June 28, 2013

I'm going to blog less often over the summer

Even though I have a backlog of blog post ideas, I'm going to take a break from my bi-weekly blogging schedule for a little while. For the rest of the summer. I've picked 3 days that I will blog through the summer; these days fall approximately one month apart and they are Tuesdays.

I constantly shift my priorities around and right now blogging is going down on the list. I've got a lot on my plate! I can't wait to whittle down the mountain of work I've got to do and get back to animating on my film.

The 3 Tuesdays I plan to blog over the remainder of the summer:

July 23
August 20
Sept 17

September 22 is the start of autumn!

June 25, 2013

Old Sketchbook Findings

I was cleaning up my apartment and found a couple old sketchbooks. One is maybe 5 years old, and another one about 2 years. I found scribbles and sketches of Pickled before it really took shape. I found storyboards, storyboard revisions, layout roughs and even old character design ideas. And a few life drawings. I'm glad I hung onto those sketchbooks. Take a look at some of my rough stuff:
ancient character design ideas

ancient character design ideas

ancient character design ideas

This are the oldest storyboards that found for Pickled.
This is waaay back in summer of 2008 when I had the idea that maybe Birdie could be a mail order bride robot.

Pickled storyboard revision drawings

Pickled storyboard revision drawings

Pickled storyboard revision drawings

Pickled storyboard revision drawings

a rough kitchen layout drawing

Pickled storyboard revision drawings

Dr. Sketchy's Toronto

Dr. Sketchy's Toronto

Dr. Sketchy's Toronto

June 21, 2013

My Inspiration of The Day: Look Books

Yesterday I saw this slideshow of the evolution of Kanye West's style. It's a bit crazy that celebrities have their outfits tracked and put into public slide shows for the world to see. It's also fascinating to be able to click through images and get a sense of a person's style evolution. One of my favourite blogs is The Cut by New York Magazine. A favourite "celebrity" of this blog is Kate Middleton and she's got her very own slideshow there as well. On the front page there are links to the most popular or trending slideshows and you can access them all if you hit "more look books".

Personal style is personal expression. Sometimes we want to dress down, sometimes we want to dress up. We may have a current favourite colour or fabric or pattern. Maybe we follow trends or reject them. There's a reason behind our choices. A film maker or character designer would do well to remember that the personal style of a person reflects how they feel at a given moment and that personal style evolves, just as does the person wearing it.

June 18, 2013

I saw an advanced screening of Monsters University!

Monster's University is a good movie! It was mild in terms of new content or bold character or story choices but it was extremely well done and quite entertaining. It was extremely family friendly. Everything in the film was well developed and beautifully executed. Very worth a watch.

Here's the sign from my press section seat :D
I ended up getting free tickets to see this movie. I noticed an ad in a newspaper that asked me to text my postal code so that I could get 2 advance tickets. The line up at the theater was long. When I was only 5 people away from getting in there was a bit of a wait and I thought we would be told that all the seats were filled. But instead we were told that the rest of us in line would be getting the better seats in the press section! We had to make sure our phones were shut off while everyone else in the theater had to surrender their phones for the duration of the film. This time being fashionably late paid of.
A view of the MU campus
Interestingly, I felt as if the film was a metaphor for working in the animation industry. Though I suppose it could just represent any industry. Here's a list of ways in which I felt that the film could be a metaphor for educating oneself and entering an industry (such as animation):

1) picking a great school and being excited about learning and meeting like minded peers
2) hard work is very valuable
3) riding on your "talent" or your name is not a way to succeed
4) people are valued for their own particular unique strengths
5) being creative
6) being responsible and professional
7) it's important to recognise the value in older employees at a company that perhaps don't have the same speed as in their younger days but still have great technique/value/experience
8) one may enter an industry via an unconventional way
9) one does not HAVE to graduate from university or college; educating oneself and having dedication and being hard working are more important than a piece of paper that says you graduated. (However completing higher education is valuable and often necessary depending on your industry and the path you take)
10) starting small in an industry and working your way up is a great way to learn

Before the film started the audience was treated to a new Pixar short; The Blue Umbrella.
When this short started my eyes were glued to the screen. The realistic but charming world was "filmed" in a way quite unique to animated shorts. The short felt very artistic and looked as if it was expertly shot with a camera. There were several shots of elements in the environment and of "smiling" objects on a city street on a dark rainy night. It was stunning actually. The story ends up being about a blue umbrella that notices a red umbrella and a love story follows. The music was really sweet too. Unfortunately the plot of this short was exactly the same as the last Pixar short; Paperman. That is; boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. Why must the boy always be the pursuer, the action taker, the plan maker? It's true that society expects women to be the pursued, but it is a tired and outdated stereotype that men and women all want this to be the norm. The red "girl" umbrella (you can tell she's a girl since she's got eyelashes, which is another animation trope) is passive. Of couse it's ok to have a story like this, it's perfectly lovely and wonderful, it's not an unrealistic story possibility either and it is charming, but I'm a little disappointed that the same boy meets girl formula (which was just used in Paperman) is used again here and there are no real surprises.

Saschka Unseld was the director of this short and truly, it was beautiful and extraordinarily charming. When I saw the environmental elements smiling on a rainy day I thought of those old 1952 Disney shorts storyboarded by Bill Peet; The Little House and Susie the Little Blue Coupe. Unseld says that he got the idea for this short one rainy day when he was walking in San Francisco and saw an abandoned umbrella lying in the gutter. “It was the saddest thing,” he said. “I stood there and wondered what had happened to him. I think that was when I got the idea of giving him a story.”

And the animation itself is striking. The two umbrella characters have very simple facial features but they are expertly animated to convey expressions and micro expressions. You can tell just what the characters are thinking and feeling. I got goosebumps when the blue umbrella notices the red umbrella for the first time. He lets himself watch her a bit, while she enjoys the sensation of the rain falling. At least at first he somewhat tries to conceal his interest. Then he's a little embarassed when she notices him looking.

I did in fact really enjoy this short.

June 14, 2013

Hand Drawn Animation in Progress! This time it's for my day job

I've been pretty busy recently working on the new adult dragon animation for the game I work on. I put together a pencil test and I've cleaned up the key drawings and finalised the timing based on that. Unfortunaly I cannot share this work in progress until the art is live in the game. But I've been taking notes as I go and I plan to put up a big blog post about my process! So for now, I'll keep working away and when my work is done I'll have a boatload of stuff to share.

Here's how the corner of my desk currently looks:
I'm using a combination of physical and digital media. You can see that there is paper, pencils and a pegbar, but also a scanner and my cintiq.

June 11, 2013

The inspiration for Epic by Bluesky and some of my thoughts on Epic

This past week I saw Epic; the new animated offering from Blue Sky Studios. I think it's a great idea to support animation (and all film) studios by seeing and discussing their work. I personally want to know who is making the films I watch and what inspired the artists who made them.
I can tell that the crew that worked on Epic feels that the film really lives up to it's name. When I watched Epic it felt like a passion project that was in the works for a long time. After doing some research I learned that was pretty much the case. Chris Wedge and Bill Joyce, the two Oscar-winning directors, were originally inspired to make what became Epic for 15 years before it was completed. It underwent numerous iterations over those 15 years. Chris Wedge is a director, producer, a voice actor, a classically trained animator with extensive experience in stop-motion animation as well as a Masters degree in computer graphics from Ohio State University. He has been with Blue Sky since it's inception in 1986. Wedge directed Bunny, a short film that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1998. I remember being shown that film for the first time by my animation professor when I was still a student attending Sheridan College. Bill Joyce is an author, illustrator, and film maker. Joyce won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film with Brandon Oldenburg for The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, (A gorgeous short film, watch it!!)
The original inspiration for the film was Victorian Fairy Paintings, seen at The Frick Collection in New York in 1998. Victorian Fairy paintings were critically and commercially popular during the nineteenth century. The Frick Collection website says that "Fairy painting brought together many opposing elements in the collective psyche and artistic sensibility of the time; rich subject matter, an escape from the grim elements of an industrial society, an indulgence of new attitudes towards sex, a passion for the unknown, and a denial of the exactitude of photography.

Here are some examples of Victorian Paintings:

Artist: Richard Dadd
Painting: The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - 1855-64 - A very complex image. The "feller" is about to hew a hazelnut to provide the queen of the fairies, Mab, with a new chariot.
Artist: Richard Dadd
Detail of The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - Onlookers and the as of yet uncracked nut
Artist: Richard Dadd
Detail of The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - Queen of the fairies Mab with her rival monarchs Oberon and Titania
Artist: John Anster Fitzgerald
Painting: Fairy Hordes Attacking A Bat

Artist: John Anster Fitzgerald
Painting: The Realms of Fairydom

Sir Joseph Noël Paton
Sir Joseph Noël Paton

The inspiration material is lush and fascinating. The final product; Epic, is beautiful and a breath of fresh air. The characters were well-realised and the world was a wonderful place to inhibit.

I thought that the characters in Epic were well developed and I enjoyed watching the relationships they had with each other change and grow. Two of the main characters, Mary Katherine (MK) and Nod are yound adults and they act like it. Mary Katherine goes by "MK" now since her full name is too young and dorky for her. I liked watching the affection between them grow as well as the strengthening relationship between MK and her eccentric dad, Professor Bomba. I really enjoyed that at the end of the film the connection between the tiny world and the big world of "stompers" was not lost; MK gets to keep chatting with her new friends. It felt a little bit bittersweet as the full size version of MK and Nod can never "be together" and the small forest characters and the big stompers will have a screen or a magnifying glass between them. But all the same it was a unique twist and a lovely ending.

There were a few interesting morals and theories revealed by Epic and I didn't feel that any of these were pressed upon the viewer too much. The two big ones are that "just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean it's not there", and the philosophy of "many leaves, one tree".

I highly enjoyed the fantastical and natural world of plants, little creatures and animals. The hummingbirds were loyal and friendly aids to the leaf men. The sight of the little forest people riding around on hummingbirds is pretty awesome. And there was a whole cast of fastastical flower and plant people that were super charming.

I wasn't personally a fan of the voice acting my Beyonce. She has a gorgeous voice, but her acting and dialogue seemed stilted and I just wasn't crazy about her character. She didn't seem particularly "queenly" or royal to me. The romance between her and Ronin was peculiar, obvious and unexplained. I couldn't help but feel like I was being sold a Beyonce product. The song by Nim Galuu, voiced by Steven Tyler was also an oddity. The song sounded good, but the fact that the film was lead to a point where a Wizard of Oz-like showman who didn't add a heck of a lot to the plot or pacing of the film was given the opportunity to break into song was a cheesey animated film trope.

One of the things I did find strange about Epic was the idea that renewal and growth is "good" and decay and rot is "evil", seemingly just because. Truly, forests need rot and decay. It's simply a part of the natural life cycle. In a forest, rot isn't a sign of a healthy tree. But trees eventually die and rotting and decay is simply part of the life cycle of a tree. Ususally a number of factors will end the life of tree. Any combination of injury, drought stress, followed by diesease, rot, root dieback, perhaps a lightening strike, and insect infestation is potentially a cause for the death of a tree when it will then become a snag. A snag is a standing dead tree. Over time the tree will decompose making way for new growth. As the snag slowly breaks down it will provide habitate, cover and food for wildlife and in turn, animals, insects and fungi help break down a tree. As this process occurs, the snag will return nutrients to the soil providing health for new trees. So decay is necessary.

At the end of the film the pod that is chosen by Queen Tara is brought to Moonhaven where it has been decreed that it must sprout and under the full moon so that a new heir to the forest may be chosen/revealed. The villain Mandrake however wants the pod to bloom in darkness so that it will bloom as an evil rotting creature so that no more growth can occur in the forest. I think a clever potential ending to the film would have been for the pod to blood in semi-darkness and result in an heir that represents growth and decay. That would represent balance for the forest.
Cartoonbrew wrote of Epic after it hit theaters and titled it's post "Epic" Box Office Plumments in U.S., Slow Abroad". The tone of and very title of that article were inherently negative, indicating that the box office profits are a clear indication of success or failure. The article has nothing to say of the good points of the film nor the artists who worked on it. It jumps right on it's monetary shortcomings and compares it to the returns of previous Blue Sky films as well as other recent animated films and their week two drop rates. I think that actually seeing the movie is a good first step if you want to talk about the film. Studios and their artists need the support of movie going audiences - and not just to get your money, but so that a discussion can be had.

For the record, Cartoonbrew did have a talkback post for Epic. However that post was not particularly positive either.

I can't wait to see what Blue Sky comes up with in the future. There are obviously a lot of passionate artists working there who have a love for the medium of animation and story. Rio is my favorite Blue Sky film to date and I'm actually excited about a sequel to that when often I'm just flat out not into sequels. Nigel was a huge standout and I would love to see more of the fantastic characters from Rio as well as in future stories by Blue Sky.

A few links:

Richard Dadd's Master Stroke - a fascinating read about a wonderful artist who fell mentally while touring the Mediterranean in the early 1840's

Checking out Blue Sky's New Connecticut Studio

Chris Wedge and Bill Joyce talk Epic - a fun and chatty interview of the two directors

Book Review: The Art of Epic

June 7, 2013

new post coming soon...

This has been a busy week for me and getting a blog post finished up for today is a task I started but wasn't able to finish on time. I saw Epic this week and started writing a review of that but I don't want to just rush-finish it and shove that on my blog. I'll finish that up this weekend and get it online soon. In the meantime go see Epic by Bluesky!

June 4, 2013

Visual Post: Dragons of Atlantis Cloud Baby Dragon Animation

I realised that I haven't shared any of the animation that I've done for Dragons of Atlantis online. I was working on my demo reel a little while ago but for reasons it didn't get finished. I would still like to finish updating it and get that online soonish though. For today, please put your eyeballs on the animation I did of the Cloud Baby Dragon!
Cloud Baby Dragon Idle Animation from Andrea K Haid on Vimeo.

I'm already getting antsy to get back to work on my film after being away for just a week! It's like a Siren, calling me. I've watched a few movies since my painting milestone and I made a fitness schedule for myself that in theory would be easy to keep up with. Part of that schedule has me getting to the gym after work and before dinner but since I decided to do that I've ended up socialising or being too busy every evening. Argh! I would much prefer to work out in the morning but, pretty much due to my hair, that means I'm late for work every day. My hair is long and it takes forever to wash, brush and dry it. Dammit. Cut it you say? I don't think so. So I dunno. I really want to exercise more but I have a hell of a time fitting fitness into my daily schedule. Maybe I'll just try exercise in the morning again.

I have made a little bit of time for learning Maya on my own in the last week! I don't think it's going to be a stretch for me to get comfortable animating in Maya. I feel like it's completely within my reach. It would be cool to get better at modeling and just have a general understanding of more Maya tools, though animating is always going to be my specialty and passion. I'll keep at it and put up some tutorials that I complete sometime.

Take a Deep Breath...

Here is a small taste of a big scene I've been working on! It's been so addictive to work on this. I hate doing a bunch of work and ...