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 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?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ariel & Stitch

Since Ariel got to meet Lilo & Stitch at Disneyland (and was actually scared of Stitch at first), I realized I probably should have introduced them to her on screen before we left. But she pointed them out by name looking at a picture frame we have, so I figured we would catch up on the real thing.

Of course she was mesmerized the whole concerned when Stitch got run over and laughed when he threw stuff. Now she loves Stitch and has a new friend.

Such an awesome movie! Then ironically Cartoon Brew posts today about Chris Sanders' next directorial venture...hope the 3rd time's a charm and he actually gets to stay on this one.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


What a great week we had! I thought Disneyland was fun when Jay & I went on our honeymoon 6 years ago, but add a little girl to the mix and it makes things even that much more special. There is something about that park that separates it from all other parks and vacation destinations. I can't really put my finger on it...perhaps it's the history and vision of the place. As we walked around I couldn't help being reminded that Walt built it and walked around it himself, and his team of animators designed the original elements. Pretty amazing to think about, how one man we've never met in person still seems like a close friend who lives on within this park. I've been pondering over exactly why one gets emotional and welled up being it simply because it makes you feel like a kid again, or is there a glimpse of something spiritual going on? Walt intentionally envisioned Disneyland as stepping into another dimension of reality, and it really does feel that way after you step through the gates and especially going into the 'dark rides.' Perhaps that's a big key to it...a glimpse into the actual realm of the unseen being brought to light. Plus, few places satisfy my animatronic critter obsessions better!

As always, Jay has documented the entire day-by-day details on her blog, but here are my little Boundaries bytes of special moments and reflections...

Right away on our first night there, we got Ariel's first set of mouse ears!

...and she really enjoyed the "horsies"...oftentimes the simple stuff is best.

I love this picture of us experiencing the incredible fireworks show, which included a live Tinkerbell flying by the castle, sound bytes from the Haunted Mansion, the Star Wars theme, and all the classic Disney music that made me just well up and glad to be alive.

The perfect topper to the fireworks was getting to meet Mickey on the way out (immediately after Jay commented that we hadn't seen a single character yet...hehe)

Finding Donald was especially great, as he is my absolute favorite cartoon character of all time.

Yay, my favorite people, including Stitch!

A meeting of two Ariels.

This animatronic Mr. Potato Head was frickin' amazing! I shall post some video soon, as it was truly fluid and alive-looking.

"He's actual size but he seems much bigger to me..."

The Pixar parade was pretty sweet too. I think because they are already 3D to begin with, seeing them in actual 3D is more convincing. The 2D characters either translate well or they don't as much.

Dale and Ariel share a ticklish moment.

Threatdown...BEARS!!! It was funny how everyone was referring to these guys as 'Brother Bear' and the character-handlers had to remind us what their real names were, since the film itself wasn't all that memorable. (Gee, I wonder why we never saw anyone from Atlantis or The Black Cauldron?)

Jus' when you thunk you done seen every-thang...

Ariel loves dogs, so this was the ultimate dog for her to meet.

This picture says it all...

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Well, my involvement with Spark Animation has come to a close and I would like to post plenty of details to do it justice...but I shall have to wait because I only took a few pictures myself and I know that others took some good ones I'll be waiting to get sent to me. For now I will simply say I had a great was wonderful catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. It was also very inspiring and I feel so humbled, honored and blessed to be part of the committee that planned & hosted it. I hope we can now do this every year!

Until I am able to post more, the Boundaries of Fantasia shall be all about Disneyland! Praises.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Happie Weird Weekend Stuff

This new animated short by my friend Ryan McCulloch made me crack up laughing today.

I feel very happie and relaxed this weekend...the new batch of students has finally arrived at VanArts, last year's batch is graduated and ready to move on to greatness, and I have my first batch of online students at AAU getting ready to rock. (My own course didn't fly for this semester, so I'm teaching one of the pre-requisite courses in Experimental Animation and hoping that my course will run next semester.) So for right now, it's wonderful to have nothing to do or worry about except family time,Spark Animation next week and Disneyland right after that!

Oh, and one more thing...somebody should write to the folks at McDonald's. AT-ATs and Stormtroopers are cool by themselves, but this is the most retarded thing I've ever seen in my life.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Getting life organized and reflecting...

Happie September! Today is the 10-year anniversary of the day I first landed in Vancouver to officially live here. It's pretty amazing to think about, and to think about how far things have come since then. 10 years ago today my friend Brandon and I were on the last day of our big American road odyssey across the country from Michigan to Vancouver, which is all still lovingly documented on my old website here. Ah, good times. It's also ironic that part of the same road was recently trodden on when we drove to Yellowstone a few weeks ago.

Ken & Brandon at age 23, a modern-day Lewis & Clark about to discover America.

September 1, 1998...Ken looks to the waters of Washington pondering his future.

10 years later, he's still pondering...

This long weekend has also been one of re-organizing and de-cluttering our house, going through old things and throwing many of them away. As time goes on, so does the amount of stuff one can easily collect, which must be dealt with at some point, to make room for more stuff. In light of reflections on 10 years in BC, one thing I found and decided to keep was this drawing I did (Click on it to make bigger and actually read my scribbles). I remember after Brandon flew back to Michigan it was strange having so much time to myself alone in new surroundings. The summer leading up to that time was so busy and chaotic, it was a bit of a culture shock until school started and I was around people again.

Lots of other mementos, old tapes, and random pieces of the past have been disposed of this weekend, but the most important stuff has been preserved and well documented. Another something from home I've archived a bit today was a collection of photos from my vacation to Walt Disney World in 1979 when I was 4-years-old and Jonathan was 1. Since we're preparing to take Ariel to Disneyland in a few days, I felt it good timing to get these pictures into a new photobook and scan a few of them in.

More pictures here!

I'm also excited that re-organizing things and changing "where we put stuff" has allowed me to put all of my animation-related books and other rare treasures onto one bookshelf. Before they were all spread out in different places around the house, so this will make life easier. Ah, my precious...

Ariel's had a fever all weekend as well, but is still her jovial self for the most part, except when she gets tired. Poor thing...hope she feels better soon.

Here we are watching Ariel's new favorite "movie," They Might Be Giants' Here Come the 123's, which was a birthday present from Uncle Dan...I've been meaning to rave about it it has some great animations & puppet bits included. Several of them are by a 2D Flash animator named Pascal Campion, who has his contributions to the set on his website as well...worth checking out!

One Dozen Monkeys

Nine Bowls of Soup

813 Mile Car Trip

Hooray for things!