Sunday, April 28, 2013

Huge cull at Cinesite - more bad news from Soho

Cinesite Europe, my former London employer and (until recently) one of the big hitters in visual effects in Soho, have just made some massive layoffs. They are now losing not just the freelancers and the specialist folks whose talents can be hired and fired, but the key people who run the departments and know how the systems work. These are the staff who are hard to re-hire, difficult to do without.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Does Size Matter in Animation?

I got an e-mail from a student, asking me if there was any way to be seen as successful without working at a big studio.

My answer: no.

For you industry people out there - when people find out you work in animation, what's The Big Question they ask?

A) Do you work for Disney?
B) Do you work for Disney?
C) Do you work for Disney?
D) Do you work for Disney?

I'm 50 years old, been working in animation for more than half of my life, and STILL get asked this question.  For all the corporate crap that goes on at big studios, working at one means you have made it to the big leagues.  And Disney is still the New York Yankees of animation studios.  And like the Yankees, fans have high expectations and like to boo management.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bad Ex Studios

Starting out, we all fancied our careers taking the Frank and Ollie trajectory. Working at a studio for life.  Meet another lifer and fall in love.  Get married on the studio lot.  Buy a house and fill it with studio memorabilia.  Maybe a studio themed swimming pool.   Name your kids after the studio's characters.  As the years passed, you would create legendary film moments, be idolized by the younger generation, and retire as an animation legend.

In reality, most of us have had a series of Wile E. Coyote trajectories -  flying along, feeling confident, then "PAF!"  Rock face.  Something went horribly wrong.  A studio layoff.  A studio closing.  And like Wile E., you put on that flight suit and try again.

And then there are those studios you wanted to love but ended up hating.  A bad ex studio.  You're thinking of that bad ex studio right now.  The place you were pigeonholed.  Or were put down by abusive management.  Or didn't fit into studio cliques.  You had such high hopes.  It was supposed to be the one.  Your forever studio. These are the ones you never quite get over.

Tom Sito's Book on the History of Computer Animation on Sale!

Back in March, FLIP posted an interview with Tom Sito about his forthcoming Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation.  By the looks of our stats, there's a ton of interest surrounding Sito's book.  Well now you can own your very own copy.  Click here to order.

This Wednesday, April 24, from 11:30-1:30 Tom will be signing copies in the USC Cinema School Courtyard. Books will be on hand for sale too.  So if you're in the Los Angeles area, head over on your lunch break.  Tell Tom FLIP sent you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The night my cartoon strip almost died

Lincoln's Inn Hall - scene of the crime

Twenty years ago I became a barrister. A barrister is a kind of English lawyer - the kind that wear wigs. Think John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda. If you want to become a barrister in England, you used to have to dine formally on 24 occasions with your fellow law students, in the dining halls of the Inns of Court, (in theory) discussing the finer points of law and jurisprudence. So I spent many evenings dining in Lincoln’s Inn hall.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Animation Sweatbox - reinforcing cultural stereotypes

Animation dailies - how it used to be
Once upon a time animation "sweatbox" was actually a sweaty room below stairs at the Disney lot with a hot moviola to review the previous day's animation. Later, as technology improved, you got to see your shots projected on to a screen, and then publicly dissected by the director in front of your colleagues.

Today the moviola is long gone, but animation dailies are still with us, and some studios still call it sweatbox in homage to the old Disney tradition.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Three Silly Chickens - Tanya Fenton's charming new children's book

Three Silly Chickens
Tanya Fenton is an animation artist who has worked on many animated feature films including The Thief and The Cobbler, Hercules and Fantasia 2000. She has recently turned author and illustrator. Her first book, Three Silly Chickens, is now in bookshops.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Animator's Survival Kit - now an iPad app

FLIP has been granted a sneak peek at the latest animation app to hit the iPad - The Animator's Survival Kit. We have now road-tested the new digital ASK: below is our thoroughly biased and not at all independent view of this new electronic addition to the animator's library.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Final Touches and the Forever Rule

Finishing a film is a great big pain in the ass.  All the wild enthusiasm for what the film could be has yielded to a mottled view of what it has become.  By the end, you've spent so much time with every little nook and cranny of the film that you can't tell if it is entertaining anymore.
First released still from Steve Moore's  "Chief, Your Butt's on Fire".
I am experiencing this right now on a short I started in 2000 (!) called Chief, Your Butt's on Fire.  It's a cautionary tale based on my life in animation.  I animated the entire five minutes, full on, on old-school 20lb punched Cartoon Colour stock in my spare time.  It took years.  My wife, Donna, scanned it all - rough, not cleaned up - and figured out a way to paint it in Toon Boom in her spare time.  It took years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

If You Can't Eat the Rich, Tax the Rich

Hey Americans, did you file your income tax returns yet?  Just a reminder, your deadline is TODAY.   Sure, you could pull a Weslie Snipes, but even he would not recommend that.   Think the system is unfair? Well, Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale feels your pain.  Ed Asner narrates this short that offers a liberal perspective on our tax system.

The short was created through the California Federation of Teachers, a labor union.  It was written and directed by Fred Glass of the Labor and Community Studies Department of City College of San Francisco. This was not his first foray into film.   His  documentary on the history of the California labor movement, Golden Lands, Working Hands, aired on  PBS in 1999.

Vladimir Todorov's eBook released at last

Vladimir Todorov is an animator, and designer (and friend of FLIP) whose credits include Harry Potter, Beowulf, Eragon and Polar Express. He has just released his much-anticipated book Moon Rock at You can buy the book here, and read our interview with Vlad about how Moon Rock was put together, here. Many congratulations to Vlad on getting his book to market.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Unknown Art of Henrietta Edwards

Henrietta Edwards is not an illustrator whose work you will be familar with. She received no formal training, never published her work, and did not even consider herself an artist. Most people who knew her were probably not aware of her talent until, soon after her death from cancer in 2006, her husband Richard printed a small collection of her drawings, and distributed a few copies to her friends.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Animation Block Party - Get Your Hunched & Goofy On!

Tina Price is bringing her Creative Talent Network to the City of Burbank for this year's Burbank Arts Festival. An entire tree lined block on San Fernando Road in front of the Gordon Biersch brewpub (oh boy!) will have animation folks to meet and stuff to buy.  It's like a mini outdoor CTN Expo.  It's Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 5.

Disney Layoffs, The Day After: Now What?

Yesterday, I read the news about the Disney layoffs on Facebook.  With so many industry friends, industry news hits there hours before blog writers can compose an article (in my case, many hours). Facebook is live feed.  And just like watching live feed of O.J. Simpson's white Ford Bronco cruising down the 405, we don't really know the whole story, but the speculation is fantastic.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Loud Commercials - There Oughta be a Law.....What? There Is?

According to the FCC's website:
"Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) rules require commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. In the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, Congress directed the FCC to establish these rules, which went into effect on December 13, 2012."

I hereby use this platform to formally invite the FCC to watch TV in my house.  Not a night goes by without reaching for the remote because of a loud commercial.   The most worn button on my remote is the mute.  Want to blast some loud music into my house, Home Depot?  Be mute!  What?  You're the Pizza Hut ad that comes after the loud Home Depot commercial?  Sorry, I can't hear you because you're mute too.  And you too, T-Mobile. And Chili's. And Ford Fusion. And fuck you, Flo from Progressive Insurance.  And fuck what's next on NBC.  All because the assholes at Home Depot CAN'T KEEP THE NOISE DOWN!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tim Watts on Margaret Thatcher, puppets, and Spitting Image

Tim Watts is an animator, designer and director whose film work includes The Corpse Bride, Arthur Christmas and Rise of The Guardians. He is currently working at DreamWorks in Los Angeles. FLIP asked him to talk a little about the making of the Margaret Thatcher puppet at Spitting Image back in the 1980s.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Farewell Lady Thatcher

People in England of my generation call themselves "Thatcher's children". Whether you are left or right politically, her influence was undeniable as she re-shaped the dialogue of both politics and economics in Britain.

She was mercilessly satirised by cartoonists, especially by the TV series Spitting Image that seemed made especially for her and her confrontational style of politics.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Lou Costello of Graphic Designers

Done as an ad for Libbey Plumbing and Heating, they had t-shirts made.  The printer re-drew the image, tracing it in pen.  Ugh. My first such experience with silkscreen printers.
I have an annual ritual where someone asks if I can do a logo/t-shirt design for them.  Usually it's a friend, a kind local, or a friend of a friend who is doing something they are passionate about.  Since I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff I say "Sure!"

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roman Cartoons! (with some fruity language)

Cartoons - Roman style
The hot ticket right now in London is Pompeii at the British Museum - a vast collection of art and artifacts collected from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the seaside towns famously destroyed in 67BC by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Both towns were completely covered in ash - and were thereby preserved for posterity even as the rest of Roman civilisation fell to the barbarian hordes (that's you and me).

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ToonTown Reunion - 25 Years after The Rabbit

See how many Toon Town graduates you can spot in this Roger Rabbit re-union photo just posted on Facebook by Producer Max Howard (5th from left on the back row). I can see Tom Sito on the left, as well as Producer Don Hahn, and master animator Andreas Deja in the back, among many other familiar faces and old friends. And I think I see director Bob Zemeckis standing next to Nik Ranieri, fourth from right in the back row.

Friday, April 5, 2013

So, Farewell Then, Vernon Dursley

Richard Griffiths as Uncle Vernon. Copyright Warner Bros
Richard Griffiths, famous to my generation as the queeny upper-class Uncle Monty from Withnail and I (but much better known today as the muggle Uncle Vernon from the Harry Potter series), died last week.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Animation Workshop - a student's view - by Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen

Kwaidan - 2nd year trailer project - animation by Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen
Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen is a third-year student at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. He is graduating this summer, having spent three years studying animation at one of the leading animation schools in Europe. FLIP asked him what life had been like at TAW, and how well his studies have prepared him for finding work in the animation industry.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


There are certain shows from my childhood that have stuck with me over the years despite not having seen them since.  Ken Mundie's Hey Hey Hey, It's Fat Albert special is one of them.  Fred Wolf's The Point is another.  And then there's Dig.

Dig is a special that ran on Saturday morning a couple of times in 1972.  It was the story of a boy and his dog who go on 'a journey into the Earth" guided by a large rock.   I was nine going on ten when it aired, but it stuck with me.  I remembered the main characters, and I remember the song "Take a midnight ride - down the rock bottom road - bumpty bumpty bump bump."

Monday, April 1, 2013


In the four months since my father died, I have been dealing with his Stuff. For fifty-five years he lived in that house with my mom.  They initially moved in to take care of Dad's Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe, who built the house around 1930 and died in it in 1959, within weeks of each other.  Dad inherited the house and raised three sons there.

Talk about Stuff!