Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Every now and then I stumble upon a book that is truly inspired, researched, and enlightened. "Elemental Magic" is one of these. I usually get mixed feelings when this happens, a combination of stupidity that I didn't know the book existed, and an overwhelming focus and study that comes with discovering something new.
Hand drawn effects animation, for the larger part, is not the blossoming field it once was. Maybe I feel a kinship to Joseph and all the artists he mentions, because of my own dedication to drawn animation, and the uncertainty of pushing further into a medium that not many even know happens much anymore.
Back to the book itself. It is filled with some of the most breathtaking examples of effects drawings I've ever seen. Every page either has a well written treatise of a particular subject, or a well rendered example of such, and typically both. It is truly a great guide, showing by example step by step processes of execution, but it's not just a "how to" manual, not even close. It's more of a hybrid between that and one of those all too heavy coffee table books filled with perfectly reproduced imagery, and the price tag to match. For lack of a better way to describe it, it feels like a college text book.. highly informative and scientific, but with a breathe of passion and life that only a dedicated artist can inject.
The forward is written by Michel Gagne, an animator that I've studied and used for teaching for a long time now. His film, "Prelude to Eden" is a brilliantly drawn and timed exercise in drawn effects animation.
There's something special that happens when you leave the realm of character animation and attempt to capture chemical interactions and the movement of elements and compounds. There's no rules to it, yet it's even more closely linked to the study of the natural world. There's no anatomy, only the flow and spark of particles or fluids. It's the perfect amount of freedom and academics. Thanks to fellow Tisch Professor Thomas Thessen for lending me his copy, prior to me ordering one of my own.
I was stoked to discover a bit more about the author Joseph Gilland, who I've met a few times in Annecy or Ottawa.. can't remember. Currently it seems that he's a full time tattoo artist, you can see his blog here. Some excellent ink work. And I love seeing that such a brilliant animator is not a typical animation geek, whom I feel have destroyed contemporary animation, Disney in particular.. but that's another post all together.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Here in Asia, it's called "Rapunzel".. when you have two titles for a film, it begins to smell like you don't believe if yourself, no matter the executives explanations of target audience etc.. Matter of fact, self consciousness at Disney has been a problem for a while now. The audience can FEEL when a film isn't sure of itself.. The gags become a way of saying "well don't judge me too harshly, you see, I'm just a silly film".. Instead of boldly telling a powerful and emotional story, they tread lightly. Like a teenager moving the first move, they are nervous if they are doing it right. The multiple title is one of many symptoms of this hesitation and lack of confidence. They don't seem to know what it means to tell an unapologetic, confident, and decisive story. Princess and the Frog was a big mess in this way. That said.. dang Rapunzel sure does look incredible visually!! I hope it's as good as it looks!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
It seems like I've spent the whole month of November in airports. Just recently I've been to Las Vegas for the International Society of Caricature Artists' Convention (ISCA). I was the keynote speaker based on the fact that 20 years ago, I was a syndicated caricature artist.
And also, perhaps, I've had some success as an animator.
It's a 1 week event with a lot of exciting activities. The highlight is a caricature jam session where they take photos of everyone there and then pump out as many drawings as they can, then they're posted up on the walls of the convention hall, and at the end of the week the drawings are scored on quality, humor, style, and quantity. I shouldn't say they are all drawings, some people used sculpture, some used cut paper. It's a wide variety of techniques and styles. The winner gets a trophy and the prestige of being the best caricature artist of the year.
I met many wonderful artists from all over the world on my 3 days there. And the interesting thing about this group is that none of them work for print. They are all sketch artists – you know, the ones you see at parties or Six Flags – which is very interesting for me because I always wanted to try being a sketch artist at Coney Island. I thought it would be a wonderful experience drawing strangers and hearing their reaction to my strange interpretations of their weird faces – in fact it may even be dangerous to my health.
So I tip my pen to these courageous artists who put their drawing skill and lives on the line every day so us chicken cartoonists can draw in relative safety in our safe, insular studios.
Friday, November 19, 2010
1. Original Technique
2. Appealing Story or Characters
Create a story/idea everyone can relate to, and create it within your own personal experience. Dig deep and find what images and ideas you want to communicate to the world. If you're having trouble, focus on the difficulties you've had in your life, and try to illustrate them in a simple, perhaps humorous way. Be sure to use analogy instead of a literal translation of the story, for example, PUPPET isn't about a boy and a hand puppet, it's actually about my relationship and difficulties with my own creative process. Finding accurate analogies can be very rewarding, and often communicates your experience more effectively and to a broader audience.
A tremendously funny film will simply do better. I don't make funny films, but I see this fact time and time again, and I'm always quite jealous. Typically if your idea is based in humor, you film will most likely be shorter. Humor is very difficult to pull off though, and if you're not a funny person by nature it will be even more of a challenge. I find the funniest films are intent on expressing a humorous character or idea, not a string of gags. The overall idea of Bill Plymptons "Your Face" is entertaining and hilarious, in harmony with the music and design, it's not a gag film.
Quality design is related to original technique, it's just one step further inside the aesthetic. When you approach the design of your project, keep in mind all the elements that make characters appealing. Rely heavily on influence, build on what attracts you, whether it's an illustrator, a painter, or an animator/filmmaker. Go above and beyond what influences you, add your individual twist to it, and use the brilliant principles that others have set for us all. You would be shocked at how well they work within your own style!
The most important thing of all is to make the film for yourself. Make it your own. It's great to think about the audience and attempt to bring them into your piece, but the audience will do what they do with or without you most the time.. best not to spend too much time trying to please them. Have fun, and good luck!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
"My passion is drawing and sketching as much as time allows me to do so. I am a digital artist who loves to paint and draw with traditional media such as watercolor".
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
So, I had no idea which agent was telling the truth. In any case, I had to go to the premiere. My good buddy, Ken Mora, put together a dinner for over 20 fans and I had my cousins Christina, Nikki, and Kelly come down from Sacramento with a case of celebratory wine. As we rushed to the cinema, I was not surprised to hear that we only sold 1/3rd the capacity for the opening night. This was not a good sign!
But I still worked the publicity machine. I did a masterclass at Dreamworks and told them all to go see the film. Also, Jerry Beck set up a great screening at the Cinefamily that was packed with fans, and they all said they would go see “I&A”. And we did get a nice review and article in the LA Weekly. But the thing that really pissed me off was the fact that the LA Times is the journal of the film industry. It's the paper read by Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg, and all the members of the Motion Picture Academy. Without a review in the LA Times, my wonderful film is non-existent. It's like it never opened in LA. It's a phantom film. And everyone who saw the film raved about it! The final insult was as I was about to board my flight to return to New York, the people from Disney called and said that they wanted me to come by to talk to their studio..! AAARGHHH!
Oh well, my only consolation is the Chicago opening on December 2nd. And I have one PR person, Gabe Levinson, and he's very dependable and I know he'll pack the Music Box Cinema.
Monday, November 15, 2010
"We will discover some studies of Gorillas made in Burundi by the artists in a preparoty time for Tarzan, some sketches coming from his traveller note book, charcoal nude studies, but also some watercolors of female dancers and head of hair that let us forsee the genesis characters like Jasmine and, of course, Rapunzel".
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
My first gig was an ASIFA Hollywood Q&A at Woodbury University with the inimitable Tom Sito. Although it wasn't a packed house, we had a very enthusiastic crowd. Animators Rick Farmiloe, Bill Kroyer, and Antran Manoogian (head of ASIFA Hollywood) came by, plus the original voice of Tinkerbell Margaret Kerry was there. It was a wonderful show.
The next day was a very busy day, I did an early morning appearance on Pepper Jay's Cable TV show, then Ken Mora rushed me to Santa Monica College for a master class for the art and animation students – it was a packed house. That night, I appeared at the great Amoeba Superstore where a live rockabilly band The Sidewynders played a set as I joined them on stage to do a live group cartoon portrait. Afterwords I sold “Hair High” DVDs to the gathered crowd. I want to publically thank Cara, who was such a wonderful host at Amoeba, and I'd love to return again.
After that, I rushed to the Aero Cinema in Santa Monica for a screening for Academy members and friends. After the screening, I was joined on stage by my genius music producer, Corey Jackson, for a discussion moderated by Timothy.
As I drove home, I was full of optimism for a big success as “Idiots and Angels” opens the next day.