a location in the inner city.
Roland Poindexter fields a question.
As the kids entered the venue, they were greeted with posters from some of their favorite shows on Disney XD, and Nickelodeon, provided courtesy of those two major animation studios, as well as our official Counter Con stickers, courtesy of Vince Alvendia and StickerJunkie.com. The Legend of Korra and Motorcity posters were in demand, but they loved the posters for all of the series, and we were honored to have them sponsored by the studios.

I introduced a highly accomplished and experienced group of panelist who were eager to share their stories of professional success, what they do, and how they got into their position as a pro artists, as well as encourage the kids to go forth and work towards their dreams, no matter where they came from.
Panelists David G. Brown, Jerry Brice, Lalo Alcaraz, Brad Constantine, Roland Poindexter 
The speakers present were Denys Cowan, Lalo Alcaraz, David G. Brown, Roland Poindexter, and Brad Constantine.

Special guest Superior Court Judge Dwayne Moring started off the speakers by telling an engaging and heartfelt story on how his childhood love for reading and collecting comic books led him to first be a journalist like Clark Kent, and now, a Superior Court Judge in San Diego, or, if I may, a real life crime fighting judge, either way, his motivation was inspired by what he read as a child in his comic book collection.
Judge Dwayne Moring
As a childhood friend of the judge, I explained to the crowd how Judge Moring’s childhood passion for comic books inspired him to follow in his foot steps to not only collect comic books, but to also pursue a career as a comic artist if that was possible, and to seek more direction from the professional comic book artist gathered in town annually, at the San Diego Comic Con, starting in the mid-70’s.

David G. Brown addresses the audience.
From left: Jerry Brice, Brown, Roland Poindexter, Denys Cowan, Brad Constantine
The next panelist was L.A.Watts Times/LA Sentinel award winning comic book artist David G. Brown, who spoke to the kids about his professional animation career and how that led him to discover his passion for working and teaching art to young people. He imparted to the kids that creating art is a way to embrace your uniqueness.
David also publishes a series of comic books that teach kids how to resolve their conflicts without using violence, stay away from drugs, anti-bullying and other types of situations that kids may be confronted with growing up. 
He brought several copies to give away to the kids.
Roland Poindexter and Denys Cowan
Next up was speaker Roland Poindexter who was just recently Sr. VP of Animation at Nickelodeon, and has worked at Fox, Warner Bros. among others producing and developing many hit series.  He told the kids that sometimes, what you start off doing is not what you find yourself ending up doing…and that you never know when your opportunity will come along, you just have to be prepared to handle it.
Know what you want to do, learn how to do it the best you can, and work hard at it, and you can do anything you want to do.
Denys Cowan, Brad Constantine, Roland Poindexter
Comic book artist Denys Cowan made jokes about his legendary status, but he went on to tell us that he started off his professional career as an assistant at the age of 14!!!...And he went on to get his first professional assignment as a lead at 17, was one of the founders of DC’s first black comic book company Milestone Media, creator and producer of Static Shock, producer of The Boondocks, to becoming a Senior Production Executive at the BET Network… which makes him a not only a well respected artistic talent in the business, but a leading business man in the entertainment industry. His participation in the Counter Con is significant. Giving back and supporting the enrichment of kids in the inner city is of utmost importance to Denys.He wanted the kids to know that when you start, some people will be out to discourage you, and when you start showing your work, some people will not like it, and some will, but the main thing is to never give up.

Personally, I could relate to his experiences and career choices that confront an African American in the art and entertainment business.  I really benefitted from what he had to say, and going forward, what he said will affect my own decisions, so that was great for all of us to hear. 
Brad Constantine sketches for the kids.
Lead Sony On-Line Animator Brad Constantine, a native San Diegan and former private animation student of mine, gave a humorous and rousing accounting of his road from local San Diego kid to becoming a leading game animator for several years at major international corporate behemoth Sony games,  located in San Diego. So Brad is still a local boy who made it in the animation world and can still enjoy living in America’s finest city.

Brad’s message for the kids was to work on your skills, be persistent and passionate about what you are doing, and to be kind to the people you meet and work with.
He also let the kids know that the internet has opened up new opportunities to access training, as well as to expose and gain an audience for your own independent work, no matter in what zip code you reside.
Lalo Alcaraz talks shop with the next generation.
The final speaker was popular humorist and syndicated comic artist Lalo Alcaraz, creator of La Cucaracha first nationally syndicated, politically themed Latino daily comic strip from the LA Times Syndicate, who is also a native of Lemon Grove, which is basically San Diego. He got his start as a political cartoonist at San Diego State in The Daily Aztec, the student newspaper.
His message was to work on your skills, don’t take criticism personally, and you will eventually get better. Draw everyday and keep drawing like your life depended on it.
Lalo also announced that he has a television series in development that is Latino based, and takes place in San Diego, or a community inspired by San Diego, which is something for all local San Diegans to be proud of and to look forward to.
Lalo was not only inspiring, but he was also very funny.

Q & A
The panel wrapped up by fielding a series of questions from the audience, and Tanya Diggs, a SR Account Executive at Burrell Advertising gave us all some very up lifting comments and observances to the kids, even giving them some insight about her position in advertising, and that we should not limit our dreams and goals in life, as well as our career choices.
The event ended with an in-depth portfolio review, and Brad and some of the  panelist did sketches of cartoon characters for the kids.  Brad is gifted at drawing most cartoon characters past or present, from memory, and he put on quite a demonstration…the kids loved it!
David G. Brown and Roland Poindexter review portfolios.
Sony on-line entertainment provided a free version of their on-line subscription games for all the kids and teens in attendance, which was a big surprise for them, so the games coupled with the sketches and posters from Disney XD, Nickelodeon and the stickers from Stickerjunkie.com. Many got their first experience with swag, which is a big part of the Comic Con tradition.
A young artist and his take-home swag.
The children were inspired, and the community's interest was well served by this first of a kind event in the South East community. We are highly motivated to make next years event bigger and better, and we welcome all the support we can get to further the Counter Con’s effort, impact, and reach. Plans are under way to hold workshops and events throughout the year in-between the annual Counter Con, and reach the kids in San Diego at their public schools and local venues.  
Many pro artist and entertainment professionals who regularly attend the San Diego Comic Con were waiting for an opportunity like Counter Con to give to the people that may be underserved.  I am committed to providing them that platform on an annual basis to serve the needs of the children in our community, and foster the arts education in the areas of Game art, comic book art, animation and entertainment business.

Counter Con host Jerry L. Brice.
If you would like to help support or plan the Counter Con 2013, contact me, Jerry Brice, at: chacta@gmail.com. We will also be launching an Indegogo campaign to raise funds to help us further our goals and community initiatives born out of the Counter Con, so look for that!
In closing I would like to thank Claudia Spinelli of Nickelodeon, Jay Francis of Disney XD, all my supporters on Facebook and FLIP, my production partners in my family, Derrick Ragsdale, and all of my former students from A.I.!...for helping to make the first Counter Con a really amazing, huge success for the kids and teens in the San Diego inner city!
See you next year, and dream big!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival Teaser 2012

My old friend and colleague Luc Chamberland has just finished a charming stop motion teaser for the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival 2012. I love stop motion animation - and I have huge respect for animators who can pull off animating an entire scene straight ahead without the benefit of an undo button.

Luc and I worked together in 1999 on "Joseph - King of Dreams", a straight-to-video sequel to the Prince of Egypt, animated by Bardel Animation in Vancouver. It was huge fun to work on, although the crew was pretty green and the standard of draughtsmanship required by the project was very high. I gave a lot of lectures while I was there, and when I left many of the crew did some drawings for me by way of a leaving present. Here's one of them:

I must have spent a lot of time on the phone. Also I am not sure what, exactly, was wrong with my nose. Maybe it was the Canadian winter.

The drawing that really confused me however was this one - it was a flyer for an acting class I was doing. Why I am I naked? And what's with the porn star thing?
I still don't get it. Something to do with the Canadian sense of humour.

- Alex

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Remembering Mr. Z


I was saddened to read of the passing of Richard Zanuck, film producer and one time head of 20th Century Fox.  What many of you may not know is that Richard Zanuck,  producer of Jaws and Driving Miss Daisy, once had a connection to animation, and I was part of it.

In 1993, the Zanuck Company began pre-production on a Betty Boop feature to be done through MGM Studios.  It was the baby of Richard Fleischer, veteran director of films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,  and Fantastic Voyage.  His father was Max Fleischer, who, with Uncle Dave, created a studio which at one time rivaled Disney.  Their star was Betty Boop.  Richard Fleischer inherited the rights to Betty, and approached Zanuck, an old friend from their days at 20th Century Fox, to make a Betty Boop feature.


Jerry Rees and Steve Leiva were hired as producers and they, in turn, hired me to direct. We began the development process with a small crew in a Burbank office building.
There were weekly meetings at the Beverly Hills offices of The  Zanuck Company, in Richard's office.  My first time there, Richard Zanuck stepped out from behind a huge desk, shook my hand and said, "Dick Zanuck.  Nice to meet you."

I never, ever, called him Dick.  This man was Hollywood royalty.  He produced some of the best films ever done.  His father, Darryl F. Zanuck, MADE 20th Century Fox.  This was Richard Frikkin' Zanuck, man!  "Dick" was just way too familiar, too equal par, for a first time director from South Jersey.  I called him Mr. Z.  
Richard and Lili Zanuck winning Oscars for Driving Miss Daisy.
Entering his office, to the right, was a seating area with matching gold couch and chairs surrounding a heavy duty coffee table.  In the two dozen or so meeting I had there, the seating arrangement never changed.  As the last hired of the group, I got the only seat left - the ottoman.  To my left, sat Jerry Rees, then Steve Leiva. Lili Zanuck, Richard's wife and business partner, sat on the couch directly across from me.  To her left was Richard Fleischer (who also insisted on being called Dick), then Mr. Z in His chair.  

At the start of one such meeting,  he looked to me and said, "Steve, you always get the ottoman." 

As I was shrugging it off, Lili patted the couch next to her and with a flirtatious smile said, "You can sit over here."  

The room erupted in laughter as my face turned beet red. I stammered, "Ohm uh....I'm afraid of you."

Richard laughed out loud. "Afraid?  She hasn't even gotten started yet!"

The fear I mentioned was in reference to her tendency to explode in meetings.  Lili's a petit, gorgeous woman with a razor sharp wit and vocabulary that could make Bluto blush. Inevitably, in every meeting,  she would get into a nuclear argument with Steve Leiva.  Steve liked to preach about filmmaking, and Lili would have none of it.  She would tear into him with a bombastic barrage which, for the layman, would kill them instantly.  But Steve kept coming,  not conceding an inch with a haughty snort.  Lili would go apoplectic. The sound of Steve's voice would make her squirm on the couch, twisting her body away from him.  She would place her hand to her brow to block him from peripheral view, all while continuing her verbal mauling.  It was simultaneously hilarious and painful to watch.  Eventually, Richard, or "Bully" as she called him, would step in, and he and Fleischer would have the final word.   

Six months into pre-production on Betty Boop, regime change at MGM put the project in turnaround. We set up a Boop pitch room at The Zanuck Company,  which stayed up for a few years as they tried to set the film up at other studios.  But Fleischer's Boop deal was not favorable.  Studios wanted to control the merchandizing revenue, so the project died.   The artwork, reels, and recordings generated over that time were dispersed among the crew.
  
Betty Boop Movie Development painting by Fred Cline
It was through Richard Zanuck that I met musician and friend Bennie Wallace.  Bennie did several demo recordings for the film.  He would later score my 1997 short Redux Riding Hood and 1999's The Indescribable Nth.  I can't imagine these films without Bennie's score, but without Richard Zanuck, we would have never met.  I sent Lili a copy of The Nth, and she was so kind to call me with compliments.  She's tops in my book.  My heart goes out to her, dealing with the loss of her "Bully". 

Years after Boop, I called Mr. Z.  His secretary didn't remember me, took my name and number, and I figured he'd get back to me eventually, but he's a very busy man.  He called me that same afternoon.  I thanked him for that, and he said his father told him to always return calls on the same day, no matter what.  

He was truly a class act, and Hollywood is a more terrible business without him.    
   
-Steve

Read more about The Boop Movie here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Donna!

Today is my wife's birthday -  a milestone, but I won't say which one.  With her seemingly boundless energy, she is a constant source of inspiration.  Last year, when she was very sick from cancer (see this earlier post),  I made this little video. This year she's doing great, so I thought I would share it with a wider audience.


For Donna from Steve Moore on Vimeo.

About the video: it was done in Flash, very quickly, shortly before Donna's birthday last year.  I animated a walk cycle on a Cintiq, then found a dozen settings in which to use it.  It was very much improvised - no storyboarding, just  the song by Steve Earle to cue me visually.  I picked this song because it resonated with both Donna and I during the hard days of chemo.  Its sentiment still rings true.

I urge you to sing along in a Steve Earle voice, preferably to someone you love :
"I love you with all my heart / All my soul / And every part of me."

Happy Birthday, Donna!

Love,
Steve

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bruce Woodside's Artificial Life

In an industry where we spend years creating other peoples' projects -sometimes good, sometimes bad - you don't often see industry veterans step out and make their own film.  An Artificial Life is a very cool, personal film by Bruce Woodside to which you animators out there can relate.  Bruce said, "It was a personal project I started over a dozen years ago and didn't really think I'd ever get around to finishing. Finally it became an issue of either doing it or killing it.  I decided to let it live."

Congrats for finishing, and well done, Bruce.
-Steve


an artificial life from Bruce Woodside on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

R.I.P. Mermaid Man


Here's to Ernest Borgnine, a.k.a. Mermaid Man, who passed away at the age of 95.  Though his acting career spanned sixty years, winning an Oscar and being nominated for three Emmys, he was best know to the younger generation as Mermaid Man from SpongeBob SquarePants.



-Steve

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Irish Roots of Merida's Hair

Brave was great.  I got totally sucked into it.   But whenever Merida and her crazy, tangly locks bounced through a scene, I couldn't help but think of my old pal, Miriam McDonnell.  Miriam was a clean up artist at Disney on every feature from Beauty and the Beast to Home on the Range.  She's originally from Ireland, and along with the accent, she carries a mop of curly black hair not unlike the heroine of Brave.

Director Brenda Chapman and a lot of the Pixar gang know the hilariously garrulous Miriam quite well.  So facetiously, I asked, "Is your hair getting residuals from Disney?"

"Funny you should say that."  she said, "Charlotte (her daughter) and I went up to Pixar to see Brenda, Doug Frankel, and Tony Fucile, and they took photos of our hair.  Brenda had always been talking about her Celtic girl she was going to write about and make a film of one day."

I haven't seen Miriam's daughter in ten years, and was amazed by the photo she sent.....
Merida and Charlotte
When I reminded Miriam that her hair is now the property of Disney, she replied, "So is my spinal fusion, but they don't want to pay for that either."  

-Steve
Addendum:
So as there is no confusion, Miriam would like to emphasize: "It was just some photos of hair. Charlotte was not the Character."

(Editor's note: To find out more about Brave, learn about why director Mark Andrews likes to wear a kilt, and read our exclusive interview with writer-director Brenda Chapman.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Women

The American Revolution in three minutes.....

Enjoy your inalienable rights safely!
-Steve

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Closing The Gap - Film Financing for Dummies


Even after working on animated films for 25 years I am still shocked at my own ignorance when it comes to the details of film budgets and financing. How do films actually get financed? What kind of investors put money into films and how do film-makers find such investors? Working at big studios like Disney, Warners and DreamWorks, I never had to trouble myself with such things, leaving all that to the "suits" who did the boring numbers stuff. But now, as I plough the furrow of independent feature film making, it seems I have to get my hands dirty with the numbers after all. 

Enter "Closing the Gap" - an annual film finance conference organised by Berlin film consultants Peaceful Fish and funded in part by the European Union MEDIA program. The first part was held this past week in Bari in Puglia, and the second round takes place in Majorca this October. The course seeks to school the ignorant in the basics of film finance. Confused about the difference between a sales agent and a distributor? Need some handy spreadsheets to make your numbers look convincing? Perhaps some advice on Crowd Funding or Gap Finance? This is the place for you. I learned more in 3 days than I have managed to pick up in the last 3 years. 

The only depressing part of the course was the awful realization of how tough it is to make a profit in show business. Even successful movies have trouble recouping their costs, after all the various intermediaries have taken their cut - hence the need for grants, soft money and producer tax credits. Investing in film is risky, and the wise film-maker knows that inventiveness and creativity are required in coming up with a business plan that will make money for the investors.
Santa - please finance my movie for Christmas

But Bari has other pleasures besides spreadsheets and advice on tax rebates. Not just excellent food and wine (as you would expect in Italy) but - and this was a surprise for me - the bones of Father Christmas. Yes, the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari Vecchio (the old city)  houses the remains of the town's very own patron saint, known as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, or Santa Claus as we say in the US. 
Behind bars - Santa's tomb

On the day I visited, Santa's tomb was well attended by the faithful, who prayed at his altar and posted little supplicatory notes through the decorative screen (for what? Christmas presents?). I thought of scribbling a prayer for Saint Nick to finance my movie, but it seemed a little frivolous, and hopefully I won't need to rely on divine intervention to get My Haunted House on the silver screen.

- Alex