Archive for October, 2007


A little old drawing all about the scariest night of the year…except for Easter when that giant rabbit comes door to door demanding eggs. Or is that just in Oregon?


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Wow. Finally some new work to show off. It’s fall, the leaves have fallen, and this kid…I think the balloon has been stuck up there since June.

In progress. I included a detail of the boy. Painted in Photoshop.


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I finally saw Happy Feet. Yeah, I know, it is like 9 years old…or a year old..but when you have a baby – movie going drops off the radar for, well, the past 14 months or so. And before that a 1000 mile move and selling a house and buying a house…I’m a little behind yeah. I wasn’t expecting much. But I really enjoyed it. And not for the obvious reasons. Let me purge about it all.

It was wise to go with the true-to-life models. It gave the film a unique approach and the characetrs had lots of subtle features that told their stories well. Little things – in eyes, and structure. I think it also allowed the story to have more impact. Yeah, the story! It was both very simple, and very surprising. It felt like an individual filmaker made the calls on it, not a story department. The chocies were sometimes odd, and felt personal. The beats felt like personal likes and dislikes not a Studio searching for what would resonate the most. And THAT is reallllllly rare in animated feaure films these days. Now that the average animated feature costs a 100 million, they inevitably become summer or Holiday releases. Big budgets, mass appeal. We are getting a lot of very predicatble, formulaic films. Stuff that feels like it has had all the story beats tested and tested and boarded and boarded and tested and redrawn and developed until they are all alike. They have some universal appeal, but no personality. It’s all sugar, no salt, no pepper. It’s bland. Not that bland isn’t good it’s just that…it’s bland. It’s all American Cheese, truly.
Even the Pixar films seem to have been afficted by a commoness. Granted, Pixar’s got some really amazingly talented people and they lavish money and time to get it right, but in the end, it looks so good, and moves so fluidly, there are no surprises. What started out as a delicate Beaujolais is now a glass of 7-Up. The formula has been exploited, and it works. But it makes for increasingly generic and dull films. We are being served Snicker Bars, and while they are good, and give me a lot of energy, in the end they have no nutrional value.

Happy Feet was in many ways so odd, and such a particular vision, it felt unique. It felt, in some ways, like an art film. It didn’t make a lot of sense…why WOULD humans connect dancing to overfishing? Why would they all show up to study the dancing? Why would audiences want to sit and watch Penguins tap dance? But I didn’t care because I was being swept along with the characters. And the music and dancing. At first I was dumbfounded that it was a musical, like a Baz Lerman film it used music and signing to create a completly different reality. It was an inspired decision. I can’t imagine that being allowed at Disney or Dreamworks. They would turn it into a funny animal film WITH 2 or 3 songs. The love interest would have been played up. The humans wouldn’t have faced the criticism at the end. ETC. This had a unique voice, just as the excellent Triplets of Bellivlle did. Happy Feet was far more commercial looking, more marketable, but it felt like it came from a persistant, unique vision, that didin’t try and repeat best practice screenwriting methods by hitting every beat, at the exact same moment that every other film does. We like to be suprised, that’s part of entertainment. Feature animation is kind of sad where it is right now. It’s all Hollywood Blockbusters. There is no ‘small’ animated feature. There is a complicated set of reasons for this, but as someone who loves animation, I feel cheated. I don’t want animation to only be about Studio Blockbusters. I want the animated features that are similar to filmakers like Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmusch.

The animated features that have been put out lately that were done ‘on a budget’, were done cheap to try and cheaply take on the mass Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks (shudder!) market. Basically they weren’t created to be different, to follow a filmakers vision, but to cheaply (because of 3D technology getting cheaper, at least when you do it badly) make a typical animated feature.

Imagine what a driven filmaker could do with a 15 million dollar animated feature? Or 20 million? A unique vision, a story without superheroes. A story with surprises!

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This is for another project right now. It is a first draft of a king. But I didn’t want the king to look like every other king drawing I have done or seen, but he still needed to be A KING, and I didn’t want him too historical, as the story is not in our world – but it involves humans. So this is a first draft. I’ll keep doing color drafts until something clicks.

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From ye-ole sketch book. Merry Christmas.

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This was from a collage style animated short. I really love this style. The original file is about 40 inches in width so we had room to pan and zoom in After Effects. I guess I should give this some reference point…It is the house of the Perfect Couple. A rich, beautiful, powerful, wonderful twosome that are as horrible as that might make you think. Mr. Shrimp sneaks into their party with his usual gang of losers…er, friends, and wackiness ensues. The collage is based on elements from the Huntington Gardens and othrr odds and ends from pictures around Pasadena.

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Another fast one from my sketchbook.


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