Saturday, March 28, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
If there's anything worse than my Inner Critic, it's my Inner Tycoon. This is the guy with the appetite for a 14-course gourmet banquet even though he barely has resources for a drive-thru snack. The Inner Tycoon's boundless ambition manages to turn every personal undertaking into something so grandiose that no less than a lifetime of work and a multi-million dollar underwriting would do it justice. And as a consequence, I give up before I even start.
The other night both the Critic and Tycoon shut up long enough for me to start noodling around with DigiCel's FLIPBOOK program again for the first time in almost a year. With nothing in mind, I just started out with a simple figure, which I drew and colored in AutoDesk SKETCHBOOK PRO. On separate layers, I did four leg positions for the left leg, then copied them and shifted them around on the opposite side of the body for the right. I copied the body and made a second position (a "down" to match the "up"). A single arm sufficed, which I shifted around to swing slightly. In relatively no time, I had composited the elements to make four keys for a walk cycle, which I exposed in FLIPBOOK on 8's.
I fully intended to inbetween it, but I was surprised to find it didn't look all that awful on its own. I think the color had a lot to do with it, which says a lot for how much color can validate a drawing. I decided to push on forward and see how much I could do without:
No Squash & Stretch
No Follow thru
No Overlap etc...
These are the things that are considered essential,especially in "full animation" obviously. These are the things that took me long hard years to learn. And I'm not sorry I took the time to learn them. But I kind of realized as I stripped them away, that maybe I had confused them with what "makes" animation, when maybe they are really just things that enhance animation. Maybe all these years I have been confusing the forest with the trees. This stupid little clip is not much to look at, but it was kind of a breakthrough for me. It still manages to come to life in its own crude way, despite the minimal extent and number of expressions and drawings. There wound up being less than sixty images in all, exposed over the course of about 253 frames at 24fps. (Afterward I added a long hold at the end to match the Hoyt Curtain music I could not resist borrowing for the clip.)
The other big deal is that this took all of about 5 hours do do and contains about 14.5 seconds of real animation. In color no less. Considering that my average as a feature animator was around 8 feet a week (6 seconds), this means I was able to beat my week's average in about two hours. Of course it can't compete with the big studio animation I have done, but as an individual, I never can anyway. On a basic level it still achieves the same thing full animation does: communicating visually through 2 dimensional symbols. I could do better, and I intend to, but I have been putting things off with all kinds of excuses, like feeling I need more powerful and expensive software. Maybe I don't. Maybe I just need to curb my appetite a bit without dampening my enthusiasm. My favorite quote lately comes from Teddy Roosevelt, who said: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Of course, my friend Len Glasser learned all of this when he was about 19, from a beatnik named Ernie Pintoff, who made the award winning animated shorts FLEBUS, THE VIOLINIST and THE CRITC. Len went on to make his own award winning short films and TV commercials, ultimately going on to "out-Pintoff" Pintoff, in the astute and accurate words of Amid Amidi.
Here's a typical Len Glasser classic on YOUTUBE.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Jason Lethcoe lent me a DVD of the documentary TOOTS, a biography of "Toots" Shor, the wise-cracking self-titled "saloon keeper" who's New York City watering hole was the epitome of Runyonland in the 1940's and 50's. His devoted patrons included Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Joe DiMaggio, and a host of the most legendary news writers, politicians, sports figures and entertainers of the day. After a few minutes of watching archival footage and photos of Toots' towering gargantuan frame and mobile putty face, I was unable to resist sketching a couple of caricatures. An entertaining way to celebrate St. Patrick's day in the old fashioned New York way. Highly recommended. (Thanks Jason!)
My real-life mid-day was spent in more sober surroundings around Burbank, where I got together with Sherm Cohen for lunch. After enjoying his work on SPONGEBOB and other shows, as well as his great blog, it was nice to find an hour in both our busy schedules to grab some sheherd's pie and talk shop. See you on the internets, Sherm.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Well, maybe if you're nearsighted. Another new book worth checking into is THE MAKING OF MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL, a project spearheaded by Darrell Van Citters, head honcho at Renegade Animation. This was a one hour Christmas special that is near and dear to many a baby boomer, but was also somewhat historic: it was one of the first of many network animated holiday specials, paving the way for Rudolf, Charlie Brown and Frosty; and it was also one of the early adaptations of Dickens' classic story to feature a well known character as the lead. There have been many more as time has passed, everybody from Fred Flintstone to Disney's Mickey gang and Warner Bros' LOONEYs have done it by now (I think the Looney Tunes have done it twice). This UPA entry, however is considered one of the best, and although I admit I haven't seen it since I was a kid, I can still clearly remember several of the songs, which are sung by Jim Backus and Jack Cassiday, among others.
Look for the book to debut at the San Diego ComicCon July 23-26 and general publication in the fall.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I am pleased to announce that Don Hahn (producer of LION KING, BEAUTY & THE BEAST and other good stuff) has put together a two volume set of books called DRAWN TO LIFE compiling notes and observations of Disney Animation Legend WALT STANCHFIELD. Walt was a key assistant and later an animator during the reign of the the "9 Old Men" at Disney Features, and he postponed his retirement (somewhat indefinitely) to stick around and pass on his wisdom to a bunch of us whippersnappers back in the 1970's, 80's and 90's. Tall, high-spirited and as energetic as any kid, Walt organized a series of lectures, handouts and drawing classes on a weekly basis that we were grateful and lucky to take advantage of.
When management bivouacked the animation crew over in Glendale across from Imagineering, Walt would reserve one of Imagineering's huge sculpting studios to hold gesture drawing jam sessions featuring a costumed model. Many times Walt himself would be our subject, posing in improvised cowboy gear or with his trusty tennis racket. These are exactly the kind of drawing classes I always loved: quick studies only seconds long, and geared to capturing the spirit and flow of the pose in the fewest of strokes. Walt would always impart carefully selected wisdom between poses and his lesson plans were distributed internally thru the studio over time as he continued to teach. Now for the first time, these will be available to the general public and animation enthusiast. I highly recommend checking them out!