One Billion Views!

One Billion Views!
Well, not really but I found this in my email box this morning.  
We are about to turn over 1 million views on this blog for this year. 
That is cray cray yo!

Will Ferrel Commit to your characters

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #10 Commit

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

# 10 Commit:
  • Commit to selling your ideas 100%. Show land of the lost clip.
  • Mechanics should be second nature to you by the time you call yourself an animator. There is a lot to being able to make premeditated decisions about, “I am going to be here at a certain time; I am committing to this.”  
  • Creating a believable, feeling character that will make your audience cry takes commitment to the ideas you decided on. 
Will Ferrel understand what it is to commit.  He is always 110% the character he plays.  Above he believes he is an Elf from the North Pole and one of Santa's biggest fans and closest friends.  Do you believe his performance?  Of course you do because he believes it and is encapsulating 100% what an elf in that circumstance would do.



Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #9 Eyes

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#9 Eyes: (This particular lecture is much longer when I teach.  This is just scratching the surface regarding eye animation.)

Basic Notes on animating Eyes:

  • Eyes are windows into the soul and the soul is controlled by the mind.
  • Eye darts and glances tell more than any other gestures in the body when used in the right place in the scene.
  • Desire is always described in the eyes, even when hidden through subtext acting choices.
Overview of Eye Movement:
  • Never animate without a reason!
  • Force vs. Form
  • Look for patterns in the eye darts = Social Triangle – Right Eye, Left Eye and then mouth.
...eye shape:  when the iris moves around the eye the lid cuts across it changing its shape from round to oval.
...lid shape:  The lid itself changes shape as the eye line changes and the brow pushes down on it with emotional poses.  The lid also changes shape as it tracks with the eye line.  Even if you have a soft eye resolver attached to the lids, I still animate the lids as blinks and eye darts happen.
...darts:  Darts tell us the character is thinking, confused or trying to understand something.  It can also tell us if they are nervous, shy, present, angry and many other emotions depending on the timing.
...pupils:  Dilated and un-dilated pupils tell us more… Dilated shows interest, love, warmth.  Un-dilated eyes show fear, intensity or a bright light being show at the eye.
...blinks:  Never blink unless there is a reason!  Why do we blink? Dry Eye? Cut to next scene in our mind? Emotional Cues - Shy or nervous vs. Angry or High
...brows:  Brows shapes are reinforced in the lids.  They all move together to create the eye animation. Usually the break in the eyebrow relates to the highpoint of the eye. The eye is pulled by the eyebrow muscles.

Watch the eye darts as Charlize Theron plays Aileen Wuornos in the movie Monster.  They describe her insecurity, her uneasiness and fear that someone might overhear her conversation, not mention the fact she is lying.

Eye Darts:
  • No more than 1-2 frames then hold it to register what char is looking at.  If there is any ease, it happens at the end of the dart.
  • Linear Curves, I only put eases on slower eye motion. I tend to sculpt motion with tangents.  If you prefer to set a lot of keys to create your motion, then I would advise putting eases into your eye darts with your keys.
  • Dart then stay -and dart then stay, if you do not stay in one place the eye dart will never read.  You can use two eye darts to move the eye a far way, so it still reads as an eye dart.  Otherwise it’s just a look.
  • Triangle Motion: left eye, right eye, mouth.  This is the basic motion most eye darts take when conversing.  Even when the other person is not speaking we tend to look back and forth in this triangular motion to read the other person’s face.
 The social triangle of eye darts.
  • Be careful with how far you tilt the yes on the social triangle for eye darts or it will move into an intimate gaze zone.  When people approach each other from a distance, they look quickly between the other person's face and lower body to first establish what the sex of the person is and then a second time to determine a level of interest in them. This gaze is across the eyes and below the chin to lower parts of the person's body. In close encounters, it's the triangular area between the eyes and the chest and for distant gazing it's from the eyes to the crotch or below.
 The intimate gaze zone for eye darts.
  • Also be careful to not raise the darts higher than the brow line.  Then, you are entering the power gaze zone. Provided your gaze doesn't drop below the level of their eyes, the pressure will stay on the person being gazed upon. Never use this in friendly or romantic encounters. It works well for intimidation.
 The power gaze zone for eye darts.
  • When to use eye darts?  Thought process… shows thinking.  Stress, Assessing.  Moving holds are when they read best.  When your character has stopped moving so much and you can read them.
  • Eye Darts and the head and neck.  Nothing in the body is ever still. Occasionally the head will make a slight movement after the eye darts one way or another.  Very slight though.  Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?  The bike will go where you are looking naturally, so do not look at the curb!  Same thing goes for your head and the eyes.


Hugh Grant has signature blinking he uses for his 
fumbling characters who always seem out of sorts.


Blinks and Lids:
  • On most character designs the upper lid covers most of the eye and the lower lid, barely moves to reach.  The blink line is usually ¾ down on the eye, not in the middle. The closed position is actually an overshoot of the upper lid pushing on the lower lid.
  • Everything I just said above can be affected / changed by emotional cures, lid shapes and other triggers.
  • Lots of blinking shows insecurity, bumbling, nervous and confused.  A direct stare is connected to emotions like fight or love.  Check out the movie I uploaded to the social group on Michael Caine.  Fear = no blinking.
  • Length of blinks.  Get inside the head of your character… if they are sleepy the closed position would be longer than a “zoinks!” WTF kind of blink. Slow blinks can be triggered by sadness, boredom or sleepiness or drugged.  Half Blink and twitches again show uncertainty in what the character is seeing or hearing.
  • On average it takes more frames to open the eye than close it due to momentum.  Ease out to open, but less to no ease on a closed eye.
  • Offset shapes in eyes to create more natural motion and then the actual closed point should be on the same frame and then eases are offset again as they reopen.  I think the Pixar blink can feel sleepy.
  • Move the eye line on a blink when the eye direction changes, if you don’t it will look weird.
  • Double take usually involves all of the blinks = full, half and twitchy blinks.  Check out the double take example I uploaded to the social group.
  • Shape the lid to compliment the brow shapes… angles up and down create added emotion.  A blink that arcs down is more elegant looking.  A blink that arcs up usually works with a squint and is related to happy blinks.

  • Squints tend to happen on “T’s”, “S’s” and “P’s
  • An antic like a squint before blinking can help slower blinks or create emotional cues of a change in emotion during the blink.

Brows move down a little on a natural blink.  This is even more extreme for cartoony characters.  On a longer blink an eye crunch can happen.  This action happens before the lids pushing down on a blink and pulling up on the open.


  • If you have an extreme close up, you can adjust pupil size too.  Dilate = pleasure.  If you are excited, your pupils can dilate up to four times. Conversely, if you are experiencing anger or another negative emotion, your pupils shrink in size.  Dilating pupils are also signal of courtship. Maybe this is the reason why romantic encounters succeed in dimly lit places, because pupils naturally dilate in such light conditions.
Dilating Pupils...
  • Don’t occlude more than 50% of the pupil.  You will look interest and appeal in your poses.
  • If the lid covers the eye too much it looks sleepy or drugged.  A soft eye solution will have to be countered many times depending on the angle of the head and the camera.
Eye Accessing Cues:
To get an idea how your eyes move, consider the following questions. For each question, as you think of the answer, notice the direction(s) your eyes move (up down or to the side) or if your eyes do not seem to move notice if you have a sense that you are looking in a certain direction (even if only for a fraction of a second).
  • What is the color of your front door?
  • What will you look like in 15 years?
  • What does your favorite music sound like?
  • What would your voice sound like if you had marbles in your mouth?
  • When you talk to yourself, what type of voice do you use?
  • What does it feel like to be in a nice warm bath?
Did you notice your eyes had a tendency to look up for the first two questions, to the side for the next two questions and down for the last two questions? In general, if you are making a picture in your mind your eyes will tend to go up to the left or the right, for sounds laterally to the left or right, and down to the left or right for feelings or when you talk to yourself.
More specifically, if you are right-handed, you may have noticed the following (for people who are left handed, interchange left and right in the following text):
Question 1 - eyes up and to your left. This is a question about something you have seen before and hence you remembered it -- visual remembered (VR).
Question 2 - eyes up and to your right. This is a question about something that I assume you have not seen before and hence you constructed this picture - visual constructed (VC).
Question 3 - eyes on the horizontal plane to your left. This is a question about something you have heard before - auditory remembered (AR).
Question 4 - eyes on the horizontal plane to your right. This is a question about something you have not heard before - auditory constructed (AC).
Question 5 - eyes down and to the left. This is a question about your self-talk - auditory digital (Ad).
Question 6 - eyes down and to the right. This is a question about your feelings- kinesthetic (K).
Note: The above eye patterns are how your eyes would move if you are right-handed. The following picture describes the eye patterns for a right-handed person as you look at them - please note this distinction. These patterns are fairly consistent across all races, with the possible exception of the Basques, who appear to have a number of exceptions to the rule. For many left-handed people, the chart is reversed i.e. mirror image.

One last note on eyes...
Remember: The shape of the eye changes, as the eye direction changes.  Not literally.  It's an illusion.  This is why traditional animation literally changes the eye shape.  To simulate the illusion the lid creates over the eye.

Honesty in Acting

Ten Things to Think About - #8 Honesty

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#8  Honesty:

  • A shy character would never jump out front and center and do a dance, and an angry character wouldn’t act sympathetically to other characters.
  •  A great example of honesty is the cartoon character - Bugs Bunny.  Making Bugs looks stupid and inept is just too far out of character for him.  He is always in control even if he is losing.
  • In contrast to Bugs Bunny's cool sarcastic ways is the wacky, hyper and high-strung – never be nonchalant about things that happen in the story – Daffy Duck.
When characters act against who they are and what they believe in,
it kills the illusion and makes the acting and story weak.

Bug’s Life Bloopers show commitment to character and honesty.  You can find honesty ideas for your acting if you think of your character as a friend of yours.  If you picture going out and having beers with your character you get to really know who they are and how they would react to things.

Psychological Gesture

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #7 Texture and Psychological Gesture

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#7 Texture and Psychological Gesture:

  • Psychological gesture is a great way to illustrate subtext
  • A psychological gesture describes what the character is thinking through twitches and gestures like;  Looking around the room, scratching their head, yawning, biting their lip, etc.
  • Picture a stewardess giving her routine presentation before the flight takes off about safety on the plane.  Now picture her seeming preoccupied? maybe looking around or rubbing the nose. Or tired? Yawning, rubbing of head could illustrate this. Or visibly upset over a conversation she had just before? Tension in the body and face could be a cue.
  • Figure out how you would react in the same circumstances.  Without betraying your own character, put a little of yourself into the shot.
  • Discover your character’s motivation and how that can be revealed in the performance.
  • You goal is to create a character that moves you and your audience, not just the dialog.
  • Texture is what adds life to your animation.

Example of texture between two characters.  Tex Avery's Little Rural Riding Hood wolves.  Watch how the city wolf and country wolf move.  The city wolf continues to walk smoothly with his nose up in the air like Ronald Coleman.  The country wolf is going nuts.

"Psychological Gesture is the inner essence of something manifested in a physical form"  ~Michael Chekhov

How do you find the right Psychological Gesture?

One path created is called, Leading Questions, in which you cultivate your imagination by asking questions. Your imagination will respond instantly and your body will begin to express the movement in small ways before you can even verbalize your answers.

For example: if you are playing a villain, you might begin by asking what it is your character desires. Power? Okay, how do you go about getting power? By dominating? Okay, what is a physical movement that dominates? Pressing down.  Start with your hands as high as possible and press them down against an imaginary resistance. Picture the character's opponents as you press down to the floor. Add to the press a quality: rage, frustration, sinister, conniving, fear, etc. Try different qualities until you feel the quality and desire to dominate in every cell of your being.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite actors and this scene illustrates some great psychological gesture moments, not just with him, but the other actors in the scenes as well.  The clip above is the scene where Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) arrives in Atlantic City in big-style (private-jet, Full VIP admission).  After winning 9M $, he decides not to stop gambling and continues until he loses everything,
At 1:18 You can see the worry in the actor screen left (Bernie's) face and how he holds his hand to his face, the smugness on the actor's face screen right and the concern and preoccupation of the Casio security (Victor Foss') face and body leaning forward in the center of the frame.
Watch for psychological gestures from the actors like: pushing the glasses up, looking around nervously, looking at a watch, leading with the forehead in thought and concentration, licking of lips, blowing of air out the mouth like a sigh, rubbing of hands together, heavy breathing, lots of blinks, gulps,jaw clenching, head twitches and nods, looking away, covering eyes, touching forehead in thought, etc.  It's all there.

Acting Simplify

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #6 Simplify

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

The story goes... There is one shot in this sequence that was kicked back by lighting because they though the animation was lost.  The animator set one pose for the entire shot because that is all the shot needed, but it confused the lighters.  When they sent it back to animation, fearing somehow the animation curves had been lost, they discovered - "no" the pose was approved as the animation.

Can you get which shot it is?
It starts around 1:29 of this clip.

The point is not to stop animating your characters for your shots, but to understand that simplifying your ideas to create the clearest message is the best way to communicate with your audience.

#6 Simplify:

  • Too many poses and acting choices just muddle up the idea.
  • A memorable character is animated through strong, deliberate acting.
  • Simplicity will give the viewer time to rest and appreciate the moment.
  • The eyes follow what is moving most if the scene is quiet.
  • The eyes follow what is moving the lest if the scene is busy.
  • Be clear fist, add interest second.
  • Draw focus to the one thing that matters - heart of the scene.
  • Simplicity results when you have exhausted all other steps.

Empathy - Gregory Peck

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #5 Empathy

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#5 Empathy:  If the audience does not empathize with your character all is lost.

  • Empathy takes place when the audience sees something in the character that they have experienced.
  • Examples – Your crazy Uncle who likes to drink strawberry milkshakes and make shadow puppets on the wall. The sweet doting grandmother who makes scrapbooks of everything her grandchildren do. The bully who beat you up every day in the school yard.
  • Picture your character as a longtime friend to get inside their head.
Charlie Chaplin is the king of creating empathy for his "little tramp" character.  He always stays in each moment.  He is acting from a place of keeping his integrity as he navigates the many classes he encounters in his movies.  In this clip he fawn's over a woman in the display window whom he had met before in the film when she was blind and selling flowers on the street.  When she first met him, she thought he had a lot of money.

This time, she offers him a flower and some change from the window.  Once he realizes she is coming out to talk to him, he tries to walk away so she cannot see he is a tramp with no money because she did not meet him before as such. She doesn't know he is the person who paid for her operation to get her sight back. he is fearful of exposing his true self to her.  Observe he never leaves his own space to invade hers as he is reluctant to get close, yet he wants to.  We want what he wants, "To talk to this beautiful woman and have her accept him as who he is inside."

Here is some amazing analysis of Chaplin's brilliance.  He is always trying to keep his integrity as a human when placed in difficult situations.


  • All humans -- even the most vile -- act to survive. From birth to death, every waking moment, we act to survive. Empathic reaction depends on the actor finding in his character survival mechanisms.
This third year film from Cal Arts student Mike Rianda also illustrates a great arc of empathy for the character. Finding Empathy... you want what they want. I want to root for your characters in your animations... like I am hoping the little guy in this short will get what he wants - those moon shoes!  His arc then changes.  he no longer wants to work and wants to play again with his friends.  great stuff!
  • We empathize with emotion. If you see someone cut her finger, you flinch because you empathize with the feeling of pain. When the on-screen heroine's lover is reported killed at war, it is her emotion that we empathize with, not the information itself.

Why do we feel for Frank and Rita?  We have all seen a relative have difficult times with technology.  Especially since most animators today have to understand the basics of a computer.  Also, Frank and Rita are endearing because in this short clip their relationship is revealed.  You can tell they have been together a long time and have their own way of communicating.



How you occupy space and move within it is as important to empathy as the acting choices you make as an animator.  Butoh is about presence and the simplicity of a single gesture.  You become very aware of how you are occupying the space through one simple movement.  You become something without just acting it, but embody the emotion. Butoh creates a sense of space and time.  You become aware of the body in 3 dimensions.  Taking the body to pieces and bring it back together as a new form of communication.

  • Empathy is a survival mechanism. Find depth in your character. Justify their existence.
  • Villain = Normal person with a fatal flaw. Show a "window" into your villain's humanity.
  • To find that "window" remember gestures that are shadow movements of where the character is instead of what the character is saying. Scratching nose, sniffing, etc. replace overacting with these telling gestures.
  • Stifled emotions can be much better than the full blown emotion.
  • People do not share their emotions easily = we are guarded.
  • Example: If character is cold, don't shiver...have the character try to stay warm!!
  • EMPATHY, is the most important thing about acting. People to study, Charlie Chaplin = empathy; Buster Keaton = sympathy; Harold Lloyd, etc. People relate to emotion.

Chaplin Story to explain the different between sympathy and empathy.Let's say Chaplin gets his foot stuck in a bucket. Buster Keaton would try to shake it off erratically to get the quick, cheap laugh. Chaplin would try to keep his dignity and through embarrassment hide the bucket behind him causing empathy for his problem. This is more clever and more funny. The laughter can be stretched too through his trying to hide the fact his foot is tuck in the bucket. After the initial erratic move by Keaton the laugh is done and it looked practiced in the first place.

  • Act to survive, we all do it to live...what is the survival mechanism in this character?
  • Charlie Chaplin's Autobiography-- said "conceptual is common to people regardless to country--universals are important to silent film."
  • Empathy is different than Sympathy, this is why Charlie Chaplin was the bigger star.


Rhythm in Animation

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #4 Rhythm

cover of the book Getsure Drawing

by Ryan Woodward

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#4 Rhythm in Storytelling and Timing:  No matter how short a scene is, there is always a beginning, middle and end.

  • 3 points, ideas or emotions.
  • Rhythm helps build excitement.

Observe the rhythms throughout this first scene when mr. Incredible comes home from work.  Mr. Incredible shows us timing that builds as the scene heightens with his movements.  The bubble pop at the end is like the exclamation point, on the sentence.  If you were listen to this scene like it were a piece of music, what type of music do you think it would be?  Where is the scene quiet and where is it overly active?

  • Caesura: a poignant beat in music, break in flow of a melody making a point of division.  The quiet moments are as important - if not more important - than the active ones.

Another great example of rhythm throughout a story is Mickey's little Whirlwind.  From the innocent beginnings to the onslught of the whirlwind itself making Mickey look bad, this story takes you through highs and lows.  When choosing ideas for acting, remember that every GREAT scene, no matter how short has rhythm moving through it.

There is also Rhythm in Poses:

  • Arc one way and flow to the opposite pose.
  • Physics play a part, but you determine what the driving forces and physics of your scene are to keep the flow of the lines clean.
  • You are not a slave to the physics. You are manipulating the physics to the point where they still work, but everything is contributing to your pose.

There is a new book in town and I think every animator should grab one.  This is a great example of learning how gesture and rhythm work together to create an emotional pose. This book is a great resource for understanding rhythm in a gesture drawing.  You can get Ryan Woodward's 222 page paperback at

The book is available at in both paper and digital format.
And, below is his beautifully animated short film.


Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #3 Experiment

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#3 Experiment

Try every idea that comes to you!

  • Monty Python went with any idea one of them had even if the others didn’t like it. They gave anything a chance to live on.
  • Animation is a caricature.
  • The job is to capture the impression, not imitate.
  • Animation can play with time – compress or expand as well as push action to its limit.
  • The best comedians experiment and ad lib their scenes over and over.

In the clip above from the movie - A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese and Micheal Palin (1/3rd of the Monty Python players) do an incredible job of creating tension.  Palin stretches time as long as he can with his stutter to almost drive Cleese's character mad. Most of the best scenes you see in movies with professional comedians were either 'ad libbed' while on camera, or a warm up rehearsal of improvisational study of the lines created even more experimentation of the possibilities that could exist within the scope of the scene.  Expand your boundaries, when exploring and experimenting.  Comedy, especially needs to breathe.  Have fun!

This is one of my most favorite movies.  It makes me laugh every time.  John Cleese wrote the script with Charles Crichton.

Trivia:  A Fish Called Wanda has the distinction of being the only movie we know of that killed someone with laughter. OLE BENTZEN (Danish physician, d.1989) An audiologist who specialized in developing hearing aids for underdeveloped countries, Bentzen went to see the film A Fish Called Wanda. During a scene featuring John Cleese, Bentzen began laughing so hard that his heartbeat accelerated to a rate of between 250 and 500 beats a minute and he was seized by a heart attack and died. Ole Bentzen is number nine on a list of people who died from laughing.

BTW, you can read the screenplay for a Fish Called Wanda - here.

The clip below is one of the best blackmail clips ever...

Subtext in Animation

Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #2 Subtext



10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.

 This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

#2 Subtext:Adding subtext is one of the best ways to get depth and dimension into your performance. Human beings are multileveled creatures.  Saying one thing while meaning another.   The clip above is subtext acted wihtin more subtext.  Matt LeBlanc's character is talking about the script, but he is really talking about his relationship with her... as is she.  they are both using the script to describe their own relationship - Great stuff!


The Iceberg:  The acting teacher above explains how the iceberg analogy works.  If you create a bio for your character, you will have created the fodder to pull from for any subtext your character will be exuding when they speak.  Again, we never really say what we mean.  I can say "I love you," and mean I really despise you.  Think about it - it's juicy scenes that have subtext.

Flaws: What makes us interesting are our flaws. Perfection is boring. Humans have flaws. They hid their feelings. They have a lack of boundaries. They have an agenda. They have a past that forms their perspective on the world, which can be skewed. Dig underneath the dialog to figure out what the character is really saying in between the lines.


Learning - Ten Things to Think About - #1 Listen

10 Things to Think About - from the book Thinking Animation by Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff.
This is one of the lectures I use at the online school  I created this list for my book Thinking Animation to help animators create a clear and solid message with their work.  I will post the 10 Things to Think About over the course of the next 10 weeks.  ~Enjoy!

If you animate without a plan, you will waste bucket loads of time.
Think and Plan Your Shot Out:
  • Create and/or find reference, act the scene out
  • Take notes on what you see from these experiences
  • Draw gestures and make thumbnails for the most important storytelling poses
  • Use at least 3 words to describe the arcs going on in the scene - try to make them verbs, or action words
  • Share your ideas with others
It’s best to analyze for at least a day if you can... to figure out what the character’s desire is and what the obstacle to that desire might be.  Deadlines, may be looming, but the time you spend planning will create a more clear path for you once you pick up the mouse.
Simplicity is the key to creating a clear idea.  Until every idea is out of your system, overused and cliche poses will continue to arise as you animate.  Do not clutter storytelling poses with too many ideas.  Your first idea is usually too obvious and not as interesting as your 50th.  Try to see the entire shot in your head. before you ever pick up the mouse.
Improv actors play games b4 they go on stage to warm up.  This helps them work out all the trite and overused ideas.  Drawings also help you think about your ideas more deeply.  I encourage you to draw.  Take the most important idea in the scene and work out from there.
Questions to ask yourself…
  • Is the most interesting and clearest possible way?
  • Does the idea fit this character's personality?
  • Am I exploring the possibilities of the scene?
  • Is my ego too involved?
  • What is being said between the lines of dialog - is there subtext?
  • What significance does the scene have to previous and later shots?
  • What is the purpose of this scene in the movie?

1. Listen:
  • Listen to what your lead, sup and/or director tells you closely.  I have sat next to many newbie animators on a show and heard what they were told for art direction, only to come to dailies the next day and see that they didn;t heard a word they were being told.  Your supervisors know what is expected fo the scene so LISTEN.
  • Listen to the dialog and observe the pauses and accented points that you might not catch when you are actually listening to what is being said.
  • Loop the dialog and listen to it over and over. Stories unfold themselves if we really listen. Detach yourself from the shiny parts and let the story tell you what is essential.
  • Stream of consciousness notes: write down trigger words as you listen to the dialog with your eyes closed.
  • If you have an improv class nearby you can take, I highly encourage you to do so.  95% of improv is listening.  You have to listen to what the other person is saying to plus or heighten the scene beyond what it is.

What if VFX Facilities Didn't Exist?

A friend and I were discussing the future of VFX today.  To be honest, I haven't thought about animation much over the holiday.  I have been enjoying the time off and time to sleep and hibernate.  But... I go back into the big machine next Monday and with the news of another studio closing on the heels of the Asylum FX announcement - this is weighing on my mind again.  "Bye bye" vacation - back to reality.

My colleague started talking about unions and I argued: "A union at this point will only help a symptom - not the disease.  A biz model based on undercutting the competition until you are working with a budget that equals bone and ligament cannot survive for long.  VFX studios are so poorly managed and they have backed themselves into a corner where they have absolutely no position to negotiate.  To underbid a show simply to get work into the studio is not a good idea.  On top of this... the VFX studios cannot agree to organize themselves into any type of group that could lobby with the production studios for better budgets trickling down better wages and working conditions for artists."

Then, he said - "What if artists worked directly for the Production studios like everyone else?"  After our chat, I am convinced that the only way to save the VFX biz model is to start over completely and eliminate the VFX studios entirely.   Why not go back to square one and work directly with the studios on the lot?  Like all of the other production for movies is handled?  At first, I told my buddy, "...that can't work because the VFX pipeline is so different than live action."  But, maybe not?  Maybe that is the problem?  The current VFX biz model doesn't work, so why would we try to replicate it on the lot.  Maybe a new approach is a good one?  So much has changed technically in how we create animation and VFX with computers today, that maybe we need to rebuild?

Here are a couple articles discussing this issue:
talk amongst yourselves.

IRC Dance Movement

IRC dance movement from . on Vimeo.

People send me links to post on the blog all the time.  Most of them are just not very impressive.  This particular piece isn't necessarily CG driven, but I enjoyed watching it from a purely visual standpoint.  It has a nice mix of cinematic choices, deign and editing.

video soundtracked by Of Porcelain - Signal the Captain

How NOT to hire an artist

Everyone working in any creative company should read this article.  

My favorite quote from the article: 

How NOT to find an artist:  "Do not look for either professional artists, or an artist that has done a lot of game design work in the past."

Jon Jones:  "This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Don’t hire experienced professionals? This guy must not value his time at ALL"

Scott Ross for President

Everyone should listen to this interview...

This is the most articulate, solution oriented conversation I have heard yet on this subject.  If the VFX shops are awarded the money, respect, education, and deserved appreciation Ross proposes a trade organization would provide... I am confident there would be trickle down to the employees.  Ten years ago, these needs (401k, benefits, fair hiring practices) were being met.  Some shops back in the day even had car washing, dry cleaning services, meals provided, studio sponsored parties, etc.  VFX shops managed to provide these things to artists even on a "next to nothing" profit margin.  Then, times changed.  The movie studios told shops you have half the budget , twice the work, and half the time... even though profits on VFX driven films are higher than ever.  Studios told the shops, if you don't like it, the shop down the street beet your bid by 150k!  So, the VFX shops began to hire cheap labor just to make ends meet.

The VFX companies are not the enemy in this situation and the situation is not personal.  What have we got to lose?  If the shops don't organize and fix the situation now, they are out of business anyways.  Then, no one has a job. If the VFX shops paid dues to a trade organization like artists do to the VES, we might get somewhere.  As long as the new trade organization does the job presented to them and isn't fluff and just talk, like some organizations we know.  I think this is what Scott means by he would be willing to help organize as long as people made a commitment to the mission.  If shops all agreed to pay dues to get the organization started, they might have a fighting chance in this as Ross put it "race to the bottom."

I also agree completely with Ross on a Union.  The biz model for VFX shops is not one that could work with a Union. at this time  The issues that artists have with the shops  (401k, benefits, fair hiring practices) are only symptoms of the bigger problem.  VFX was never working off of fat, it was lean muscle ten years ago... now we are cutting ligaments and bone as far as budgets and any profits.  There is no room for negotiating.  A union could help after we recover from the current circumstances... possibly, but I do not see how a Union would fix the profit margin issue between the Movie Studios and FX shops.  How would a union deal with Runaway Production.  I am curious how are they handling it now?  I am pretty sure 2D ran away to Korea... no?

The one thing that did bother me in their talk was when they said the whole issue since the town hall "died because people are working."  I know more people out of work than ever.  Artists have no power, no money, no leaders, no experience in this stuff and mouths to feed.  We feel helpless.  That is why it died.  If the VFX studios have no cash, you think out of work artists do?  So, artists go overseas to help the lack of local talent for 1/3rd of their salary on even smaller budgeted movies and leave their wife and kids behind to keep a roof over their heads.  It's the unskilled talent pool overseas that needs our artists to make the incentive program work.  Again, worst biz model ever.  And I digress..  Anyways, it's the first real discussion I have seen anywhere so far.

Dr. Martens 50 - The Cinematic Orchestra cover Lilac Wine

Really beautiful work...

Dr. Martens is celebrating their 50th anniversary, and Blind was invited to join the party. Dr. Martens asked 10 artists to record their version of a cult classic track that represents the spirit of the people who’ve worn DM’s over the past 50 years. One of the songs selected was Cinematic Orchestra’s rendition of the classic, “Lilac Wine,” made popular in the early 90s by Jeff Buckley.  Blind was asked to direct the video, which would not include talent, but was given no other creative parameters.
Inspired by Spencerian Calligraphy, Vanessa directed a piece of moving visual poetry comprised of delicate lines. The lines extend and intertwine to form a variety of unique landscapes,populated by various incarnations of the lost lover of the song, including a bird, a fish, a butterfly and a horse.

Protecting Yourself as a Freelancer

A friend of mine has posted a blog recounting the way he was treated by a studio as an artist. He documents the entire process he used to protect himself with legal correspondence over a disagreement in compensation.

I have several studios who still owe me money from 2007-2008 because I did not employ the documentation he used. I am not incorporated and if I had pressed with legal action against these studios, they would have owed me tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, on top of wages owed. I didn't press out of fear of being blacklisted by the studio. Ironically, I would never work for these studios again because of how I was treated. I create a statement or work now and require the DP to agree to all points before starting any gig, so we are all on the same page.

In addition, there has been a lot of talk lately about EOR (Employee of Record) organizations and the rights of freelancers. Employees are often misclassified as Freelancers. The EOR's protect the studios by offloading the expense and liability of dealing with freelancers.

To get a really good idea about EORs and

The Freelancers Dilemma, check out these links:

This is how MBO handles your check:

If you are paid via MBO, they take 2-5% fee for processing your payroll depending on what the studio negotiated with them.

Then, the normal employer's tax is taken off your wages first... e.g. Social Security, FUTA - federal unemployment and training, and in California: SUTA - State Unemployment .

Then they will run payroll, and the employee's tax is taken off: Federal Withholding, State Withholding, Social Security and Medicare. Note: Social Security is taken out twice - you are, in effect, paying double the Social Security tax because the employer pays zero.

The only benefit of MBO, is that you can collect unemployment because you are an employee of MBO and not operating under a 1099/contractor classification. Which is only right because you are paying the employer portion of unemployment taxes in addition to your own. So, unless you collect it, you'll never get that money back. MBO gets the studios off the hook with the IRS, but it doesn't make the comply with state law regarding classification of workers, pay periods or overtime laws.

MBO also doesn't pay on-time - at least in the State of California. They may invoice the company weekly for your work, but it takes them a few days to issue the invoice. The company has ten days to pay MBO. If MBO receives the money by Tuesday, you may get paid Friday, otherwise you'll get paid the following Friday. You'll be waiting 3 or 4 weeks for that first check.

In California, its illegal:

In California, wages, must be paid at least twice during each calendar month on the days designated in advance as regular paydays. The employer must establish a regular payday and is required to post a notice that shows the day, time and location of payment. Labor Code Section 207 Wages earned between the 1st and 15th days, inclusive, of any calendar month must be paid no later than the 26th day of the month during which the labor was performed, and wages earned between the 16th and last day of the month must be paid by the 10th day of the following month. Other payroll periods such as weekly, biweekly (every two weeks) or semimonthly (twice per month) when the earning period is something other than between the 1st and 15th, and 16th and last day of the month, must be paid within seven calendar days of the end of the payroll period within which the wages were earned.

MBO helps companies evade payroll taxes by forcing each of their employee's to pay said payroll taxes on top of paying the employer's normal payroll costs in the form of the MBO fee.

Win win for the employer, and lose lose for the artist.

More Art Shows this weekend!

If you don't already have plans...
I am in a couple art shows this weekend.
Send me email with your name
and I can get you on the list for tonight's show.

I will be live painting Friday night...
this painting
will also be in the show!

Friday 8pm-2am
@Daydream Republic

The DayDream Republic is located at
4500 W. Jefferson Blvd. Los Angeles Ca. 90016
(just off the La Brea exit on the 10 freeway)
suggested donation $5 b4 10/ $10 after /21+ cash bar


I also have two skateboard paintings in this should be a good one!


9:00pm to 1:00am

Cannibal Flower
724 S. Spring Street.
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Across the street from The Hive & Temple of Visions

Admission is $8

$18,000 Rethink Scholarship

Rethink Scholarship at Langara 2010 Call for Entries from Rory O'Sullivan on Vimeo.

Calling all aspiring art directors and designers!

Rethink ad agency is offering the chance to win a two-year $18,000 scholarship to Langara College’s Communication and Ideation Design program. To apply, fill a sketch book anyway you want, or take one apart and re-build it into something totally different! More here:!

Art Show Next Friday!

I have been busy painting during my off time... and I invite you to my next show!
To see all of the artists participating
click here.

Warren Calvo and New Puppy will be hosting an event called “From Within The Shadows” to raise money for projects in Costa Rica that protect and research Endangered Wildlife. 20% of the proceeds will be donated to help further and research the protection of endangered wild life in Costa Rica. Artists for the event have donated to the New Puppy Gallery new work based on the list of endangered species of Costa Rica.

I have a painting in this show and a painted skull replica of a Margay wildcat. Please

New Puppy Gallery
"From Within the Shadows"
2808 Elm St. Los Angeles, CA 90065

Jan 9th, 2010 Sneak Peek

Jan 15th, 2010 Official Fundraiser

Show will be up until Valentines!

Box Animation

Box Animation from Jordan Clarke on Vimeo.

I love this little short. I never went to animation school. I started out as a graphic design major before computers were even on the scene and you drew all of your type by hand. Then, I moved to a fine art school and got into drawing as a major. Finally, I evolved my interests into an "electronic arts" major whens my little art school got some machines.

So, I have been exploring more design oriented and motion graphics stuff lately and really liking how CG, VFX and design are influencing each other.

Stix and Jones Plug

When I am not animating, I stay pretty busy...

I have a new ETSY store for my paintings and other pretties I make.
If you are trying to decide what to get that special person for christmas?

Check out my new store!


stix and jones blog too!

Drawing with Rhonda - Whoah!

James Paterson drawing in a 3D tool called Rhonda. The program, created by Amit Pitaru, allows for the creation of sculptural wireframe models.

How to Draw Mickey Mouse

Micheal Sporn has posted a How to Draw Mickey Mouse Series here.

Evolution of the Batman Logo

Watch Batman Logo Evolution

History of the Batman logo

from 1939 to present by Todd Klein

Something about the modern version for Nightfall 1993 is really interesting to me...
Which one is YOUR favorite!

All Spice Cafe

I have a new artist spotlight!
JD Cowles!

I started the "artist spotlight" to feature artists who have turned their passions and hobbies into cash making machines. Past spotlights have included: Cro Customs, Jamie and Drew's Art Show, Total Escape, and The Visual Amalgam Show

To start 2009 off right we have J.D. Cowles! CG Sup turned hot sauce chemist!
Check out his hot sauces and he is having a tasting at Surfas in Culver City this Saturday!!! Buffalo burgers, venison tenderloin, elk ny strip steak . . . all treated with All Spice Cafe Hot Sauces! Come on by!

Surfas AllSpice Hot Sauce Tasting
Time and Place
Saturday, January 10, 2009
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Surfas - A Chef's Paradise
8777 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA

Free Advice for Freelancers in 2009

Reflection on our Industry in 2008
As 2009 approaches, reflection on the VFX/Animation industry in 2008 causes one to pause for a moment. Just about every animator I know has money owed to them from past due invoices for this past year. Including myself.

The economy, no doubt, is to blame...among other things. Budgets in film, TV and commercials are lower than ever. Studios are not being paid by the client and are asking for 75% up front before even starting a show. Colleagues have confided that they are being forced to accept smaller bids than ten years ago. Bids for a shot that would have taken 4-5 days are now being pushed for only 1 day. The bigger studios are focusing on the younger animators to get the lower pay rates and meet the smaller budgets. Smaller studios are outbidding the bigger studios, but need to hire experienced artists and TD's because they do not have the talent pool in house and on staff. And, of course, if that all wasn't enough??? we have overseas production putting the squeeze on everybody.

The new pay policy for freelancers at the little studio
Due to the smaller studios employing more seasoned people to get the job done, there seems to be a disconnect as to how freelancers are paid. The average workforce at a smaller studio is a few staff employees and a regular flow of less seasoned freelancers who will take any job they can to get the experience and skills they need to move up. However, the VFX/Anim veterans have expectations for hours and pay that they are accustomed to and assume will be respected.

I thought about offering a list studios who owe artists money from 2008 here on the blog. I really did. But, I don't think that would be constructive and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I though it better to offer advice in establishing freelancer wages and pay schedule. The advice below should help the freelancer navigate the the new tactics by studios to keep more cash on the books... and less in your bank account.

The Norm
Before I state the NEW strategy for freelancers accepting employment... I should point out MOST animation and VFX studios like DD, Sony, R & H, Dreamworks, Disney, Pixar, Jim Henson Studios, Luma Pictures, Colorado FX, Duck Studios, Super78, CafeFX/Syndicate, Engine Room Design, Zoic, Artifact Design, Amalgamated Pixels, Sea Level, Giant Steps, Asylum FX, and more!!!! follow the standard and legal policies at a workplace. I can confirm that these studios follow the California State Work Policy defined below.

California State Work Policy
It is a requirement for all employment to not only be paid on a bi-weekly schedule starting the first day of employment, but also be paid the balance owed on the last day of employment. This is not only the law for any personal services, freelance or not, but it is the standard work policy. This is why so many freelancers are confused by 30 day net policies and refusal to pay invoices, even after 90 days. These artists are required to be at the studio by a certain time, are using the studio's equipment and report to a specific individual. These artists are not laying tile in your bathroom or selling you oranges in bulk. Therefore, a 30-day net policy doesn't legally apply.

a real contractor; using his own tools, working his own hours, reporting to no one

What is a 30 day net policy?
A 30-day net policy states that you will be paid 30-days after submitting an invoice, including weekends and holidays. All invoices are due and payable 30 days after the invoice date. This means the first paycheck for one week of work will be paid 5 weeks after you have started employment. Sometimes the invoices are "lost" or "not received until a much later date than originally sent" and a new one has to be submitted again and the cycle starts all over again. Some studios try to say weekends or holidays do not count, but this is not the legal definition of a 30 day net.

The first 30-day net policy I encountered was because I wasn't told and didn't know to ask. After that, I ask every prospective employer what their pay policies and schedules are. The more we hold 30-day net policies as unacceptable, the less they will be imposed. The bigger studios wouldn't play these games with freelancers because they know the law and take pride in their reputation in the industry. 15-day net policies apply to the same strategies as the 30-day and are subject to when the 15 days begin. Invoices can be lost, interpretations of when a 15 day net begins can be skewed.
The larger studios that follow California work policies understand it's less expensive to hire a proper bookkeeper and payroll company to handle wages. It's less work for the controller if people are on direct deposit and regular pay schedules. They also understand they are more likely to have good artists return, if they have a good payroll system.

The Advice
Here is my advice to freelancers interviewing with any studio that is not listed above as a studio that follows CA State Work Policy or a studio you have not already established a working relationship with in the past. This might all seem like common sense, but if points are assumed once they are discussed in email and not followed up in writing, there is room for people to waver on the agreement.

1. BEGIN/END DATE: Establish how long the project is and if there will be any holds placed beyond the term of the project. (Continue to communicate if you take the job about the dates of the hold as you get closer to the end date, so there are no surprises and you are let go earlier than you imagined.)
2. HOURS: Ask about the hours and set your rate for a 40 hour week. Make it clear that hour beyond the first 40 worked fall under Over Time rates of time and a half. You must make this clear or suffer later when it is open to interpretation.
3. PAY SCHEDULE: Ask when the next pay period is and what the pay schedule is at the studio. The more artist do not agree to a 30 day net policy, the less studios will try to implement it.
4. END DATE WAGES: State that you expect to be paid in full on your last day of employment the balance of what is owed for wages worked.
5. HOLIDAY PAY SCHEDULE: Ask how wages are handled during holidays, if any fall during you time working there. Just because people are not in the office doesn't mean you do not get paid.
6. TO TAX OR NOT TO TAX: Establish if you will be on payroll or invoicing the studio.
7. MANAGEMENT: Ask who you will be reporting to directly. This will help you if there is a problem because you know exactly who in the chain to go to first.

GET IT IN WRITING!!!! Once all of this has been agreed upon, ask for a deal memo to be typed up stating these points and emailed or faxed to you.
Again, much of this seems common sense and we all take it for granted because it falls under CA Work Policy. Most studios respect bi-weekly pay schedules and Over Time pay as their everyday business systems and policies. But!!! not all do anymore. There is no real animation union fighting for the rights of TD's or artists today and no one to turn to if you are not paid, other than the Labor Board. If you do not spell out every single point regarding your employment and pay, you have no recourse. The smaller studios employ an irreverent regard for the people who work for them. Not all, but the majority of the small studios do not value the people who come in and get the job done and then leave the studio with a happy client.
If you ask the right questions and put the answers in writing, there is less likely to be any disagreements or misunderstandings as to what the terms of your employment are. It's unfortunate that things need to be spelled out like this, but it's my experience that this will limit the disputes as to when you will be paid and how much, along with other expectations. Most studios will ultimately respect your attention to the details.

In keeping the tone here on the positive side...
Please post in the comments area if you work at a studio that follows the California State work policies. We should give props to the studios who are doing the right thing by their employees, even in this this bad economy. I hope this helps other freelancers, because myself and many of my colleagues have learned the hard way in 2008.

Geisha Vampire Workshop 12.16.2008 - UPDATE NEW PRICING!!!!

Drop-ins Welcome! 25$
Get The Lead Out

Tuesday night 12.16 features a Geisha Vampires inspired theme thanks our model KJ and to the Gallery Girls. Fun dramatic poses. 5 to 15 minute poses and a long pose if the majority of the class desires.Drop-ins are welcome for 25$ or you can pre-buy classes 4 at a time (80$). You may use the 4 sessions anytime over the next two months. You do not have to have a PayPal account, Credit Cards accepted. If you cannot afford classes right now because of the holidays? We added a gift certificate button that you can send to friends and loved ones and a little hint!

Get The Lead Out Workshop
25 $ per session for walk-ins
20$ if you buy 4 sessions (80$)

7:30pm to 10:30pm
Tuesday Nights
Bring your own supplies.
All media is welcome including laptops.
Please email angie@sticksand
if you are bringing a laptop,
so we are sure we have juice for it.

Place: Kline Academy of Fine Art
3264 Motor Ave.Culver City, CA 90034
(310) 927-2436


Buy 4 classes here! 20$ a class!


Buy one class to reserve a spot...25$


Can't afford the classes right now? Give your loved ones ideas of the gift of drawing classes for this holiday!

Crank Bunny - Ghost Milk Portrait

I love stuff that moves and is hand made...

Crank Bunny

Peripetics = Trippy!


Zeitguised made a piece in six acts for the opening exhibition at the Zirkel Gallery. It entails six imaginations of disoriented systems that take a catastrophic turn, including the evolution of educational plant-body-machine models and liquid building materials.

Length: 5000F/ 3min 20s
Sound Design: Zeitguised with Michael Fakesch

MultiColor Search Lab

This thing is so awesome. Imagine you are working on design or style frames for a spot. You can search flickr by color and add colors to the search or subtract as you go. The Internet astounds me sometimes and makes me wonder how we functioned without it.

The Creation Of A New Yorker Cover

I have always been a big fan of Bob Staake, and this little movie of his creative process behind the latest New York magazine Cover just shows how economical he is with design.

Visual Amalgam Show October 5th - James Gray Gallery

Charge, diptych
Oil Painting on Canvas
96” x 36”

Angela Jones

Visual Amalgam Show: The Film Industry Artist Gallery Event.
James Gray Gallery at Bergamot Station
Sunday, October 5 2008, 5:00pm - 9:00pm
2525 Michigan Ave Santa Monica, CA

The event will provide the public with a rare opportunity to see some exceptionally talented film industry pros exhibit their personal work. I personally invite anyone reading this who will be in Los Angeles on the 28th, to please come by. This is my first show where I will be displaying my new work, and there are many other talented artists in the show. Consider this the artist spotlight posting for September! Many, many artists here doing something creative on the side!

Click the links below to see more.

Total and Danamite

It's time for this month's Artist Spotlight!

In June, I spotlighted Caleb's Owen's
Cro Customs Chopper Venture. Then July I spotlighted my co-author Jamie Oliff's art show at the Dresden with his animator buddy Drew Edwards.

This month we spotlight my good friend Dana Williams.

I met Dana on my first animation job in California working at a traditional animation studio in San Diego. Dana was the first female animator I had met and we hit it off famously...even though most of the guys at the studio were convinced she was packing heat.

Dana left animation to take her love for camping, hiking and the out doors into a full scale business. Dana has been running her business for 12 years now and I am so proud of her. Check out her website to see the best campgrounds, hiking trails and outdoor fun in California.

Sole creative force of Total Escape, Dana Williams left her 3D animation career to start her living dream. Utilizing artistic talents, computer skills & the simple love of nature to make it all come together for a killer web site called Total Escape. The GOAL: To get more outta life, 'get outside' more often - out of the city, off the computer & away from television.. so far from daily grind of everyday life. Educating the public about respecting the land, responsible use of our resources & how to get more enjoyment out of weekend.

Book Signing - Siggraph Tuesday August 12th

Jamie and myself will be signing
the Thinking Animation book

at the Course PTR Booth #1019
(just a block down from the Rhythm and Hues booth)

at Siggraph - Los Angeles Convention Center
from 3:30-4:30 pm
Tuesday August 12th

Come by and say "hi"!
And, maybe Jamie will draw you your own
Click here for the full Siggraph 2008 Floorplan

Booth #1019

Second Life Documentary

This just blows my mind.
Looks like CG peeps could make a killing on Second Life.

Artist Spotlight - July - Jamie and Drew

Last month, I decided to spotlight one CG artist a month on the blog who has taken something they love to do outside of animation and turned it into additional income - as inspiration for us all. I started it off with Caleb's Cro Customs Chopper venture. This month, I thought none better than to spotlight my co-author Jamie Oliff. He had an art show of his paintings last month at the Dresen with his friend Drew Edwards.

Jamie and his buddy Drew Edwards met in Canada working on Ren and Stimpy. Both, still have one toe in the animation industry mostly doing storyboards. They created a show together that was held at the Dresden. These are the pictures of the debauchery of the night. It was great fun and Jamie sold all of his paintings.

Proud artists...Look at Drew's shoes! Awesome!

Beginning of the evening as people start to come in...

The paintings in black and white are Jamie's
and the monochromatic color ones are Drew's.

This was one of my favorites...look at the character in his face!

Drew was inspired by the movie swingers for quite a few of his.

Guess who this motley crew is supposed to be?
I will give you a hint - see below.

Samir eyes a painting he wants...and decides to buy it for 600$!!!

Jamie places the red dot to show it's sold!

Very happy patron the arts!

Sarah Bockett's smile could light up any room!

I am obviously talking about something VERY important,
since Drew is listening so closely.

Cro Customs

The climate in animation/VFX and CG today changing so quickly...
runaway production,
overseas studios,
shorter schedules,
smaller budgets,
lowering of animators salaries...

In light of these changes in our industry, many artists are starting their own businesses to create additional income. Most artists and animators have to be self starting individuals to last in this industry. CG artists are an unusual breed who believe they can make anything happen - even turn a hobby into their career.

I think it's because working in CG you incorporate so many facets of life and experience like writing, acting, anatomy, cinematography, lighting, storytelling, textures, design, kinetics, math, code, architecture...the list goes on and on. Think about it. How many other jobs use so many parts of your brain and so many skill sets? I have seen many people turn hobbies into careers in the past few years, artists who started their own businesses like: camping guide websites, fine art painting, bass fishing dvd's, clothing design, motorcycle fabrication, and toy production.

So, I will spotlight one CG artist a month on the blog who has taken something they love to do outside of animation and turned it into additional income - as inspiration for us all. Don't get me wrong here...I still support animation as a fruitful, and fun career. But! I also believe change is good and comes from the willingness to allow new ideas, different opinions and maintaining an open mind to the infinite possibilities there are when one is willing to take chances. I believe in the power of creativity and doing what you want to do creates more opportunity and an empowering state of mind.

If you would like your business spotlighted here on the blog, send me an email

The first artist to be spotlighted is:

My good friend Caleb Owens has started
a blog for his bike shop Cro Customs.

Cro Customs Blog

Caleb is another "artist friend" of mine
making way towards doing what he loves.

I love the quote on his website...
"Does Over Time make up for Time Lost?"

I say...Nope.

Go out and turn your love into what you do everyday!
Make something with your hands!

Fostering Innovation

In the beginning weeks of this blog and right after our book came out, we met Henry Caroselli. Henry wrote a great book called Cult of the Mouse. I encourage you to get it. He speaks on the loss of innovation in corporate America passionately. He makes many specific references to Disney regarding the loss of innovation, since he worked there for many years. Henry has a look at "what we as a country must do to reinvigorate idea generation––to reestablish innovation, not quarterly-profit imperatives, as the top priority in American business."

Well thanks to my friend Paolo, I see that Brad Bird also understands that its very important to keep innovation alive within your studio in order to keep creativity fresh...from Found Read.

This week The McKinsey Quaterly asks: what does stimulating the creativity of animators have in common with developing new product ideas or technology breakthroughs? Apparently, a lot. In Innovation lessons from Pixar, McKinsey writes:

Brad Bird makes his living fostering creativity. Academy Award-winning director (The Incredibles and Ratatouille) talks about the importance, in his work, of pushing teams beyond their comfort zones, encouraging dissent, and building morale. He also explained the value of “black sheep”—restless contributors with unconventional ideas.

Steve Jobs hired him, says Bird, because after three successes (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2) he was worried Pixar might struggle to stay innovative. Jobs told him: “The only thing we’re afraid of is complacency—feeling like we have it all figured out,” Bird quotes his boss as saying “…We want you to come shake things up.” Bird explains to McKinsey how he did it — and why, for “imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.”

The piece is behind McKinsey’s pay wall, but we extract its 9 key lessons below.

Lesson One: Herd Your Black Sheep

The Quarterly: How did your first project at Pixar—The Incredibles—shake things up?

Brad Bird: I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well. We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

Lesson Two: Perfect is the Enemy of Innovation
The Quarterly: What sorts of things did you do differently?

Brad Bird: I had to shake the purist out of them—essentially frighten them into realizing I was ready to use quick and dirty “cheats” to get something on screen… I’d say, “Look, I don’t have to do the water through a computer simulation program… I’m perfectly content to film a splash in a swimming pool and just composite the water in.” I never did film the pool splash [but] talking this way helped everyone understand that we didn’t have to make something that would work from every angle. Not all shots are created equal. Certain shots need to be perfect, others need to be very good, and there are some that only need to be good enough to not break the spell.

Lesson Three: Look for Intensity

The Quarterly: Do angry people—malcontents, in your words—make for better innovation?
Brad Bird: Involved people make for better innovation… Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem. There’s something I want to do.” If you had thermal glasses, you could see heat coming off them.

Lesson Four: Innovation Doesn’t happen in a Vacuum

The Quarterly: How do you build and lead a team?
Brad Bird: I got everybody in a room. This was different from what the previous guy had done; he had reviewed the work in private, generated notes, and sent them to the person…. I said, “Look, this is a young team. As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together…

to read the other Five steps click here...


Dear Reader:
I haven't been posting to the blog like I should. I find my mind wandering towards other interests at the moment.

I have decided to take an extended break to pursue other personal and professional opportunities . I hope you enjoyed the past year and a half of posting...but I find my mind wandering to fine art, painting, my own shorts and my new role at Motion Theory.

Maybe I will come back later, but for now

Au revoir...

Thinking Animation Trivia Contest - Novemeber

It's that time again for this month's contest!


And now for the new trivia question!

Who was the inspiration for the voice of the
Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons"(1989)?

(Thanks Na for the help!)

The winner will receive a copy of
Thinking Animation!

The Winner is Danny Zobrist in record time.
I tried to hard to make it a really tough one to answer!

To see some of Danny's work click play below...

click here to see last month's winner!


Dear Reader:
I am sorry to have left you hanging with no dope links or animation to check out lately.

The comic above is exactly how I felt last week. My second week on my new job at Motion Theory and I got bronchitis. Man-o-man I forgot how good it is to feel healthy.

I took my antibiotics and vitamins and am finally recovered today and ready to catch up on some look out!

October Trivia Contest!

Time for this month's book giveaway!
Answer this question correctly and you get a free book!

How many steps can you take between trash cans at Disneyland?

When placing the garbage cans originally in Disneyland Walt Disney ate a hot dog. As he was eating he counted how many steps it took to finish it. Every 17 steps there is a garbage can. This spacing is followed in every Disney park today.

CONGRATS TO MAYEC RANCEL for getting the answer correct!

Check out his short film!

click here to see last month's winner!

Negligent Blogging amd Excuses...

I have been a bad blogger this month. I apologize reader. Lately, I have found some new interests that are taking up more and more of my time...and so I have less and less time to blog here.

Jonesie Cake is taking off. I had a booth at the Abbott Kinney Street Fair and it was very successful. I am placing my clips in salons and stores. It's growing so quickly, I cannot keep up with the website these days. Seriously, if you have a niece, a sister, a cousin. Get them a Jonesie Clip for Christmas...they will love you for it.
Oh Yeah...This is what happens when the Santa Anna Winds blow in California. It took me a couple hours to clean up this mess...and...

I also started a new gig at Asylum FX on National Treasure 2 and I am very happy to be back (I worked on the first National Treasure there in 2003). It's so nice to work at a studio that actually has a pipeline, has systems in place for doing things AND has effective, experienced people there making the calls. My days there are full with plenty of work to do and no surfing or blogging!

If that wasn't enough? I started a classical oil painting class under Cheryl Kline and I am so stoked to be there painting again. I also have an artist blog that covers my progress in the class, if you are at all interested in that stuff.

So, I hope you accept my apology, because I am about to slam you with a bunch of stuff sent to me that has just been sitting in my inbox waiting to be posted! Oh, goodie. ~Angie