Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mad Animation God Phil Tippett

Phil Tippett is a legend in the animation and special effects industry for his pioneering efforts related first to stop motion, later go-motion, and now mostly CG-effects.

Probably most famous for his work on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Phil has forged quite a career with effects in films -- from Dragonslayer to Robocop to Willow. That all changed with Jurassic Park, however, when his initial stop motion tests were met with praise, but the new computer animation tests Steven Spielberg had seen convinced him and Phil to turn to computer generated effects for good. Tippett's team, however, still had a big hand in the film. Check out the pre-visualization for a raptor sequence in the film:

Another, from the infamous T-Rex encounter:

Phil has been posting these and other stop motion gems on his YouTube account recently. Its no wonder, then, that he's been making the rounds on the blogosphere for his renewed interest in starting up some stop motion projects again -- namely, his aborted 90s stop motion feature "MadGod" which he plans to turn into a short.

It looks like stunning, certainly, and I hope the story matches the visual splendor shown in the recently released trailer:

There's been talk that one of the reasons he's reentering the stop motion arena, other than the fact he loves it, is that now more than ever its easier to get it done. Phil got out of the stop motion game before digital frame grabbers became the norm. Now that everything is done on digital cameras with computers to aid in feedback, he can theoretically cut down on a lot of the guesswork and production time involved. Phil chose Dragon Stop Motion to work with. Its made by stop motion animators, for stop motion animators -- and besides my hands and the camera, its maybe the most important tool I use on a regular basis. The glue gun comes in a close fourth.

Phil on Dragon:

"DRAGON’s breadth and depth as a shooting package is really remarkable and is a tool that has allowed me to resurface doing the the kind of hands on work that got me into this fine mess to begin with."

I personally can't hope enough for the success for his new short. Maybe it'll lead to more in the future from Tippett and Co.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Animated Interviews

Animating any type of real or found audio is tough. You don't want to mimic the actions described in the audio too much, but you still want to be entertaining and lively. Creature Comforts seems to do a decent job of translating the audio to absurd animals and locations, but now its a steadfast formula. The recent StoryCorps videos animated by the Rauch Brothers succeed greatly, I think, even with somewhat limited animation:

The Icing on the Cake from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Its important to note that they're really dramas, being depicted in cartoony form -- and they still come across not as maudlin, but sincere and moving. Perhaps the cartoon form distances us enough from the emotion that if it were live action it might come across as manipulative. Would Up work as a live-action feature?:

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Bill Wray, creator of Hellboy Jr. and artist, worked on the beautiful backgrounds for both shorts. his paintings are beautiful:

One of his backgrounds for Samurai Jack:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stop Motion Inspiration: Will Becher

It's been quite a while since I've updated, but I'm back to the drawing board for my final film, my thesis film, at UCLA. I've already scrapped one idea -- kind of a film noir with mostly skeleton characters, and I'm probably on my way to scrapping this next one. I haven't quite gotten inspired just yet. Checking out Will Becher's stop motion work, though, has got me thinking that I should do something short, visual, and that reads like a gem:

Graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2002, Will has been collaborating and working with Aardman (and others) for quite a few years now. The animation in Offbeat just screams out its expressions, not in an overbearing way, but you can tell every step of the way how the character feels...with subtlety. His Channel 4 bankrolled "The Weatherman" is more cartoony, but no less effective:

I especially appreciate the sound work on the film, and the point where the non-diegetic music cuts out. It works itself into the film as a narrative device, without actually being diegetic.

Finally, check out his 30-second advert for "Feel Good Drinks". It's a cute little thing that took quite a while to make, considering the "making-of" is 8 and 1/2 minutes:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Do you remember when we met?

Julia Pott has a style all her own -- and knows how to market herself. Her Etsy is chock-full of goodies featuring her art; from prints to tote bags to 'zines to even tattoos! And, on top of all this, she's an accomplished freelance animator at 25 years young working for hot indie bands like Bats for Lashes and The Decemberists. Here's a 2008 music video for the delightfully lo-fi "Casiotone for the Painfully Alone":

She cites a lot of her influence from Igor Kovalyov, the Ahh!!! Real Monsters and Rugrats designer (totally can see that). In addition to all the success she's had so far...on top of all of that...she's also just finished her first year at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London! Her first year film displays, I think, on top of unique design...more importantly, a strong sense of storytelling. I can't wait to see what she does next:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Its finally happened. I'm all done with my ghost movie. To those of you keeping track, that's my first year film. I also completed a second year film, "An Inconvenient Fish", which was, let's say, a tad shorter than the 8:15 goliath that was You're My Ghoul. I literally spent the last three weeks on campus in the "mac lab" using a Cintiq and my sore hands to remove wires in After Effects. Why oh why did my characters have to fly? I certainly learned more than my share of a few things on this production. Clean plates and watching your character's shadows in regards to your wires is kinda important, unless you want to kill yourself in post later.

The production and running time of my second year film was a lot shorter -- but I had a ton of fun on it. I made the animation for each scene a different challenge, not to mention having a new set for each scene. I animated water in several different ways -- a first for me, and I even painted frame by frame, trying not to bleed into unwanted areas in fear of having to remake the figure over.

For those that are interested, my films are playing at the annual UCLA Animation Workshop Festival of Animation, or PROM to the students, this Saturday June 5th at 4PM and 7:30. Its "sold out" online, but they always have standby tickets for those interested (and its free!). Check it out.

I can't wait to see my fellow students' animations. There are actually a surprising number of stop motion films including my dear friend Debra Chow's "Til Death Do Us Part":

Her production design skills far surpass mine and its a joy to see what she cooks up. The rain in her film, in particular, is a fun analog representation that works well with her style.

I'm looking forward to cooking up some new stop motion delights over summer as well (and tackling the task of an idea for my thesis film!)