Animation Mentor class 3 almost over… what next?

My final week of Animation Mentor Semester 3 is wrapping up! I turned in my last assignment on Sunday; here’s what it looked like through the four weeks I worked on it:

There are still some problems with it, but I think I’m getting better. That’s 3 semesters down and 3 to go! I’m halfway done!

As I’ve stated before, I’m taking a leave of absence for 12 weeks instead of jumping right into semester 4. I’m going to be working as hard as I can on my automatic melody generator, so I’ll keep this blog updated with my progress on that. My current goal is to create it as an Android app. Other platforms may follow, depending on its success or lack thereof.

I also started a new project: I’m creating a Grand Theory of Human Intelligence (or GTOHI), not only detailing the basic principles of what intelligence is and how it works, but trying to simulate the results of human intelligence with basic artificiall intelligence programs. This project might fall flat on its face, but I have some ideas that I think are definitely worth exploring. There’s a lot of research to do, so I probably won’t have a product based on my findings until I’m 70 or 80 years old… or dead.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Stuff I’m doing

You might be wondering: “gee whiz, I wonder what exactly Sean is up to these days?” If so, I will tell you in this post that I am writing right now.

I’m in week 10 of class 3 of Animation Mentor. It continues to go very well; I’ve learned a ton of stuff this semester. I’ve gotten better at managing my time, but I still find myself pulling very late-nighters or all-nighters the night before assignments are due. But at least I’m not feeling the pressure like I was during the previous classes. I still wish my (almost full-time) part-time job didn’t take up so much time, but I need the $$$ for Animation Mentor tuition (and paying off college loans).

I requested a Leave of Absence for the Animation Mentor Spring 2011 term because I want to watch the trees blossom. But mostly because I want to dedicate as much time as I can to researching and developing my melody generator. My main goal would be to be create and sell an Android app; that has the potential to make some $$$, and Android is Java-based and I’m developing my algorithms in Java anyway, so it would be mostly a matter of getting an Android GUI to work, and figuring out how Android can handle MIDI files (I know it can play them, but can it create them?). I’m not sure if this is something I could accomplish in just 12 weeks, but it’s worth a shot.

Other than that, I’m reading The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (the first non-Ender novel from him I’ve read), which is quite fun, along with a number of non-fiction books (I tend to just read whatever chapters interest me, because of my limited time).

I’m also continuing to plan out my fantasy novel and working on a couple of new short stories, one likely to be titled The Boy in the Sword (which I’m almost done writing) and the other currently untitled.

Oh, and I rarely preorder stuff on Amazon, but I had to preorder this: The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended Edition) [Blu-ray]. Really looking forward to it.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Animation Mentor class 2 reel

I finally uploaded my animation reel after finishing class 2 of Animation Mentor… this includes my work from class 1 and class 2; only the first three shots are from class 2 (the back flip, the quick slip, and the jumping hips):

Of course, none of this will end up on my final job-searching reel. It’s all just practice. I find it a bit annoying to watch those first few class 2 shots; while I learned a lot doing them, I can still see that they need quite a bit more work. That back flip was especially difficult, and I picked a pretty dumb place for the camera to go. I should’ve put it at more of an angle so it would be easier to see both arms and legs at the same time. Also I don’t think the landing works very well. I think I was too lazy in my blocking, and by the time I moved into splining it was too hard to get the timing to right. (I wasn’t really lazy, just had a tough time managing my time that week. I’m still trying to balance work with animation studies with not going completely crazy.)

For the next few weeks I’ll be animating the lifting of a heavy box. Multiple mentors have told me: “Keep it simple! You’re still learning; this is practice!” But it’s easy to think of a box lift as being really boring. Nobody looks at a box lift and says “wow, what a great box lift!” And you see people animating all this running and jumping off walls and balancing on tall columns and you think: “Woah! I wanna do that! Like, right now!” But you have to calm down and think to yourself “silence, young grasshopper, in time you will come to wield such powers, but you first must focus on the basics.” And then you think: “But I am mortal! By the time I hold such lofty powerful powers of power, I will be be close to death and it will matter not!” And then you have to think: “Oh, do shut up!” And then you think: “Don’t tell me to shut up!” And then you give yourself a slap and get back to work.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Boring first week of the year…

Happy New Year!

First piece of news: Animation Mentor Semester 3 has started!  My mentor this semester is Mike Gasaway, who directed quite a few episodes of Jimmy Neutron.  We had our first class Q&A on Tuesday, and it was awesome; I’m really looking forward to the semester.

Second piece of news: I’m still studying Blender.  I’m now about half-way through the book Blender Foundations.  Chapter I’m currently on: surfacing.  That is, applying textures to surfaces and tweaking the way the renderer calculates how the light bounces off surfaces. It’s really boring… uh… I mean interesting stuff.

Finally, novel update: I’m still planning my untitled fantasy novel.  This morning I completed my outlines for Chapter 13.  I currently have 45 chapters planned, so I’m only about 29% complete.  This will take a long time, apparently, and I’m only in the planning phase.

That’s pretty much it.  It’s been a pretty uneventful week here. *yawn*

By S P Hannifin, ago
Year's best

My 2010 favorites

I hate to compare things I love.  But for the sake of a more interesting blog post, I’m going to anyway.  In real life, I don’t really like playing favorites, because different books and movies and stuff all have their own spirit, and are ultimately incomparable.  But let’s disregard that for a few moments.

For books, the nominees are books I finished reading for the first time this year, regardless of their release date.  Movies, TV shows, and film scores must be from 2010.  (Books I only read a few chapters from (which actually make up a majority of my reading) are not qualified.)

And here we go… and Happy New Year!

Year’s best live-action film…

inception (Obviously.)

Year’s best animated film…


Year’s best TV show…


Year’s best film score…


Year’s best non-fiction book…


Year’s best fiction book…


Best whatever else…

Best documentary…


Best school…


By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Christmas, Animation Mentor, and whatever


We’re a week away from Christmas! I’ve got almost all my shopping done, I just need to buy one more thing… then I just need to wrap them, put them under the tree, start the fire when my parents aren’t looking because the gas costs money, sit on the floor and look at them and think happy thoughts.

Have you noticed in all those TV specials in which characters talk about the “true meaning of Christmas” they never actually say what it is?

I watched the Christmas classic A Christmas Story earlier this week, one of the great films of our time. No holiday is complete without at least one viewing. Now I just need to watch A Muppets Christmas Carol, not only the last best Muppet film, but also the best film version of the Christmas Carol story there is. Right? Yes? Indeed? They need to put it on blu-ray!

Animation Mentor

I have finished my second semester at Animation Mentor! Though it was quite a bit of work, the term really flew by. I’m getting better with my time management, I didn’t feel as overwhelmed as I did last semester, but I hope I can continue to improve next semester. We get a two week break for Christmas (though I’m still working at my job, so it’s not like I’m on vacation or anything), and then we’ll go through semesters 3 and 4 in a long continuous 24-week no-breaks stretch! It will be intense! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! But I still get excited imagining being able to work as an animator full-time… by this time next year I’ll be done, and we’ll see what happens with my life then…

I’ll post my second semester reel soon…

Anyway, I do think I’ve made some good progress this semester, and I definitely learned a lot. I look forward to more!

Got published!

Beceause my writing be so well, I was got profsionally published! The words flowed so passionately!

I’ve been blathering about it way too much, so I won’t say much now, but my short story appeared in Daily Science Fiction earlier this week! ‘Twas a rousing success. Cake was baked and eaten, wine was (and caused me to be) drunk, and angels sang glorious hymns.

(It was emailed to subscribers earlier this week. If you didn’t subscribe, DSF will have the story on their site on December 22nd, I believe.)

And I got a profile page on the ISFDB… woohoo!

On Thursday morning it started snowing, so I went to work for about 20 minutes before we closed. It’s wonderful to still have snow days in your mid-twenties. So I spent some time writing a new short story. Not sure what it’ll be called yet, but it’s about a sword that shows its holder the image of an evil person, then guarantees the holder invincibility as they slay that person. Isn’t that great? Yes, it is.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Short story and animation and screenplay, oh my

11 days until Christmas!

Just a couple updates on my life:

1. Be sure you’re signed up to get some Daily Science Fiction! Even if only for a day. My story, Maker of the Twenty-first Moon, will appear tomorrow, December the 15th, making it my fictional debut. You don’t want to miss this historic occasion. I plan on baking a cake tonight to celebrate. Might seem arrogant, but all excuses are valid for cake.

2. The second semester of Animation Mentor is just about over! I’ll post my second semester reel later this week. The semester really flew by. While I think I definitely improved this semester, I know there are plenty of areas I definitely need to keep working on. This semester was quite challenging, but overall, I’m still very happy with Animation Mentor, and I’m looking forward to the third semester, starting next month.

3. I got this email in regards to one of my screenplay query letters (for The Melody Box):

Hi Sean,

Thanks for your intriguing query.

I’ve attached my bio/producing credits and can be reached in New York City at: [censored].

Let’s talk first.



At first, this got me all excited. I forgot the first rule of the artist’s creed: don’t get excited. After Googling the producer’s name a bit more, I found that he ran a script consulting service, and I’m sure that’s what he wanted to try to sell me on. Ugh! No thanks.

That said, I have been fortunate enough to get a few actual genuine requests for the screenplay, woohoo!

I guess that’s all I have for today…

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life



I kept starting to write a new post to make time at work go by quicker, but my previous attempts kept turning into whine-fests about how busy I am this weekend and how much my job gets in the way of studying animation. But I’d rather not be the subject of other people’s schadenfreude. (Though perhaps that can’t be helped… those arrogant jerks!) Still, focusing on your own sufferings just makes you suffer more.

In short: I worked a bunch of extra hours this week and so I am now behind on my animation work, and my weekend stinks as a result.

In other news, I got Stephen Sondheim’s new (and first?) book Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes earlier this week. I only flipped through it and read bits and pieces, but it looks like there’s plenty of great stuff in there. So watch out, I’ll soon start writing lyrics for my music… just need to find a singer. Anyway, I can’t wait until I have some time to really dig into this book and read it cover to cover.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

November goals

October flew by so fast, it feels like it was never really here… not that that’s bad, because the sooner we get to the point of me becoming a professional animator, the better!

At the beginning of the year, I posted “Goals for 2010” … I want to do something similar, and have “Goals for the month.”

I’ve been focusing on Animation Mentor work, which is good, and it’s going well, but I think it could be going better. As always.

First, a review…

Review of 2010 Goals

1) Get a full-time job – not going to happen, but I enrolled in Animation Mentor, which sort of counts, as it is a road toward getting a full-time job. At least, that’s the hope.

2) Keep Hannifin World updated daily for the entire year. – I already failed this one, but I think it will keep going as a “seasonal” thing. Maybe every spring and fall or something…

3) Finish writing a novel – Not going to happen, but I do have a novel planned out that I need to continue working on. I don’t have time to do something like NaNoWriMo this year, and won’t next year with Animation Mentor, but I still have that desire to write fiction in me. “Work on novel” might become a goal.

4) Continue practicing sketching – I’m sort of doing this every now and then, but I’m not being very disciplined about it. This should continue to be a goal, though it’s more of a “background” goal.

5) Finish writing a screenplay – Done! Woohoo! But I haven’t been trying to market it or anything; it’s just collecting dust. I need to either write another screenplay and try marketing both of them, or going ahead and trying to market this one. Actually, this needs some good editing first, so that could be a goal, “edit screenplay.”

6) Get started on animating a short film – Again, not going to happen, but enrolling in Animation Mentor sort of counts, methinks.

7) Finish albumDone! Woohoo!

8) Listen to all of Mozart’s work – not going to happen… too busy.

9) Make some sort of progress on a machine creativity program – eh, I made a little progress, but nothing serious. And I’m too busy to pursue this right now, though it’s definitely an interest. Maybe next year.

10) Become a millionaire! – Done! Oops, I gave it all away… maybe next time.

So, in review, it looks like I’ve either given up on some goals (due to being busy, not changing interests) or they’ve become part of my Animation Mentor studies. My main interests, in semi-order of priority, are: Animation Mentor, cartoon, novel, music composition, screenwriting, programming. My monthly goals should not include all those things, that would be spreading myself too thin, methinks.

Goals for November 2010 (in 2nd person!)

1) Do good work for Animation Mentor – this is the priority. It’s work you’re interested in and has the greatest chance of leading to a job. It’s also expensive! Ignore the other goals if you have to. This should be the main focus.

2) Write basic plot outlines for all episodes of your cartoon – you will still have to go through and write the complete scripts before storyboarding, but you should have an idea of the overall arcs and the main scenes for each episode (the current plan is for 13 episodes, and we already have the “theme” for each one).

3) Complete character designs for cartoon – draw them from different angles, color them in, scan them. Make sure you can get comfortable drawing them, as best you can with your stinky drawing skills.

4) Continue novel plotting – there are 45 chapters. You’ve outlined 7 of them. Keep going.

OK, there we go. As I often say, it’s kinda lame to list goals because that itself doesn’t get anything done, nor does it make me any more disciplined with my free time, but I think it’s still good to write them down just to make sure they’re at the forefront of consciousness instead of some vague ideas being saved for “someday.”

By S P Hannifin, ago

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon came out on blu-ray yesterday. I missed seeing it in theaters, looks like it would’ve been fun to see in 3D. Anyway, I had heard great things about it from other animation students and it didn’t disappoint; it’s a really fun film with some great flying dragon epicness. It also has the best film score I’ve heard this year, as you can hear by this sample (if it hasn’t been removed for copyright violation yet), music by John Powell:

And here’s just a little talk with some animators from the film who graduated from the animation school I’m currently attending, Animation Mentor:

Finally, here’s a podcast interview with the directors of the film. Fun stuff!

Beauty and the Beast also recently came out on blu-ray, and it looks fantastic; blu-ray is truly the way all 2D animated films should be seen. The clarity of the drawings are just awesome. You can really see the pencil markyness like never before. And the backgrounds also look especially vivid.

By S P Hannifin, ago