Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Week of Pop Culture Exposure!

In addition to my visit to the Krazy! exhibit this week, in between work & projects I've also managed to soak up some more entertainment. Saw the new Indiana Jones movie...despite any flaws I was quite pleased and thoroughly entertained! Basically I felt it was like George and Steven pulling out some of their "greatest hits" with nods to many of their earlier films, including American Graffiti, Close Encounters and of course the other Indy films, and just having fun with it! You could almost guess which ideas belonged to who...the corny jokes were most likely George and Steven...well, if you've seen the movie it's pretty obvious. I don't care what you's not Raiders but I had a good time.

Picked up the recently-released Muppet Show Season 3 and was quite intrigued by the Muppets on Puppets special included in the bonus features. I'm a little annoyed by Disney's lazy attempts to track down the missing audio bits though...there is a disclaimer at the beginning saying that at certain moments the audio drops out because that's how the original source material was....however I've seen (and heard) some of the silent footage in other Henson documentaries so it must exist someplace. Anyway, the production values of the show were incredibly cheap but it's a fascinating time capsule into seeing the masters at work and quite funny. Don Sahlin has the exact same voice as Frank's kinda creepy. Lots more info on the special here.

The rest of the DVD set has kept my little Muppet fully entertained. I couldn't be more proud!

Jay and I got tickets to the upcoming Vancouver run of SPAMALOT, so we're pretty excited for July 27...yet another date with my sweetie...awww....

Other news, today's Delta Optimist ran an article on me for the upcoming animation festival. Click here to read it.

...and finally, today's evening walk resulted in getting a good deal on Raisin Bran.


Tuesday after work I went down to the Vancouver Art Gallery to check out the Krazy! exhibit for animation, comics, manga & video game art. It's pretty huge, and I recommend anyone in the nearby woods to see it before the summer's out. Most of the larger wings of the exhibit are focused on comics, anime, manga and video games, with a slightly smaller wing dedicated to animation art. Included there I got to see original Lotte Reiniger shadow puppets, and original storyboards, concept art, cels & animation drawings from Gertie the Dinosaur, Dumbo, Wallace & Gromit, Over the Hedge, Toy Story, Gerald McBoing McBoing and Marv Newland's Black Hula. There are a few TV screens on the walls looping these films there as well. It was quite inspiring to see 4 flat screens grouped together simultaneously playing, clockwise from the top left, Gertie, Prince Achmed, Gerald and Dumbo's Pink Elephants a tapestry of moving history! Nothing short of awe-inspiring!

The original Dumbo drawings were surprisingly least a 12-field size paper or seemed like 10-field even. Most feature animation drawings I've seen are at least 16-field, but Dumbo was a smaller picture after all. The original Krazy Kat comics, both the original inked Herriman artwork plus printed ones from the Baltimore American newspapers were also quite amazing to see. After drooling over the exhibit I checked out Marv Newland's presentation on the history of animation in Vancouver and retrospective on his work. Marv is a great storyteller and spins hilarious yarns in the same dead-pan manner that his animated characters display.

Some points of interest and amusing anecdotes...

-animation in Vancouver was established first and foremost by Al Sens in the late 1950s, primarily because he had a few cameras which many other filmmakers were able to use, and they are still around! One of the cameras lived temporarily in the old arts & crafts building on Seymour Street which "felt like the bowels of the earth even though it was up six floors" due to the heat.

-Al Sens employed the "spit technique" of shooting animation by drawing on a cel with a grease pencil, spitting on it, wiping it clean and then making the next drawing.

-early studios in Vancouver included Canowest, Sync Pop and of course International Rocketship...lots of commercials done, some for Japanese TV spots and Hudson's Bay Company.

-Rocketship employed artist named Bill Schwartz who was on welfare, and he spent his first paycheck on a giant inflatable Godzilla to hang from the studio ceiling.

-Another animator Dan Collins would show up at the studio, sit for an hour waiting for someone to make coffee, get up when the last drop was ready, drink some coffee and then leave for the day.

-Black Hula was based on a 1929 Hawaiian record...Marv liked it because the music was "happy melancholy" and nobody understands the language. He pretty much animated the film straight ahead making it up as he went along. He says the only storyboarding or concept art he did for it was what was on display in the exhibit, which was only about 2 big drawings.

A big thanks to all who put on this exhibit!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

King Kong Presentation

Several months ago I hosted a SIGGRAPH presentation and Q&A with King Kong (2005) animator Brett Purmal on his experience working on Peter Jackson's version and reflections on the impact of the original film.

Fellow animation correspondent Jason Vanderhill has finally posted the footage he took of our little chat, as a YouTube PlayList.

And I just have to post Jason's animation of his original Colargol puppet, which he did in my stop-motion course a few years back. This was lots of fun!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend in Narnia

It's been a much-needed long holiday weekend, consisting of teaching all day Saturday followed by family gatherings, catching up on sleep, course writing, coffee drinking, compiling films for the festival, and a welcome return to Narnia.

The latter event has also resulted in my latest review for Hollywood Jesus.

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Bigfott Films!

This week I finally got a copy of I'm Dirty!, the short film I got to animate on for Bigfott Studios. It turned out great, and many of the other animators' scenes made me laugh out loud. I had only seen a few of them in pencil test format so it was great to see how everything worked together in the final product.

More details on the film, and a trailer here.

To order the film, here.

Also available now is another film I contributed a hand-drawn animated sequence to, Do Unto Otters!

More details...trailer here.

Order it here.

Animation Festival coming up...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Young Animators!

Today I had a really enriching experience teaching a fantastic group of kids about animation. I was a "guest artist" at a Create Art class put on by our friend Brenda, who runs this weekly program at her home. Today was partially a "test run" for the upcoming animation festival we're organizing for June 7 at our church, to see how these various workshop activities will pan out with the kids. Good to work out the kinks a bit and try it on a smaller scale, especially since this is relatively new territory for me, but something I'm hoping to move towards doing more. They had such a great time and created some amazing stuff.

I started by talking a little bit about the early history of animation and how film animation was discovered, showed them some strips of film, explained how many drawings it takes to create just 1 second of animation, and then fired up my 16mm projector onto the wall for a screening of Mickey Mouse in GiantLand (1933). As I was planning the night before, my original plan was to then show them how to draw Mickey, since he's basically all built out of circles and very appealing. But I second-guessed myself and thought I would instead plan on showing them how to draw SpongeBob Squarepants, as I figured it was a "modern" character they might identify with more. But they seemed so taken with the Mickey cartoon and were asking if we would be drawing him, so I presented it to them as a vote, and Mickey seemed to win out! One of the kids remarked that he already knew how to draw SpongeBob. It was a real eye-opening lesson, that the classic characters are not "old" to these kids and still have that universal appeal, more so than I imagined. So Mickey it was! Can't beat him!

Next we created simple two-page flipbooks...when I demonstrated it the first time their eyes just lit up, and these kids went to town!

Next we did a Claymation Worm Race, which pretty much speaks for itself. Most of the time they managed to stay clear of the camera, but couldn't resist themselves near the end. (If we had more time, I probably would have done some pixilation with them as well, but this shall be weaved into the festival as another work station.)

So if today was any indication of what we're in store for in another month or so, I think it will be an exhausting, chaotic but ultimately INSPIRING day for many young animators. More details to come soon...

In other news, Ariel made her television debut today on local Delta cable. I added some fun titles to this video capture to point out where she is. Next thing you know she'll be doing the weather!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back to the Weekend

It's been a bizzy week! I went to Edmonton & Calgary for a couple days to give info sessions for VanArts. The funny thing about flying back from Calgary is that it's an hour ahead of BC, and it's a one-hour flight, so on paper I landed at the same time I took off...time stands still. Weird.

We had a visit from our friends Meeka and Ren from Ottawa and it was really nice to catch up, look at bizarre childrens' books, watch videos and just hang out. Ariel enjoys company too...

and Meeka made her a little friend.

Back to teaching two classes on Saturday again...both 2D and Stop-Motion, so expect another 'creature comforts' dialogue exercise posted here in about 3 months. Today was Mothers Day and I made Jay an animated card...

This afternoon I also posted some rare footage of Rowlf the Dog on a 1960s TV show called "Our Place." Also includes an early version of the "Pops Orchestra" sketch. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On a Book Kick

This has been a weekend for inspiring illustration art! As Nana & Papa (Jay's grandparents) are preparing for moving out of their house, there is always the opportunity to un-earth lots of history and some neat stuff. Jay let me have these two books from her childhood. This one is great, and I remember having this myself in a smaller book/record format:

This one I had never seen or heard of's from the 70s and by an illustrator named Gyo Fujikawa, who I will have to research more because I really like her style.

What I've found so far indicates she worked for Disney for awhile. Makes sense, as there is a slight Mary Blair flavor to some of her work. Jay grew up with this A to Z Picture Book which I just fell in love with today. Lots more where this came from, but here's a sample of some of my favorites (click to make bigger):

I scanned these to send to my friend Ward as I knew he would appreciate them...they are from The Golden Treasury of Myths & Legends illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen.

This book originally belonged to my mom and somehow found its way into my book collection because I also grew up looking at it quite often, particularly in 6th grade during my Greek mythology obsession. Again, just a few samples of my favorite pages. To this day, whenever I hear Pandora's box mentioned, my mind immediately jumps to this image:

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous, another random occurence from a lazy Sunday evening...Ken decides to break out his Muppet Show records and have some giggles with Ariel.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Disney Stuff

Today I cherished my last free Saturday for's looking like my part-time animation courses may have enough students to run starting next week, at least so far, so we shall see what happens. Was up late last night watching 'Juno' with Jay so we slept in right to the moment we said we wanted to be out the door. Had a lovely family breakfast at Ricky's and then dropped Jay off at the spa for her massage (my birthday present to her)! There was a bookstore next door so naturally I took Ariel there to explore, which was short-lived as Ariel proceeded to pick up books (she says "book" now) and then just leave them in random places. I did manage however to snatch up a few gems...a hilarious childrens' book called A Birthday for Cow and the following Disney finds (click on these to make them larger)...

I've found a Mickey Mouse book like this recently as well, at Michael's of all places. They are re-prints of books published by Disney in the 1930s-40s, printed on a textured linen material. Quite an interesting historical curiosity; more information on the original books (at quite hefty prices) I found online here at Foundling Books.

These particular volumes are a strange mix of decent art and crappy off-model art. They say these books were created by artists at the Disney studio, but some of the drawings make you wonder exactly who at the studio would have done them. (Such is the case with most of the crappy DVD covers they still release today.) The way the text is written is also a little bit funny.

I like this in the book store I tried reading this book to Ariel (until she squirmed away) and got to at least teach her the names of the 7 Dwarfs and have her repeat them back. She did well with "Doc" and "Happy"...the rest were typically "Ho-vo" which is usually her word for "my mouth can't quite figure that word out yet."

This one starts the book off and has some strange text about Grumpy, as if there is some sort of riddle we're supposed to figure out.

An interesting reference here to the deleted bed-building scene...

...and then the final page of the book, which focuses just on the dwarfs' relationship with Snow White and leaves the queen out completely, all of a sudden sums up the whole wrap-up of the story in the text but doesn't actually show us the happy ending. Some kid looking at this book who couldn't read would possibly be very mis-led and think that she just died at the end.

The Pinocchio book is even more bizarre, including some pretty badly-drawn illustrations where Jiminy looks really strange...

...and a cannonball being fired at Pinocchio as he escapes. Does anyone know, was this deleted from the film?

And speaking of rare Disney items, the latest post of some awesome rare records by fellow blogging animator Ward Jenkins inspired me to scan an image of a neat record I found at my favorite record store in Langley a couple years ago.

I was intrigued to pick this up when I found it, because it appears to be very rare and makes me wonder if it was only available for purchase at Walt Disney World. It's both a record and book (pages of the book are all displayed smaller on the back of the record), and it's all based on the Mickey Mouse Revue, an animatronic attraction which I remember seeing at DisneyWorld in Florida in 1979. Someone graciously posted some awesome footage of it, and I love watching it because it's almost like watching Disney cartoons in stop-motion. Sadly it's no longer in the US but currently resides in Tokyo.

Anyway, other events of my last free Saturday included working on my animation course, buying new pants and shoes at the mall, and getting together with my friend Brenda to work out some plans for the upcoming "Breath of Life Animation Festival" we will be holding at our church on June 7. More details to follow!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spot the Looney

I love this picture. (Click on it to make it bigger...go ahead!)

Girl in the Red T-Bird! Notice the sign on the windshield. Remember that Monty Python sketch "Spot the Looney?"
I rest my case.

Today was my wife Jay's birthday so we are all full of good food. It was a really nice family outing. Happy Birthday my love!

Damn! Lucky me.