Animation

Handy Manny

In the summer of 2010, I storyboarded a couple Handy Manny stories for Nelvana Ltd.

Up to that point, I’d only done a couple of storyboards using digital tools and was still trying to figure out a comfortable work flow. More importantly, I was still trying to find a way for my drawing to look like my drawings: my line look like my line: my style, etc. I’m still working on that.

I came to the conclusion that I have two styles: my style (pencil and paper or ink on paper) and my DIGITAL style (drawing digitally). There is a difference if one takes a good look. For me, I prefer the look of my style on paper, but the co-ordinator on Handy Manny said she could tell it was my storyboard right away based on the art, so maybe I’m closer to my goal than I think. Hmmm...

The story for this one: Manny and the Tools co. go camping. I only did the second half of this episode. I have no idea who did the first part.

There is no sound because that part takes place after I’m on to the next storyboard and I don’t get access to the sound files.

I will be posting more animatics and storyboard materials in the near future. Print storyboards I will post as it seems appropriate, but animatics will have to wait until the actual episode airs. I figure its only proper. That means that all animatics will likely be at least a year old by the time they show up here.

However, while you are waiting...

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The new page (pg 44) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the pose down preview of this week’s action to get more comics! FLEX!!
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Handy Manny is copyright whomever owns it. I claim no ownership.
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20 Years?

Hard to believe, but I’ve been in the animation business for 20 years. 20 YEARS!!

I was hired by Nelvana Ltd. as a Layout Artist in January of 1991 while I was in my final year (3rd year) attending the Classical Animation course at Sheridan College. I went freelance in 1993 and so here I am as I am, today. That’s the short of it.

There are plenty of stories and anecdotes I could write about (Like: how I was hired for my first job, or rather how I wasn’t really hired and just showed up for work, sort of), but that’s for another time, if anyone is actually interested, that is. I’m not sure why anyone would be.

As an exercise out of personal interest, I had the idea to list all the different shows I have worked on in the past 20 years. They run the range of styles from stick figures (That’s called “easy money” in the business) to UPA to typical cartooning to typical adventure style to psudo-Anime. The mediums included: traditional 2D hand drawn cel art, 3D animation and Flash style animation. I’m still partial to traditional 2D, but alas, there is less and less of that being done in North America.

I started my career as a Layout Artist (Setting up the shots by drawing the full sized background and character poses that would be given to the animators and background painters) and became a Storyboard artist in 1995 or maybe 1996 and am still drawing storyboards to this day. What can I say, it’s a good job.

Ok, so here is the list of shows I’ve worked on, in chronological order (as best I can remember):

LAYOUT:
Rupert - Nelvana Ltd.
Beetlejuice - Nelvana Ltd.
Dog City - Nelvana Ltd.
Pink Panther - Pheonix Animation
Magic Schoolbus - Nelvana Ltd.
Eek the Cat - Nelvana Ltd.
Little Bear - Nelvana Ltd.
Pippi Longstocking - direct to video movie - Nelvana Ltd. (I also did location design for my own scenes)

STORYBOARD:
The Terrible Thunderlizards - Nelvana Ltd. (This was a part of the Eek show)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective - Nelvana Ltd.
Blazing Dragons - Nelvana Ltd.
The Tick - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Stinkin’ Around - Nelvana Ltd.
Wing Commander Academy - Universal Studios
The Busy World of Richard Scarry - Cinar
Mummies Alive - DIC via Pictor
Magic Schoolbus - Nelvana Ltd. (Also served as Storyboard Supervisor on the final season)
Pippi Longstocking - TV series - Nelvana Ltd.
Salty’s Lighthouse - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Anatole - Nelvana Ltd.
Birdz - Nelvana Ltd.
Brother’s Flub - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Franklin - Nelvana Ltd.
Rollie Pollie Ollie - Nelvana Ltd.
Fat Dog Mendoza - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Braceface - Nelvana Ltd.
Generation O! - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Timothy Goes to School - Nelvana Ltd.
Cramp Twins - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Berenstain Bears - Nelvana Ltd.
Cyberchase - Nelvana Ltd.
Di-Gata Defenders - Nelvana Ltd.
God Of Dance [radio edit] - promo - Independent (I didn’t do the actual storyboard, but I directed the thing and so I had a hand in its creation. I just didn’t give myself credit)
Grossology - Nelvana Ltd.
Hot Wheels: Battle Force Five - Nerdcorp
Stoked - Elliott Animation
Bolts and Blip - ToonBox
Total Drama Reloaded - Elliott Animation
Handy Manny - Nelvana Ltd.
Detentionaire - Nelvana Ltd.
Babar: The Adventures of Badou - Nelvana Ltd.

If I have left anything out, it is because my involvement was quite minor (fixing a storyboard or helping out on a show for a week or some other small task) or I simply have forgotten about it.

The thing I’m most happy with was God of Dance. I was able to have pretty much total creative control over it and I was very pleased with the end result. It was also great fun to put together at all stages. Even the all-nighter I spent scrambling to approve the final footage so the promo could be delivered for presentation. Actually, the making of story behind this promo is interesting. Maybe I’ll write about that, next time.

So... To sum up:

When I started in the animation business, I would meet guys who’d been around for 20 years and was amazed that they’d been ‘in’ so long; now, I’m one of them. I guess if you live long enough, it is inevitable that you become one of “them”, whomever “them” may be.

-Steve.

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Spring Cleaning: Part Three

A few things to look at:

First up is a two shot of a couple God of Dance characters posing from the original one-sheet poster I drew.

The poster was originally not done by me (I’d only provided a bunch of rough character designs), but the original poster that was made was deemed to be not up to par and so I was asked if I could make one up as quickly as I could. I think I could have taken a week, but I don’t like to let things drag on so I did it in about a day and a half (I think it was much more urgent than I was told, anyway. I was doing it for free so you can’t really push a guy who is working for nothing and I think that’s why I was told I could take a week). About the only reason it took more than a day was because I was using a mouse to color the characters. I didn’t have a Cintiq, back then, and I didn’t like using a tablet for coloring.

Giving the fact that I was under time constraints, I decided it was best to see what materials I had on hand and use whatever I could that was already finished art and only create new art as I needed it. I looked at the character rotations I had already done to see if any of those poses could be used as is. Yup, a few of then could. One, Rasta, needed to be colored, but the rest I could drag and drop into place. That left the need to draw a new Ramen pose as well as a couple other characters. I also needed to design one more character to fill out the scene: I call her Cherry and she can be seen in the illustration, below.

Cherry-and-Ringo

This next illustration was a test I threw together to see what a scene drawn and roughly painted at post-it note size would look like in full color. After having animated Listen to Me... MoMo... on post-it notes, I wondered if I might try something more detailed and see how it works out. My conclusion is that, based on this rough sketch, it could look just fine for small screens like YouTube or mobile devices and that it is better to pay people to hand animate than do it myself. I knew there was a reason I draw storyboards and never wanted to be an animator.

GoD_test_col

Finally... For a period of about 5 or 6 years, I used to teach English on Saturdays to children as a means to get out of the house, once and a while. I had a class cancelled, one afternoon, and since I had my computer with me, I thought I’d do something to keep myself occupied. It was summer and hot and going out didn’t seem like a good idea.

Shortly before, I had been given a bunch of Layout and Animation drawings from the latest BLACK JACK Anime series from Japan by an acquaintance in Shanghai who owns an animation studio that does a lot of work for Various Japanese studios, such as Production I.G. and Tezuka Studios. He knows I like to look at production art and so he scanned me these layouts to look at.

So, I picked one to see of I could paint a background in Photoshop. Overall, I think it looks pretty good. Granted, it isn’t the hardest background to paint, but then I’m no painter. The students thought it was cool, so I guess it worked for the audience it would be going out it as an actual TV series.

BJ1lo
This initial Layout would have been done in Japan.
BJ1key
This is a Key Animation drawing. I’m not sure if this was done in Japan or if the studio in Shanghai handled it. The Japanese writing under the potted plant suggests it was drawn in Japan. Note how off model the characters are in the Layout and how the Key Animator is responsible for correcting model. If he can’t do it, there is another final step of quality control.
BJ1
Hmm... The original Photoshop file’s colors are deeper and richer than this, but what are ya gonna do?

A final note: I’ve never actually seen the Anime version of Black Jack, but I’m a big fan of the comic series and highly recommend it.

-Steve.
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MoMo Animatic (Spring Cleaning Part Two)

What did I find on my hard drive, today: The animatic I made for Listen To Me... MoMo...



After I read the book ‘Nee... Marimo’, from which Listen To Me... MoMo... was adapted, I quickly drew up a storyboard of how I saw a filmed version playing out. Serendipity is something I never ignore and so when a friend mentioned that a studio he was working for were filming their animatics (Filmed storyboard panels cut like a real film) buy using iMovie, I thought I’d give it a try. So what did I have on hand to shoot as an animatic? Well, I could have used one of the numerous storyboards I’ve drawn over the years, but then it occurred to me that I should scan and edit a MoMo animatic since I had the storyboard ready and it would be more fun and productive.

14-1

As is the case with pretty much any Apple product (hardware or software) I have used, I didn’t read a word about how to use iMovie and in a few hours, I’d had a completely edited animatic without sound and without problems. About the only thing that I wasn’t pleased with was controlling the pan slow in and out speeds (I didn’t want any), but otherwise, it was easy to use and I got the results I needed for creating a functioning animatic.

14-2

Originally, I was going to compose the music myself, but I wanted to fine tune the cuts to some temp music for the fun of it. The first tracks I thought of were the two that ended up in the final film. Both are from the soundtrack to the film StarRunner, scored by the great Henry Lai. I met Henry several years ago to talk about music and he was nice enough to give me a copy of the StarRunner soundtrack. I listened to it for the next couple of weeks non-stop as I walked around town: it is a great score. So, I took the two tracks that I thought would serve as good temp music and they just worked perfectly: they had the right feel I wanted and even the lengths were spot on (Remember what I said about serendipity). I only needed to make minor timing adjustments to some of the shots and eliminate one scene (A shot of an empty dog house) because there simply wasn’t enough music time for it to fit in. I don’t think it is missed, though.

8

Then, I thought I may as well add some temp dial. I just used the built in mic on my iMac for that and it is quite obvious that I did. You sure can hear my air-conditioner hissing away in the background. Still, it is just temp dial and so it need not be perfect. So, yeah, I recorded both parts, myself, and I used Logic, I think, to change the pitch in order to make myself sound more like a girl and a dog. Sadly, I think I do pretty decent girl. My dog voice... it merely does the job. I recorded the temp dial to picture in two passes: one for the girl dial and one for the dog, but both are first takes and I didn’t make any adjustments after recording for timing. A couple of rehearsal takes and then recording was all I did. I’m a big proponent of recording voice acting to picture and music whenever possible over recording before picture, cold: I think you get a much better performance that way.

So once I had the whole animatic finished and watched it several times, I fell in love with the temp music and the last thing I wanted to do was try to score new music myself: I knew I just wasn’t going to get close to the perfect feel the temp music had. So, I gave Henry a ring and asked him if I could use his music as is and he, being the stand up guy he is, said I could.

Frankly, between the excellent original story and illustrations and Henry’s fine music, my job as director was to simply not screw it all up with poor direction. I hope I didn’t.

-Steve.



HIM
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MoMo!

A new film has been added to the FILMS section!

Several years ago, my wife told me about this children’s book that was making everyone at her work cry, and put down, before they could even finish it. For quite a while, I wanted to make a short animated film, but I couldn’t settle on an idea I really liked. Once I read this infamous book, I immediately knew I wanted to adapt it to animation. The story is possibly the most simple yet profound I have ever read. My enthusiasm for making this film was quite intense.

At least a year or more went by before I actually sat down to make the film. The storyboard was done and I’d made an animatic with temp voices and music (which ended up being used as the final music), but I couldn’t figure out how to achieve the rough bumpy line quality of the book illustrations and so the film sat on a shelf. Then, I was struck out of the blue on how I could achieve the line style I wanted and the film proceeded to get made rather quickly.

The results can be seen HERE or click on the picture (below).
Momo_Card-web
-Steve
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Help me reach 1,000,000!!

1,000,000 what, you ask? 1,000,000 YouTube hits!!

If there is one thing I have learned from experimenting with YouTube, and media in general, is that it is hard to get and hold people’s attention. There are certain types of videos that get tons of hits because they include famous people or properties or are videos wherein the makers are using footage or props of famous people and properties (I assume, without permission). There are those that are just plain amusing (such as Indian Thriller) and there are those that are just short and sweet so they are easy to watch since they take no time investment. Everything else that gets a lot of hits seems to be something incredibly interesting that people feel compelled to pass the links around or so incredibly stupid that they feel the same compulsion. There is also a certain luck factor with everything, but that goes without saying unless I say it then it goes with saying. Lost your attention yet?

So I have a short film that falls under ‘short and sweet’ and ‘incredibly stupid’. Add some luck and I have my 1,000,000 YouTube hits. I present to you...

CHAO CHAO BAO!! Or as it is known in English...
STINKY STINK BUN!!
ChaoChaoBao-Still
This film is the best example to showcase my total disinterest in reading manuals when I get a new toy. I bought some animation software, a while back, and installed it. Rather than even read the “Quick Start Guide”, I just began to draw, using the track pad on my laptop, and the end result was this film. When I outputted the video, my thought was that this is stupid. I emailed it to a friend and his reply was, “One million YouTube hits, for sure!!”

So please help a brother reach his goal of

1,000,000 YouTube hits!!

Email the link to all the family, friends, colleagues, enemies and total strangers you know or even don’t know. This is a quest! Or think of it this way: We’re on a mission from God!

You can watch CHAO CHAO BAO HERE in the Films section or at this YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRCbfK_Lz5g
Together, we can make a difference!

-Steve.

HIM

The new page (pg 12) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the zippy preview of this week’s action to get more comics! BOING!
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Babar

Shameless self-promotion isn’t complete without mentioning what I’m working on.

For the past few months, and for the next many, I have been, am and will be drawing storyboards on BABAR and the Adventures of Badou from the fine folks at Nelvana Ltd. First season is already on air and it is the second season that I’m currently working on. Do look for it wherever TV programs are found.
BBR29b_Revised-162
This is actually my second encounter with Babar. The first was when I was still in collage finishing my final year. I drew a layout test for Nelvana, trying to get a job in, of all departments, Layout. The test was to draw a few scenes from the then cel animation Babar cartoon. Despite what had to have been an amazingly weak test submission, if my memory serves me well, I was hired for my first job in animation as a Layout Artist.

Interestingly, a few years later, someone found a pile of old Babar layout tests in the studio. As much I wanted to see my test, it was missing. There can only be two possibly reasons for its absence: Someone swiped it to later sell on Ebay for a couple of bucks, having the foresight to see value in those dodgy drawings (not to mention the existence of Ebay, well before the internet was anything a common person knew anything about) or they burned it for the artistic abomination it must have been. I suspect the latter is more likely and I’d probably agree with their logic.

If you see it on Ebay, please let me know. I’d kill to see it again.

HIM
Over at HIMcomic, I have created a new section called ComHIMtary. It is a page by page commentary talking about this and that, bits and bites and assorted whatnots regarding the pages themselves. That section will be updated whenever I have something to say about a particular page.

Criswell
Criswell speaks, “I predict that this new section will be a hit of Titanic proportions or it will not. Can you prove me wrong? Impossible.”


-Steve.

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God of Dance [radio edit]

Newly added to this site is the God of Dance section which can be found under the Films category.

This is a 45 second (excluding credits) promo I co-developed and directed in 2008. It was made as part of a pitch for a TV Series concept. It was a blast to make and I’d love to do more things like it. Cut 01 Finished Art

More info is on the page itself.

HIM
The new page (pg 7) has been posted over at HIMcomic, so please go check it out and laugh until your sides split. Bandage yourself up and laugh some more! What can it hurt?

-Steve.
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