Jul 25, 2007

ComicCon 07

The scene outside the hall at last year's Con
The circus is in town again. Or rather, leaving town for San Diego.

Every year the Comic Con gets bigger, if that's possible, and more and more artists are representing themselves with books and other items of interest.

Last year, many of us were at the Con on the same day, and while I was only able to dash about for a brief two hours of sweating madness
(tips: never leave late, don't drive, and don't go on a Saturday), I had such a great time--my first trip in years--and was so inspired that I determined to do a book...or something. As it happens, so did my friends. Lots of my friends. Eventually six of us story folk decided to do a book project together, and get a booth for the Con this year. We did. But along the way we had a detour from self-publishing; now our compilation book will be released by a real company, one of the best ones. Due to the dealmaking and the publisher's schedule it won't be available until next year's Con. I'll post more about our project later.

In the meantime our booth was ceded to another band of Dreamworks-based bloggers:

All swell guys. Read more about them over at Donnachada's Daly Blog, complete with floor layout and location. This is going to be a great weekend with lots of eyepopping loot to be got.

Jul 22, 2007

Cleaning out Closets

You find the funniest things in boxes under boxes. These are character layout drawings from the very first job I had, in 1989. I loved them so much I saved them(this scene was cut). Imagine my utter dismay when the episode arrived back from overseas and had none of this quality in it, unfortunately.
They're not by me, but by Chris Reccardi, who back then sat in the next cube over. While his IMDB resume lists but one or two episodes of this series he really worked on it for well over a year before moving on to Ren and Stimpy. As a matter of fact, most of the original crew at Spumco worked on this show's first season.
These drawings were done fast, yet the sureness and emphasis of the Prismacolor line over the loose roughs is a beautiful thing. They're pretty funny, too. Hope you enjoy.
Be sure to CLICK the images to enlarge if you're so inclined.

Jul 19, 2007

Ward stumped

Cartoon Brew posted this a while ago, but I didn't watch it until yesterday. A fascinating and priceless bit of vintage television: the meeting of two famous wiseguys--and probably one of the only times Ward Kimball looked (a little) in awe of anybody.
He does get in one good comeback with perfect timing and delivery, though.

Jul 11, 2007

Moore Bats Again

Howard Lowery's animation art storefront on Magnolia is no more, but he still regularly sells some choice items on Ebay. Like this drawing I lost out on from "Casey Bats Again", a 1954 short sequel to "Casey at the Bat". It featured Casey with a family of gorgeous daughters--each and every one the design of Fred Moore.
This animation drawing certainly looks like Fred's work, but it's also possibly a close copy of Moore's style by the very talented animator (and Moore's close friend and onetime assistant) Ken O'Brien. More trivia: she sports a hair ornament very like that of one of the Moore-designed centuarettes in "Fantasia".

Moore died two years before the release of this short, directed by Jack Kinney; if he actually animated footage it was delayed quite some time in its release.

Jul 8, 2007

Shane Prigmore bats 300

Judging from the dozens of comments on his posts, my coworker Shane Prigmore has a lot of friends in the blogging groove...but just in case you haven't dropped by already, have a look at his baseball paintings. Terrific.

Both Shane and his colleague and pal Shannon Tindle have been squirreled away somewhere on campus working like maniacs. Can't wait to see what they come up with, can you? We're more than fortunate to have them.

Jul 5, 2007

Hanging Art Break

I love mobiles, but it can be hard to find really good ones that aren't expensive. These were fairly cheap--the owl is from Fredflare.com; the hen from a scandinavian online store.

These two are in my office at work. And I admit it--I'm playing around a bit with my new phone...there's something so satisfying about snapping a picture, mailing it to your online email account, and uploading it from there to Flickr in about 2 minutes.
This is just a little bit of photographic eye candy. In the main my office isn't too spectacular decoration-wise; there are some here that(as might be expected)really look like they're inhabited by an artist. Ward Jenkins once posted some snaps of his workspace when he was back in Atlanta(he's at Laika in Portland now), and wow. That was one fun looking desk area.

Jul 1, 2007

Even a Rat Can Dream

On Friday the crew of the film I'm working on went to the movies together.

Although this is a fact of life well known within our industry, for the benefit of others I should describe the symbiosis of everyone working on animation--in particular on the grueling, long-form, long gestated projects shown in theatres.

It's hard not to notice that animation fans, critics and writers often assume that the various studios have the mien of warring camps. Certainly they are all in competition in the marketplace. But it would be a mistake to think that there isn't a mutual and healthy atmosphere of respect among the artists and productions. There is. And while film feifdoms must by necessity remain apart and secretive for obvious reasons, the small world of animation is so cross-pollinated that on a personal level virtually all of us are invested in what's going on all over California and really, in the world at large.
So, when a new film comes out of some importance everyone is eager to see it.

"Ratatouille" is an anomaly of sorts for the director and screenwriter. Begun by Oscar winner Jan Pinkava, the story of a french mouse with an exceptionally sophisticated palate just didn't sound like the sort of project that Brad Bird would be drawn to. But this director is also an exceptionally sophisticated screenwriter, and the resulting film is the best recent example of a true modern fairy tale. Light, elegant, sweet, gentle--but with the fillips of danger and the threat of death that all the best fairy tales have. I walked out of the theatre into hard, hot Burbank thinking of the old New Yorker writer E.B. White.

There've been films made of White's children's books, most notably "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web", but none have come close to capturing the style and elegance of White's stories(if you haven't read them for yourself, you should-no matter how old you are.). "Ratatouille" does, and it's because of the writing first. Mind you, as Bird has said and as is obvious, a screenplay isn't just talking, and neither is this story. People and rats talk, but only to their own kind and only when they have something to say, and it's worth noting that Remy, the hero, spends many scenes unable to speak at all--and those are probably his best scenes.

White had a talent for creating "real" animals living in a human world, possessed of nuanced personalities yet not quite human. One of my pet peeves is when animals are used in a supposed naturalistic fashion--that is, in a story where they are perceived as mere beasts by humans, but instead of exploiting the unique and familiar animal characteristics every person recognizes the choice is made to turn them into little people who only look like animals. Sometimes that serves a movie best. More often it doesn't.

Remy uses his hands as rats do--but along with doing so in an anthropomorphic fashion, he also frequently does things as a rat would do them, albeit if he had human intelligence. The scene where he almost escapes the sure-death of the kitchen for the first time but can't resist correcting the soup is a great example of this kind of character animation. The thousands of choices made by director first and all the animators(as well as the story crew)afterwards add up to that E. B. White perfection of fantasy becoming believable and natural.

Remy makes breakfast for Linguini; he never gets to nibble his own tiny omelet, though

One thing one knows in a Bird film is that he will never, ever write down to the audience. I don't believe that any screenwriter aims to be patronizing, but Bird goes one further every time out. If every soul in a seat doesn't "get it", well, they can follow along with the mood and it's on to the next scene. The first appearance of the aesthetically severe food critic Ego was one of my favorites; there's no way that a lot of kids in any audience will understand what he's talking about, but they'll know he's dangerous, somehow. The danger he happens to pose is the loss of a Michelin star or two--and what a film, that can make the hoi polloi give a damn about that? But it works.

It's supposedly Remy's story, but it's really about what happens when he's in a certain situation, rather than all about him alone. This is a fireside yarn, an anecdote, a fairy tale about one little rat, a hapless guy and a once-great restaurant in the greatest epicurean city in the world and what happens when they all come together at the same place and time for a couple of weeks.

I haven't mentioned how it looks. It looks like good food smells and tastes. It looks like the best sort of caricatured reality...no, not reality. Well, it looks delicious. I mean delicious animation.
Wonderful vocal performances. Loved the way Lou said "little chef" with real affection. I had no idea that Garofalo was Colette til the end. Great score. Beautiful lighting (which did look like Paris light to me as I remember it; I'll have to take it up with Michael Barrier via email, but I'd swear that some of the light-on-buildings in the film looked a match for the early-morning video I took, posted on my Sketchbook blog).
Fantastic end credits--this last is a particular issue with me; animated films really should exploit their credits, front and back, by making them as visually pleasing and creative as possible. It doesn't happen often enough. This one does.

And it just so happens that the very last line in the film happens to be the one thing I ask of every movie I go to see (and all too often don't get).
To have ended on that phrase, that invitation, that challenge put a silly smile on my face that lasted all the way into the murderously hot afternoon sunshine, to my car, and all the way home.

Addendum: I deliberately avoided all newsy articles, spoilers and film reviews of "Ratatouille" before I saw it, so now I've got a bit of catching up to do.
By all means check out this review by Scott Foundas in the L.A. Weekly. Very well written as well as touching on many things I didn't. Same reaction, though.

And one more thing: not just by the way: congratulations to Jim Capobianco for a wonderful credit on a wonderful film. Way to go, fella.

And lastly, it did make me hungry.


A completely non-animation-related post. I can't even get away with the old Pixar-Apple/2 degrees of separation anymore. Nevertheless-

Pasadena, Friday night; a nice dinner out. Afterwards: "Isn't the Apple store on this block? Let's go check out the suckers waiting in line for the phone".

5 minutes later...

It's pretty cool, I must say. While it's true that out in the middle of nowhere(that would mean greater Los Angeles County without a high speed wireless network handy, like, at a Starbucks) the AT&T internet is slow, the functions of the phone and the ease of use are revolutionary. Now all I've got to do is pray there aren't any buggy surprises in the offing.

That's my old phone on the table at work yesterday. I took the picture with the iPhone. It takes good pictures if you aren't waving it around.