February projects

Here’s a short random update on what I hope to be working on this month:

Middle grade fantasy novel

I’m almost finished the first draft of my second attempt at a middle grade fantasy novel. I only have a few more chapters left to write. This month, I hope to finish this draft, edit it, write and perfect a good query letter to represent the novel, and once again begin an agent search.

Short stories

I am working on co-writing two short stories. I will probably also write some short stories on my own after I begin my agent search.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

According to this post from Cartoon Brew:

[Nickelodeon] will choose a minimum of 10 pitches to develop into shorts that will appear on air, on Nick.com, and the Nick app. The shorts also have the potential to be developed into full series…

I put together pitch material for an animated series proposal back in 2012. This looks like a great opportunity to put the material to good use. I somehow missed this program last year, probably because I was busy finishing my first fantasy novel (which never went anywhere, thus becoming my first “trunk novel”). So I hope to write and storyboard a potential animated short featuring my characters.

A thank you to Animation Mentor

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that Animation Mentor is over. I am now an Animation Mentor alumni! I still find myself thinking: “Hmmm, where am I on my assignment? Oh, wait… it’s over…”

I recently filled out my last Animation Mentor survey, and I just wanted to make a public record of my final words in the “say anything” field. Not that it’s tremendously poetic or inspirational or anything, but I do want to sing my praises to Animation Mentor because it’s made a huge difference in my life. Not that I’m now off to Hollywood to make a fortune being the next John Lasseter, but that I went from being someone who only dreamed of animation to someone who actually feels confident in pursuing work in the industry. And whenever I stop and think about that, it never stops feeling incredibly awesome!

To Animation Mentor:

THANK YOU!! I went from being a bored computer science major daydreaming of the art of animation to being someone who can actually animate something! I thought I was doomed to a life of computer work for at least the next few decades… I never thought I’d be able to learn animation. Now, two years later, I have not only learned a TON about animation, but I’ve also learned that I can do more than I thought I could. Animation Mentor has truly completely changed my life. I THANK YOU so much for the opportunity!

I think Animation Mentor is not only a leader in the field of animation education, but in the field of education in general; so many traditional educators put so much emphasis on prerequisites (“we must approve your portfolio before we let you learn here!”), and so many traditional educators put too much emphasis on grades (by rewarding higher grades with certificates and awards). At AM, I never felt like I was being overly judged; instead, I was constantly being encouraged and inspired. Animation is a lot of hard work, and I am so thankful to have had such welcoming support for AM’s staff and mentors, and not the sort of grade or degree or achievement-driven judgmental mentality so prevalent in brick-and-mortar schools which does little to actually encourage the passion for the art.

Keep up the great work! You are truly changing lives.

Animation Mentor, Class 6, Week 7

It’s very scary (but also a bit exciting) to think that I’ve only got 5 weeks left of Animation Mentor. Time has flown by way too fast.

Anyway, here’s some of my recent work:

The first shot is from last semester, when I was just starting to learn to do facial expressions. The second shot is a more polished version of the first shot. The last sequence, with the kid and the old man, was what I was animating over the last month or so. I’m still not done with any of these shots, though; still more polish to do. I’ll work a bit more on that gun-lady shot over the weekend. I’m also polishing up some more physical-action shots from past semesters: the back flip and the box lift. Will post them later.

Yet another new animation studio

Yet another new CG animation studio will be opening in 2012, this time in Florida. It’s Tradition Studios, owned by Digital Domain, well-known in the film industry for their special effects work. Everyone’s making millions with their animated features, why not join in? Tradition Studios say they have four animated features in various stages of development, and their first feature, The Legend of Tembo, should be released in 2014.

The more animation jobs there are in the US, the better, right? Though I do fear the industry will soon become overcrowded; surely there’s some limit to this animation fever. I just hope the growth fades away gradually rather than bubbling, so a bunch of animators and artists don’t just suddenly lose their jobs with nowhere to go.

According to the article:

From animation studio tours, an outdoor movie amphitheater and soccer fields, [Digital Domain CEO] Textor said the new building is designed to draw the public in and promote its new venture of telling children’s stories. He said the concept of inviting families is vital to the company’s new mission.

“We make movies for children and like the idea of children visiting and playing at the facility,” Textor said. “It’s not only exciting for kids in the community, but it brings artists closer to their audience. They may think they’re working for me, but I like to remind them who their audience is.”

Um… OK. I think a bunch of kids playing at the facility would be more distracting than inspiring, but who knows. I guess it’s an attempt to attract tourists and stir economic growth in that area of Florida? The article says:

In 2010, the city issued $39.9 million in bonds to build the movie studio and in return, the company must hire 500 employees by 2014. Textor said it’s well on its way to reaching the goal with more than 270 hires.

Digital Domain will pay for the building through a lease with the city.

“(The community) built this studio for us,” Textor said. “We were greeted with open arms and would like this relationship to continue.”

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Joe Murray’s Master Class in March!

As I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog, I’ve been developing a cartoon. My intent is to create a crudely animated short myself in Flash or Toon Boom. However, a few months ago, with the help of some books on cartoon development, I’ve been exploring the possibilities of developing the cartoon as a show, putting together a pitch bible, and actually pitching the idea to networks. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Joe Murray (creator of Rocko’s Modern Life, one of my favorite cartoon shows growing up) is offering some master classes on cartoon development in 2012. I’ll be too busy finishing Animation Mentor to attend class I or II, but class III looked like it would be a major help. Getting feedback on my pitch from a pro with real experience, along with any other professional advice about the industry — who wouldn’t want that? So I registered for class III and was accepted! Woohoo! So after I finish with Animation Mentor in March, I’ll go right on to Joe Murray’s master class, and will spend that time really making my pitch-in-progress be the best I can make it. I’m very excited!

Back to that cartoon I’ve been planning…

Creating Animated Cartoons with Character: A Guide to Developing and Producing Your Own Series for TV, the Web, and Short Film by Joe Murray.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this book, but I came across it on my web-surfing journeys last week, went to see if they had it at the local bookstore, and they did, so I bought it. It’s not very long, just 200-something pages. (That it was written by the creator of Rocko’s Modern Life certainly helped catch my attention; that was one of my favorite shows growing up. It taught me the word nauseous.) It’s not so much about the day-to-day ins and outs of actual cartoon production (it touches on everything, but doesn’t go into enormous amounts of detail); rather, it’s about designing a cartoon, putting together a pitch bible, pitching and selling it to a network, or producing it yourself.

If you’ve read this blog for at least a year or so (in which case you deserve some sort of reward), you’ll know I’ve been working on a cartoon idea for a couple years, with the intent of eventually producing it myself in Flash or Toon Boom or something. But if a network bought it and it was developed professionally, it would be, you know, better. So throughout last week, I was going through my old notes and cartoon ideas, cutting a bunch of ideas out, changing things around, and started developing a pitch bible, guided by the book and any online resources I can scrounge up. Even if this doesn’t result in any network deals (the chance of which is pretty miniscule anyway), this seems to be a great exercise that will definitely be helpful if/when I crudely animate a short episode of it myself. It’s also forcing me to finalize character designs. I’ve got most of the text of the bible done (as a rough draft, at least), but there’s a good amount of artwork to do. So that’s probably what I’ll be working on when I can spare the time; still gotta focus on my Animation Mentor studies.

Anyway, for anyone else out there dreaming of developing a cartoon, Joe Murray’s book is great! I definitely recommend it.

New animation studio coming…

Not from me, unfortunately, but from Paramount. This is kind of old news, really, but I never blogged about it. I think they were distributing another studio’s CGI movies (Dreamworks?), but I guess the current CGI animation renessaince is too attractively lucrative for a studio like Paramount not to try joining in the fun. Though perhaps the market risks oversaturation, for now I think this is good news for people like me who wish to pursue careers in animation.

Currently the big US studios are: Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, and Sony. ILM tried jumping into the game with Rango, but I’m not sure if they’re currently planning more or not. In a few years, looks like Paramount may be added to the mix. That would make six or seven big CG animation studios for the US. Whew! The more, the merrier, I say. And I’d of course be thrilled to get a job with any of ’em…

Anyway, the reason I was reminded of this news was because of today’s press release that David Stainton was named president of this new division. The press release says:

Paramount Animation aims to focus on high-quality animation with budgets per picture of up to $100 million, with an initial target of one release per year. The division’s mandate will be the development of the broadest range of family CGI animated films, with a key piece being titles under the label of Viacom’s Nickelodeon, the No. 1 entertainment brand for kids worldwide. Paramount will also build on Viacom’s already thriving global consumer products business by seeking to capitalize on merchandising opportunities tied to all Paramount Animation releases.


Browsing Disney research…

If you ever need a short little break from animating, browsing through Disney’s or Pixar’s graphic publications may provide some “edutainment” for your intellectual hunger. OK, they are mostly completely over my head and I have no way in which to apply the material they contain, but they provide some interesting hints about how the big guys achieve some of their amazing 3D graphics. And there are pretty pictures.

Animation Mentor, Class 4, Week 11

Here was my last Animation Mentor assignment (the end of class 4), rendered in HD with motion blur… And if you don’t know what that audio clip is from, shame shame shame!

Still needs some tweaking. We should be studying and adding facial animation in our next class, which I’m looking forward to. Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!