Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Other Walrus and the Carpenter

Alice in Wonderland is one of those books that has been adapted many times for film. Paramount released a live action version in 1933 with an incredible cast: Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Jack Oakie, W.C. Fields, etc. For all the star power, the film is not very good.

The Walrus and the Carpenter segment in the film is animated, produced by Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising.  It's also not particularly good, but it is somewhat rare and the film is going to be on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, May 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The whole film is a curio, but if you haven't seen it, it's worth watching once.

30 Seconds of Eric Goldberg Animation

Eric Goldberg did some drawn test animation for Wreck-It Ralph. Below is Eric speaking and showing 30 seconds of his animation.  You probably want to go full screen for a better view. (Link via Bleeding Cool)

Meet Billy Elliot

This is Billy.  He's next in line in his family's revered boxing legacy.  
Get out there and give 'em a what for, Billy!  

Steven Soderbergh on the State of Cinema

Excerpts from Steven Soderbergh's  keynote address to the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival.  Read the whole thing here.  It's long, but worthwhile.
"The simplest way that I can describe it is that a movie is something you see, and cinema is something that’s made. It has nothing to do with the captured medium, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the screen is, if it’s in your bedroom, your iPad, it doesn’t even really have to be a movie. It could be a commercial, it could be something on YouTube. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.

"...The idea of cinema as I’m defining it is not on the radar in the studios. This is not a conversation anybody’s having; it’s not a word you would ever want to use in a meeting. Speaking of meetings, the meetings have gotten pretty weird. There are fewer and fewer executives who are in the business because they love movies. There are fewer and fewer executives that know movies. So it can become a very strange situation. I mean, I know how to drive a car, but I wouldn’t presume to sit in a meeting with an engineer and tell him how to build one, and that’s kind of what you feel like when you’re in these meetings. You’ve got people who don’t know movies and don’t watch movies for pleasure deciding what movie you’re going to be allowed to make. That’s one reason studio movies aren’t better than they are, and that’s one reason that cinema, as I’m defining it, is shrinking.

"...And unfortunately the most profitable movies for the studios are going to be the big movies, the home runs. They don’t look at the singles or the doubles as being worth the money or the man hours. Psychologically, it’s more comforting to spend $60 million promoting a movie that costs 100, than it does to spend $60 million for a movie that costs 10. I know what you’re thinking: If it costs 10 you’re going to be in profit sooner. Maybe not. Here’s why: OK. $10 million movie, 60 million to promote it, that’s 70, so you’ve got to gross 140 to get out. Now you’ve got $100 million movie, you’re going spend 60 to promote it. You’ve got to get 320 to get out. How many $10 million movies make 140 million dollars? Not many. How many $100 million movies make 320? A pretty good number, and there’s this sort of domino effect that happens too. Bigger home video sales, bigger TV sales, so you can see the forces that are sort of draining in one direction in the business.

"...In 2003, 455 films were released. 275 of those were independent, 180 were studio films. Last year 677 films were released. So you’re not imagining things, there are a lot of movies that open every weekend. 549 of those were independent, 128 were studio films. So, a 100% increase in independent films, and a 28% drop in studio films, and yet, ten years ago: Studio market share 69%, last year 76%. You’ve got fewer studio movies now taking up a bigger piece of the pie and you’ve got twice as many independent films scrambling for a smaller piece of the pie. That’s hard. That’s really hard."

How should you get ready for September?

What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us in September at Bucks? Here's a checklist of stuff to get you started. It's not comprehensive, and you don't have to do all of it, but tick off a few of the things on this list and you will be a making a great start on your animation career here at Bucks.

First, here is a reading list to get you started. Buy some of these books online or check them out from your local library. 
  1. The Animator's Survival Kit. We recommend that any serious student of animation should buy a copy of The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams. It is now the standard textbook for animators and easily the most comprehensive book available for learning animation.
  2. The Illusion of Life. The Illusion of Life was written by Disney animation legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone, and represents the accumulation of knowledge of the first "Golden Age" of Disney animation. An invaluable resource. 
  3. Cartoon Animation. Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair was the first available book on animation, and has been in print since the early 1950s, regularly updated since then. Still full of very useful material. 
  4. Timing for Animation by Harold Whittaker and John Halas is another very useful book on animation. It was first written some years ago but was recently updated and edited by former Animation Guild President Tom Sito. 
  5. Character Animation Crash Course. The Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg is an excellent resource by one of the most talented 2D animators in the world - the man behind the genie in Disney's Aladdin.
  6. The Complete Digital Animation Course. The Complete Digital animation Course by Andy Wyatt is a very useful overall guide to all the processes involved in digital animation and film-making. Especially good for the technical bits that the older books don't cover. 
OK - what else? The next thing to do is get yourself a free copy of Maya, and open it up. Just to take a look! It looks a bit daunting at first but it's good to get familiar with the layout. You can register and get a free student license here.

Once you have done that, take a look at the week 1 videos on my website Animation Apprentice. The week 1 videos are all free and this gives you a general introduction to the medium, helping you to get familiar with the language of animation.

Other useful things you can do include going to life drawing classes, and filling a sketch book with sketches, doodles and ideas. Being able to express an idea in a simple sketch is still a useful skill, even in the digital age.

If you do some or all the things on this list - you will have a great head start with us in September.


Monday, April 29, 2013

A Cat in Paris

I finally caught up with this film on DVD and I'd say it's a mixed bag.  The best thing about it is the design, which seems influenced by Lorenzo Mattotti.  It's a relief to see a drawn feature that isn't imitating a too-familiar animation style.

The next best thing is the direction, which is taut.  The suspense works well and the chase scenes are exciting.

The story, however, is typical of a TV cop show.  It's literally cops and robbers stuff.  The only ambiguity is the cat burglar, whose personality is never developed well enough to explain why he's stealing in the first place or why a child's welfare is enough to cause him to change his plans.  The real villain, Costa, is pure cardboard.  He's exactly the kind of villain that animation too often falls back on: someone who is nasty with no explanation and surrounds himself with incompetent, comedy-relief henchmen.

The woman police officer is the only character who is really motivated.  Besides needing to catch criminals for her job, she has a personal stake in catching Costa, who murdered her husband.

If all the characters had been developed to the same level, the film would be more interesting.  The graphics, direction and pacing certainly make watching it a pleasant experience and Europe continues to show that drawn animation has possibilities that North America has ignored.  But the film itself doesn't live up to its design.

This is the directors' first feature.  Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol are currently working on Phantom Boy, due for release in 2015.  While the story is another cops and robbers tale, there's enough promise in A Cat in Paris that I'm looking forward to it. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

iAnimate Games - Winter 2013 Showreel

Some great stuff coming out of iAnimate Games!

iAnimate Games - Winter 2013 Showreel from iAnimate on Vimeo.


Open Day at Bucks - tomorrow!

Our next Open Day at Bucks is tomorrow Saturday April 27th. Open Days are all about meeting the tutors (for Animation & VFX - that's me and Dave), finding out about the courses, and also exploring our campus.

Got questions about Animation? Or about and visual effects work? Curious about careers, the kind of jobs available for animators and digital artists? - We have the answers.

Higher education is a big step and it's even bigger now that course fees are going up. We want to make sure that all our students get excellent value for money, and receive an inspiring top-quality training that will ensure a successful career in industry.

So, come along on April 25th and find out if Bucks is for you. Check out the video above to learn more. The official page, which has more details, can be found here.


Jackie Elliot

Jackie Elliot comes from a lineage of boxers. His dad, and his dad's dad were fighters.  Today he looks to continue this tradition with his two sons, Tony and Billy Elliot.
He admits to being a bit pushy at times.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sometimes "They" Are Other Artists

As a sort of follow-up to my last post, I'd like to point you to an excellent piece by animation veteran Steve Moore over at the FLIP blog.  It's a great look at studio politics in the present day and a warning about the rose-coloured glasses that animation artists often wear.

I'd point out, especially to students about to enter the workforce, that the large studios many students aspire to are often the most political.  They are filled with excellent artists and those artists are also highly ambitious.  It's the combination of those two qualities that got them there.  That causes the political maneuvering for choice spots, whether it's job titles or the juiciest shots, to be extreme.

Smaller studios are generally lower pressure places.  As an individual represents a greater portion of a studio's workforce, it means that individuals are treated better.  Should someone leave,  there's a larger hole in the project.  Smaller studios are also places where you can make mistakes without the spotlight being on you.  Smaller studios tend to work with smaller budgets and have smaller audiences, so the inevitable mistakes early in a career don't attract as much attention.

The "Frank and Ollie trajectory," as Moore describes it, was always a rare occurrence.  It's good to remember that as much pride as you might take from your employer's name, it's most likely a temporary association.

And just so you don't think that Moore's opinion is the exception, read what Steve Hulett of The Animation Guild has to add.

Timing in Animation: Ken Fountain

Over at the SplatFrog Blog Ken Fountain wrote up a great post on Timing in Animation. He breaks the timing down into categories and is very good at explaining his thought process and workflow. He also has made some quick 2D vids to help with his point.

Great stuff Ken..thanks for sharing!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Superman - Bad Days


Cartoon Movie - the place to pitch your animated film ideas

Cartoon Movie, like Cartoon Forum, should be on every animator's radar. It takes place in Lyon every March - in 2014 it will be held from 5-7 March. It is a huge pitch-fest for talent and business to get together and make independent animated feature films, and, like its cousin Cartoon Forum, you don't have to speak French - Cartoon Movie is bilingual and English is the main language spoken.

Cartoon Movie is the place to pitch your animated film idea. If you've got a concept for the next animated smash hit - this is the place to pitch it.

Who goes to Cartoon Movie?
The answer is - anyone in Europe who is serious about making independent animated films. Co-producers go there looking for projects to partner up with; distributors want content for movie theatres, broadcasters want content for their TV schedules, financiers want to make a few Euros, and sales agents want to earn a commission from selling your film. But, in brief, what they are all looking for - is talent.

That is where you come in. Got a great idea for a movie? Here is the place to persuade Business that you have the project that will, with a bit of nurturing, become the Next Big Thing.

Do you need to have a pilot and a finished script?
No. This is the best part of all. At Cartoon Movie, you don't need a completed pilot to sell you project. You can pitch in concept, meaning that you are basically selling an idea. You don't need a script - or even any animation (though it helps). Some slides, some nice visuals, a story outline - this is usually enough. You are throwing out a hook, trying to get people excited and interested.

Why submit? What is it all for?
It all depends on what you need. You might want co-producers, to help you access national development funds, and help to get your film made. You might be looking for financiers, so-called "business angels" who will give you seed capital and take an equity stake in the project. You might want to interest broadcasters (like the BBC) so you have a potential platform to get your series out to an audience. Most of all - you ware trying to learn more about how the process works, about how business gets done and how movies actually get made.

Is it hard to get in?
It isn't easy, but it's not impossible either. There is lots if competition and the requirements are considerable. But, if your project gets selected, you get an unrivalled opportunity to pitch your project to the sort of people who can actually get your project made.

Here's how to submit your film project:
Contact Details:

CARTOON – European Association of Animation Film (AISBL)
Avenue Huart Hamoir 105 - B-1030 Brussels - Belgium
Tel : +32 2 245 12 00 - Fax : +32 2 245 46 89

 Good luck! The deadline for submission is the end of November 2013. So...plenty of time to think up ideas.

Gateway - our modern media hub at Bucks
Here at Bucks we encourage all our students to develop their own ideas and concepts, to be film-makers and story-tellers. Being an animator is not just about studying motion and learning software. It's about creating your own characters and telling stories that audiences want to hear.


For practical advice on forging a career in animation and digital media, read about what our graduates had to say at the recent Graduate Panel. Check out this post on how to set up an small business. Also learn about your first client project, read out our post on Portfolio Careers, and read this piece on Survival as a Freelancer. Study the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to freelancers and taxesFor more on careers in general, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Finally see our article on the jobs page at awn.com

Friday, April 19, 2013

Animating A Splash in 2D


AnimSchool Releases it's GUI Picker

AnimSchool just released it's GUI Picker to the public! If you've used Malcolm then you know how amazing this is! Head on over the AnimSchool Blog and check it out!


Bucks Animation on BBC 3 Counties Radio

literally dozens of listeners in the High Wycombe area
Just five days left to listen to me chatting with Roberto Perrone on BBC 3 Counties Radio about our new re-purposed Animation & VFX course at Bucks. Oh, the glamour of local radio! Fast forward to 1 hr and 23 minutes in to the show to hear the interview.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Marvel's Iron Man 3 - Featurette 1

It's been a long while since I have been excited to see a movie... any movie.  I think it's because I really enjoy the character for Iron Man and I care about what happens to him.

The Animator's Survival Kit - now available as an app for the iPad

The Animator's Survival Kit came out around a decade ago as a book, and a few years later as a DVD set. Since then it has been the leading resource for students wanting to learn animation. Anyone who is serious about the medium should have a copy of the book - until now. Here at Bucks our animation dept has just had a sneak peek at the new The Animator's Survival Kit - as an iPad app. Below is our review of this new electronic addition to the animator's library.

Basically, it's awesome - better than the book, better than the DVD series - as it perfectly combines the best qualities of both. And, at around £25, it costs barely more than the book does. So this is - in short - a huge leap forward for learning animation. My only regret is we can't get a copy for the library here at Bucks. The library does not have iPads - so if you want a copy you'll have to buy the hardware first.

The iPad feels as if it is made specially for this kind of eBook. The digital ASK has many of the traditional features of a book - plain text, nice pictures - so far, so familiar.  But, as you scroll through the pages, you find video introductions to the chapters. Click on these, and you get a personal introduction to the subject by the author, giving his own view on why it's important to read it, and what you will learn.

Other little miniature icons blink at you invitingly - click on these and it pulls up a short animated video explanation of the principle being addressed. Much of this material is taken from the ASK DVD set. Confused about overlapping action? Successive breaking of joints? The importance of using silhouettes? A short video shows you what it all means, and demonstrates in simple clear terms exactly how these principles get applied in practice.

And the videos are highly interactive. It's not like YouTube, where you can't scrub and scroll through the animation, frame by frame. Here, you can pause the video, scroll through it, fast or slow, focus on an individual frame, step through it frame by frame.

It's like having a really great animation tutor right there in the classroom with you, equipped with all the latest bits of kit - video, power point lecture, white board, and good old-fashioned books - but it is all at your disposal in exactly the format you want.

It is obvious that a great deal of thought and effort has gone into the presentation. The interface is very easy to get the hang of, and simple to operate. Tap the screen and the chapters are revealed on a scroll bar at the base of the screen - so you can easily navigate to the bits you need. 

In short - it's the best £25 you will spend on any device to help you learn animation. But you have to buy the iPad first, of course.


PS Here's a list of stuff you get with it:
  1. The Animator’s Survival Kit Expanded Edition - that is to say the whole book - for the iPad
  2. More than 100 animated examples of the principles of animation - taken from The Animator’s Survival Kit Animated DVD series, and inserted into the relevant sections of the text. You can slow these down and watch them frame-by-frame.
  3. Dad's 50-years-in-the-making Circus Drawings animation
  4. Video introductions for the chapters - by the author. 80 this year!
  5. "Sensitive navigation", which "fades away gracefully away when not needed"
  6. "Onion skinning" - to see multiple frames of animation at once.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Preferably Blue

so completely awesome!!!!

Tal Dev post mortem- Captain Hook 2

Picking up from where I left off from the previous post, I went back to researching and eventually came across the Wokou, who were groups of Japanese pirates that raided the coastlines of Korea and China in the 13th century.  I pitched again to Bill and he really responded to the idea of setting Peter Pan in this era, in this part of the world.  Yes!

Since I was still playing Captain Hook as someone who protected Neverland, I found this military general, Qi Jiguang.  Who apparently was a bad ass and fought off the Wokou pirates!

I felt like Hook could have qualities, and started to do a few crummy sketches based off of Qi Jiguang.

And continued to do more research on the Wokou...

Bill had me play a bit more with caricature and proportion (and make it look a little less like Mulan),  so I did these variants of what Hook could look like.  The mentors like the last one of the group was most iconic, so I went in that direction.

And started to explore different face possibilities...

Continued on with research for costumes...

I read that the purpose of the extravagant transformational makeup of Kabuki is to "generate the suspension of disbelief in the audience so that they can accept the convention that they are in the presence of supernatural beings."

We decided that this was the way Hook gets others to follow him, by convincing everyone he is a supernatural deity.  Although we know that he is as human as they come.  He had an explosive temperament, he was bi-polar, but he was also a romantic.  He was in love with someone who loved his enemy, which led him to spend many a night on deck writing drunken power ballads.

Refining the design after Bill's draw overs, on the right.  Emphasizing a volcano shape.  Cory had the great idea of using Kanji to dictate the shape of his hook.  

He became this massive, mountain of a man, and I started to reference Mr. Bardem's character in No Country for Old Men.

I fleshed out Smee and the rest of the pirate crew.  It was also at this time I became obsessed with Ikea monkey, so he had to be in there.

A volcano that only erupted when it came to Peter Pan.

The Lost Boys exploited the Pirates' superstitious nature and used this fear to their advantage.
I was fortunate to be sitting next to a story trainee named Mike Hererra, who helped me so much with these layouts.

And this was one more of Hook  years before, and his fateful encounter with the Crocodile.

This is a small slice, but pretty good summary of my Tal Dev experience.  Tons of research, lots of back and forth.  Developing the rest of our world and cast marked the halfway point of the program.  After the Peter Pan project, during the second half,  we got to work with directors on 2 different projects that were super early in development!  That itself was incredibly challenging , and they were filled with the hardest weeks of the program for me, but I feel like I grew the most during these months. 
Make sure to check out the work of the other trainees as well, they did some amaaaazing work:

(who hasn't posted his work yet but keep an eye out!)

Ah!  So inspiring these guys!  If you are applying to this year's program, good luck to you!  I hope this gave at least a little bit of insight to what it was like.  Thanks for checking it out everyone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


nice renders...

Cool new camera from MoVI - changing the face of cinematography

Here is an awesome new live action camera that gives smooth and steady results even though it is a hand-held device. This will make it even easier for low budget films to get results that traditionally only big budget movies can produce.

The camera is a called a "MōVI" - and is (according to its makers) a "digital 3-axis gyro-stabilized handheld camera gimbal". It is "a completely silent device which weighs under 3.5 pounds and can be operated solo, or with the help of a second gimbal operator with a joystick to pull off some incredible moves."

MōVI BTS from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.



Monday, April 15, 2013

A few projects to love

Hello friends!  Just wanted to pass along the good word of 2 projects dear to me.  The first is a Kickstarter for a project I was lucky to be a part of,

Little kids write the stories, big kids draw the pictures.

The children's book will feature artists from Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney, Blue Sky and many more.  With a cover from Glen Keane. Help us get it made!  

The second is a plug for my girlfriend, Katia Grifols's , newest art project, her take on the story of Robin Hood.  Check out her wonderful art!

MTV Idol

Gorgeous VFX...

Mystery of Prince Rupert's Drop at 130,000 fps

Reference for Glass Exploding

Framestore signs off on our new course

Head of Animation at Framestore Kevin Spruce has signed off on our new course at Bucks. We're thrilled that Framstore have OK'ed our course outline, and especially the module which focuses on creature animation, preparing students to be able to animate animals and creatures to a professional level, and preparing our graduates for work in the expanding animation and visual effects industry.

We hear a lot about skills shortages in industry, but there is no substitute for speaking to leading figures at our best companies to find out what skills they need, and where the shortages are. For many years animation schools have focused largely on character animation - that's the Pixar-style stuff, teaching students to give a character performance.

Creature work is a bit different. Companies like Framestore have to be able to re-create lifelike and photo-real animal and creature performance and then - and this is the really tricky bit - layer in a character performance on top. Think of the armoured bears in Golden Compass, animated by Framestore, and you start to get the idea of how difficult a task this can be.

We're aiming to give our students a solid grounding in this kind of animal and creature work, so that our graduates can take aim at the best visual effects houses in Soho, find employment, and build themselves a satisfying career.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Animators Resource Interview - Zach Parrish on Blocking Animation Workflow

Here is another clip from the interview I did with Disney Animation Supervisor, Zach Parrish. Here he is chatting a bit about his shots on Wreck It Ralph and some about his blocking process.

Animators Resource Interview - Zach Parrish on Blocking Animation Workflow from Animators Resource on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for more clips from the interview and the full interview will be posted soon.
Head over to the Interviews Page to check out more animators resource interviews.


as mentioned Tween Machine

CTN Roadshow

Colored Rapunzels and Wreck-it Ralphs at the Disney booth today.  What a wonderful time!