Thursday, April 17, 2014

FREE BIRDS part III, Pilgrim's Process...

Some more of my preliminary work on the 2013 REEL FX movie FREE BIRDS. During the time I worked on it (2009-2011) the Pilgrim characters were much goofier than in the finished film. They kept quarreling over what to eat for Thanksgiving. At this point (around mid 2010) it was a contest between "Myles" (who favored ham) and "Bradford," (pro-turkey).  Myles was justifiably afraid of the wild turkeys, (as you will see later. )

In these story sketches (below) Myles has evolved from the "nebbish" version from the earlier draft, into a slightly more formidable foil for Bradford. I loved drawing Bradford as a big pushy tub of guts. I did a lot of the early temp voice work on him too, using a thick Kennedy-esque New England accent.

I loved this line. I think writer/producer David Stern wrote it. I don't think it made it into the final. 

In this early version, the wild turkeys of 1620 were a lovable big family, but they lived up to their wild nature by wrassling all the time. "Granny" and "Uncle Cletus" were constantly at each other's throats. It was all in knockabout good fun. But they were so volatile that Myles and the other hunters were scared to death of them.

As I said before, the early years of developing this movie were really liberating, since the atmosphere at REEL FX studio was very open to varying styles and ideas. As a result it was the most fun I had since ALADDIN. And it was really the first time I was allowed to draw "like myself" all day, as opposed to just during the off hours.

REEL FX is currently working on the film THE BOOK OF LIFE , created and directed by the multi-talented and visionary Jorge R. Gutierrez.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My personal Buggbears

Some original characters I am working on for a children's book and other possibilities. Infant t-shirt available HERE now.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Send in the Weasels...

This was the weasel character I mentioned in my previous post, about the movie FREE BIRDS (2013), which I storyboarded on and also did some vizdev on the side. 

This character worked with some wild pigs in the forest to torment the wild turkeys of 1620. When the modern turkeys showed up he stole their time machine and acquired a massive collection of valuable art from times in the distant past and future. It was a kind of bulky subplot so it got eliminated. He was briefly converted into a fox before that.

A couple of rough (obviously!) pig characters. At one point they were huge razorback boars. I did some designs on them but they appear to have disappeared. 

More to come...

Thursday, April 10, 2014


After my stint on Tinkerbell, I spent just shy of two years at REEL FX in Santa Moncia, storyboarding and designing on what would become FREE BIRDS (2013). In the first version the plot of time traveling turkeys attempting to stop Thanksgiving was basically the same but it was a little broader. Also, in that version none of the turkeys had "snoods" on their beaks. And the main turkey wore a knit cap. Until he didn't.
 Although I left the production as it was shifting into the film it ultimately became, I am eternally grateful that this finally gave me an opportunity to draw without any preconceived studio "house style" or preexisting material to base things on. As a result I tended to make a lot of loopy looking character designs. This was a version of the Owen Wilson turkey.
 The Woody Harrelson turkey was always big, energetic and a little dim.

 Story notes. 
 I did hundreds of these sketches. There were many more animal characters in this version too, including some boars and a weasel. I will try to post them later, they were lots of fun to draw.

 The pilgrims early on were very stupid, sort of like Simpsons characters really. I loved working on their sequences. Ultimately they were made more menacing for the final version, which was probably the best way to go.
 "Myles Standish" was a kind of Paul Giamatti like nebbish and his wife "Eunice" was hot tempered and an awful cook. 
 When I did these I was trying to channel the great Joe Harris, the brains behind UNDERDOG and TENNESEE TUXEDO. These were overtly based on Woody and Owen, and later I saw that John K had done similar designs on an even earlier pass of the film. See his birds HERE.

This was a version of the female lead and her decrepit, senile grand father. Someone did a kickass rendering of him from my sketch, but he was written out later.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Five years back I got hired on to do storyboards for Disney's TINKERBELL franchise, I think the third and fourth installments. I was not on the crew for very  long and I never quite got the hang of the series, but it is always interesting to try something different. 

These are all extraneous personal doodles, either during breaks in meetings, on the phone or after hours practice.  I like this one above best, but the boards were required to be much  more on model.

 I forget her name. They were building a boat i think, or maybe stealing mini doughnuts.

 This is the "bad girl". Invidia I think. I liked her.

 The world of the show (obviously) has a very delicate, feminine feel that I labored to capture. I don't draw a lot of human characters and when I do, they tend to be goofy or grotesque. The Tink characters are all supposed to be delicate and attractive, but very clean cut. Which is all fine, but not in my normal skill set. I'd have equally as hard a time with Super Heroes, I think, unless they were supposed to be parodies of them. 

For unknown reasons I LOVE drawing with a felt tip pen that is very nearly out of ink. Something about the struggle I guess.

Tinkerbell and all the characters above are copyright Disney and these personal doodles are independent of actual production art. 

This is a hastily drawn (and not very good) caricature of Blake Snyder, tall dude and author of the ubiquitous screenwriting guide SAVE THE CAT. Disney hired him to come give a hyper-collapsed version of his seminar one day during production. I got to chat with him a bit, he was sharp and funny, and the seminar was a good adjunct to his book, which he was updating at the time.
His father produced a kids' TV cartoon called FUNNY COMPANY, which I got to appear on the local version of with my brother and sister around 1962. He was delighted that I recalled the show and some of the characters like Belly Laguna (the show's villain), Pterri Dactyl (the show mascot) and Shrinking Violet, who got spun off into a Mattel Doll. Tragically, Blake died suddenly of a massive heart attack less than two weeks after this drawing was done.