Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The year ahead...

I try not to look ahead too much for fear of jinxing life but I always do, as I like to plan and be prepared for things, and anticipate the coming events of the year so I don't miss anything important. Looking ahead to 2009 it's going to be another packed year, more or less revolving around baby plans.

But at this point, a month-by-month forecast of 2009 in terms of things that will happen, might happen, or might not happen looks something like this, a teaser trailer for a new year of Boundaries blurbs...


Starting January 1st, I'm starting a goal for myself to actually get through the Bible in 3 years, through the structured 'Word-Wise' program our church has put together. Several people got through it over the past 3 years, but I got lazy and couldn't keep up with it as a daily habit. I have a dream book project on the back burner and have decided I won't feel adequate to write it until I can actually say I have read through the entire Good Book itself.

From the 21st-26th, the Spark FX festival will be held in Vancouver, including visits from Dennis Muren and many other FX legends. As a member of the Siggraph chapter hosting it, I'll be involved in some planning and volunteer capacities, including an introduction for the 7th Voyage of Sinbad screening that kicks it off. Should be great geeky fun.

I will also begin writing a Stop Motion Level II course for the Academy of Art, and hopefully teaching my Level 1 course as well. At some point in the Spring, writing Level II will involve another trip to San Francisco for some more video shoots.


My birthday is on the 5th, Coraline comes out on the 6th, there is a Friday the 13th which means a weird film night at VanArts is in order, students graduating and the Oscar party.

March & April
This will likely be peak time for course building, and possibly a trip to Mexico as a guest speaker at a university there, but the jury is still out on that. All depends on several factors which are still being worked out, so I don't know, we'll see.

Jay turns 30, so I have some plans up my sleeve that I hope shall materialize.


The 2nd annual Breath of Life Animation Festival at our church is tentatively slated for the first Saturday, so will need to start planning this in the Spring. At the end of the month is me & Jay's 8-year anniversary, and we're thinking of leaving Ariel with family and getting away to Seattle for a few days. There are some restaurants & attractions we want to check out, plus a Jim Henson exhibit.


At this point we will be in major countdown mode for Baby, with launch sometime in late August perhaps. Ariel will turn 3 right before, so we'll need to have a party.


Pretty much all about settling into life with a new baby, plus the second annual Spark Animation Festival from the 16th to 20th.


Our friend Meeka is getting married in Ottawa, so hopefully we can work out a way to attend. Other than that, it's hard to see that far into the future but I'm sure lots of other stuff will come up.

Life is always full of surprises! Amidst all of this, I'd like to make more good progress on my film as well, and perhaps get it in the can in 2010, perhaps?

So to bid farewell to 2008 and look to the future with anticipation and hope, here's a random picture of a duck.

Merrie Neue Yeer!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's a Holly Jolly Christmas and to all a good night!

Here is our Christmas family portrait...

...now, had we a little more advance notice, we would have gone with a different picture to possibly suggest not just 3 of us, but maybe a subtle hint towards another...possible...addition?

Oh well, maybe this will work...

Ah look! Mr. Stork on his way!

That's right, Baby #2 due to arrive by Sept 1, 2009. A very good Christmas gift for us all! Whee!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Claymation Christmas from Church in Motion

Here's the short film made by a group of kids & adults from our 'Church in Motion' series of Sunday School sessions. This was fun...I liked the special touches they added. Lots of sheep!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Random December Boundaries...

Time for an overdue random Boundaries blog about what I've been doing and thinking about. Christmas is coming...yay! Looking forward to some quality family time this year and a few days off to catch up on movies, work on projects and basically just play around.

Ariel is excited...can't you tell?

It's been fun pulling out the Christmas videos and watching them with Ariel, starting to expose her to the classics. So far she won't sit still through all of them, except for Arthur's Christmas and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. The Grinch was on TV the other night but ABC cut off the ending to make room for more commercials. Just as the Grinch was about to lift the sleigh off the mountain, CUT! Sorry folks, time for a crappy sit-com. Bah humbug! I used to feel that having these specials on video kind of ruined the nostalgic novelty of seeing them only when they aired, with commercials and all...but if the networks are gonna piss on them then I'd rather have my video to watch.

I did a funny little puppet show for the Single Mom's dinner at church recently, and have also been leading a Sunday School class for media arts, i.e. stop-motion animation! With a mixed group of kids, youth and adults we're making a little clay animation film of the Christmas story. I'll post it when it's finished in a few weeks. We just got all the clay figures built and will be animating this weekend.

I've enjoyed re-connecting with many long lost friends on Facebook lately. It's quite an amazing invention, once people catch on to it. I've been able to find and communicate with childhood friends of mine who I haven't seen or heard anything from in over 20 years! It's amazing.

I'm very excited to see this film, whenever it's available to see locally. I've been spreading the word about it to my friends...Ron Reed has also posted it on his blog in reference to my comments on the film.

I anticipate stop-motion animation being back on the map and very much on my brain in 2009...for various reasons the Boundaries will share when the time is right....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2D or not 2D Animation Festival - Seattle 2008

Friday November 14, Calvin Leduc and I traveled down to Seattle for the opening screenings of the 3rd annual 2D or not 2D Animation Festival. We made really good time driving and got into town mid-afternoon, so we walked around town a bit to get our bearings and get some exercise, seeing as how we were sitting in the car for 3 hours and would be sitting in a theater for most of the weekend.

I commented to Calvin that most times when I come down to Seattle it makes sense to me why they chose this area to shoot Twin Peaks. There is a vibe to the place that just seems surreal and creepy sometimes.

Where else can you find a bar & grill with a big scary clown head?

Or a school for girls that is apparently represented by someone doing aerobics, a phone, an eagle, a pencil sharpener and a minotaur...

...and has a row of dead rubber chickens in its window?

Anyway, the festival is being held at the Pacific Science Center on their Imax theater. Some of the first people we encountered were James Baker and Joe Haidar, former colleagues of Calvin's from his days at Disney Feature Animation. They have a film playing in the festival which we got to see that night, called Animated American, a live-action short with 2D animation characters composited in, 'Roger Rabbit' style.

Really good production values and great animation, and the film has already won some prizes in the festival circuit. Really nice guys...it was fun to hang out with them throughout the weekend.

The first screening had some good stuff, in particular a clay animation mockumentary called Token Hunchback (interviews with an actor who always plays Igor), a cute CG short called Abridged (where two towers of a bridge fall in love), and a wacky Flash film Last Time in Clerkenwell (which sticks in your head long after you've seen it)

Then was a presentation by Dean Yeagle about his life and works. Dean started his career in animation with people like Jack Zander, Emery Hawkins, and Preston Blair, so those stories were great to hear. He centered most of his presentation on his famous Mandy character and the books he's created about her. I had seen some of his work online before and it was nice to see much more of it and learn about the man behind the art. He's an amazing talent.

Following was the second screening of films, some of which were experimental and abstract in nature. I particularly liked Endless Tunnel (trippy abstract piece dealing with paper cutouts), The Cave: Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay (a stop-motion myth), The Owl House (brilliantly done stop-motion pantomime piece of a blind old woman living in a house in the woods)...

Farewell (beautifully drawn and rendered film of a fairy and butterfly, reminiscent of animation from Pink Floyd The Wall), and the most entertaining film by far was Chicken Cowboy, which really can't be described but has to be seen to be believed. It's basically a surreal tale of a western showdown between a gang of human cowboy villains and a chicken cowboy with his horse who barks like a dog and is attached to his beloved toaster.

Just a little snip...

Absolutely brilliant.

And now, Saturday in Seattle!

First big event of the next day was a presentation by Peter Moehrle about his painting and artwork for films like Rock and Rule, Ice Age, and Lilo & Stitch, to name a few. His art was amazing to see, especially on a huge screen in the Laser Dome.

The program went overtime a little bit due to some technical issues, but I was able to zip down to the other theater to catch most of the next presentation by Don Hahn, who was showcasing a program of rare Disney shorts. I got in at the tail-end of Der Feuhrer's Face but got to see again a few films that Don showed at last year's festival(Lorenzo and Little Match Girl, plus How to Hook Up your Home Theater) and also two that I had never seen: Destino and One by One. I was totally enthralled by them both...One by One I never even knew they made into a film, but I know the song from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands album. Pretty great stuff and very inspiring, all of it!!!

Next on the docket was concept art for Guild Wars by art director Daniel Dociu, which was pretty amazing to marvel at as he took questions from the small informal crowd. I'm not a big gamer by any means, but I'm trying to educate myself more on the work that goes into creating them. I certainly appreciate the level of artistry that goes into them these days, and Daniel's work was definitely worth checking out for the atmosphere and imagination alone. The sci-fi geek in me was intrigued and impressed.

After this was a much-needed lunch break at 2:00, over at the nearby food court with Calvin, Jim Baker and Joe Haidar, conversing about animation over burgers. Next was Don Hahn again, presenting about the ideas behind his new book, The Alchemy of Animation. Don is an amazing presenter and always has incredible artistic complements to his talks. Especially rare and precious to me were some behind-the-scenes clips of the Nightmare puppet vault and Mike Belzer animating a scene with Jack and Oogie Boogie. Drool drool...

I got a signed copy of his book for myself and one for the VanArts library. It was really nice to see Don again and talk with him. While on the subject, I must back-track a bit to post an incredible film he produced, which showed at last year's festival (and won an award too!) I've been wanting to see this film again ever since, so I'm thrilled that it's finally online. This is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, The Chestnut Tree by Hyun-min Lee.

So after Don's presentation we had to zip back to the other theater (sure needed some breaks scheduled in between presentations, I tell ya...) to see Barry Cook, director of Mulan and current resident director at Laika. It started with a screening of Roger Rabbit's Trail Mix-Up short, which he also directed. I liked his presentation, which was something he had prepared for another conference, all about good storytelling. He included some entertaining clips, from Mulan and even the classic Mighty Mouse skit by Andy Kaufman, which I realized is also good animation reference!

NEXT was the third program of short films...a mixed bag as always, but of particular interest to me were The Tortoise and the Coyote (classic hand-drawn animation), Max's Words (by my friend Galen Fott)...

...Broken Rainbow (not sure if it's a good film or not, but it's an absolutely messed-up acid trip experience...check it out here if you're in the right mood for it, but be warned, it doesn't make any sense.), a great Italian stop-motion film called Lupo Dentro, and Again & Again, a neat experimental music video that's worth checking out here.

My favorite short of this program, and one of my favorites from the whole festival, was this one by Zach Parrish, Carried Away. I felt it really took advantage of the medium and told a fanciful story that made me feel like a kid. I appreciate (or sometimes just accept) all kinds of different films for what they are, but I love going to festivals partly to seek out gems like this that make me feel glad to be alive.

After the screening we grabbed a quick bite and came back for the award winners, which included Joe and James' Animated American film...congrats guys! Also we got to see a video of Tony White presenting the Roy E. Disney award to Dick Williams at Digipen a few days prior, and that was pretty amazing to see in the wake of meeting him as well.

The evening concluded with a Gala event that included a performance by Hummie Mann's Pontiac Bay Orchestra, a mentoring orchestra that mixes youth and adults. They did a really nice program of music from animation & film, everything from Fantasia to Narnia to Charlie Brown.

I congratulate my good friend Tony White (and his comrades Ken Rowe & Saille Shumacher) for pulling all the stops on another great festival to celebrate the art of animation. The turn-out was very good and everything was certainly on a bigger scale than last year. There was a slightly different vibe comparatively...being in the small town of Everett vs. downtown Seattle certainly gave it a different feeling overall. Overall I think the different vibe came from some of the casual conversations we had with some of the students and attendees...it seemed that many were being hard-hit by financial worries, lay-offs, and other nervous tales about the state of the industry & economy at present. As an outsider from across the border, it was a different America even a year later. Even though we fully enjoyed ourselves and got to see some inspiring work, there was a somber vibe too, just based on how things are in this twilight period of post-election uncertainty and unrest.

This morning before Cal and I left our hotel to head back to BC, this was the view outside our window, which I think sums things up poetically, both for the state of our world, the state of our industry for the art of animation we came here to support. It's a bit foggy, but the light is still there seeking an opening to shine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Star Wars - Recut Trailer

So the last couple o' weeks since Halloween have been pretty hectic. This time of year is always rather nerve-wracking as we try to prepare for the spring intake, but things are starting to look up. Between torrential rain, late nights and the time change, it's been rather Twilight Zoney but this week things are good!

To blow off steam, over the weekend I had another random creative impulse which actually came to me in a dream, literally. For some strange reason I had a dream about being part of a video contest that involved making a Star Wars parody, and afterwards woke up in the middle of the night with all of these random ideas in my head. Since I love the concept of "recut" movie trailers that are usually found on YouTube & elsewhere, somehow I came up with a wacky idea of re-cutting Star Wars to make it appear that Han Solo joins the Empire. After thinking it over, much like my more uplifting Dare You to Move video from several months ago, I went ahead and edited the damn thing.

Part of me felt rather torn over this, as it seems cruel to mess around with the motivations behind characters who seem like real childhood icons, and to turn such a feel-good movie into a downer. But ultimately I ended up justifying it by musing over the following possibility...

Before Star Wars brought a new sense of hope & adventure to pop culture, films of the 1970s reflected the corruption of the post-Vietnam & Watergate era. If George Lucas had stuck with the status quo of '70s Hollywood, what would his film have been like?

Yes, I'm fully aware I'm a nerd.

And on a lighter note, the 2D or not 2D Animation Festival is this weekend, so stay tuned for a full report folks!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Richard Williams

The anticipated day finally arrived this Monday, with an added bonus. Not only did we have the evening presentation, but were also graced by an informal visit to VanArts by Dick Williams, his wife Imogen (Mo) Sutton and 14-yr-old son Leif. Alan (president of VanArts) knows Dick from years back when he used to live in the Gulf Islands, so they shared some stories about flying in Alan's plane with Bob Godfrey. They dropped by around lunchtime so we gave them a tour of the school and the animation labs. The students were simultaneously stunned and excited, and plenty of them got photo opps and Survival Kits signed.

Along with Charles & Calvin, we all went out for lunch at Malone's. Conversations ranged from everything from animation stories to travel to foreign currency and everything in-between. I had a lively discussion with Dick about how music and animation relate to each other and how musicians make good animators. I was so amazed by how funny, cordial, humble and laid back he was, still talking the same way he does in all those old documentaries.

Charles is soaking up those stories...

At the theatre before the show, Dick and his family very graciously took the time to check out my story reel for Storytime with Nigel, as he seemed intrigued by the fact it's narrated by Bob Godfrey. He enjoyed it and I was glad to share it with him, as I feel that a lot of my animation style is inspired by his work.

The presentation at the VanCity Theatre was a smash hit to a completely sold out crowd that was lined up around the block. I got to introduce Dick before he took the stage to answer questions and present clips from his new DVD series. The clips he showed were priceless...very funny at times and of course loaded with exquisite animation. (There is a sequence of different animated eye designs morphing into each other which alone is worth the entire price tag to watch!) The evening concluded with a very long autograph line-up, and I got to see many familiar faces there too.

So the whole day was an absolute thrill to say the least, and I was truly honored to spend time with Dick Williams and his family. Thank you Dick for your inspiring work, kind spirit, and dedication to preserving the incredible art form of animation!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Richard Williams coming to Vancouver!

Well, it's official and I can finally break the silence...Richard Williams is coming to Vancouver! The event is being hosted by Vancouver SIGGRAPH and I'm involved in coordinating all the details. I'm sure looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he has to say. See the link below for details on the event!

Richard Williams: The Animator's Survival Kit - Animated
followed by special screening of ''Who Framed Roger Rabbit''
October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008 - 7:30 PM
Tickets at the door - first come, first served.

Richard Wiliams, triple Oscar winner and Director of Animation of ''Who Framed Roger Rabbit'' has now combined his best-selling book ''The Animators' Survival Kit'' with his legendary Masterclasses. He will present the 16-DVD boxed set filmed at Blue Sky Studios in New York which is inter-cut with over 350 specially animated examples in a mini- Masterclass.


Richard Williams will be present in person to engage in Q&A with the audience, followed by a book signing and a screening of the feature film ''Who Framed Roger Rabbit'', which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2D or not 2D '08!

Here is the great Tony White presenting a trailer for his 2D or not 2D Animation Festival which is coming up soon! Can't wait...if you can make it, I'd love to see you there.

Weekend Ketchup

Here's a brief stream-of-conshess-ness post about stuff that's happened recently in my life as I sit here bleary-eyed from the chemicals that are present in two glasses of wine, two servings of monstrous Thanksgiving turkey dinner, and a decaf coffee...

I went to Seattle for a day...I gave blood...I went to work...I found a website through a Facebook group that allows me to download Old Time Radio Shows for my iPod...I went to Portland for a day, where I got to visit Bent Image Lab and Ward Jenkins' art show b-boy (still there if you wanna check it out!)...a student at VanArts died, which has never happened in 10 years of being there and I hope it never happens again...I went to his funeral, which was really sad....I was rather depressed & confused for a few days...been pondering my faith and getting back into the basics about Jesus and what he means to me...I'm starting to slowly come out of my funk and appreciate all who I love and all that I have...Thanksgiving (Canadian version) is a pretty good time to do that. And sleep is a good thing.

After the roller coaster week I've had, watching videos online with Ariel led me to the funniest damn thing I've seen in a long time. Pretty good therapy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I Heart Pocoyo

I first discovered this show a few years ago and instantly fell in love with it. And now recently I've gotten Ariel enjoying it on Treehouse and more often on YouTube. It makes her laugh! (Not to mention her Daddy) Everything about it is rather brilliant...in particular, the design and the posing against neutral backgrounds. I think it's definitely the best use of computer animation I've seen for TV.

Hitting the road for Portland tomorrow!

Friday, September 26, 2008


At long last, now that I found some extra pictures to add to the few I took (thanks to Jason Vanderhill and Daryl Anselmo!), here are some reports on the first annual Spark Animation Festival in Vancouver.

I first arrived to the festival Friday afternoon and had to get settled in getting all the VanArts gear stored away for the following day.

The first full panel I was able to check out was on Directing Animated Features with Mark Osborne & John Stevenson (of Kung Fu Panda) and Steve Martino & Jimmy Hayward (of Horton Hears a Who). I must say the whole conversation, though completely drenched in profanity and f-bombs from Stevenson and Hayward, was brilliant and very inspiring! All of the ups and downs of directing & dealing with studio politics and art departments were explained candidly, honestly, and in a very entertaining fashion. John Stevenson's career began as an artist on The Muppet Show, and his story about his first day on the job at age 19 was nothing short of breathtaking, and very funny. He even had the same voice intonations and mannerisms as Frank Oz, but with a British accent...incredible! Afterwards when speaking to him briefly, he told me that so much of his career was indebted to the good lessons he learned from Jim Henson.

Later on during the festival I got the chance to chat with Mark Osborne as well, whose roots are in stop-motion and the Oscar-nominated short MORE. I like his work very much so it was an honor to meet him as well...I ended up signing a copy of my book for him. He told me he's hoping to get back into another stop-motion project at some point...us puppet-pushers gotta stick together and keep returning to our roots now and then I think.

Late Friday afternoon I got to be part of the Best of the Web panel, thanks to the gracious invitation of moderator Daryl Anselmo from Propaganda Games. Joining me were local animators Andrew Duncan, George Samilski, & Johnny Darrell...unfortunately I don't have any pictures of us. The crowd was moderately sized and casual, and the highlight was simply getting to show off our favorite clips from the web. Mine mostly included stuff I've previously posted here, such as David Lynch's Goofy Movie and The YuYu...also made reference to my regular blog visits and artists of note (PES, Cartoon Brew, Michael Sporn, Ryan McCulloch, Justin Rasch, Ward Jenkins, and Garfield Minus Garfield.) Some other great stuff I got to see for the first time included...

Burning Safari
A Gentleman's Duel

Great stuff!

Much of the rest of the day was spent between events catching up with so many old friends, former students & colleagues from VanArts who showed up at the event, and meeting some new people as well, including another stop-motion animator/director Bronwyn Kyffin, who had worked at Cuppa Coffee, Edison & Leo, and most recently on Jibber Jabber directing many of my VanArts comrades. Always great to meet others in the field and see how we're all connected. That evening I got to catch most of The Pixar Story, which I had first seen in Seattle last year. (I hear it's going to be available on the special edition of WALL-E which is good to know.)

The following day, Saturday the 13th, was a full day of festival-going for me, starting by setting up the VanArts booth and the Free Stop-Motion Jam lobby activity. A little bit of drama ensued as I discovered I had a faulty fire-wire cable and had to run over to the school to grab another one. Once it was all going, things were good. I set up a table with some clay and action figures, and set StopMotionPro's time-lapse feature to automatically take a frame every 30 seconds. Between screenings people could just dive in and animate whatever they wanted.

Here are the results from the day...notice how the shadows move across the table!

The first presentation by Pixar's Paul Topolos focused on matte painting & production on WALL-E, and he was a funny & entertaining speaker (with a dead-on Brad Bird impersonation!) Got to see some deleted animatics from the film and it was really interesting.

The following presentation was one I was really looking forward to, which was Ed Hooks. He had some wonderful, inspiring things to say about animation as an art form and true form of acting...and much to say about the pitfalls of animation becoming too much of a product & money-grabbing machine. One of the central themes of his talk was that with early man, the storyteller and actor were the same person, and stories were told because there was something the tribe needed to hear...or the storyteller had something to say. The best films are made when the storytellers and actors are one & the same, and when they work from the perspective of "what does the tribe need to know?" rather than "what will they buy?" I found this to be very inspiring and true. Ed weaved countless other philosophical bits of wisdom in a stream-of-consciousness fashion that was truly captivating.

The following presentation was Paul Herrod from Bent Image Lab, a stop-motion studio in Portland. They've done some great pieces for music videos, TV specials and commercials which were great to see, and also meet the puppets in person...

Robot Puppet from They Might Be Giants music video "I'm Impressed"

Paul was great to speak with about the stop-motion craft, and he's graciously invited me to visit the studio next week, as I'll be in Portland briefly, so I'm looking forward to it. That day I also had the pleasure to meet his wife, independent animator Joanna Priestly, whose work I had seen & enjoyed at Platform last year. They're incredibly warm friendly people and very passionate about the creative work they do, so it was great to meet them both.

As an indie animator, the next panel was especially informative and inspiring for me, as Joanna Priestly was joined by Mike Grimshaw, Martin Rose and Marv Newland. I picked up lots of good tips and advice for things like film funding, festival entry, and general nuts-and-bolts of the independent scene. It's been difficult finding the time or motivation to get my film back on the stove these days, so this panel gave me a good dose of ammunition to start trying to move things forward again. I asked them about some options for funding, so I'm going to look into the things they mentioned.

Following the afternoon panels, I got to catch up with Jerry Beck who had just arrived to host his Worst Cartoons Ever show! I had seen this show at Ottawa years back and it always makes for a fun wacky addition to any festival. I gave Jerry a brief introduction, and after his little speech, the show was on...the show included some new material that blew me away in terms of its utter strangeness, especially the Sam Bassett cartoon. Holy crap was that messed up, but hilarious!

After recovering from the plethora of strange animation, it was time to party! They had a huge electronic screen that people could draw on with an electronic pen, kind of like a giant Cyntiq or Magna-Doodle...kind of hard to describe, and challenging to draw with, but I managed to play around and do some neat stuff.

Tired, bleary-eyed but inspired socially, artistically and spiritually, I headed home to crash, and we left for Disneyland the following morning. What could have been better?