Book Sale

I’ve got a pretty large collection of art books in my studio library. Too many in fact. They’re nice to have and inspiring to look at but the reality is there’s a large chunk of them that I never, ever pull off the shelf and thumb through. So I’ve decided its time to start selling a few.

I’m starting with some of the more expensive ones but plan to add more modestly priced books the near future. You can view a live update of everything I have available on my Amazon.com storefront: http://www.amazon.com/shops/cedricstudio

I’ve tried to undercut other Amazon sellers whenever possible. If I’ve got a like-new copy I’m not going to sell it for cheaper than someone selling a raggedy book full of highlighting and coffee stains. But within reason I’m willing to be the lowest price. For the moment at least buying from me will get you the best deal (though you can check for sure by clicking on the item and looking at the various “Used and New” offers). Current titles include:

  • To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios
  • Paper Dreams: The Art and Artists of Disney Storyboards
  • Rockwell On Rockwell: How I Make A Picture by Norman Rockwell
  • Don Bluth’s Art Of Storyboard
  • MAD’s Greatest Artists: The Completely Mad Don Martin (2 Volume Set)
  • Puss N Boots (illustrated by Andreas Deja, signed limited edition)
  • Peter Pan Sketchbook (Walt Disney Sketchbook Series, limited edition)
  • Little Mermaid Sketchbook (Walt Disney Sketchbook Series, limited edition)
  • Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation
  • The Art of Monster’s Inc.
  • Rough Beasts 1 (sketchbook of Bill Halliar)
  • The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age
  • Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm
  • Modern Masters Vol. 1: Alan Davis
  • Modern Masters Vol. 6: Arthur Adams
  • Leonard Maltin’s Animation Favorites from the National Film Board of Canada (DVD)
  • Out of the Picture: Art from the Outside Looking In by Chris Wedge
  • Amistad: A Celebration of the Film

I won’t be updating the above list on this blog but if you just visit my storefront you can see the most up-to-date list of what I have for sale. Most books are in very good condition but if not I’ve noted any tears, underlining, etc. in the product descriptions. If you decide to buy one, I hope you enjoy reading it. I can tell you from personal experience that just leaving it on the shelf to soak in through osmosis doesn’t work very well.

Happy shopping!

NCS Cartooning Recap

This past weekend I was in Omaha for a two-day cartooning event sponsored by the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society (of which I am a member). The schedule was jam-packed and the public was treated to a fountain of cartoon goodies including a special headline event that kicked off the weekend: a presentation by Pixar story artist Josh Cooley. Josh has done work on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Up, and wrote the humorous “UPisodes” used in Up’s promotion.

Josh gave his presentation on Friday night to a large crowd at the Kaneko Center. (I’d love to show pictures but photography was not allowed.) Using slides and video he gave us a detailed peek behind the curtain at the story department at Pixar. He explained what the job of a story artist is, showed us some slides of the Pixar facilities (including what looked like an olympic-sized swimming pool, a fully-stocked cereal bar, daily drawing classes, even fencing lessons!), and talked about the long and winding journey that a Pixar film takes from the first kernel of an idea to finished script. We were also treated to animatics of abandoned sequences from Up and Ratatouille—including one very funny bit with a manic lab rat character that was later dropped.

Saturday morning Josh gave a closed-door workshop on storytelling. Being a filmmaking geek and a huge animation fan I ate it up. Then on Saturday afternoon there were three panel presentations given by midwest NCS members:

“Cartooning In The New Economy” – First came a discussion on some of the challenges currently facing artists in the gag cartoon biz. Cartoonists Ed Fischer, Tom Kerr, Bucky Jones, and Dave Carpenter answered a series of questions from moderator and syndicated cartoonist John Hambrock (The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee).

“Drawing in the House of Saddam” – Next up were cartoonists Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine). They showed slides from their recent USO trips to Germany and Iraq. When they weren’t cheering up wounded troops in the hospital they were touring the ruins from the Iraq war including a former palace of Saddam Hussein.

“Sketching As Story”- The afternoon closed with another panel discussion featuring cartoonist/storyboard artist Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys, Ice Age 3, Despicable Me), Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible), yours truly, and Pixar’s Josh Cooley (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up), moderated by editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba. We showed slides of our work and answered a few audience questions about visual storytelling.

Chris Browne, Cedric Hohnstadt

After our panel I asked Hagar the Horrible artist Chris Browne for a photo. He said he would but only if I wore his viking helmet. It’s a special piece of papier-mâché headgear hand made by Chris himself using scraps of leftover drawing paper from his studio. As a kid I have fond memories of visiting my Grandma, curling up on the couch, and reading “Hagar the Horrible” in her newspaper whenever we visited. Now here I was sitting next to the Hagar artist on stage and wearing his home-made Hagar hat. Of course Chris took over the strip after his father’s death so technically he wasn’t the one who drew most of the strips I read growing up but to me that’s a minor detail. It was still quite a treat!

Cedric Hohnstadt with Pixar story artist Josh Cooley

Pixar’s Josh Cooley is a super nice guy and was incredibly generous with his time and talent. In addition to three presentations on stage he also did interviews, signed posters, and ate his meals with our crazy group of cartoonists, most of whom were huge Pixar fans. For two days we bombarded him with geeky question after geeky question and he graciously answered them all.

After the final panel we made our way down the block to the Bemis Gallery for the opening of a special traveling exhibit, “One Fine Sunday in the Funny Pages”. The exhibit featured dozens of original drawings—one from almost every syndicated cartoon strip that you would find in your daily newspaper. The exhibit was put together by John Read, who is also the publisher of the wonderful cartooning magazine “Stay Tooned!”.

During the exhibit several cartoonists hung around for a book signing. Pictured front to back: Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues), Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible), Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys), John Hambrock (The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee), and Jeff Koterba (signing his memoir Inklings which is getting rave reviews).

What an inspiring weekend! Besides spending time with such inspiring and insanely talented people, Omaha was a charming town and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m still riding high off the cartooning buzz and more excited than ever to keep drawing!

Pixar Comes To Omaha

Thursday I’ll be driving to Omaha for the annual meeting of the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. It’s going to be a fun weekend with several NCS events planned that will be open to the public. The headliner will be Pixar story artist Josh Cooley.

Josh will be giving a keynote presentation on Friday night called “Coloring Outside The Lines And Other Creative Ways To Make People Worry About You” (tickets can be purchased here). There will also be presentations by various artists on Saturday at the Kaneko Bow Truss (free and open to the public) including a panel discussion, “Sketching As Story”, where yours truly will share the stage with Josh Cooley and award-winning cartoonist Glenn McCoy. I feel a little bit like the guy in the mascot costume from the local minor league sharing the stage with a couple of pitchers from the Yankees. But I’m also very excited and honored.

To flesh things out there will be a cartoon art exhibit at the Bemis Center in Omaha and several of us will be giving talks at area schools on Friday (I’ll be giving a presentation to a filmmaking class at Omaha South High).

If you happen to find yourself in Omaha this weekend you’ll be in for a real treat. Here’s the full schedule of the events.

Interview with Character Designer Dan Haskett

Dan Haskett is an animation veteran and one of the top character designers in the business. He’s contributed to classic feature films including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Prince of Egypt, Mulan, and Toy Story. Dan helped translate Matt Groening’s early sketches for The Simpsons into the look we know today and was rewarded with an Emmy for his work.  He’s also worked on numerous commercials and created animated bits for Sesame Street.

I first met Dan Haskett at the Motion ’08 animation conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he gave a fascinating presentation on designing ethnic characters (read my blog post about it here). After his presentation he was kind enough to review my portfolio. The following year I was invited back to the Motion conference as a speaker where I again had the chance to visit with Dan. He’s a brilliant and versatile artist, a likable guy with strong opinions that he shares in a soft-spoken and thoughtful manner.

In January 2010 Dan was kind enough to give me a phone interview from his desk at Warner Brothers where he is currently designing characters for two Scooby Doo projects. He shared some observations on the industry, offered some advice, and gave his thoughts on The Princess and the Frog from his perspective as an African American in the animation industry.

(Full interview after the break.)

(The above artwork is copyright © Dan Haskett. All rights reserved.)

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Toy Design: Disney-Pixar “Cars”

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they create many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in the grocery store bakeries. They often develop fun themes using licensed characters to tie in with movie and TV franchises. On occasion they will hire me to develop toy concepts for some of the cakes. They are a terrific client and its a ton of fun.

Artwork copyright © Disney. All rights reserved.

Back in 2008 they hired me to sketch up a “pit stop” idea they had for Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. Once this concept sketch was approved it left my hands and went to the Disney to be further developed in-house. Because of the realities of overseas manufacturing it can take a year or more from initial concept to final delivery. This project is now completed so I’m able to show you what I did.

Here’s how the final design turned out. There were a few minor adjustments but overall it stayed pretty close to the concept. If you’ve got a young boy in the house with a birthday coming up there’s a good chance you can order this exact cake from your local grocery store bakery.

[EDIT: I just received my copy of the actual toy. It’s pretty clever how it was built. You wind up Guido, then as he drives around the track a little curved stem protruding his side strikes against strategically placed pegs. This causes Guido to briefly turn and face the car before the curved stem slides off the peg and he moves on. It gives the illusion that Guido is stopping to fix each tire (or do whatever it is they do at a pit stop). Pretty neat!

I made a little a YouTube video showing the toy in action:

Teaser Posted For Pixar’s New Film “Up”

The Teaser for Pixar’s new film Up is now online.

Not much is known about the film. However, a recent newspaper article described it as “a comedy about a cranky, cane-wielding 78-year-old who transports his home to exotic locales by attaching hundreds of helium-filled balloons”.

[EDIT: The tech blog Gizmodo offers this description:

The hero of the film is a 78-year-old man named Carl Fredricksen, who walks around hunched over with a tripod cane. When he was a kid he met a girl named Ellie, who grew up in small midwestern town. The two fell in love and eventually got married. Her dream was always to explore the world and visit paradise falls, but as usually happens, life got in the way. They were never able to make good on their promise, and Ellie eventually passed away. Now Carl is a widower living alone in his small home. Developers are threatening to move him into an old folks home.]

I really like the look of the house and design of the old man. Everything has a light, fun feel to it as opposed to the hyper-realism of Ratatouille and Wall-E. Of course you can’t tell too much from such a short teaser, but I get the feeling the story might take place in a more cartoonish alternate reality.

Up will float into theaters May 29.

More Pixar: Spline Doctors, “Presto”

Following up on my last post, here’s two more inspiring links related to Pixar:

The first is a Presto, the new animated short that is shown before Wall•E in the theaters and will no doubt be included on the DVD. It’s a zany little film animated in a style inspired by the classic Warner Brothers shorts. It’s much broader and zippier than Pixar’s usual offerings. You can now download it from iTunes for only $1.99.

The second is a terrific blog-slash-podcast from Pixar. The blog, Spline Doctors (link), is labor of love from several of the artists and animators at Pixar. The posts are full of great insights on animation.  SplineCast is an accompanying podcast featuring interviews and roundtable discussions with creative folks at Pixar. There haven’t been any new episodes in a while so I don’t know if SplineCast has run its course or not, but there are several great episodes you can listen to for free either on the blog (link) or through iTunes (link). Fun stuff to have on in the background while you toil away at your drawing board.

Wall•E Vignettes: Show vs Tell

Pixar’s new movie Wall•E opened this past weekend to big box office and rave reviews. I am really looking forward to seeing it. I had hoped to catch it on opening weekend but plans fell through. We had relatives come to visit and then my daughter broke her ankle (she’s doing fine, thanks).

However, I did download some little animated vignettes based on Wall•E from iTunes. You can also view them on the official site (just click on the “videos” link and then scroll through the thumbnails at left). They are absolutely brilliant! Cute, charming, and full of life. Like much of the film, they contain no dialogue. But the animation is so lively and entertaining you don’t even notice.

Go to the official site and view these clips (or download them from iTunes, they’re free!) Each clip is a perfect example of true character animation. Wall•E doesn’t just move, he lives, breathes, thinks, and feels. You get a real sense of his personality and who he is from just a few seconds of film, without a single word being spoken.

If you ever wanted proof that less is more, this is it. Good writers, actors, and directors know that actions and expressions are always more effective than mere words. You can often communicate more with an movement, gesture, or glance than you could with an entire paragraph of dialogue. It’s more powerful to show than to tell, a point these little vignettes make beautifully.

Pixar Announces Upcoming Films

In a recent New York Times article Pixar announced its upcoming slate of animated films. (You have to register to read the article). The list includes:

Wal-E (official site) — A film from writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) that tells the story of a robot stranded on earth all-alone in distant future. Large chunks of the film will have no dialogue, just pantomime and sound effects. If anyone can pull that off and still engage the audience, it’s the masterful animators at Pixar. After all, as the author points out, the Road Runner and Cyote never talked either. Wall-E hits theaters on June 27.

Up — Described as “a comedy about a cranky, cane-wielding 78-year-old who transports his home to exotic locales by attaching hundreds of helium-filled balloons”

The Bear and the Bow — Pixar’s first fairy tale,

Cars 2 — Pixar’s second attempt at a sequel. Their first, Toy Story 2, was actually better than the original. Let’s hope the same for Cars 2.

Pixar has one of the best (if not THE best) track records in Hollywood: Every single one of their films has been a box office smash. They have yet to produce a flop. I can’t think of any other studio in Hollywood can make that claim. Including Disney. So I’m very excited to get hints at what they’ve got coming down the pipe.

Animation Notes From Ollie Johnston and John Lasseter

The passing of legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston has stirred a lot of emotion, memories, and discussion among animators and animation fans. In that spirit fellow Minnesotan Robbie Halvorson sent me a link to some of Ollie’s notes on animation. The notes came from Disney animator G. Scott Owen Pixar’s John Lasseter, who writes:

When I was an animator at the Disney Studios, I had a xeroxed list of simple notes from one of the great Disney animators, Ollie Johnston, pinned to my drawing table. The list was originally written down by another great Disney animator, Glen Keane, after working as Ollie’s assistant for a few years.

Robbie also sent me a link to some more notes on animation, also attributed to Pixar’s John Lasseter:

Tricks To Animating Characters With A Computer

These notes are loaded with valuable information and highly worth reading. And they aren’t strictly for animators only. Much of the information can also apply to anyone (like myself) who works in humorous illustration or cartooning.