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.



Two months ago an animated piece I did for Living Waters went live on YouTube. As I write this it has had 99,990 views, just ten short of the 100k mark. YouTube does not update their view counts in real time so its very possible that by now the actual number has already passed that landmark. I’ll know for sure when YouTube posts the updated view count in a couple of hours. [EDIT: Yup, we are now over 100,000 views.]

The animation is about five minutes followed by a one-minute promo that was tacked on by the client. An alternate version of the animation was also posted on YouTube, identical except with a shorter promo. That version has received considerably less views (18,312 at last count) but if you put the two together we passed the 100,000 mark a few days back.

I am totally blown away by these numbers and by the overall positive feedback I’ve received. This project was personal for me and I poured a lot of myself into it. I also hired two excellent animators to help me out (Michael Foster from SaltyGraphics and Chance Dodd from Little Wolf Pictures) and they also worked extremely hard. It’s very rewarding to see that it has gone this far and I’m grateful to everyone who has taken the time out of their busy lives to watch my little cartoon.

If you like the message and want to share it with friends, or if you or your church want to embed it in a website, please feel free to do so.

Animation for “What’s In The Bible?”

Recently Phil Vischer, the guy who created VeggieTales, partnered with Focus on the Family to launch a new DVD series called What’s In The Bible? In it he uses a combination of live action, puppetry, and animation mixed with some humorous-but-reverent writing to educate both kids and adults about the content of the entire Bible, book by book and story by story. It’s an ambitious project but one with a lot of potential. Volumes 1-3 are currently available on DVD. Volume 4 is on its way with several more volumes yet to come.

I was hired to animate three segments for Volume 2 (“Let My People Go!”). The client has graciously given me permission to post one of those clips on my website and blog. It’s a short bit designed to explain one of those big church-y sounding words, “Redemption”. They provided me with some scratch audio and a rough stick-figure animatic. I animated over the top of that using Flash, and then the What’s In The Bible? editorial team laid in the final audio.

Unfortunately I’m not able to embed this particular clip directly into my blog. The closest thing I could rig up is this: if you click on the image below a Quicktime version of the animation should (hopefully) play in a new window. Or, you can go to the “Animation” page of my website to view this as well as other samples of my animation work.

You can order DVDs of What’s In The Bible? or purchase selected clips for download here. Or just check your local Christian bookstore.

“Waking Sleeping Beauty” on DVD November 30

Last fall at the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank attendees (myself included) were treated to a screening of Don Hahn’s documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. It’s a fascinating film that takes viewers behind the scenes at Disney animation from 1984-1994, a period often referred to as the Disney Renaissance.

The decade began with the rise of Michael Eisner as the new head of Disney along with the release of The Black Cauldron, an underwhelming film created by a struggling animation department during what was arguably one of the lowest points in the history of Disney animation. Things were so bad that the Disney animators were banished from their own building on the studio lot—the same building in which Walt himself supervised the production of his classic films—and relocated to a small run-down structure across town. Rumors were everywhere that the animation unit was very close to being disbanded altogether.

The struggling team of young animators pulled together and in an amazing turnaround they soon began producing genuine blockbusters, culminating with Beauty and the Beast which became the first animated film in history to receive an Oscar nomination for  Best Picture. But as Disney animation climbed to new heights and animators rose to new levels of fame, tensions rose within the leadership at Disney. Through rare behind-the-scenes video and interviews we get an insiders look at everything from talented artists having the time of their lives to internal conflicts within the studio. The film closes with executive Jeffrey Katzenberg leaving Disney to form a new animation unit at DreamWorks.

If you’ve seen the Disney documentary Dream On Silly Dreamer (available on Amazon.com and iTunes), Waking Sleeping Beauty might be considered a sort of prequel.

Waking Sleeping Beauty will be released on DVD November 30. You can pre-order from Amazon.com here. (Full disclosure: Amazon.com com will throw a few cents my way for each copy that is ordered from the links on this blog, which in turn helps support my addiction to iPhone apps).

EDIT: Here’s the official trailer:

Toy Design: Minnie Mouse Picture Frame

Last year I was hired by one of my regular clients, DecoPac Inc., to help with a Minnie Mouse toy concept for Disney. It takes a long time for a toy to do from original concept to final product so I’m just now able to reveal it.

The client showed me some misc. graphics provided by Disney including some “Dress Shop” clip art and a black silhouette of Minne Mouse walking a poodle and carrying a purse. The idea was to combine them into a pair of toys with a “shopping” theme: a curved picture frame with removable paper insert , and a matching figurine of Minnie based on the pose in the silhouette.

Because of the practical realities of the toy business sometimes something beautifully drawn in 2D may not perfectly translate into a child-friendly 3D sculpt. That was the case with the original Minnie silhouette (not shown). In it Minnie’s purse was hanging loosely off of her wrist which was a safety concern. If we sculpted the toy that way the purse could snap off and become a choking hazard. So I tweaked it to have her gripping it firmly in her hand instead. Likewise we changed the dog leash to a shopping bag but again it couldn’t have strap handles, it had to be gripped firmly in her hand.

Even Minnie’s arms had to be brought in tight to her sides to prevent them from snapping off. However, I didn’t want to also bring her arms in on the silhouette because it would lose a lot of clarity. Her torso and arms would morph into one ambiguous black blob. As a result the final figurine doesn’t perfectly match the silhouette, but hopefully it was close enough that the two pieces still felt like part of a set.

Here’s What I came up with:

Here’s how the final toy came out: