Author Archives: Guest

Money Saving Tips for 3D Animation

Thank you to Kate Sorenson and her couponing team for contributing this article. Kate and her team run the blog, Coupon Cravings, a site full of great deals and clever ways to save.

3D animation is engaging, creative and fun. It can also be a great tool for teaching and school projects. However, the costs of animation can outweigh the benefits. If you need some tips for lowering your artistic expenses, look no further. Take advantage of the following tips to help you cut down costs on your animation projects. Whether animation is a hobby or a lifelong passion, these tricks will help you save money by whittling away unnecessary expenditures.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 3 of 3

Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

This is a little known fact. I had met with Anne Wood (creator of the Teletubbies) and cast as one of thirteen animators she sought for a new children’s TV series called The Magic Mirror. A major company was brought in to finance the series but were unhappy with Anne’s choice of animators. They required a competition to choose a new set of thirteen. I wasn’t chosen but the series was axed having been broadcast I believe, only once as it blatantly promoted the financers. Gary Glitter was the narrator for one episode!

The Paint family and The Christmas Tree production cel.

Anne Gobi formed a rebel alliance and took The Paint Family elsewhere to find funding.
Many countries were happy to take the series once made. It was left to the UK to supply the money. Anne informed me a producer was willing to do just that but would make a final decision on returning from a holiday. When Dan Maddicott returned from his holiday he said no. The rebel alliance collapsed.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 2 of 3

Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

Julian Holdaway was a great help. A rostrum cameraman based in Bob Godfrey’s basement. He introduced me to books, people and places in the animated world and helped sustain my desire for knowledge of my craft. I had learnt a lot in a very short space of time.

Production cel from Hartbeat.


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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 1 of 3

This guest post by Paul Thomas gives us a brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

Animate – verb – to make alive or lively.

A young Paul Thomas at the lightbox

On Christmas day 1966 my present of an Action Man went missing then reappeared later that day. Where had he been? In the new year of 1967 my dad showed mum and I his Standard 8 home movie of our Christmas holiday and there was my Action Man animated on the screen. The seed was sown.
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Scratch – Making an exhibition of himself

Happy birthday Paul Thomas and Scratch

Scratch creator Paul Thomas celebrates his 50th birthday today (12 January 2012). Also, Scratch is thirty years old this year. To mark this auspicious occasion Paul has written a summery of his life in animation and beyond.


Click on the pictures for larger versions.

By Paul Thomas

I’ve been in the business of creating something from nothing professionally for over thirty years. Out of one particular day’s nothing in 1982 came something that would change my life.
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Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation?

Left: a computer graphics render with soft shadows. Right: a cel shader (also known as a toon shader) and border detection. This creates hard edged shadows with lines drawn around the model. Illustration from Hash Animation Master manual.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

As you’ll well know, there are far more animation techniques out there than the average movie-goer or TV watcher knows about. You can’t blame them for only really knowing about stop-motion animation, CGI animation, and what goes into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. These techniques are what ‘make it big’, and what can be seen on screens, both big and small, all over the world. But there are plenty of other forms of animation that don’t get the credit they deserve.

Take cel shading for example. This lends animation a ‘cartoony’ look which can be very effective in certain media. This form of animation has actually only been adopted by a handful of film and television productions; however it has been used extensively in video games. Perhaps the reason for this is that cel shading is easier on the graphics processor, so games can look great even on less powerful hardware. When cel shaded animation does make its way into film and television, it’s usually used conservatively, but there are exceptions as we’ll see. There’s an important distinction to make before we get into the cel shaded world: whilst there are plenty of techniques that use block colours, cel shading refers specifically to the cartoony rendering of light and shadow.
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The Lost Art of Rotoscoping

Rotoscope by Max Fleischer, patent drawing from 1914.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

Animation has come a long way since the days of the first cartoon motion pictures in the early 1900s. It’s come so far in fact that it’s difficult to believe it started as a few hand-drawn images on a page. Compare and flick book to the trailer for Pixar’s upcoming movie Brave and you’ll get the idea. But here we are, in a world where computer generated imaging has quite literally taken over the world of animated film: when was the last time Disney released a ‘2D’ movie in their original style? It’s been some time indeed.
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Top 10 Animated Christmas Movies for the Whole Family

This is a guest post by Sophia Anderson.

So much of what we love during Christmas-time is based in nostalgia and tradition; fond memories of decorating the tree, taking a nighttime drive to see Christmas lights, and, of course, cuddling around the TV with yummy treats and a warm fire to watch a Christmas movie. December is here, so tis’ the season to break out all of the holiday movies! Here are ten of our favorite animated Christmas movies and TV specials, old and new.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

There is a reason why people wait every year in anticipation of the annual TV airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s hard to go wrong with the Peanuts gang, but the Christmas special might be the best of all their holiday offerings. Every scene is memorable, from the group decorating the tree that Charlie Brown brings home to Linus’s speech on the true meaning of Christmas. The soundtrack that goes along with the movie – featuring both original songs by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, as well as covers of older Christmas songs – stands apart from the movie as being one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.
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Top 10 Animated Films for Adults

This is a guest post by Lori Hutchison.

In the history of animated film, relatively few films have been released for adults (with the exception of the anime industry in Japan). Here are ten ground-breaking films that feature mature adult themes and prove that animation can be just as moving as it was when we were young.

1. Animal Farm (1954) – As the first British animated feature for general release, this film is just as powerful as the acclaimed book by George Orwell. The political allegory received an “X” rating when it was first released, which prohibited anyone under 18 from seeing the film. Although the rating has since been changed to “U” for universal, the violent and political nature of the film is meant for adults.

2. Fantastic Planet (1973) – This film is considered to be a metaphor for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It tells the tale of a race of brilliant blue giants who keep humans as pets until the humans eventually revolt. It is also the feature debut of French animator René Laloux, for which he won a special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

3. Watership Down (1978) – Based on the epic fantasy novel by Richard Adams, this film tells the tale of a group of rabbits who must leave their home warren and travel to a new place. Although it has been deemed appropriate for children, the dark and violent sophistication of the film gets to the heart of human struggle.

4. Akira (1988) – The Japanese animation industry is notable for its prolific production of animated films for adults. While there are many notable titles that could be included in this list, Akira was the film that inspired generations of modern animators. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, it takes a dystopian, cyberpunk world where a biker gang befriends a boy with psychic powers. The unprecedented style of animation is much more fluid and detailed than anime styles of the past.

5. Princess Mononoke (1997) – Considered as the most adult of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s films, this film stresses the importance of mankind’s relationship with nature. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan until Titanic was released later that year. Like many of Miyazaki’s works, it features a strong heroine, environmentalism, and strikingly fluid animation with often made with water colors.

6. Metropolis (2001) – Inspired in part by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film and a manga created in 1949, this film features stunning visual elements and colorful characters, not to mention a jazzy soundtrack. It takes place in a dystopian world where humans and robot co-exist.

7. Waking Life (2001) – This film by the American Richard Linklater was shot in live-action, then rotoscoped through a special process with a team of computer animators. It is very philosophical and dreamlike in nature, shifting between a series of thought-provoking conversations.

8. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) – This modern gem from France features a grandmother trying to rescue her cycling-obsessed grandson from the Mafia with the help of an elderly singing trio. With little dialogue, a retro animation style, and innovative music, you won’t find a film quite like this one.

9. Persepolis (2007) – This film was based on Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood in Iran. Although it deals with specific political events, Satrapi’s story contains many universal elements about adolescence, religion, sex, politics, and family ties. The animation is in the idiosyncratic black-and-white style of Satrapi’s artwork.

10. Waltz with Bashir (2008) – This film was the first animated film to be released in Israel since 1962. It is a feature-length animated documentary that chronicles one man’s experiences during the 1982 Lebanon War. It took over four years to complete and received several awards.

This article was posted by Lori Hutchison. She owns the site Masters in History Colleges and is an Art History Professor.

Disney animator David Hand’s influence on New Zealand animation

The book of keys

Disney animator David Hand was invited to England in 1944 to help set up GB Animation. It was to be a studio of sufficient size and capacity with which to challenge Disney’s supremacy. Key drawings and character sheets believed to be by David Hand were later taken to New Zealand by animator Bob Morrow, with the aim of setting up a studio there. Mitchell Manuel tells the story in the following guest post.

The History of the Keys

By Mitchell Manuel.

The images illustrating this blog post are from a book of keys put together by Robert Snowden Morrow, a Scotsman, who came to New Zealand in the late 1940’s with ambitions to build an animation studio in NZ.

Bob trained in Cookham (Rank Organization – British Gaumont) in the mid 1940’s and trained with David Hand, John Reed, Ralph Wright and Ray Paterson – to what degree and with which American I do not know. Bob was impressed with David in particular.

Pinocchio rough drawing

Pinochio after clean up

Basically the images were a collection of keys which allegedly David Hand, John Reed, Ralph Wright and Ray Paterson had brought with them to England when they left Disney. Bob was adamant that this was in fact true and was part of a small consignment which he was then able to bring with him to NZ. When I often questioned him about the images and their authenticity he would chuckle and say ‘look at them, they flow symmetrically and with rhythm’ and my being naive at the time didn’t see it for what they were – treasures of a period where excellence, artistry and craftsmanship was truly magnificent and unbelievable.

The pencil drawings are original keys from the original movies. There are also a number of images that are photostat or xeroxed copies from model sheets etc.

Bambi

Bambi

The book of KEYS were meant to be used as a training medium for animators which is why they all appear to be keys with key holes and registries for animation desks which were orginal keys from Disney.

In the eighties I trained with Bob’s small company Morrow Productions and befriended both he and his new business partner and budding animator Michael.H.Walker. During the 50s, 60s, 70s and up until 1980 Morrow Productions made an impressive amount of animated training films, documentaries and commercials and these have since been given to the NZ film archives http://www.filmarchive.org.nz/ for safe keeping and for historical use.

Sadly Bob passed away in 1981 and Michael in 2004. I worked then and continue to work in the NZ film industry and was gifted the images/keys in the late eighties when Michael believed that the keys were worthless and of no real value. Personally, Michael was incorrect in his summation of the keys and over the years a number of people have expressed that belief. The times have changed and Disney memorabilia is more in demand then ever before.

Michael turned his back on animation to focus instead on feature and television movies. The animation business of Morrow Productions ceased when the NZ competition became fierce and the advent of computer animation, in it’s infancy, was a huge learning curve for both Michael and I – both of which we decided wasn’t a direction we wanted to follow.

Having left animation behind, Michael and I made three films: Kingi’s Story, Kingpin and Mark II. Check out http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/mark-ii-1986. We won modest accolades but then in the late 80’s Michael was struck down by an illness which required more stress free work and but to a pension retired as a mentor to myself and others.

Coming back to the keys however, I had sent similar keys to David Hand’s grandson David inquiring as to the images his grandfather produced and out of our correspondence David had told me his grandfather was not much of a collector of his own work and David asked If I could send him my original keys for exchange for a book. Suffice to say I lost touch of David and the keys were not sent since I wasn’t prepared to part with them a decade ago.

Since looking up David’s website http://www.dhprod.com/Mem.html I see that he is now selling copies of the keys and some of which I have which he does not. When I was emailing him there was no intention on my part to sell or use the images except for the delight and interest of collectors, his angle, although quite legitimate, wasn’t something I was keen to help him with.

In terms of origin, technically the keys are British and American in origin but have made their journey here to NZ by way of Disney, David Hand, Gaumont, Morrow Production’s and then to myself.

The book of keys have from my estimate contain about several hundred keys from Disney and Gaumont and is not a serious collection as such but I have had people wanting to buy or seek to procure via my so-called charity but I have not been so forthcoming to part with the originals and I suspect that my collection isn’t as rare as some suspect.

I have visited a number of antique animation key sights in the USA and marvelled at the keys for sale and display and honestly I am very disappointed in the quality and questionable sources from which they came. I understand that Disney shut down access to the Disney keys, cells, images in the sixties since he could predict that if he had not taken such a step that the history of not only Disney but significant American animation history was being eroded by thrifty vision-less hawkers and thieves. I think David was none of the before mentioned but a visionary nevertheless.

Disney was and is a visionary of his time and American animation being at the cutting edge and forefront of an amazing animation history which has affected and enchanted millions and countless more.

Ferdinand the Bull

Richard Taylor, Creative Director of Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand, loved the drawings. Other animators in NZ have seen them and have been inspired. However, the only American people who have actually seen the the book in its entirety and verified their authenticity – as well as offered me some kind of remuneration are two Americans who worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings Twin Towers. Bert and Jennifer Klein whom I believe may still be senior animators for Disney. Bert was particularly struck by Ferdinand the Bull. As you may have guessed I didn’t part with them and only met with the couple on the basis that we wouldn’t discuss selling or buying and was simply like-minds meeting to admire beautiful art although ironically by Americans looking at American art in New Zealand.

You have to put images like these in context to NZ animation – there are brilliant animators in NZ but Disney art from the 40’s in Wellington, New Zealand doesn’t come along everyday.

Gipetto rough

Gipetto cleaned up.

Snow White and the seven dwarfs

See Animator Issue 19 for more information about G B Animation.