Slow cartoon drawing progress…

I’m not sure how many drawings the typical cartoon show pitch has, but I have 4 done and 23 more planned, most of them pretty simple character poses. So far, it’s taken me between 1 and 2 hours to draw each one. That’s mostly because I’m just not a very good drawer and am just now starting to learn the craft, and partly because I have to get used to the character designs and work at keeping them anatomically consistent. Not sure how long it will take me to do 23 more drawings or whether or not I’ll end up changing my mind about some of them.

I will say, drawing with a podcast or an audiobook on in the background is quite relaxing. Frustrating when I can’t get things to look quite right, but overall pretty relaxing.

What would save Terra Nova…

I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this year’s new sci-fi show, Terra Nova, and they were awful. There are more episodes waiting on the DVR; I was going to give it a chance, but I think I’ll just delete them. I’ve heard it doesn’t improve, and I have better things to do with my time.

Anyway, I came across this review of the show that suggested how the show could be improved, and I agree!

I am praying that when I watch the next episode the entire cast gets eaten by dinosaurs (in fact, that hope is the only reason I’ll be able to sit through another one). The entire cast’s gruesome deaths at the hands of a frenzied T-Rex or a velociraptor having a bad day can’t come soon enough. Should a prehistoric volcano erupt at the same time and spew molten lava over the human compound and all its occupants while they’re being eaten alive by the dinosaurs, all the better.

Teenage creativity… unheard of!

The full article was in our paper this morning, but here’s a snippet:

The 17-year-old senior is the drum major of the school’s Lightning Regiment Marching Band. For a Governor’s School project, he took the complicated music based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and rearranged it for a marching band.

He took a 30-minute piece of music, composed for a symphonic band, and came up with an 8-minute score for the band’s competitive field show.

“That is completely unheard of in a regular school setting,” said Ryan Addair, band director at Chancellor. He added that bands typically pay $1,000 to $3,000 for original music.

I certainly don’t mind an article that showcases anyone’s art. But this sort of article bothers me because it makes teenage musical creativity seem too special, when it’s not. At all. One need only to search around on YouTube for a few minutes to find plenty of young composers sharing their original work. I think such creativity is unfortunately not as common as it could be, but I think that’s because adults, both parents and teachers, are terrible at encouraging and supporting such creativity in young people. The kind of creativity that is supported is usually restricted to the confines of a specific assignment. Such as: “This month, class, you must work in groups of 4 to create 10-minute documentary videos! Yay, I’m encouraging creativity!” (As wonderful as Nerds in the Midst is, it’s not exactly exemplary of my creative ambition.)

Perhaps most people don’t really understand the nature of creativity; perhaps it’s thought of as some sort of mysterious elusive trait that you either have or you don’t, you’re either born with or you’re not. That’s why creativity is often only encouraged in students who have already shown their creativity. Now, there is some justification for that, since the students that show their creativity on their own time are obviously more interested, but I can’t help but wonder how many more would be just as creative if (as corny as it sounds) adults actually believed in them, and encouraged and fostered their creative potential instead of filling their evenings with paper and pencil homework. Perhaps many adults don’t even really believe in themselves?

The truth is: everyone is creative. Everyone creates new daydreams and plans and sentences on a daily basis. Some forms of art, like music arranging or painting or piano playing, involve skills that require more concentrated practice, and that can be difficult and time-consuming (especially when you have to write some useless essay), so most people avoid it. But if you put in the practice hours (real practice, not just going-through-the-motions practice), you can do just about anything you desire.

So, as nice as it is that a teenager can be recognized for a musical arrangement, it’s a truly sad reflection on the utter stupidity of our local parents and teachers (or maybe just newspaper article writers) if such projects are truly considered “unheard of.”

Jurassic Park on blu-ray

I got the Jurassic Park Trilogy on blu-ray yesterday, and couldn’t resist watching it last night.

I have not yet watched the two sequels or the new special features.

The Bad

I really hate how Universal structures their blu-rays; I’m forced to sit through their annoying logo three times before the movie starts, I hate their generic menus, and my laptop’s blu-ray player is not compatible with their screen saver which pops up automatically whenever the movie is paused long enough for me to go get a snack. Whenever it popped up, I had stop and restart the film.

The early 90’s CGI dinos unfortunately do not quite hold up on blu-ray. While most of the live-action shots are crisp and clear, the CGI dinos remain a bit blurry, and it is more obvious than ever before that they were pasted in there.

The Good

The live-action shots and the mechanical-puppet dinos look better than ever. Overall, the movie looks so much better on blu-ray than DVD.

It’s Jurassic Park.

Cartoon show pitch progress

In addition to staying busy with Animation Mentor (we’re starting on our most complex animation assignment yet: a multi-shot two-character scene… it’s the jackpot!), I’ve been continuing to work on my cartoon show pitch; more specifically, I’m drawing character sketches and really trying to finalize their designs. The experience of drawing is strange. I don’t think my cartooning skills are completely horrible, but they’re not terribly refined either. Looking at my sketches, you can probably tell what I’m going for, even if my proportions and angles are a bit off. I’ll post some pics at some point. My plan for now is to sketch the characters in different sorts of poses that show off their personalities, then scan them into the computer and colorize them digitally.

I think the text of my pitch is pretty much done; I just need to do more drawings, format the text and the pics together in some sort of pleasing design, then I’ll be set.

Last week I bought and read David B. Levy’s book: Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. It’s a good companion to Joe Murray’s book I mentioned earlier, Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. They’re both about the same thing (developing cartoon shows), but they both approach the subject from different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s interesting to get their different perspectives.

Balen and the Factory

Here’s a little story I wrote today called “Balen and the Factory”:


by Sean Patrick Hannifin

Balen stood before the door, just one among a crowd. He was only fourteen, but it was never too soon to try, was it? Balen knocked and waited patiently. He didn’t know exactly what was inside, but he knew it was wondrous; it was where people made music and books and movies and candy. It was where anyone with an imagination as amazing as his should be. It was a paradise inside.

The doors slowly opened. A man in a blue coat stood in the doorway, peering out into the small crowd. Balen was surrounded by men and women, old and young, even children. The man in the blue coat pointed at someone, some kid who lept for joy and disappeared into the darkness beyond the doorway. The man in the blue coat pointed at someone else, an older woman. She smiled and walked in proudly. The man in the blue coat pointed at several others and they went in. But he ignored Balen. Then he closed the door.

Oh well. It was a long shot. Like winning the lottery. Except the prize was better. Maybe next year.

So the next year Balen returned to the door and knocked. Again he was surrounded by a small crowd of people. Again the man in the blue coat did not choose him.

The next year Balen returned again. And the next year, and the next. Many years passed, decades even, and Balen became old. He hated the surrounding crowds. They were noisy and annoying. He just wanted to get inside. It was unfair that he should have to wait so long. So many others were getting picked, children even. Who else had returned as many times as he had? He deserved to be inside by now.

The man in the blue coat opened the door. He was now very old and slow. He shook his head and spoke, his voice as cool as the wind:

“I’m sorry. This is the end. There will be no more. We’re shutting this place down.”

The crowd grumbled and left, but Balen stayed. As the man turned back to the door, Balen pulled on his coat.

“What?” the man asked calmly.

“Can I come in?” Balen asked.

“No,” the man said.

“Please!” Balen begged, falling to his knees. “Please! Let me in!”

“Sorry,” the man said. “It’s too late.”

“I’ve been knocking and waiting for fifty years! Surely you must have noticed me! Why would you never let me in?”

“You never smiled.”

Balen felt like punching the old fool. “I would’ve smiled if you had let me in!”

The man shook his head. “We wanted people who were already happy.”

Balen smiled.

The old man frowned. “You can’t fake it. And it’s too late.” And he slammed the door.

Balen went home and lived out the rest of his boring life in boring boredom.

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.


Blogging fatigue is for fools!

This blog post asks: Is blog fatigue on the rise?

For some it’s the negativity that comes with putting yourself out there. Some people have run out of ideas. Some people have taken a look at the cost/benefit and decided it wasn’t worth it. And some just forget to post.

For me, one of the nice things about blogging is you can do it whenever you want and about whatever you want. Some people seem to view it more like an obligation, thinking they must post some certain amount of posts every month or week, or they must post only about certain topics, or whatever. I can understand why that might be fatiguing. But I don’t understand why some bloggers want to make that their goal in the first place. Unless you’re somehow making some good money blogging (which, to be fair, some people are, and plenty of fools are trying), why are you giving yourself another useless chore to do?

Instead, blog for yourself, purely out of your own interest, because you’re interested in having records of your own interesting thoughts. (That doesn’t mean your blog can’t be helpful; that might be what interests you. The point is that your own interest is the blog’s guiding light, not some self-created duty to society.) If you don’t post for a week, or a month, that doesn’t mean you’re tired of blogging, it just means you’re not interested sometimes, which is natural.

That’s why I’ve never understood when people write things like: “sorry I haven’t blogged in a while.” Or: “I promise to blog a lot more often from now on.” Um. OK. Thanks? Unless you’re a huge celebrity, it’s unlikely anyone really cares that much. And you’re not blogging for the world anyway, you don’t owe anyone your blog posts, and you don’t have to be sorry or explain yourself if you don’t post for a while.

As for the negativity: Yes, I agree the anonymity of the web can foster a greater amount of negativity, but why let it bother you? Someone insulting you doesn’t change who you are, and if they’re anonymous, they don’t even really know you anyway, so they’re not really insulting you personally.

If you just don’t like defending your point of view when people disagree with you, you don’t have to. Sometimes you’ll address an issue, and people will bring it up over and over. Just ignore those comments; if they were really seeking an answer (instead of just bating you on or overreacting emotionally themselves), they’d find your answer. If you’re afraid you’re point of view will make you look like an idiot, maybe you’re view is wrong. If you can’t admit that to yourself (after all, everyone is sometimes wrong), then you’ve probably got bigger problems than “blogging fatigue.” In my teens and early twenties (not long ago), I used to have arguments in online forums about things like music and art philosophy, and it was amazing how many people, adults in their 40s and 50s even, would get extremely defensive and insulted when someone dared disagree with them about something. I can certainly understand a certain debate getting old because people make the same old arguments over and over and aren’t really interested in reading what you write and addressing the points you’re making, but to avoid disagreements out of self-doubt or lack of confidence, and then still assuming your point of view is undoubtedly right, would make you a hypocrite. If you don’t have the confidence to question your own beliefs, then your beliefs will remain flimsy-wimsy, and why would you want that? I guess what I’m saying is: embrace disagreement. Not for the sake of itself, but for the sake of your own honest understanding of things, because sometimes you are wrong, or your understanding of something is at least incomplete. Don’t view disagreement itself as negativity (though, of course, emotional overreactions can be laced with disagreements and negativity, but you should be able to tell which is which; don’t use negativity as an excuse to not consider the disagreement).

OK, that was a bit of a digression, and I’m not sure disagreement was what was meant by “negativity” anyway, but I think it’s a huge possibility, considering the amount of people who lack the confidence to truly defend their point of view (or simply resort to emotional outbursts when they try to).

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.