Greenbelt Land Trust in Oregon called me in late May of this year, asking if I'd be interested in creating a short animation for their website. GLT Executive Director, Michael Pope, and Development Director, Jessica McDonald, were looking for something that would, in thirty seconds to one minute, show what they do. They wanted to to be fun and not pedantic. Although I'm not a pro animator, I was intrigued by the subject matter and thought about it for a few days.
As a long time professional illustrator, I have the necessary skills to submit sketches and, when the client makes changes (which they most often do), I whine for a while, but I always come through with the goods. However, since I've only created my hand-made animations for myself. Which, of course, means I can enter into the project with an idea in mind, but, since I haven't shown storyboards or even an outline to anyone, I can change course at any point in the project. That's why, despite all the work involved in making motion pictures, I've enjoyed creating them over the years.
With that in mind, I decided to write to GLT with this proposal (edited):
I've done some animation commercially, but only as a designer, meaning I provide characters and backgrounds, etc. A professional animation company creates the finished animation. The animations that I've done entirely on my own that have been created as personal projects. I'm not faced with a deadline and there's no client needs to be met. Since there is no input from others, I simply do what I want to do. All of my personal animations are done in traditional 2D style. They are loads of work and, despite all the great computer software now available, all animation takes time to produce. I'm also a musician, so I get the opportunity to create the music and soundtracks.
If you are still interested, I'd be happy to make a fun, Elwoodian animation for Greenbelt Land Trust, but unless I were to hire a pro animator to do the actual animation, I would want lots of freedom to do what I've done in my own personal animations. You'd have the right, of course, to decline what I come up with. I'd want some kind of small kill fee for the hours spent on the project if you reject it, but we can discuss that fee to make it fair.
Michael and Jessica loved my 2D animations and were game to give the project a go-ahead as I presented it. I worked on ideas off and on while finishing up final art for a kids' book and began working on the project in earnest about two weeks after I accepted the assignment.
In this article, you can view some of my early sketches for the Cave Man and the Modern Man. I initially tried to create the art in Photoshop's frame animation program (which I'd only recently discovered), but found it unwieldy. Partly, I'm sure, because I don't really know the software. I may return to it one day.
I ended up going with the great vector software, Toon Boom Studio, my old standby. I normally output the work as a QuickTime movie, which is bitmap, but beginning with vector allows me to output a variety of file sizes, from HD to tiny iPhone movies.
I used a borrowed Wacom Cintiq 18SX tablet, drawing directly into TBS. (Maggie bought me the amazing Cintiq 21UX for my birthday, but the unit was back ordered. Sadly, I wasn't able to use it on this animation, but happily my new Cintiq arrived last week!
I exported a large QuickTime of the animation from TBS and imported it into iMovie "11 for final editing, including adding the sound effects and musical score.
I created the music in GarageBand--where, much to my amazement and delight, I can create symphonic music, even though I can't read a note of music!)
Here's a link to my Mac MobileMe Gallery where the animation now resides: E.S. GLT Animation
(If you can't play it, just upgrade your QuickTime player to the latest
Oops! I just realized that I'd forgotten to add some images and descriptive text. Sorry about that. I guess I tossed out my rough sketches, but here's a first run at my caveman. He's closer in feel to my normal illustration style and, while I liked him, I wanted the art to be simpler and more rolly polly and squat.
Ditto for my Modern Man.
Here they are, basically the same characters I used in the final animation. These are drawings I wanted to use as my models in my failed experiment using Photoshop's animation program. I love the watercolor texture in these, but since I ended up doing the art in Toon Boom Studio, it became vector art, which in Photoshop would have been bitmap. I'll have another go at the Photoshop system as soon as I have time.
Unlike real animators, I don't create pencil tests or do storyboards. One can argue that my animation suffers because I bypass that important process, but it's how I've chosen to do these things and, while I know there is lots of room for improvement, I'm happy with my results and, over time, I know I'll get better.
However, I do write a short outline for myself and I work out rough sketches and a timing sheet. The one shown here is a more finalized timing sheet, done after I'd worked up a nearly final animation in Toon Boom, but hadn't yet added color. I used this sheet to create my soundtrack and it gave me an idea where the sound effects would fall.
The Attacker characters as drawn using the vector animation software, Toon Boom Studio.
Foliage elements created with pen on watercolor paper that were never used, but were models for the final animation.
A screenshot of my Toon Boom Studio workspace while working on the GLT project.
Screenshot 2 of the GLT project in TBS.
GLT Soundtrack in GarageBand.
If anyone wants to see larger images of any of these, let me know and I'll publish them as images only. -ES
Here we go again, another short animation. I created it in Toon Boom Studio using the Wacom Cintiq 12AW. The music was created in GarageBand and the whole thing was edited in iMovie 09. Thanks for visiting.
Click here: Dumpster Tales
I just finished an animation for Halloween. Maggie is designing a promotional emailer with a link to the animation. Rather than swipe a frame from the animation, she wanted me to create new art for the mailer. Several days ago, I bit the bullet and bought a Wacom Cintiq 12WX tablet. I've never been comfortable drawing with my Wacom Intuos 2. That disconnect between my hand and my computer screen drove me crazy. I have never gotten used to it. It's okay for many things--like paint-bucketing and making photos better--but not for drawing. Not for the way I twist and turn my tracing pads and watercolor paper while I work. When I'd try to do that with the Intuos, my lines looked like a 6-year old drew them. I nearly wore out Undo.
I'm still getting used to the new Cintiq, but drawing directly on my art surface is a joy. Because of the thickness of the glass, there is a small disconnect between the tip of the pen and the drawn line that takes some getting used to. The tablet has an adjustment to compensate for that disconnect, but it ain't perfect. Nothing is perfect, not even my trusty Pelikan 120. And, needless to say, not me.
So here's a preview of the art I came up with along with a screenshot of one of the animation frames that I used for reference. I drew the final line art in Corel Painter using my new Cintiq. I added the color swatches and photo background in Photoshop. Needless to say, the animation, which we'll make available for viewing just before Halloween, is a bit strange. 30 seconds of oddness. Just right for all my Drawgerite friends.
The frame I used from the animation to make my mailer art.
Opening title from Billy Pumpkin animation
Okay, I put Billy Pumpkin up on YouTube. I hadn't thought this out--I just wanted to show off my lillustration done using my new Cintiq--and now I'm afraid your expectations have jumped up to a Pumpkin-Orange Alert level. It's merely a simple, little movie. A brief 30 second clip of Elwood's weird world.
I received an e-mail from Trace Burroughs in January of this year. His company, Little Men Entertainment, was looking for illustrators to collaborate on animation projects. Little Men would take the illustrators work and animate it using Adobe After Effects in the "Cut and Paste" style of "Hopeless Pictures". I was intrigued and responded. Trace made it clear that neither of us would be making any money, but he would have my work on his reel and I would have a finished animation. We might, down the road, profit from the collaboration, but there were no guarantees. What the hell, I thought, why not? I said I'd do it if I could create new art, the story and the music.
Trace wanted to keep the animations brief & fairly simple. I wrote a simple story & he approved it. I then sent him a batch of finished art: main characters, body parts, buiildings, vehicles & backgrounds, so he could assemble them into a finished animation. Once the movie was nearly done & we had an idea of the movie's length, I created the music. Trace did all the animation and added the sound effects. Maggie designed the Acme Wigs billboard.
In my first Mondo Luigi article (4/25/06), I tell how I met Brian Hoard and of our eventual decision to work together on a project. I always have several stories percolating on the back burner, but the Mondo Luigi characters seemed an obvious choice for Brian's Maya 3D approach to animation. I've only done 2D animation using Flash & Toon Boom Studio software. I've also created some hand-drawn, scanned and assembled animations. I thought it would be fun to see my characters puffed up into 3D.
When Brian is ready to begin a scene, I send him a rough storyboard along a couple of finished color renderings of the main characters. I also provide him with a soundtrack (I get to do the music, a real perk!) and a timing breakdown of the action within the scene. From then on, Brian does all the hard work.
I've often wondered how Brian churned my 2D characters into 3D. It seemed magical, a mystery. He'd discuss "rigging" and other terms unique to 3D animation and though I had some vague idea of what he meant, it was nothing concrete. I knew the process was kind of like puppetry but, until I saw the QuickTime movies now available on his site, I had no idea just how labor intensive the 3D construction was. I find it fascinating and technically daunting.
I know there's a ton of stuff begging for your attention here on Drawger (& elsewhere), but if you find an extra couple of minutes, check out Brian's informative QuickTime movies. He's made a page just for us with "Final Movies" (only 2 finished, so far) and "Behind the Scenes", which deals with the process. One of the QuickTime movies "Luigi Breakdown" was done for a talk Brian recently gave to a class of fourth-grade kids. Perfect for me.
Click here to view: Luigi/BrianHoard (You may need the latest QuickTime player from Apple - it's free)
Hey, Drawgerites! Sorry I haven't been around here much. So much to do, so many new faces here in Drawgerland, so little time. Hard to keep up.
I did notice a bit of monkey business going on in my absence & thought you should know about a little known monkey animation. There is, of course, the infamous Green Monkey animation on my website, but I created this one sometime back when the vector program I most often use, Toon Boom Studio, created their version specifically for a Mac. Wanting to try it out, i whipped up a quick animation using my favorite character, Green Monkey and slapped together a soundtrack in GarageBand.
Click here: MONKEYBONE
It should take you to my YouTube page.
Monkey is waiting for you.
When I was in the early stages of learning the 2D animation software, "Toon Boom Studio", several users on the Toon Boom User Forum came to my rescue. One of them, Brian Hoard, was particularly helpful and he generously took the time to execute the final edit on my overlong and somewhat stilted first attempt, "Hatman Serenade". Brian, a tech wizard and a talented, generous human being, continued to help me out over the next couple of years when I foundered with other software, like Macromedia Flash. In 2004, I asked Brian if he'd be interested in driving up to Canada to attend the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He rented a fancy car with a GPS Vehicle Navigation System (boy, was that a treat!) and drove up from the Washington area. We headed up to the festival early the next morning. We had a great time. Excited and inspired, we decided on the way back home to work together on a short animated movie. Brian had been using Maya (3D animation software) at work and wanted to apply (and expand) his skills on his own personal project.
I suggested a project I had begun, but put aside to work on my current project, "DRoM". Brian loved "Mondo Luigi" and, sometime later, we began our collaboration. We wanted our 3D animation to look a little different from the more polished Pixar-type films. We also hoped to merge the 3D look with elements of my style and the look of the more flat Clay-on-Glass style used in films like "Rex the Runt".
My idea was to have an old Italian guy remembering his dear cat, Luigi. I wanted live-action film for the narrator and 2D animation to convey his recollections. I engaged an old friend living in Cold Spring, NY, Claudio Marzollo, to read the part of the narrator. His father, Dick Marzollo, a highly respected opera coach, spoke very little English, so Claudio grew up speaking both English and Italian. Claudio exceeded my expectations. I was an amateur filmmaker & Claudio an amateur actor so, with raging ignorance as our ally, we filmed all 11 scenes in a single afternoon using my Sony digital camcorder.
Scene 5 is the only scene Brian and I have in a more or less finished form. Brian shoulders the lion's share of the work, creating all the 3D models from my sketches, rigging them and working out the entire animation. Early on, I wrote Claudio's dialog and created the main characters, but as we progress, I create new characters as needed, work up storyboards and create the music. But it's Brian who's logging the hours on weekends and evenings to bring this cat's tale to life. Bravo, Brian!
Since animation is a long, tedious process, we wanted to share a little of what we've completed so far. This scene may be tweaked once we've completed the others, but it comes pretty close to our vision. As this project progresses, we'll probably offer more glimpses if you're interested. Keep in mind that the QuickTime movie is compressed, so color, detail and sound quality all suffer.
Some additional thoughts after reading some feedback:
Thanks, fellers, for your comments.
In the 50's I played electric guitar. I stopped playing music for a few years and, upon discovering the joys of Renaissance music, I built a clavichord that I never learned to play and got a lute I did learn to play. I turned to bluegrass music, playing acoustic guitar and mandolin. Along the way, classical music became my music of choice. Then, about a year ago, I became enamoured with the idea of mixing it up--I fell in love with music that overlayed electronic music, nature sounds, sound effects, drones, symphonic music and all kinds of pop music.
I like the digital art of J. Otto Siebold as well as the organic linocuts of Randy Enos. In an earlier post, I let Drawgers know that one of my top animators is Gianluigi Toccafondo, another is Chris Hinton, both organic drawers and painters within the medium. But I love "The Incredibles", a completely 3D digital animation.
For me, it's not the medium, though there are some I don't like, it's what the artist has achieved using his/her tools. I'd hate a world that had only (one of my favorites) Ed Sorel, but took away (another favorite) Digital Bob Staake. Ed uses the same tools I use, but Digital Bob uses digital tools. Doesn't matter one iota to me.
Randy, you seem to indicate a concern that something is lost when my work is morphed from ink and watercolor to 3D digital modeling. I only see it as something changing. I love the grit of ink and pigment on watercolor paper--what else woud account for my using it for some 35 years. But I don't ever want to be a slave to anything. I want to use every tool I can find if that tool will help me grow as an artist, stretch my imagination.
Some friends wonder at my using GarageBand, seeing it as a toy, worrying that I may have abandoned my roots. But I haven't. I like it all. Or, not all, but my range of artistic enjoyment is vast. I wallow on The Stanley Brothers and Gustav Mahler and Les Paul and Shostakovich. My favorite painter is Francis Bacon, but I equally enjoy George Herriman.
As always, I'm long-winded. My apologies. I am delighted with Brian's interpretation of my art and I don't think it hurts my story. It would work either way. I could have done it in a similar style to Little Green Monkey (on my website), but I don't think it would be one whit better than it is. I like the contrast between the live footage of Claudio narrating and the "slick" 2D animation. I shot the movie of Claudio in color, but I knew from the start that I'd change it to sepia. The idea is that I found old footage of this old Italian man who had a story to tell. Once we move from his narration to the visual storytelling, it is no longer then, it is NOW.
Of course, you are only seeing this one clip, Scene 5, so it might make more sense when the movie is completed. But, either way, I am holding firm to my concept because I think I'm right. And I am right because I'm doing it for me. No editors, no art directors, no deadlines, just the pure joy of making something up and seeing it come alive.
However, I do appreciate the honest input and concern. It's fun to get feedback. Even if I am a stubborn son of a bitch.
PS: Randy, I'm playing a vintage 4-string banjo, not a 5-string and it's tuned like an octave mandolin.
I've been watching animated movies since I was a kid, but I've been fully immersed in it now for only a couple of years. One of my favorite vintage animators is Ub Iwerks, the guy who created the earliest B&W Walt Disney films--you know, those wonderful, rubber-legged people and animals. I may discuss that later on, but for right now, I want to talk about a couple of animators who completely turned my idea of animation on its head.
I love traditional animation and some current 3D animation, but here's an artist who touched the very deepest part of my soul. When I saw Gianluigi Toccafondo's "La Piccola Russia" at the 2004 Ottawa International Film Festival (my first animation festival) I was blown out of the water. I saw many fine films, but La Piccola Russia is otherworldly. I have several short animations on my website, but lately I've been trying to stretch and head outside the normal range of what's usually called animation. Gianluigi opened the door wide for me. I'm a long way from discovering my own voice as an animator, but I'm plugging away. I saw Toccofondo's masterpiece twice at the festival on the big screen, but it is not available right now except at the festivals. I contacted Toccafondo and he graciously sent me a DVD, but for now, the only way to view it is a low res version here:
Also, you can see some of his more commercial work on the Acme Films site: Acme Films
I find even that stuff remarkably original.
In case you are interested, here's some random information on Toccafondo from web translations (he speaks only Italian) and other sources I've managed to dig up:
In 1989 Gianluigi created his first film, a 2 minute animation, with 1200 small drawings of stills from a Buster Keaton film. He Xeroxed and altered the images, sometimes stretching and distorting them and then painting on the copies before assembling them into a movie. So far I don't know how exactly he extracts his images or what software he uses for editing the final assembly of images.
Gianluigi created two animated shorts, La Pista in 1991 and La Pista dei Maiale in 1992. In 1993, he made a breakthrough with "Le Criminel", a French produced animated short for Sept/Arte. It was shown at the Venice Cinema Festival and was picked up by numerous television networks.
In 1999, he created a 6 minute animation based on Collodi's "Pinocchio", a "surprising outbreak of warm colors and fantastic forms and a truly wonderful Pinocchio".
He created an animated short for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of (the celebrated film director) Pier Paolo Passolini's death.
Other films by Toccafondo include groundbreaking spots for various festivals and movie theaters in Venice and European advertising agencies.
Toccafondo has also created illustrations for Italian publications including Mondadori, Eunadi, Fandango, Linea d'Ombra, Lo straniero and Telema Internazionale.
My other favorite animator right now is Chris Hinton. I discovered his work through my old pal Bill Plympton. Here's Bill's site--he has a wonderul zany style and a wacky sense of humor:
Plymtoons Hinton was a big influence on two of my animations on my site, in particular, The Little Green Monkey. Close, but no cigar.
I had the good fortune to meet and have dinner with Hinton at the Ottawa Festival. He & I had talked on the phone several times & he was very generous, sharing his vast knowledge with me. His animation, "Nibbles" was up for an Oscar two years ago, though he didn't win. If you're interested in seeing his stuff, including a clip from his short film, "Nibbles" you can go Acme Films:
To find Chris' work, go to "Directors" on the upper left & then click on Chris Hinton. Nibbles is the opening clip.
Also, I need to let you know about another wonderful animator I discovered while combing the Web. Her name is Michaela Pavlátová and I found her on the Wildbrain website (in San Francisco). She works half the year in San Francisco and half in Prague. The Wildbrain site features many top-notch animators, but Michaela especially, caught my eye with her imaginative use of a variety of materials. I dug around the web and found her personal site. Man, is it personal. On the site, she eschews the variety approach to animation, using mainly Flash. Simply, but effectively.
Her name is listed in the "Directors" list, second from last.
And, finally, below is the link to a strange, wonderfully inventive website--Conclave Obscurum. It is one of my biggest inspirations right now (along with Hinton and Toccafondo) as I'm trying to puzzle out how to approach my new animation. The site seems to be the creation of a Russian artist with a keen interest in web design who knows how to use Flash (and, I'm sure other media tricks) to create those nifty results. His drawings aren't (in my estimation) the very best, but his creative mind and the way he uses his art is first rate. The web world he's created is incredibly mysterious & the way he breaks up his page knocks me out, with those things suddenly appearing and disappearing as strange sound effects & musical loops burble on. It's not your average website & not intuitive, but I really enjoy probing the landscape, unearthing his disquieting imagery. That dreamlike mood is exactly what I'm hoping to achieve with my new project.
This is a very short animation created with a 2D animation programs called Toon Boom Studio. I was experimenting with animating my vector images over bitmap images--in this case a sidewalk closeup and a moon photo. I created it as a small (silent) clip for my current larger animation project (a whole 7 minutes!), but I liked the little mini-adventure and added a soundtrack and sound effects. I used Apple's GarageBand for the music and scoured up the sound effects in my small collection for the SFX. This is no masterpiece, but I thought Duck might be welcome here on Drawger.
By the way, Zimm made Duck's debut possible. He was kind enough to whip up a enough cyberspace to house this QuickTime.