Saturday, August 28, 2010

Behind My Dog Tulip

The New York Times has an article about the technology behind Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's animated feature My Dog Tulip, which opens in New York on September 1.

11second Club Resources

Hey Everyone

Just wanted to point out the Resources section on the 11second Club page. I ran into a post on Martin K's animation blog about this page and all of the great stuff up there. I especially like the Helpful Hints and Winner Interview pages. There is quite a good list of hints going and also the interviews show great insight to how the winners approach their shots.


So if you haven't already...check it out!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rio Animation Crew Shirt!

I recently did this design that luckily got picked for our animation dept. crew shirt for the movie I'm working on, Rio!
Here are a few other designs I did that didn't make the cut!
Sweet!  Okay back to work!

Dumbo Part 20

I'm going to start off with a plea. Hans Perk's documentation for Dumbo is incomplete in several areas, but never more frustratingly than in the "Pink Elephants" sequence. He only has credits for the first 9 shots.

This sequence is a tour de force. It is graphically daring, using colour treatments, metamorphosis and shot transitions in ways that were out of the ordinary for Disney and every other animation studio of the time.

The missing information is out there, I'm sure. If anyone can supply the information for the rest of this sequence, I would greatly appreciate it. I would be happy to give credit to whoever supplies it, or would be happy to keep the donor anonymous if that is the donor's preference. If you have access to a complete copy of the animator draft or access to the scene folders for this sequence, could you please supply me with the information?

This sequence is an alcohol-induced joint hallucination of Dumbo's and Timothy's and ends with images of a tree, which will turn out to be their new location. The sequence can best be described as a stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness?) where each elephant action leads to another without any sense of narrative logic.

Wikipedia says that the first recorded use of the term "pink elephants" is from Jack London in 1913. The phrase was used musically by George Olsen and His Music in the 1932 recording below, so Disney was not the first to use it as the basis for a song.

Please note that after shot 9, the shot numbers are pure guesswork. I could number the later shots differently and still support the alternate numbering. For instance, the tearing curtain in shot 13, revealing the skaters, could be thought of as a wipe between two separate shots rather a single shot. Did a single animator do the work before and after the curtain? Even if that is the case, it might still be two shots in the eyes of the production team.

Howard Swift tends to give the elephants more pointy heads than Hicks Lokey. Is that due to the animators' drawing styles or did that come from the layouts? If it's the animators, it gives us a clue as to who did the later, unidentified shots, but if it comes from the layouts, all bets are off.

I have to admit that my favorite animation in this sequence is the skaters. I love the striking colour treatment and the animation is as flexible and fluid as it gets. Who animated it? I wish I knew.

The opening 4 shots portray the elephants as very bubble-like, as they have originated as bubbles blown by Dumbo. By shot 5, they are being treated more solidly, though liberties are taken with their colours and their construction.

Shots 15 through 18 are very interesting for their suggestion of male and female elephants. With all the shots of mothers in the "Baby Mine" sequence and Dumbo being named for his father, this is the only hint in the film of male animals. The lightning between the dancers in shot 15 can be interpreted as sexual energy. Can this be considered a wet dream? That interpretation can be supported by the phallic imagery of the snake in shot 11 or the raised trumpets of shot 15. The harem elephant's suggestive hip wiggling also supports this. Or are the dancers Dumbo's longing for an elephant father figure and a complete family unit? Is it a coincidence that the male-female dynamic of the dancers leads to the chaos that ends the dream? Like real dreams, this can be interpreted several ways, but there's no doubt that something deep and agitating has been released to cause Dumbo to become airborne.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Arnie Lipsey

Arnie Lipsey is a Toronto animator who has worked in the local industry for years. He has also created two independent films, The Crow and the Canary (1988) and Almonds and Wine (1999) and has finally made them available on YouTube. You can see them below.

The Crow and the Canary is a story from Arnie's childhood, narrated by his father. Almonds and Wine is a visualization of the Jewish experience from eastern Europe to Canada.

Almonds and Wine inspired a mural, created by Cristina Delago, that's located on the west side of Bathurst Street, two blocks south of Lawrence Avenue. You can see the mural here and photos and video of the opening ceremony as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tracking Arcs in Animation

Quick link to a great blog called Flip. One of the workflows down in the Concepts of The Day list on the side here has a link to this blog as well. Anyways he has a great post about Tracking Arcs....not just any arcs either. He compares how arcs are really choppy in lots of real life situations. Plenty of examples too.


The post is titled: Perfect Imperfection
Lots of other great posts so look around and enjoy

Unfinished Mouse

Thad has posted about Plight of the Bumblebee, a Mickey Mouse cartoon from the early '50s that was animated, but never finished. Included in Thad's post is the pencil test, something I've never seen before.

Rather than steal Thad's thunder, I'll direct you to his site so that you can watch it.

The Return of the Blackwing Pencil

Here's something that will make Jenny Lerew and many other animation artists happy: the Blackwing pencil will be manufactured once again.

These pencils were standard in the animation industry for years. I first encountered them at Zander's Animation Parlour in the 1970s. According to the Boing Boing link, original pencils are going for as high as $40 apiece on Ebay, so you know that some people really value these things. Personally, I always found them impossible to erase, but they did make a beautiful dark line that worked really well when photocopying drawings onto cels, the technology of the time.

No word yet on whether the new manufacturer is able to match Eberhard Faber's quality or when the pencils will be generally available, but Mark Frauenfelder promises to review the advance pencils he will be receiving.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dumbo Part 19

Dumbo is still tearful after seeing his mother and gets the hiccups as a result. Timothy has Dumbo drink water from the tub the clowns knocked a bottle of champagne into and both of them inadvertently get drunk. Timothy challenges Dumbo to blow a square bubble, and before their eyes (it's a joint hallucination), the bubble metamorphoses into an elephant that starts to blow its own elephant bubbles.

The use of alcohol and drunkenness is very cleverly handled. The clowns have spiked the water purely by accident. Dumbo is motivated to drink by the hiccups and the hallucinations that start here and continue in the next sequence are what cause Dumbo to fly for the first time. There has been no suggestion anywhere in the film that Dumbo's ears resemble a bird's wings, so Dumbo has no logical reason to attempt flight. It's only the alcohol-induced nightmare that provokes his actions and the audience doesn't find this out until after the fact.

The innocent and accidental nature of the drinking excuse it for both the family audience and the Hollywood censors. The film gets to use alcohol for humour while keeping the characters untainted by a moral lapse.

John Lounsbery handles the bulk of Dumbo shots and Fred Moore handles the bulk of Timothy. I have no idea what Lounsbery's relationship to alcohol was, but Moore was famous for his love of drink. You can bet that everyone in the studio considered this sequence typecasting.

Both animators have a lot of fun with the characters' tipsiness. Lounsbery gives Dumbo heavily lidded eyes. Moore has Timothy constantly weaving, using S-curves for the character's line of action. Ed Brophy is just wonderful in his voicing for Timothy. I don't think that Brophy gets enough credit for what I think is one of the best vocal performances in all the Disney features.

There are unnumbered shots between 18.2 and 26. The draft lists 19, 20, 21, 21.1, 22 and 23 as "out of picture," but I suspect that some of those shots were put back in.

Shot 18
There's some bad matching of the water with the top of the bucket in shot 18 before Timothy comes into the shot. I assume budget limitations prevented it from being fixed and I have to admit that it bothers me every time I see this sequence.

Then two shots later in 18.2 (above), the top of the tub is dry. This is small stuff and nobody watches Dumbo for details like this, but there's a clear distinction between the production values of this film and the other pre-war features.

Bobby Beck: State of The Industry Update

Just wanted to share a post Bobby "Boom" Beck wrote on his blog about the state of the animation industry. It's a post about how some companies seem to be taking advantage of new talent coming out of school.


Check it's a good read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Employer Obligations

A short time ago, I linked to a Mark Evanier piece about hitting deadlines. I believe strongly in behaving in a professional manner when working on a project. I also believe strongly that professional conduct goes both ways and that studios have the same obligation to behave as their employees do. In that piece, I mentioned that "the people setting up the schedules or passing judgment on work are often ignorant. They create impossible schedules or ask for changes that will take enormous amounts of time." There are also cases where studios are dishonest with their employees because they have run out of money.

The latest example of this is a studio with the unfortunate name Fake Studios in Montreal. They have yet to pay visual effects artists for their work on Piranha 3D. Variety has the details. The story was also reported and commented on at The Animation Guild's blog. Visual effects artist Scott Squires has posted an excellent list of actions employees should follow to avoid being taken advantage of.

The bottom line is that if a company misses a payday, stop working. The company will use guilt, telling employees that they are disloyal if they don't work, that the company is a big family going through a tough time and that everyone has to pull together. The company may threaten employees with blacklisting if they don't cooperate. However, an employee without a paycheque is an ex-employee no matter how much a company wants to convince people otherwise. It's important for artists to understand this.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BABES IN THE WOODS (Disney, 1932)

Here is a huge re-constructed pan B/G:

Left side:

Right side:

Now, for viewing even greater detail, I've broken the B/G into four quadrants:

Here is another re-constructed pan shot:

Left side detail:

Middle detail:

Upper right detail:

The gnomes' homes - re-constructed B/G:

The witch's candy house re-constructed pan B/G:

The witch's candy house and nearby land, re-constructed pan B/G:

And finally, a closer look at the delicious candy house doorway!

Gorgeous artwork!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Online Animation School:

If you haven't heard by now...Jason Ryan has team up with Digicel and many of his co-workers at Dreamworks to create a new online school called - The Character Animation School. I have done multiple rounds of his webinars and they have been some of the best training tools I have used. He just had a free webinars that should answer most questions you have about the school and how it works. I think it's going to be a great school for animators. Check out the webinar here.


The guys over at Speaking of Animation Blog are mentors as well.
So have a look around the site and enjoy!

Happy 90th Maureen O'Hara

Left to right: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara and Claude Jarman, Jr. in John Ford's Rio Grande.
Tomorrow, Aug. 17, is Maureen O'Hara's 90th birthday. As she is one of the few surviving members of director John Ford's stock company and the performer he most frequently cast as his female lead, I want to acknowledge the milestone by wishing Ms. O'Hara a happy birthday.

Turner Classic Movies will also be celebrating the day by screening her films for 24 hours. They'll screen three directed by Ford (The Long Gray Line, 9:30 a.m; The Quiet Man, 8 p.m; and Rio Grande, 10:15 p.m; all times Eastern). In addition, they will show The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton (noon), Our Man in Havana with Alec Guiness (directed by Carol Reed, Wednesday at 1:45 a.m.), Big Jake with John Wayne (one of the better movies in Wayne's late career on Wednesday at 4 a.m.), and Disney's The Parent Trap with Brian Keith and Hayley Mills (directed by former animation artist David Swift, screening at 5:45 p.m.) The complete schedule can be found here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


This will probably be old news to New Yorkers, but I moved out of the city before this was created and never managed to see it on my visits home.

Bill Brand used the principles of a zootrope and the existence of an abandoned subway station (one which trains pass at full speed) to create the above animation. Here are some older news reports on the creation of the work.

Toronto has a subway and there are stretches where this kind of thing could be done. However, I think it would be more interesting to do it outside the elevators of the CN Tower. How great would it be to see animation on clear plastic (cels!) of somebody falling and opening a parachute as you descend back to ground level? Or something totally surreal as people in rocking chairs or rowing boats in the sky, as Dorothy sees out her window during the tornado in The Wizard of Oz?

In any case, my hat is off to Bill Brand for finding this use for animation and for livening up the commute to work.

(link via 37signals.)

Hitting Deadlines

Mark Evanier, who has written for many animated TV series as well as writing for comics, has posted some advice to a comics writer friend of his. An excerpt:
There are also times when they can't [give you extra time]...or when to give you that two weeks means taking it away from your collaborators; i.e., the artist is going to have to draw the comic in three weeks instead of the five he expected to have.

You may also have harmed his income. He expected to have that script next Tuesday. He planned his life and maybe turned down other work so he could start drawing your script then, plus he counted on being paid for it by the time his next mortgage payment is due. But because of you, he has nothing to draw next week and no way to make money on the days he cleared to draw your script...and he may have to turn down the assignment he was going to do after he finished your script because he's now not going to be done with it when he expected to be. Ask anyone who's worked in comics for a few years and they'll gladly unload a tirade of anecdotes about how someone else's lateness screwed up their lives and maybe even prevented them from doing their best work.

The above advice, as I said, is aimed at a writer for the comics market, but it is relevant to animation artists. Company-produced comics and company-produced animation are both pipelines. If you are an artist in working in either, there is somebody ahead of you and somebody following you in the pipeline. If somebody ahead of you is late, you've got less time to do your job; if you're late, somebody after you has less time. No matter what the length of the schedule, it's a standard complaint that you wish you had more time.

Two things flow from hitting deadlines: payment and return business. Companies don't get paid the full price of a job until it delivers and if it delivers late, a late payment can jeopardize a company's existence. A company that delivers late is likely to lose a client. A company that consistently delivers late is a doomed company.

No company will risk its existence on an employee who misses deadlines. Whether a project is a TV series, feature film or videogame, it's likely the budget is in the millions of dollars. No artist is more valuable than the company's existence or reputation, so artists who can't hit deadlines are artists who will spend more time unemployed.

Yes, the people setting up the schedules or passing judgment on work are often ignorant. They create impossible schedules or ask for changes that will take enormous amounts of time. It's the nature of the business and everyone has experienced it. It is better to avoid these projects and people rather than commit to them. Experience helps to read the situation, but things sometimes take a turn for the worse even if the project looked to be well organized at the start.

As Evanier says,

I tell beginning writers, "Never get a reputation for unreliability. You will never lose it," which is an exaggeration but only a slight one. What you need to do now is cultivate the opposite rep and maybe, just maybe, the new one will trump the old one. If not...well, you just may have to look for another career.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dumbo Part 18

The clowns are still celebrating and decide to raise the platform that Dumbo jumps from. On their way out to ask for a raise, one of them knocks into the table, spilling a bottle of champagne into a bucket of water.

This is a very curious sequence from a graphical standpoint. Like the previous clown sequence played in silhouette, the layouts are credited to Al Zinnen. However, that sequence was animated by Berny Wolf and this one was animated by Art Babbitt. This sequence is quite a bit busier graphically. The characters are not as well defined by the negative spaces around them and their silhouettes are not as strong. The clowns' hair is far more complicated here. There are more clowns on screen, which also clogs up the graphics.

Did Zinnen lay out both sequences or was he supervising two different layout artists? Did Berny Wolf make a conscious decision to streamline the layouts he was given? Did Babbitt add more detail and characters? Personally, I find Wolf's sequence more attractive than Babbitt's. Babbitt's is a bit of overkill.

I also wonder about Babbitt being assigned to this sequence. He's the animator who did the Queen in Snow White, Gepetto in Pinocchio and the mushroom dance in Fantasia. He animated the stork earlier in Dumbo. Why put an animator of Babbitt's caliber on this sequence? Were his union organizing activities affecting the assignments he was given? It may simply be that he needed work and this was what was available, but it's a rather dry assignment.

According to the draft, the sequence opens with the clowns singing. I assume that what the sequence currently starts with was the end of shot 4, with the clowns laughing at their lyrics.

While shot 18 is separate on the draft, there is no cut from shot 17. It's only the addition of Josh Meador animating the bottle and the liquids that justifies giving it a separate shot number.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Josh Burton: Morpheus Rig

If you haven't had a chance to visit Josh Burton's blog in a while then you haven't seen all of the work he is doing in developing a new rig he calls Morpheus. He is in the process of making a new rig that will be for public use. He had been documenting his progress and has some clips up on his site to show off all of the techniques that he has been experimenting with. If you haven't heard of him before he brought you the Squirrely Rig.


Check out his blog and follow the progress...looks like it's gonna be a good one.

Monday, August 9, 2010

HIAWATHA'S RABBIT HUNT(Warner Bros., 1941)

HIAWATHA'S RABBIT HUNT is an early Bugs Bunny cartoon. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Warner Brothers' animation division. The Disney influence was pervasive. All the studios were forced to step up their game. These are certainly among the most lavish artwork pieces I've ever seen from the infamous "Termite Terrace."

First up - a most unusual pan, which starts at the top of the waterfall, pans down and then to the left.

a stair-step waterfall...

a tranquil lakeside landscape...

And now (drum roll please...) THE LONGEST PAN B/G I'VE EVER RECONSTRUCTED!!!

Following is a series of its segments, left to right. This B/G was so big I had to divide it into six pieces to see the details!

Here's a close-up of the "rabbit stew" pot:

Now, a completely different B/G, also including the pot...

Details close-up left:

Details close-up center:

Details close-up right:

Another wonderful pan B/G:

Details close-up left:

Details close-up right:

And finally, a few choice remaining background pieces: