Friday, August 30, 2013

Gary Conrad, Debi Derryberry, and a Talking Banana

Gary Conrad is a 30-year industry veteran and the Emmy and Annie Award nominated director of  The Fairly Odd Parents.  He recently completed his side project - a documentary called Debi Derryberry: Cheery and Fun and talked to FLIP about his film.

FLIP: What drove you to make Cheery and Fun

Gary: Growing up in Kentucky, I made one Super 8 movie after another and loved it.  Since graduating CalArts in 1984, I've been lucky to make my living in the animation business, but I've continued to make short films on the side, purely for the fun of it.  A few years back, a short documentary I made about a toy collector in Torrance, California was selected to screen in a couple of film festivals, which was a kick.

For my next project I decided I would write a narrative film.  I was trying to come up with an interesting character and unusual story.  I was feeling stuck.  Then I saw a Baby Banana singing with his Mama Duck and Daddy Gorilla accompanied on a pink guitar by a four foot ten cartoon star named Debi Derryberry in pursuit of fame and fortune.  Uh, I no longer felt I needed to make anything up.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Remembering EPCOT's Cranium Command - Both Versions

There are some great posts on The Disney Project blog about Jerry Rees'  work for Disney Imagineering, including EPCOT's Cranium Command, where you go inside the mind of a boy as he goes about his school day in real time.  An animatronic figure interacts with characters representing different parts of the body, which constantly react to what is being seen through the boy's eyes.  It was an extremely complex show, logistically.

Like many of Jerry's jobs for Imagineering, Cranium Command was a rescue mission.  As The Disney Project blog puts it, "The project, already halfway through production at Colossal Pictures, was unanimously loathed by everyone at Disney. Jerry was tasked with reviewing the project, assessing its weaknesses, and fixing them."

I, personally, have the unique distinction of being the only animator to have worked on both versions of this show.  In January of 1989, Colossal Pictures producer Heather Selick hired Vince Davis and me as sort of animators-in-residence at their San Francisco studio.  She put us up in apartments on Union St in North Beach, just below the Coit Tower and just two uphill blocks from an area full of blues bars, cafes, Italian restaurants, City Lights Bookstore, and  really old strip clubs with creepy guys in big suits trying to get passersby to go in.  Far out!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chief, Your Butt's on Fire

I am pleased to announce the completion of my brand new short, Chief, Your Butt's on Fire.  I decided to make it the old fashioned way, fully animating the whole thing myself, by hand, like in my student days.  The only concession to technology would be scanning the drawings, and painting and compositing digitally.  It took 13 years to do.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tom Joad: Animator

Regular readers know that sometimes I have to disguise my true stories because the people involved are still around, and, like me, still working.  Usher House Studios is no particular studio, an amalgam of them all.  Toddy Totsworthy is no particular production manager, but a Mrs. Potato Head arranged to meet the story's needs.  That said.....

"Your footage count is flat-lining!  And what we're getting is pretty limited.  I mean, your animation.... it's cute.  It's nice.  There's a lot of people trying to work here, y'know, and the guys upstairs, they look at the numbers.  Spreadsheets. And how can we get more for our money.  I've got guys doing twenty feet a week and you're averaging less than one! "

This long, lumpy shit curl was served up hot for me by good old Jennifer "Toddy" Totsworthy, the production manager at Usher House Studios. I had it coming to me. How dare I ask for my first raise in my five years?  It was 2001, and I was lucky to be working, period. When Disney dumped their 2d "team",  there was a glut of A-list talent floating around looking for work.  People were losing there homes, and in a few heartbreaking instances, some committed suicide.  The production heads knew the score and offered no compassion,  lording it over us like we were migrant workers in The  Grapes of Wrath.  To them, hiring an animator was like hiring someone to pick grapes, any warm body will do.  And what you picked in the past was irrelevant.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Independent Producer Max Howard reveals the secrets of producing independent animated films

Max Howard
Animation producer Max Howard began his career in animation working on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", after which he joined Disney in Florida to set up their fledging Orlando studio. Since then he has worked for many of the biggest animation studios, and for the past decade has forged a career as an independent producer, as well as consulting for the animation industry and giving lectures and workshops all around the world. FLIP asked him to talk about what it takes to produce an independent animated film.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's Official - Art Story is the First Animated Feature Film to be Funded at Kickstarter....

Art Story, the independent animated film directed by Aaron Blaise and Produced by Chuck Williams. is officially the first animated feature film to be funded at Kickstarter.

Chuck and Aaron have raised $365,000, enough to start work on their film - a hugely impressive start. Their goal was $350,000 and they have comfortably exceeeded that sum.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Revealing The Hidden Story Behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Ross Anderson is a writer and journalist who is currently working on telling the definitive story of the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - the pioneering film that is 25 years old this year. FLIP asked him a few questions about his new book, and also about how Rabbit fans and alumni can get involved with the project, and help Ross to tell the complete story of this modern animation masterpiece.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Charlie Chaplin has Left Leicester Square

by Jane Wright

Jane (Smethurst) Wright did traditional, hand drawn special effects back in the 1990's on features like Prince of Egypt and The Thief and the Cobbler.  She wrote to FLIP with a story of obsolescence that any old school animator can relate to, and maybe get a chill from....

Last weekend I made my way to Leicester Square for the sole purpose of taking a photograph of London’s much-loved Charlie Chaplin statue. Not being a tourist I hadn’t been there for ages; even so, looking around I wondered if I’d entered a time warp and stumbled onto the set of It's a Wonderful Life and into Pottersville by mistake. I was dismayed at the soulless place I now found myself in. Worse still, Charlie had gone.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Modern Design God Alvin Lustig

I was in an actual book store recently - not the kind where you buy coffee and scones and board games - the kind where there are books on shelves to hold in your hand and purchase if you like. One caught my eye called Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig by Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen, Lustig's widow.   I had not heard of Alvin Lustig - that's on me - but the design work was so interesting my curiosity piqued and out came the credit card.  

By my estimation, Alvin Lustig is the Fred Moore of modern design.  He set the style and, like Fred Moore, died young.  His bread and butter was book jacket design, but he also designed ads, business lobbies, and corporate logos including the one for  - here comes the animation connection - UPA!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dreaming of Joe Ranft

It was eight years ago today that Joe Ranft died in a car accident.  He left a huge void in the animation world, not only for his creativity, but also for his humanity.  Shortly after Joe's death, animator Al Holter told me about a dream he had about him.  He shares it today with FLIP.....
Joe Ranft with Al Holter puppet, CalArts, 1981.
I want to tell you about this dream I had.

First, it seems to me, that telling people your dreams is about as appreciated as sharing your new diet or latest medical procedure. Some will seem to be attentive but mostly because of their fingernail digging deep into their palm.

However, I had this particular dream two days after Joe Ranft died and he made a revealing appearance.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Creating Castings for Fun and Brain Damage

I told you about my tiki room in an earlier post, and one of the last big touches was the creation of two tiki totems made of Minions from Despicable Me.  I worked on the original and the sequel.  Those little yellow freaks essentially paid for the tiki room, so I thought it would be fun to have them represented there.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chuck and Aaron launch $350,000 Kickstarter campaign for "Art Story"

My old Florida animation kumrads, Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams, have just launched a $350,000 Kickstarter campaign to produce a new animated film - Art Story

Aaron and Chuck are veterans of the Florida Disney studio, and produced and co-directed the Academy Award-nominated film 'Brother Bear.'

Friday, August 9, 2013

Roger Rabbit Reunion Party - Friday August 16th

Calling all Roger Rabbit alumni - on Friday August 16th Tom Sito, Don Hahn, and Max Howard are hosting a Roger Rabbit reunion party at the King's Head Pub at 12969 Ventura Blvd, in Sherman Oaks. So if you fancy reminiscing about the good old days of hand-drawn animation then grab your Rabbit memorabilia and head for Sherman Oaks on Friday.

The bulk of the animation of the original Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was made in Camden Town in London. On Friday nights almost everyone on the crew would head down to the local pubs for an evening of drinking, often followed by a trip to a local club. The Electric Ballroom was a bit of a favourite.

After the film ended in the Spring of 1988, many of the crew found themselves in Los Angeles, where Dave Spafford continued the friday night drinking tradition by turning his house in a very passable imitation of an English pub, complete with bar, darts board and pinball machines (well, maybe that last bit wasn't so authentic).

For years, any animation Brit or Rabbit veteran who found himself at a loose end in LA would head for Spaff's on a Friday night. I went myself a few times, though the last time I went I remember I didn't recognise anyone there. Dave closed it down soon after - it had had its day. But only after a long, excellent run.
Me in 1987, with Caron Creed
Anyway, head down memory lane this Friday and hang out with your Rabbit kumrads and muse over the perennial unanswered (and apparently unanswerable) question -

Why has no-one ever made a sequel?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tom Sito remembers Lou Scarborough

Louis Scarborough Jr.
Animator Louis Scarborough Jr. died in his sleep on August 5, 2013 after a brief illness. He was in his 60th year. His credits include Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977), Walt Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Nelvana’s Rock and Rule (1983), Bakshi’s Fire and Ice, and TV series like The Chipmunk Adventures, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Monday, August 5, 2013

James Lopez' "Steampunk"

I have witnessed James Lopez' ascent from a wide eyed kid on Rover Dangerfield to a A-list animator at Disney features. James has a pet project he's been working on in his spare time, and you know how much FLIP likes spare time projects. So James told us all about it here.....

FLIP: What is Steampunk?

James: The best way I can describe "Steampunk" is that it is a sub-genre of science fiction in which a fantasy world is envisioned according to the "visual language" of the Victorian era. In a nutshell, it's Victorian science fiction. 

Steampunk takes a unique approach toward science fiction by combining aspects of both modern science fiction and timeless fantasy and blends the two through the prism of Victorian elegance. The imaginary world of Steampunk is a truly fantastic world that is boundless in its potential for creativity. It is a world that exhibits environments of epic scale, characters of eccentric personality and whimsical gadgetry such as rayguns, flying contraptions and mechanical creatures.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Animation Apprentice, One Year Later

FLIP interviews FLIP again!  This time it's Alex's turn to talk.  His on-line animation school Animation Apprentice is completing its fist year, and Alex agreed to be put on the FLIP hot seat for this interview....

FLIP: Why does the universe need your on-line animation school when there are others to choose from?
Alex: It is true that schools like Animation Mentor do a great job, and get excellent results. But I wanted to create something that was a lot cheaper and would also help students get great results much faster. The course at Animation apprentice is only 30 weeks, and costs £3,000 ($4,500). Not everyone wants to spend $18,000 and commit to 18 months of study. 

The main reason for setting up my school was that I’ve been teaching animation in various ways and at various schools since 1996 and, after fifteen years, I felt like I had finally figured out how to do it right. The course was pretty much formed in my head – it just needed some time spent on actually making it. So I spent six months on my own, thinking, recording videos, preparing exercises - and I built the online course.

The course is delivered with pre-recorded videos, which makes it much more efficient than classroom teaching. Those efficiencies are savings I can pass on to students. But the best part of the course is the video feedback. I don’t give general comments – “do this, do that, why don’t you try this”. Instead, I open up the student’s shot and fix it in real time, recording the screen so that the student can play back the video and watch the fixes. It’s like taking your car to a mechanic and having them repair it, while at the same time recording a video showing you how to fix it yourself next time.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Photography of Ken Bell

Canadian riflemen land at Juno Beach, D Day, 6 June 1944. Colour photo by Ken Bell
Ken Bell was my great uncle. Before WW2 he was a keen amateur photographer and, soon after Canada declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939, he joined up, offering his services to the newly formed Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, a propaganda outfit which would record Canada's involvement in the war.

On 6 June 1944, along with tens of thousands of American, British, Canadian, and other Allied forces, Ken landed at Juno Beach in Normandy with the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, on day one of Operation Overlord.