Monday, August 31, 2009

2002 Exhibit Notes

Here's the program from an exhibition at the Motion Picture Academy of Art & Sciences from 2002. "Oscars in Animation" featured production art from Oscar nominated animation, mostly short form but special effects and long form as well.

Here's the text:

Ever since the Academy gave out its first Oscar to an animated film (Disney's short "Flowers and Trees"), the Academy has had a child-like love of cartoons. The list of films honored by the Academy over the decades reads like a comprehensivesummar of film animation's colorful history, from the earliest days of cel animation to today's digital age. Over the years animated films have competed in a wide variety of awards categories: Cartoon Short, Comedy Short, Novelty Short, Animated Short, Original Score, Original Song, Writing and, as of the last award season Animated Feature.

Culled primarily from the private collection of Mike Glad and the Glad Family Trust, this exciting and comprehensive exhibition displays rare and original animation art from every year since 1933 to the present, all of it from Oscar-nominated or winning films. At times whimsical an fantastical, at other times avant-garde and unsettling (but always compelling), this compendium of art represents some of the most significant animated films ever made.

The exhibition is comprised of original cels, preproduction sketches, storyboards, "progression videos" and three dimensional artist models from such classic titles as "Dumbo", "Gerald McBoing Boing", "Gulliver's Travels", "The Lion King", "Luxo, Jr.", "Monsters Inc.", "Pinocchio", "Sleeping Beauty", "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves", "Toy Story", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Shrek". These pieces represent the work of such luminary animators as Frederic Back, Cordell Barker, Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, Chuck Jones, Walter Lantz and John Lassiter. Examples of the award-winning films originate not only from an international list of countries such as Canada, the former Czechoslovakia, Russia, Hungary, Italy and The United Kingdom.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recommended Reading

The just a day before the Blake Snyder died, Steve Kerper gave me a copy of his book "Save the Cat".

I'm a little ambivalent about it. It's clear, accurate and sound in every regard considering standard story structure. What does it all add up to? Cookie cutter Hollywood movies.

On the other hand, as he says this structure works that why we use it. When scripts stray from this format they usually fare poorly.

The thing that sticks with me (apart from his hilarious riffs on the shortcomings of "Signs") is his chapter on genre.

I'd like to list his 10 categories:

• Monster in the House (Jaws, Tremors, Alien, The Exorcist, Fatal Attraction, Panic Room)
• Golden Fleece (Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Back to the Future)
• Out of the Bottle (Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, Freaky Friday, Flubber)
• Dude with a Problem (Breakdown, Titanic, Die Hard, Schindler's List)
• Rites of Passage (10, Ordinary People, Days of Wine and Roses)
• Buddy Love (Dumb & Dumber, Rain Man, Finding Nemo)
• Whydunit (Chinatown, China Syndrome, JFK, The Insider)
• The Fool Triumphant (Being There, Forrest Gump, Dave, The Jerk, Amadeus)
• Institutionalized (Animal House, MASH, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, American Beauty, The Godfather)
• Superhero (Superman, Dracula, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind)

These are story types refined from Joseph Campbell and a hundred year history of narrative cinema.

As much as the tropes in this book veer toward cliché, it would be nice to see animators who want to make traditional narratives take them to heart.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Limited Expectations

A few weeks ago I picked up a small stack of animated Dickens DVDs.

I was hoping they would relate to these cels I had posted earlier.

The DVDs do not include credits, but from my best guess these are the very same Australian produced TV films.

Before 2003 I had never read any Charles Dickens. I had read a few Stephen King books in the 8th Grade, when my high school English teacher claimed "Dickens was like the Stephen King of his time" I took that to mean a verbose editophobe who never began a sentence he didn't intend to run on. Oscar Grillo, though, insisted I should read Dickens -and man, was he ever right. Pretty much the polar opposite of Stephen King.

So far I've only screened "Great Expectations" and "A Tale of Two Cities". "Nicholas Nickelby" and "David Copperfield" have yet to make it into the DVD player.

These types of stories are interesting to us. Drawn animation is a great technique telling epic narratives -all of those dentist office Bible videos are great examples. Its interesting to see how they've been told throughout animation history.

Going in, I did not think these would be very good -and they're not. But they attempt something admirable, they use animation to tell sophisticated stories. The voice acting is impossible to understand. There's no director credited and from the bizarre camera work is doesn't look like there was either. Filmicly, its an attempt at Scooby Doo economies without the know how and expertise of a Hanna Barbera crew.

They do this on a very low budget too. Animation is expensive, yes. But a quality (and evergreen) film adaptation of story like "Bleak House" would cost under $5 million to do animated (I'm not talking about 10 years of development, but a modest but financed production). To do the same thing in live action might cost over $20 million (again, modestly budgeted). On top of that animated films have longer shelf life on video especially in the "family" section.

Rambling, I wonder how the death of the video store will effect the direct-to-video animation market. The infamous "cheapquels" were a boon to executives and overseas studios, but can "Tinkerbelle Part 8" still reel in the millions without point of purchase displays at Blockbuster?

Friday, August 28, 2009

5 Dollar Find

A guy around the corner on Sixth Avenue sold this book to me for $5.

"Cartooning Plus Good Drawing" by Harriett "Petey" Weaver published by the Davis Press in 1939. If this is one-in-the-same, the artist was also a glass ceiling breaking Park Ranger, something especially of interest in the light of our recent work for She's also the subject of a film by experimental filmmaker Jennifer Reeves.

The drawing style is a little dated even by 1939 standards, which is to be expected, I guess -that instructional manuals refer to the old over the current.

The book has 23 plates, the most interesting are animals towards the end.

Pedagogically, the book reminds me of those match book ads that promise to show how to draw the Mona Lisa. Step One: Draw A Circle. Step Two: Draw Another Circle. Step Three: Voila! La Gioconda!

These drawings remind me of the great Ron Barrett. I wonder if this was the book he stared at as a child in the same way many of us grew up with his work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Animation Lesson #29

Lucky for you, anonymous reader, I spent all of my increasingly limited non-work time yesterday in a ridiculous internet flame war.

The animation we produced yesterday may look like this because of it.

I hope it's this good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Midnight Confessions

Miranda Nell, who I went to college with, suggested the editor of this website ask me to contribute.

It's an interesting idea. Simple and literary. Reminiscent of a good literary 'zine from the mid-90s heyday.

My piece was published yesterday. It's "confessional", so those of you who have been dying to get the People Magazine backstage exclusive will be thrilled.

Go comment on it, and tell me to stick with drafting schedules and charting up shot lists.


In other, non-animation news, on Monday night I decided to hang out at the studio and watch one these few dozen DVDs we have but never look at.

At first I wanted to go for Dumbo. We're doing a lot of elephant animation. The approach is very different from Disney, probably more akin to UPA in many respects although the design stylings are far afield from any work of theirs I've seen.

I couldn't do it. Watching Disney films has always felt like a chore to me. As an adult I can appreciate them in many ways and am ceaselessly awed by the craft, but, man -they're hard to sit through. Honestly, I prefer the books. "Illusion of Life" and John Canemaker's remarkable tomes appeal to me more.

Instead I put in side one of the "Midnight Movies" DVD double feature "Panic in Year Zero" and Vincent Price in "The Last Man on Earth".

"Panic in Year Zero"

I won't recount the plot or the cast (Frankie Avalon, though!). You know how to use the internet. If not: click (imdb listing).

Two things I'd like to bring up.

1) A movie like this would never get made today.

Clarification. A movie today would never get made like this.

Ray Milland, the director as well as the "hero", often responses to a situation with a gruff silence. In a contemporary script, would a character say anything as human as "Ah, it's pretty good" after hiding their car in the bush. Mostly likely, the writers would see it as an opportunity to flash their Ivy League wit, to drop a fantastic one-liner in hopes of coming up with the next "I'll beeee baaack".

Secondly -and again discussing the form -it's got an emotionally driving and effective soundtrack without being cliché or saccharine. Les Baxter.

2) A perfect serviceable, standard movie -an animated movie like this would be considered amongst the greatest.

Thinking further on that -a live action version of say, "My Neighbor Totoro" shot by shot the same but live action -would probably be considered amongst the greatest live action films.

It would be easy to flippantly dismiss the animated oeuvre at first thought as kiddie stuff that can't handle the depths of a genre potboiler. But thinking that one step further, the vital strengths of the medium become evident.

In animation, emotional realism is a struggle but the fantastic is the lingua franca.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mice Infest the Everglades!

Here's the Life Magazine story on the opening of Disneyland.

Click on any image, as always, to enlarge

Sometimes I wonder what came first: the coaster enthusiast or the animator?

The field has a large percentage of people who love toys and theme parks. Did their love of theme parks draw them to animation?

Did Walt Disney's personal vision turn them into closet train nuts (one step removed from the coaster enthusiast -one goosestep closer.)

There are akin in one ontological sense -both animation and theme parks are creations built from nothing. Land made from thin air.
I also feel the association with children's vacationlands reinforces the crassest aspects of animation -its easy appeal to infants, its innate ability to turn characters into merchandise.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wrong Way Down Sesame Street

I picked up this 1971 issue of Life Magazine for Christina, she's loves Disney World so much that upon finding out she couldn't marry it decided to get married there instead.

Before posting the images from the photo essay for all you coaster enthusiasts in "toon" land, there was another little article that caught my eye.

The BBC passed on airing "Sesame Street" amid claims that the program promoted "authoritarianism."

Having worked for Sesame Workshop (nee The Children's Television Workshop), they really could use a benevolent dictator to get their trains running on time.

Comedy aside, the politics are interesting. The claims were being leveled by the British Left. As we've seen in our own country attacks from opponents of the Obama administration as well as his predecessor can quickly devolve into hyperbolic name calling.

The "Sesame Street" story in Life suggests that the underlying cause of the complaint is sour grapes. British educators were simply upset that they hadn't come up with the idea first. This is a phenomenon which regularly plays out in public debate.

Think back to the American reaction to "Teletubbies", accusations were leveled from all quarters -including the charge that one of the characters was homosexual. In the United States being totalitarian is one thing, but kissing people of the same gender -unacceptable!

One accusation from the British Left was that the program promoted "middle class" values like "reading" and this somehow was negative.

No wonder the bane of Thatcherism loomed a decade away in the British Isles.

I also had to share this advertisement for Binaca. Unsigned, its clearly the work of the very great Arnold Roth.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Drawing the Line

Flipping through Union newsletters from the 1940s and 50s, I revisited the union/blacklist chapter in Karl Cohen's "Forbidden Animation".

He recounts several moving stories of women and men who stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and were knocked down for it. Some, like P.D. Eastman went on great success after a few years of hardship.

The stories of Hollywood "turncoats" are well reported, right down to the continued controversy of Elia Kazan's Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

Still, even a loudmouth like me wonders how such a situation would play out today. Would we have the courage to stand against petty tyrants, even with a simple gesture like Bertolt Brecht's who politely answered their questions, implicating no one, with an airline ticket visible in his front pocket.

This led me to finally pull down Tom Sito's "Drawing the Line" from the shelf.

Its an invaluable book, and recounts a criminally underrepresented story in the history of our field.

There are major shortcomings, it devolves into a corporate history of the Disney Corporation and Hollywood internecine struggles with little regard for the labor issues involved. Even so, its a well researched, strongly documented work by a man who really knows his stuff.

When I started at The Ink Tank, Ed Smith, Tissa David and Sarah Calogero were still in the union. Local 600 Cameraman's Union. For years they had been part of 841, Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists. The details I don't remember, but I get the feeling the whole operation slowly fizzled out of disinterest.

Like the Blacklist, I wonder what the repercussions of a unionized New York would be.

This is a shortcoming of Tom's book, he doesn't go into post-UPA era in New York City. I believe a study of this era would show how the union functioned (both positively and negatively) and illuminate how it could work today.

I doubt we would be able to function under a union contract. Our productions aren't arranged according the Henry Ford/Walt Disney factory system. An artist will be painting one day, inbetweening the next, then compositing, painting a background, then animating all in one week. Surely, the shop steward would have a lot of reporting to do.

But there are situations in New York (so I hear) that would greatly benefit from a little worker solidarity. Studios who train cameras on their employees, fire artists for missing unpaid production meetings, and paying employees as independent contractors (which is also a violation of Federal and State Labor Law).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cartoon Controversy

If you look to the right, you'll see that Blogger has recently redesigned the gadgets so our favorite blogs float to the top when they are updated.

Yesterday the "Animation Pimp" was first in line. I shouldn't be surprised that "toon" people have issues with Theodore Ushev's poster for this year's Ottawa International Animation Festival, but I am.

In 1997, at The Ink Tank, we were proposing Mats Gustafson to illustrate a campaign. His rep sent his portfolio for us to present to the ad agency.

A guy like Mats Gustafson doesn't send his portfolio out for every illustration cattle call. When he does, his portfolio contains (or at least it did contain) original paintings.

Opening his portfolio, flipping through, I had never experienced anything like that looking at drawings. The work was visceral, sensual.

Theo Ushev's poster is similarly visceral.

The poster is more intellectual than sensual -but still, I think, "visceral" -from the gut. That's an unlikely combination -viscerally intellectual.

"Toon" folks complained that it doesn't say "animation". If one's view of "animation" is limited to neo-retro Hollywood styles. No, it doesn't looked like warmed over Gerald McBoing Boing or nouveaux Tex Avery.

My first reaction to the poster was that it felt like animation. There's kinetic power in the composition. This comes, in part, from the layering. The image developed over time and we approach it and understand it over time. The cubist-like face implies time, as does the shouted "OIAF".

The whole approach is sophisticated and complex, the results naive and energetic- similar to many cartoon favorites.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

It's already clearly established that I don't know a heck of a lot about animation. Or much else.

Somehow, there's only been a couple days in the past decade plus that I haven't had any work. So I do know a little something about getting jobs.

And I know a little about hiring artists too. In this post I'll offer some advice to job seekers young and old.

Some of these are obvious, some idiosyncratic -and that's an important thing to remember: the world is full of humans and humans have peculiarities. Someone else might disagree with these points, that person might also hire artists. Everybody's different.

"cold calling"

We'll assume you've just moved to town and are starting from scratch. Or you've been working on the same project for years and seek to spread your wings.

This means you've got to contact people you don't know. Scary.

have a website, or even a reel on YouTube. Sounds obvious, right? You'd be surprised.

don't be stingy. Send out emails to every possible employer -studios, TV stations, labs, post houses. An email doesn't hurt you. Anyone who'd get angry at you for sending your links wouldn't hire you anyway.

be selective in your follow ups. If you send out 100 letters, maybe 10 of them are worth pursuing.

follow up on the phone. Say "I emailed a resume to XXX and wanted to make sure you've gotten it and see if there's anything else you need."

don't nag. There are a dozen ways to say "Don't call us, we'll call you." Get it.

don't nag. We try to answer every email we're sent. Obviously, we don't always. Generally, this happens every two or three weeks. If someone sends a follow up email, it bothers me. If someone sends a third or fourth -forget it.

try to get an in. If you know somebody who knows somebody who knows someone at the studio -use it. Favors are currency. I'll almost always meet with someone who is recommended by a colleague.

don't ask for an "informational interview". Its passive-aggressive. Unless you're a high school student or are looking for life advice, or information.

"the interview"

The goal of the resume sending is to get a face to face interview.

bring your work. Reel. Portfolio. Sometimes people don't do this. Imagine.

know what you want to do. I'll always ask this question: "What do you want to do?" The answer I always get: "Anything!". Yes, I know that you will do anything; what do you want to do? It's a big deal. If you want to be a storyboard artist or if you want to do effects compositing or if you want to animate "Wallace and Gromit" -the answer is important. The answer probably won't prevent me from hiring you, but it may sway things in your favor.

know who you're talking to. Heck, we put up a blog every day. Everybody has a website. When I pitch a project, I find out whatever I can about the prospective client. You may research someone and find out that you don't want to work with them.

dress how you dress. I don't know of any dress codes in animation. So if someone comes to an interview in a tie, I expect them to continue dress that way. If you plan on wearing a mustard stained T-shirt every day, don't pretend otherwise. Of course, how you dress counts.

ask questions. I always ask: "Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?" The answer: "Uh, no..." Presumably the interviewer has been in the field you are presumably interested in for several years. And there's not a single thing you want to ask? Really? Golden opportunity...

Maybe I'll add on to this if I think of anything else. I'll follow up with a "How to put together your reel" post in the future.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Getting away from the Christmas theme, in 2002 I wrote piece for ASIFA International Magazine on Fred Mogubgub.

In researching that I visited his son, Fred Jr., in Brooklyn. Freddie had dozens of paintings stashed throughout his apartment.

I managed several photos, only a few are legible. Shooting paintings is hard enough, but this was 2002 remember -we didn't have digital cameras. Getting any exposure without glare, indoors, on a painting was darned near impossible.

This was my favorite one.

If I recall correctly, that's not framed its trompe l'oeil. I do clearly remember the immediate magnetism in her face.

These paintings are fantastical without being fantasy.

This, kind of a lousy picture. Flipping through my file she jumped out as she never had before.

Maybe I just like their outfits.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Days of Christmas in August

Following up on yesterday's post, there were three segments we did for the Rev. Billy film "What Would Jesus Buy?" which were ultimately cut.

David Levy's recent post reminded me that the background for the second segment was painted (digitally) by Jason McDonald.

From a layout by Dave Conception who also animated this section.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


If you're anything like me (and for the sake of your bank account, your sanity, and your generations lets hope you're not too much like me), you've been getting lots email and webads and flyers for Rev. Billy Talen's campaign for mayor of New York City.

While I don't like Mayor Bloomberg's single handed re-writing of the law, I do think three terms is a good idea for New York. If recent administrations are anything to go by, a mayor's first term is solid and their second is an unmitigated disaster. With three terms, perhaps that disaster will be every 8 years instead of every 4.

Back to animation.

We did a few animated for the documentary "What Would Jesus Buy?" which was about Rev. Billy. Our segments were ultimately excised due to structural rearrangements of the film. Here are the pencils to one of the sequences.

Doug Compton did the animation.

Stylistically, we were aiming for a rubber hose look. That's why everything is based on jaunty cycles.

Here's the board:

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Just Want A Hula Hoop

1958's "Witch Doctor" may have been a smash hit for David Seville and his sped up accompanists, but it wasn't until a year they were revealed to be "The Chipmunks".

The Chipmunks became a ubiquitous "property" in the early 1980s. It's become increasingly questionable with each incarnation.

David Seville's first experiments with sped up recording remain highly engaging entertainment.

I picked up "The Chipmunk Song" 45 for 25 cents on Saturday. Christmas in August.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hop To It

Any short list of great American, or great Twentieth Century painters will include Edward Hopper.

Just across the Tappan Zee in Nyack, his family home still stands -listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Every morning as a child, he'd step onto the porch with the view (maybe the cars were older).

The house is converted into a gallery for local artists, with the backyard serving a concert venue.

This couch sits in the small ground floor office. I like to imagine an awkward teenaged Hopper doing the "stretch move", making time with a fin de siecle lass.


If a 127 year old Hopper took a stroll down the street, he'd find a chair for his great, great granddaughter in the window of the thrift shop.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

See You In September

Several years ago I stopped in a deli for a late afternoon sandwich.

Four dudes came rolling in. Their leader shouts to the guy behind the counter, "Hey, didn't this place use ta be Billy's Topless?".

"No. Bagels."

"Yeah, this was the place..." as he began to describe the layout of the strip club to his buddies who were excited just to be standing there.

At some point in the 1990s, the Guiliani administration made it illegal to advertise "toplessness". I don't the details, but they may have outlawed toplessness entirely, it's very possible that had already been done.

This forced Billy to change the name of his venue from "Billy's Topless" to "BillyStopless." A genius stroke of advertising.

The bagel place is right around the corner from our studio. I haven't ever really had any good experiences there. They usually been pretty bad actually. But I like having a bagel place nearby.

But the bagels and bialys are on hiatus.
Passing 24th Street looking East, the block between 6th Avenue and Madison Square Park feel like another city.

Crosswalks between buildings. Luscious green on the end of a short block. And a flag pole at the center.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Projecting the Negative

Martha Colburn had a screening last night.

I don't really like "rooftop" films. This probably puts in a minority, most people seem to love it.

A film is a particular experience, its an immersion. I don't find bad sound "charming", and poor projection isn't "fun".

This was on the roof of a gallery on 22nd Street which I used know as something to do with DIA, apparently that was extreme enough so the current name has something to do with an X.

They should give up the pretense of caring about film art, if they're going to present it on the equivalent of a 10 foot Hefty bag. The disrespect would be shocking, if it wasn't already evident that the New York City curator only cares about spending the weekend in the Hamptons -art, that's just a means to an end.

Anyhow, on to the show.

The films from the 20th Century are special. I wrote a piece for Chris Robinson's "ASIFA International" a few years back, I don't have a copy and I'm not even sure he published it. In it, I discussed how these films (like "Evil of Dracula" below) are explosive meditations on a single idea. They're like unspeakable thoughts -the kind you fully understand but words can not describe.

That's what those films are like. Three minute words expressing an idea the only way possible.

kids love rooftop Dracula

Her newer work is wholly different. There's just no comparison.

They're longer. The soundtracks are indirect. They ramble.

One day I hope to come to some manner of approaching them. I'll probably have to watch a compilation tape continuously for days on end. It wasn't until a few dozen screenings of a VHS that Shawn Atkins lent me around 1999 that I started to get a glimpse of what was happening in those earlier films.

Its intriguing that an artist's work can continue to be regarded by the world as "the same" over the course of a dozen years, when the essence is completely different.

The evening finished with a "work in progress". Using two projects Martha weaved images together (she earlier played with a live dancer and manipulated projector to create often stiring visuals).

One projection was nearly all "talking head" footage projected from the negative. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some Guys Will Shill Anything me. But Popeye? Say it ain't so!

We've already discussed how Segar's hero has helped America's youth eat their greens, but now it seems he's turned to the other side.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but those "sticks" -produced by "World Candies, Inc" of Brooklyn look an awful lot like these ones produced by "World Confections, Inc" of Brooklyn, NY.

Here are the ingredients to our spinach-lovin' man's confection:

It's not a scam, "Round Up" contains a different set of chemistry: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Tapioca, Gelatin and Artificial Flavors. These products are clearly geared toward different tastes.

The best of all products, and one Popeye should get behind, teaches kids to be cool and makes New York City restaurant owners start to yell at you before sheepishly looking away:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We did some web design/programming work for

The site is up and running. It's a very complex database, that's hopefully easy to use and something that should be bookmarked for regular visits by nature lovers.

Included in our work was a short "bear safety" video.

The video is on the right hand side under the advertisment.

This video is a demonstration why its difficult to set "low budget" parameters. We needed to do the piece economically, and discussed several limitations primarily that only the ranger would lip synch or have any sort of animation the rest would be pan and scan. We largely kept to those constraints, but I wonder if the film would've been any better had we done a "fuller" job. Maybe not, since the story is told in the layouts.

The voice over is the publisher of the website, who's a knowledgeable and energetic sportsman. The music is stock culled from Apple Soundtrack (which packages with Final Cut Pro Studio).

One of the goals of the project for me was to explore Soundtrack and work on my audio editing. Sometimes you have to set marks like that in a project that doesn't offer much financially -it's important that you always get something out of a production.

The site is very useful, and we're proud to be associated with such a worthy endeavor.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dog Dreams

A few years ago I helped Bill Plympton with some mundane technical thing. Something to do with a DVD.

I offered to do it gratis, as a professional courtesy. Bill insisted -he would be making money from this endeavor and felt I should be compensated. He offered either $200 or a cel from his just completed "Guard Dog."

Not wanting money in the first I chose the artwork.

I hope I'm never so desperate that I'd chose cash over craft.

Had I made the other choice, that money would be long gone spent on candy and comic books, no doubt. Bill did ask me not to sell the art (he makes his living from it), but I wouldn't even consider trading a memento of my professional relationship to one of the giant figures of our field.

There was a little gathering at the Plympton studio to promote his newest DVD which contains "Guard Dog" and its follow up films.

Purchase your own directly from his studio.


We've jokingly discussed the idea of having interns pay us for the privilege of scanning in our studio. Especially hearing some of the underhanded things other studios to their "interns", or even just guests who would like to look around.

Yesterday's New York Times featured an article on the paying-for-an-internship phenomenon. It turns out the company they site most frequently, University of Dreams, is in our building. While standing in the lobby, I've dreamt up many courses that this school could've had in it curriculum. None involved paying to work. Unless you have a broad definition of "work".

I think you need to be selective with whom you work, and I also think that artists deserve to be paid for their work. (Admittedly we've paid some people pretty badly, and there are few students that put in irregular hours for free -these flaws make us human) Those are a couple reasons why we don't jump head over heels at every student with a decent portfolio who wants to learn on the job.

In a few days will be posting some of our tips for "job hunting" as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kalamazoo: Just For Cartoons?

Last year I got a call from Kalamazoo.

Everyone knows, if someone from Kalamazoo asks you for something, you do it right away.

Lisa Santoro was making a film for school on color and wanted to interview someone at the studio.

The result is a polished, professional documentary -the kind you might see on a rainy weekend afternoon on public television.

I sound like an idiot -but sometimes don't sound completely drooling thanks to her kind editing.

The film features interviews with Leslie Harrington - a color strategist, Carl Minchew -the director of color technology at Benjamin Moore paints, Patricia Lynn Duffy -a communications expert and author and noted synesthete, Dr. David Krumholtz -an ophthalmologist with color blindness.

An interesting facet of this film is the level of professionalism achieved by one woman working on a student project. A contributing point of interest is the genre (or more properly -method of inquiry).

The documentary form is as diverse as the technique of animation. Today we are in the middle of a documentary explosion. Films of vastly divergent approaches, perspectives, subject matters and styles are all finding a degree of success. Compare that to the films using animation as a method of inquiry, and it's easy to see the paucity of fresh ideas coming from animation programs in The United States and Canada.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Three years after the release of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" the Disney Corporation decided to "expand the franchise", "capitalize on the market", "go cross-media" or whatever MBA doublespeak they use to make crappy toys and bad spinoffs from successful films.

Some time I'll write about my childhood experience with comics -which turned me off of the format until discovering Dan Clowes "Eightball" a few months after "Roger Rabbit's Toontown" issue #1 was release in August of 1991.

The first story was drawn by John Costanza and inked by Dave Hunt. Costanza has a pedigree in comics from animated characters, Hunt did a lot Marvel Comics superheroes.

The comic book demonstrates the strengths of "Roger Rabbit" the character. Roger Rabbit is about animation. He works in the film because he is frenetic, flexible, indestructible as only certain types of animated characters can be.

Roger Rabbit is like the Platonic squash-and-stretch pratfall player.

Richard Williams' team understood this as animators, they crafted the character to exploit every trick their medium allows.

The panels above show how this doesn't translate to print.

The action lines, swallowed up by opaque white, weigh him down. The bulging eyes are more gross than comical. An animation cliché, humorous in the film, out of place on the page. Even the anthropomorphic fire hydrant, it's double take is funny if it exists in time -here it's simply crowds the frame. The eyes looking over the safe (in the previous panel the face of the safe has eyes) are a graphic nuisance which add little comedy or character in print. Even Roger's pose, it takes elements that might never exist in same frame of animation -the popped eyes, the jagged ears, the angular feet, the airborne position, the speed lines, the wagging tongue -and combines them into an awkward hold.

I think this panel is very nice. There's clear and sensitive inking. While you could complain about the overlap of the indian's finger and the thug's hat, I appreciate they didn't insist on the design-centric "no intersecting lines".