Thursday, March 19, 2009


Following quickly on the heels of my traditionally drawn test using Toon Boom I thought I would mention this site a fellow Boomer turned me onto which the above link, or clicking on the title will take you to called TOONBOOM-BASTIC!

These people are using Toon Boom for an actual production and using the nested symbol approach associated with Flash animation. This is a great reference site because they define the similarity and differences between the two programs.

A great posting was the way nested symbols work in both Flash and Toon Boom and how they behave differently. The image is from a posting about Layer organization and was super enlightening.

I'm about ready to try some puppet style animation and this site already answered many questions. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't Tell Olive...

This is yet another Toon Boom test drawn with a Wacom tablet. There are many things that can ruin animation and they are all in this test: bad animation, bad in-betweens and bad clean-up.

I'm hoping I can get better hand and eye coordination but the Wacom is still a disconnect and I really may have to save for a Cintiq if I'm going to do this seriously. Also I find it much slower going than pencil and paper. I tried setting the opacity low on my brush so I could build up a stroke like a pencil but it soon became pretty dense anyway. Here's also a test of a mouse walking I did trying to learn how to draw Jerry, (looks nothing like him!), that was done with TVPaint and the pencil tools are terrific. Hopefully you can see what I'm talking about.

Even though the test was disappointing I did learn how to separate a background element so Betty could pass behind the railing. Popeye's transition from a walk cycle to stand is awkward but I know the mechanics of how it should work now. And I also learned I need to be more careful with proportions and tracking things like breasts. You would think I would have more interest there wouldn't you?

I may have to play with these characters again because this is the first time I've tried to draw them. Betty's head turn is awful. She's pretty hard to draw and those curls are murder to track too.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Drawn to Life

We live in wondrous times. For years I have seen bits and pieces of these notes that were the handouts from Walt Stanchfields drawing class at Disney and marveled at their clarity. Now two volumes of Stanchfield notes and art stretching over twenty years have been assembled and will be available this April.

A good overview can be found from a former student on The Animation Podcast here:

The following is just a portion of the review...

Walt had the most joyful, energetic spirit I have ever known. Yes, his classes were about drawing, but they were also about seeing, judging, storytelling, passion, life, creation, sports, clarity, art. “Live life dammit!” is something he would say. He’d tell us to ignore all that garbage we learned in anatomy class. He wanted us to make decisions in the drawings and tell a story through the image. If we drew the model exactly, he’d show us how more interesting it would be if we pushed the pose, moved the hand out here for clarity, tilt the chin to direct the viewer’s eye to where we want them to focus. He didn’t want us to draw what we saw, he wanted us to take in the idea and power it on to the page with verve and directness. He was so hooked on creativity. He’d sometimes share his latest drawings that he made while driving down the freeway from his home near Solvang!


I did a post of this page of Walts Tiger notes before but it warrants a second look.

Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jerry and the Four Foot Mouse

Okay Toon Boom had a great offer of $600 off the asking price for their Animate program so I took the plunge. I'm wading in slowly as this program does a lot of puppet vector based animation like Flash but what I've been interested in is a good paperless way of doing traditional drawn animation.

Here's my attempt at another Jerry Mouse. I just like his design and want to learn how to draw and pose him. The more I try the more I see his face is very similar to Toms and may try Tom next. The 'holds' are a little long and I should add another blink on the other side to keep it alive. Maybe some 'eases' too.

This was all done in Toon Boom Animate and I'm learning how the drawing tools work. I am using a Wacom table because I can't afford a Cintiq so clean up is still difficult. All in all, I like the program very much and look forward to learning all the bells and whistles.

For all you animation Nerds, (of which I am one), you may recognize the background as being the stage from The Mickey Mouse Club. That's why Jerry is scared and you would be too if a four foot mouse was coming to beat the crap out of you! My money would be on Jerry to win.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Symbolism in Animation

It has long been a complaint that we are relying on dialogue too much instead of good acting in modern animation. Since animation is a visual medium it makes sense to try and make everything understandable even if you strip the soundtrack off.

The use of symbolism is probably a carry-over from the days of silent cinema where everything had to be communicated visually but it does have the advantage of super-charging a scene by loading it with layers of information.

Certain types of film lend themselves better for the use of symbolic imagery such as the Musical and the Fairytale because they are already stylized and more fanciful in the storytelling right from the beginning.

Symbolism in animation began with animation itself and one of the best examples is Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The queens casting of spells to make a disguise and poisoned apple use symbolism to load the imagery in a powerful way that go beyond dialogue with a universal visual language everyone can understand. As the queen makes her potion each phrase she speaks is illustrated to heighten the impact: To shroud my clothes, the black of night- A drop falls into the potion and spreads changing the liquid to black. To age my voice, an old hag's cackle.-A bubbling cackling fluid drops into the potion with each drop making a cackling laugh. To whiten my hair, a scream of fright-. A drop of something explodes with a jet of steam forming into a shrieking face! Later as the queen now in old peddler disguise makes the poison apple she dips it into a solution and as she pulls it out the mixture runs off the apple forming a skull that sinks into the apple turning it a beautiful red.

There are many fine moments of symbolism in the Disney canon of films. Although fairly naturalistic in it’s depiction of forest life Bambi takes a surprising visual change with the appearance of the love interest Faline. Bambi is love struck and literally starts floating on a cloud. The landscape transforms into a dreamy cotton candy cloudscape as Bambi leaps effortlessly in bliss. This is suddenly broken by the intrusion of a rival and a battle ensures casting the stags in silhouette as the backgrounds become almost solid colors. The change in mood and color bring an impact that works on a psychological level.

“The Little Mermaid” has some great uses of symbolism where Ursula commands Arial to sing while smoky tentacle hands steal her ‘voice’.

The writhing nude female figures made of fire held in the mighty devils hands from “Fanstasia” are a great depiction of souls lost to sexual sin and temptation. This was used again as fireplace flames form the alluring dancing figures that reflect the tortured thoughts of Frolo lusting for Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. In the same scene Frolos guilt caused shadows to grow into accusatory figures that tower in judgment of him pictorially showing us the inner conflict he is wrestling with.

Who can forget Dumbos drunken ‘pink elephant’ nightmare? It became a highlight of the movie and a delightful way of getting a baby elephant up a tree.

My hope is that more applications of this kind of visual storytelling can be found that feel organic to the story and would replace or complement dialogue. When done right they are the moments you remember for a lifetime.