Saturday, February 23, 2013

Registration in Stop Motion

With three stop motion films running for this years Academy Award, the interest in stop-mo has warmed up againI thought I would share a trick I found very helpful.  Today so much is done digitally and elements are shot on green screen and combined with others to finish a scene, but this trick is still invaluable if you want to do a scene in one pass.

I had to animate a character walking through a table top full of food.  Now I'm a short guy with not much reach so it was a stretch for me to even get to the character. I had to stand on apple boxes. How was I to get to my puppet without knocking all that food around? 

First off let me mention that none of the food was real and done by a terrific artist in wax.  Even the lemonade was a solid mixture of silicone or something.  I solved my dilemma by first registering the plates of food with corner brackets.  Corner brackets are flat metal pieces you can screw or glue down to your table top.  I used a thin veneer and cut square pieces the size of each plate that I wanted to register and glued it to the plates bottom.  Then I placed the plates on my set and anchored the brackets around two sides of the veneer at the back.  This let me pull the plate forward and remove it entirely while I animated my puppet.  Using the brackets, I could drop the food back into place and not have to worry about it moving around.

I hope the diagram helps explain things a little better.  I might tell you about 'nesting' sometime.

P.S.  The music in this video clip is not from the original scene which was the little guy talking.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Seeing Things

Where do ideas come from?  I've noticed creative people say ideas just sometime come to them like a gift from a muse.  That would be nice but I seem to need a trigger.

We are hard wired to interpret information and make sense of it.  This is why we see pictures in clouds and random patterns.  I have the same experiences with things in our house.  I can make out a lovely lion head in the grain of our bathroom door and a cool dragon in one of our towels.

For years I have seen this little character flying in a winged ship on our table cloth and only recently decided to act upon developing a story for it.

I can't tell you anything about the story yet as it's going to be either a film or more probably a book idea, but I can introduce the main characters.  If you click on the artwork it should enlarge well enough to read the bios.  There is also a picture of the original table cloth design and you can see it wasn't too much of a leap.

Like all work in progress, there may be changes. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Glen Keane Animator and Book Ilustrator/Writer

We all know Glen Keane as the master animator on many Disney films and the son of cartoonist Bil Keane who did "The Family Circus", but how many of you knew he was an author and illustrator of children's books?

I recently found this copy of "Adam Raccoon and the Circus Master" by Glen Keane for Chariot Books.
You can tell the hand of an animator right away by the great staging and poses.  I love the thick and thin quality of his lines and the expressive look in the eyes.

This book happened to be published in 1987 and might explain the similarities in the Circus Masters design and Ratigan, the Vincent Price voiced character from Disneys' "The Great Mouse Detective" done in 1986.

I was surprised to see there were quite a few titles done in this series entitled Parables for Kids.  Here is a list of titles:

Follow the King:
A First Lesson in Trust

Creating Characters With Personality

Cookie Time

Adam Raccoon in Lost Woods

Adam Raccoon at Forever Falls

Adam Raccoon and the Race to Victory Mountain

Adam Raccoon and the Mighty Giant

Adam Raccoon and the King's Big Dinner

Adam Raccoon and the Flying Machine

Adam Raccoon and the Circus Master

Adam Raccoon and Bully Garumph

Monday, February 04, 2013

Campaigns I Would Pitch

Probably nothing will come of this as ideas are fair game until someone copyrights or trademarks them. Consider this a preemptive strike against copiers, or verification that it was indeed I who loosed these innate thoughts into the cosmic conscious. I’ve come to this decision after conceiving of Breathe Rights only to find them on the market before I could do anything about them. Also after three very definite elements of a cartoon series I had pitched to Cartoon Network ending up being used in someone else’s series. Okay are you ready? Here they are:

No.1 An ad campaign for wireless phones featuring ‘The Bluetooth Fairy'.

No.2 A funny creature for a fast Mexican food chain called ‘The Chalupacabra’ who wants your food.

There, I feel better. Now when you see these, you can say with certainty and have this article to verify that I’m the idiot who thought them up.

Yours truly,

Sunday, February 03, 2013


Uncle Eddie did a post about Ralph Bakshis’ Kickstarter project dealing with Coney Island here:

It got me thinking about a project I would love to see happen, but don’t know how to go about.  I love Tom Waits album “Alice” and learned it was for a play done in Germany.  I don’t know the story but the album seems to be little story vignettes  woven around something that happened to the narrator and his love, a girl named Alice. 

I had thought it was based on Lewis Carols “Alice in Wonderland”, but to me the characters are more earthbound and related to the carnival era of early Coney Island.  Some of the songs talk about Dreamland and it's clear this is the Dreamland of Coney, and some are wild hallucinations aboard ghost-trains and sideshows.  There are beautiful flights of fancy like the improbable song about a whale and a bird who fall in love, it's sad and achingly wonderful.  But all have a nostalgic Victorian sound and the last piece is a heartbreaking melody played on a musical saw!

If I could secure the music rights and the stage play, depending on the story I would love to do an animated version of “Alice”.  Perhaps even without the plays storyline an interesting series of songs done in appropriated styles might hang together kind of like a “Yellow Submarine”, or maybe something with the Alice character could bridge each song?  I want to know who is this Alice?  Is she a young girl or more mature?  Did she die falling through the ice while skating, or did the narrator die and everything is his ghostly visitation of this world and the afterlife?  

Sound intriguing to you? 

Update:  I found the stage play script for “Alice” was originally called “Woyzeck”.  The script has some of the songs from the album but many songs are missing and the storyline has no mention of the central character Alice at all.   Elsewhere I learned it was based on Alice Liddell, the young girl who was the obsession and muse of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books although as I’ve mentioned it wasn’t apparent from what I read.

I may be free to develop my own storyline and push it toward my own fanciful and romantic interpretations.  I might try and track down Tom Waits and his people and see what might develop.   

My tribute picture called Tom Waits for No One
Tom Waits "Alice"

Snow White turns 76

When Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs had its world premiere on December 21, 1937, Walt Disney claimed it was his Christmas gift to the children of the world.

For many animators my age, the two most pivotal films mentioned for starting their interest were "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", and "King Kong.  This was certainly true for myself but I still marvel at the revolutionary vision of Snow White.

I've said this more than once, (and people who have worked with me probably wish I would stop), but never in print.  So let's look at what makes this the stand-out film for me.

Considering the times cartoons had largely been limited to short films.  Despite what Disney would like you to believe, Snow White was not the first animated feature, there were two others before, and this may have caused some to prematurely label Snow White as Disneys' Folly, but the film was a water-shed success.  It garnered enough money to save the studio and finance more feature work.

Snow White was a unique and unproven mix of genres.  It is first a fairytale, then it's a romance.  It is also a musical, and a comedy.  Surprisingly it is a drama and a horror film.  And last but not least, it's an animated film.  This mix has become a bit of a formula for everything that followed at Disney but what a gutsy first move!

You can argue the films done under Walts supervision and after his death but you can't argue Walt as a visionary and the lasting appeal of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".  She is still the fairest in the land to me.


The Multiplane Camera

With my exploration of using Toon Boom Harmony and Animate, or After Effects to get a workable 3D into my next film, I thought it would be good to show how intricate and involved the pioneers at Disney were when they created the Mulitplane Camera

Of course Unca Walt explained it best in this segment from The Wonderful World of Color, and concludes with the breath taking shot from "Bambi".

Today we do everything digital, but think about the challenge they faced then trying to keep lights from reflecting, and dust or finger prints off the art, and the mathematics used to plot out moving these big fragile plates of glass!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Another Clue for You All?

After forty some years the belief that Sir Paul McCartney is dead and was replaced with a look-alike caught fire on the internet and is only now starting to cool again.

I am not a subscriber to the “PID”, (Paul is dead), or replaced idea and feel the whole thing can be attributed to McCartney getting a lot of corrective surgeries.  In Macca’s career he teamed up with prominent writers and musicians like Costello, Wonder and Michael Jackson.  We all witnessed the transformation of Jackson into an unrecognizable white woman so it’s not surprising that Macca “fixed” his ears which stuck out, removed the bump on his nose, had chin implants to make his head less round and his teeth worked on after chipping them in an accident.  Over time the cosmetic results have been noticeable.

I do want to mention a thing for the believers that no one has mentioned. In 1999 the McFarlane toy company issued a series of Beatles figures based on “The Yellow Submarine”.  While some have pointed to two Paul’s during the “All Together Now” sequence in the movie, this line of toys may contain another clue for you all. 

Before the release of these Beatles figurines a toy fair picture of the proto-types was shown on the Internet.  The first series figures were the Beatles and a second series, the Sgt. Pepper band.  Each figure contained an additional character from the movie.  The proto-types showed Old Fred and Lord Mayor too but when the toys were in stores the Lord Mayors character was gone and another Paul was paired with Old Fred.  So if you were to collect all the figures in the two series you have a total of three Paul’s, one as Paul McCartney, one as a Pepper character, and one superfluous Paul.  Could that be Faul?  Faul is the name supposedly given by John to the Paul look-alike meaning fake Paul or faux  Paul.