Friday, December 26, 2014

"Peace On Earth" Commentary

Scott Thill has provided a thought provoking article for the Christmas day post of Cartoon Brew.  Scott tells the story of the 1939 MGM cartoon "Peace On Earth".  I recall seeing it on television as a child and recognizing it as something unusual, and suspecting it as a piece of propaganda left over from WW2.

Scott does a good job of covering the intentions, and difficulties faced by filmmaker Hugh Harman, of Harman & Ising fame, in making this theatrical short, so I'll leave this link where you can read it for yourselves and see this now 75 year old film:

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Thief and the Cobbler Rough Animation and Reconstruction

So much of "The Thief and the Cobbler was removed that we may never know what the finished film may have looked like. These pieces reveal a rich and amazing artistry and effort done the old fashioned way and without computers!

"The Thief and the Cobbler" Rough Animation Montage from Kevin Schreck on Vimeo.

Below is the special fan edit of The Thief and the Cobbler reconstructed by Garrett Gilchrist of Orange Cow Productions combines the fabled uncut work print with other footage from the released versions, as well as other rare materials to create the most complete film - not to mention the most faithful to the original vision.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Offering Portraiture

I"m getting a jump-start on Christmas this year with this gift for my daughter and son-in-law, (they don't read this so I'm not spilling the beans, so to speak), and I thought this maybe something I could offer to whomever may want it.  The picture isn't done yet, (want to smooth out boys face and finesse the background),  but it's enough there that I felt I could share it.

I'm going to offer oil portraiture done from good photos.  I had to piece together several pictures of these kids because they were so active I couldn't get a good expression or composition otherwise.  I could do these in the evenings and weekend.

I need to take sometime to see what people are charging for sizes and number of figures, so I don't have a price list yet.

In fact, I need to build up a portfolio and most of my work was done out of state.  Back then, I didn't keep photos, and the only recent work I've done was badly photographed, and pretty pixelated.  It's this detail of the boy with the oval white boarder which originally  includes his little brother beside him.  I cropped the brother out because most of the bad resolution from the photography showed up on him.

It's too late for this holiday season, I estimate it would take four to six weeks to deliver a picture, but I will try and make them affordable.

Unfinished Christmas Present

Detail of portrait done for friend

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Margaret Keane, of all things.

Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction, and Tim Burton is making another movie based on one of these stories.  The first, was the fairly accurate historically and visually, "Ed Wood", about Hollywood's worse filmmaker, Edward D. Wood Jr.

Now, comes "Big Eyes", the improbable but true story of those god awful pictures that were immensely popular when I was growing up.  Passed off as the work of Walter Keane, these kitschy, garish, sentimental paintings of sad children with abnormally big eyes, were actually the work of his wife, Margaret.  She was locked in a room and made to paint, from dawn to dusk, in order to fill all the orders from adoring collectors.

To keep the franchise fresh, sad kittens with big eyes were added to the repertory, and then later, children with big eyes holding pets with big eyes were painted. 

I won't give anymore away, but I will say I've always found these paintings rather feminine, concluding that Walter was Gay.  Now, I know he just knew a good thing when he saw it, and wanted to ride that 'gravy train'.

I wouldn't mind a piece of that action so I'm reviving the Big Eye craze with this offering.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Artist's Work Space

Fellow blogger, and animation artist, Eddie Fitzgerald has recently posted on his inspirational “Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner”, an article about artists work spaces, (link provided here:, which I liked very much and responded to.  He offered an invitation for me to show my space if I cared to, so here it goes.

As I mentioned my wife hates clutter because her mother was a messy artist, and she had to clean the house around her moms work area, which also spilled over into their living space.  Well, my mother was a messy artist as well, and we lived in what she called 'creative clutter', which I loved! 

Wanting to keep a happy wife and an inspirational environment,  we have managed a pretty good compromise.  I can’t show you our entire house, which is an eclectic mix of styles and cultures, but I can show my work spaces and touch on a little of how I work and what inspires me.

My office is pretty digitally oriented for computer animation and this over-view picture kind of shows the contained chaos.  I have my messy bookshelf, walls of pictures, musical instruments and my sculptures and toys.  Some of the details are an unfinished portrait of my daughter begun by my late mother, which hangs above my desk, and a picture of my brother in period clothing that mom did, on another wall.  I also have paintings my mother-in-law did, and our mothers’ works are hung through out our house.

Downstairs I have a man cave with all my toys put in a wet bar, and movie posters on the walls.  This leads to my other work desk reserved for messy things like sculpture, or painting.  We have a cement floor in this part as it is also the laundry room, so I can drops brushes or cast plaster molds if I want. 

There it is.  I’m very thankful for what I have.  Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!  

Daughter by my mother
Brother in period costume by my mother
Wind chime (hung inside)

Another wall hanging
Shelve in office, (note the Vinton box for floppy disks!)
Rug hung on wall
Wall hanging
Book case with sculptures I've done

Wet bar with collectable toys (sorry about the glare)

Basement desk for messy work, (portrait of grand-kids on easel started for Christmas, don't tell!)

Saturday, November 22, 2014


There is a non-interactive version of Glen Keanes animated short "Duet" which is up for an Oscar this year.

And here is a little video by Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group about the making  of the interactive version for the mobile device to create an interactive mobile-specific storytelling experience, done at 60 frames per second:


It is beautiful to see that traditional animation is not dead and is in fact evolving.

UPDATE:  Here is the pencil test which holds up remarkably well without color.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Childhood Subverted

I’ve been noticing a trend that takes beloved stories we’ve grown familiar with, and twisting them in a subversive fashion until we don’t recognize the original message any longer.

I think I first became aware of this after reading the book, which later became the musical, “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire.  Now, we've known different interpretations of the classics such as “The Wiz”, and all the Disneyfications (is that a word?) on the known fairytales. These took liberties with the story to make them more contemporary, yet still kept the original storyline pretty much intact.  But, here was a re-imaging of The Wizard of Oz that told the back-story of how the wicked witch of the West became wicked.  Those we perceived as good guys were in actuality the bad guys and their behavior eventually led to the good witch becoming the wicked witch.

Another example is the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty in Disney’s “Maleficent”.  Again, the actions of others turned a good spirit into the evil persona, Maleficent, who is misunderstood by everyone.  We are made to feel compassion for a character we’ve always taken to be pure evil. And now, I understand a new retelling of Cinderella is underway at Disney for a 2015 release. 

So, what are the children to think after hearing or watching these stories for the first time, and then seeing these alternative versions?   Is it confusing for them?  Will they learn tolerance from it?  Will they try to be more compassionate and to understand the other persons situation? Or will it cause a feeling of distrust and insecurity where they never know who can be trusted, who is a friend, who is an enemy, what is true and what is false? 

I personally feel children are too immature to understand the complexities of human nature and, just as adults, may never have all the information to reach a fair conclusion.  It's probably why our fairy tales and children's stories are so clearly defined as to who is good and who is bad, so that kids may hopefully have a standard to aim towards.  These shades of gray may be too sophisticated for impressionable minds.

I don’t have an answer, and I suppose it’s up to the parents to talk about these things, although I doubt if parents are even aware or care about this.  
UPDATE:  Here is an article about Neil Gaiman's new book, "The Sleeper and the Spindle", where he talks about the current trend of re-writing fairy-tales:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Peanuts Movie

Somewhere on this blog, I mentioned early influences, and Charles Schulz was at the forefront, along with Disney and some others in shaping my psyche.  I read Peanuts and learned much about the world and the cruelty we inflict on one another caused by selfishness and bigotry.  Pretty heavy stuff for a comic strip, but that was the key to good old Charlie Brown, he was an optimist, a kind of pessimistic optimist, but one none the less.  Children were used as a foil to talk about adult situations and Charlie was usually the brunt of many indignations, yet he persevered and his integrity to do the right thing in the face of adversity was a powerful lesson to me.

Now, I have said all this so I can say how excited I am by the sneak previews of Blue Sky Studios 2015 Christmas release of their Peanuts feature.  They have managed to nail the look of the strip and I can only hope the writing with be as good as the TV specials that were penned by Charles Schulz himself.

Have a  look at these stills and trailer and see what you think.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's Voodoo!

Above is a link to the astonishingly robust and mind blowing power of Rhythm & Hues proprietary software Voodoo.

So many movies owe a debt of thanks to R&H, and it's unfortunate and ironic that the same year "Life of Pi", won the Oscar in 2012, R&H shut it's doors due to bankruptcy.

Many other studios closed that year, but that's another story.  For now, watch the video on Voodoo and think about what movies would look like without computer effects.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Stop Motion in the Digital Age #03

The last post focused on the evolution of replacement animation and the advancement of using rapid prototyping technology to create hard copy color face replacements.

Now, CINEFEX blog has run a nice comprehensive article on LAIKA's latest film "The Boxtrolls" that explains the mixing of traditional stop-motion and computer imagery.

The piece has several examples showing the process of rig removal, integration of effects, and the additions of background characters and entire backgrounds.  

Check it out here:

Update:   Director/Animator Jim Clark sent me this information about Laika's evolution of rapid prototyping  having originated with him.  Here is what Jim says:

This is probably the most creative, simple and best use of this technology+art I've seen in years. I was the first artist to adopt 3D printers for stop-motion - way back in 1999, so I have a special appreciation for it. Wow, the technology has come soo far and I love, love, love this piece!

In mid 1999, I printed my first 3D CG character in plaster and the use for stop-motion struck me, but it was still to early and expensive. In 2004 I convinced my then-employeer to purchase an early-model 3D plastic extrusion printer for our use in stop-motion production. We initially used it extensively on an HP Flea commercial to create all of our detailed set pieces. After, we printed the self-aligning replacement faces for an animated Anti-Smoking campaign, then we used it to create glow-in-the-dark stop-mo tracking heads for a hybrid animated commercial for Lux Soap where we replaced the practical head with a matching CG head in post. The uses go on and on.

My fabrication team eventually went to Laika, adopted the process and further refined it on Coraline. They have since perfected the methodology on Paranorman and The Box Trolls with 3D printed full-color faces. Rad!

I really enjoy seeing my original idea and influence adopted and further developed in this art form, after all these years.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Stop Motion in the Digital Age No.02

Since animation is a series of still images with slight changes made to achieve motion, the idea of replacing the object altogether came very early in stop motion history.  The process was termed 'replacement animation'.

Today, technology has allowed Laika Studios to push the bounds of rapid prototyping, 3-D-printing all of the puppets' faces in color. 

Who first used the replacement technique is lost to time but George Pal began making his “Puppetoons” series in 1932 and used a method of planning action as a traditionally drawn animation and then carving entire figures in wood which were replaced for each frame of motion based on the 2D drawings!

Here’s a lovely video that tells Pals story better than I can.

George Pal surrounded by his puppet replacements

A walk cycle from George Pal
Whole head replacements by George Pal
Later, instead of replacing the entire figure, just the faces were replacements and the bodies were the traditional ball and socket armatures still used today.  This 1935 film, “Hector the Pup” by John Burton is a fun use of mouth replacement:

Laika Studio has taken the replacements to a new level using computers to build models and printing them out in color as hard copies.  Although brittle, there is the advantage of making multiple copies for teams of animators.  They also move more smoothly than the chatter seen in older replacements.

Digital sculptures printed out in color from "Paranorman"
Check out these great expressions on a set of whole face replacements from the up and coming “Boxtrolls” soon to be released this September.
Digital sculptures printed out in color from "The Boxtrolls"
Update:  Here's a dandy article on how Laika has made stop-motion relevant today:

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


 This looks like a worthwhile project.

Update, wow:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Harry Beckhoff

 I've been over to one of my favorite sites, ILLUSTRATION ART, and came across these astounding thumbnail sketches by Harry Beckhoff who passed away in 1979.

A fuller article about Harry can be found at my other favorite site, TODAY'S INSPIRATION:

Beckhoff's sketches weren't much bigger than a penny, but they are marvelous little jewels.  They served as comprehensive blueprints for  finished illustrations that were ten times larger.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cintiq vs the Other Guys

There are other posts on this site about my hunt for a good drawing tablet that would be an alternative to the expensive Cintiq.  Well, it's finally happened, I was forced to make a decision.  I had a job that required detailed drawing and clean up, and needed something fast.  I was playing with the idea of a Chinese model or one from Africa, of all places, but the reviews were really fixed and it sounded like for every happy camper there were more people having regrets.  I had even considered something like a Surface Pro laptop but the drawing space would have been too small and the menus unreadable, although I loved the idea of having another system and not just a drawing device.  After a lot of online digging, I decided on a 13"HD Cintiq.  Now wouldn't that limit my drawing size, you may ask?  The beauty of it is I can use a second monitor and drag all my menus, graphs, tools and reference onto it freeing up my Cintiq just for drawing.  Being HD I can zoom in tight and scroll around for details.  Being so small allows me to pick it up and rotate it around on my lap, which I could never do with a 24".  I think I made a good choice and it does
Cintiq turned on it's side with palettes and graphs on second monitor.
the job!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Stoffel Brinkerhoff, The Breaker of Heads

“The Triumph of Stoffel Brinkerhoff, on His Return from His Conquests in the East” painted by John Gadsby Chapman in 1835
My father once told me a tale about our relative Stoffel Brinkerhoff called the Head-Breaker who supposedly instigated a riot against the Red Coats as they invaded the New York harbor.  According to dad, once the fighting began, Stoffel hid away in a tavern and drank while the fighting raged on.
I lived with this story for years thinking it was true and then ran across two articles that changed my perception.  One was a painting called “The Triumph of Stoffel Brinkerhoff, on His Return from His Conquests in the East” painted by John Gadsby Chapman in 1835.  The other was an article online about an oyster war fought in New Amsterdam written by Washington Irving.

This was the true story of Stoffel Brinkerhoff who was famous throughout the province for strength of arm and skill at quarter-staff, and hence was named Stoffel Brinkerhoff; or rather, Brinkerhoofd; that is to say, Stoffel the Head-breaker.  Apparently he put down a group of men who had laid claim to the local oyster beds, thus allowing everyone to enjoy the delicious seafood once again.

Not quite the story I grew up with but the colorful wording and outrageous names made this a delightful alternative. This snippet tells a part of the triumphant victory as told by Irving.

Here he was encountered by a host of Yankee warriors, headed by Preserved Fish, and Habakkuk Nutter, and Return Strong, and Zerubbabel Fisk, and Determined Cock! at the sound of whose names Stoffel Brinkerhoff verily believed the whole parliament of Praise-God Barebones had been let loose upon him. He soon found, however, that they were merely the "select men" of the settlement, armed with no weapon but the tongue, and disposed only to meet him on the field of argument. Stoffel had but one mode of arguing--that was with the cudgel; but he used it with such effect that he routed his antagonists, broke up the settlement, and would have driven the inhabitants into the sea, if they had not managed to escape across the Sound to the mainland by the Devil's Stepping-stones, which remain to this day monuments of this great Dutch victory over the Yankees.
Stoffel Brinkerhoff made great spoil of oysters and clams, coined and uncoined, and then set out on his return to the Manhattoes. A grand triumph, after the manner of the ancients, was prepared for him by William the Testy. He entered New Amsterdam as a conqueror, mounted on a Narraganset pacer. Five dried codfish on poles, standards taken from the enemy, were borne before him; and an immense store of oysters and clams, Weathersfield onions, and Yankee "notions" formed the spolia opima; while several coiners of oyster-shells were led captive to grace the hero's triumph.
The procession was accompanied by a full band of boys and negroes, performing on the popular instruments of rattle-bones and clam-shells, while Anthony Van Corlear sounded his trumpet from the ramparts.
 It is moreover said that the governor, calling to mind the practice among the ancients to honor their victorious generals with public statues, passed a magnanimous decree, by which every tavern-keeper was permitted to paint the head of Stoffel Brinkerhoff upon his sign!

I kind of liked my fathers’ version better, but if you feel inclined you can read the rest here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mouse Mouse House by Joel Brinkerhoff

Well, here's a book I did and almost sold.  The deal fell through after they decided they couldn't endorse housing fraud.  Oh well, I hope you enjoy it and can find the humor non threatening.