Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Draw on paper; capture digitally

As much as I love the idea of doing paperless animation with Wacom's Cintiq, there are a few problems. One, at $2000, I don't have it in my budget to purchase one right now. And two, I've not spent enough time on it to master the skill of drawing directly on a screen. There's just something about drawing on paper and flipping those drawings by hand that feels right. Three, it's not quite as portable an an animation disk.

Well, Wacom has just introduced a new technology that, with some modifications, could bridge that gap. The new Inkling is smaller than a cell phone, costs only $200, and allows you to make ink sketches on paper while capturing them digitally. Could the stylus be altered to use non-ink, such as graphite or Col-Erase? Could the receiver be modified to fit on a peg bar instead of clipping directly to the paper?

In any case, it's a fascinating advance of drawing technology. See for youself:

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's "Up", Doc?

Pete Docter, the director of Disney/Pixar's "Up," got his hands on some architectural drawings by Utah home builder, Blair Bangerter. The plans were for a full-size, functioning replica of the "Up" house. Rather than shoot the project down, he gave it two thumbs up.

The completed house is explicitly faithful to the original, down to the very last detail. Everything including the furniture, wall paper, coin jar, and paintings, were painstakingly replicated from the movie. Although it may not sit atop Paradise Falls, it could certainly be paradise for someone! Check it out:

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Film festival: Kino sen limoj

July marked a monumental moment in the history of Esperanto cinema. The international language made its "big premiere on the big screen" in São Paulo, Brazil. Being the first of its kind, the Esperanto film festival, Kino sen limoj, is a big deal. Although Esperanto culture has accumulated a wealth of literature, drama, poetry, and music during its 124-year history, its cinema has remained shamefully meager. Until now. The appearance of this Esperanto film festival is the beginning of a new era.

As part of the program, my film, Ĉapeloj, had the prestigious honor of screening as a non-competing entry. This may be the first time my film has played for an entire auditorium of its intended audience. Although I'm always grateful to hear English speakers laugh at all the right places, it's feedback from the Esperanto-speaking audience that really makes me proud. I take no offense when the words "naughty" and "rude" are used to describe my film; it's nearly always meant as a compliment. But when I hear it praised as "witty" and "genius" time and time again, I know my audience appreciates my visual puns on an intellectual level, just as I trusted they would.

Julie venis monumenta momento en la historio de la Esperanta kino. La unua Esperanta kinofestivalo ravis spektantojn en San-Paŭlo, Brazilo per dekoj da filmoj kaj videoj. Kiel pironira entrepreno, Kino sen limoj estas rimarkinda. Malgraŭ la granda kvanto da literaturo, dramo, poezio, kaj muziko en nia kulturo, E-istoj sentas la mankon de kino en nia lingvo... ĝis nun. La apero de Kino sen limoj estas tre esperiga. Finfine komencas nova erao.

Mia filmo, Ĉapeloj, estis unu el la honoritaj (ne-konkursantaj) filmoj, kiujn oni prezentis en la programo. Eble temis pri la unua fojo kiam tuta kinejo da Esperantistoj spektis ĝin kune. Kvankam mi dankemas kiam krokodiloj ridas ĉe la ĝustaj momentoj, plej fierigas min respondoj de Esperantistaj spektantoj. Priskribante mian filmon, la vortoj "fia" kaj "maldeca" ne ofendas min. (Kutime temas pri komplimento.) Sed pli kaj pli mi aŭdas laŭdojn je "sprita" kaj "genia". Tiam mi scias ke mia spektantaro komprenas kaj estimas la videblajn vortludojn, tiel kiel mi fidis.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Betty Boop ain't no brunette

A year ago today, Betty Boop celebrated her 80th birthday. And she remains as charming as she was in 1930. But despite her persisting popularity at the age of 81, few realize that Miss Boop isn't actually a brunette. All her modern depictions, and 89 of her 90 short films lead us to believe she has inky-black hair. But, in fact, she's a redhead.

During her whole career, Betty Boop starred in only one color film. Playing the role of Poor Cinderella, Betty's hair was neither black nor brown. It's fire-engine red:

Happy birthday, Betty! Don't let them take your Boop-Oop-A-Doop away!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

When I was still studying animation at Vancouver Film School, I watched a lot of animation. This proved to be less of a break from the drawing table, and more of a change of pace, because I was still studying the animation, critiquing the character designs, analyzing the camera angles, trying to spot what they'd done well, and what they'd done wrong.

At one point I made the mistake of revisiting one of my all-time favorite childhood cartoons, Rocky & Bullwinkle. As a student of animation, I was horrified. Much of the animation was bad: cycles of three keys with no inbetweens, bodies leveled off in such a way that only the legs moved in a walk, and so forth. But it wasn't just the animation. Everything was sloppy. Frames were out of focus, "cleaned-up" drawings looked smeared, background cels were scratched or panned in the wrong direction, hairs were trapped between levels, greasy fingerprints were left behind. It was filled with glaring problem after glaring problem. As one of my instructors put it, it looked like they got drunk and made a cartoon over the weekend.

But the production value of the show was particularly tragic for one reason: the writing was brilliant. You could listen to the soundtrack without picture and still laugh. It had so much potential, but it was executed so hastily I wanted to weep.

It remains a great example of how to cut corners and, more importantly, what not to do. But I haven't dared watch it again for enjoyment. I've hoped that one day I can overcome my training and see it only for what it could have been. I do so miss Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and Peabody's Improbable History.

But today I got a glimmer of hope. In a list of projects rumored to be in production at Dreamworks, there is mention of Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

After so many botched 3D adaptations of television cartoons, I'm usually cautious of such news. But after Sony surprised me with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I'm a bit more willing to suspend my doubts. Mr. Peabody and Sherman on the big screen? If only I could find the keys to the WABAC machine! In the meantime, check out this concept art of Mr. Peabody.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.