Saturday, October 25, 2014

Animate to Harmony: The Independent Animator's Guide to Toonboom

Flash—and now Toonboom—animator extraordinaire Adam Phillips recently published a book that I'm predicting will revolutionize how I and other independent animators use Toonboom Animate/Animate Pro/Harmony. It's called Animate to Harmony: The Independent Animator's Guide to Toonboom. I was so excited about getting this book that I accidentally ordered it twice! (yes, one is going back.)

Phillips is an Australian filmmaker and animator who, according to Wikipedia…has the online alias "Chluaid (pronounced 'Clyde'). His main body of animation work, for which he is best known, consists of flash animation compositions published on his website Bitey Castle and on the flash portal Newgrounds (there, as of March 2010, his movies have over 14 million views and he is one of the highest ranked artists). He is the creator of the Brackenwood series."

Adam Phillips Bitey Castle art.

Phillips knows his stuff. He's produced numerous tutorials and is a convert from Flash to Toonboom. This book is a compilation of his expertise. I've just cracked open the book as of this writing and already I'm liking how the book is presented. Phillips's approach is to take the reader/animator step-by-step from opening the program to creating a file to making an animation. It's easy to follow, there are lots of additional tips and tricks and a special link to download tutorial files.

If you're serious about using Toonboom Animate/Animate Pro/Harmony, I recommend this book despite having only read a few pages. Phillips is an experienced instructor (he's generously provided a free Toonboom Animate 2 video class) and I'm confident anyone who gets this book will benefit.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Animation Masterclass Coming to NYC!

On December 6-7, 2014, Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz will lead an Animation Demo and Lecture Masterclass in Manhattan. Thanks to the Animation Collaborative and ASIFA-East for giving their members a $20 discount on this class. It's a rare opportunity for us on the east coast to have a major animation studio host a class.

Here's Makarewicz's bio:
Directing Animator, Pixar Animation Studios
Michal joined Pixar Animation Studios in early 2003, where has been an animator on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up (Supervising Animator on the Up DVD short: "Dug’s Special Mission"), Toy Story 3, Brave, and a Directing Animator on Cars 2. Most recently he was a Supervising Animator on “Toy Story of Terror.” In 2008, he was awarded an Annie for “Outstanding Charcter Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille. In addition to his work at Pixar, Michal has been teaching animation since 2005. He has contributed lectures as well as taught classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, and instructed classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.

I'm signed up and ready to learn how to improve my work. I'll provide a review of the class in December after I've had time to process the information.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's Give Ourselves a Break!

Man, I used to love this show!

I took a break from drawing practice because I felt that I was floundering, that progress wasn't being made…

…until I recently opened a completed sketchpad.

I saw these:

And LIKED them! After not looking at this stuff for awhile, returning to it made me see that there's some character in the line work and improvement in the execution.

It's not great…

…but it's not TERRIBLE either!

My goal is not to be Glen Keane or Robert Valley. I'll always be 20 years behind those guys. But what I can do is make personal improvement.

All that matters is that are skills improve from the day before. That's it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bugs Bunny and Friends to the Rescue!

Image courtesy of

To practice or not to practice, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to focus solely on completing the animated film or to take time from the film to improve my drawing skills.

This was my dilemma, feeling that the drawing practice I was doing wasn’t producing results, wasn’t moving me forward. I decided to stop it completely and devote all of my free time to just animating.

BUT now I’m rethinking that strategy. Optimally, I should be practicing drawing every day. The question I’m constantly plagued with is WHAT to practice.

To answer that question, I had to ask another, “In what way do I want to draw?” 

The answer is: classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

Classic Warner Bros. cartoons are the reason why I decided to become an animator at age seven. Bugs Bunny et. al. are the epitome of funny animated cartoon characters.

I want to draw like THAT!

In order to draw like those guys, I need to study what they did. I dabbled a little in this in the past by following the John K. curriculum which includes copying model sheets. But copying model sheets became boring. And since John K. said that the best model sheets are based on poses from the actual animation, I decided to draw from the actual animation.

I’m starting with a Private Snafu short and focusing on the gesture and the expressions, areas in which I need to improve. Now I look forward to practicing instead of dreading it. I appreciate that not all practice is supposed to be fun (studying anatomy can often be tedious) but until my skills improve, I need to keep it fun for motivation purposes.


But am I fairly evaluating myself by insisting that my skills have NOT improved? Maybe I am getting better! More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scene 28 Clean Pencil Animation

This has been a BEAST of a scene (which explains my long absence from blogging) but slowly and steadily, it's getting closer to completion. I will NOT be beaten!

Here's some animation with clean pencil drawings:


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Blow to Hand-Drawn Animation

This is deeply lamentable. The imagination of Hayao Miyazaki and the team at Studio Ghibli will be sorely missed in the animation universe.

My Miyazaki favorite will always be NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding the Right Expression—Scene 28

One of my goals for this film is specific, significant acting. I want each character to truly behave as though they were actually alive and experiencing that moment.

The scene on which I’m currently working, Sc. 28, is one of the few in which Honey has a variety of emotions and movements. For this segment of the scene, I wanted to show Honey struggling to pull a cell phone out from under her shower cap.

When I sat down to animate, I realized that I didn’t have a clear idea of her expression. And cartoon expressions is one of my (many) weak areas. 

Instead of using random trial and error to find the proper expression, I pulled some samples of expressions that I’ve collected:

Used courtesy of Jerel Dye ©2013-2014

Courtesy of John K. 
Courtesy of John K. 

Kirk Douglas in "Paths of Glory."

Nale & art ©2007 Sarah Shaw

Based on these examples, I spent some time searching for the best expression for Honey:

I’m happy with the ones I’ve indicated in red so I’m now ready to start animating with those expressions. The next step is to accurately animate Honey’s struggle to pull the phone from under her cap. I’ll share the roughs for that when they’re ready.