Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Long Winter Sale and New Character Benny

Head on over to Long Winter and check out the new character they just released. Benny! He is one of their first creature type characters and is super fun! I like that he still fits in the world of the rest of that cast so if you have gotten any of the previous rigs then he will look great interacting with them.

Check out some of his Demos

Long Winter also has a great sale going on right now with their rigs. There are a bunch of Combo Packs to check out, so Login and explore.


How to Create a Great Animation Pitch

Learning to pitch is an important skill for any artist. Sooner or later you will be called on to persuade a client that you have a great idea to sell their product, or perhaps try to sell your own idea for a TV series or feature film to a network or production company. Either way, you're going to need to learn how to pitch your ideas. Pitching is not just about standing up and delivering a persuasive summary of your awesome idea, it's also about what should go into it in the first place. How much character work and design do you need to do? How well thought out does your story need to be?  In this excellent blog post, Disney designer Chris Oatley explains what goes into a great animation pitch and bible.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Profit Margins

The Fool (not me, another fool) shines a light on Disney movie grosses and Disney profits.

... Marvel's The Avengers set new opening weekend records in May 2012, going on to earn over $1.5 billion worldwide. Among Disney pictures, only Frozen has produced more profit since the studio took full control of Pixar in May 2006.

Most Profitable Films -- Total Gross -- Gross Profit -- Profit %

Frozen -- $1,274,219,009 -- $628,559,074 -- 40.57%

The Avengers -- $1,518,594,910 -- $621,295,630 -- 35.82%

Toy Story 3 -- $1,063,171,911 -- $447,485,580 -- 34.13% ...

... From the close of the Pixar acquisition on May 9, 2006, to today, Disney has added roughly $90 billion in market cap -- from just over $62 billion to more than $155 billion as of this writing. Pixar is probably responsible for over half those gains. ...

Which isn't to say that Marvel's been a slouch, just that buying Pixar (which, let's face it, wouldn't have happened if Michael Eisner had remained in charge) has been one of Iger's better strategic moves.

One management team (Catmull and Lasseter) runs two successful cartoon studios; also, too, the less successful DisneyToon Studios. So all in all, the $7.2 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006 has paid off.

The Marvel acquisition has worked well too, just not as richly as the Emeryville pick-up.

And with the torrent of good news, there was today this announcement:

Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios promoted both Walt Disney Animation Studios' Andrew Millstein and Pixar Animation Studios’ Jim Morris to president.

“We're fortunate and proud to have an abundance of strong creative leadership at Disney, and Andrew and Jim are two incredible talents that embody the perfect blend of business and artistic focus,” said Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. ...

To give you the chronology, Mr. Millstein was a DreamQuest executive when Disney bought the visual effects house in the late '90s. (This was long before VFX studios were dying like fruit flies. Andrew was part of the Disney team that negotiated the Secret Lab contract in 1999. I was part of the union group on the other side of the table).

Andrew Millstein ran The Secret Lab -- feature animation's internal visual effects facility -- and after that Disney Animation Florida. When the Orlando facility closed in the mid oughts, Mr. Millstein returned to the California studio (now known as The Walt Disney Animation Studios, and has worked there ever since.

Congratulations to both Andrew and Jim Morris.

"B.O.O." Push

The Times reports:

... DreamWorks has decided to push back the release date for "B.O.O.: Bureau of Other Worldly Operations," one of two original movies (rather than sequels) planned for next year, two people close to the studio said.

One person said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was unhappy with the progress of the film, while another said the decision had more to do with the competitive landscape the studio faces next summer. Pixar also will release its movie "Inside Out" in June. ...

The story I got from staffers during a trek through the studio last week was that the story needs work. A recent presentation of the feature to lead creatives and execs indicated weaknesses, and so the shift in release dates maybe isn't a surprise, eh?

A note to the uninitiated: In Animationland, stories almost always need "tweaking". Sometimes a whole lot of major league tweaking.

Pixar's orphan movie "The Good Dinosaur" has a new parent — and a new story..

First-time feature director Peter Sohn, an artist at the studio in Emeryville, Calif., since 2000, unofficially took over the film a few months after Pixar executives removed its first director, Bob Peterson, amid creative concerns in the summer of 2013.

Over the last year, Sohn has been quietly streamlining the story, a buddy comedy about a teenage dinosaur and a human boy, in preparation for a November 2015 release. ...


THE RESCUERS (Disney, 1977) was a landmark film, marking the passing of the animation baton from the Nine Old Men to the new generation of animators. It's a beautiful film, visually and emotionally. Lots of old school Disney charm!

Today I've digitally re-assembled a fabulous pan background. Our hero Evinrude flies across this swampy landscape to escape some nasty bats.

I left Evinrude in the first frame. He's to cute to digitally eradicate!

As usual with a pan B/G, I'm posting the entire image, then broken it into thirds so you can savor the detail. As this was a night scene, out of necessity I've lightened the artwork so the details POP.

Beautiful artwork from a lovely little film!

Disney Renewal

Diz Jr. has re-upped a high-performing cartoon half-hour.

Disney Junior has ordered a second season of its breakout series Sheriff Callie’s Wild West. The series starring Mandy Moore as the voice of Sheriff Callie was the first Disney/ABC Television Group show to launch on the company’s Watch mobile platform. It amassed more than 23 million views in its launch window. The success translated on-air, with the back-to-back premiere telecasts in January ranking as Disney Junior’s Top 2 telecasts of all time in total viewers. Since its linear premiere, Sheriff Callie has been the No. 1 series across preschool-dedicated TV networks in kids 2-5. ...

Sheriff Callie is produced in Toluca Lake by Wild Canary Animation*.

(For whatever reason, Diz Co. doesn't do this one in-house, but instead sub-contracts the production. WHY does the mouse sub-contract the Sheriff? Because it's likely cheaper than building additional corporate infrastructure to get the show made. Disney Television Animation is just now bursting at the seams, but there's this ongoing market demand for more cartoons. So the Mouse improvises.

* Wikipedia says that "Callie" is produced by Wildbrain Entertainment, which is a different Wild altogether. But Guild records say that Wild Canary Animation is the production entity.

Bucks Animation Student Kalim Momen is Rusty - For a Day

As everyone at Bucks knows, Rusty is our official university mascot, the big furry character with antlers who welcomes you to our University Open Days and to Freshers’ Week. This week we did some filming for a short video about life at the university, and we needed someone to play Rusty. Fortunately, Kalim Momen, one of our 2nd year animation students, was game to try out the Rusty suit, and see what life is like as a loveable cartoon deer.

Kalim gets suited up

Animators sometimes forget that we are actors too. Unlike most actors, we act out our performances (for the most part) with a mouse, or a pencil, and most of our work is done in our imaginations. If we act something out, it is generally for reference only. The final product will be the animation itself.

On this occasion, Kalim had to try something different – using his body to become the character, like regular actors do. To get into the part, he had to get dressed up in the Rusty costume - which took a lot longer than you might think.

As it turned out, Kalim was a great Rusty; he quickly got into the swing of things, doing silly walks, hugging visitors, and generally putting a smile on everyone’s face. Rusty is the official mascot of the Bucks Students' Union, and the SU could not have been more helpful getting us up and running.

Kalim also discovered some other things about spending the day as a cartoon buck. Big antlers make it hard to fit through doorways, and even on a cold day in November, the inside of a thick fuzzy deer suit gets very, very hot indeed.

Suited at last!
I know this from personal experience because years ago I got to play Goofy at DisneyWorld. Out in the Florida heat and humidity I thought I was going to boil alive. Twenty minutes was enough for me. Kalim on the other hand managed well over an hour – a fine achievement of endurance.

Rusty gets a big hug. Go Rusty!
In the end, we got the footage we needed, and Kalim got some great experience being an actor and performer. Now all he has to do is apply those skills to his animation....

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.


I'm resuming posting and I'll continue - but the last two posts got ZERO comments!

No need for elaborate notes - but if you're seeing this please let me know. Thanks!


Home theatre isn't really a new concept - Pongo and Perdida had one in the 60s!

I love the modern look of all the 101 background art, very linear with color washes. This BG was printed and distributed as a backing for cels sold at Disneyland's once-upon-a-time Art Corner - imagine Disney cels for a dollar!

I've recreated the piece digitally as usual, erasing the tail-wagging pup. :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

At Prospect

Today I took a quick spin around Marvel Animation's new location on the eastern edge of old Hollywood. (Seen above ... a few years ago).

Marvel Animation's Guardians of the Galaxy (the cartoon version) moved to Disney's Prospect Studios three months back, and is now in full-bore production ...

The newly minted series is headquartered in the middle of the Propsect Street lot.

A lot that was built in 1915 as a Vitagraph Co. outpost on the Left Coast (which complimented its Brooklyn studio). The Vitagraph had been a going concern since the 1890s, but by the roaring twenties the movie company was fading, its market share beaten down by the likes of upstarts MGM, Warner Bros., and Paramount. The Prospect Street Studio was sold to Warner Bros. in 1925, then the ABC network purchased it, and years later the Walt Disney Co. swallowed up the TV network and ... here we are.

Marvel board artists and designers sit on the second floor of a building that dates to the beginning of the lot, looking out on a lumber warehouse, sharing the facility with General Hospital and Gray's Anatomy. But it's fitting that animation has returned to the old Vitagraph Studio, since Vitagraph was one of the pioneers of screen animation.

Could we say that Vitagraph/Warner Bros./ABC/Disney has come full circle? Probably not, but Prospect isn't that far from the old Hyperion Studios, right?

On This Date (But Actually Yesterday) ...

The last Disney animated featurette painted on cels was released with the first Disney animated feature painted digitally. ...

The Prince and the Pauper, one of Mark Twain's literary nuggets, was colored in the traditional way in the ink and paint building in Burbank, while the picture was animated in Glendale at the Flower Street studio. (This was the last animated theatrical painted on the lot, wrapping up five decades of cartoon production work at 500 S. Buena Vista Street.)

Meantime, The Rescuers Down Under was done in Glendale, start to finish.

Ground Zero of Animation's Renaissance

It happened a quarter century ago.

... The Little Mermaid, which opened 25 years ago, on Nov. 17, 1989, realized its makers’ dream: recapturing the magic of classic Disney as destination entertainment to enthrall generations of moviegoers. More than two decades after Walt Disney’s death, and following a series of less-than-fabulous cartoon features, this was the picture that launched the Disney Renaissance that soared with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. ...

I was there are at the birth of Ron Clements' and John Musker's movie.

But nobody knew (at the time) that it was the start of animation's renewal. The scene was just a big pitch meeting in a back room of the Disney commissary. Just another Eisner/Katzenberg "gong show", the kind they had hosted numerous times before.

But the session in the summer of 1985 brought forth Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, and Treasure Planet. Ron Clements proposed the Hans Christian Anderson story as an animated feature, but Jeffrey and Michael shot it down. Ron, never one to be stopped by a first refusal, wrote a treatment anyway, and sent it to Jeffrey.

And Jeffrey changed his mind.

Development work started on The Little Mermaid, and four years later, the second Golden Age of Animation commenced

Bucks Animators Go to Blue GFX

Blue GFX

Last week Bucks New University students went to the Blue GFX Expo in London – a massive annual visual effects event sponsored by Autodesk, and a great opportunity to find out about the latest developments in our industry. There were presentations about Autodesk Maya, 3D Studio Max, a chance to try out the latest Cintique tablets, and best of all a talk by Framestore about the work they did on Gravity, a film that looks and feels like a live action movie, but is entirely animated. OK, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were real – but the rest is CG magic.

Nomad Games

I went to a fascinating lecture by Don Whiteford of Nomad Games, who talked about how his company got started – an excellent introduction to the challenges of starting up a small games business and adapting to new technology and changing markets. They created Talisman – now a 30 year old game, and he talked about how business need “not just one product, but something that gets updated and can be rolled out over time, with expansions and extensions” to the existing game. He also explained that here in the UK, Creative Skillset will fund creative salaries at 50% for a year – hugely useful for a start-up company short on cash.

Autodesk Maya

Graham Bell of Autodesk introduced some of the latest features of Autodesk Maya, including how to use their hair tools to create realistic fur and grooming for CG animals and creatures.

Overall, the event was a huge success, and a great way for students and lecturers alike to catch up on new developments in our business.

Blue Zoo
To see more about Blue GFX 2013, see this post about the use of Maya's latest hair and fur tools, read about how Blue Zoo revealed the secrets of making a new animated TV series, find out about how Frame Store did the title sequence for Skyfall, and learn about how graduates can get a job with Blue Zoo, the UK's largest indie TV animation company.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.  


The educational films Disney created in the 60s are beautifully crafted and still charming over 50 years later. The "library" background art using books as sets was inspired. Lookie!

The JIMINY title card art (digitally restored)

opening shot

opening medium shot

restored pan background

various book backgrounds - beautiful little set

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Should Freelance Animators Set Up a Limited Company?

A freelancer at work
Part of our job at Bucks is to teach our students to be working professionals, which includes not only the ability to do excellent work at a high level of professional skill,  but also the ability to run a small business and tackle freelance work. Almost all digital artists take on freelance work of one kind or another, and we help our students out by bringing in small commercial projects at our virtual online studio at, giving our students paid experience on live briefs. Being a freelancer involves learning a lot of new business skills, and one of the most common questions asked by students is: "Do I Need to Set Up a Company before I become a freelancer?" The short answer is "no", but it's not quite as simple as that - it all depends on your personal circumstances.

Render Under Caesar What Is Due To Caesar
Both in the UK and the USA it is very simple to be an independent freelancer. You just start working for clients, send out an invoice, and get paid. At the end of the tax year, you report to the IRS or the Inland Revenue all your income, less your expenses (computers, software, travel expesnes etc) and you pay tax on the difference - which is your profit. It's called being a sole trader, and it is very simple to do. It is the same basic structure for anyone selling a product, whether it is a shop on ebay or a stall at the farmer's market. You don't need to register with the Revenue - you jut start trading.

Setting up a company is different. You have to pay fees to set the company up in the first place, to register it, and also to file annual reports, as well as paying annual corporation tax. It's much more of a hassle than being a sole trader, and there aren't really any tax advantages.

So why set up a company? There are three main reasons:
  1. Because your customers and clients make you. Once you reach a certain size, plenty of companies won't like doing business with a sole trader. They are used to dealing with companies, and they will insist on it. 
  2. Liability. As a sole trader, you are personally liable for everything the company does, down to your last penny.  Most companies are Limited Liability Companies (hence Ltd) which means that if the company goes bust or gets sued - you won't lose your house.
  3. It's the grown-up thing to do. Once you start to grow and employ people, it makes sense to have a formal vehicle for your operations. Sole trader status is convenient, but it only makes sense for small operations of low complexity.
In effect, company status is something that, sooner or later, will likely be forced upon you as you grow. It is one of the perils of success. While you are still small then, you are probably better off being a sole trader, but with size and complexity comes the need for a more formal status.

To see more about the benefits and burdens of setting up a company versus being a sole trader, see this link:

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.  

International Box Office

The animation, it rolls along well.

Weekend Foreign Box Office -- (World Totals)

Interstellar -- $106,000,000 -- ($321,909,855)

Big Hero 6 -- $11,900,000 -- ($148,353,891)

Penguins of Madagascar -- $11,300,000 -- ($11,300,000)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- $4,200,000 -- ($474,362,931)

Dracula Untold -- $3,100,000 -- ($208,825,500)

The Chinese opening of Penguins (the only country where it's open) garners the DreamWorks Animation feature the Place position:

The Eric Darnell-/Simon J Smith directed Penguins took $11.3M from 3,500 China locations after bowing on Friday. That was good for a No. 2 slot.

Interstellar and Penguins will now run for another three weeks and will have to face off with local competition. ...

Big Hero 6 started rolling out internationally on October 25 and now has an overall cume of $148.4M worldwide. It added a total $11.9M overseas this frame in 23 territories for an international total of $36.7M. ...


The Mouse climbs higher.

The Walt Disney Studios on Friday reached a new milestone, passing $4B at the global box office for the second time in its history. The first time was just last year, but that was on November 26, meaning Disney bested its speed to $4B by 12 days this year. The new tally of roughly $4.05B joins other 2014 records which include the studio getting to $2B internationally, on August 4, and $3B globally, on August 5, faster than any other year prior. ...

Maleficent and Frozen helped propel Diz Co. to new heights, along with its comic book franchises.

It's good to remember that all or most of the content, which of course provides inspiration for the attractions at the amusement parks and the toys on shelves at Wal-mart, Toys-R-Us and other venues, contains large dollops of animation, either the undiluted kind (Frozen) or the type that gets embedded in live-action movies (Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy).

And that won't be changing anytime soon.


I'll be at CTN on behalf of Sheridan College's animation program.  Fellow faculty member James Caswell and I will be at the Sheridan table for the duration.  If you're going to be there, stop by and say hello.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jobs, Careers & Volunteers Fair at Bucks on Thursday 27 November.

Welcome to the 2014 annual Bucks Jobs, Careers & Volunteers Fair! We’re looking forward to welcoming over 80 employers, charities and other organisations to the High Wycombe Campus to attend this year’s Jobs, Careers & Volunteers Fair in the Gateway Events Hall between 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 November. 

This year, many employer organisations are looking to meet students from all years to offer a mix of work experience, part-time, volunteering and graduate opportunities and also to engage with staff to discuss how they may engage their industries with our wide range of courses. Organisations in attendance this year include:

• Virgin Atlantic
• Majestic Wine
• Crazy Bear
• Enterprise Rent-A-Car
• Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
• The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

For a full list of exhibitors please visit

For many of our students, working part-time while at university is something of a necessity. While we don't encourage our students to take on work that will compromise their ability to study, we do recognise that many will need to earn some extra cash to make ends meet. The careers fair can be a great place to find out about opportunities for part-time work while studying at Bucks, as well as a chance to look beyond the university into the Great Unknown beyond.

For more information please contact Louise Wicks, Student Temp & Volunteering Agency Manager, on extension 5103.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

Your American B.O.

The projected totals:

Weekend Box Office

1). Dumb and Dumber To (UNI), 3,154 theaters / $13.9M Fri. (includes Thursday night previews of $1.6M)/ 3-day cume: $35.6M / Wk 1

2). Big Hero 6 (DIS), 3,773 theaters (+12) / $8.2M Fri. / 3-day cume: $33.7M (-40%)/ Total Cume: $109.2M /Wk 2

3). Interstellar (PAR), 3,561 theaters (0) / $8.475M Fri. / 3-day cume: $28.1M (-41%) / Total cume: $97.6M / Wk 2

4). Beyond the Lights (REL), 1,789 theaters / $2.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $6.6 M / Wk 1

5). Gone Girl (FOX), 1,959 theaters (-265) / $1.3M Fri. / 3-day cume: $4.4M (-29%)/ Total cume: $152.6M / Wk 7

6/7). St. Vincent (TWC), 2,332 theaters (-123) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-28%)/ Total cume: $33.1M / Wk 6

Fury (SONY), 2,382 theaters (-452) / $1.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $3.9M (-30%) / Total cume: $76.1M / Wk 5

8/9) Ouija (UNI), 2,382 theaters (-298) / $970K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.8M (-52%) / Total cume: $47.9M / Wk 4

Nightcrawler (OPRD), 2,103 theaters (-663) / $891K Fri. / 3-day cume: $2.8M (-48%) / Total cume: $24.8M / Wk 3

10). Birdman (FSL), 857 theaters (+397) / 662K Fri. /3-day cume: $2.2M (-4%) / Total cume: $11.4M /Wk 5

And the other trade paper tells us:

... “Hero” was on track to take in $8 million on Friday, then double that figure on Saturday and finish the weekend at about $34 million. That would give the Disney toon a 10-day total of about $110 million. ...

Big Hero appears to be dropping less than Interstellar, first weekend to second weekend.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking Off?

One more halt in the march to merger?

DreamWorks Animation’s merger talks with Hasbro have stopped, two days after Deadline reported that Jeffrey Katzenberg’s indie studio and the toymaker were far into negotiations to combine into what would be an entertainment power. ...

There had been a flurry of meetings and talks for the past couple of weeks, but we’re hearing that those discussions have come to an end. While it seems negotiations have likely ceased, it might be a situation of never-say-never, according to sources close to the situation. ...

Jeffrey wants a big "get" in merging DWA with another company. Like money. Like a high position in any resulting corporate structure.

Would Hasbro be a good fit with DreamWorks Animation? I guess that depends on how successful the resulting combined company turns out to be. And the only way to find that out, is to combine them.

The only thing I'm convinced of is that, sooner or later, DreamWorks Animation will get itself sold.

The Best Free Rigs for Learning to Animate in Maya

Morpheus - endlessly flexible
We do not design and build our own rigs here at Bucks - there are just too many excellent free rigs and sets provided by Maya enthusiasts for student use. We point our students to the very best freeware rigs from the web and show you where to find them. In the end though, it is up to our students to find the rigs that they most enjoy animating with. There are so many; all have their strengths and weaknesses. Below is a list of some of the best, and where to find them.

The Marvellous Monty

The marvellous Monty by Raveen Rajadorai. A green pea with legs, and the perfect rig for learning animation. We recommend him for animating locomotion, like walks runs and jumps. His long legs make him very flexible and easy to use.

Morpheus by name, Morpheus by nature

Josh Burton's excellent Morpheus rig is a great rig for acting and performance. This stunning rig has a few quirks (the textures are a little tricky to use) but it is very flexible and adaptable and gets great results.
    For sets and props we use the many free assets available at the excellent website Turbosquid,
    and also, which has tons of free stuff. We always recommend that our students set the scene, and create a set. It helps you imagine what is taking place, and helps create an interesting environment.

    Animators can also consult the Resources page of The 11 Second Club. The Club runs a monthly animation competition, which we strongly recommend all our students enter. Their Resources page
    lists the rigs that they recommend, and we don't disagree with any of their picks. They are all solid and reliable, and deliver the goods when it comes to character performance and dialogue.

    Another very useful page is this blog post by LesterBanks, a few years old, but still a great list of fantastic free rigs available online.

    Finally, don't forget Animation Buffet, which again lists some of the best free resources out there.

    The important thing to remember when you download a new rig is that all rigs have their quirks, and each one is unique. To be sure your animation will come out OK, test your rig extensively and make sure it can do everything you need. If necessary, get online and start asking questions in user forums. Not all rigs will do what you want them to. For example, if you are working on a dialogue shot, don't invest tons of time and effort in a rig that doesn't have facial expressions - you are simply wasting your time.

    For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

    The Month in Animation -- Part Deux

    Herewith, Mr. Sito completes his month of history.

    Important History Dates of November

    Nov. 15, 1989 - Walt Disney's "The Little Mermaid" debuts.

    Nov. 16, 1946 - The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences founded. Fred Allen once said: "We call television a Medium because nothing on it is Rare or Well Done."

    Nov. 16, 1952- The first time in a Peanuts comic strip, where Lucy pulls away the football as Charlie Brown was attempting to kick it, is published.

    Nov. 16, 1960 - CLARK GABLE DIED- The 59-year-old star had just completed the film "The Misfits", a film in which director John Huston demanded a great deal of physical exertion. He had told his agent that the unprofessional antics of his moody co-star Marilyn Monroe had driven him so nuts “That dame is going to give me a heart attack!”

    Gable had one after shooting, and on this day while convalescing in Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital reading a magazine, a second heart attack killed him. He wrote his own epitaph, but it was never used- "Well, Back to Silents."

    [The physical stunts Gable performed on "The Misfits" probably hastened his heart attack, but the "stress" of Marilyn Monroe's absences and tardiness are overblown. Clark's contract for the picture was $750,000, 10% of the gross, plus overtime at $48,000 per week. The picture went way over schedule, and Clark Gable made piles of extra money. So, would you have been upset if Monroe delayed the picture by three weeks and you made an extra $144,000? Didn't think so.]

    Nov. 16, 1990 - Disney’s feature film "The Rescuers Down Under" premieres. The first traditionally animated film to be painted digitally on computer instead of using acetate cels and paints. ...

    Nov. 17, 1978 - "The Star Wars Holiday Special", a two-hour variety show on CBS, with Harrison Ford, Beatrice Arthur and Nelvanas animated cartoon airs.

    Nov 17, 1989 - Don Bluth's animated film "All Dogs Go to Heaven" premieres.

    Nov. 18, 1928 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICKEY MOUSE- At Universal’s Colony Theater in New York, Walt Disney’s cartoon "Steamboat Willie" debuts before a movie called "Gang War". This marks the first major sound cartoon success and the official birth of Mickey Mouse. Two earlier silent Mickey's had been done, but they were held back when the sound experiment went ahead.

    Nov. 18, 1985 - Bill Watterson’s comic strip “Calvin & Hobbs” debuts.Nov. 18, 1988 - Disney’s Oliver & Company releases.

    Nov. 19, 1959 - Jay Ward's TV show “Rocky and his Friends” debuts.

    Nov. 19, 2007 - Disney’s "The Enchanted" premieres.

    Nov. 21, 2008 - Walt Disney’s film "Bolt" premiered.

    Nov. 22, 1888 - According to Edgar Rice Burroughs this is the birthday of the boy who would become Tarzan.

    Nov. 22, 1995 - Pixar’s "Toy Story" opens, the first all CG movie, and the first true CG hit.

    Nov. 23, 1952 - Animator Fred Moore, who drew Mickey Mouse in "Fantasia" and the "Brave Little Tailor" died from injuries incurred in an auto accident in the Big Tujunga Canyon area of Los Angeles. He was 41.

    Nov. 23, 1960 - The Hollywood Walk of Fame is dedicated, featuring over 1,500 names - but not Charlie Chaplin, who was banned until 1972 because of his alleged lefty political views.

    Nov. 24, 1947 - THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST - 50 Hollywood moguls like Harry Cohn, Jack Warner and Dori Charey meet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to formulate a group response to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) anti-commie hearings that were targeting Hollywood. Besides the heat from the feds, their stockholders were clamoring for them to “Get the Reds Out!” They agreed to enforce an industry-wide blacklisting of anyone refusing to cooperate with the HUAC Committee. Nothing was ever officially written down or published. If you were blacklisted, you suddenly were unable to find any work.

    Nov. 23, 1963 - The very first episode of "Dr. Who" premiered on the BBC TV. William Hartnell played the first doctor. There have been twelve doctors since.

    Nov. 24, 2010 - Disney’s "Tangled" opens.

    Nov. 25, 1949 – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” sung by Gene Autry hit number one on the musical charts.

    Nov. 25, 1997 – Pixar’s "A Bugs Life" and "Geri’s Game" premieres.

    Nov. 25, 2009 - Disney’s "Princess and the Frog" opens.

    Nov. 26, 1939 - The first Woody Woodpecker Cartoon, "Knock-Knock” released. [Titles looked like this:]

    Nov. 27, 1924 - The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The marvel of the parade were large displays that moved down the street thanks to small automobiles concealed under them. They seemed to "float" so they are called paradefloats. The huge balloons were added in 1927. Originally after the parade the balloons were let go to float away into the sky. Macy’s offered a bounty to people who found them after they landed, sometimes in rural New Jersey.

    Nov. 27, 1933 - Former Terrytoons animator Art Babbitt, now at Walt Disney's, writes to fellow animator Bill Tytla encouraging him to move to California. "Terry owes you a lot and Disney has plans for a full length color cartoon."

    Nov. 27, 1936 - Max Fleischer's cartoon featurette, "Popeye meets Sinbad the Sailor" debuts.

    Nov. 27, 2002 - Disney’s "Treasure Planet" opens.

    Nov. 28, 1947 - Disney's "Chip and Dale" debuts.

    Nov. 29, 1915 - In the first years of animated films, one artist like Winsor McCay drew everything. This day John Randolph Bray's "Colonel Heeza Liar in Africa" cartoon debuts. [Different Liar below, but you get the idea. --SRH]

    (Bray adapted Henry Ford's assembly line system to making animation, creating the job positions of layout, background painter, inkers, cel painters, checkers and camera. After 1919 J. R. Bray shifted his studio’s focus from entertainment to technical and training films. Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, Max and Dave Fleischer, and Shamus Culhane all got their start at Bray's.

    Nov. 29, 1972 - Atari introduced Pong, the first mass-marketed interactive game.

    Nov. 30, 2003 - Roy Disney Jr, the last serving member of the Disney family, was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company. It was claimed to be the mandatory retirement policy, but more likely he was forced out by the exec he hired to run the company in 1984, Michael Eisner. So Roy built a successful grass roots stockholders' campaign “”. In 2005 Eisner was compelled to retire. Roy Disney kept an emeritus board position until his death in 2009.

    Birthdays: Steve Ditko, Gustav Tennegren, Osamu Tezuka, Jim Cummings, Ben Sharpsteen, Ed Rehberg, Bram Stoker, William Hogarth, Carl Stalling, Tim Rice, Sue Kroyer, Russell Means, Tracy Morgan, Rodin, Cecil B. DeMille, Shamus Culhane, Edvard Munch, David Brain, Will Ryan, Zhang Yimou, Bill Melendez, Daws Butler, Lorne Michaels, Martin Scorcese, Ted Turner, Chester Gould, Ming Na, Bill Kroyer, Rodney Dangerfield, Terry Gilliam, Scarlett Johanssen, Boris Karloff, Billy Connolly, Charles Schulz, Bruce Lee, Katherine Bigelow, John Stewart, Randy Newman, Ridley Scott, Henry Sellick.

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    In and Around WB Animation

    More Scooby on the Little Silver Disk.

    After “Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania” sold well on homevideo platforms earlier this year, WWE Studios and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will reteam on a sequel that’s set to be released in the spring of 2016, Variety has learned.

    The film will be produced by WWE Studios and Warner Bros. Animation. ...

    I strolled through WB Animation the end of last week and there's a lot going on. Wabbit, a new Looney Tunes type offering, is in work and drawing a bit of inspiration from the Mickey shorts that Disney TVA launched successfully last year.

    Teen Titans Go! is coming back for a new season (with storyboard artists coming back to get production rolling).

    And of course there are the Warners' direct-to-video long forms. Even as Disney Toon Studios cancels plans for more Tinkerbells and lays artists off, Warners keeps making direct-to-video features.

    Small or Big?

    The Gray Lady notes:

    Walt Disney is a big studio built around smaller units: Marvel Entertainment, Pixar and the classic Disney animation shop, among others.

    Now DreamWorks Animation appears on the brink of becoming Disney’s opposite: a small studio tugged in different directions by forces as varied as a giant toy company and the Chinese government. ...

    I believe the game here is for Mr. Katzenberg to score a generous Pay Day as the company gets sold. The other goal? To keep running the studio and to branch out.

    DreamWorks Animation won't remain a small independent studio much longer. Some bigger corporate fish will gobble DWA up.

    The Month in Animation

    Time once again for President Emeritus Tom Sito's cartoon and movie history factoids.

    Movie Sign Posts for November

    Nov. 2, 2001 - Pixar’s "Monsters Inc." opens.

    Nov. 2, 2012 - Walt Disney’s "Wreck-It Ralph" premieres.

    Nov. 3, 1977 - Disney's "Pete's Dragon" starring Helen Reddy and Red Buttons opens.

    Nov. 3, 1981 - WALLY WOOD was one of the most influential cartoonists of the 1950’s and 60’s. His amazing versatility enabled him to draw everything from superhero comics to very cartoony to playfully naughty comics like "Sally Forth". He drew EC Comics, the "Mars Attacks" series, Mad Magazine, Weird Science, THUNDER Agents and much more. He had done an infamous drawing of the Disney characters having sex that brought down upon him the wrath of the Disney legal dept. Hard living and deadlines took their toll, and Wally was suffering from a stroke and failing kidneys. This was the day police found his remains.

    Nov. 5, 1937 - Walt Disney's silly symphony "The Old Mill" debuted. The first film featuring the multiplane camera technique.

    Nov. 5, 2004 - Pixar's "The Incredibles" premieres.

    Nov. 8, 1966 - Doctors at St. Joseph’s hospital remove one of Walt Disney’s cancerous lungs and discover the contagion had spread to his lymph nodes. They determine he did not have long to live.

    Nov. 8, 1973 - Walt Disney’s animated Robin Hood premieres.

    Nov. 10, 1950 - Paramount's "Mice Meeting You" opens. It’s the first Herman and Katnip cartoon.

    Nov. 10, 1953 - Disney’s short "Toot Whistle, Plunk and Boom" is released. Legend has it that Walt was abroad when Ward Kimball pushed this experiment, created in the UPA style, to completion. When Walt first saw it, it was without credits. He turned to Kimball and said “Aren’t you glad we don’t do crap like that?” It later won an Oscar.

    Nov. 10. 1969 - The children’s education show Sesame Street premiered on PBS TV. The world is introduced to Bert & Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Big Bird and Mr Hooper. The show employed a lot of animators.

    Nov. 11, 1992 - Premiere of Walt Disney’s "Aladdin".

    Nov 12, 1937 - Alan Turing delivered his famous paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidung’s Problem" at Kings College, Cambridge. In it he postulated on the ability to create a "universal machine"; that uses numbers to solve problems and could be reprogramable for different tasks. In his day they were called Turing Machines, but we know them now as Computers.

    Nov. 12, 1946 - Walt Disney's "Song of the South" opens.

    Nov. 13, 1940 - Walt Disney's "Fantasia" premieres. As Walt put it, "This'll make Beethoven!" Frank Lloyd Wright's opinion was "I love the visuals, but why did you use all that old music?"

    Nov. 13, 1971 - Walt Disney’s "The Aristocats" opens.

    Nov. 13, 1978 - Mickey Mouse got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Nov. 13, 1986 - Directors John Huston and Woody Allen join Martin Scorsese to denounce the fad promoted by Ted Turner of computer-colorizing classic Black & White films like the "Maltese Falcon".

    Nov. 13, 1991 - Disney's animated film "Beauty and the Beast" opens. It’s the first animated film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

    Nov. 14, 1967 - Jack Warner, the last surviving Warner Brother, sells out his stake of Warner Bros and it’s huge film library to a Canadian company called Seven Arts.

    Nov, 14, 1998 – Pixar’s "A Bugs Life" premieres.

    Nov. 15, 1881 - The American Federation of Labor (AF of L) formed under the leadership of former cigar-maker Samuel Gompers. In 1951 they merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to make the AFL-CIO that we know today.

    Nov. 15, 1907 - The comic strip “Mutt & Jeff” debuted. The strip was so popular that its creator Harry “Bud” Fisher became a celebrity and negotiated the first large backend deal. He built an animation studio, but spent all the profits on partying with showgirls.

    Nov. 15, 1926 - FIRST NETWORK BROADCAST- NBC hooks up 20 cities across America and Canada for a radio program "The Steinway Hour" with Arthur Rubinstein.

    Nov. 15, 1934 - Animator Bill Tytla started work at Walt Disney's on a trial basis for $150 a week. He would create Grumpy the Dwarf, The Devil in Fantasia and Dumbo.

    Nov. 15, 1965 - Walt Disney announced he planned to build a second Disneyland, this time in Orlando Florida. ...

    The second half of "The Month in Animation" on the morrow.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014


    Said by a smart-ass commenter. Regarding this piece from Blizzard (the game company):

    Out less than a week and 2,000,000 (and counting) sets of eyeballs have looked at it.

    Overwatch is Blizzard's first completely new game unattached to a previous title in 17 years. Overwatch seems to follow the same template as Team Fortress 2's multiplayer fun fest. Character types follow into categories like fighters, defenders, tanks, and support, each balanced against each other in a kind rock-paper-scissors dynamic. ...

    I have the feeling that Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and game cinematics are merging into one seamless entertainment experience. Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 and Overwatch seem to be cribbing from each other.

    On How to Train Your Dragon 2

    Director Dean Deblois and Producer Bonnie Arnold discuss the making of one of the better animated features of this year.

    I'm still amazed that entertainment media dubbed HTTYD2 a "disappointment" within weeks of its release. The movie ended up making more money around the world than its predecessor, but less in the U.S. and Canada.

    So, disappointment.

    DWA's Merger Mania

    The trade papers tell us.

    DreamWorks Animation is deeply engaged in two potentially game changing negotiations that could transform the company — including one with Hasbro to forge a family entertainment powerhouse to be called DreamWorks-Hasbro. The other talks are with Hearst to turn DWA’s AwesomenessTV into a joint venture.

    We’re told that a DWA and Hasbro deal is at least 60 days off, if it happens. But the two companies are said to have agreed that Jeffrey Katzenberg would chair the combined operation. ...

    Meanwhile, DWA is moving quickly on another potential deal with Hearst Publishing to form a joint venture involving AwesomenessTV. Hearst would pay $81.25 million for a 25% stake in the Internet video power with $56.25 million going directly to DreamWorks and $25 million used as an investment in ATV. The terms would value ATV at $300 million, double what DreamWorks paid for it in May 2013. ...

    Last week I was at DreamWorks Animation, doing a 401(k) meeting and walking around the Lakeside Building, which sits between the Los Angeles River and Lake Katzenberg (actually a big pond with fish in it). One of the artists in the building said:

    You know, I see people from other companies coming through here. And I've got this feeling that DreamWorks is going to be sold. ...

    I answered that I calculated that DreamWorks Animation would be sold in the next two or three years.


    But I didn't think much about DWA doing lots of mergers, selling off chunks of its businesses to other entertainment companies, bit by bit. So maybe Jeffrey's corporation will be selling itself in slow motion.

    Seems that's what might be happening.

    Add On: The New York Times has its take:

    In a deal that would be an unusual union of toy maker and an animation studio, Hasbro is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

    Under the current terms of the proposed deal, Hasbro would pay a mix of cash and stock, though an exact price has not been determined yet, this person said. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, is seeking more than $30 a share, a significant premium over his company's current stock price. ...

    We'll see if this deal goes through ... or falls apart like the last one.

    Wednesday 19th November - Come to Our Next Open Day at Bucks!

    Wednesday 19th November is our next Open Day at Bucks. Open Days are a great way to meet the Course Leaders (for Animation & VFX - that's me and Dave Creighton) here at Bucks, find out about our courses, and also explore our campus.

    We're sure you'll be impressed by the state-of-the-art technical equipment we have in the brand new Gateway Building; the result of a £40m investment program completed just a couple of years ago, aimed at turning Bucks into a creative hub for media production of all kinds.

    Gateway Building - modern media hub
    Got questions about Animation? Or about 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 have gone 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.

    High Wycombe. Arrive by car or by train
    You can find out why we give all our students free laptops, and why everyone gets a free subscription to - one of the leading providers of tech tutorials for learning new software.  If you miss a session in class - just catch up online.

    Free 1TB of storage for our freshers
    This goes for our animation classes too; we have literally hundreds of online videos available exclusively to our students, hosted at Vimeo. Just log in, and start learning.  We also hand out free 1TB external hard drives, so you have enough storage for all the impressive work you produce here at Bucks.

    We want all our students to have access to the latest tools, and we recognise that finance is tight for most students, so we won't burden you with extra costs and hidden charges.

    So, come along on Wednesday 19 November  and find out if Bucks is for you. And when you book a tour, make sure you ask to see the media facilities, not just the general tour. Why? Because at Bucks we strongly encourage collaborations between film-makers, working with other departments like sound design and performing arts.

    Sound design at Bucks

    What makes Bucks unique is the state-of-the-art kit we have, the latest in sound design, music recording, motion capture, dance and performance, film and TV. Need a cameraman? We have those. Need a voice-over? We've got that. Come and take the tour and be as impressed as I was when I came for interview at Bucks two years ago.

    The official page, which has more details, including signups, maps and directions, can be found here.


    For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    The Sweet Siren Call of Free Money

    Vancouver snares another VFX company.

    ... [M]ajor international visual effects firm Double Negative, with branches in London and Singapore, has chosen a key piece of recently vacated commercial office space for its new Vancouver branch operations in what amounts to one of the largest office deals in Mount Pleasant. ...

    Vancouver marks its third office and first anchor in North America.

    The Academy Award-winning VFX ... only recently inked a deal with Hungerford Properties to move into Radia Block at 149 West 4th Ave. The 47,000-square-foot space housed Mountain Equipment Co-op’s headquarters since the 1990s, but MEC vacated the office Oct. 24th. ...

    [T]heir first project will be Disney’s Through the Looking Glass, for which they plan to employ between 100 and 150 staff. Holben said they plan to fill up their team with local talent.

    “Part of the reason that we chose Vancouver is because there is a talent pool here already,” Dneg’s CEO Matt Holben said. “We’re expecting some organic growth over a period of time ...

    You will notice that movie companies and their affiliates go where the tax subsidies are. If somebody wants to pay them to set up shop in the somebody's neighborhood, they are happy to oblige. And when the money spigot stops, they're off to interact with the next cash cow.

    Lots of governments are getting out their check books in pursuit of higher tech jobs. At some point, the tax-paying citizens of this or that locality will figure out that the cost-benefit ratio is not high, at which point the subsidies will stop, and some studio exec might well pull the plug.

    But in the meantime, let the quarterly profits roll!