Sunday, February 25, 2007

Back to the Future: Animation in the 90's

Hehe, this post title will hardly be the last time you hear me reference Back to the Future :P Anyway, my real point...

I found an interesting article from 1990 by Richard Zoglin in Time Magazine's free archives, talking about the boom of animation going on at the time. I'll be upfront here, and admit that I'm just starting my career now and do not have a first hand industry perspective, nor years of experience to help me interpret. But that's why I'm posting this. I've read on other blogs from people who say the current boom of CG mirrors what happened in the 90's, and this article gives a first hand account--sort of frozen in time. Anything sound familiar?

Time Magazine

Quote: "There are also possibilities for overkill. "Animation is an art form that, through the loss of care, fell by the wayside," says David Kirschner, the newly installed president of Hanna-Barbera. "If it's exploited again without care, it will again fall away." Should the field become glutted, the studios that are currently in love with cartoons might make a quick about-face and say, "That's all, folks." "

The question is when? And how bad? But I've started to wonder...with all the kids like me going into animation these days, if or when jobs start becoming scarce, how many of us are going to be able to be employed? It's a depressing thought, but all the more reason to take things like this seriously. People will call me naiive, but in most aspects of life I do not predict doom and gloom, and try to have faith that no matter what the circumstances, somehow things will work out, even if they aren't in the way we want them to. But cycles in any industry are part of the story. At least animation now is a much broader industry than before, with the growth of visual effects, games, and the internet. Will that have any effect?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I told you that guy was a chicken!!

So I was talking with some friends at work and the topic of Animaniacs came up. I don't think I'd seen it since I used to watch it after school every day, but I remembered I loved it (especially Chicken Boo, haha). One of my friends has the DVDs, and I asked her if they were as good as they seemed back when they aired (cause when I watch a lot of the shows that I used to love as a kid, I see them in a whole new, and less golden, light). Of course she gave me a confident nod, and I immediately headed to the glorious vault of vidoes known as You Tube to look up my long lost love. Here are some gems that I found:

Chicken Boo (Spielberg/Warner Bros. Animation)

The Ballad of Magellan (Spielberg/Warner Bros. Animation)

The creativity in these shorts is awesome, especially considering the TV schedule they worked on! I have always loved music and animation, and when they're used intelligently the result is a level of entertainment unachievable by any other means. Music is a language of its own, and I think it's a shame that so many people look down on musical animation, especially in Disney films. It's the same as the false argument that 2D animation is dead, and CG is the only medium people want to see. If the music serves to enhance the story and entertainment value, we shouldn't be afraid to use it! Our goal as animators is to communicate a story through emotional character acting, and music is able to communicate emotions in ways that dialogue and pantomime alone can't. Music is felt.

Take the Ballad of Magellan. Would it be nearly as entertaining had the characters only spoken the words? I'm sure a version could be done without music that's certainly entertaining in its own right, but it still wouldn't be able to communicate in the same way. With or without music, our goals are the same, but certain stories and emotions are more suited to certain methods than others. The Incredibles as a musical? Probably not. It's a super-hero movie. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King? I'm convinced they would have been lesser movies without their great songs that pushed the story forward. It's not about having a soundtrack. Soundtracks are passive, they play in the background in transition between scenes. But songs like Part of Your World are so expressive, take an active role in telling the story, and maybe even influence the animators to produce even more expressive animation. The combination can be overpowering, and one I hope to see again.

The same argument can be used for musical score of movies. One of my favorite movies is Back to the Future. Think about how powerful and exciting the main theme is, and the score throughout. Can you imagine how different that movie would feel had the main theme been soft and soothing?

Anyway, don't know how I got on that topic for so long :P That's what blogs are for I guess! Enjoy the Animaniacs vids, I just might go get the DVDs!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Interviews: Podcasts

For those who want to listen to some great in-depth conversations with our favorite artists.

Animation Podcast archive
Interviews with Disney greats--Andreas Deja, Nik Ranieri, Ron Clements and John Musker, Eamonn Butler, Milt Kahl (recordings), Glen Keane, and Burny Mattinson.
Subscribe via iTunes, mp3 (regular), AAC (enhanced, w/pictures).

SplineCasts (Spline Doctors)
Interviews and discussions by Pixar folks
Brad Bird (w/chapters)
Animation Round Table, (Adam Burke, Angus Maclane, Scott Clark, Stephen Gregory, Andrew Gordon) mp3 or m4a w/chapters.
Subscribe via iTunes for interviews with Andrew Stanton (Director, Finding Nemo), Nate Stanton, Ralph Eggleston, and other Pixar guys.

Interviews: Video

Interviews you can watch! Again, you can access all interview posts by clicking the "Interviews" label in the right column. This will be an ongoing list as well. I didn't upload or conduct any of these myself of course, these are just things I've found around the web.

Brad Bird on Good Morning America
(probably a temporarily available on the ABC website)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Interviews: Text

An in-progress list of interviews you may wanna read. I'll be updating this post with new ones as I find them!

Featured Artists interviews @

Victor Navone (Pixar)
Doug Bennet (Disney Feature)
Aaron Hartline (Blue Sky)
Bobby Beck (Animation Mentor, Pixar)
James Baxter (Disney, DreamWorks)
Jason Schleifer (DreamWorks, WETA
**many more interviews available at the Feature Artist page...I've yet to read all of them, I've fallen behind!**

CGCHAR interviews
Tim Johnson (Director, Over the Hedge)

Andreas Deja (Disney)
Eric Goldberg (Disney)


Over the weekend and today my thoughts were near obsessive on this blog--and I haven't even really started it yet! I have no idea why. I started thinking about why I was doing it, what did I want it to be? I immediately thought about trying to teach what I know about animation through it, but I feel I'm still too inexperienced to offer much more than an honest critique to friends who ask. Besides, how many other places can you go online already to read great tutorials and lessons, that are far better than I could ever write? Someday I do want to teach animation, but there's still too much for me to learn. So I thought, why not use my blog as a forum, or place, where any readers and I can learn *together* about animation? Rather than pretending I know everything about the craft, I would rather share the learning experience with other people. Though I'm sure at some time I'll post some personal opinions about what I've learned so far, I hope to do it in a way of sharing rather than lecturing.

By organizing various links that I find interesting into categories on my blog, I hope to make a sort of online resource of where you can find information about animation in other places, but not so long of a list that you don't know where to start, or how to read it. I've organized my links section in the right column based on the categories of "Watch", "Talk, "Learn", and "Blog". Under "Watch more" are places you can go to watch cool animation (and a shameless self promo of my website). Under "Talk more" you can go to a couple of my favorite animation forums and podcasts, where you can listen, respond, and converse with the online animation community. Under "Learn more" I have posted some of the best places I know of to read some great lessons on animation. And finally under "Blog more" you can find some cool blogs of other animators. Of course some of these sites can fit under more than one category--Spline Doctors and Keith Lango's blogs have some great lessons and tutorials that would fit well under "Learn more". Maybe I'll do some re-arranging later, but I ended up just choosing which I thought fit best at this time.

So what am I contributing to this blog, besides organizing links? Well, I plan on posting my own opinions and personal responses to anything animation, of course! As I keep posting more content, I plan on utilizing the "labels" feature to organize my posts into categories much like my links. The two categories I most look forward to are "WATCH about animation" and "INTERVIEWS about animation". That way if you're up for seeing some cool animation, just click on the "WATCH about animation" label and see all of my posts of videos, links to videos, etc. "INTERVIEWS about animation" will have my responses and links to the awesome interviews at The Animation Podcast and Spline Doctors, as well as links to interviews I find online, so you can easily find reading material from some of our favorite artists. "LEARN about animation" will consist of posts where I (and you through comments) can discuss and learn about the craft we love. As I add more content, these labels will start popping up in the right column.

SO...yeah, that's my plan :) In all honesty it's a big experiment for me, but basically I wanted to make something worthwhile, that contributed to the animation community in some small way. My previous attempts at starting a blog failed miserably, but with these goals I hope this one gets off to a good start.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Magnolia Pictures Animated Shorts Screening

Last night I went to a short film screening that turned out to be my favorite movie-going experience since seeing The Incredibles for the first time with a theatre full of SCAD animation/vfx students. Magnolia Pictures is showing a collection of 2006 Oscar Nominated and Shortlisted animated short films, I saw it at the IFC Center here in New York. Check out the playlist: The Danish Poet (Torill Kove), Lifted (Pixar), The Little Matchgirl (Disney), No Time for Nuts (Blue Sky), A Gentleman's Dual (Blur), Guide Dog (Bill Plympton), One Rat Short (Charlex), The Passenger (Chris Jones), Wraith of Cobble Hill (Adam Parrish King), and Maestro (Geza M. Toth). Let me tell you, nearly every single film was compelling and thoroughly enjoyable, and in my opinion beats Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeld's "Animation Show 3" by a long shot. Don't get me wrong, there were some great films in The Animation Show 3, but there was also some that just weren't my taste--your sort of grotesque indy 2D animated films. That shouldn't be a surprise coming from Judge and Hertzfeld though.

In all honesty I went just to see Rats again on the big screen and see some of my Charlex friends, having no idea what else was showing. To my surprise the Pixar logo shows up at the beginning and "Lifted" starts playing! Film after film surpassed my expectations, most surprisingly "The Passenger" by Chris Jones--a practically one-man film that I had not even heard of, that presents a visually stunning, while funny and engaging horror story of sorts. (One of my friends told me it took Jones 6 years to make it!) "A Gentelman's Duel" was also a nice surprise, since I didn't know when I'd be able to see Blur's new short, but had seen some images on CG Talk.

If anyone has a chance to see this traveling exhibition, it is well worth your time and money! Check out the playdates/locations, and other information here. There is also a screening of live-action shorts by Magnolia that I was not able to see, but if the animated selections are any proof, I bet the live action selections are great too.

By the way, I have updated the look/template of this blog, and hopefully will be using this more often! I know I've said that before, but I think I have a plan this time. I've also transferred all the previous posts from my website homepage to this blog, so there may be some strange references to updates that don't make sense anymore :P

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Picasa is awesome

Okay, I know this picture is kinda boring. But I never blog here anyway, so if you're reading Anyway, I'm just trying out Google's Picasa 'blog this' feature. If you don't use Picasa and you have a ton of digital pictures on your computer, now is the time to organize them! Picasa is great, I hear it is very similar to iPhoto, except it's free. You can email photos, upload them to free web albums, and order prints all from your photo library in Picasa! It rocks :) Posted by Picasa