Sunday, September 28, 2008


Bruce was the first sculpture I did from a drawing. I'd played around with kiln-fired ceramic clays in high school, but never sculpted with super sculpey before. I had drawn this picture of Bruce while I was between scenes on Simpsons my first year of doing layout. My friend Eric Thomas really liked the big toothy grin he had and said it would be cool to see that in three dimensions! He asked if I had ever sculpted and I said not really. So he dared me to do it. I accepted.

Bruce doesn't have an armature or anything like that. He was my first one and I didn't really know what I was doing, so he is solid scupley. I used a pencil as a brace to support his big head. However, little did I know that sculpey gets softer when you bake it and THEN gets hard. His head came off the first time I baked him.

So I fixed his head and re-baked him, using an old shoelace tied to the oven rack to keep his head in place while he cooked. I started leaving the sculpture in the oven after turning off the heat and letting it cool down real slow so it wouldn't crack or fissure so much from cooling down so fast.

It was challenging to make the sculpt look exactly like the drawing from that one angle and keep the whole thing working with everything else at the same time. But that's the trick isn't it!? A good sculpt works at ANY and EVERY angle.

Bruce was alot of fun. Eric had told me that sculpting would help my drawings look more solid, and he was right. I started thinking beyond the flat sketching and really dimesionalized how shapes and forms worked together now that I had done something 3D instead of just 2D. I gave Bruce a little tatt and a band-aid just to be stupid. For the longest time he was just painted with flat grey primer. When I wanted to enter him in the employee art show at Film Roman one year, I gave him his speckled blue paint scheme. I think it worked well. Keep on smilin'!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Singing Ding-a-lings

"Singing Ding-a-lings" was the follow up short that I did the summer before I graduated from San Diego State. Mike and Spike were largely responsible for getting this one finished. They both liked the "Denny" short and people's response to it that they asked if I had any others in the works. I did- but it was not another Denny short. They both still wanted to see the storyboard for it when it was finished.

I storyboarded an idea I had about an English bloodhound and a singing ground squirrel that won't shut-up. (no- Alfonse is NOT a gopher, -I'm from ND and there's a difference- prairie dog is acceptable- I'm okay with that) Anyway, Mike and Spike liked the idea and agreed to pay to have it shot and colored! I almost fell over. I warned them that this one was a bit more ambitious. This was my first "talkie", it was longer, and I was graduating the following summer. They told me to get started.

There was alot to do. I knew I could put together all the artwork, but this short had talking characters and effects and was bigger! But I had help. My friend and fellow film major Kevin Hyde was at that time a DJ for San Diego's 91X radio station (great voice!). We recorded all the voices there one night. It was a blast! I was the voice of the rabbit, the dog, and the gopher (WHAT!?), Kevin did the dog's singing voice, and my good friend/room mate/film major/secret agent/rock star/wannabe musician Adam Georgieff did the crows voices, along with their burps. Sound effects were recorded in our kitchen.

After the sound was track read, I started drawing the thing. It went alot quicker than I thought. Drawing to a specific soundtrack (character voices) was a challenge but I pulled it off. Since I did the voices of the characters I was animating, I could see what I wanted them to look like in my head and just put everything down on the paper.

After all the artwork was done, I timed everything on a big pad of accounting ledger paper, then shot a pencil test on the ACME at SDSU. The test came back really good, with no major hassles or anything. I showed it to Mike and Spike and they thought it was great! I did some color models of all the characters and backgrounds and we shipped everything off to get it painted and shot on- get this- 35MM film baby! At the time, that was a big deal. All of us were still too poor and had to shoot on 16MM.

My friends and I mixed and finalized the soundtrack, along with the opening and closing themes Adam had been working on while filming our grad-film "In The Beginning", a Python-esqe comedy about a kid's take on Bible stories. When the negs came back, we had to sync the final tacks in our rival's facility at UC San Diego. There were rumours and stories flying around about the guy who does the mixing at UCSD, and how mad he gets when wannabe Spielbergs book time and don't have a clue about what they're doing! Luckily, all my tra-la-la's were in order.

I was really worried when it came back all finished. Since Mike and Spike paid for most of the production costs, I felt I had to deliver. Me and my room mates watched it for the first time on the fridge in our kitchen. We thought it was pretty funny. So did Mike and Spike. It ran in the Festival and in the "Sick & Twisted" show for 3 seasons. That summer, "Singing Ding-a-Lings" won a couple intercollegiate animation awards, one of which was the Television Academy's internship award where i worked as an intern at Film Roman. After graduation, I started my job there, and later Phil Roman got the Simpsons contract, and I've been drawing Homer and his family ever since! D'oh!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Denny Goes Airsurfing

If you've seen my first cartoon "DENNY GOES AIRSURFING", then you'll know just what airsurfing is. "Denny", named after my father- Dennis, was a 2 minute cartoon I did when I was a film major at San Diego State University. It was drawn entirely by me and shot on a huge, old ACME animation camera and I'm not kidding- it was an ACME!

I painted the cels in my Mom and Dad's basement during Christmas break. For the record, my brother Reid helped out when he wanted and to this day claims the thing still wouldn't be done if he hadn't helped out. We laid them all out on the family Ping-Pong table to dry. I'm glad it was only 2 minutes cause it was alot of work! I still remember the long nights shooting all the artwork, eating Spaghetti-Os out of an old thermos at 3 am on campus at SDSU.

I've had some trouble showing it in other venues and formats because of the song "Surfing With the Alien" always needs to be cleared. Joe Satriani was very cool about me using the song and loved the short. I even got to meet him. Nice guy.

I had alot of great help from my classmates for all the post production work. We mixed the tracks on reel to reel tape! I shot on 16mm stock and edited the short on a flatbed. Man! Everything is so much easier now, huh?

My friends and I were fans of Mike and Spike's Festival of animation, so we showed it to them and they loved it! "Denny" was put into the next festival line-up. Mike and Spike slipped it into the next year's shows as an added surprise. It's nice and short and always gets a laugh, so it worked out well!