Friday, December 26, 2008

R.O. Blechman's "Simple Gifts" - Prologue

Prologue to R.O. Blechman's animated television special "Simple Gifts" . This prologue piece is designed by Maurice Sendak, animated by Ed Smith , with watercolor by Sara Calogero. Music by Arnold Black. The entire special was directed by R.O. Blechman. The quality on this clip is not the greatest since it is from an old VHS tape recording of the show. As far as I know PBS has not aired this again in recent times. It's a beautiful Christmas special that really should be released on DVD.

Richard O'Connor has posted an original drawing from this sequence on his blog :

Original Art from "Simple Gifts" click HERE

O'Connor relates this about animator Ed Smith:

Once I asked Ed Smith (who animates in ink) what he does when he makes a mistake.

His response: "I'll let you know when that happens."


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sergio Pablos "Dr. Doppler" Pencil Tests

Some wonderful animation by master animator Sergio Pablos of the character "Dr. Doppler" from Disney's "Treasure Planet".

(See the interview with Sergio on The Character Design Blog .)

Here are some of the same scenes , but in different form (note that one of the scenes is in much rougher form , so it's interesting to see how he roughed it out first , then tied it down more at a later point) .

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Forum for Classical Hand-Drawn Animation

Animator Chris Doyle has started a new forum for the discussion of classical hand-drawn animation:

Check it out.  Jump in and participate in the discussion. 

In one discussion related to the post down below about  "A Day for Hand-Drawn Animation" celebration in Turkey,  animator Tahsin Özgür makes a very good distinction about the place of hand-drawn animation:

"Today is Nov. 21st, three days already since the Hand Drawn Animation Day held at Maltepe University in Istanbul.

We called it,  in our quaint Oriental tongue,
 Çizgi Film Bayrami, which clumsily translates as "Line-Film Holiday" or something ... "Line-Film" being what we call this kind of film. English lacks a direct equivalent, and the more generic term "animation" might have even facilitated the CG takeover ("it's all animation, isn't it?") 

Think of our concept of "line film" as closer to the French "dessin animé" ("animated drawing") -  it's French, language of culture, so it probably has more weight in the argument. Which argument?  Why, that hand drawn animation is a distinct art form, and not simply a step on the way towards something else. "

That is a good distinction and I wish the English language had such a term as "Line-Film"  or  "le dessin anime" to denote animated drawings.

I usually try to make the distinction by using the terms "traditional animation" or "classical animation" , or "hand-drawn animation". The one term I do not care for as much , but seems ubiquitous now is "2D Animation" . Animation can be completely CG , but also be 2D (such as vector-based animation in Flash or ToonBoom) .   For better or worse the Academy of Art University has designated our department as the "2D Animation Dept." , so that's the term I have to work with for now.  (hence, I am the Online Coordinator of 2D Animation at AAU ).

But what we're really talking about here is animation that is expressed through drawing.  That's not at all to disparage CG animation or Stop Motion puppet animation, etc.   However,  the ascendancy of CG animation has unfortunately led to the widely held  perception that Tash mentions:   that hand drawn animation is "simply a step on the way towards something else" rather than being a distinct art form in and of itself. 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Milt Kahl scene -- where does it come from ?

A small mystery :

I found this Milt Kahl scene from "The Rescuer's" posted on YouTube.  My question in the title -- "where does it come from?" -- doesn't refer to the film ; I know it's from "The Rescuer's".

But as far as I can see this shot is not in the final version of the film, but it feels to me like I remember seeing it  (in color) in the original theatrical release of the film.  But this scene is NOT in the DVD release of the film.  Was it cut out for some reason or is my memory playing a trick on me and this shot was never actually in the theatrical version of the film ? 

Does anyone know when or why this scene was cut out of  "The Rescuer's"  ? 

(there's no sound in the clip posted on YouTube. What are they saying ? Anyone know ? )

Here is another very similar set up , from the work-print of the sequence included on the extras of the Frank & Ollie documentary. This scene is in the final film .

(does anyone else see the one-frame camera shooting mistake on Medusa's hand at the very end of the scene ? That was fixed before the scene went to final color.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Day For Hand Drawn Animation

*UPDATE:  Jeff Treves dropped by and left this comment below:

 "The festival was great! We are trying to make it even bigger for the next year. Here are some photos for those who are interested. " --
A Day For Hand-Drawn Animation Festival Photos


I enjoyed seeing the photos.  Jeff and some others may enjoy seeing this photo of Tahsin Özgür taken at Sheridan College in 1982 .  (not that long ago , right , Tash ?) 

(click the photo to see it larger)


"As in previous years we at Anadolu University and Maltepe University are observing Nov. 18th, anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie, as a day to celebrate traditional hand-drawn animation.  

This year our special theme will be Frank and Ollie, since Ollie Johnston passed away since our last celebration. Please join us in our celebration."

-Tahsin ("Tash") and Lale Özgür

My friend Tashin Özgür has reminded me that he and his wife Lale have started a tradition at Anadolu University and Maltepe University to observe November 18th (anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie) as a day to specifically celebrate traditional hand-drawn animation. An excellent idea and one that I heartily endorse . Hopefully this will become an international movement among all who cherish the art of hand-drawn animation.

If you can't sit down to re-read "The Illusion of Life" this week, at least put in the DVD of the movie "Frank & Ollie" .
(but if you haven't read "The Illusion of Life" lately, make a point to pick it up again. I guarantee you that you'll find something new and exciting that you missed before ... at least that's how I have found it each time I've returned to this foundational tome).

(click on the image to see it larger)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ollie Johnston - Glen Keane : On Teamwork , Collaborating

If you haven't heard this little snippet of Glen Keane's remembrance of Ollie Johnston at the Ollie Tribute , then you should really drop everything you're doing and listen to this now: 

Glen on Ollie 

And take a look at this too: 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eric Goldberg Interview Part 2 - Animation Podcast

Clay Kaytis has posted part 2 of his interview with Eric Goldberg on The Animation Podcast .

Listen and be inspired by Eric !  (and if you missed the first part , check it out and the other great interviews on the Animation Podcast  -- Eric Goldberg Part 1  )

Also, Eric now has an official website connected with his new book "Character Animation Crash Course"  with sample pages and movies from the animation in the book:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Making of Princess Mononoke - Hayao Miyazaki

An extensive documentary film (with English subtitles) on the making-of Hayao Miyazaki's animated film "Princess Mononoke" has been posted online .  This is an excellent overview of the making of a major animated film.  Watch it while you can.  Sometimes these things don't stay up for long :

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

By the way, did you know that Miyazaki's newest animated film "Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea"  is the most successful film in Japan for 2009, having already made ¥14.2 billion yen = $134.6 million dollars as of September 28, 2008 ? (that is in Japan alone) .  Ponyo is slated for release in North America in 2009 by the Walt Disney Co.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Chestnut Tree - Hyun-min Lee

Another fine piece of hand-drawn animation for your edification and inspiration . Story and Animation by Hyun-min Lee. This started life as a student film and was finished up with some support from Jennifer and Bert Klein, and Don Hahn.

A film about a girl revisiting her memories of her childhood spent with her mother. Hand drawn animation set to piano music by Chopin

Inspiration - Fred Moore's dwarf scenes

Pedro Daniel Garcia has kindly posted a reel of most of Fred Moore's animation of the Seven Dwarfs from Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

Sometimes you will read things about Fred Moore that are written in a slightly condescending tone, like "oh, yeah, poor old Freddy, he was good for his time ... a little rough around the edges,  not sophisticated enough to "keep up" with the better animators at Disney "   etc.    

As though Moore's animation was kind of simple but charming work that doesn't really hold up compared to what came later .
But really now ... look at this reel of animation and tell me if you've seen much contemporary animation that comes anywhere close to the level of work that Fred Moore is doing here ? (this was done in 1936 folks , and is the stuff we're doing today better than this for the most part ? )  How much Disney animation of the later years resonates like this ?   I don't know ... maybe I'm just simple and unsophisticated, but I find that I respond on a gut level to these Fred Moore scenes a lot more than I do to some of the so-called "sophisticated" animation that came later.

Check out Jenny Lerew's blog "The Blackwing Diaries" for some great Fred Moore artwork. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Animator's Demo Reels - Jen Hager

One of the things I like about YouTube is finding great animator's demo reels.  An animator whose work is new to me is Jen Hager

This is her demo reel of hand-drawn animation done as a student at Cal Arts. This is really good stuff ! 

I would say that if you're an animation student and you want to know what level you should be aspiring to this is it.   This is the kind of reel a review board at a studio looks at and says : "Give that person a job !" 

Remember this is student work.   Wow.

Jen Hager is now working at Disney Animation Studios.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Pumpkin of Nyefar - beautiful animated short !

Wow !

Watch this great animated short posted on Cartoon Brew TV:

The Pumpkin of Nyefar (2004) is a short directed by Tod Polson (El Tigre, Another Froggy Evening, Poochini). The story was co-written by Maurice Noble (1911-2001), who began his animation career at Disney in the 1930s, and eventually designed many of Chuck Jones’s classic Warner Bros. cartoons including Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century and What’s Opera, Doc?. The film is narrated by June Foray (the voice of Rocky in Rocky and Bullwinkle). Below is a some background information about the film from its director Tod Polson. Tod will also participating in the comments section and looks forward to your comments and questions.

“In 1994, Maurice Noble began training a group of young designers at Chuck Jones Film Productions. A lot of us were working on our own personal short projects, several of them based on ethnic folktales. Maurice thought it would be a great idea if the group of us could develop a series of shorts inspired by stories from around the world. We called this series “Noble Tales,” and we, his trainees, became known as the “Noble Boys” (which also included a few girls). Many of us traveled around the world and developed and together designed several dozen idea. “The Pumpkin Of Nyefar” was one short idea Maurice and I wrote while visiting Turkey. Our first morning in Istanbul we came downstairs to the dining room and around the table were twenty belly dancers and a lot of pumpkin dishes. All the girls of course were smitten by Mr. Nobles charm. Ha ha… I can still see him grinning from ear to ear.
 Afterwords we talked things over, and decided to write a story about a prince who could marry any beauty in his kingdom, but instead chooses to wait for true love. As fate would have it, the prince finds true love in the form of a pumpkin. While I was supervising a TV show in Thailand, James Wang (Wang Film) invited Maurice and I to use his Thai studio to make our short. Maurice underwent surgery so that he could make the flight to Bangkok. Unfortunately he died a few weeks later. I came to Thailand a few months later to work on the short myself. But my friends didn’t leave me to do the film alone. Soon after, my pal Mark Oftedal, came to town for a visit. His short vacation, turned into a several year working holiday, He became so involved with the project, that I just made him the co-director of “Pumpkin:. Other friends from America helped out too. June Foray donated her voice to the film. Ben Jones, and Lawrence Marvit both did short stints in Bangkok to help get things going. Sue Kroyer did a lot of inspirational character design as did Roman Laney. Jules Engel looked over a lot of the early design and color. Aaron Sorenson, Dave Marshall, Dave Thomas, and Mike Polvani all donated time to the project.

It was really a great collaboration of friends, just the way Maurice had dreamed about: doing a short film together, everything donated, just because they wanted to do it.”

Now that's the spirit ! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sherm Cohen's Sponge Bob drawing tips

Hey , Kids !  What time is it ? 

Time to talk about more fundamentals.   (never get tired of those , because we all need to remember this stuff and use it in our work) .

Ace storyboard artist Sherm Cohen has posted some good stuff about Line-Of-Action,  Contrasting Shapes, Silhouette, and all that jazz on his blog Cartoon Snap 

Take a look .   Good examples of these foundational principles.

(click image to view it larger. More images on Sherm's blog.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bacher's Back !

Good news for all students of animation:

Hans Bacher is blogging again !   This is one to add to the bookmarks: 

Hans' book "Dreamworlds" on production design is a must-have.

Check out this great post where he analyzes the color palette in these beautiful background paintings from "Bambi"  --

(click the image to view it larger)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Eric Goldberg's 'Character Animation Crash Course'

Master animator Eric Goldberg's long-awaited book has finally been released.  

Character Animation Crash Course  is now available at your local bookstores (check Barnes & Noble or Borders , or online at 

I have treasured my xeroxed copies of Eric's lecture notes from animation lectures he gave us at Disney several years back and now I am so glad to have all of this material , plus some new material that Eric has added to expand his notes, all bound together in neat little package , including a CD which has Quicktime movies of many of the animation examples he shows in the book. 

Eric is one of the best animators working today . This book will perfectly compliment the Richard Williams book . Some of the material will overlap , but Eric's approach to the material has a different flavor than Richard Williams' approach , so you'll get something new from Eric's book , even if you have the Williams book .

At Academy of Art we're not yet using this as a Required Textbook for any of our animation classes since it was just published over the summer,  but I can say without any hesitation to all of my students: This is a must-have book for any animator, student or pro.

The website Animated News and Views has a recent interview with Eric where he discusses the book:

Interview with Eric Goldberg on "Character Animation Crash Course"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Academy of Art animation blog - Spungella

My fellow teacher at The Academy of Art ,  Jean-Denis Haas, reminds me that he also has a blog for animation students at the Academy : 

Head over there for more animation art and inspiration.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Michael Sporn DVD's Marzipan Pig and Abel's Island

Check out Michael Sporn's always interesting blog where he notes that several of his animated shorts are receiving new DVD releases.  These are delightful films so definitely worth picking up:

I hope Michael doesn't mind me lifting a few images from his blog to peak your interest here.  Click on the link to Michael's Blog to read more about it.

(click images to view them larger)

Here’s a character from The Marzipan Pig. Tissa David animated the entire film, herself, and did a caricature of herself with this woman whose purse is stolen by an owl.
This shows Tissa's rough and the final drawing as it was hand-colored and mounted on a cel. 

Stephan MacQuignon colored the drawing and Robert Marianetti added shading. Christine O’Neill did the cut and paste on the drawing to cel operation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Princess and the Frog teaser trailer- so it begins !

First look at Disney's return to hand-drawn animation:

(You'll have to click on the link . Couldn't embed it.
On the Disney site you have the option to watch it as a high-quality Quicktime movie)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

New online classes at Academy of Art

Have you checked the  Academy of Art Online Course Catalog lately ?

We have three new online traditional animation classes launching  for the Fall '08 semester. (not too late to sign up) 

ANM 380 Stop Motion Animation 1 - taught by stop-motion animator and author Ken Priebe. Ken is the author of the noted book The Art of Stop Motion Animation . This is a unique course in that is one of the few classes in traditional stop-motion puppet animation offered online by an accredited university. Ken will be following up this class with Stop Motion Animation 2 . (The Academy of Art also has several other Stop-Motion and Puppet Making classes in development for launch online in the near future.)

ANM 261 Introduction to Effects Animation - taught by Kathleen Quaife . Kathleen is a veteran effects animator having worked for Don Bluth, Disney, Warner Bros. Feature Animation , and many other places. She is one of the most skilled and knowledgeable effects animators in the business and has been very successful in applying her traditional effects skills to digital production using Flash and ToonBoom. See examples of Kathleen's work here: Kathleen Quaife reels

ANM 375 Maquette Sculpting - taught by former Disney artist and sculptor Jason Peltz. Examples of Jason's work may be seen on his website: Jason Peltz maquette examples

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Master Rough Animation Drawings

The always interesting blog of animator/director Michael Sporn is featuring some great screen grabs, storyboards, and rough animation drawings from the Disney feature "Sleeping Beauty" .

Michael's blog is a daily stop for me and if it's not in your bookmarks it probably should be.

This coincides with Danish animator/director/Disney historian Hans Perk's posting of the sequence and scene drafts from Sleeping Beauty. Hans's blog is another must-read for me. The scene drafts are studio documents which give a scene-by-scene breakdown of the films and shows who animated which scenes. This is fascinating behind-the-scenes material.

These great roughs and much more inspiring artwork is currently on Michael Sporn's site. Check it out.

(click any image to see it larger)

King Stefan rough animation drawing by John Lounsbery:

The unnamed comedy-relief "Lackey" character , rough animation drawing by John Sibley :

Another great rough animation drawing by John Lounsbery, this one of King Hubert :

A sample of a Disney scene draft . Many more like this on Hans Perk's invaluable blog :

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kung Fu Panda - 2D Sequences

UPDATE: High-Res. HD Quicktime videos of the opening Dream sequence and the End Credit sequence of KFP have been posted here: The Art of the Title: Kung Fu Panda


Amazing 2D animated sequences which bookend the CG feature "Kung Fu Panda" .

The opening dream sequence was animated by James Baxter Animation. It's been posted as a special preview clip at MSN Movies :

Kung Fu Panda Opening Dream Sequence

Dream Sequence Production -

Storyboard and Direction by Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Animation Director - James Baxter
Asst. Animation Director- Chris Sonnenburg

Producer - Hameed Shaukat
General Manager - Kendra Baxter

Key Clean-Up Artist - Helen Michael
Rough In-Betweener/Asst. Clean-Up - Raymond Flores Fabular

Compositors - Jason Brubaker , Erik Tillmans
Color Models - Claire Williams
Ink & Paint - Tina Staples
Line Art Scanner - Marisa Ledina

Accounting- Lauren Matthews-Hill

Enjoy the clip, but if you haven't seen this in the theater you should really go see it : the artwork is very rich and detailed and can best be appreciated on a big screen.

Then in a reprise of the 2D opening sequence the end-credits were designed by Shine Studios , in collaboration with James Baxter Animation and Dreamworks Animation. The character animation in the end-credits was done in-house by Dreamworks animators -

Panda: Gabriele Pennacchioli
Shifu: William Salazar
Tigress: Rodolphe Guenoden
Tai Lung: Philippe Le Brun
Mantis: Ken Morrissey
Viper: Rodolphe Guenoden
Crane: Simon Otto
Oogway: Ken Morrissey
Dad (Duck): Alessandro Carloni
Messenger Goose and Rhino: Pierre Perifel
Monkey: Gabe Hordos

Animation drawing by Gabriele Pennacchioli -

View the end-credit sequence here:

Kung Fu Panda End Credits

Monday, May 26, 2008

HOKUSAI - Animated Sketchbook

A marvelous film based on the drawings of the master Hokusai , written/directed by Tony White.

Tony writes:

"The film itself was inspired by the wonderful sketchbooks of Hokusai. When I saw them I realized that this artist was indeed a true animator at heart... he just didn't have the knowledge or the technology to be one in his lifetime. I therefore sought to bring his drawings to life for him, as homage to his genius."

Also, check out Tony's other films posted on YouTube, in particular "Endangered Species" a love letter to hand-drawn animation and an impassioned vision for how hand-drawn can continue to exist in the "digital age" .

Here is Tony's introduction to "Endangered Species" telling how and why he came to make the film :

Very important observation about the apprenticeship system and how traditional animation skills were "traditioned" (which literally means: "passing down to") from one animator to another :

Friday, May 2, 2008

Milt Kahl - Jungle Book roughs

[click on image to see it larger]

Michael Sporn has uploaded a series of rough drawings of King Louis by Milt "King" Kahl on his blog :

Kahl's Jungle Book Roughs

Check out the whole series of roughs on the link above (click on each image to see it larger) .

Here's a video of these key poses strung together with the timing based on the drawing numbers. Keep in mind that these are widely spaced Key drawings, so a lot of the drawings from this scene are missing :

The final version of the scene is here:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A visit with Animator Patrick Smith

A visit to the studio of traditional animator Pat Smith ---

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Animation Backgrounds Inspiration

Here is another blog site which ought to be in your bookmarks:

This site by Rob Richards takes up and continues the work that Hans Bacher was doing with his Animation Treasures background art blogs before Hans decided to stop blogging and pulled his sites off the internet . 

The backgrounds are digitally recreated from multiple screen grabs , digitally removing the character animation on top , so that a facsimile of the original Background painting is reproduced. 

Go take a look at  Animation Backgrounds 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea"

Here is a link to an interesting interview with Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki on the upcoming animated feature film
"Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea" directed by Hayao Miyazaki :

Producer Suzuki's Interview about Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff"

This is Hayao Miyazaki's 10th animated feature film which he has directed (along with television series, many short films , and commercials) .  He is approaching 68 years old.  But his enthusiasm for animation is still intact.  This part of the interview was especially interesting to me: 

You would think after 37 years of directing animation, Miyazaki would've reached a peak and discovered the best ways to represent any and everything with animation. But if you've ever seen a Miyazaki film, you know that isn't the case - each and everyone is as visually stunning as the last. 

Suzuki goes on to talk about the animation in Ponyo, explaining that Miyazaki is still intricately involved in the process, even hand drawing most of it. Apparently "80% of [Ponyo on a Cliff] is sea," and Suzuki talks about how Miyazaki tackled the idea of "expressing" the water.

"The waves are an important theme. He never makes others draw the waves. He draws them all by himself. He is devising to find a better way on how to express waves and sea. He is enjoying it.  The appearance of the movie is different. Usual audiences might say 'Aha… this is a different Miyazaki from what I'm used to…' The backgrounds are also different. Not so many handed. I think those are going very well…"

Another important aspect of animation nowadays surrounds using CG to create even 2D animated movies. Although Pixar is incredible in its own right, hand drawn 2D animation is a beloved style that still lives on today. Suzuki recalls an experience making Howl's Moving Castle where they converted some of their animation to CG initially, but later went back to hand drawing the remainder mid-way through because "it didn't seem very natural."

"If a movie at one point is made by the highest tech, it will become outdated soon.  There is one more point. We tried CG on Howl's. For example, the legs of the castle were made by CG. However, it didn't seem very natural to me and I told Miyazaki that his skill was better than that of a computer. He accepted it and quit using CG after that. Hence the latter half of Howl's doesn't include any CG. We now know CG has both its plus and minus sides. So the theme of this movie is as the story: simple. The visual effects are simple as well, while on the other hand it needs very hard working because of the drawing all it by hand."

The rest of the interview can be found at the above link. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ken Duncan - Jane rough animation from "Tarzan"

Good example of how an animator approaches a scene in the first rough pass, then tie-down pass before turning the scene over to the Clean-Up dept.

This animation is by Ken Duncan who was the supervising animator on Jane in Disney's "Tarzan" .

(click on the links to see the scenes. I could not embed the movies here)

Ken Duncan First Rough Pass

Oskar Fischinger - "Komposition in Blau" (1935)

An astoundingly beautiful piece by Oskar Fischinger which recently surfaced on YouTube. If you ever have a chance to see Fischinger's work on a big-screen in 35mm film it's worth it . This YouTube clip is only a pale reflection of how intense this is .

*Update: OH, too bad ... such is the transitory nature of YouTube. The Fischinger "Kompostion in Blau" link has been removed from YouTube. That was fast :- (

It was nice while it lasted. Maybe it'll be reposted someday. In the meantime check out the link to the Oskar Fischinger archives I posted above and if this sort of work interests you then order the DVD they sell from that site.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fantasia 2000 "Firebird" - Ted Kierscey Animation

Animator Pat Smith has a great post on "The Firebird" segment from Disney's Fantasia 2000 which I recommend to you :

Ted Kierscey's Animation of "The Firebird"

Very inspirational . We need to see this sort of thing to be reminded of what 2D animation is capable of and how really we only have just scratched the surface . Be sure to check out the progression clip that he posts from the Fantasia 2000 DVD :

Firebird Progression Reel

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Inspiration: Eric Goldberg's Animation for Drew Carey's Green Screen

A post I made on my personal blog a while back, but I'm reposting here for your viewing pleasure . This is really masterful work.


Here is a beautifully animated piece by Eric Goldberg, recently posted on YouTube, so if you missed it when it was broadcast here's your opportunity to see it.)


There was a clever show on for a while called "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show". It featured Drew Carey as the host , and an ensemble cast of improv actors doing skits in front of a "green screen" . After the live actors had done their stuff , the footage was handed over to various animators (coordinated by Acme Film Works) to embellish the skit with animation. The show never really took off , and like all improv sketches there were hits and misses . One of the hits, in fact probably the strongest piece that came out of this show, was a sequence called "Racetrack" animated by master animator Eric Goldberg.


In an article on Animation World Network there is a bit about the production process they used on the piece . I was interested to note that they used Mirage for the ink & paint. Notice how the drawings have a beautiful, organic hand-colored look , like watercolor washes or markers.

According to the article :

Without pre-sketching or testing, Goldberg animated with ink directly on paper, working in a style he was comfortable with, allowing for a certain amount of boil and spontaneity. He wanted the game's horse character to have the same scratchy, rubber-hose freedom of the Fleischer and Krazy Kat cartoons.

His wife, Susan Goldberg , assisted as art director, and his two daughters helped with mattes. Using Shake for compositing and Mirage for ink-and-paint, Scott Johnston helped achieve the animation's watercolor look.

Goldberg was committed to putting in as much technical detail as possible, such as the secondary action of the horse's reigns (animated by Todd Jacobson), because it makes the piece more convincing and compelling to watch. Goldberg feels this added effort adds a quality and touch that really sells the whole illusion.

There's more in the linked article from AWN , so take a look . I think that the Racetrack segment from Green Screen is as fine and funny a piece of animation as you're likely to see , so just for the pure enjoyment factor I wanted to share this . Someone was kind enough to post it on YouTube , so here 'tis :

(Note: the application called "Mirage" is no longer available as such . The company that used to sell Mirage , Bauhaus Software, no longer sells it . However the software development company that originally developed Mirage has taken over and is now marketing a much improved version of Mirage as TVP Animation. Check it out. I have also posted an entire blog with links to examples of work done with TVP Animation :
TVP Animation Blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mike Nguyen

Jerry Beck at reminds me that I should post a link to Mike Nguyen's blog , Rainplace .

If you don't know who Mike Nguyen is you really should .

His company July Films , is making an independent animated feature "My Little World" . I first met Mike back on The Little Mermaid .
He has gone on to be a supervising animator on such modern classics as "The Iron Giant" . For the past 5 or 6 years he's been working on his personal feature film "My Little World" , while taking on contract work from other studios to pay the bills .

You will definitely find some things worth reading and watching on either of Mike's two websites, the blog Rainplace or the My Little World site.

[click on image to see it larger]

(images copyright Mike Nguyen and July Films © 2008)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Maximal minimalism

A good example about how character animation is all about timing , not fancy graphics or camera moves. This gets a lot of mileage from pure charm and keen observation of real life , with a very simple art style.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

James Baxter !

If you haven't heard the interviews with master animator James Baxter on The Animation Podcast , then get yourself over there to the Animation Podcast website right NOW and listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of the James Baxter Interview. Both interviews bear repeated listening. (and lots of other good stuff there on The Animation Podcast: interviews with Nik Ranieri, Dale Baer, Andreas Deja, and others ) .

Also of interest, Kevin Koch (one of James Baxter's assistants at Dreamworks) has posted several pencil tests that James did for the movie "Sinbad" .

James Baxter Animation Tests - CLICK HERE !

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Animation For Valentine's Day

Seemed appropriate for the day. An old favorite, Frank Thomas's great animation from Lady & The Tramp.

More Dan Haskett

I consider Dan Haskett to be one of the finest animators/designers working in animation. One of the things that is a mark of a Haskett design is the immense appeal that he brings to his designs; his character designs are constructed of streamlined and animate-able shapes. Here are a couple of his designs as examples. I'll try to scan more of Haskett's drawings that I have in my collection and post them here.

[click on the images to see larger]

Dan Haskett Animation : "Let's Discuss This"

Great pencil test piece of animation done for Sesame Street by the master animator Dan Haskett.

[hmmmmm... well, this one seems to be playing back very choppy in Firefox. Looks fine to me in Safari, but not in Firefox. If the playback of the embedded movie below is choppy then click HERE for the original clip on YouTube.]

Starting in The Industry

Steve Hulett has a good post up over on The Animation Guild Blog about knowing your rights in the workplace.

This sort of thing is important to be aware of as you prepare to move into full time work in the industry.

Read the whole article here:

"Beginning: Details on How To Work in The Industry fresh out of school without getting screwed."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rough Animation Example

One of the things you'll hear me emphasize over and over (except in ILL2D 346 Animation Assisting !) is to loosen up and draw rough in your first pass animation . Here's an excellent example of a real production scene animated very rough , but very expressively . This is Glen Keane's animation of Fagin and Oliver (the cat) from "Oliver & Co."

And here is the finished version of this scene , which is actually split into two scenes in the movie , with a cutaway inserted to show Fagin's point-of-view looking back over his shoulder at Jenny and Georgette .

It takes a lot of confidence to successfully pull-off a scene this loosely.
You'll find that working rough like this will help you to nail your performance a lot faster and you can tell sooner whether or not your staging and acting are working .

However, this sort of rough scene needs a very talented Assistant Animator to do the follow up work , or else the animator should do a second pass to tie down the shapes and details before passing it along to the clean up dept. You'll find that the challenge with a rough scene like this is to keep the expressiveness but at the same time refine it down to workable clean up shapes that are consistent in volume and detail .

How to Make A Cartoon - Fleischer Style

This newsreel footage of the Fleischer Studio c.1938 - '39 is relatively rare. It's appeared on a few internet sites before and is on the new Popeye DVD , but this is the first time I've seen it pop up on YouTube.

Even though the process is somewhat simplified for the mass-audience for whom it was intended in this newsreel, there is still some fascinating behind-the-scenes stuff in this look at the making-of a cartoon in the "Golden Age".

The process shown is simplified but accurate.

The Making of "Persepolis"

One of the Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Feature Film is the independent , relatively low-budget 2D film "Persepolis".

The clips which follow are a 3 Part behind-the-scenes look inside a contemporary animation studio, during the making-of "Persepolis".

The film has been released in Europe and is currently in limited release in North America through Sony Classics . If it goes on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (as some are predicting) then it will surely receive wider theatrical release , but will probably be available on DVD in the near future . I haven't seen it yet, but the trailers and the subject matter have me intrigued .

See the film's official website for more information and trailers , or look up "Persepolis" on YouTube and you'll find lots of clips and interviews with the directors .

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thoughts on Clean Up

Here is a good article on the Clean-Up process by ace Assistant Animator Richard Smitheman.   Check out Richard's blog "The Pencil Test" . He has some of his Clean Up drawings posted that are very good examples of fine clean up work.

In this article (orginally posted on his blog) I feel that Richard gives an excellent description of the clean up process and how it relates to rough animation. This is the sort of thing gleaned from long experience that you don't usually come across in books. (in fact , there's very little solid information about the clean up process in any of the standard books. ) I've added some illustrations from my own collection to Richard's original article posted below. Click on any of the images to view them larger.


Some Thoughts on Animation Clean-Up
by Richard Smitheman

"I recently received a comment asking me how I do my clean-up, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about some of my approach and philosophy when it comes to animation clean-up.

Firstly let me say that what you are about to read concerns itself primarily with feature animation although it does also apply to TV animation as-well . Also these are just my opinions and I do not claim to speak for others or the animation industry. These are more just my conclusions after twenty years in animation.

So, where to begin...

There is essentially two types of animation, and consequently two approaches to cleaning it up. Two types of animation I hear you say? Well as far as clean-up is concerned there is and here's how it breaks down.

'Preserving as opposed to redrawing'

Firstly there's the tight, super on-model and generally great animated stuff you see from the best in the business. (James Baxter, Nik Ranieri, Eric Goldberg, Dale Baer, Ken Duncan) And secondly there's the looser, rougher animation (although can be equally as great, as in the exceptional work of Glen Keane) you see from almost everyone else. On many levels both these types of animation require a completely different approach.

The first approach;

This is almost every clean-up artists ideal scenario, to work with a great animator who draws on model and and leaves very little open to interpretation. It lets you know exactly what they want, and it changes your approach to how you handle the scene.
Although in many ways no easier than the looser or more off model stuff (which some clean-up artists do prefer), tight animation will ultimately have a far greater chance of making it through clean-up unscathed.

But there is a hidden danger in all that tight work, and it's called tracing! But "tracing" is an inadequate word for the task at hand. I have heard many times people exclaim that "the animation is so tight you could trace it" and I believe this sets us up with a false sense of security. I have seen a lot of beautiful and perfectly on model animation get "traced" by good clean-up artists and yet loose something in the translation. There is a more subtle dance that goes on when working on such work and requires us to be even more vigilant. There is the potential to let your guard down and rely to heavily on what you think you see, the result is a scene that isn't as good as it could be. Part of the problem is the use of your own rough on this type of work. When animation is on-model and you need to "trace" (I hate that word!) it, the worst thing you can do is do your own re-rough for it. There is a far greater chance of capturing the subtlety if you work on a fresh sheet of paper and work straight in black as opposed to roughing it out with a col-erase first. Every generation you get from the original is going to allow errors to creep in. For a good portion of the animation clean-up on both this and my clean-up blog I worked almost exclusively straight in black with no rough done first. This is not to brag , but to demonstrate the need to stay as close to the original as possible while still doing what is required as a clean-up artist. There's also a huge bonus to working this way which is that I'm not doing every drawing twice, which from a production stand point is a very good thing. This does take some practice but with time this technique can be developed to the point that even the slightly more off model work can be redrawn intuitively and not require a rough first. One thing to look out for is the very tight, beautifully drawn, but off model animation which at first glance looks as though it falls into this first category. For the most part this animation needs to be treated like its rougher counterpart and redraw will be required.

Now we come to the second type of animation you encounter (and more often) as a clean-up artist and that's the looser, or rougher animation out there --

This animation comes in a much wider variety of flavors from the loose but beautifully drawn to downright chicken scratch! Regardless of which were talking about we will almost certainly require our own rough for part or all of the drawing. How you approach this is a personal choice and I work slightly differently from most of my counterparts.

As a general rule when most clean-up artists are approaching a redraw they will put a fresh sheet of animation paper over the rough, roughly sketch-in the character with a col-erase pencil, and then go over this again with graphite for the final clean-up line. Whether they choose to use a mechanical pencil or regular wood pencil is entirely down to personal preference, and I have seen astonishing line work done with both. Where I slightly differ is that I generally do not like drawing over the Col-Erase line, I personally don't like the feel of it and don't feel I get the best result. You see, animation paper from the main two suppliers (ChromaColour and Cartoon Colour Co.) is so smooth to start with, add to that the wax finish of the Col-Erase pencil and there is no "tooth" left to the paper. You end up with an artificial surface which I don't think the graphite sticks to as well. So what I tend to do is rough-out my first pass in graphite and then on a separate sheet go over that with a technical pencil. I also feel this way you tend to end up with a cleaner drawing.

Getting into the nuts and bolts of clean-up is beyond the scope of this post, but I will at some point do some video demonstrations of how I approach the different facets of this craft.

So why do I call Clean-Up a craft and not art?

Well first let me give you some history.

I started in animation at a young age (around fifteen) cel painting at commercial houses around London. Despite having no formal artistic training I did learn enough on the job to find myself as a clean-up inbetweener within a year or so. Although as a child I had drawn I was hardly prolific and my drawing was weak at best. Anyway, I worked at a few different studios inbetweening and at seventeen came over to the States to work. Because of necessity and in hindsight probably prematurely the studio made me a Key Clean-Up artist, a position I held (albeit at different studios) for the next nineteen years. Anyhow about two years ago I was working on a feature in Pasadena and started to reflect on the fact that after nearly twenty years in animation I had never made that leap into animation. I approached the director and explained my situation and was very graciously offered some background animation to have a go at.

So as I got into it I realized I was stuck! I didn't know how to really draw. I understood all the principles and applied them daily to my work in clean-up but when it came to drawing from the imagination I didn't know where to start. There was no safety net. Anyhow I crawled my way through that first animation and although the animation was approved ( I think he was being nice,) I was very unhappy with it and frankly embarrassed. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

As soon as that feature was over I went to school, in many ways for the first time. I started drawing for myself for the first time in twenty years. I went to figure drawing, took classes on perspective, studied cinematography, took storyboard classes, animal drawing and color theory and basically studied the whole gamut of skills required for animation. I continue to study in these areas and am sure the study will go on for a long time to come, I hope so.

Anyhow, enough of my life story ...

The point is, that over time I was able to learn a set of skills that allowed me to do a job, but I feel as a Clean-Up artist you are in fact more a technician (craftsman) than anything else. The fact that you are drawing on a daily basis really has very little to do with your ability to draw, or lack of ability to draw. Clean-up uses a different set of drawing skills to rough animation, the most notable being that in rough animation you are drawing purely from your imagination. And this is a biggie! For in itself it requires several different disciplines. This is not to say there aren't some very good draftsmen in Clean-Up and it certainly does require a highly refined set of skills, but I think the point holds true.

At it's best Clean-Up can bring a new dimension to the animation and at it's worst it can destroy a thing of beauty. "


Gorgeous clean-up drawing by animator James Lopez over his own rough drawing from a personal project he is working on: