Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!


A plaid-wearing Mrs. Clause, someone dressed in reindeer antlers(they were kind of small to begin with.), aaaannnndddd an elf in a official Hooters' shirt(yes, the shirt had more on the back, but I ultimately chose to depict him from the "front"). I couldn't ask for more...as you can see, I've been spending some quality time at the food court. So since I probably won't be making a post before then, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Extra bonus of holiday shoppers:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching up.....


The final roundup of LAX sketches. I had a little over an hour before my plane boarded---after drawing for awhile I started playing the game of "Who looks like they're going to Oregon?"....and turns out the two plaid-wearing guys were. On my return flight from Oregon to LAX, the guy in the pink shirt was also on that same flight too--along with his friend Danny who was sportin' a Three Stooges t-shirt for the early morning trip(it was about 5:30 in the morning when I drew him).

And then on Black Friday I hit up the ol' mall foodcourt to draw the true Oregonians. Lots of interesting characters and I can't wait to start drawing the holiday crowds in just a matter of days! The fall semester at CalArts has pretty much ended...things are starting to really calm down so now I'm focusing on taking care of last minute business and packing up. I'll be driving home this time so no more airport drawings....but plenty of foodcourt time planned. Anyways, I thought I'd finally share the two dialog tests that have been taking up most of my time---
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I've included my first pass, and then the final pass for both tests. Now, there's a long list of things I'll be fixing on both the cow and beaver, but for now, this is where they stand. When I come back in school in January I'll be addressing the issues these have. But I really enjoyed working on them and overall, feel like I learned a ton--not only from these two, but from the whole semester. I'll get into that more when I post up my actual "End of the Semester" report--but I'm going to do that once I've arrived in Oregon. For now, off to wrap some presents and get ready for tonight's Character Animation Holiday Party. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mini-Crunch time

So since my last post several things took place--I was lucky enough to attend CTN for one. I'll probably be elaborating on most of my recent activities during Winter Break---for now, it's definitely mini-crunch time and I'm spending my day either animating or wrapping up my story/animatic for my film. To keep things semi-lively around here I'll be updating with the drawings I did over Thanksgiving break. I took a plane back home and it was wonderful spending some time back in ol' Oregon. Had a really great time catching up with friends and enjoying some very delcious food with family. Cannot wait until Winter Break, I'm craving the "Southern Oregon scene" a lot right now.

All these people were in LAX. The black and white drawing of the guy on the ukulele with the woman/baby has a very cute story. Baby was crying and this stranger sitting near-by pulled out his ukulele and started playing---little baby was completely fascinated. The rest of the group were certainly entertaining--like the "Bedazzled Babe" as I've dubbed her, she was decked out in a gem-studded jean jacket, complete with a glistening belt. She was headed to Vancouver, so lookout Canada. And then just a study I did on the plane flying up North.

I'm currently figuring out the design for my next dialogue homework in traditional animation. It involves a baby beaver and I can't wait to start animating--he's going to probably change a bit in the next week or so, but he'll be somewhere in the neighborhood of the top beaver's look. I do have a previous dialogue test--but I just need to fix a few things before I'm ready to scan/upload it here. Should have it up by Thursday. Anyways, that's all for now, I've got a few guest lectures to catch-up on--Pete Sohn, who directed Partly Cloudy, visited on Friday and gave one very awesome lecture, so those notes will be up ASAP.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Walk cycle

video
This past week was all about the classic walk-cycle. So I went back to a character I had developed over the summer(a minion who had just been called away from a relaxing day at the spa by his boss.)....anyways, while the story has been put on the shelf, this charming fellow was too much fun to pass up. Sorry about the flickering paper, I did quite the job of chewing up the paper as I fixed certain areas of his cycle. Lots of furious rolling while trying to make sure things were flowing correctly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

James Gurney Guest Lecture


On 10/9/09 James Gurney visited CalArts. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and inspiring lecture . Anyways, here are my notes from that night:

Today, most artists strive to convey what they actually see, but as James put it, “What do you do to draw what you can’t see?”

Going back into the history of art, Greek mythology was a popular subject for the masters. Both students and teachers relied on models and rough sketches transferred on tracing paper to move around to create the appropriate arrangement. How James is able to achieve a believable world is based on the same practices, preliminary sketches, photo reference, models, etc.

The first step is always research. This is the most entertaining part of the process. Often when basing the painting off of a fossil, behavioral questions come up and help influence the final piece. Figuring out the shape vocabulary helps define the drawing of an animal. Looking at modern day animals also help. Here's a perfect example. Many different studies/sketches are done before the final. Here the composition is also taken into consideration—how to lead the eye around the painting. At this time, James gave a very interesting lecture on how we view a painting. Here’s a great article on his blog(one of hundreds).

Next, he talked about the use of actually building marquettes of the characters/sets he’s about the paint. By doing this he’s able to capture the nuances of lighting which help to really sell the believability. Cast shadows are also easier to figure out this way. I found another blog post in which he goes into great depth about it.

For pieces featuring human characters, he casts people to the appropriate parts. “Find people who are similar to the person you want to paint.” Get into the character and take control of the forms. We have to be in their shoes—to identify with them. This process leads to a more convincing painting. Photography is great. Especially for subjects that are moving. Go beyond what looks cool. Draw from life but push certain aspects. A great example can be seen right here.


And then here are some key phrases that I jotted down:

Students shouldn’t be married to the first idea. Don’t be happy with the first try.

Be knowledgeable of story---know the structure of story. Also important to understand how to work as a team and collaborate.

The best colors to choose for a painting can be found in food ads because they always have to be appealing.

Got to keep reworking a drawing until it works. Get all the bugs out. When the reject pile is taller than the final pile (accepted work), you’re on the right track.

Anyways, it was a very interesting talk and if anyone is curious, he has a new book out called, “Imaginative Realism” that that goes into great detail about his process--it's also a great read for any aviary artist:



Kiwi, though more of a digital artist, enjoys it too. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Flour Sack vs. Jack in the Box...

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My recent assignment for traditional animation. Initially we just worked on a flour sack changing emotions. I went with a flour sack playing with a jack in the box, when suddenly things don't go according to plan. The following weekend was overlapping action with either a tail or a cape----so cape it was.

I'm amused by the fact that after my previous test(the elephant on the diving board), I wanted to move away from "flour sack body"....and the following test was an actual flour sack. Very nice timing. haha

Friday, November 13, 2009

November Already!


I've been super busy over the past few weeks. Mainly spending my time on animation homework(tomorrow night I should hopefully be posting what I've been working on), and then battling away with film business. Just a bit burnt out on film related stuff, so I'm taking a couple days to focus on other things before diving back in. It has been turning into one of those situations where I get way too focused on stupid, tiny details and lose sight of the bigger picture---this always winds up with sacrificing good acting choices for my characters, and very poor camera shots in my storyboards. The looming fact that this semester ends in literally 34 days has only made me "freak-out" more and not take the time to really think about what I'm boarding. To sum it up, it's a very "safe" film right now, it works and it's generally entertaining, but it doesn't push the boundaries of anything---so I'm going to fix that over the next few weeks.

Over the next few nights I'll be posting up my notes from the guest lectures and uploading what artwork/animation I've done since Peter Pan. For now, a page of big cats and zebra!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


A little Happy Halloween from the zoo's snow leopard cubs--they were going to town on some pumpkins. Absolutely adorable and the action took place a little over a foot away! When they got tired of mauling the pumpkin they quickly turned on each other, or better yet, dear ol' Mom.


(that's literally the distance away, no zoom. Just holding my arm out.)

Last night was the annual CalArts' Halloween party. Had a very good time with friends and everyone dressed in some pretty craazy costumes. The theme this year was "Insane Asylum" and the decorations were pretty appropriate. haha. I stayed from about 9:30 until 1:30 in the morning. Here's a quick photo of the main dance area:


The next morning I came into the cubes and was greeted with Admiral Ackbar and the head of a Star Wars' At-St(I had to look this name up, so I'm not THAT deep into the nerdom. haha). Both were costumes worn the previous night(The At-St was beyond awesome! Complete with silly string blasters)....And a group of students went to the trouble of creating a duct-tape casting of someone's body and then clothing it. It was Mel Gibson earlier in the week, hopefully Ackbar is around longer to warn everyone of any traps!

"It's a traaaaap!"

Psst...this'll catch everyone up:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tiny Update

Still alive. Very hectic schedule last week and now battling my way over a small cold. So, a real update like guest lecture notes(James Gurney and a bit from Shane Acker's lecture on "9") coming soon. To tide things over here are some animation tests:

video
A pretty sloppy animated turn around of Peter Pan. We had a choice between Pan and Fred Flintstone...while I learned a ton on it, I definitely wish the end result was less floaty(watch that mouth! And feather, and eyebrows! All fantastically inconsistent and I didn't catch these things until it was too late. I doubt I'll revisit this.)

video
We had to have a character dive off of a diving board. Could be any character and it was suggested(....Kristen....haha) I try out my elephant character. This is due tomorrow(sneak peek for everyone in Scott's class), and am definitely aiming on a more solid elephant next time 'round. He's verging on the infamous flour-sack body--like those deer in Snow White.
Anyways, this is as good a time as any to introduce my WIP film character for this year, Quint. I had been developing a story involving little Quint, but on Wednesday I had a muchly appreciated reality check from my current production teacher, so I'm shelving that idea and moving on. I say appreciated because it would have been really frustrating to find this sort of feedback out in, let's say, May, so now, while it's still early in the game--I'm turning back and starting a new. Still in love with the original story though, just would have really been too much for me to take on this year, especially with how I want to really focus on animation. The previous story honestly wouldn't have allowed me to revisit any scenes and as was pointed out to me--I'd have to rush through a lot of footage and in the end, the quality would suffer. No way I'd be able to push the animation. Falling back on bad habits, like during crunch-time last year, wouldn't help me at all. Definitely a good reminder after my previous two years...thinking back on those films is what really helped me decide, "Yeah, not falling into that same trap this year." Plus, I quickly put some of my storyboards in the computer and started timing them out---just 40% of the film came to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I stopped there....Yep, that doesn't exactly play into my goal of having a film that's only 2 minutes long--with credits. Now to think of a super simple, chalk full of character-driven film! Hmm....

P.S.



And then Disney deer a few years later:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leaf me alone

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My leaf assignment that was due tonight. Though mine went the route of "triangle" type leaf. Oh well--like I said, Leaf me alone. :P Now it's onto a head rotation, time to decide between Peter Pan or Fred Flintstone...hmmm

Also, I updated my folding box video on the previous post with a much higher quality.

Every year Third Years tackle the infamous "Third Year Reviews" where, you go into a room with 3-5 faculty members and they look at a portfolio of the work you've done over the past 2.5ish years. Films, animation tests, color charts...all of it, judge your progress in the program, and essentially see if you're on track for graduating. Well next week is my year's turn. Stress is definitely building and nobody knows for sure what to expect. Tuesday the 20th is my day(at 11 am to be exact), so in the meantime I'm gathering all my work from 1st, 2nd, and so far 3rd year and hoping for the best. Looking back at my stuff from first year has been entertaining and depressing at the same time---and that feeling has continued into the work I made during second year. Fun times. Anyhow, the first big rainstorm has hit SoCal and it has been really refreshing. Love waking up to this type of weather---just like home.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What's in the box!?!?!

video
On Tuesday the assignment was to animate a box folding and unfolding...in perspective(made my head hurt, that's for sure)! This was particularly entertaining since I spent the majority of my summer at a UPS store where folding boxes was a bit of an important job. And now, back to the current animation assignment for the weekend--a falling leaf.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Zoo-rrific



Drawings from today. Tried a couple new things like toned paper and then drawing with just straight watercolor. Toned paper--doing that again fo' sure....drawing with just straight watercolor(just tried it on the colorful birds)--not so much. Oh well---win some, lose some. Anyways, there was a power outage tonight on campus, it just came back on about 10 minutes ago, but unfortunately class has already been cancelled. Power outages at CalArts are pretty entertaining...too bad this one was fairly short(7-8:30).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Swinging and Bouncing the time away...


Just some pictures from last week's zoo trip. Check out the fangs on the lemur--that's pretty cool(the kind of fuzzy stuff ontop of the lemur is the fence).

video
And then here's a quick recap of animation hw(the quality isn't that great, both blogspot and my own video software has kind of chewed this up a bit). First was the usual bouncing ball and then later we did a swinging pendulum. My spacing isn't perfect--both suffer from gaps and are poppy. Oh well, now I know what to watch out for so this week's homework won't suffer the same fate.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Little bit of this and that...

Zoo day was yesterday---85 degrees was definitely an improvement over last week's 100+ sweat-fest. Anyways, artwork ahoy:







Next week's goal: Draw with a pen that's actually water-proof. The second I added watercolors---BAM, the lines just went every which way.

Traditional Animation class has officially kicked off. We have a new teacher now, a mister Scott Wright who's kicking us into serious boot camp and giving us two assignments a week to catch up on the lost time(first class was this past Tuesday night.) I just finished animating the classic ball bounce(just up and down) and then on top of that, we had to draw two key poses with a character illustrating Squash and Stretch. Well naturally I went to the one subject who is the epitome of these terms(particularly squash):

Annie, aka. Ms. Boulder...when it came to stretch I had to do a couple passes:

Pass 1....it works, but I thought it could be pushed more.

Still could go further I'm sure, but this certainly gets the point across. If I remember to bring my camera, I'll post the ball thing later.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All I have to do is Dream...

Yet another week over with. I'm just trucking along, working on homework, keeping up on drawing outside of school, and going through the never-ending story battle for this year's film. On Wednesday, my friend Jenessa and I went to the LA zoo to draw. We didn't stay too long, the heat was too much and when it's about 106 at 1:30 pm, with very little shade---it's time to retreat to the air-conditioned car and head back to school. lol Jenessa posted her awesome zoo drawings on her blog, and here are my doodles from the day:

At 11am it was still breakfast time for the gibbons. They were going--bananas---over the goodie bags the handlers left behind:

There's a newcomer as well. For the past couple of visits the snow leopards have been impossible to spot---well they finally came out and here's the reason why:

CUBS! Two of them. Absolutely adorable little fuzzballs. They were still pretty awkward as they clambered around the rocks while big ol' Mom slept-in. I'm pretty frustrated that these pictures came out so blurry. I had to really zoom in for the camera to actually focus on the cub instead of the fence. Oh well, try again next Wednesday.

And some other pictures taken the same day:

The chimps were chillin in the shaded area right next to the glass.


On Friday my parents visited! We spent the afternoon touring around the school/area AND then that evening---attended an awesome lecture by the one and only Mark Andrews! He spent the time drawing storyboards--which was pretty mind-blowing. He would bust out big camera moves(3 point perspective for the heck of it! gah!), characters doing the greatest things, etc. while cracking jokes, making his own sound-effects/soundtrack, and answering all of our questions. I'll post my notes a little later. But anyways, it was a great night and my parents really enjoyed watching MANDREWS at work.
Saturday was spent in Pasadena with the parents. We drove around the area to see the neighborhood, had some lunch, did some shopping at this store that had the craziest things, and then hit this place called, "Dots" which was a small shop dedicated to selling the most decadent cupcakes.

YUM! We all had the Hostess one and it was like an actual hostess cupcake only on steroids. It was sooooo good(especially that lovely creamy filling). So hey, if you're in the Pasadena area anytime soon, be sure to check out "Dots."

Otherwise, I'm working on a film idea. I was sitting in my cube on Tuesday and *pop* film idea. So I'm slowly developing it---it has its fair share of problems right now...but hopefully by next weekend I should have a decent pass done so I can pitch it around. For now, all I'll say is that it takes place in Africa again...but completely different animals and much simpler storyline of course. haha Alright, well time for me to cook up some dinner and then go bust out a walk-cycle for my CG class.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

First Official Week of Junior Year

Woo! The first week of classes has ended....pretty crazy one, as I'm sure my fellow 3rd years can agree with. Anyways, here are my first impressions of my schedule this year:

Advanced Computer Animation: Pretty open class. The teacher is encouraging us to do actual short films instead of your usual collection of animation exercises(bouncing ball, walk cycles, etc.). Short being only a couple of seconds(I personally never plan on going over 30 seconds). I'm looking forward to what I'll be accomplishing in this class---first though, I need some ideas! I've been in such a creative rut this week....very frustrating!

Advanced Story Development: The teacher is so great. Lots of energy and is bringing a different take on story compared to my previous story classes. The first night we spent boarding out ideas inspired by a variety of music he played on his computer, then we pinned the drawings up in the room and we each pitched out boards. Laughs. Galore. The future classes also seem like they'll be really helpful with getting me to think more "creatively" about story ideas. One class that's coming up is based around Bumper Sticker slogans, while another is all about coming up with as many cliches as you can think of and putting a new spin on them. Awe-some!

Advanced Life Drawing: My teacher Corny Cole literally walked into the room, turned to all 35 of us and told us the phrase he's very well-known for, "DRAW, GODDAMMIT!" He then elaborated, "We're doing gestures today---10 seconds, 5 minutes, whatever....now go!" And away we went---my gestures were absolutely grotesque and I felt very rusty on the 30 second or less gestures, but it felt great getting back into it all. Plus Corny's commentary during class was highly entertaining. Sadly, can't remember too much of what he said, but this Tuesday I'll try and remember some gems of his. haha

Advanced Traditional Animation: I'm not going to elaborate on this one. So, I guess, T.B.A?

Post Production: Simply put, so fully awesome. The teacher Chris Sonnenberg will be doing a lot of one-on-one and will be teaching us based on our individual needs for finishing our films this year. Right now we'll be working on every aspect of making a film---boarding, designing, color keys, making work-books, animatics, recording sound, etc. He wants us to experience every last step in the giant work pipe-line of producing an animated film. He'll also be going frame-by-frame on two of the projects he helped on(to show us how he approaches the "pipe-line" himself): Enchanted's opening 2D section of the film and the opening of Kung Fu Panda. Definitely looking forward to his class, but at the same time--I need to get crackin' on a film idea. Lots of loose ideas, but nothing whatsoever that's solid, interesting, and something I want to work on all year.

Directing for Animators: Another quite frankly, awesome class/teacher. The teacher is a huge library of knowledge, his background covers areas like directing independent films in Bulgeria to shows like the old Johnny Bravo/Dexter's Lab/Cow and Chicken era. I can definitely see why my classmates highly recommend this class and I'm really happy to taking it. He's assigning us mainly storyboarding homework and already the first in-class project has me hitting the ground running. I'm looking forward to his critique next Friday.

So those are my classes this year. Inbetween all that, I'm one of the department's Teacher Assistants this year and on Wednesday or Thursdays, depending on various circumstances, I'm out and drawing at the zoo. Should be a very interesting first semester...so now, off to rack my brain some more about this elusive third year film idea. Hmmm....

P.S. Here's the Kung Fu Panda segment in its HD glory.
3 months--about 6 people working on it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Past Week....

Classes begin tomorrow! I'm very excited to start, but still can't get over the "I'm a 3rd. year." feeling. It's especially weird now that the new freshmen have been running around...ahh! I need to kick myself into gear and get working--before I know it I'll be a 4th year and then going out into the big grown-up working world. Anyways, last Wednesday the department greeted the new freshmen--myself and some of the other upperclassmen descended into the main hallway and welcomed the very bright and cheery faces.


A photographer was above us and snapped this picture(I grabbed this photo from the CalArts' online photo site I just found). The upperclassmen are, for the most part, on the sides while the incoming freshmen are all in the middle(I'm on the right side, a couple rows back in the white.) Here we go guys!

After the hallway greeting, everyone filed into the Palace to overhear the freshmen meeting. All those heads are freshmen(minus the two people closest to the camera, they're two of the third year animation teachers).

Friday was the busiest day of the week. Arrived at 6:30 in the morning for cube sign-ups which started at 8 a.m. Surprisingly enough, a couple other people were there doing the same thing. 9 a.m. was the ever chaotic class sign-ups.

I got all the classes I signed up for and am really happy with my schedule:
POST PRODUCTIONSonnenberg, ChrisW 7pm to 10pm
ADVANCED LIFE DRAWINGCole, CorneliusT 9am to 4pm
ADVANCED LIFE DRAWING (JUNIORS)Hormozi, MarjanTh 9am to 4pm
ADVANCED TRADITIONAL ANIMATION IIICedeno, MikeT Th 7pm to 10pm
ADVANCED STORY DEVELOPMENTFulp, DavidM 7pm to 10pm
ADV COMPUTER ANIMATION JUNIORSGriffith, GregM 1pm to 4pm & T 4pm to 7pm
DIRECTING FOR ANIMATORSPetkov, RoumenF 9:30am to 12 Noon

Tuesdays will definitely be the hardest(classes literally back to back from 9 a.m. until 10 at night!)And yep, I'm taking two life-drawing classes---gotta work on my draftsmanship this year, along with a plethora of other things.

Over the weekend I've been busy turning my new cube(number 25 to be precise), which is gigantic--it's like 3-4 times bigger than both of my previous cubicals---from this:

To this:

The colors got all messed up in this photo. The next photo does the cube a lot more justice color-wise:

I went the extra-mile and actually painted the walls--so much better than white.

Well, that's all for now. Next post will be all about the new classes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

End of Summer 2009 Report

So I basically fell off the face of the Internets and have been spending the past couple of weeks making the most of the remaining summer. However, I still occasionally had time to draw:
My last batch of characters from Southern Oregon. Starting with the lady decked out in a charming watermelon-print dress and literally ending with the guy on the bottom right with a baseball cap that was precariously balanced on his large scalp. The cap didn't touch his forehead and looked like one breath of wind would knock it right off.
To the Oregon drawing crew: He was occupying The Black Sheep. Hopefully you guys will see him again. :)

I also visited the local fair that took place shortly before I had to move back for school. 102 degree weather made conditions tough, but overall it was a good time. I love me some carnies, cankles, and cows.

And so I've since packed up my car and made the long 680+ mile trip back down to Valencia to begin a whole new school year. Ever wonder what dawn looks like while driving down Interstate 5 in California?

Now you know. Last Monday I had to hit the road early after spending the night at my Grandma's house. I left at 4:30 in the morning(still dark)....not planning on doing that again anytime soon. Way too early to be conscious. At 10:30 am I arrived in Valencia, met up with my roommates, and we all started moving into our new apartment. This was adventure too, living on the third floor with no elevator made moving very difficult--particularly when it came to the things we moved from storage like the couch and various boxes that weighed way too much--it was also 99 degrees and hazy from the fires far south of us(driving and moving all in one day! I was dead to the world by 9 pm). Anyways, that's all done with and we're all settled in.
Now time to welcome the local Valencia peeps. I spent some time at the local mall and spotted a couple characters. However, the female subject on the bottom right was not anywhere near the mall---only 5 people(myself included) know her story and her impact on our group's outing. All's I'll say is she was a Grade-A cougar, and that's the "classiest" summary I can think of for her. The End.
Today, myself and a couple friends headed over to the LA zoo to get back into drawing. School doesn't officially start until next Monday(14th) so we're trying our best to get back into the frantic pace of CalArts. Anyways, fun drawing day--very nice weather(upper 80's and no smoke!), animals were a little more active than the last time I visited, and we even saw some chimpanzees go on a rampage! Basically the one dominate chimp decided to put another chimp in its place by tackling it(on the lower left area of the chimp drawings...that's basically what they did). Both went tumbling into one of the area's pits(several feet!) during the climax of the brawl. They came hollering and screaming back up, the dominate male strutting around and swinging his arms all manly-like. He even went so far as to pick up a piece of cucumber and hurl it over the exhibit's walls and into the crowd of human onlookers---no one was hit, myself and my friends were about 10 feet away from the cucumber's impact(it exploded and chunks of it went flying in every direction). Very, very entertaining and nothing could ever top that temper tantrum.

Anyways, tomorrow the character animation freshmen have their orientation in the department and I'm looking forward to peeking in on all the new faces(it's really surreal to think back on those first few days on campus...just feels like a month ago I was moving into the dorms and getting ready for my first year. Time is flyin' by.). Well, I sign-up for classes and a cube this Friday. Just from looking at the online schedule, this year should be pretty intense, but can't wait to get started---bring on Year 3!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Miyazaki Lecture


Here are my notes from The Marc Davis Celebration of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki event that took place on July 28, 2009.

John Lasseter moderated and the night was setup likewise: Play 2-3 clips from Miyazaki’s films, and ask various questions ranging from his early life to specific film-related information. I’m going to post it in a similar manner, with the question that was asked followed by the answer Miyazaki gave.

How did you get into animation?
I went a university to gain time to study drawing. I received bare minimum grades just so I could draw more.

What was your first job out of school?
I was 22 years old and my first job was an in-betweener on Wanwan chushingura(Bark, Bark.) However, I still wanted to be a manga artist. I would spend my time during the day working on the film and had thought I could work on my own projects at night. However, when trying to work on my manga work, I’d fall asleep immediately after work.

What was the first project you storyboarded?
I worked on a variety of TV series. I made the transition when I suggested that I could redraw the storyboards better than the initial pass, so I was moved into that department.

Here Hayao Miyazaki went into a discussion about drawing. Not exactly related to the question, but this certainly helped shape his career:

I realized that no matter how many times I drew something, the thing I couldn’t draw—I couldn’t draw. I would spend hours drawing after my other coworkers had left. After my first film I worked on was released I realized I needed to learn how to draw. I wouldn’t even see Wanwan chushingura or Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon. I was still focused on becoming an animator and not even thinking about a job as a director. I grew more concerned with making the drawings more interesting. At the time I didn’t know about the other aspects of filmmaking---just drawing.

What was your first directing job?
It was Lupin the 3rd. I convinced the managers that I could direct it. Four and a half months were given to complete it. During that time, the energy on the team was at its peak. Those days, everyone wanted to be directors and our system was flexible enough to allow for me to move up.

How was Studio Ghibli founded?
After NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind, we realized we needed a studio. I realized the people who invested money into films were very conservative. They were not trying new things, so I set out to try and get the money to try and release these new ideas. At first, a building was rented and the staff would come together for a project, and then scatter after production.



(This is the only video I could find of this particular sequence. It has been slightly edited...and the title is definitely not what Miyazaki had in mind...)
What was the inspiration behind Spirited Away?
Make a really frightening movie. I wanted to focus on girls that aren’t apathetic (uncaring) and dwelled on various folktales that all had a similar story about appearances that deceived (like the market the parents eat at towards the beginning.) I modeled a lot of the characters on people I knew/know(especially the main female character along with her Dad.)

You depict your characters eating in such a way that I’m hungry while watching it. Why is eating included in your films?
It’s simple, I like to eat.


Do you set out to depict in your films a concern towards the human impact on the environment?
It’s not that nature is a growing concern in my films. It’s all around us. I exaggerate elements like smog, rain, etc. to help portray them properly as the landscapes we are used to living in. Saving the environment should be a concern in real life, not film.



How do you set out to create believable “magic”/supernatural—it all seems to have a logic to it.

If it’s going that well, then it is natural. But I often worry about the believability. Reading about fairytales helps inspire me because they’re rooted in the flow of human civilization.



Was the legend of Totoro based on something?

My intention was the show my appreciation of nature, not to focus on the creatures. I started out with just fragments. The first being at a bus stop and a strange creature was there. And the second involved a child seeing a transparent creature. These two fragments remained in my head for 10 years before I found a way to connect them together. The solution was to involve two main characters---an older and a younger sister. However, this idea didn’t get approval very quickly.

I thought about the actual Totoro creatures as these large beings, that you couldn’t tell if it’s smart, stupid, or if it’s really even there. To achieve this, I told the animators to not have the creatures looking at anything specific.

The catbus just came up. I was drawing randomly and it just came out on the page. The bus stop scene was inspired by the idea of a ghost bus where ghosts came on and off. This was also fueled by Japanese folklore about a ghost cat(he didn’t go into specifics about the tale.). These were all starting points.

Why do your villains still have appeal/character?
When I create them, I start liking them, so they don’t become very evil. You’re investing so much into them that they should be lovable. I tend to believe that villains work harder then the heroes. Making an evil character with a hole in their heart, etc. is depressing and hard to draw. I believe animators emote while drawing. A lot of animators smile while drawing a happy character, or look incredibly angry while drawing a mad character. I feel it’s better to have a smiling face than a grimacing one.


Can you describe the storyboarding process in Japan?
The system is much looser than in the U.S. The director draws it himself before the rest of the crew become involved. Also the division of labor isn’t as exact. I feel one should be flexible in the way one works.

How often does the staging change from story to animation?
It happens occasionally, however I try not to tell others to fix it. I try not to burden others with the changes. I prefer to redraw it myself. The problem is, if an order is made then they have to spend time thinking about it because they don’t have as clear of a vision. It’s best for the person who knows how to do it, to draw it himself, it prevents any further interruptions in the process.

Then came questions from the audience:


What were you interested in when you were 11 years old?
I spent a lot of time just imagining things. I was a physically weak child, but read a lot. I always wanted to be a strong hero.

What advice can you give to growing artists?
Don’t do something that you’ve seen before. But if you’ve forgotten what you’ve seen, then do it.

What do you think the future holds for hand drawn animation?
As long as there are people doing it—it will continue to exist. Pencils and computers are just tools to make our stories. There’s always a use for a tool like a pencil.

Can you tell us about the use of computers and the change that took place at Ghibli?
Early on we had this illusion about the computer---that they’d do the tedious drawings we didn’t want to do. The computer actually made it even more tiresome for us in the end. The computer can draw with a certain exactitude. To create a seamless blend between the work the computer did versus human, the animators must also be able to draw that well, but those that couldn’t draw at that kind of level ended up getting worse due to the challenge. The crew began to only think like the computer and we needed to just see what we saw with our eyes. I now tell my animators to not worry about the amount of drawings they produce—we are still saving money by not having to buy another computer. However, we do use the computer for camerawork.



How did you create the water effects in Ponyo?
I found that the ocean is more believable when drawn with wavy lines, just so long as it’s moving. If you stop the continuous movement then the scene dies and all the flaws/weaknesses became very apparent. Overall, the main thing was to draw like a child, but keep it moving.

What keeps bringing you out of retirement?
The first time I announced I would retire was after my first film, but just to my wife. Now that I’ve said it so much, no one believes me---I think I’ll just stay quiet on the matter.