Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where are all the Traditional Hand Drawn Animated films ? (and why study traditional animation?)

When people make the claim: "There are no traditional animation jobs" or "2D is dead" you should realize that what they mostly mean is that the model of big-budget feature length 2D Animation that flourished for a time in the U.S. film industry from roughly 1985 - 1999 and then finally crashed and burned in the years between 2000 - 2003 (for a variety of reasons, both economic and artistic, too complicated to go into here) is no longer viable.

Yes, perhaps that particular model of traditional animation production is "dead" (or maybe "just resting, pining for the fjords") and is not likely to come back the way it was in the 1990's. There will continue to be hand-drawn animated features , but those will probably be for a niche market , smaller indie films, not necessarily major feature animated films like 'Beauty & the Beast' , 'Aladdin', 'The Lion King' , or even slightly smaller scale films like 'Lilo & Stitch'. It's possible that there could be a break-out hand drawn animated hit again on that scale , but it doesn't seem likely, at least not in the short run. (but never say never ... things couldn't have been much more "dead" than in 1985 - '86 when a couple of films came out that I think changed everything: The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail . Momentum picked up after those , leading to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and beyond ...)

BUT that is not the only viable model of traditional hand-drawn animation production , and it never was the norm. Hand-drawn animation doesn't need to be "saved" or make a "comeback" , because it never really went away. I think there will continue to be smaller scale feature films like "The Secret of Kells" or "The Illusionist" , as well as more truly independent micro productions (one-person , creator driven features or features made by a very small crew) such as "My Dog Tulip" , "Sita Sings the Blues" , "Idiots & Angels" and Nick Cross's forthcoming "Black Sunrise"

There is so much hand-drawn animation still being done for advertisements , short films, games, and web applications (including iPhone/iPad and other tablet apps). And whether it's drawn with pencil on paper or using a Cintiq tablet in an app like TVP Animation , the traditional drawing-based skill sets are still essential to telling a story through images.

Here are a few projects I've seen recently which remind me of how hand-drawn animation is being used in the real world outside of mainstream "Hollywood" features:

Story Corps latest oral history animated piece , "Miss Devine" :

Clever animated advertisements animated by Jason Doll :

Music video animated by Anthony F. Schepperd for Blockhead's 'The Music Scene'.

"The Music Scene" from Anthony Francisco Schepperd on Vimeo.

TIJI Television Network "Colours" :

These are just a few randomly chosen examples from among many. IF you can think beyond "When I graduate I've got to go to work at a giant studio like Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/BlueSky/CartoonNetwork/Nickelodeon " [not that there's anything wrong with that] you can find a world of opportunity out there for animation. (in particular the hand-drawn variety) .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CTN Expo - Behind the Scenes with Independent Filmmaker Mike Nguyen

Here is another inspiring video from a presentation given at the CTN Animation Expo .

If you haven't attended CTN Expo before it is highly recommended . CTN is only 3 years old , but has THE place to be for people interested in character animation.  This year's CTN Expo will be Nov. 18 - 20, in Burbank, CA.

Animator/director Mike Nguyen has been working on the independent animated feature film "My Little World" for many years now (working on it part-time between other jobs).  

Mike Nguyen primary interest is the hand-drawn animation film making medium and aims to reflect beautiful thoughts toward this life on Earth.

Mike received his BFA in Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts in 1988. Since then, he has worked primarily in the feature animation industry as a Character Animator in various studios, including Walt Disney, Warner Bros., and DreamWorks Animation.

For more about Mike please visit :

Mike's blog "Rainplace" is one of the best animation blogs on the web.   Mike discusses the "how to" of animation in great depth, but also the "why" of animation , with a very creative/spiritual emphasis, using examples from his own work.

As in this post on "Rough Pass as Thumbnailing" where he discusses taking animation from a first rough pass to a "tied down" version of the roughs :

All Images Copyright Mike Nguyen/July Films. Go to his blog , "Rainplace" to see many more examples like this. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

VLSM (Very Large Stop Motion)

To the list of all the fun and useful things you can do with your cell phone, add animation. Aardman Studios teamed up with Nokia to promote the N8 smart phone. The N8's on board camera supposedly has a 12 mega pixel sensor. HEY! that's more than my current DSLR has! And plenty mp to shoot HD with.

But why am I posting this here? No, I did not get a new job with Nokia; check out this experimental styled stop motion short and you'll understand...if you still don't get it come see me (make an appointment first please:

Stop Motion "Gulp"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kitchen Pest

I came home today hearing that we have a fly problem in the kitchen– a problem I created. Often in the summer this problem is due to fruit that ripened while we were away at work, which then attracted fruit flies. But our house has another kind of kitchen pest: an artist who leaves work on the kitchen counter.

I am sure I am not the only one guilty of this offense. Thankfully, this particular fly problem was pretty easy to address. After taking a few photos for the blog, I put the puppet away in the closet.

This, as puppets go, is a fairly inexpensive and quick puppet build. The materials used:
  • 5 sheets of 8.5" x11" craft felt, 45¢ per sheet, in pink olive, goldenrod, fuzzy black, black
  • 2 plastic 18mm faux pearls, 4 per bag for $1.99 each- pearl paint removed
  • 1 red sports shoe string, hollow style, $1.79 per pair
  • 3 styrofoam balls 2" diameter, 79¢ each
  • 12 feet of 16 gage armature wire (armature wire from Utrecht is approx. $5.00 for 33 feet)
  • 2" of 2-part hardening epoxy putty (this is a small portion of a larger tube that costs around $6.00)
  • 6 T-nuts, at 23¢ each
  • 1/8 yard of translucent blue fabric scrap– fabric store scrap bin purchase, 80¢
  • 23 gage (thin) armature wire, special lab purchase 35¢ for 24 feet; not all 24 feet were used
  • 1 sewing needle and some thread (blue, black and olive)
  • 1 hand full of cotton cosmetic puffs (cotton balls, an entire bag is 99¢)
  • some Elmer's glue all
All told the supplies cost less than $15.00.

The bee, because that is really what this character is, took about 8 hours to assemble. I made it in small shifts on a number of different days. Now it is ready to soon as it is done eating this cup cake.