Friday, November 30, 2007


I love everything about these guys. It must be great fun to work on. When will they be available in the states? Find out more about this adorable series here:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Karel Zeman

Here are some highlights from “Diabolica Inventions” (1958) , a film Zeman did to look like moving woodcuts. A feature film “Fantastic World of Jules Verne” (1961) employees the same technique.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Inspirace : by Karel Zeman

Karel Zemans amazing short "Inspiration" (Inspirace), made in 1948, is a love-story set inside a single drop of water, which Zeman animated by heating and bending fragile blown-glass figurines.

The films of master Czech animator and director Karel Zeman (1910 - 1989) are a glittering jewelbox filled with wonders spun from ancient myth and modern science: moon men and underwater pirates, pedal-powered airships and diabolical engines of destruction. Born in 1910 in Ostromer, Czechoslovakia, Zeman began his career as a window dresser and poster artist, graduating to filmmaking in the mid-1940's with a series of shorts featuring his animated alter-ego, Mr. Prokouk. Inspired by the pioneering films of magician/director Georges Melies and the fiction of Jules Verne, Zeman began animating, art directing and often writing his own features in the early 1950's, overcoming miniscule budgets and rudimentary equipment to create his elaborate adventures.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gratz Gone Wild

Above is a link to an article by Kristi Turnquit about Portland animator Joan Gratz. She pioneered 'claypainting' and won an Oscar for her "Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase,(see earlier post in archives for film). Now she has transitioned over to computers and I bet she is loving the flexibility.

Artist though she is, Gratz doesn't just create personal projects. Her latest work is a commercial, done for the San Luis Obispo-based company the Spice Hunter. Though Gratz has done commercials for such companies as Coca-Cola and Knorr Soup, the Spice Hunter job presented Gratz with a novel challenge. Her palette this time wasn't colored clay, but the spices themselves, which she animated digitally. "I photographed the spices and threw them on my scanner," says Gratz. "I could control the color and how big they are. It was like having a new set of paints."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reference Material

The studies of Eadweard Muybridge have been helping animators for years. Now modern technology has given us new tools. Check out The Animal Motion Show from Rhino House:

These are clear, full color studies with common actions done in b/w put against grids to help diagnose spacing. I’ve used these DVD references on many projects and found them indispensable.

Although I didn’t work on this, here’s a lovely horse gallop by James Baxter for the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It’s a beautiful cycle as you can see from the Flash movie I’ve make of it. I keep it just in case.

Biggie Cheese

I found this on YouTube. Someone posted the Biggie Cheese sequence I worked on with Jamie Dawkins for the movie “Barnyard”. We did Biggie and the band characters in the background. Jamie did the first portion until the fade to black and my shots are after the fade up. I also did the shaggy dog bass player close-up in Jamie’s section. It was great fun.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Word from Bird

Live action reference for Tinker Bell in Peter Pan

Reference for Lady and the Tramp

Reference for 101 Dalmatians

Brad Bird has added to the debate over Mocap, Rotoscope and Traditional animation. I tried to define the differences between Roto and live action reference in an earlier posting called Rotoscope VS Reference but Brad says it much more clearly.

_____________ Click on images to enlarge

Brad says:

Hmn. Gotta say I disagree with a few of you folks. I consider mo-cap and rotoscope very similar in a few important respects; both have a performance foundation that begins with someone other than the animator, and the ultimate success of each is dependent on how skillfully they are altered from that foundation.

The best characters to begin with a mo-cap foundation (Gollum and Kong–both courtesy of Peter Jackson & co.) were re-worked extensively by animators (some of Gollums best scenes were entirely keyframed– the Andy Serkis reference studied and interpreted by eye rather than by computer).

This is true of rotoscope as well. When great animators extensively rework the live action base you get Cruella DeVil, Captain Hook, Smee, Chernabog from Night On Bald Mountain, etc…

But when an animator simply accepts the live action perfomance without strengthening the poses or finessing the timing and lazily traces a hand over a hand, a shoulder over a shoulder, you get the watery, dull, unconvincing Prince in “Snow White”, Gulliver in “Gullivers Travels”, Anastasia in “Anastasia”, and EVERYBODY in Bakshi’s “Lord of the Rings”, “American Pop”, “Fire & Ice”, etc.

I would argue that talented animators did some fantastic reworking of Andy Serkis’ very fine initial interpretation of Gollum. Like most animation, not all scenes are created equal, but the best scenes of Gollum have weight and life behind the eyes and a physicality that is lost in most mo-cap.

I agree that rotoscoping is at the very least touched by human hands holding a pencil, but as someone who was shackled to some truly awful live action footage and tasked with rotoscoping something presentable from it (the director would not allow me to animate the scenes from scratch) in my animating days, I can’t share in any misty-eyed nostalgia for rotoscope.

It was a tedious, joyless, awful process that, when strictly adhered to, nearly always yielded uninspiring results.

The last similarity for me is economic. Movies are made in the real world, and certain characters demand HIGHLY skilled animators to pull them off convincingly. Disney turned to rotoscope for CINDERELLA because he didn’t have the resources (money/time) to experiment with the large number of human characters.

Likewise, although Peter Jackson had a big budget for LOTR, it was barely enough to execute the vast vision he had in mind… and mo-cap was the fastest good way to get Gollum integrated with the live action and consistent performance-wise, with the myriad other elements Jackson had to juggle.

Bottom line for me: Mo-Cap is a tool that can be used well or badly, much like rotoscope, and like rotoscope the most successful examples of mo-cap have been significantly altered by animators on their way to the big screen.

For me personally, I think mo-cap works best as a tool to create convincing digital characters that are intended to share the screen with live actors (ala Peter Jackson).

So far (and while I remain open to any filmmaker willing to prove otherwise), when mo-cap attempts to take center stage– I have yet to see an instance when I don’t find myself wishing to see either pure animation or pure live action.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MoCap VS Animation

Mark Mayerson has posted a great analysis on the differences between Motion Capture and true animation which I've printed a portion of below. Marks' blog: is always a wealth of information.

With motion capture, motion exists in the real world. It gets sampled and then applied to a computer character. With animation, the motion does not exist in the real world. It is constructed and only exists when the images are rapidly displayed, creating the illusion of motion. That describes the process. There are several differences philosophically, however. Motion capture seeks to convince an audience through the accumulation of detail. When it falls short -- when it is criticized for looking like a waxworks -- it is due to insufficient detail in the motion. Therefore, the goal of motion capture is to increase detail to the point where it is indistinguishable from live action. By contrast, good animation seeks to eliminate unnecessary detail in order to arrive at the expressive essence of a motion.

Image from the MoCap film Beowulf from director Robert Zemeckis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Alice in Stop-mo-land

Lou Bunin was a prominent puppeteer, an artist, and pioneer of stop-motion animation in the latter half of the twentieth century. Bunin went on to create a feature length stop-motion animation film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in 1949, starring Carol Marsh as a live-action Alice. A lawsuit from Walt Disney prevented it from being widely released in the U.S., so that it would not compete with Disney's forthcoming 1951 animated version.

Remember this was way before the frame grabbers of today and all done with surface gauges, (see earlier posting on techniques and innovations)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Color Nudes

I’m trying a different approach to figure drawing and want to be less detail oriented and more form conscious. One way is to work faster and looser in color. I don’t know how successful these are but it’s a start.