Sunday, September 27, 2009

1 month with the X-Man

Xander is now officially 1 month, how did that happen? Well, what can I say, the little dude's awesome.

In many ways it's been a very rough month, going through all the unknowns and challenges with Jay's health, heart and happiness going up & down. Like everything else she does, she's handled everything well with her amazing strength, faith and spirit. Ariel really loves her new baby brother, always eager to show him off and protect him. I feel blessed to have these two amazing little hobbits to teach, raise and watch them grow. Looking forward to that first real smile from Xander!

Spark Animation 2009

At last, my little report on Spark Animation '09 which happened in Vancouver Sept 16-20. I wasn't able to attend the entire festival but I still feel privileged to have had a small part in planning it with the good people who are the Vancouver SIGGRAPH Chapter. It was another roaring success and I think that each year this event will continue to grow bigger and better.

I was present opening night for the industry mixer and premiere screening of The Secret of Kells. This is one of the most beautiful animated films ever made, in terms of...well, everything. The design, the story, the animation, the music, it's all truly awe-inspiring and a treasure to behold, especially on a big screen. The director Tomm Moore and art director Ross Stewart were there to introduce the film, and the following day they gave a very enlightening presentation on how they made it, loaded with exquisite concept art. I got to chat with them a little bit and tell them how much I loved and appreciated their deserves every ounce of support it can get, so if you have the means, SEE IT!!! I've already bought the soundtrack and am eagerly awaiting the DVD to be available in North America.

The following day I was honored to introduce the Coraline presentation by Martin Meunier from Laika, who brought Coraline and a menagerie of other puppet parts with him. Needless to say I was like a kid in a candy store getting to touch, study and pose these. When I hold any stop-motion puppet in my hand, I just have to move the joints and feel like I'm animating becomes a fixation. So it was very hard to put Coraline down.

Martin's presentation, which went on for 3 hours, was fantastic and mind-boggling, with TONS of fantastic production photos and exclusive time-lapse footage of animators at work. The amount of 3D printing done for the film was wasn't limited just to the facial animation. Even the VW bug that Coraline and her mother drove around in was meticulously modeled, part by part, in CG, printed on the 3D printer, and pieced together like an intricate model kit. (This was partly so the animators could remove the doors and the hood, animate the puppets, and then snap it all back together again.) All of this and more was great just to learn about, and good resource material for my next book. Martin and the other Laika representative who we brought up for the festival, Mark Shapiro, were also great to chat with and very generous. Many thanks to them for bringing Coraline to Vancouver!

The other presentations I got to see that day were from the Gobelins school, Starz Animation on the making of '9', and of course the making of Secret of Kells. I really liked the Gobelins presentation and the excellent caliber of work done by the students there. '9' was a very short presentation with some interesting visuals and very intriguing information on how they made the film on a tight budget. I haven't seen the film yet but most people who have are saying the visuals are the only major redeeming factor. The trailer has always been a favorite of mine, partly for the integration of the animation with Coheed & Cambria rocking the soundtrack.

The other big highlight for me being a part of Spark was getting to introduce and view the Stop Motion Night double feature of Mary & Max and $9.99 that closed the festival on Sunday night.

Mary & Max is an absolute masterpiece, not only for the emerging renaissance of the stop-motion animated feature, but I dare say for film in general. It is funny, sad, dark, disturbing, emotional, real and beautiful all at the same time, and it is a work of genius in terms of the screenplay, lighting, animation and character development. Adam Elliot deserves any and all praise he gets for this film. The ending is truly touching and a great testament to the power of love and friendship in a dark and confusing world.

, though not exactly the spiritual dose of inspiration I was expecting after seeing the trailer a long time ago, was also very good. If it had been a live-action film, I likely would have written it off as a film I don't normally enjoy, but the fact that it was animated, and very well I might add, helped to hold my attention throughout. Overall I was glad we were able to bring both of these films to Vancouver and lend our support to them.

Cheers and thanks to all who made Spark Animation happen, and click HERE for more pictures of this fun event. Already looking forward to seeing what Spark 2010 brings to town!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Animated Ariel

To keep Ariel entertained the other day, we made some animated films together. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life with the Kids

Well, it's been a real roller coaster since little X-Man arrived. He's been a very good baby...eats, sleeps, poops, all very well. And Ariel is a very sweet big sister, always wanting to help and show off her brother. Jay had been struggling up until last Thursday...short version of the story (the long version is of course on her blog) is she turned out to have post-partum heart failure and we went back to the hospital to get her treated. Still waiting for more definitive answers from the cardiologist tomorrow, but so far she's surely improving. We've had a few outings but mostly she is taking it easy and I'm trying to help out as much as I can.

Here's some choice pics of the X-Man.

It's a great feeling having one of each, and I'm enjoying the completeness that comes from having a family of's a new feeling, surreal and scary but beautiful. Here's my twitchy-witchy girl Ariel all ready for her first day of pre-school, and more family pics.

In other news, Spark Animation is coming up soon and once again I'm very proud to have had a small part in selecting content and volunteering. I will only be able to attend certain fragments of the show this year, primarily checking out The Secret of Kells, Coraline, Gobelins, 9, Best of SIGGRAPH (sponsored by VanArts), Mary & Max, $9.99, and of course the Saturday night party. Be sure that many pics will follow here.

Check out the line-up:

SPARK Animation '09: Festival & Conference from Vancouver ACM SIGGRAPH on Vimeo.

...and also in other news, I might as well break my silence and say that I'll be writing another book for Thomson(Cengage) publishers, tentatively titled The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation. It's a second volume for my original book, going into more updated detail on the craft, slated to launch June 2010.

With all of this plus online teaching, onsite teaching, usual work stuff, two kids, Halloween, and plenty of coffee & good tunes for the road ahead, I stand like Atreyu with Auryn in hand before the Southern Oracle ahead of me, and walk forth to ask for confidence to follow the Lord's plan for me. Stay tooned, my friends.