Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
I was reminded recently of something I recently told a fellow – a particularly penny-pinching pinhead who grilled me for over an hour trying to get a sack of gold for a sack of nickels.
At the limit of my patience, I said this: “We’re not Wal Mart – we’re more like Old Navy.”
Now, we work cheap, there’s no doubt about that. But we don’t have the resources, the cunning or the utter lack of ethics required to manipulate hard work out of desperate, hungry animators for a few coins and some lint – so we’re probably not the cheapest Studio. But we do aspire to making cartoons that aren’t revolting to watch… “great” would be nice, but we’ll take not revolting.
Much in the same way Old Navy clothes aren’t utterly revolting to look at.
Now you may have some kind of “fashion sense” or “style” that far exceeds mine (like that’s hard – I invented the Mullet) but in general, it seems Old Navy duds hold their own, as long as you’re not hanging out at Country Clubs or.. well any clubs.
And if you can’t afford to shop at uber-casual outlets like Banana Republic, or Tommy Hilfiger or Needless Markup (I’m looking at you, career animators), but you’re not willing to contribute to the slow painful death of America (by shopping at Wal Mart), Old Navy is much appreciated.
I like to think of Flinch as the Old Navy of animation. Mock me if you must, but have you seen their commercials? Not the old ones with the silly songs and the 80’s has-beens, the new, sexy ones with the pretty girls! And people talk about how sex sells… I don’t know if sex sells to me, but it makes me stop fast-forwarding for a few seconds.
And that’s exactly what we try to do, get you to stop fast forwarding for a few seconds – just apply that to whatever metaphor comes to mind. That’s our goal for now – to do that and get paid.
When we get some traction, we’ll be going for the JC Penny crown!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Character Cleanup takes so damn long! I've been slaving away on these suckers for weeks! Here's a few of the Inspector McCloud characters in their presentable state:
It's not just the initial poses and turns (turns - yeah right!), it's all the damn assets too. Eyes, mouths, arms, hands... kill me soon, please.
Here's the next batch I gotta do:
Next it's on to it's Hugh Grant, Jesssica Simpson, Sandy Cheeks... when does it end??
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I'm writing from my vacation, or "work-cation" as I have so cleverly redubbed it (yeah, I'm not expecting an emmy nod for that one).
I'm holing up in this nice little time share with the rest of America's SOV crowd (Seniors on Vacation). Guess which unit is mine?
Got a visit from my good friend Kim. Here she is after one of our signature low-key surf sessions:
Working on vacation is obviously a bit limiting... it feels so primitive without my Cintiq, my scanner, my light table, my blasting music.... but one adapts. I'm doing all my character cleanup on my bulky laptop (I call it the lap-crusher) with a mini optical mouse. If I need something more hand-drawn, I'll draw it in my sketch pad, snap a photo, dump the image onto the laptop through the USB cable, then clean it up via mouse in Flash. Oh, and I have i-tunes for the blazing rock!
It's a little more difficult when you want to work outdoors. The first two nights here featured a spectacular full moon, so I was out on the grass patio in a deck chair cleaning up Chuck Norris' head. Though my moon-tan might suggest otherwise, there wasn't enough light to see the keyboard very well, so there will probably be a lot of mis-named assets.
I'm also using this trip to meet with a friend here who is gearing up to produce an autobiographical animated series taking place in Melbourne. We'll be snapping lots of photos today of this guy's world to take back to our icy caves and turn into pure entertainment gold. More on that later - hopefully.
Amid the sunshine and surfing are tons of little nuggets of inspiration. Here's one that had me tickled:
Didn't catch that? Let me zoom in for ya:
You see those damn birds? What a poop-storm that must be! I can't wait to work that into a cartoon.
While I'm gone, the Family back at Flinch is keeping the artistic vibe flowing:
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Follow-up to my Bugs Bunny Post: After lodging a serious complaint to the deaf-o-shpere about the dearth of Bugs Bunny on Cartoon Network, They go and run a Looney Tunes Marathon on New Years Day, which was quickly rushed out the back door of my TIVO by a flood of Daily Show reruns.
But not to worry, because my good buddy Sean sent me - I mean sent my son - a fully loaded collection of Looney Tunes on DVD. My boy went crazy!
I don't know what made me more excited, the gift or the fact that he's reading my blog.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Like most animation geeks and/or Pixar Fans, I saw Wall E when it came to theaters last summer. I enjoyed it (as much as someone can while in full parent mode ), but I can't say I truly appreciated it for the stellar piece of filmmaking it is!
I'm not just talking about the much publicized message - that Convenience will one day destroy everything we love and force us to grow fat & plug into the matrix - it's just a damn well made film!
As soon as it was released, it was almost completely overshadowed by paranoid accusations from the right wing that is was a bunch of liberal preaching wrapped up in a cute kids movie (how preserving our quality of life became partisan I do not know). They even tried to make roaches cute, those bleeding hearts!!
Not the first Pixar film to have a political agenda hung around its neck - The Incredibles was perceived by many to be a statement that government bureaucracy was impeding on exceptional peoples' ability to do their best. 3D Socialism!
Oh, and Spongebob is Patrick's gay lover.
Pixar just plain makes awesome movies (though they pushed their luck with Cars). The technology and the inconceivably tight attention to detail & quality has made them so much fun just to look at that you could turn down the sound and enjoy them! And that's just what I had to do the other day, pretending to do adult stuff during a dinner party while the Wall E DVD was playing in my line of site from the next room - I was enthralled.
Even without the message, the amazing imagery, or the big budget thrills - in terms of just pure storytelling - this movie rocks my bones! The characters are so rich and expressive, the plot evolves effortlessly but with palatable twists and turns, and the imagination that moves the story forward - none of these things rely on giant budgets (respectable ones, yes).
In the end, Wall E is a really great love story with robots... robots that play out some pretty interesting gender role twists. There's also a lot of action, visual gags, and liquified food. Best of all, they worked the Haliburton Logo into the branding for Big & Large, the offending corporate giant behind the species' sedation.
Okay, maybe it's a little political ;)
Sunday, January 4, 2009
One of the most thrilling aspects to the Inspector McCloud project (for me) is the way it was written.
David Knoell as Burnt Ciggy and Agent John Q Public
David Knoell as Burnt Ciggy and Agent John Q Public
Though I had developed a basic story outline to work from, Inspector McCloud’s script was Quasi-Improvised by the voice talent. Incorporating improvisation into the voice mix is nothing new, but we actually wrote most of the dialogue on the spot, as a group, and over-packed the tiny recording booth to lay it down in groups - which explains the less-than-stellar audio quality (something I do not usually allow, but the results are worth it in this case).
Daniel Cohen Plays Dirty Diaper Dan
The McCloud cast consists of a handful of scalawags from the
Chrissy Keihl as Lucy Litter
Chrissy Keihl as Lucy Litter
For several years, we had been discussing the idea of doing an improvised animation piece – just a handful of people in a room knocking out funny ideas and then running into the booth to serve them up while they’re warm. Problem is, once the recording is done, I get to slave over the animation for weeks while everyone goes on with their lives. Inspector McCloud gave me the opportunity to get paid to do it.
Because of their enormous contribution to the development of the characters and scenes, the voice artists (David Knoell, Jim Acamondo, Autumn Alexander, Steve Grogan, Daniel Cohen and Chrissy Keihl) have also earned writing credits.The show truly would not be been the same without them.
Jim plays Oil Slick Willie
plays Oil Slick Willie
Along with my brothers Jerry and Stephen Grillo, the cast helped to shape the characters and the sequences as they will ultimately play out. Again, you may see this sort of thing going on a lot within certain creative circles, but for a small, work-for-hire studio like ours, it was a special treat to have a client remain open to this process.
And John is an awesome client. He understands the limitations of our budget, and has given me enough rope – er, I mean room to build it the way I want to. One of the best decisions I made was to bring this group of very talented people on board to help shape the script. Not only did they remain focused on the elements that would bring the characters forward and tell the story, but they brought some amazing voices to the piece.
As improv artists and live interactive show professionals, most of these guys were able to give me several options to work with. I myself prefer to write my lines out so I know what I'm going to say - but when you're in the room with folks like Chriss, Autumn, Daniel, David & Steve, the ideas just bubble up like bad gas! Hopefully, the final product smells just as sweet!
I drew this single-panel cartoon to celebrate the holiday and the new year. It was written mostly by my 6-year-old son, who just cracks me up sometimes.
The problem is, nobody got it. Not my son's fault, he was a hoot saying that line "Egg Here, Egg Nog, a play on McCain's "Drill Here, Drill Now" mantra that earned he and Alaska Barbie so many donations from Big Oil.
It was my execution and, primarily, my assumption that everyone was as immersed in the McCain campaign as I was (what with making cartoons about the man all summer) that killed the joke.
If you haven't heard him say it, here's one example:
Single panel is hard, but that is no excuse. Being tired and drunk when I did it - that is a fine excuse. Still, I think the concept of a "Big Nog" is hilarious (that was my wife's... come to think of it, what the hell do I do around here?).