Wednesday, December 30, 2009

After-Christmas Christmas Specials

Ah well, so it's a little late... but the 12 days of Christmas go until January 6th, right? So there's still time to squeeze this in!

Everybody knows and loves the Peanuts holiday special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." That goes without saying. And who could forget "How the Grinch Stole Christmas?" But I figure, as an animation afficionado I should point to some other cartoon Christmas specials that may get overlooked from year to year, but are nonetheless entertaining! Check them out if you're in need of a little post-Christmas holiday cheer. :)

Prep & Landing - this is 2009's freshly unwrapped special from Disney, and is quite fun! Hulu's only got it until January 1st though, so check it out soon!

Phineas and Ferb's Christmas Vacation - If you've never seen Phineas and Ferb on the Disney channel, I highly recommend it! It's one of the few current cartoons both me and my husband both enjoy watching. Their Christmas special is just as slick as any of their other episodes.

Olive the Other Reindeer - Ok, so the animation's not Pixar quality or anything, but this is an inventive special for the younger crowd produced by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame.

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas - Ah, the Powerpuff Girls. :) What would the holidays be without a little bit of baddy bashing?

The Very First Noel - I saw this cute film at the Religious Education Congress a few years back and fell in love with their character and art design! It's a neat way to introduce kids to the Nativity story. You'll have to get the DVD from to see the whole thing, but I'd say it's a worthy investment and supports independent animation. :)

What animated Christmas specials do you recommend?

End of 2009 already?

How time flies! Work has been busy, and a side project has been keeping me busy in my free time as well (as any YouTube followers may have noticed). We finally released a trailer for the game I'm working on, which you can see here:

My main contribution to the trailer was the ATV shots (a few other random things as well). There will be lots more to see later! I'm really hoping this latest effort does well. The team is enthusiastic and of course we have something to prove since Call of Duty currently leads the pack in FPSes.

Anyway. Like last year I found some time to draw a card for my mom's birthday (which falls near Christmas). I went for a sort of classic storybook style this time:

Monday, May 11, 2009


Every once in a while I do a little sculpting with Sculpey polymer clay, just for fun! This latest project was a gift for my sister's birthday, very much in the style of Tim Cotteril's bronze frog sculptures (which I can't afford :P)

Here's a couple pics, sorry the first one is kind of dark:

He's got an inner skeleton made of tin foil and 1/8" armature wire to add stability and help it bake faster. The metallic sheen was created with a mix of red and yellow Daler Rowney Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic Inks, with black enamel for the eyes and legs, and gold spray paint for the toes. For the spots I also used black enamel but quickly dabbed up most of the paint with a paper towel to create a faux patina look. Coated the whole thing with some Sculpey glaze for a nice shine.

I think he looks pretty happy hanging out in the backyard :)

BTW, "Santa Rocks" is on hold as a side project came up which offered me a chance to do some 2D animation :D It won't be anything spectacular but it does get me drawing again! I'm excited to haul out the Wacom and *gasp* even a pencil and sketchpad!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

13 Unique Wonders

I thought I'd make a birthday card for my grandma, and this is how it turned out:

My grandparents are big fans of Mah-Jongg, and often host games at their house. The hand I put on the birthday card is one of the highest scoring hands you can get in the game, due to the difficulty of drawing the right tiles. My grandparents actually have pictures of their lucky hands in photo albums to show off to other Mah-Jongg players. Hey, I'm impressed! :)

This was the first time I tried "inking" the outlines in Flash. I've seen some other artists get very nice results from changing lines into fills to adjust the shape of the outlines... but I got lazy and just left them as lines :P Overall I was pretty happy with the control I had over the shape of the lines, even though it probably ended up taking about twice as long as it would have taken had I inked them freehand in Photoshop.

I keep telling myself that someday I'll learn how to render! Y'know, light sources and textures and all that jazz. I guess I get too impatient and want my illustrations to just be finished already. Maybe that's the animator in me wanting to move on to the next drawing...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Santa Rocks - OMG no more stepped keys!

So I took a chunk of the animation I'm working on and weaned it off of stepped keys, finally. I hadn't touched this for a while since things got busy with my choir's concert and work stuff.

I always dread the transition between stepped and spline, because it's so hard to keep that snap and spark to the animation once you start in-betweening. It's also when I start noticing that the cheats I did to capture certain poses don't work once I need to put a breakdown in between the two keys. What do you guys think?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Quote of the moment

"If you can turn down the sound and tell what's going on, it's animation. If you can turn down the picture and tell what's going on, that's radio." ~Chuck Jones

Not sure if the quote is exact, Eric Goldberg quoted it in the Animation Podcast. Regardless, I think it's worth thinking about!

"Santa Rocks," Part 2

I've added keyframes to try to define the scene more clearly and work on anticipation etc. Unfortunately this rig is very rudimentary so it doesn't have any fancy controls like squash and stretch (dammit Jim, I'm an animator not a rigger :P). I'll just have to make due with what I've got! Hey, Toy Story didn't have squash & stretch, did it?

I tried to capture some of the frantic excitement as he tears open his gift. What do you think? Does he look excited yet? Haven't focused on fingers much yet except at the very end, so the hand gestures are non-existent for the most part.

I know I know, I keep messing with the face. Eric Goldberg says it's ok. ;) As an experiment, however, I did try muting all the head controls to see how it looked without any facial expressions. Other than the creepy dead eyes, it actually still reads pretty well IMO. I promise when I start polishing I'll leave the face alone.

As usual feedback and critique appreciated!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Eric Goldberg on the Animation Podcast

Some interesting quotes I found relating to my question on blocking/posing:

"My approach tends to be feeling first, anatomy second. In other words, I like to draw everything that has a sense of give to it, and a sense of life and everything that will support the idea of a pose, and then build the anatomy on top. I think part of the difficulty with CG these days is that you're already starting with anatomy, and so you're already somewhat limited in how you can engineer everything to support a point or to support a thrust, so on and so forth, because you're already dealing with kind of boned and hinged characters."

"There's very little that I draw without at least some loose framework underneath. And I tend to start, you know, with what I think are the most compelling aspects first. I will almost always start with the face... The first thing I draw is the bridge of his nose, and his eyes sitting on top of it, and then the mouth underneath. That eyes-nose-mouth combination is the central focus, and I can put the eyes in any shape and expression that I want... THEN I draw the cranium behind it."

"Typically in CG, you layer things: you do the gross body movement, then you put the facial on top, and the legs on top... it's one reason a lot of CG walks don't work very well. It's because they do the torso first, and add the legs, which is crazy! It means that no walk actually has a push-off, and so all the walks look floaty. As opposed to the way you would do it in hand-drawn is actually conceiving the push-off thrusting that torso forward. And so, it's the kind of thing where it's kind of bass-ackwards, if you will, in the way that CG is done a lot of times, although strides are being made in making it more organic, definitely. But it's not a natural thing for CG to do unless you conceive it that way from the outset."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Holiday drawings

This was a birthday card for my mom (her bday's on December 22nd):

Had a little fun creating a confetti brush for Photoshop. :) And some fanart for Dragonfable:

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Animation styles

So I've started up a short piece of animation (about 13 seconds, just shy of a 181A film) to practice acting and dialogue, something I don't often get to do at my job. I suppose if it turns out well I could put it on my demo reel, but I'd like feedback from other animators along the way to get it up to a good quality. I'm in the layout/blocking stage on the primary character:

The camera operator is an unseen third character (hence why the main character sometimes looks at the camera). I'll add some hand-held camera shake and a blinking "REC" overlay when I'm done with the animation to emphasize that.

I know at A.M. they start full body acting without any facial expressions - they have a rig with arms and legs and a head, but no face. I've heard that it's a good habit to get into when roughing out animation: make sure the body movement tells the story first, then add the facial expressions afterwards. I can see the merit to that, you don't want to get lazy with the body motion and rely on the face to sell the shot. At the same time, a viewer's attention is drawn to the face and eyes in particular, so shouldn't the facial emotion at least be considered when blocking?

I tend to switch work styles depending on the shot, although for acting I prefer to begin by setting keyframes on the entire body (as above) rather than working on parts at a time. Perhaps it's the traditional animator in me. :)

Hand-drawn animation was getting a swift kick in the pants when I started college, so I only really got a year's worth of training in the craft... and probably not the best training either. But I seem to recall wanting to draw the entire character, face and all, when roughing out the keys. Is that bad? Glenn Vilppu always told us "there are no rules, just tools."

ANYway. Guess I better get back to animating!