Oscars and Annies

Curious about those unheard-of shorts nominated for Best Animated Short catagory for the Oscars? Want to see a short clip? Care to catch up on some background information about the films before the big Oscar night? You're in luck as Animation World Network has set up their yearly Oscar Showcase for all to see. Check it out HERE. It's a nice set-up they have for this year, as you can check out all the nominated shorts, as well as the animated features. Posted are short clips for viewing and past articles from AWN that might've mentioned the films. Another nice feature, they have links to all their Oscar Showcases up until 1998. It's a pretty cool pit-stop for all those interested.

The Annies are the Oscars of the animation industry, presented by ASIFA-Hollywood each year. {The award ceremony will take place tonight at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, by the way.) Just as Hollywood studios give out screeners and place ads in the trades to sway Academy voters their way, the studios will do the same for the Annies. Disney has set up a webpage for all the 16 nominations that THE INCREDIBLES received this year, complete with short clips as well as still frame galleries. It's a great layout as well. I highly recommend checking out the "storyboarding- feature" nominations as I find storyboards to be so fascinating in and of themselves. Go HERE to check it out.

Good luck to all the nominations!


The Animation Show 2005 in Atlanta

Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's The Animation Show will make a stop in Atlanta, opening March 18th at the Midtown Art Cinema (931 Monroe Drive; telephone: 678-495-1424). This is a great animation festival, the last one in 2003 selling out in many venues around the country. There was such a wonderfully diverse list of animators showcased, including some new animation by Don made exclusively for the Show. (Incidentally, if you missed the first run of the festival, then I highly recommend you buy the Animation Show Vol. 1 DVD. Great stuff on it.)

The traveling festival is in its second run, and this time I've had the great privilege in seeing a few of the entries when I attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival last September (which will be an entirely different post, once I get my notes together on that). The quirky but fun BUNNIES, by Jakob Schuh, was an interesting short. So short you'll have to see it again to pick up on the subtleties. Also featured will be WARD 13 (no relation), which Amid and Rita at the Brew have already given high praise. If you liked that toy train track chase scene from Wallace and Gromit's WRONG TROUSERS (I believe), then you'll get a kick outta this one. Imagine that scene x 10. Very intense stuff for being stop-motion.

LOCAL ANIMATOR ALERT: Also on the bill will be Jennifer Drummond's THE F.E.D.S. Jen is from Farmington, GA, just south of Athens. If you think you've seen her stuff before, it's because you've seen WAKING LIFE. She uses the same "painting over interpolated rotoscoping" process that Bob Sabiston created several years ago. (In the meantime, Bob's studio, Flat Black Films, is working on director Richard Linklater's movie adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A SCANNER DARKLY.)

And I'm digging that poster by Tim Biskup. Here's hoping they'll sell those when the Show comes our way in March. (Click on above image for a larger version.)

There ya go. Hope that's enough for a Monday.

(UPDATE: I finally saw The Animation Show and you can read my review about it HERE.)


A "Blog of Note"

Man, oh man. There's been quite a bit of new activity here at The Ward-O-Matic. (Understatement of the year. I'll explain.) For all of you who have been there from the beginning, you may have to be patient as I try to clue the new visitors in on what all the hub-bub is all about.

Blogger has mentioned The Ward-O-Matic on their "Blogs of Note," recently. That means that every single blogger who goes to their Dashboard (the main page that you go to when you want to post something new on your blog) will see a link to this very blog. That's quite an honor! However, those of you who are visiting for the first time via Blogger are probably missing out on why exactly this blog has seen so much traffic this past week.

About a month ago I wrote up a two-part commentary on THE POLAR EXPRESS, titled THE POLAR EXPRESS: A Virtual Train Wreck, Part 1 and Part 2. They received modest attention from several animation circles that I frequent, most notably Cartoon Brew. The first installment was mostly my review of the film and my concerns as to why the filmmakers even decided to go the motion-capture route and could it have been done otherwise. The concluding installment was the more popular one, however. In that, I went so far as to see why exactly the children in the film look so creepy, and tried to "fix" the characters by touching them up in Photoshop. Nothing too fancy, just an artist doing a little experimentation.

Well, the stats for my blog were modest in the beginning, hitting around 30 to 40 a day. Not big numbers, but enough for me to enjoy the fact that there were people actually reading my rambling words. When my blog was mentioned in the Brew, as well as other animation blogs, the hits for the day topped 400, then 200 the next day, and eventually averaged out to be over a hundred hits per day soon after that. I was estatic.

This past Tuesday, the 18th, I was cruising my usual sites, and I stopped at Boing Boing, probably the granddaddy of all "cool" blogs. They always have the most interesting items to read every day, and as I was reading through some of the links, I thought, "You know, they might get a kick out of my commentary on THE POLAR EXPRESS." So I filled out a short submissions form on the site and went back to work.

About 30 minutes later, I checked on my stats, and within the last hour 400 new visitors had checked out my blog. I thought, surely that's a mistake. So I went to Boing Boing, and sure enough, there was a blurb about my blog and my commentary, complete with a pic of one of my "fixings." You can check out the post HERE. That was just the beginning. As soon as it was posted on Boing Boing, it seemed to spread across the internet like wildfire. It was immediately picked up by various news blogs, feed aggregators (I'm still not sure what that is exactly), and the like. Soon, I was seeing on my stats that people from Russia, Uganda, Croatia, Bulgaria, Argentina, were visiting the Ward-O-Matic! At the highest peak, there were over 2,000 hits in ONE HOUR. By the end of the day, there were over 11,000 hits tabulated for my lowly little blog. I was speechless.

The next day was just as wild and crazy as the post got passed around to other feeds and weblists across the globe. It was listed as one of the top pages on Blogdex, mentioned on del.icio.us (still not sure what that is), Hot Links, and even mentioned in CG sites, and CG animation forums. It even got a nod on MSNBC.com (you have to scroll down a bit). By the second day, I was being linked by various other blogs, and some even felt that my blog was worth putting into their blogroll columns. Again, I was speechless and very honored.

So now, things have subsided. A bit. There are still over a thousand people checking out The Ward-O-Matic, which is incredible. I'm enjoying all the new-found attention that this blog has been getting lately (I'm driving Andrea nuts, by the way), and it's great to see so many people come on board and give such insightful and thoughtful comments. I've always wanted a a strong dialogue between artists, animators, programmers, CG artists, painters, and other artisans, as well as the casual viewer, and that's why I began this blog. The concept of blogging and having a strong blog community works best when good-minded people across the globe interact with each other and have fun at the same time.

I must say THANKS to everyone for making The Ward-O-Matic a blog of note lately. And thanks for making The Ward-O-Matic a part of your day. I'll have lots of fun new stuff to talk about soon, so please come back. I promise it'll be worth your while.

This is supposed to be fun. I hope that you are enjoying the trip thus far. I know I am.


Call For Entries: ROLL YER OWN 2005

UPDATE: The deadline for submissions has now been extended to Monday, February 7th. The screening will take place in mid-February.

Each year, ASIFA-Atlanta hosts a screening of local animation talent, called ROLL YER OWN. It's always an interesting show as you never know what to expect. In the past we've witnessed animation students' work from local art schools as well as from Savannah's College of Art & Design (SCAD), to independent filmmakers, to recent work by local professional studios. It's a great way to check out what's going on in the ATL animation-wise, and a great way to rub elbows with people in the industry. Pencil-tests, animatics, storyboards, short films, side projects, commercials, broadcast work, demo tapes - you name it - are all welcome. 2D, stop-motion, CG, rocks and sticks, anything - we'll show it. If you're a fan of animation in general, you may find it interesting to see all the different types of techniques and styles showcased.

This an open call for entries for this event, which will take place in Midtown's The Red Chair off of Amsterdam. Submissions due by January 31st. The exact time and date for Roll Yer Own will be announced later on, so keep checking up here at The Ward-O-Matic for further details. Click on the wonderful and fabulous image above (yes, I designed it) for a larger version of the poster. Print it out, make copies, post it up at your work, school, home, what have ya. In case you can't view the details, here's what it says:

ASIFA-Atlanta presents: ROLL YER OWN
Coming in February 2005.
Submissions Due by January 31st.
The work can be submitted on DVD, VHS, or CD-R.
Door Prizes - Special guests from the industry.
For info, write or call Lou: Hertztoons@mindspring.com
404-808-7157 (Cell, daytime)

As mentioned, look for the final date and time in a later post here on The Ward-O-Matic, along with an updated poster. If you have any questions, give Louie a call or email him. Go easy on him, he's a good guy. Good luck to all, and hope to see you there.


The Obligatory "I've been busy" Post

Yes, I've been busy lately. I'm currently working on two projects at work, with one I'm taking home each evening and working throughout the night (well, just a couple of hours) to make a deadline. Deadlines. Seems that my life is punctuated with deadlines. I've set up a reward system for myself as I work on these projects. When I finish a scene, I'm allowed to post something here. Sad that I have to do that, but if you knew me, you'd understand.

Once these projects clear, then I'll get the okay to post some stuff as I think that some of you all would enjoy checking them out. In fact, I do plan on posting about some past jobs that I've had the privilege of working on as we do tend to get a good amount of high quality projects come our way here at Primal Screen.

I've been noticing that I've had a good amount of new visitors here at The Ward-O-Matic, most notably from Robot Johnny, Cartoon Brew, and Jared's Crockpot of News and Thoughts. (And I noticed that I'm the "Blog of the Day" over at Citrusmoon in the "Blogliners" section. Very nice. Thank you!) I'm greatly honored to be mentioned by these fine folk on their wonderful sites, and my only hope is that you may find something of enough interest here at The Ward-O-Matic to want to come back for more. If you're curious as to who I am, check out this post. That should do the trick.

For the uninitiated, just check out my past posts over there in the right column, and take the time to browse through my wordy commentaries and ruminations. I tend to go overboard sometimes, so forgive me. But I hope it makes for good readin'!

Look for lots of new stuff very soon....


Hey, I love to paint, too

Besides being an animator, I have a background in illustration and design. I also got into painting while at school, and on occasion I try to sharpen those painterly skills. I worked with acrylics in school, but now I work almost exclusively in gouache. It's a weird medium to work in, and very difficult. But I'm so used to it by now, I can manipulate the paint the way I want it. For the most part, anyway. If I want it to be opaque, I use more of the pigment. If I want more transparency, like watercolors, I add more water. Also, I don't use the typical paint from the tubes. I prefer to paint with those cakes, or pans, and I prefer Pelikan brand for the brilliance of color that I can get out of the 12 pans in my now-outdated set.

Last year, I did two paintings and incidentally they were both for silent auctions for two different organizations. This one, titled, "carburetor," was for the non-profit dance organization that my wife is involved with, Moving In The Spirit.

(Click on image for a larger version.)

I then painted one for our daughter's preschool, the Grant Park Cooperative Preschool. It's titled, "how they do sparkle."

(Click on image for a larger version.)

Seeing these two paintings together, I see some definite similarities. The funny thing is, they were both done at completely different times, without one or the other nearby for me to look at. The colors are within a similar range: oranges, rusty reds, greens and browns. Hardly any blues. There is a prominent figure in both paintings, positioned just left of center. I also noticed that there is a good amount of images on the right side of the composition, with a bottom-heavy feel overall. Very strange that these two paintings would be very similar. Must've been a subconscious thing, I guess.

Anyway, I don't paint as often as I should. It's a great outlet for me, to get away from the daily grind of drawing, but I don't take advantage of that outlet. In fact, after writing about this, I really have the urge to paint again...


The One Lesson I Learned from Cal Arts

I never went to an art or animation college, but I do wish I had. I'm sure every artist wishes that they were given the opportunity to go to a school that was completely devoted to the arts, to fully immerse themselves in everything associated with drawing, painting, sculpture, history, you name it. I would've loved to major in animation, but things didn't go that way for me. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to Georgia State University and, since they did not have an animation major, I went instead into Illustration. I focused my portfolio towards animation, and eventually got an internship doing what I love.

During the time I was at GSU, I did entertain the idea of possibly going to Cal Arts, regarded by many in the animation industry as the school to go to. I called to receive a catalog, and dreamed endlessly about taking all the classes I read about.

But that never happened, and I'm not at all glum about it. In fact, I'm very happy with the way things have gone for me.

Back when I was an animator at Click 3X, I believe it was somewhere around '98 or '99, a prospective young animator came by to show his portfolio and demo. He was still in school, and when he mentioned that he went to Cal Arts, well, needless to say, we were very curious. As he opened his portfolio, I was awestruck. I couldn't believe the gesture sketches that this guy was showing. Simply unbelieveable work - put us all to shame. (There was only 4 of us in the cel department.) I'll be honest with ya, I began to feel a little threatened by this unknown Cal Arts dude. I mean, who is HE to come into our little corner of Click and flaunt his exceptional talent like that? With work like this, there's no reason for Click to keep me around any longer! I was getting very envious as I stood there, silent.

Well, he then had his demo tape to show us, and so we all went into the conference room and popped his tape in. Again, I was silent at what I saw.

He was a TERRIBLE animator. His work was HIDEOUS. Absolutely nauseating.

I really couldn't believe it. How could this amazingly talented artist produce such "animated" crap like this? He couldn't even keep his characters on model if his life depended on it! Everything moved with such grotesque wiggling, that I just had to look away. It was like a car crash: I couldn't watch, but I couldn't not watch, you know what I mean?

It dawned on me what was happening. Could it be that all these schools were more preoccupied in helping students obtain the best possible portfolio, the best gesture drawing, the best figure studies, the best animal sketches - all to catch the eye of the Big Animation Studio, but all the while ignoring what should have been the most important factor in hiring an animator in the first place?: The ability to actually animate.

I'm sure that this is not the case for all the schools (and I'm not singling out Cal Arts here, either), it's just what I got from this one student. He fell through the cracks. Somehow his instructor(s) overlooked this young student and his lack of skills as an actual animator. And it further solidified the notion for me that animation is such a difficult thing to master. It's probably one of the hardest things to accomplish as an artist, because of all the things involved: design, physics, anatomy, weight distribution, draftsmanship, mathmatics, acting, the list goes on.

You may have the most amazing gesture drawings of the human figure, but if you can't make them move, then what's the point in hiring you? You're wasting our time.

So, anyway, we never heard back from that guy. I wonder what he's doing?

Best Picture Oscar?

Here's an article in the Guardian about THE INCREDIBLES's possible Oscar nod for BEST PICTURE. You heard right - not Best Animated Film, but Best Picture. It was on the PGA (Producers Guild of America) list for best films of the year, and considering that the PGA awards are a pretty good indicator of Oscar possibles, Brad Bird's film could possibly be the second animated film nominated for Best Picture, with Disney's THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST being the other one nominated in 1991.

I'm curious as to how they'll treat the film in regards to Best Animated Film catagory. I know that they've nominated a foreign film in both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture catagories before (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, in 1997), so there's a slight possibility that INCREDIBLES could be nominated in both catagories and then given a win for Best Animated Film. But, who knows? Looks promising.

Peep the article HERE.

(Thanks to my dear sis, Amy, for the link.)


Sometimes a dot is just a dot

Here is a drawing by my daughter, Ava, 4 and a half-years old. She drew this on Sunday after politely asking to borrow her mother's brand-new blue Sharpie pen. I sat there watching her draw in typical Ava fashion: quiet intensity. When Ava draws, she's serious about it.

Here, she tells me that this is Ava, and she's sad because it's windy (see the clouds with the swirly lines coming from them) and it's rainy (just right of the windy clouds) and that the sun is trying to come out. Ava's hair is being blown about, too (she usually draws her hair swirls going down), along with a tear underneath each eye. (The dark circles on either side of her face are her rosie cheeks. Cute, huh?) The squiggles all around the scene are Ava's way of depicting words and writing, like a book. And being the budding artist, she's even signed this piece of work, in the upper-left hand corner.

What I thought was interesting with this drawing was that at one point she placed a dot so carefully between the eye and rosie cheek, practically in the middle of the face. With such meticulousness, I thought that surely this dot meant something. Why else would she be so delicate in her placement of this little dot? So I asked her, "What is that, Ava?"

She replied, "That's just a dot."

I love that. Sometimes a dot is just a dot.

Brand new year

Happy 2005! Here's to a brand new year. I don't have enough time to post anything of major interest as of yet, but just you wait. I went over a list of subjects to post about the other night and realized that I had over 20. So yes, there will be some major activity here on The Ward-O-Matic soon. I promise.

And I guess that the new year hasn't been so happy for the folks over in Indonesia and Malyasia and for the rest of the victims of that horrific earthquake and resulting tsunami. I cannot fathom the destruction over there. Really unbelievable. Andrea and I are thinking about sending some money to an organization to help out in aid for the families and victims of the tsunami. Something like this brings out the best in people, and it's great to see all these countries come together to help out. (And I can't believe that there were some tourists getting out and trying to sun themselves on the very same beaches where hundreds were swept out to sea! What's up wit that?)

Well, let's hope that the rest of the year will not be so disturbing as that tsunami disaster. I'm sure it can only get better.

Here's to a great 2005.