Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Kick in the Pants from Marc Davis

When I first heard of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men", seven of them were still alive.  Of those seven, I got to meet six.  And one gave me a kick in the pants: Marc Davis.

At the end of the school year, the CalArts Character Animation department would host the Disney animation gods in a screening of the best of that year's student films followed by a reception where they could mingle with students.

I arrived at CalArts having never heard of the Nine Old Men.  But after eight months of intense indoctrination on all things Disney by classmates Dan Jeup and Tim Hauser,  I was bursting to have my film be part of The Show, and figured that since I had learned so much and cared so much, I was a shoo-in.  So when that didn't happen, I was left mortified and searching for answers / excuses.  

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cal Arts and the Easter Gorilla

At Easter of 1985, I was living in the CalArts dormitory of heathens when I hatched an idea: I would borrow the Bo-Peep dress Kevin Lima made for the pagan holiday of Halloween - yes, the director of Tarzan went as Bo-Peep - then I'd put on my gorilla mask and go through the dorm giving out....uh...potatoes.   Easter spuds.  Ha!

I called upon first grade memories to create little baskets using construction paper and staples, baskets just big enough to nest a potato. On  Easter morning, I got dressed, gathered my potato baskets and set off to bring joy to the sleepy student body.  Surely this gag would be a gasser!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mill TV to close

Mill TV is no more
Another blow to VFX animation in London - Mill TV, which did award-winning work on Doctor Who and Merlin is to close. Most likely around 25 jobs will go. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who Needs a Website Anyway?

My re-re-re-designed website
Fifteen years ago in Los Angeles I met a guy who had his own website. "How pretentious" I thought. "Who the hell needs one of those?" Well, duh. Obviously, I could not have been more wrong. Nowadays everyone needs a website. At least, everyone who is a freelancer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marc Stevenson on The Animation Workshop

The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark
Marc Stevenson is an animator with a huge wealth of experience in the visual effects industry, having worked on many successful films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Moon, X-Men, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Marc recently took time out from VFX work  to teach at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, one of Europe's leading centres of animation excellence. In an interview with FLIP Marc talks about his new experience as an animation instructor.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A London Bed Party

Everyone in London lives like this
"Don't you miss living in Los Angeles?" is a question I get asked all the time, especially in London in March, when it's still snowing after 6 months of cold and rain. Well...who wouldn't? I mean, at this time of year I could be spending the day at the beach in Malibu, not freezing to death in a drafty Victorian terrace in Shepherd's Bush.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Introducing Silver - Stephan Franck's new Graphic Novel

Silver, a new Graphic Novel by Stephan Franck
Stephan Franck is a master storyteller who has worked as an animator, storyboard artist and designer on projects such as The Iron Giant, Space Jam and How To Train Your Dragon. FLIP asked him to talk about his new graphic novel, Silver, soon to be released.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Look! Up in the sky! It's Despicablimp!

Dave Rosenbaum, my super-cool boss at Illumination Entertainment, forwarded this announcement from Eddie Egan, President of Marketing:

"Yesterday morning, in Hollywood, California, a unique vessel took its maiden flight: the enormous Despicablimp. It was conceived, designed, and constructed in support of the summer opening of DESPICABLE ME 2!"

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fans Gone Wild: The Brave Little Toaster

Fan art.  Just saying it brings a bemused smile to the face of animation artists.  Seeing a fan art version of something you worked on is an honor; the naive quality and the unabashed love behind it make it so. And sometimes what makes fan art special is the creativity of it.  Enter Ian Knau.

Ian is 22 and a lifelong fan of  The Brave Little Toaster.   The climactic sequence of the film involves a metal compactor - imagine the climactic scene in Toy Story 3 only twenty years earlier.  The Toaster sacrifices herself (yes, herself) to save The Master from being smooshed.   The metal crunchng machine made a deep impression on young Ian that has carried into his adulthood.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tax Breaks for UK Animation

Wallace and Gromit would be proud. Copyright Aardman Animation
Chancellor George Osbourne's budget speech yesterday may not have inspired many to believe in Britain's general economic recovery, but it surely gladdened the hearts of animators across the land that his government is committed to some serious tax breaks for the animation and visual effects industry in the UK.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why do the movies look so flat? - Cinematographer Barry Gross explains

The end of film?
Is it just me or has something weird to happened to the movies recently - why do they all look like TV shows? Here at FLIP we're no experts on live action cinematography but something has definitely changed in the way that movies are filmed. We asked professional cinematographer Barry Gross to explain what's up with cinema and why everything looks so....odd.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad!

My father is 80 today. Here is a lovely photo of the pair of us, taken some years ago. Dad is best known for his animation but what is perhaps less well known are his many musical accomplishments - he plays cornet at a professional level and his band Dix Six played regular gigs in London for decades, and produced several CDs.

Oy Canada! Nancy Beiman goes Metric!

Animator, teacher, and purebred New Yorker Nancy Beiman becomes a Canadian citizen today.  FLIP demanded an explanation.....
Nancy Beiman and her students.
FLIP: Why do you hate America?
NB: You never stop being American, and I don't plan to start (stopping). I am still allowed to eat New York Bagels, though I am required to have the Montreal style ones at least once a month. And a moose image must be present in my house at all times. And I can now have a passport for both of my split personalities.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Night at the Opera - a Very Animated Ballet

The Royal Opera House. Photo: Peter Suranyi
On Friday night I went to see Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in London. I haven't been to the ROH since I left England for Los Angeles in 1996 - and goodness me how it has changed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Orthodox Sweatbox Paradox

In the early days of Disney Studios, the cramped room where Walt critiqued his crew's pencil tests was aptly dubbed "The Sweatbox" by the animators under scrutiny.  While the industry has changed radically since Walt's day, the Sweatbox survives; if not as a noun - a designated room, then as a verb - the act of critiquing.  Every animator's got sweatbox stories to share at industry parties.  I've been on both sides of that Moviola, as animator and director, the sweat-ee and sweat-or.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pregnant and Chained to a Lamppost

Rebecca today with dog Charlie and the lamppost she saved.  She never did get its name.
Photo by Roger Wilson, Glendale News-Press
You weren't expecting that title, now were you?

Back in 1994, animator Rebecca Rees was well on her way to producing her second son, Wilder, when she found herself in the center of a chapter of Glendale, California history known as "The Adams Hill Rebellion". Don't Google it, I just named it that.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Slipping a Mickey

Was I drugged?  Did I really see that, or was that a weird dream?  Someone took the iconic Mickey Mouse and made a far out looking short - with Disney's backing!  Huh?  Whu?
Sacre merde!  Un nouvelle conception de Mickey!  Voyez-le ici.
Unless your internet has been down, you have probably at least heard about the new Mickey short released on the internet.  The blogosphere has been buzzing about it.  The wondrous part of the internet is its ability to capture one's knee-jerk reaction as public record.  My own knee-jerk reaction was smile, smile, wince, smile, lose interest, and that's not Mickey.  There.  Public record.  You can nod in agreement or gnash your teeth.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Go green with VFX Solidarity International - Tonight!

VFX Solidarity International, whose remit is to "Unite VFX Professionals and the Digital Artist community worldwide for sound international business standards and practices", is having a "Pi Day" today (as in Life of Pi) for visual effects artists everywhere. It's a Town Hall meeting and everyone with an interest in visual effects is invited.

Tom Sito's History of Computer Animation

Ivan Sutherland demonstrates Sketchpad, 1963.
Being of a generation for which computers represented the future, it is a bit unsettling that a book on the history of computer animation could be written. Like I need another reminder of my aging. Tom Sito has done it, with Moving Innovation, A History of Computer Animation, to be released next month. FLIP asked Tom a few questions, via computer......

FLIP: What the hell does Tom Sito know about Computer Animation?

TS: Hah! You’re right. My name is not the first to come to mind when you think CG. When I was completing Drawing the Line, I included a chapter on the Digital Revolution. I needed to explain about CG’s origins to show how it affected the animation community and how it changed the traditional animation production pipeline, which had been sacred since J.R. Bray in 1913. The chapter grew so large that my editor cut it by two-thirds, and told me “ You have another book here.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

From DreamWorks to Greece and back again - Nassos Vakalis tells the story of an animation startup

Who wants to live in Greece?
Nassos Vakalis is an animator, director and storyboard artist who has had a long and varied career in the animation industry at studios such as Warner Bros Feature Animation and DreamWorks.

In 2001 Nassos left DreamWorks to set up his own company, TimeLapse Pictures, in his home town of Athens. He is now back at DreamWorks, most recently storyboarding on Puss in Boots and Madagascar 3. FLIP asked him what it was like running an independent studio.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Knotty Pine

When David Knott isn't winning Emmys for The Penguins of Madagascar, he's a dad helping his two little girls with their Pinewood Derby entries.  Dave shares this experience with FLIP. 
David's Totoromobile entry for the dads' race.
Pinewood Derby has been going on for quite a long time. I built and raced them for 3 years when I was a wee Cub Scout.  My fastest car got me 3rd place overall.  I was surprised to learn that the Y-Tribes also do an annual Pinewood derby race.  Like most of you reading this, I said "What are the Y-Tribes?" It's run by the YMCA, and is a dads and daughters or dads and sons group/tribe, a bit like Scouts but with no merit badges and way less structure.  Our tribe (the Zuni tribe) is dads and daughters. Since my girls are only one year apart I put them both in the same tribe. There are monthly meetings, but the big draw is the two weekend camps we do each year. One in Big Bear in January (for snow play,) and one on Catalina Island in April. And then there's also the Pinewood Derby.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Upstairs to Arnold Roth

The Harvey Kurtzman exhibit at the Society of Illustrators. 
After indulging my eyes in two floors of artwork from Harvey Kurtzman and his colleagues at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan, I was about to leave when I noticed artwork by other artists leading up the stairs.  I'm here, why not?  I thought.  At the top of the stairs I was pleasantly surprised to see the hallway lined with Arnold Roth's work from magazines such as Punch, The New Yorker, and Playboy.  As one of Kurtzman's contemporaries, and a partner in Humbug, it was only fitting to have Roth's work represented as well.  The only artist missing from the mix was Al Jaffee.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chicken Fat at the Society of Illustrators

Even Harvey Kurtzman's signature is funny.
I don't live in New York, but I just happened to be there when the Society of Illustrators on 63rd Street opened its new exhibit, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman.  I have been a fan of Kurtzman since I was a pre-teen and discovered Mad comics through reproduced inserts in Mad magazine's "Super Special" issues. Even as a kid, I noticed there was something about those old comics that was lacking in the Mad magazine  of 1974.  I didn't know it then, but the missing piece was Harvey Kurtzman.  

Pixar's 22 Rules of Story Telling

These rules were originally tweeted by Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats.

Friday, March 8, 2013

It's Official - 2D Animation at Disney is Dead

The Princess and the Frog - Disney's last 2D feature
According to an article in yesterday's Guardian, 2D animation is officially dead at Disney, the studio which took the medium to its greatest-ever heights. At the annual shareholder meeting in Phoenix Arizona, CEO Bob Iger said:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Introducing Mike Nguyen's animated labour of love - My Little World

Mike Nguyen is an animator and director whose credits include Beauty and The Beast, The Iron Giant, Space Jam and The Road to El Dorado. He has been working for some years on the independent animated film My Little World, which he has written and directed. FLIP asked Mike to explain what it takes to get such an ambitious personal project off the ground.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Roger Rabbit 25th Anniversary Toontown Reunion

On April 4th there will be a 25th Anniversary screening by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences of a digitally restored version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,  at the Sam Goldwyn Memorial Theatre in Los Angeles. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Does a Visual Effects Producer Do, Exactly?

Martin Gabriel is a visual effects producer with a long list of successful feature films on his resume, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireX-Men, The last Stand, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He also worked on the TV series Band of Brothers and The Prisoner.

Following the collapse of Oscar-winning facility Rhythm and Hues, FLIP asked Martin to talk about what, exactly, a visual effects producer does, and how a vfx film gets put together. In short - how does the industry really work?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Meeting with Bakshi, or, Goodbye Cool World

Ralph Bakshi on the set of Cool World.
In the fall of 1989,  I got a call from Ralph Bakshi.  He was just starting pre-production on a new feature called Cool World and asked if I'd like to meet to discuss working on it.  Why not?  Ralph Bakshi is an animation legend.  Right?......Right?......Right?.....Anyway, I was intrigued and took the meeting at his office on the Paramount lot.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Animation History QUIZ!

Call yourself an animator? Think you know the history of animation? Sharpen your pencil, get yourself a piece of paper, and test your knowledge with our brand-new exclusive-to-FLIP animation history quiz! The story begins 18,000 years BC....