The Animatress Pipeline

Filmmaking Adventures

VFX, Kai and Marketplace

Dear Kai and Marketplace,

do you think you’ll ever produce a feature on the fate of the visual effects industry? Life if Pi just bankrupted one of the last VFX studios in LA and Mr. Lucas sold his VFX company, Lucasfilm, to Disney partly because VFX as a business no longer pays enough to keep the lights on. Furthermore, there are thousands of students paying upwards of $80,000 to learn the skills for VFX, but our jobs just got shipped to Taiwan and Canada. This trend would be a good theme on the cost of training in college only to fall into debt graduates can’t pay back due to outsourcing. I call for student loan forgiveness if the U.S. does no do something and soon! Would you please consider a feature on this subject?



Ashanti Miller

San Francisco KQED Public Radio 88.5


Further Explorations

I have plans to animate other songs by the B52s or at least excerpts from them. I use these examples in my character design, traditional animation directed study and Flash classes at the Academy of Art University. My students like it when I am working on a film of own as I teach them the grueling process of layout on their own films. I know darn well that I am torturing them. The JOB is torture. However, misery loves company, so I make little films here and there.

So here are screen captures from Song For a New Generation and Wig using inspiration from modern art and my favorite BG artists Maurice Noble and Ernie Nordli. I’ll adapt a few ideas from Rowan and Martin’s Laughin. It’s perfect for the B52’s and the B52’s music is perfect for cartoons. Although eventually I should move on other musicians before I end up in a rutt.

The opening cadence for Song For a New Generation. This can use the Laugh-in treatment. I don’t want to mimic Laugh-in completely. I just want the essence of it. It will take some more research to find a proper design for this title.


Cuddles the Bull from a Martin and Lewis film.

Hi! I’m Kate and I am a Taurus! I loOve tomatoes and black capped chickadees!
The BG is a near copy from a Chuck Jones/Noble Bugs Bunny cartoon. Maurice Noble and Phil Deguarde always inspire me.


Wig: On the neon side of town! There will more from Wig which will be a simple-simple film using Flash’s tools and very few hand drawn character animation principles. I recently lost a commission for a Flash job, because the lack of the use of tools. The recruiter said that the other candidate had more character animation on his reel. I saw the reel and there made of been more character animation, but priciple weren’t applied. There was heavy use of Flash tools like tweens, but no weigh on the characters as they ran and the timing was that of a first years student. This is proof that recruiters outside of the best studios have no idea what they’re doing and I should simply comply. So, a tween film it will be. You never know, perhaps the recruiter is thinking economics and character animation with the principles applied does take a great deal more time.

This is the first version of wig. The foreground characters in the standard linework style does not work with the pasten BG’s, so I have to give up one or the other. After losing the aforementioned Flash commission I’ll work in favor of the pastel. It’s time for a different style. I loaned this style to Sesame Workshop which adapted from my film Detour Through Your Mind which in turn is derived from comi. Producers and directors will feel that I am a one trick pony for working in one style for so long, so it’s best to switch. Character designers should have at least five distinct styles on display in their portfolio.



Omigosh, I’m in love. I always loved the inking in French and Belgian comics, but I never spared the time to to really sit down and appreciate it as a resource until now. I first encountered the loveliness as a student on a study abroad trip to Paris in 1997. On the cobble stone hill above Rue de Gobelins heading toward the Seine, there are comic shops with Spirou, a French language comics journal, that featured a Belgian and French world’s “Homer Simpson” known are Gaston le Gaffe. Who predates Homer Simpson by about 20 years, but you get the idea. He’s the French fuck up, but without a hot wife. Actually, Gaston le Gaffe is French’s answer to Jerry Lewis in the sequential art form.

Regardless of the content of the comic, it is beautifully inked and the characters have a flow to their construction that similar to my own. The line action dictates the structure, not the other way around. I dig it.

However, there is a mainstay in French comics that is the preference when you ask a Europen what is the French ( or the whole of Europe as some circles would decree) equivalent of Mickey Mouse. That character is Asterix!

Asterix is a “Belgian school” style comic by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo about a steadfast village in Gaul that refuses to fall to Roman Conquest. It’s a comic version of post-Iron Age history and pokes a great deal of fun at Roman occupation and expansion. Think of it as Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe that centers around the point of view of a single region and it’s two heroes.
The stories are rather pedestrian. They are products of their time, but still charming, so you have to be in the mood to read them. However the ART is something to revisited 100x over! Albert Uderzo’s staging and solid drawings is everything the studios are urging that everyone accomplishes on storyboard tests. Stage at 3/4 and remember that layout is crucial no matter if there IS a layout department overseas. The staging is also tight if not cramped which is something television animation tends to do unless you’re on a Genndy or Crain project. Had I drawn from Asterix as preparation for the Nick tests I took, I probably would’ve passed, for the staging parallels Sherm Cohen’s advice.

The staging is simple, 3/4 two-shots, 3/4 crowd scenes, upshots, down shots and 3/4 close ups. However, it’s the acting makes the comic so endearing and beyond academic. Obelix is so polite that you just want to hug him and you never see Asterix lusting after women or slogging around feeling sorry for himself. Asterix and Obelix solve problems, bring home the elixir and save their villages. There are no bevies of bimbos fawning over them as a night=time reward, no otherwise strong female characters going against character and kissing the hero before God and everybody at the end of the tales. It’s eat, drink and be merry in security of one’s HOME. Home is worth risk and sacrifice. It is food, shelter, and identity. All other rewards fall within it’s realm once it’s won and Asterix and Obelix know it.

Why aren’t there male character like this nowadays? I’ll cite Frank Oz’s answer to the question: “Why aren’t the Muppets the same as they are now before…well, y’know :’-( ”
Frank: Because there are different people.

The current generation in Hollywood consists of and panders to a “Me” generation that expects reward without personal growth: “Why can’t the goofy looking guy get the cute girl? Where’s that story?” Well, dweebs, you got your wish and now there isn’t a story in the industry that doesn’t use that now stock trope, no matter how inappropriate it is to the story. How to Train Your Dragon was a near perfect film—until the girl kissed the protagonist. The hero grew as a person and he wasn’t such a bad underdog to begin with, but that stunt was totally unnecessary. It ruined his character for me. Uniting the world of dragons and humans should’ve been enough for the hero. He didn’t need the promise of a female to conquer every night as well. She would’ve been in his friend throughout life. That’s a given. Why beat it over the audience’s head? Then don’t get me started on characters by Seth Mc Farlane and Matt Groenig. The latter has more integrity. It’s evident in his Life in Hell series, but the former’s past works, is evident that he wouldn’t know how to convey valiance in a character and I fear that more writers like him will be prevalent in the film industry’s future for a long-long time.

Damn postering Patriarchy…

Anyhoo, Asterix is a jewel or a comic. Check it out for yourself. Read it for the art, read it for the characters. After a few volumes, perhaps you’ll be the next generation of industry writers who will learn how to write an imperfect male character who valiant, fun and knows to be sated with true goals in life. The goals with results that benefit others.

Here’s hoping.

Detour Dada

Detour Thru Your Mind is an Alice in Wonderland story. Alice in Wonderland is a Divine Comedy story and the Divine Comedy is derived from Homer’s Odyyssey and the Rape of Persephone. All neurotic girl stories are derived from Persophone’s adventures into the realm of the subconscious known as the Underworld, but when it’s a man, he not only encounters mentors who show him the way out, but he must return to the surface to right a wrong. A girl, however returns compromised. I made Fred walk the girl’s path. These three tales are all allegories of the Subconcisous and for that I used the art of the subconscious: the Modernist and Post-Modernist period.

At present, we are in the Trans-modernist period where the traditional world and modern world are reconciling. The animosity is still there, but artist are making efforts to extend their hands to religion through their works to show that not only do they respect the ordered world of faith, but go as far as to apply the teachings on the conditions that other religions be represented. Pantheism is coming into vogue. Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code are early examples of the trans-modernist movement. They’re themes of tolerance against religious extremism is a critique of Religious Right’s exclusionist practices with solutions of reconciliation. The benefit of Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code is that so many alternate faiths that have been buried for ages have resurfaced to enjoy a new following. My comic book Superficial and my novel The Pantheist explore these concepts with tales of the worlds of the goddesses who have never gone away from the volatile world of political change and freely mingle with mortals in everyday life as executives, mentors and forces of nature.
Detour Thru You Mind isn’t a trans-modernist work, it’s a post-modernist effort. “It’s play with a purpose”, to paraphrase professor Kathleen Elkins. Fred loses Quiche Lorraine and follows her down a rabbit hole through his psyche where he encounters his heralds Kate and Cindy who give him a tour of his subconscious to find out why he is so attached to a ungrateful dog who ran away. Fred’s mind is populated with the art of the 20th century ranging from Dada’s Kurt Schwitters, Georges Braque and Miro to the Post-Modernists, for which I chose my friends and school mate, Gigi Rabago and the found object sculpture and media student’s work of the San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter McBean Gallery’s Spring 1992 installation. Modern art, particularly conceptual art is supposed to make you think. All art does that, but the modernist threw out the illustrative beauty of the pre-modern periods purposely to force the viewer to stop looking at all the pretty colors and go straight to the concept, but not too easily. Stand there and figure it out. Walk away confused and angry and figure it out later as you dream or wash the dishes until you come to an epiphany of understanding.

Critics of modern art don’t understand this concept. They don’t see how the sampling of existing pop culture artifacts amalgamated to sculpture or collage can be called art whereas animated cartoons  for a wide audience is not considered a fine art. Cartoons are a popular art, although hand drawn animation is fading away into a fine art, because soon it will no longer be supported by popular subsidy. It will be liked by some, paid for by fewer hence becoming supported by elite subsidy. However, experimental animation which strives for originality and the creators personal vision will always be a fine art compared to character animation which is aimed at mass appeal. This paradox angers the commercial arts community. Understandable for all art is hard work, but it best not to get caught up on hierarchies where there are none. Mickey Mouse has his world, Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase has hers. Why argue?
What critics of modern art do not see is the concept artist postulated the concept and the commercial artist abstracted what he or she could from the fine artists piece and made it accessible to public as an ad, a cartoon or package design. The critics don’t know where the origin of their iPads and cereal box design come from and they don’t care. It wouldn’t matter so much if these critics didn’t have so much political power. Dangerous power that threatens to dismantle our government institutions that uphold the arts time and time again because they refuse to open their minds enough to understand it, stifling the minds of future generations. Piss Christ wasn’t a slant against Christ. It was a critique of the corruption of Christ’s teachings over time. Had Jesse Helms understood the concept, he would not have campaigned to defund the National Endowment of the Arts our nation’s most prestigious institutions of the arts.

One of the arguments against public funding for the NEA is accessibility. I scoff at that claim for much of the programming on PBS is underwritten by the NEA, which leads to another problem: too few people watch PBS! A non PBS viewer would never know that Great Performances is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts unless a high school teacher showed the production in a classroom environment. With art so under represented in public schools and many other learning institutions, how was Helms and his constituents supposed to be able to interpret Piss Christ correctly? Modern art is supposed to provoke and post-modernism has done that very well. However, the stronger modern art would prevail over the less than stellar efforts like the asshole who adopted a dog from the pound only to starve it to death and film it as a conceptual piece, if more people were taught 20th century art though pop culture in a context they would relate to. Detour Thru Your Mind is my attempt to do so. There hasn’t been an animated art history lesson since the Muse, which is about a character from a painting ( I forget which) who docents a curious new admirer of art through her museum. A previous effort (albeit indirectly) has been the Yellow Submarine. Heinz Edelman used Hannah Hoch’s Neo Dada works for Pepperland.
He changed her earth toned stains to bright colored pop art that appealed to a wider audience. A more direct effort is Corny Cole’s rendition of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists in the UPA feature Gay Purree. The film’s antagonist had the heroine’s portrait painted by the artists of the age. The works shown are of Mewsette whimsically incorporated into the works of Cezanne, Gaugin, Seurat, Modigliani, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso. It was my first art history lesson at 9 years old. 60 years later Detour Through Your Mind follows in the footsteps of Corny Cole and Heinz Edelman as an art history lesson of it own.

Reconciling Fine and Popular Art.
I always wanted to make my own Warner Bros. cartoon. So, for the familiar poplar art sequences of the film, I referenced the style of the Fleischer Bros. Betty Boop and Popeye, De Carlo’s Josie and the Pussycats, Chuck Jone’s star animator Ben Washam for the looseness in the drawing all the while retaining anatomy and tried my best to emulate Maurice Noble, Erie Nordli and Phil deGuard in the backgrounds.

The characters where a snap, but the BG’s proved challenging since I am still new to the profession of BG layout. Noble and Nordli use a great deal of 3pt perspective, which I am capable of but I ended up going Hawley Pratt safe for the wide shots. I found little reason for the characters to be staged at low angles with the exception of scenes 14-19 or the “Giants” sequence. There will be plenty of opportunities to play Maurice Noble there, except the buildings will be built, so you won’t get the Noble-Nordli distortions.

S’alright, there’ll be room to do so in scenes 10 and the 11, the Large Orange Room. The initial way I have the set modeled was quite standard. I was a neophyte with lighting and textures and I just wanted to get the algorithms right. Now that I have learned 3pt lighting and have tried true settings for global illumination in a pinch, I can play and distort the set until it’s suitable for Witch Hazel to live in, that’s is she had a live-work space on Taylor and Washington in San Francisco!

Thematic Characters.
The late Ricky Wilson will never be forgotten and he and Keith will provide much needed subtext and exposition in the background. If you’ve every seen the B52’s perform in concert, you’ll notice while Fred, Kate and Cindy do their job as frontman/women, Keith is part stage manager and band leader. He leads the musicians and the organizes the set. He also hosts the show and warms up the crowd for the lead vocalists before they appear on stage. He handles his job with charm with a darling cleft chin smile which retained it’s appeal when he had to disappoint a pumped up crowd that the show has run long and cannot end with it’s Love Shack finale that warm summer Saturday afternoon in Golden Gate Park. The old hippies turned capitalists residents of the Haight can be such crabby party poopers! It would’ve been great to hear Cindy say “Tin Roof….rusted!” live and just 30 feet away from me that day, but the rest of the performance made up for it. The B52’s sang a just about every hit and mild hit in their repertoire, unlike the Manhattan Transfer who got away without singing Birdland. Now THAT was a let down of a concert with little appeal. All ensemble performers can learn a thing or two from Fred’s starkly changed personae of outraged performance of Quiche Lorraine!

Keith will be the stage manager once again as the voice of reason who tries to warn Fred that he got a used dog in a bad way, Charlie Brown, as a feature in paintings, a pet shop owner with Ricky who will always have an “I told you so” expression which Fred is to enamored with the poodle to notice. I have never seen the dearly departed Ricky in concert, so this is the best I can do to assess his personality. He’s the Carpenter to Keith’s Walrus and March Hare to Keith’s Mad Hatter. I hope Cindy will be pleased that her brother’s memory lives on as an animated character cavorting through Schwitter pieces.

Rock the Cradle of Love
How am I going to do this? 2D experience, I have plenty, but my 3D skills are at student level. Even if I manage to generate funds for a proper crew they will still need direction. My experience as an intern at Sesame has proven that since 3D animators do not produce material work, many do not have the ability to art direct from a boarded sequence. instead they speak at length about what they intend to do with the producer and eke out their vision against a deadline with using a combination of internet searches for fast reference and compositing skills. There is no meeting where everyone draws at the table. However, in their defense, I’ve noticed that hand drawn artists balk at all of the steps necessary to complete the simplest tasks in the 3D pipeline. So, there are plusses and minuses on both sides of the spectrum. As a creative producer and director, it’s my job to bridge the gap by having working knowledge in both disciplines.

Compositing influences include the past videos: Billy Idol’s Rock the Cradle of Love ) or at least how I remember it) where he appears in the Warhol piece with Marilyn Monroe will be great for Keith and Ricky’s travels through the Dada paintings in the Large Orange Room sequence. Now that I think if it, the same technique was employed in the paintings of the Harry Potter films. Scenes 7, 9, 12-13 will be depth fogs with textured overlays. Doable. The Giants scene with have painted buildings which will be a challenge, but a fun one. I just know it will take all summer to texture map that midpoint. Paintings galore. Fun! I just need to remember to pre-viz it first before getting too happy on it. Scenes with a flow like that are always pitfalls for continuity errors and compromises. Scenes 34-38 will be fun too. I’ll just pop in the Muppet Show while creating that set. Which leaves the characters….

Goddess I hate rigging. Everyone hates rigging. That’s why you always see the job postings for character TD’s. The listings just hang there for no one likes that task in the animation pipeline and no one is going to be a character TD for less than six figures either—and they deserve EVERY penny! We’re artists. We trained for this industry to avoid algebra, not dive right into it, but as Tom Lehrer sang, there is no way avoid mathematics.

To psyche myself up for this chore, I’ve revisited my high school math in order to build mel scripts to make rigging easier. I gotta do it. For no one else wants to do it and for the sake of the film, I must do a good job. However, I will start out in accordance to the mantra , “BG’s carry the film”, so I’ll put off character rigging while I work on sets over this summer. As Sweet Pickle’s Goose Goofs Off would say: “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

Hand drawn layout is done. 3D, the real test is at hand. May the modernists masters help me through all challenges. For through all the gimble locks, circuit crashes, and lights that just won’t work, they’re achievements will inspire me to push on. The environments will be done first as a mental carrot on a stick. You can’t help but persevere through the tedium of character layout, technical direction and rigging once you’ve built such a wonderful world for the characters to live in. Detour just has to fabulous. It will be. It must be. Then the current generation of art lovers will have a new art history they can dance to.


Character Layout

Character layout is the process of establishing characters within their environment with the use of perspective and placement for the camera. Whether you have perspective anxiety or hidden dyslexia will determine which aspect of the job will be the greatest challenge to you. Just be thankful that you are conquering these demons while you’re in school on not on the job. Character layout is a short, but vicious learning curve.

Here are some guidelines. I would’ve liked to have known #3 straight out in the 90’s Now, gladly the pass the wisdom on to you.

1. Stay on model. Everyone says don’t trace the model sheets, but artists do it anyway. The trick is not make the character look like a model sheet cut out as it moves across the screen. Eyeball your scenes and then enlarge of reduce the turn arounds on the model sheets and “pull” the character on model by comparing the proportions. Lucky for you all, you are working on your own characters and already have your characters design imprinted on your brains.

2. Character within it’s environment. Perspective. No, it’s not over. Perspective is more than a tool for BG’s and vehicles, it applies to characters as well. Make sure all the areas on the character that appear above the horizon line arch upwards and what lies below the horizon line, arc downwards. Don’t be too drastic with this technique. Compare the arcs with the rest of the vanishing points in the BG so that the sweep of the arcs will be gradual as they lessen and deepen above to below the horizon line.

3. Do not animate for the animator. I was often guilty of this, See examples below. Layouts are just poses. In regards to your films and working on televisions, layout poses are keys, but in any situation, the animator has the power to change your acting or even the pose. It’s the perspective and position in the scene the animator needs. Just do the basic poses with animation principles applied. If you do more in layout and find that you have changed your mind in the animation stage, you will have completed a lot of useless drawings. Be thrifty and meet or deadlines with fewer drawings.

4. Overlays. Is your character interacting with anything? I glass of water, or sitting on a couch with cushions that move with the character’s weight? These are called overlays and underlays. Their names coincide with which side of the character they are on. A glass grasped with the inside hand showing is an overlay. A couch cushion is an underlay.

5. Labeling. You’ll drive your director insane if you aren’t detailed oriented enough to label your scenes and everything in it. Just think of the scenario of the animator who does not number his drawings, animates a 18 foot scene and drops his stack of paper on the way to the pencil test machine. A good two hours of time will be wasted putting that stack back in order and the pennywise producer is watching!
Scene labels go as follows:

Scene numbers
Frame or key numbers
w/w: Works with; this is used mainly of overlays and underlays. w/w scene_42_03
OL: overlay
UL: underlay
Fry_01: Character distinction in a scene with multiple characters.

This is one mean machine. Thank heavens for After Effects! You may not get that marvelous film grain ( unless you apply a filter) but you don’t have to worry about whether you interpreted the story artists instructions correctly when you hand your scenes off to a camera person. Pans, dollies and zooms are easy to layout, but there is one camera move that all layout artists hate to work with no matter how cool the effect is: the adjust.

The camera adjust occurs when a camera is focused on area in the scene, but shot at a smaller aperture or in animation talk, field size. In 4:3 television aspect ratio, the largest field size or wide shot is a 12 field, the smallest 6. What an adjust will do is shoot an area of the scene in 6 field or some other field smaller than 12 and follow the character around the scene within the 12 field size.
This process is really simple nowadays with Flash and After Effects, but in the days of analog and multilane/motion control cameras, it dredged up dyslexia that a person did not know they had. The best way to get over it is to shoot your own film, which we are doing now. Try an adjust to get a visual of what the camera is doing. This is a kinesthetic lesson for sure. You may be one of those people who passed algebra and calculus and can process this concept entirely in your head, but for everyone else, learn by seeing and doing. Visual and kinesthetic practice with the camera will save you a lot of grief on the job and save you time and help you meet the Spring Show deadline.

So, that’s the whole of character layout. After this process is complete you can ANIMATE, which will be like connecting the dots if you’re working on your own film. Character layout only takes about three weeks to learn, but it takes about two seasons on a show to master. By the time you practice character layout on your films, you’ll be broken in at least. Push yourself with cameras and perspective and produce an ambitious piece within your current skill set. Doing so will give you an advantage in storyboard revisionist positions, for layout is the precursor to storyboard, and the industry directors will be forever grateful that you have prepared wisely. Good luck!

As always, let me know when you get stuck!


Pop and Cushion: Eric Goldberg

Pop and Cushion is a technique that was introduced to my class by guest speaker Anthony Wong my senior year of Cal Arts 1997. Up till then, I struggled with even timing. I was so obsessed with drawing the character on model and checking volumes, I shirked the importance of squash and stretch save in the most conservative of efforts.
Then dear, brilliant Andy told us a about pop and cushion which is a technique where the character has either no or an extremely loosely drawn stretched drawing that shows or a subliminal second on the screen countered my a soft settle with like a million in-betweens. The end results being a snapped movement.
Mr. Wong used Eric Goldberg’s animation in Phil’ from Hercules as an example. Mr. Wong was obviously a big fan of Goldberg’s work, for he gushed and gushed through this section of the lecture.
Note: my memory of the exact scene, Mr. Wong used for an example is fuzzy in my memory, but I do remember exactly how the technique worked as I’ve described before:, but to drive it home:

  1. antic
  2.  pop to the extreme poses with or without a smear for the inbetween
  3. and cushion the action with enough inbetweens in the settle to compensate for the lack of inbetweens in the “pop” from the antic to the extreme.

In regards to the scene Mr. Wong used for reference in his lecture, I remember that it was either a medium shot or close up of Phil’. However, when I gleaned my dvd of Hercules for that very scene, I found that pop and cushion was used on Phil’ for his tantrums on a number of occasions so it was a judgement call to single out the exact reference. Furthermore, dvd’s are not as suited for frame by frame slow playback as a VHS, so the extreme that Anthony highlighted is not shown here. I simply could not manipulate VLC  or After Effects to advance frame by frame as closely as an analog source, so use your imagination when you reverse engineer the following screen captures.

You still need an antic between these two poses. Advancing the dvd didn’t display the frames. This shows you how few drawings were used and they were heavily favored so the audience would not notice them. This is the antitheses of the Dover Boys smears.






In Flash, you would still have to produce these drawings by hand. However, for the frames that weren’t captured, there were more inbetweens involved than what is shown, you can use shape tweens, especially on the cushion in which the character is pulled back on model and given very subtle changes as it progresses toward the settle-but you stil have to draw!

Just because actions have different terminology between traditional and digital does not mean they don’t do the same thing, which brings me to my next topic. Terminology between mediums.

In hand drawn character animation, their is a set vocabulary that was develop from animation’s infancy which peaked in the late 60’s that hasn’t changed. The terminology in Preston Blair and the Illusion of Life is as relevant in today as it was when the two books were published by the master writers. However, animation has still been built upon since the 60’s and now that the digital world has infiltrated the animation industry, and adjacent vocabulary has been developed to accommodate the new mediums. Flash, Maya and After Effects have their own terminology for their respective pipelines: Animation/Motion Graphics, CG Animation, and compositing which often involves integrating live-action with animation, therefore live-action terms are part of the compositing vocabulary of After Effects. You will be using all three programs in addition to your hand drawn skills eventually, so be prepared hear two different terms that mean the same thing. Think of it, as being an American conversing with someone from Great Britain. Same language, yet different.

An inbetween in hand drawn is not the same as a tween in Flash despite the face that they perform the same purpose. In hand drawn, you’re brilliant brain and ability to apply proper construction to a character and manipulate the shaped in a unique way using perspective, volume and and any kind of whisky that comes to mind.
Flash can’t do that. It can distort, but never “inbetween” in the same way that you, the human being with magic drawing skills to produce a unique drawing for your action.

Solid drawing, for which I use the mnemonic 40’s construction to evoke Preston Blair of your first and second year level traditional animation course in your minds. His teachings are essential to producing assets and animating them in Flash. Solid drawing, is one of the fundamentals that encompasses the theme of the entire animation curriculum. It should never leave your psyche, it should not be shirked. To do so, is to render your ability to compete in the industry moot. You can’t afford to ignore basic skills in an impacted industry. Impacted, yet growing. Your chances of being hired in the industry is not hopeless–for as neophytes, you’re cheaper than the journeymen, but studios still want you to draw like them. Here’s a list of exactly who you will be competing with in the animation industry in Flash, preproduction ( television) and feature animation.

These graduates are from the AAU, Cal Arts, Sheridan, Otis and Art Center.

Sherrie deLorme

Ryan Lang

Brianne Drouhard

Leif Jeffers

Lauren Faust

Kali Fonteccio

Katie Rice

Kevin Dart

Pascal Campion

Dallas Robinson

Gabe Swarr

No one on this list works without solid drawing in mind and practice. They may work in hand-drawn, Flash or 3D—and the AAU grads on the list work in all three mediums. They are your contemporaries and competition in an impacted industry, so please don’t be content to aim for the bare minimum in your homework or any art that you produce.

I can tell a mile away when solid drawing is not applied to your assets. A head that isn’t properly attached to the spine and the lack of a pelvis is a dead give away. The lack of construction may seem a tempting cheat when the character is merely standing in place, but it will be obvious to all the world that the legs have no proper structure to attach to when it walks, runs, or sits down. Anatomy, character look awfully funny in a bad way with proper attention to it. Even the little white man in the Pink Panther cartoons had a pelvis.

This is a sophomore year course, so Preston Blair is the exemplar for your level. Rubber hose, 40’s, it’s “easier”. You don’t have to draw a feature animation action-adventure character like Hercules to earn an “A” here, but you do have to be functional for hand held game characters and sugary cereal sponsored weekday afternoon cartoons. Both of which have solid construction under their S-curve and D-shape designs.

Disney, Freddie Moore S-curve

Hanna Babara D-Shape
I hope now that everyone is clear on what is expected of them in this class. Good luck with the homework that will prepare you for your upcoming films.

In Pop and Cushion part 2, I’ll attempt to use shape tweens to pop and cushion one of my scenes. It’s a good chance to see if your teacher stumble around a bit 🙂


The Pig Lady Trailer

Hi Eric.
I built a set in Maya for your canned ham trailer. You can either use an adjust for your reel or take artistic license and use a really eerie pan for the reveal. It’s up to you. The set up you have on your most recent daily does the job, but it’s not very cinematic. Push yourself. The shows you will be working will be more sophisticated and will use camera moves. Learn to layout camera moves in school. Not on the job. I still have battle scars of this annoying, dyslexia inducing learning arc of laying scenes out for a moving camera.

Note: the staging on the maya sets aren’t correct. Your staging is fine. 3/4 is one of the tenets of storyboarding. The maya screen captures are for reference; where things are, what is in a trailer and the proximity of everything within the trailer.

BG Layout Part: 02 Tear Drop, Canned Ham and Airstream Trailiers for Eric

Here is some great reference for the closing sequence of you film Eric. I may make a maya model of one of these things, just to give you a clue, but first I need to finish the pelvis tutorial using your characters. Look for screencaps of the model in this post as you final review date draws near.

The Pelvis Tutorial (Completed)

October 10th 2017 HELP! Since so many people find this post helpful, would you please show your appreciation by helping me save my car from possession? Save Madeleine by making a financial contribution at the following link: Save Madeleine



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Thank you, I would really appreciate it!

Sometime in the future the day will come when you will have to do a walk cycle on a more complex character than the light bulb man that is Homer Simpson. You will actually have to draw Batman or some other action-adventure character or a comedic character like Huckleberry Hound who has a D-Shape based design, yet still has 40’s construction. For these characters, you will have to learn to master the PELVIS.

For standard 40’s characters it’s simple: draw a trapezoid and affix the legs to the ends. That’s a good beginning that will help you work up to Ben Washam’s sinewy anatomy on Bugs Bunny, where Washam would really accent where Bugs’ “tibia head” would attach to the acetebulum which is not quite at the bottom of the pelvis which actually called the lashium which we sit on. The area I am talking about is about 3/4 towards the bottom. It may take you a while to gauge the distance. For now, don’t over-think it and just draw yourself a trapezoid. What a lot of people do is draw the “bikini line”. The shape of hip-hugger undies and speedos mimic the shape of the pelvis which is evident under the skin of people who are very toned. Speedos fall right over the structure where the antecebulum attaches. So, the drawing a fleshy trapezoid with a bikini or speedo line may be a good cheat until drawing the pelvis becomes more organic to you.

You can worry about nailing that detail when you have to draw a character like Phoebus on Disney Feature’s Hunchback of Notre Dame or a revamp of He-Man.

Male pelvis below

Note the difference in the width of the two pelvi. The female pelvis is wider than the male and it looks like the crest of the male pelvis is slightly higher. No wonder so many body builders look as though they don’t have a waist! Men with longer waists are much easier to draw for me personally because it’s closer the anatomy of the supermodel type characters I draw in my personal work. Here’s a good example of a male model with a nice long, easy to draw waist. Note how there is even a slight curve too, so it’s easy to find the acetebulum. Most men have bodies with no curve in torso. The torso is just straight up and down with no tangible landmarks outside the rig cage. Very tough. I would suggest drawing a guy with a curve to use as an under-drawing, then fill out the curve if you are working with a stockier design. At least the construction will be there, so your character will be solid

Male model, David Raiser

For many artists, the male pelvis is the hardest to draw for animation for its distribution of weight is more subtle that the female–but it’s still there! Women in their nascent stage of animating often have this problem the most with men, because despite the sexual revolution of the 60’s, it is still a social more to NOT look at men below their shoulder girdle. Think of of Beethoven’s bust on Rolf the Dog’s piano. That’s the polite aperture in which a woman is supposed to view a male stranger. It doesn’t leave room for observation does it?
To avoid your grandmother’s spies, go to more sports games or use the perimeter of a soccer field on your daily walk and observe a game. Everyone watches an athlete’s body for he is moving and we want to see how he moves, so study that male pelvis all you want. Your mean old aunt Hera and paranoid auntie Demeter will never notice. Let Aphrodite guide the artist in you so you can figure how men are very similar to women but the shape of their bodies are more subtle. Observe the protocols of how their weight can be shifted. Men put their hands on their hips too, but the Ares edict demands the stance be less exaggerated than a woman. It’s a tough transition, but you’ll get the hang of it. Oh, and record the next Olympics and take screen captures if you have a DVR player that produces discs!

Don’t let these technical drawings intimidate you. Just keep them in mind for future reference for when you have to draw Batman. Also, just anyone can draw the pelvis of a man standing up in the doryphorus stance. The tough part is when the character sits down or is in action. Just try drawing a good sword fight without acknowledging the pelvis! It ain’t happenin’, Again, for 40’s funny character construction, draw a trapezoid to represent the pelvis in your underdrawing. Now here’s another trick: after drawing the pelvis split the body into the following planes in accordance to position in your scene: the Dorsal Plane and the Sagittal Plane.

3/4 front character

Floating girdles in yellow
Dorsal line in red
Sagittal line in blue

The dorsal plane is back to front, think of drawing a line up the spine over the head and through the sternum. The sagittal plane is side to side. This will help maintain your character’s volume as well help in designing clothes for the character if your are the designer. One of my favorite funny character cartoons that pays close attention to clothes is Ed, Edd and Eddy. I love how the character designer included the seams on the jeans and sport shirts, especially on Ed, Edd and Naz.

Another thing to consider is kinesthetics which I get into in further tutorials as needed. For our purposes, it the study the relationship on muscle and skeletal structure and how the body moves, such as the floating girdles with can move just about any old way vs. the limited range of motion of dorsal and sagittal movement. We’ll get into that once I see people drawing broken feet, wrist and arms.

Getting back to clothes, it is important to consider the inseam. When I was at Disney, the lead character designer, as well one of the story artists and myself discussed how to make a tasteful inseam on the female characters in tight pants. The discussion made me think of a John Waters film that took place in the 60’s where women were starting to wear pants. Only the “bad girls” wore tight pants. The Hera mom’s of the neighborhood were so outraged that they called the capris “vasectomy pants”. So, be careful with that inseam. However, for this lecture I would like to talk about being careful about that inseam on male characters. You got real trouble there.

“I’m not touching’ that one”
-Dot Warner

The Inseam (or inside leg in slacks if you’re a fan of Mr. Humphries of Are You Being Served?)
On clothed funny characters especially nowadays, you don’t have to worry about the inseam too much. But when you get to action-adventure you will have no choice but to address the problem. Lucky for us, there have past successful attempts for designing an inseam for animation, just look at Johnny Quest.

There were other shows like G.I. Joe and Bruce Timms work, but these show are animated overseas so you really can’t determine the original design because the assistant work is so badly rushed. There are a few key episodes. Look for the espisodes featuring Roland Daggett and Clayface. The crew really outdid themselves some of those episodes.There is one episode in particular that shows off suits well. I’ll post it when I find it. Also due to time constraints and split crews, there isn’t much room for on the spot life drawing either , so, Johnny Quest it is. There is Filmmation’s Archies and and He Man as well, but I would rather use a live-action reference just bring some new ideas into animation world. I can’t help it. It’s the character designer in me.

Make over your man is a great resource for menswear. It covers both casual and formal wear and nails that sticky problem of inseams.

It appears the fashion designers have had their challenges with this issue as well, for there are several types of designs for concealing a man’s testes. I wonder if men have a protocol in regards to clothes that either accentuate of subdue attention to that region that way women do with high and low cut blouses and tops? I think so, for why the variety in inseams? Is there a male version of the jealous Hera would loathes any woman that is prettier or greater endowed that she is for they may catch the attention of her philandering husband? I’m sure there is. Guys don’t hate pretty boys who get all the girls for nothing. The Dionysus, pretty boy rock star is the target of hatred of so very many men. Perhaps the male equivalent are Hera’s two loser sons Ares and Hephaestus.

I’m using Olympian archetypes ala Jean Shinoda Bolen to illustrate types of people that inhabit stories everywhere. We just call them by different names now: hero, shadow, mentor, threshold guardian etc and use our personal experiences like our friends and enemies to flesh out the personalities. The archetypes are still there, but more varied in details. People are alike but not exactly alike. This digression all bolls down to story, which should be in the back of your mind whenever you create anything in film or sequential art.

Men’s clothing for the most part is derived from military uniforms, so think of how a soldier would want to protect that most vulnerable part of himself to in order to be effective in battle. He would also want to be respectful of the chain of command. It’s a military custom to dress inoffensively.

Here’s a design by industry director, Mike Milo. Eve’s pelvis is really easy to find. Adam, not so much, his legs appear to be attached to his rib cage. However, don’t let that fool you. Look closer. Mike Milo left just enough space for waist/space between rib cage and iliac crest. You can’t count on human proportions in funny cartoons design, where the object is to exaggerate and vary shapes. Mr. Milo’s design the pelvis so very short and small on Adam that it will take a bit of skill to eke it out. Give yourself and assignment and make an under-drawing of this design. Find the pelvis and draw the character sitting down. You’ll be glad you tried this now, before getting stuck on a studio test or drawing against a deadline on the job!

Alternative design. Today there is a sketchbook trend in animation. Think of Adventure Time. You really won’t have to worry about how the floating girdles roll like Ben Washam (?) did when he animated Drip Along Daffy chasing after the cheering crowd that scooped up his comedy relief as a hero. However, you should always be prepared for it. Challenge yourself on how you would draw a character without a pelvis siting down. He may run conventionally, but how would you draw the opening scene of Porco Rosso using Mike Milo’s design pictured here instead of Miyazaki’s Rocco, who very much has a pelvis. Don’t be surprised if you get a storyboard with an action that requires the pelvis to act as a ballast for the body. Be prepared!

Observe. For you the sake of your career observe. Just about all animated characters today are male, so it can’t be avoided. For women artists out there, don’t be afraid to look down in appropriate surroundings. Being women in a patriarchal society we have to be subtle. However, if you dare to let Aphrodite take over your senses like in the following example, don’t blame me, your on your own:

The Wire

Assistant State Attorney, Rhonda Pearlman and the lieutenant police commissioner Cedric Danieis discuss the Barksdale case and Daniels’ sudden separation from his wife. While sitting in her desk chair she looks up at her studly male lieutenant standing above her and says:
“I see you dress left.”


All kidding aside, NEVER tell a director you can’t draw men. Instead, try to isolate your problem drawing man and keep it to yourself until you master them. My challenge was the pelvis and I didn’t know it until years after I lost several opportunities to work for Bruce Timm, be the character stylist for the animated show Clerks and hold my position at Spumco. If you are having trouble drawing men, try mastering the pelvis. It may be your problem. Or it could be something else. Regardless, keep your mouth shut as you find solution. Admitting this shortcoming openly may hurt you. Furthermore, if you look over the shoulders of your peers and even your superiors, you’ll find that they have weaknesses they are desperate to conceal as well.
Good luck!


Animation: Solid Drawing for Eric

“Yes, I know this is a rough, but still…”

Drawing. Since we’re going into tying down animation, I would like to talk about drawing. Your film is of the rubber hose style and I know your hero is John K. so I thought I would highlight one of John’s favorite projects: the Fliescher Bros. Popeye series.

The Fleischers are the kings of rubber house animation. Disney was was great, Warner Bros. was still struggling in the 30’s, but the Fleischer’s ruled this style. One of the reasons why is the inking and the advancement of the medium while retaining this style, unlike the Disney studios that decided to advance anatomy along with their filmmaking.

Lucky for us, we have the Fleischer’s example to remind us to do our best no matter how simple the style is.

Now look at the drawing in these shots. It’s TERRIFIC! Sure there are no rhomboids and trapezei, but those characters sure are solid. One thing is for sure, the all important pelvis isn’t missing, which is an area in anatomy that many green artists forget to master. How it the character supposed to sit down? How does the character distribute his weight? How do you spit the body in the dorsal plane without giving your character a booty? How can Popeye and Bluto beat each other up properly without the animator knowing his way around the shoulder girdle? Sure it’s easier to draw the arms raised about the head on a rubber hose character, but the animator still needs to know how far to extend Popeye’s arms. The elbows do not past the top of the head–that is unless you are animating Olive Oyl.

Look at Poop Deck Pappy. Notice the balance of kinesthetics. We have loose anatomy for the sake of movement and anatomy for the sake of design. It’s wonderful. Flexion and contraction at it’s rubber hose finest.

Inking. The clean up line of part of what sells this style. I am using it myself of my own film it’s great for covering up mistakes. Don’t use inking as a crutch though. The more soiid the rough, the better the clean up.

BG’s. Art direction. Though not as important as story. Don’t even think for a second that it does not sell the film.

Here’s your kitchen!

Tint Tone and Shade–and Fade for depth of field!


So, as we spend the next month on animation, let’s fortify the drawings. This is your FILM! With the pressures of the 96 hour work week industry and family, it will be a long time before you make another one. So let’s know Eye Ball and Bowling Pin some love.

…and don’t think I won’t make your life hell if you try to avoid doing so. What kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t?