random thoughts • coming attractions • euphoric visions • misc ephemera

life is getting real interesting lately, isn't it?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Micro vs. Macro

It's a uniquely challenging experience to explore character animation from two extremes at the same time. I'm talking about the wide chasm between intricately noodled Animation Mentor projects (student work) and the demands of television production deadlines (professional work).

The "Team Umizoomi" work at Curious Pictures that I've been at for two months is now done. I contributed character animation to the two specials for Season Two, and it was a very satisfying experience. I worked alongside lead animator Katherine Vargas, a generous artist whose expert eye helped me nudge each shot to a fine polish. The word we were getting from the DIGI department and the animation director was that everyone was very pleased with how the cg characters were playing. Ask any little ones in your family to keep an eye out for the two-part episode titled "The King of Numbers". My shots involved a pirate, a crocodile, a flying dragon, and runaway mine carts.

Meanwhile, I am more than halfway through the Animation Mentor program where I am currently being mentored by Kenny Roy. We're in the fourth term "Intro to Acting". I'm in the polishing phase of a shot where Stewie is waxing his car.

So, how has it been a challenge to be doing both? Let me give you some numbers:

At Curious, I worked for 36 days on 43 shots totaling about 5,515 frames.
At Animation Mentor during the same time period, I was working on two shots, 250 frames apiece.

Quite a difference in how much time you have to design and develop a shot. It was a challenge to figure out how to adapt the luxurious time we have with AM shots to the time constraints of production.

I reached out to my predecessor at Curious, Jane Nechayevsky (who has gone on to work at Sony Imageworks in Culver City... go Jane!), and I asked her advice. Essentially it was to take about ten minutes to thumbnail your idea, then take the plunge and dive in. No time for arc tracking, just do it by eye. After all the careful planning we do at AM, I felt a bit disoriented. But after awhile, it got to feel like musical improvisation. And it was looking good.

I wondered how the one way of working would affect the other, and I am now confidant that the strengths of each approach add up to being able to deliver quality work faster. I can't post any of the Team Umizoomi work until it airs, and no one knows when that will be. I'll get my latest AM work up here soon. Now I'm packing up to go to the Chiller Convention and do my best Nekron snarl.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Return of the Ice Lord

Looks like my fifteen minutes of Warhol fame just got extended a few seconds longer. I've been invited to be a "celebrity guest" at the Chiller Theatre Convention in New Jersey this Halloween. My so-called celebrity stems from my performance as the evil Ice Lord Nekron in Ralph Bakshi's animated film, Fire & Ice, made in the summer of 1981. Seems it's become a cult classic now, and the film has more than a few fans. You live long enough, stuff like that happens.

The invitation came about last year when I went to visit Frank Frazetta at his art museum in Pennsylvania. I hadn't seen him since doing the film and we both enjoyed the brief reunion. (I am very fortunate to have visited when I did, as Frazetta passed away this last May)

While I was there, I met his associate Kevin Clement who managed Frank's museum and is the producer of the Chiller Theatre event. Kevin invited me to participate at his convention, and it seemed like a fun thing to do.

It is a little strange how that brief episode in my life back in '81 is reinstating itself. I not only met Frazetta again last year, but also Ralph Bakshi, the film's director, when he appeared at SVA to promote his book "Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi".

I had some fun surprising him from the audience during the Q&A, and he played along, directing me in a line-reading from of the film, which he of course critiqued unmercifully. Ralph is no longer making films, but is creating works of art on canvas, living in New Mexico.

Finally, I read recently that filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids) has negotiated with Bakshi to get the full rights to "Fire & Ice" to remake as a live action feature. That by itself has extended the shelf life of the original, and if this convention experience is as fun as it sounds, I could be doing them for awhile. Here's the URL of the convention:


If you are in Parsippany, NJ on Halloween day with nothing to do, come by the Hilton and say hello. And I'll commiserate with you over being in Parsippany, NJ on Halloween day with nothing to do. Look for me under this 6' banner...