Tuesday, June 18, 2013
90 % of drawing is "knowing your way around a piece of paper."
At one point in the early 1980's I found myself working on an animated arcade game . Now something of a relic, DRAGON'S LAIR was a kind of revolution for a short time, spawning a couple follow ups. It was really unique in concept, story and design. Instead of 8 bit pixel images, the game would be done as "full" or "classical" cartoon film animation on cels. Dozens, if not hundreds of actions had to be animated of a knight who was called "Dirk the Daring" in various settings and actions. The animation would be then published on a laser disc and played on a system that "knew" the correct sequence of moves, which were programmed to succeed or fail based on a player moving the joystick. It was very sophisticated at the time but now seems kind of crude by todays standard. My kids just showed me something called Project Spark coming out for the new XBOX that pretty much blows everything out of the water, but I digress.
Back on DRAGON'S LAIR I was a very low grade apprentice animator, and considered myself lucky just to be involved. I was often in over my head among a group of talented young animators who had earned their chops in the majors already. I had one scene (or "node") involving the knight jumping from one tile to the next in a wide, "down shot" of a tiled room, kind of like a disco floor. Various jumping sequences would lead to various outcomes for the knight, I really didn't understand it at the time and had my hands full enough just trying to animate the character hopping in space on the grid. The hops were short. which made the animation very difficult. Even trickier, the character was facing away from the viewer, drawing a back view for me back then made the task even more difficult (the back of a character at that stage was considered difficult and nondescript to me, but having to draw the face would have probably made it even harder).
I went to visit John Pomeroy, who was the most senior animator on the project and he had another "node" in the same visual setup. He was effortlessly animating away at it, getting the height and spacing of each instance of the character perfectly correct. The perspective was making me it's bitch, but John had complete command of it. He gave me some tips but I shuffled back to my desk feeling just as whipped before. At that point I realized two things:
1. Drawing and animating are mainly mental processes.
2. A real drawing master knows his or her way around a piece of paper. John certainly did. I would not for a long time to come.
I will try to elaborate on these a bit more coming up.
Friday, June 14, 2013
I really don't know where to go with this blog any more. I love doing it but often feel like i have said everything I originally set out to say. I even feel like I already said what I just now wrote. I probably did. Maybe i have still more to say than I originally thought but I don't know if those things are relevant to anybody or if I can be as totally honest about them as I would like to be. I still love the art form of animation and I still love blogging. I don't have tons of time lately, but I feel like I need to add more value to this site.
I notice many cartoon blogs are successful if the blog writer blogs a lot about instruction, theory etc. Usually in addition to having lots of current or recent credits on big studio or network hits, which understandably attracts a lot of attention. I've done a bit of instruction posting but it's been spotty. I always come away feeling like I have failed at communicating what I meant to, especially when some of the comments seem to miss the point. Still at least two of instructional posts of mine earn frequent high traffic ratings (high for this blog anyway). I think mainly tho because they feature prime images of SCOOBY DOO and THE FLINTSTONES and the image searches send people there. Which isn't hard to understand.
I notice many of the blogs (mine included) use other people's work as examples. Examples such as SCOOBY DOO and the FLINTSTONES. I don't talk here too much about my own professional work, because most of that is proprietary and subject to employer/employee standards of confidentiality, especially if it's current. Most of the big studio work I've done is not all that recent by today's fast moving attention span rates. I've primarily been in the "indie" world of animated features now for going on 6 years. I enjoy it immensely it but it's a different world; projects stall, sometimes they never get off the ground, or the lag between my involvement and release can be substantial. I still feel like I grow though and meet great people and learn valuable things no matter what. So I think i might try posting about experiences I have had that are less related to a project and a studio and more about how they have helped (and sometimes hindered) me as a cartoonist. I have a couple such posts in progress but they take a bit of time to edit. I'm posting this to make myself keep on point for starting regular posting again sometime next week (week of June 17). We will see.
Feel free to let me know whats working and what isn't. Comment moderation is on but if you keep it clean I will post it.
at 10:24 AM
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Charlie Bowers was making silent movie comedies during the era of legends like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin but by the time he died in the mid 1940's he had been forgotten and his films had all but disappeared. Back in 2003 a 2-disc set of some of his long lost films surfaced and I was happy to find his work as bizarre and inventive as anything else I've seen in comedy, silent or otherwise.
Bowers was also a cartoonist and animator whose live-action films contain numerous stop-motion gags of incredible detail. Any student of animation comedy should check these films out, clips are on YouTube but the complete 2 disc DVD is really worth owning. At least one "new" title has surfaced since the release of the DVD, and it's maybe the craziest one of all. Thanks to YouTube, it's viewable in it's entirety: "THERE IT IS" abounds with insane sight gags that rival anything in animation for sheer cartooniness.
As a physical presence Bowers is something of a cipher, but he makes up on the directing, writing and technical fronts with his relentlessly surreal stories and gags. The "Scotland Yard" sequence alone looks like something Monty Python might have done four decades later. Bio notes mention that though he passed all too quickly into obscurity he was a favorite with audiences for a brief period in the late 20's and early 30's, and I have to guess that numerous animation greats like Bob Clampett, Tex Avery and maybe even Dr. Seuss were among his fans.
(Many thanks to "StorageVintage" for uploading this rare gem!)