Friday, June 27, 2008

Previously Unreleased: Mariah Carey

Another one from the Popped Culture Theater series that was never released - Mariah Carey.

This one was a lot further along than the Britney Spears Episode, but not nearly finished. It's basically a Color Posed Animatic, ready for animation, Audio Mix and post.

We were well into production on this one (including music) when it was canned. The client called and told us to wrap it up because the sponsor, Pepsi, had just signed a deal with Mariah Carey to be their spokesperson (a professional relationship that has since expired), and they did not want to create bad blood.

Interestingly enough, Britney was once also a Pepsi spokesperson, and hers was the next cartoon we went into production on (and was also cancelled in mid-production, though seemingly for different reasons).

This Mariah cartoon actually started out kind of funny, but the script slowly devolved into a series of metaphoric puns trying to connect Maria's voice to the sound that Dolphins make. I was only sorry that we never got the chance to fix these problems and make it work!

With most of the Popped Culture Theater pieces, the scripts we started out were not quite... funny. Most of the writers were very talented music history devotees and solid journalists, but their scripts were never fully cooked (hey, comedy is tough!). But the stories were built on firm foundations and loaded with the good ideas, so once we brought in the improv-oriented voice talent and applied our visual magic, things came together for the most part - not every short was a smash, but we' were very proud of some of them!

Stay Tooned


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Previously Unreleased: Britney Spears

Introducing the never before seen (and never quite finished) episode of Popped Culture Theater, "Britney & K-Fed".

This is the love story that was never told: Boy meets Girl, Boy dumps Wife & Kids, Boy screws up big time, Girl Dumps Boy, Girl shaves head - come to think of it, it's a good thing it was never told.

Never mind the Cinder Blocks

Excluding the above still, we never got past the B&W Animatic stage on this one, and since it was yours truly doing the drawing, it ain't pretty (don't hate me because I can't draw!). But the audio track was (mostly) completed, and it's actually one of the funniest PCT bits we've done!

When Kevin Met Britney

This is as far as we got when we got the call that the popped Culture Theater series was kaput. No real reason why -perhaps we weren't hitting our numbers, perhaps it was that fact that we were too offensive...? I don't think the cartoons were bad Per Se - not always great, but certainly worthy of a few minutes' time from some bored office worker.

Here's one more image - this is what the characters would have looked like once cleaned up (designs by Willie Castro - a real designer!).

Stay tooned.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Unreleased Work

As novice animators, almost all of us dreamt of our creations making it into the mainstream and being seen by millions of devoted fans. In our immortal youth, it was never a question of whether we would succeed, but where and how.

One possible idea for a new TV show.

As we got older and settled into the industry, our priorities shifted, along with our definition of success. Now we're just happy to know we can draw funny pictures all day and still feed our families - but the dream of reaching a wide audience never quite goes away.

On a handful of occasions, Flinch Studio has been fortunate enough to work on projects that made it into the public eye, if only for a short period of time. Usually the catalyst for this attention comes from being associated with celebrity (such as Sandler or Burton) or participating on an already popular property (The Critic, Family Guy), or simply having the good fortune to create content for display before a captive audience (The Mystery Mavs).

Tim Burton's Stainboy - 2000

Up late with Stewie & Brian - 2007

But not all of our hard work is seen by mass audiences - in some cases, it is seen by nobody at all. This is never due to a lack of quality (though we have produced some crap in the past) - it usually comes down to the purpose or the politics.

Often times, we are hired to produce pilots that are only intended for display to development executives... of course, it would be nice to see them go the distance and become shows, even if we are not producing the series.

But other obstacles stand in the way of mass release as well - sometimes clients experience a changing of the guard, a change of direction, a conflict of interests, or just may not have thought it through all the way before writing us a check (God bless them!).

Take Ottoland (2007) - what plan did an online car sales company have to leverage a mini-series about a group of teens stuck inside an amusement park into increased sales? I'm not really sure, but they funded the development and production of 6 decent episodes, and then shelved the whole thing as soon as it was done.

Ottoland Episode 1

They were an awesome client, and they paid up - they even gave me the green light to post the series on YouTube... but they basically paid a small crew to work for 18 weeks for something they would never use (repeat: God bless them!!).

What follows is a (very) brief excerpt from an undisclosed piece that was created a few years ago for an undisclosed client. We were under a very strict nondisclosure contract with this one - no displaying it or even talking about it until it was released. Well, it was never released. We were paid to create it, we were paid to make revisions, and then it was shelved. The following clip is all I can show you without giving away anything that could be considered "damaging".

Tom Cruise gets upset.

Any project that pays and gives you the satisfaction of having produced a funny, narrative piece is rewarding just for that... but there is something inherently frustrating about watching your work fade into obscurity - especially if it has potential.

In upcoming posts, I will present some more unreleased Flinch content, including pieces that were only partially completed before they got the axe. The content itself is often not as interesting as the story behind why it was shelved!

Stay Tooned,


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Phat Dragon

Finally! Someone has decided to address youth culture's thirst for Dragons and Hip Hop!

The Phat Dragon

It was either this or a dinosaur with a skateboard.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lil Hip Hop

Presenting Lil Hip Hop, a series created by Curtis Ray that focuses on a group of inner city rascals working their way to the top of the heap.

This is a quick little pilot to get the development execs excited about the prospect of a series.

We developed this for Ray and his Partner, Ishmael Brown Jr. on a budget so small even I'm surprised we pulled it off! Some of our top Flinch guys jumped in to help out, and we're pretty happy with the result of our very limited production. This is the epitome of Guerrilla style TV-friendly animation.

For the music, we used a combination of Hip Hop & 70s soul (and Hip Hop that samples 70s soul).

This is one of the few pieces we've worked on that I can feel good about showing to my kids - and they seem to enjoy it too, which is always nice!


More GeeGuides

Here are a couple more animation samples from the GeeGuides modules mentioned in the previous Blog. These represent such a small piece of the big picture - none of the imaginative Geeguides scructure or interactivity is present here - but you'll get an idea of the style and nature of the animation.

The Egyptian Module

The Moustache years

The style for these pieces is based on the old Disney Ward Kimball shorts from the 50s & 60s - Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, and the Space Program specials that were created for the Disneyland TV show. For anyone interested in working in this style, I highly reccomend the Disney Treasures series Tomorrowland DVD - it's expensive, but so, so worth it. Here's a couple of screen grabs:

For those who have met me in my heavier years, this one looks frighteningly like yours truly.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GeeGuides (our coattail award)

If you haven't heard of GeeGuides it's high time you do!

GeeGuides is an interactive animation based learning module series dedicated to using "edutainment" to teach. To date the only existing curriculum is (my favorite) art!

GeeGuides was formed by a group of ex-Disney guys after the Orlando 2D Studio was shut down (one of the Eisner Regime's more brilliant moves). A ton of great talent was scattered to the winds that year, and many of them re-formed to create small studios or ventures.

The Modules that GeeGuides put together (with Flinch teaming up with Fatkat Animation to handle Animation & Interactive design & code) are nothing short of brilliant. I was blown away by how much I learned just working on this project. Hey, it won awards - two, I think!

I can't wait until my kids are a little older and can really dig into this stuff! Take a look:

Tickles, Furnace & Ruby: Armed & Endangerous

The co-founder and creative force behind GeeGuides is Eric Guaglione, former Computer Animation Supervisor for Disney's last few 2D films. He is something of a Leonardo Da Vinci, equally proficient in technology and art. That's him doing the voice of Furnace.

It is truly an honor to get to work with people like Eric - every bit as much as it was working with more well-knowns like Sandler & Burton. Like any great creative lead, he maintains a clear vision while allowing the people working under him to exercise their talents. The other folks at GeeGuides deserve equal mention, especially our boy Randy Parker, the coolest cucumber in the salad!

And these guys made US feel like the rock stars!! To be fair, we did some pretty awesome work:

GeeGuides goes down in history as one of our favorite clients to date. We're not sure yet what will happen with the program, but it is so amazing (and ahead of its time) that it's bound to be a success.

We sure are proud to have worked with them.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hi-Def Solar Panel Hoo-Hah

Nothing says FUN like the following combination of words:

Applied Materials Sun Fab Installation Demo

Awwww...YEAH! We just completed it last week - and we're still trying to catch our breath. Actually, we're just trying to catch up on our sleep.

Have a look - it's a big file so go grab yourself a large coffee while it downloads (it will help you make it through all 3 minutes):

It's one of the few High-Definition projects we've had the opportunity to develop, so it's kind of important in that regard. It's also the most work we've ever produced in under 3 weeks. It's a bit rough around the edges - and in all of those areas between the edges - but it's done, and supposedly, someone will be sending us a check. Which is nice.

I like to joke that every job here at Flinch has that cursed moment - the moment where we just get a dose of pure bad luck or horribly crappy timing that threatens to take the whole job down and put us all in the looney bin - but we always get through it. It's one of the reasons we named our parent corporation Cursed Entertainment Inc.

This particular project bore the curse from the third day in, and carried it to the finish line. In every job where the budget is miniscule and the schedule is tight, there just comes a point when you have to say "no". That's when I'm the bad guy.

If you haven't already seen the" Good Fast & Cheap" chart, here's a folksy retail version.

Nobody likes having "the chart" pointed out to them.... but as always, the job came out looking better than they expected, and they showered us with praise, and they'll probably win another award (same client as the Edison job I mentioned a few blogs back).

Best of all, I got to work with a great team of guys, some of them for the very first time.

Have a look, let us know what you think,


Thursday, June 12, 2008

War Mart Logo Parody Contest

As of today, we still don't have a winner in the War Mart Logo Parody Contest!

Watch the Oh McCain cartoon and see if you can guess what the War Mart logo & branding is a parody of. The first to guess correctly wins a free Flinch T-Shirt!

Times being what they are, we're all tightening up our belts and pinching pennies.... in these dark moments, how do we continue to put food on the table while staying immersed in Toon-Geek fashion? Well, I'm trying to tell you! Guess it right and you'll soon be riding out the summer in these sweet threads! Wrinkles are complimentary!

Unless you're this guy, you could probably use a free T-Shirt right about now.

Guess the Logo Parody, and submit your answer either in the comments section or by email at - don't wait, if Matthew gets this one first, the shirt will just go to waste!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flinch takes Political Pokes with Oh McCain

Flinch Studio has officially entered the murky waters of political satire with its brand new cartoon "Oh McCain", developed for our pals over at Lunatics and Liars (

We here at Flinch have great respect for professional Presidential Candidate John McCain - after all, he's got the balls that Bush pretends to have. But he's just given us so much to poke fun at, and someone was willing to pay us to do it. So here he is:

We had a very talented group of people working on this, from start to finish - great client, great co-conspirators, and my guys kicking out some fine Schoolhouse Rock-style animation. We're super proud of ths one!

TRIVIA CONTEST - can anyone tell me what the War Mart logo is a parody of?

First one to guess it right gets a Flinch TShirt. And yes, family and friends can enter, considering they make up 98% of my viewership.

Well I expect a load of hate mail from this one, but we've been there already - hey, some of it might make the blawg!


Friday, June 6, 2008

My First Hate Mail!

We just wrapped a new website a few weeks back with the help of our good friends over at Fatkat:

Now, it’s not a masterpiece among websites, but we’re pretty proud of what we did for a handful of dollars, and hey – it’s a socially conscious outfit trying to make a difference, which is always a nice plus. Well sir, the site isn’t live for more than a few days, when I get this lovely email from a doting fan:

“You don't want to hear this, and I'm sorry to be the purveyor of the news, but the website really sucks. Forget the Flash and the cute stuff, and just stick with HTML. It works fine, and it's what 95% of the visitors want. At the very least, give your visitors the choice of the cutsy Flash site or a conventional Tried-And-True HTML site. It's the least you can do. Anything else is a disservice to your customers and their site visitors. Sorry.... “

The first thing I noticed was that you can actually feel his sincerity… he truly is sorry to be the purveyor of this news. Do you know what kind of pain you have to be in to use a word like "purvey"? I feel awful for the guy - what a load that must be to bear– but delivered with such poetic grace and grammatical perfection.

The second thing I noticed was how perceptive this guy was. In only a matter of days he managed to uncover my secret plot to demonize and crush the HTML community with my cleverly subversive Flash sites! Damn him! Why do I do it? For the same reason as any terrorist: I hate Freedom! You can see it in my work.

Oh, this guy is good… real good. He could easily get a job working for the NSA (clearly his HTML career hasn’t been taking off).

So here’s the question: when did it become okay to start delivering unsolicited hate comments through a company’s email? Isn’t that what blogs are for? Does this guy yell at the kid in Baskin Robbins for not telling his customers they should go to Subway and get a salad instead?

Bottom line, his rant falls on deaf ears (not just because my hearing is bad). It’s a good site. My Client loves it. My self-worth isn’t shaken by the criticism of an angry fool… but the method in which he chose to channel his anger is more than a little disturbing. I am an angry, angry man… I understand anger. But it’s never even occurred to me to take it out on a random stranger for their choice in web tools.

This may or may not be a picture of the emailer

I feel positively Ghandi-like now!

Is this guy dangerous? Is he crazy? Am I going to be stabbed to death with a Wacom Pen while trying to unlock my beat-up, ten-year-old car paid for with the meager profit margins of low-budget web work? Or is this just a way of compensating for impotence?

Anyone wanna weigh in on this?


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Award winning Studio?

Flinch wins another award! Sort of.

Our client actually gets the award. They wrote it and paid for it, so that's fair - but we still get to brag, right?

It's the Communicator Awards' First-Place trophy for "Interactive Multimedia - Education (academic)". I have no idea who the "Communicator Awards" are, but they have a website, so they must be legit:

Oh wait - I have a website too.

We are pretty proud of the winning piece, actually - and especially for the fact that it looks like we got paid three times what we actually made for it!

Here's a peek at the evolution of the artwork - starting with the home / launch page:

I'm not a big fan of the whole background-as-navigation approach to interactivity. It seems that was a popular idea back in the 20th century (God knows we did our share of it) - and hey, it certainly takes jobs that would normally go to corporate graphics outfits and channels it to jokers like me, so I really don't complain about it often. That is not to say we can't employ fanciful, cartoony design styles into pages (see the Flinch Site) but it just seems like such a tired idea to try to force intuitive navigation into a "set".

UNLESS the content calls for it... which was exactly the case with this piece. The whole point was to show the items laying around your house, and describe how they all evolved from Edison's inventions.

This is the evolution of the interior / main navigation page:

To see how the final piece works, check out this link:

It was not developed for the web so expect a long front-end load time. Outside of that, I'm proud of the code we did for the piece - because I did it all myself!! I am by no means an expert coder - I'm pretty much using non-Actionscript throughout, all stuff that has been available since version 5 - but it still moves okay.
More on awards later....

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Do you ever feel like this?

Honestly, I'm not joking, that's how I feel sometimes. The smile is important.

Otto Grillo

There’s nothing like having a client with a sense of humor. You'd think a cartoon company would have more than a few of those wouldn't you? Not true.

Otto Otter is a character that we developed for Irvine Auto Center in Orange County. He looks like this:

We've been working on a standee design for the client. After delivering several sketches of Otto, whom we've been animating for almost a year, we got an email from our client announcing that they wanted to take the character in another direction. Uggghh....

This was the preliminary sketch they sent.

Crazy so-and-so lifted it from my email signature. Horrific to see your own head on a beloved mascot. Here's how he looks in real life:

I don't care what you say - it's awesome having one of your creations walking around out there, shaking hands with little kids, lifting his leg on the sidewalk.

We love those guys over at – oh wait, the last time we mentioned this client’s name on an industry blog, they were flooded with calls from animation studios looking to undercut Flinch. Nice try guys – nobody is stupid enough to work as cheaply as we do! But just in case you are… I'll just call him "Mike". Good guy, Mike.