Saturday, February 28, 2009

The People That We Meet

We're working on a project with Young & Rubicam.

That gives me the opportunity to come in early to drop off stuff at 285 Madison in order to save $20 on a messenger.  There's a depression on, you know.

285 Madison is a pretty dull building as a whole.  And from a distance.

Built in 1926 by architects by William L. Rouse and Lafayette A. Goldstone (quelle nom!).  The internet at the AIA guide are no help finding the sculptor responsible for the grotesques.

That person should get all of the credit.  Without these, the Northeast corner of 40th and Madison would be downtown Dullsville.

Interesting to see the cultural touchstones of the mid-20s.  Jeff-capped tennis pros

and slingshot wielding ragamuffins (his aim directed away from the street)

A soldier returning from the Great War.


Not sure who this guy is, the years haven't been kind.  Stylistically, it looks like he's moving towards the Art Deco which would come to transform the New York skyline in the following decade.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Little Something For Everyone

To begin:  Sita Sings The Blues available, in full, online.

I'll probably write about this film before its broadcast next week.  Sneak preview: its one of the most remarkable pieces of work crafted in the 21st Century.


This is a "spot" (as we say in the biz) Brian made at The Ink Tank waayyyyy back in the 20th Century.

The animation is very simple.  We're doing a similar piece now, and going back to this for reference.

It's all in the timing.

This was animated by Tissa David.

The boy tossing up his "hat" and catching it again on his head is all on "twos" except drawing 11.  That's where the hat makes contact.  It's held for 5 frames.

Drawing 1 is the start position.  2 is the "extreme", he's got to go down to toss the hat up.

5 is the next "extreme", but note how 3 is so similar (close) to 2 and how 4 is much closer to 3 than 5.

It takes three drawings to stretch up to that extreme (2, 3, 4) but only two (6, 7) to come back down.

 But still -8, 9, and 10 are not simple tracebacks -the boy continues to settle, easing all the way.

The hat lands on 11, and 12 continues this impact.  Compare to 10 and 13.  There's a little squash, but not much.  Too much compression would look painful and we've got candy to sell.

As beautifully as Tissa can make something move, she's even better at keeping things still. 

Two and three: 4s

Four: 2s

Five: 12 frame hold 

Six through nine: 2s

Tissa is unafraid to work on 4s.  In the first two drawings, that is the timing and spacing required.  She varies the exposure for drawing 4, and hits the hold (5).  

6 works out of the hold.  7 and 8 move into the final pose (9).

Just like the boy, it takes three drawings to ascend the extreme up position, and two drawings to come back down.  The difference is in the rhythm and timing of the holds and the ancillary follow through.


On a completely unrelated note, has this interview with Matt Groening.

It's nice to hear a man of talents and success say something like this:

CNN: How do you feel about the children of "The Simpsons" -- MacFarlane's "Family Guy," "South Park"?

Groening: I'm a fan of animation and so, the more stuff that doesn't look like the other stuff that's out there, I'm in favor.

There's a staggering array of completely wild animation on TV now ... Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network is unbelievable. And "South Park" continues to do great stuff. And "Family Guy" and the various other Seth MacFarlane projects are amazing.

And I want more. Good! Cartoons! Cartoons that don't look like anything else. Very good.
While I may not agree with his astethic take on Seth MacFarlane projects (and animation, in general, I guess...), it's a terrific attitude of openness and good will.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fat Thursday

In the tradition of being late for holidays, we wish you a happy last day before Lent.

This is a piece about New Orleans troupe Fi Yi Yi we did with Gail Levin for Prospect.1.  Half for them/half for ourselves if the accounting means anything.


Ben Shapiro shot this.  He did a very smart thing (and I was smart for thinking of it independently).

These interviews are done casually, in an on the street documentary sort of way.  While these guys were talking and making costumes they were also making loads of background noise.  Drumbeats in and out, singing, Michael Jackson on the radio -things which make it impossible to edit.

But there was a "full" take of a performance they did just before the crew left.  We were able to use this as an audio bed.

That gave us a few things.

1) It muffled and devoured the other ambient sounds.

2) It established a finite length.  Especially important, considering the lengthy and entertaining speeches Victor Harris gave.

3) It gave us a structure to build to.  The narrative is kind of rambling -but if we end with footage of the performance, that doesn't matter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Can Draw, Why Not Try?

We may be the only animation studio without a copy of Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation.

We do have these volumes Brian bought as a child.

No publication date, but they clearly went through several printings.  #190 was originally priced at $2.00, while #26 has a sticker for $2.95 (although the interior back cover lists all books at $2.50 plus postage for mail order).

Walter T. Foster of Tustin, CA published 205 titles at the time of the later printing.  These two and #25 "Animated Cartoons" are the only ones by Blair, and the only titles on animation.

The most intriguing is #117 "The Model" by Fritz Willis.

Liberated woman?  Struggling co-ed?  Young divorcee?  Heartbroken housewife?  Cruel marketing to place such an open ended question on the cover.  Was this Fritz' secret paramour?  His unrequited love?  Mystery.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sign on the Squiggly Line

One time Bob Blechman came up to the desk where I was working and offered me this:

It's a thermal printed invitation to an exhibit he had with Alexa Grace, Ed Sorel, and Edward Gorey.

All four artists signed the invitation.

Gorey's autograph -precise, ornate. Sorel -a scribble that holds meaning. And Blechman's signature, something I was very familiar with, each letter straining so hard to be perfect it's line and form vibrate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Evil, Evil Toons

Evil Toons only has about 39 seconds of animation (a.k.a. "toons") in it, but it is pretty evil.

I'm a great admirer of John Dilworth's work -especially "Noodles and Nedd" and "Ace and Avery", so it was nice to see this brief stop on his career path.

I wonder if the director made the animators work topless, just like all the actresses.  

This was clearly packaged to exploit the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.  Like Roger Rabbit but sexy.  And dull.  And 98% animation-free.

Speaking of award winners (like Mr. Dilworth), congratulations to Kunio Kato.

(above image by Michael Kupperman)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pitchers and Catchers Reporting

Kidscreen was last week. That's where children's programmers get together and talk about the state of their industry, and kid show producers try to get 10 minutes of their time to sell an idea.

We had a couple meetings, but nothing was too far along since we've been spending most of our time recently preparation pitches for commissions.

Coincidentally, I uncovered a pitch book for a show Brian and his wife Nancy Fremont developed with Phil Marden a couple years back.

We had some preliminary pitches with it.

I think it's a freaking GREAT idea -part Rocky and Bullwinkle, part Gerald McBoing Boing, part Teletubbies, but 100% its own weird and awesome thing.

Check out the cool artwork and nice design to pitch.

It's broken into 5 Chapters. 1) Series Overview 2) Characters & Locations 3) Pilot Episode 4) Other Stories 5) Other Premises.

TV needs a grumpy elephant.

For some reason we never really pushed it. In part, I think, we were working with an agent who wasn't all that enthusiastic. Also, other projects came up and this got washed down the drain in the process.

Maybe we'll resurrect the idea.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Didn't See It

My favorite person in the world is addicted to the Craig's List Missed Connections.

I find them horribly depressing.

Still, I showed my face at Desert Island for the release party of "I Saw You...Comics Inspired By Real-Life Missed Connections."

Sam Henderson, mighty, stood sentry.

But the crowd was way too thick.

Despite the contributions of many friends and other great people I couldn't fight through to purchase one of these:

From the turnout, though, it looks like Desert Island will be able to open again tomorrow. There won't be any free beer so I expect it to only be half as crowded.

Tom Hart flanked by two indubitably talented people I would probably know if I could stay in a crowded room longer than five minutes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bright Morning

It's a blue sky morning.  Maybe that's why I noticed this.

Blue sky, but cold and windy.  So I over-exposed quickly to get better detail in the shade.

We've only been in our current space for over two years, but I've lived in New York since 1991.  Never noticed this before, on 25th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues -but there are thousands of details like this we miss every day.

I appreciate the mixture of the Oriental with the Occidental in the relief -and at 16, 20 stories up, lulling the gods with beauty as we mount our modern Babels.

Cushioned in towards the center of a side street, little wonder this detail goes regularly missed.

Well Met, D!

"D and W" is probably my favorite little film out of everything we've done in the last few years.

Maybe because it doesn't have that much animation.

The animation that it does have, Brian did in a day. Even the painting (with watercolor).

The stars are the puppets, D and W, which we videotaped at Cote Zellers' old studio in Cold Spring because our studio, at the time, was too small.

We all took turns operating the puppet sticks, shooting with a DV camera against a bluescreen.

That's the original "eye of the tiger" in the last frame.

Compositing was done mostly by Alex Reshanov.

Available on They Might Be Giants Here Come the ABCs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Toy fair was a couple weeks back.  Here's a booth hawking some merch for a nice project we worked on.

Little Pim is a series of language DVD for toddlers.  It's created by Julia Pimsleur Levine after the Pimsleur language immersion method developed by her parents.  WNYC listeners are familiar with the name, Simon and Schuster sponsers the radio station under the auspices of the Pimsleur Technique.

There are current 3 DVDs in 6 languages (plus English).  The live action and editorial were done by Big Mouth Films (except the pilot which was cut at Asterisk by Mitch Friedman).  We did probably around 40 short little bits starring the panda.

We worked in Flash.  Not my favorite tool, but given the circumstances allowed us to get the job done.  Chris McMurray, Abbey Luck and Christina Riley were responsible for the lion's share of panda.  Jonny A did some too, I think.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Animation is a process.

With process, there is the trap of "routine".

Routine bugs me. It bugs me so much I change the path of my daily commute with regularity.

Lately I've been going one block over, one block south, one west for the JMZ train.
That gives me this greeting when I make the first turn.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church is a tiny treasure. Designed by J. C. Cady, responsible for the South Wing of the Museum of Natural History and the original (now demolished) Metropolitan Opera House.

It's a very interesting structure. The S. 5th street facade looks like a dominant church entrance, but it actually part of a compound of three buildings centered around the church.

The school house (not sure what it's used for today -not a school, clearly) even features intricate stained glass.
The brickwork is what draws me to this building, and the stained glass and other peculiarities are the reward.
These turrets are the greatest peculiarities. With the brick structure, Romanesque arches, and narrow ground level windows St. Paul's resembles an armory more than a church.

It's next door neighbor was demolished last year.

Revealing these beautiful arched stained glass windows.

Of course, it's neighbor was the Commodore Theater -I wish it were in operation while I've lived here.

But I did get to experience the premiere of a film I helped Ian Marshall on, a night that held much promise which now seems ancient history.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One at a Tyme

Last week in class we talked a little about pre-cinematic toys. It's the convergence of two things that give us cinema.

First is the moving image. Zootropes, flipbooks, what have you...

And the second comes from these:

These are glass slides from a 19th Century magic lantern. In the above we've got cats that think they're people.

And frogs that think they're people.

The magic lantern projected these images like an ancient Powerpoint presentation. Projection, which allows for a shared experience is a primary definition of the 20th Century art form of cinema.

Strange goings on with humans...

...can lead to a visit from the stork.

We have a few dozen of these slides. They appear to be lithographed onto glass with hand-tinted dyes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Animation Everywhere

Not only did Dan's Chelsea Guitars do a bang-up job mending the warped bridge on my Washburn, they're now an animation art gallery.

Inappropriately enough, housed in the Chelsea Hotel -whose many famed inhabitants include Harry Smith, I spotted these on my way to the 23rd Street F train.

Somehow, I neglected to Nancy Drew-it-up and ask the guys inside where they came from.

From what I can tell, these are Australian TV cartoons from the 70s and 80s produced by Burbank Films Australia. Trace and painters will be proud to know their work now prices at more than triple what they were paid to produced it!