Monday, August 27, 2018

My Short Film Again...

I have always loved looking at animation production art.  A strong background designer like Maurice Noble who worked with Warner Bros. brought great sophistication to the classic Chuck Jones films.

Design, like animation, is a discipline that people devote their entire careers to, but it has never been a strong skill set for me.  Color and composition are further considerations important to good backgrounds and I'm so glad to be able to work digitally doing much trial and error but not burning through materials and supplies as I grope along.

Making my personal films show how indebted I am to others who went before me and also why the studio system works the way it does.  The burden of all those specialized skills suddenly left to me reveals great weaknesses and areas of insecurity, but it's also an opportunity to explore and grow.

As I make this particular film I'm seeing the influences of individual pioneers such as John and Faith Hubley whose playful loose style still feels fresh, fun and exciting to me.  Like UPA breaking the push toward realism that Disney was doing at the time, I see my film as a departure from the photo-real look of modern C.G. although it too is getting freer in style and more cartoony.

It wasn't intentional but I seem to be reliving my childhood and rediscovering my love of animation and the fun and wonder of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Will Vinton Turned 70

I don't know how I forgot to post this but my old boss, Mr. Will Vinton had a 70th birthday celebration this year that I was not able to attend.  I did however paint this portrait for Will with a sculpture of Mark Twain from the celebrated Claymation feature film The Adventures of Mark Twain as my present.

Will is one of the nicest people I've been fortunate enough to meet and so many opportunities were given to me at the Vinton Studios.  I hope Will enjoys many more happy birthdays!

  UPDATE: Unfortunately this was Mr. Vinton's last birthday:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New Short and the Graphic Influences

I’ve been working on some pretty stylized character designs for another personal project.  Why I do these things is not rational and is the same reasons, I suppose, an artist does anything.  But, I’m learning what I’m doing is heavily influenced by what I enjoyed as a child and the awe I felt watching animation: moving drawings, imagine that!  My films are stylistically different from each other, each having a graphic look I discovered while growing up in a family of artists.

I can point to individual artists that imprinted me, and with this new project I can see this style grew from the work of designer Ed Benedict who populated Hanna Barbera Studios cartoons from the late 50’s.

The backgrounds are influenced by the rebellion, that sprang against Disney’s realistic literalness, that began with the UPA studio and their embracing of modern art. The high styling of both characters and backgrounds was so popular that even Disney had to incorporate it to appear fresh and relevant.

The animation style I’m trying to work in comes from the Disney artist Art Babbitt who was able to mesh the fluid motion of classical drawn animation with the high stylized designs that was happening at the time. Unlike the limited animation that Ed Benedict's designs were subjected to at Hanna Barbera, Babbitt frequently animated on ones, meaning 24 drawings for every 24th of a second film required, instead of the 12 drawings shot twice which is a common practice, ( it is still recommended that ones be used on very fast actions).  A great example of Babbitt’s integration of fluid classic animation and high styled characters would be his work in Richard William’s The Thief and the Cobbler.

This new project may take some time to finish because I don't have any help on it,but I am having fun drawing just as crazy as I want.  Animation has become play again instead of work.

Below is a clip setting up the conflict between characters.  It's nothing too original but I hope it gets the story going.

Animation clip with scratch track and no sound effects.  

Saturday, March 17, 2018


The trouble with doing a personal film is they can take forever to do.  Real work and real life have a way of eating time and energy from projects that you may want to do, and this short film is one I never thought would be stretched out over years.  The short was fraught with troubles which made it easier to shelf and neglect.  But technology progressed and I was able to solve some of the problems I couldn’t when I first started.  One I’ve never quite fixed is the narration which was completely unusable.  I tried rerecording many times and never could match the inflections and feel of the first tracks.  After filtering the heck out of them, this is the end result.

I’ve always loved Wilhelm Busch and his quirky style.  He reminds me of Edward Gorey to some degree but Busch pioneered some visual jokes which have become cliché standards in cartoons from the golden age of animation.  I wrote about them in this earlier post:    

Here is my faithful adaptation of Wilhelm Busch’s Ice-Peter.