Monday, March 28, 2016

Great Animating videos

Watching other people animate a scene can be a rare treat and so, I've collected several videos showing this process. If you come across other videos like this, please send a link to me and I will include it on this post. All forms of animation are welcome...

This one was made during the success of Walt Disney's first animated feature"Snow White". Its a little dated, but very informative and fun to watch.

The great Glen Keane shows his process of animating a man getting out of a chair.

English Animator, Joanna Quinn demonstrates how she animates a scene.

You might be more familiar with her on going commercial work for Charmin toilet paper...

But she also has produced a variety of personal films including this one called, "Dreams and Desires Family Ties". Her use of animated camera transitions and character expression are amazing. If you can't understand the accents, enjoy the animation, especially when the camera is strapped on the dog's back.

And here's how Joanna Quinn puts all her animation together...

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tex Avery: Droopy

I'd like to introduce to you one of my favorite cartoon directors, Tex Avery. The debut of this Tex Avery cartoon was on March 20th,1943 and features Droopy Dog in "Dumb-Hounded".

Droopy first appeared in this cartoon as a Basset Hound, before evolving into the cute little Droopy of today. This film includes a sight gag where the escaped prisoner, (the Wolf) who runs off the film and has to jump back into the cartoon.

Please enjoy this rare link to this first Droopy film.

1943 – DUMB-HOUNDED (Droopy fin limier) from Mon Cinéma à Moi on Vimeo.

See if you can spot the same sight gag in this second Droopy cartoon called "Northwest Hounded Police" produced in 1946.

Did you like this post? Do you need more Tex Avery in your animated life? If you learned something new from this posting, let us know by leaving a comment below.

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Wide Open" and making of video

This music video by Beck and the Chemical Brothers, stars Sonoya Mizuno, who was in Oscar-nominated sci-fi movie  Ex Machina. It has attracted more than 5.6 million YouTube hits since being uploaded a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mike A. Smith Interview

Animated Archaeologist

Independent Animator, Mike A. Smith lives in the Pacific Northwest where he works as an Archaeologist and makes animated films in his free time...

I was wondering if you could let us know how you first discovered the process of animation?

When I was eight or nine years old, I was in a stop-motion class for kids for a few Saturdays. A friend and I made some monsters out of plasticene and shot outside on 8mm film. We didn't know how to have a real story or fight choreography, so this lumpy hero would just waddle up to the monsters and chop them into bits with a toothpick sword. We borrowed a Super 8 camera and made another of those in my backyard. I kept borrowing and re-borrowing that camera in later years, messing around with some hand-drawn animation, cutouts, and more clay. Those little Super 8 experiments were enough to hook me into the process. Even when it's crude kid stuff, there's a Dr. Frankenstein-like rush when see your own animation first come to life.

Could you provide a brief timeline of your animation career so far.

It takes forever. Each of my student films only took me between two and ten months, which in retrospect seems super fast. "Cooped" took me four and a half years from the first story doodles to a finished film. Part of that was due to the learning curve I went through while making it-- I threw away a lot of early work that didn't cut the mustard, and I even switched from Toon Boom to TVPaint between roughs and cleanup.

I didn't get serious about animation until my late twenties, when I took classes from Rose Bond at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. I turned out four student films and then waded into the freelancing trenches for a couple years, mainly doing small-time commercial stuff. It was fine, but nothing to get too excited about. In 2009, I was pulled back into my old day job as an archaeologist, and eventually I saw that this was a good way to fund my own animation. My paying work didn't exhaust me creatively, so I was happy putting free time into my personal work. My animation career (such as it is) is now that of an indie filmmaker. Portland is a good place for this sort of thing. There's a pretty vibrant animation community here, and I keep involved via the local ASIFA chapter and a monthly work-in-progress meet-up.

Are you using ToonBoom Harmony, TV Paint or some top secret animation software you have created?

TVPaint is my software of choice these days. I'm no good at "tweening" or puppeting or any of the other Flash-type shortcuts, so I basically just use the software as a traditional, frame-by-frame drawing setup. TVPaint is terrific for drawing. "Cooped" also has a couple of After Effects shots, like when the camera trucks back to show the world outside.

How long does it take you to make a film? Are you working on it every day or on weekends?

As an evening-and-weekends filmmaker, my schedule is pretty irregular. I have weeks where I'm able to put in thirty hours, and weeks where I put in zero hours. Having a deadline was a big help in getting "Cooped" finished. I was lucky enough to get a local arts grant, which came with a deadline, so I had to be much more regimented in the last year of production. The last few months got pretty manic.
Can you give a little history about each film?

I'll just run through the shorts you can see online. A couple of my student films aren't online, and probably shouldn't be.

"Hominid" came from an interest in paleoanthropology-- human evolution and our relationship with other primates. I wondered where a hominid ancestor would see himself on the scale between human and animal, where we like to pretend there's this unbridgeable gap. It's drawn in brush and ink, and colored in Photoshop.

"Missionary" is about how colonialism leaves its subject people destablized, at best. I could go on and on about this, but I wanted to see if the basic idea could be carried within a slapstick cartoon. It's all in pencil. The drawings sit in a huge box in the basement.
"Cooped" was inspired by a friend's dog-- a big brown shepherd/lab mix that I used to share a house with. He unknowingly provided all the reference material needed for a sort of Looney Tunes throwback-- what animators used to call a baseboard cartoon, shot mainly from viewpoint of the household pet. It breaks no new ground in terms of story or theme, but it was really fun to draw. "Cooped" was my first personal project drawn on a Cintiq. Everything before had been animated on a makeshift lightbox made from plexiglass, butcher paper, a gooseneck lamp, and a plastic pegbar.

"Flight"-- a segment in an upcoming collaborative short with some other animators-- is based on something Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote about hypothetically falling through the center of the Earth, combined with Roadrunner cartoon physics. The full short, "How I Start to Fly," will be online sometime...? I think it's getting sent out to festivals these days.

A friend's dog, Caillou, who served as the muse for the film, "Cooped".

What advice would you give to 2D animation students about animation? 3D Animation students?

Work rough, and don't be too precious about it. If you like the drawing but it doesn't fit the scene, throw it away. When you've got the movement and timing down, then you can worry about prettying up the individual frames. 

The same premise holds true for 3D animation, I think. For stop-motion animation, I have no idea. Those people are magicians to me.

On a larger note, animation students should know that being in the animation industry and being an animator are two different things. There are a lot of really talented professional animators who spend their energy wrangling clients for non-exciting jobs while their personal projects gather dust. There's nothing wrong with that-- it's how you build a career, I guess-- but it's awfully freeing to keep your income separate from your art. Some of the most imaginative work I've seen has come from students, because they're not stuck in somebody else's financial machine yet. Fund your own animation! Do it on the cheap if you have to. Whatever you do to pay the bills--whether it's animating commercials or serving up lattes-- doesn't change whether you're an animator, if you're making your own work.

(Disclaimer: if you seriously want a professional animation career, you should find a career animator who can give better advice than that.)

Which part of animating do you enjoy the most? Writing the script? Character Designing? Storyboarding? Voice recording? Animating?

Animating, by far. It can put me in a state of flow, where everything feels like it's firing on all cylinders. Story and design and the other steps are much tougher for me. By the time I get a character designed, I'm ankle-deep in bad drawings. With "Cooped" I actually made a couple Sculpey maquettes to help feel out the dimensions of the man and the dog for the animation process.

I'm working on my next film these days, but I'm still bogged down in story limbo. Working out the story is, for me, a long cycle of thinking about it really hard, then not thinking about it at all. You have to fool your own brain into producing story ideas. Going for walks helps.

There are pros and cons to being independent, but I prefer it. Working outside the studio/freelancer system means that I only work on projects that I'm fully invested in, and my animation is my own. 

See more of Mike's work by visiting his website:

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