Jun. 20th, 2017 11:12 am
tealin: (Default)
I've been wanting to get to the animation festival at Annecy since 2012 when Paperman premiered there, but every year there's been some reason why I can't make it. This year, I made a pact with a friend to book accommodation early so we would have to go, and luckily that paid off. I just returned last night from a week's worth of animation nerdery, architectural beauty, and cheese (so much cheese), and while more will probably be written, here's a quick rundown of a few things I learned:
  • The French for 'screening' is séance, a fact I shall treasure forever
  • Just because it's in the mountains and by a lake doesn't mean it won't get really, swelteringly, paralyzingly hot
  • Annecy is not, as I had been led to believe, a small town. This impression came from people who live in LA, in comparison to which pretty much anything smaller than London is small town.
  • However hot Annecy gets, Lyon gets much hotter. I must never go to Lyon.
  • Buy your bread before noon
  • Unexpected vocabulary differences between French and Québecois: myrtille for bleuet, parking for stationnement
  • There are astonishingly few places that will sell you a coffee and a pastry and a place to sit down for an hour or so
  • On the other hand, the springwater standpipes everywhere are pretty great

All in all it was a fabulous experience – I don't think I've ever been to a film festival before, nevermind an animated film festival, so was expecting something more along the lines of a comics convention. Something about all coming together to share the experience of films, rather than buy and sell each other's products – and reconnecting with so many people I knew from so many different places – gave it a lovely sort of family reunion atmosphere. An assortment of 'in group' experiences helped that too: shared exasperation for the heat, queuing for screenings (séances!), and little Annecy rituals like throwing paper airplanes at the screen while waiting for the show to start and making fish-popping noises in the darkness between shorts in a programme, but a major one was that everyone had the same song stuck in their head, because this little film played before every event:

There you go, now you're part of the family.
tealin: (actually)
Someone on Tumblr asked me about how to get your foot in the door in the animation industry, getting your portfolio looked at, and whether these days jobs have to come to you more than you going in search of them. I thought I'd copy my response here, as Tumblr is so frustratingly ephemeral ...

What follows is entirely my two cents and based solely on personal experience, which is limited and somewhat unusual. But I give it anyway, just in case it’s helpful.

I have had the pleasure, in at least two of my jobs, to end up friends with the person who takes the portfolios, and the cold calls from prospective job applicants. Based on that, I don’t believe studios have ever been enthusiastic to look at portfolios out of the blue, or take cold callers seriously, at least not in the 17 years I’ve known them. When portfolios came in, they’d go straight in the Portfolio File, which was only delved into when there was a job opening that couldn’t be filled by a past employee or a recommendation. Cold callers, having nothing to show for themselves over the phone, got even less consideration (email is better; you can attach images). Between years of school, I turned up at studios in town in person to ask about interning, and got politely turned away; at one of them the receptionist all but laughed in my face. So yes, it’s like that, but it’s not a new thing. It probably isn’t helped these days by the increased volume of art school grads, but it’s not new.

So, what advice do I have? Again, this is highly subjective and based on limited personal experience, but:

1. Don’t be annoying. A respectful attitude gets noticed: you are taking up a busy person’s time and attention, and if you can signal that you’re aware of this and grateful for the moment they can spend on you (and only make it a moment) they are less likely to brush you off. They may, still, but you’re lowering it from a guarantee to a probability.

Points 2 to 5 below... )

I’ve had art online for 18 years and never once has someone offered me a (real) job purely through that: every job has come through personal contacts and past work. I know the story is different for other people, but that is how it’s been for me. I feel that nowadays there’s this expectation that if you just keep feeding your blog with the sort of art that gets likes, you’ll get ‘discovered’, but that’s not the way it is. Maybe some Hollywood starlets really did get ‘discovered’ waiting tables at Schwab’s, too, but that’s generally not how it goes. The first job is the hardest one to get, but it can be done, eventually, if you put in the shoe leather.
tealin: (terranova)

I started this as a demo for my animation class, but it really needed the second scene, so I threw that together tonight. A week, in bits, for the first part, about 4 hours for the second! I'm determined not to get too precious with it – I have a dozen other things making demands on this week – but at some point in the future may add a bit more wind effects to Cherry to tie him in a bit better. And, you know, finish the drawings, or something. But right now my wrist is saying "You did WHAT??" so it's time to call it a night.

A very happy, supremely satisfied night.

(Of course they would not be out on a windy hillside without their hats, especially in August when this is supposed to take place! But I needed practice drawing them hatless, so have fudged meteorology and human physiology for the purposes of aesthetic. I'll just ... pack my bags for when the history police get here.)

Bill, again

Mar. 9th, 2017 05:59 pm
tealin: (terranova)
For the next couple weeks* I'm going to be teaching the brightest of bright young things how to animate dialogue. From my own personal experience, all the lectures about theory can't stack up against watching an actual animator actually animate an actual scene, so I like to have a demo to walk the class through, on which to demonstrate what I'm talking about, and the stages of animating a scene. It also happens to be a great way to work out a design. Last year I did this with Oates; this year I felt Wilson was in most need of the animation-test treatment. Remembering what a fight I had to get anything halfway decent out of him at the end of last year, I girded my loins for battle, but the minute I sat down to draw him he just ... turned up.

So, this should be fun ...

And now I've got him pretty much figured out (knock on wood), I have no excuse to put off any further the re-interpretative illustration of Victorian verse which I've had on my mental back burner for SEVEN YEARS now. Just in time for it, too – it should go up March 18th, or not at all. [slinks off mysteriously]

*When not stuffing my face with pickled herring and the world's best bread, which everyone knows are the real reasons I travel to Denmark
tealin: (Default)
Tonight, I am at a crossroads.

I can either go out and get groceries (which means dinner, lest I go all night on the digestive biscuits with cheese I had at 4), or I can 'watch' Wolf Hall for the second time in a week while tying down animation until 1 a.m.

I think we all know how this story goes.


I'm actually hungry and my shoulders are stiff and I am foolishly optimistic that the newly-returned students have cleared out of Sainsbury's by this time of night. (It's probably the low blood sugar.)
tealin: (Default)
Last year I had the joy and privilege to work on Ethel & Ernest, an animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs' graphic novel about his parents. It is exactly the sort of animated film that would never get made Stateside, and exactly the sort of film I always wished I could work on, so you can imagine how chuffed I was to be a part of it.

It was animated, for the most part, by freelancers across Europe (mainly in the UK, but some elsewhere), and so the scenes were divided up in a way I've never experienced on another animated film: we each got a sequence, in whole or in part. My first sequence was the Christmas decoration scene, which takes place in the middle of the war, when young Raymond has been evacuated to the countryside.

Something else I've never experienced before was, whenever there was a question about how something should be interpreted, the director would reach over and say "Let's check the book..." No surer way to a girl's heart.

Here's the book:

And here's my sequence:

If you're in the UK, or have a way around geolocking, you can watch Ethel & Ernest on the iPlayer until January 26th or so; the rest of the world can get a Region 2 DVD from such online retailers as they wish (e.g. Amazon) – if you have VLC Player it'll play multi-region DVDs.

Of course you know what this means ... I am a content provider for the BBC! \o/
tealin: (introspect)
The 'vintage' Disney season continues at Picturehouse, now onto films which came out during my childhood. I missed Little Mermaid last week, which I have mixed feelings about – on one hand, I don't think I've seen it in the cinema since I was seven, but on the other, I have seen it on DVD and as such I am not overflowing with regret that I missed seeing it in enormous crystal-clear detail. It's a good film, entertainment-wise, but only just coming out of Disney's 1980s slump in technical and artistic standards.

Despite having seen it on the big screen fairly recently, however, I knew I had to make an effort to go see Beauty and the Beast this week. I cannot overstate the impact it made on my childhood – Hunchback made me want to become an animator (20th anniversary and still no sign of that being rereleased, alas), but purely on the receiving end, a peculiar, bookish, independent 5th Grader getting a Disney movie about a peculiar, bookish, independent young lady was a Big Thing. I probably would have ended up much the same without it, but to have that sort of affirmation at a formative time of life meant a lot. It's experiences like that that make me symathise with the push for representation of minorities in the media – if such a small thing meant so much to me, how much more would an analogous thing mean to someone far further from what's currently considered media-mainstream?

Having watched the video to the point of memorization, seeing this movie again was almost an opposite experience to Jungle Book. I could write about surprising details or things I know now about the production that colour my viewing, but the latter you can find in Dream On Silly Dreamer and the former via an attentive eye and a Blu-Ray player. I'm coming to the end of a short lunch break so I will keep it to this: As much as Beauty and the Beast was a trip down childhood's memory lane, it was also a re-acquaintance with people who were role models and then colleagues. People love to point out how characters are designed and animated to reflect the actors providing the voices, but when I watched this film I was seeing the animators. Anyone who's worked with Ruben Aquino would find him in Maurice, and there is an undeniable Nik Rainieri-ness in Lumiere; somehow Philippe is Russ Edmonds despite being a horse (Russ also animated Phoebus in Hunchback, you may note the similarity), and Glen Keane is all over the Beast if you know what to look for. Most bittersweet of the reacquaintances was James Baxter, though – he supervised Belle when he was quite young, but his scenes stand out by a mile, and it was so good to see his 'handwriting' again. He animates in CG for Dreamworks now and does a very good job of it, but CG smooths everyone out, so that joy of finding the really special sweet in the candy bowl is a thing of the past. It made me a bit wistful to experience it again, but at the same time, there are so many really excellent up-and-coming 2d animators that I hope it will be a future joy as well. It's become clear to me in teaching and animating here in Europe that the sky is the limit and there are dozens if not hundreds of keen and talented people out there raising the bar every day – it's a little personally dispiriting to see it pulled so quickly and so far out of my reach, but fantastically inspiring all the same, and I'd rather be inspired than smug any day.
tealin: (introspect)
2000 - 2008: Too Disney
2008 - 2013: Not Disney enough
2014 - 2016: Too Disney

I've got too much I want to do to take a couple years out and relearn everything, but I kinda feel like that's what I have to do.

Jungle Book

Sep. 4th, 2016 03:23 pm
tealin: (Default)
This afternoon, thanks to Picturehouse's current 'Vintage Sundays' series of animated film screenings, I got to see Disney's 1967 Jungle Book on the big screen for the first time.*

I remember watching it on video a fair bit as a kid, though I don't remember particularly liking it. There was something unsatisfying about it; in retrospect I think it may have been how it was just a loosely assembled collection of episodes strung along a 'must return Mowgli to the Man Village' throughline rather than anything that builds drama or character. I liked the tune of the girl's song at the end, but I didn't like her or her unsettling coquettishness (she's what, eight? even as a small child I knew that was wrong) and I didn't understand why Mowgli had to go live with the humans when anyone would be better off with animals. I also didn't understand why there was jazz in the jungle, or the Beatles, or why the animals had English accents and Mowgli sounded like Beaver Cleaver. And I thought the art style rather too anaemic for depicting a jungle. I think the last time I watched the film all the way through was in high school, but it stuck with me so little I'm not sure.

In the intervening years, I've learned a lot about animation, worked at Disney and learned about its history, and picked up the requisite historical pop-culture background knowledge, as well as some awareness of uncomfortable racial undertones, the British presence in India, and Kipling's motivation for writing the stories. On watching the film again, this did help – though I also wondered if perhaps I knew more about the latter two than the people who made it did.

I knew that coming in with this adult perspective was going to change the film for me; I also knew that seeing it in the cinema would make a big difference, though I didn't know what to expect from that. Here is how it went )

Luckily the emotional side, which had left me so cold as a child, has been saved by an external force: not to deliver any spoilers, but the finale of Cabin Pressure makes allusion to Jungle Book, and because the former handles character arcs and emotional lives so much better than the latter, all I had to do was graft in the feelings as instructed and voilà! Some semblance of depth. Pure pixie dust.

Next week is The Little Mermaid ... I actually know people who worked on that one, should be interesting in an entirely different way ...

*Perhaps not strictly true: I was born at the end of the era in which Disney periodically re-released classic films, and I know my parents took me to a few of those, though I don't particularly remember Jungle Book being one of them.
tealin: (Default)
I have, a few times now, been honoured to be asked to teach at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark – I've admired their grad films, and graduates' films, for years, and feel I have more to learn from them than they from me, but I know enough at least to help the first years, so that balances out. And it's an opportunity to stuff myself silly on Danish bread, which is a nice perk.

Having benefited enormously from watching other people animate, I like to include demos in my instruction, and as I was teaching a dialogue class I figured it was a good chance to animate a snippet of dialogue which has been on my plate for at least a year. The intent had been to use it to learn TV Paint; now I've done a whole production in TV Paint and have used that to do this.

This follows on some character design exploration work I'd done last autumn, which you can find here. As you will discover from that link, I've now started a Tumblr specifically for Scott stuff – my own creative work, when I do it, but also factoids, explanations, quotes, interesting tidbits of research as I come across it; that sort of thing. If you are interested and are on Tumblr, then by all means give it a follow; if you are interested but not on Tumblr, that's what your browser's bookmarks are for; if you're not interested, then never mind! I'll post new creative work here when I post it there, but won't be crossposting everything, as the whole reason for creating that blog is to keep the Scott stuff from flooding everything else, so if you want the full experience you'll need to go there.
tealin: (Default)
Dear Guys,

I admire you. I respect you. I've studied your work, and in some incredible cases, actually got to work with you. You're kind, intelligent, talented people, with stories to tell and a passion for your craft. But I've just about had it with the hand-wringing over the death of traditional animation.

I graduated animation school a month after traditional animation 'died' the first time (at Disney, anyway; it followed everywhere else shortly after). I worked other animation-related jobs through the years when most of the commercially produced hand-drawn animation in the world was being pumped out of sweatshops in the Philippines, to fill the spaces between Saturday morning ad breaks as cheaply as possible. I jumped on the moving train the first time Disney brought 2D 'back to life', and for three glorious years you had to put up with really excited young whippersnappers like me learning the ropes of the old ship, then after that either jumping ship or getting pushed off when Disney changed its mind and 'killed' 2D again.

Brothers, I come to bring you the good news: 2D is not dead. 2D LIVES! It's just not living at Disney! Disney does not hold the power of life and death over the medium, YOU DO! If you want there to be 2D animation in the world, DO SOME 2D ANIMATION! You have the power, you have the skill, God knows you have the experience, the only thing stopping you is your moping! Yes, Disney gave up on 2D, and yes their abandonment of that legacy is sad and possibly short-sighted and all that. But if you look at it another way, did they not also ... set it free? Would Jamie Lopez have made Hullaballoo if he were still at Disney? (No: he pitched it and they turned it down.) Would Glen Keane have made Duet? Would Andreas Deja be making Mushka? Not only has the talent been freed up, but you don't have to compete with Disney anymore! Back when Disney was The Main Game, they even called the shots of the competitors: woe betide any film that couldn't be mistaken for a Disney film. Now you can do ANYTHING! There isn't a monolith for people to compare it to!

Since I left the studio, I have been working almost nonstop on hand-drawn productions, and have had to turn down at least as much work as I've been offered. I keep being asked by recruiters if I can recommend anyone, and I keep having to tell them that everyone I know is busy. There is so much traditional animation happening – high-quality, too! – that it would make my 2002 head spin. You just need to lift your head up out of the Valley to see it. If you think I'm being foolishly optimistic, remember when we were in the Pit of Despair and you all shut your office doors and Negative Nellie grumbled away in the cold dark cubicle? That was me! If stepping out of the dungeon and seeing the real state of the wider animation world has changed me this much, it can you, too!

I really wonder sometimes whether it's animation you miss, or the six- and seven-digit salaries and being treated like a star. Well, the 2D of today can't bring you the star treatment or big bucks, so if that's what you're after, then find another job that will bring it – your killer animation skills and experience can translate into so many other jobs, if you bend your stiff neck and apply yourself. If you price yourself out of the burgeoning 2D job market, or refuse to take a gig that isn't exactly what you want, then ego is your problem, not the medium. However, if you really genuinely miss traditional animation for its own sake, then please, please, make yourself known; we need you. It takes a couple weeks tops to learn Flash well enough to animate, a few days for TV Paint – not as fun as paper, maybe, but talk about instant gratification! Come, brothers, and join the revolution! We're taking hand-drawn animation back from the bosses and bringing it to the people ourselves! It never belonged to the studios in the first place, they just convinced us it did, and if you continue to believe them then you're letting them win. After all they've done to you, you're going to let them win?

Well, now, I've got to go make some coffee and settle down to another 12-hour day of making drawings come to life, because animating is the best job in the world and I'm not letting it go softly into that dark night. Who's with me?

(No, seriously – I need to know how much coffee to make.)

Viva la animación!


In case anyone is wondering about the gender balance in this letter, I did consider opening it up, but I tried to remember one single female animator despairing about the death of 2D and couldn't: they all seem to have put on their big girl pants and got on with things. The new generation is more than half female and in many cases they're leading the charge, so I'm not worried about them. You go, ladies! Show 'em how it's done!
tealin: (Default)

In 2012, while I was working on Paperman, I checked my email one morning and it seemed everyone I knew had sent me the link to this trailer:

... For obvious reasons I was VERY EXCITED about this film, and stayed excited about it for the next three years – in fact it's been the only animated film I've been excited for in the whole of that time. Being acquainted with disappointment I tried not to get my hopes up, but when I found out I'd be in Viborg during the animation festival, and that as a teacher at The Animation Workshop I was invited to attend the Danish premiere, the adrenaline surged.

And, dear reader, it was better than I dared hope.

Anyone in the business will tell you it gets harder to enjoy movies, and animated movies in particular, as you gain experience. The same goes for anything polar – the more you know about it, the more apparent others' lack of knowledge is, and you want to take them aside and say 'it's great you're interested, now let me show you how much more amazing it gets the more you dig.' Well, I am happy to report that Tout en Haut du Monde delivers resoundingly on all fronts: gorgeous animation, gorgeous art, solid storytelling (with continuous pleasant surprises, for someone so used to the Hollywood paradigm), and an oblique reference to some expedition or another every ten minutes or so, which made this polar animation nerd very happy indeed.

The film has a January release in France; I don't know about other distribution plans but I expect most of Europe will see it at some point or another, and depending what their strategy is there may be an Oscar-qualifying screening in LA either this year or next. Definitely keep an eye out for it! It is worth your time!
tealin: (Default)
I worked on Paperman, I love Paperman, but my all-time hands-down full-stop favourite animated short film is Wild Life. If you haven't seen it already, please do so now, so the rest of this entry doesn't spoil you. It's thirteen minutes and change; watch it in the dark with headphones or good speakers, if you can.

I'm pretty sure the filmmakers weren't aware of it at the time, but they made it just for me. I felt this when I first saw it, and I felt this whenever I watched it with my lights out at lunch at Disney, or on my laptop late at night at home, or on my iPod on a windy autumn night on the Canadian prairie when I was up in Edmonton for my grandmother's funeral. I had thought it was on account of the polar parallels, identifying and perfectly portraying iconic Alberta imagery and atmosphere, and just being so darn Canadian in ways both trivial and profound, but recently I discovered the thoughtfulness extended to embedding a significant detail that has passed under my radar for years. Toward the end of the short, the protagonist writes a letter home, which is delivered in voiceover before it's revealed onscreen:

Tradition has it that if February 2nd is cloudy, spring is on its way, but if the sun shines, there will be six more weeks of winter. Americans have added a groundhog and its shadow to this superstition, but it seems to date back through Candlemas to Imbolc in pagan Europe. If the end of the film took place on the evening of February 2nd, the day on which E.T.W. wrote the letter, then the starry sky indicates it was a clear day, and the implications thereof may have influenced his actions.

I LOVE IT WHEN FILMMAKERS THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE DOING. And even more when they don't make a big deal of it, just leave it there for you to pick up, even if it takes you a while.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch it again. I may be some time.
tealin: (writing)
I actively dislike Up. I know that is something of a heretical stand, and I've spent hours discussing it with people at lunch, but have never been able to go into exhaustive depth because I just couldn't be bothered to do the research (i.e. watch the movie again and waste more time thinking about it). However, a couple years ago I was in a screenwriting class at work and we had to watch it as homework one week – I did manage to get through it all, by taking breaks to do more interesting stuff like make porridge and do the dishes – and took advantage of this enforced re-watching to make a list of what I liked, what I didn't, and questions.

The little piece of paper on which I'd written this has been kicking around for ages, and as I'm finally trying to do something about the 50,000 pieces of paper floating around my apartment, I need to get rid of it. Clearly the most important thing for me to be doing with my precious free time on a Saturday morning is to type it all out for the general benefit of the internet.

For the most part I'm just going to transcribe it verbatim, without commentary, as best as I can decipher my handwriting, but I need to explain something first: Pixar's Rules )

All right, here you go, see if you can make any sense of this, because after this I am done talking about Up:

Likes, Dislikes, and Questions )

And now into the recycling with this piece of paper ... only 49,999 more to go.


Jan. 30th, 2013 09:46 am
tealin: (Default)

I'm embedding a small version because it looks nice, but the film is best watched full screen with the lights off and the sound up! Click the little gear thing at the bottom of the player, switch it to 1080p, go full-screen, sit back, and enjoy.

Want to know why this time last year my blog was nothing but radio links and OHYATs? THIS IS WHY.

You're welcome.
tealin: (Default)
Want to see the Academy Award-nominated shorts, including (perhaps especially) the animated ones? They're touring the US and Canada!

Find Your Nearest Location Here

I can personally vouch that at least two of them are quite good.
tealin: (Default)
It's been a year now since the Independent Shakespeare Company ruined me for all other Shakespeare ever* ... and now that they have successfully knocked off the competition in bard-related matters, they've started on dramatic entertainment in general. I saw the trailer for Dreamworks' upcoming Rise of the Guardians and all I could think was how much better the ISC's Puck, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, would have been as Jack Frost.

Unfortunately there is no extant video of his performance, so I can't give you a direct comparison, but they have just posted their photo album for the show so maybe you can get some idea ...

There's at least one show of Midsummer each week from now until Sept. 2nd! Check out their calendar and go! (And/or see one of the other shows, they're all good, and Winter's Tale closes this weekend so you should get on that one ...)

*Remarkably, I have enjoyed moments of The Hollow Crown so far, but this is definitely an anomaly and likely due in large part to my not having seen them do any history plays ... There will be a lengthy post on the Henry IVs at some point when I can be bothered to sit down and write it but now is not that time.
tealin: (Default)

Usually I'm not a fan of piracy (I keep brewing a post on the subject but have yet to have time or cause to write it) but when distributors refuse to distribute something there are only so many options, so take advantage of this while you have the chance.

Back when Emperor's New Groove was being made, it was a completely different movie called Kingdom in the Sun.. There was music by Sting, and Sting's wife got unprecedented rights to make a documentary about the production of the film. Little did anyone know, when those rights were signed over, the production would turn out to be full of drama and upheaval, and it all got caught on film. Needless to say, Disney wasn't too keen to have their dirty laundry aired, so they released the documentary only to the extent to which they were contractually obligated and then buried it – you can't get it on DVD; I only saw it because people who were in it got a copy and I borrowed one off a friend-of-a-friend, but I did see it, so I can personally attest that you have few other chances to see the blood, sweat, tears, heartbreak, and passion that goes into the production of one animated film in as raw and direct a manner as this.

Someone has stuck their neck out and put it on YouTube – I don't know how long it will be allowed to stay up there, but if you have a spare hour or so, I highly advise you check it out while you can:

Wild Life

Jan. 24th, 2012 09:43 am
tealin: (catharsis)
It is good to be alive on a Tuesday morning in January.

Oscar nominations are out! The only one I care about at all this year is Best Animated Short, because this year, a couple of Canadian animatrices made a film which they probably thought was a worthy and valid artistic enterprise, and for all I know personally rewarding, but really when it comes right down to it they made it just for me. I saw "Wild Life" as part of a touring festival of animated shorts and fell in love with it, and have since been begging anyone who might have access to it to let me see it again. Luckily the Academy is infinitely wise and kind (ignore what I might have said before) and it's been nominated, so the NFB has it available to stream on their site (and on YouTube, if you're lucky enough to live north of the border), and – AND – you can buy your very own copy! Which I have done! Because I like to encourage people to make good things! And it would be ungrateful of me not to, considering they made it just for me.

Cliquez l'image pour regarder où acheter le film!

The hard part, now, is waiting till lunch to watch it properly. Nnnnngh!
tealin: (Default)
I've got a poll up on LJ regarding marketing for Winnie the Pooh. I'd like to get as much feedback as possible, so please do your bit! Non-LJ members are still allowed to participate, so you have no reason not to.


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