A day in the life of Silent film animators

Sorry if you were expecting something about Windsor McKay or Otto Messmer, but here’s a peek of life at Moonbot Studios while we were making the short film Silent for Dolby. Our stalwart documentarian, Patrick Long, filmed some behind-the-scenes footage, and one of our TDs, Akin Bilgic, set up his time-lapse camera.

The time lapse portion is about 10 seconds in, and was filmed at two frames per minute (so this is a tiny sliver of one working day). Akin filmed two entire work days, from a different camera position each day, and on the second day the camera was right next to me. It was a little unnerving, but I’m happy to have a small record of what I actually do at work. It’s unusual to get to see behind the scenes at a mid-sized studio, and unlike the usual ‘making of’ video that you see on DVDs of feature films, this stuff really was behind the scenes. There’s some nice footage of the directors, animators, artists, and TDs of Moonbot hard at work. Oh, and please ignore my rambling comments made before I’d had my morning coffee. There’s a reason I’m an animator, and not an actor!

And here’s the finished film, Silent. Enjoy:

It was a challenging and exciting project, in part because we started right into ‘crunch’ mode just before the Christmas holidays, and the film had to be complete and rendered in time to be shown Feb. 15 at the Scientific and Technical Academy Awards ceremony. I’m still not sure how we pulled it off!

‘The Scarecrow’ for Chipotle

Wow, it’s almost been a year since my last post. Time flies when you’re busy, and I’ve been busy! The first two of the eight or nine projects (not kidding!) I’ve worked on at Moonbot in the last 12 months are finally public. And here’s the entire short film, The Scarecrow:

And my favorite part, the app/game Chipotle Scarecrow:

Feed the people!

Feed the people!

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Who says great animation can’t save a mediocre story? Exhibit A: Hotel T

Regular readers of this too-sporatic blog know I believe that great animation CAN save a weak story. The mantra that “Story, story, and story” are the three most important elements in an animated film is still heard throughout the land, but it’s still wrong.  Further evidence of how wrong, or at least how incomplete, can be found in the surprise success of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania.

A drawover by Genndy Tartakovsky from animation dailies*

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Hotel T done!

Animation has pretty much wrapped on Hotel Transylvania, and I’m finally free to deal with months of sleep deprivation and give this site some attention. The caffeine-withdrawl headaches couldn’t keep me from finally (I think) purging the horrible pharma-hack that’s plagued my site for months. As you can see from my last post, so many months ago, I thought I had it licked before, but this time I’m pretty sure. Anyway, here’s the gang I’ve been hanging out with for the last 6 months:

Hotel T Culver City animation crew

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Apologies to anyone who’s been visiting here and getting pharmacy spam. Apparently this is common among WordPress sites with lax security, and I had been pretty lax. I think I’ve got it sorted out now, but please let me know if anything wonky is happening on the site. I’m hoping to be posting a little more regularly this year. Hope you all had happy holidays!

Annie Award Nominations

Like a palate cleanser after the feature animation diss* I wrote about in the last post, ASIFA-Hollywood comes along with the nominees for this year’s Annie Awards. Who needs the NYFCC! We have ASIFA, and we’ll have our own damned party!

The Annies are always a fun ceremony, and a good time to catch up with friends. It’s also a rare chance to honor some of the people behind the scenes in a business where we’re pretty anonymous to most of the folks who enjoy what we do. I’ll admit I’m a little ambivalent about these kinds of individual honors. On one hand, if ASIFA-Hollywood didn’t give such awards, no one else would. And lord knows that there are many people in the animation business who deserve some individual props. The cartoon above is by past Annie winner, and current nominee, Patrick Mate, a humble, quiet guy bursting with talent, yet someone most people have never heard of.
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NYFCC Best Animated Feature award

Oh, the humanity! Cartoon Brew has highlighted the New York Film Critics Circle choosing not give a Best Animated Feature award this year. This kind of thing offends some people in our industry, and others seem to take this as a judgement of the lack of quality in this years animated features. I find myself not caring much. I like reading the thoughts of some critics, but do we really make animated films to win awards?

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Animation Flight School

I’ve been teaching the Animation Mentor Animals & Creatures Class 2 this term, and in particular we’re focused on animating flight (and flying dragons!).  Of course, if you’re going to animate a believable fantasy creature, you need to understand real flying animals, like birds and bats, and I’m going to summarize some ideas and then some great resources below the fold.

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On Gratitude, and Happy Thanksgivings

Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

There do appear to exist benefits to regularly focusing on one’s blessings. The advantages are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints…

The first quote is from Charles Dickens, and reflects a common sentiment.  The second is from a scientific study, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life (J. Personality and Soc. Psychology) by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, which actually proves that the popular sentiment is empirically true.
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Two features that I animated on open this month, which is exciting.  First up is Hop, which I recommend, despite the lousy reviews.  I think many reviewers misunderstand why movies appeal to audiences.  Good or bad reviews often have little correlation with how much people enjoy their movie-going experience.  Not that Hop is The Godfather.  Which is what reviews frequently get wrong — they take a family film that is intentionally aimed squarely at the kiddies and review it with a one-size-fits-all sensibility.  Hop a sweet, shallow entertainment, like a basket of Easter candy, and not so different than many of the animated films we all loved as children.

Carlos rallies the troops

Carlos rallies the chicks in a still from one of my scenes

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The animation and animation-related musings of Kevin Koch