September, 2004

Sept. 14, 2004 - "First week of School"

After a week at Calarts, I finally decided to continue the journal entries for the second year. I won't post very frequently because I think I covered a good amount of ground with my freshman journal. There are, however, some new and interesting things that are happening at Calarts this year especially with the restructuring of the freshman cirriculum. Basically, they're adding a CG class into the mix which, in my opinion, is necessary. I think that companies will expect graduates to know some CG. Not everyone has the resources to train a traditional animator into a CG animator. Freshmen used to have two traditional animation classes a week. Now, one of the classes will be traditional and the other will be CG. On top of this, freshman students aren't required to finish a film. Instead, they need to finish a "performance piece". This is a pretty cool idea because it'll force them to focus on acting. Lots of films don't end up having enough character performance. I'm disappointed to say that Mike Disa won't be back this year. He was my favorite teacher last year but his sub will be Mike Nguyen, which isn't bad at all. There are some changes in the 2nd year too but I'll cover that after I talk about the overall impression that I have of my second year so far.
I feel a lot calmer at this point compared to my first week last year because I kind of know what to expect. I'm calm, but at the same time, very excited and eager to get to work. I'm much more excited about the classes I have this year. They'll be fun but extremely challenging. The most most challenging class that I'm taking this year will be "Acting for Animators" because I'll have to act in front of my entire class (which is about 50 students). Not a big fan of that but I suppose I'll get better at public speaking. We'll see.
My story classes won't be a cake walk either because I feel that story is my biggest weakness. I'm excited because my two story teachers are pretty awesome so far. I'm taking Intermediate Story Development (which is basically a storyboarding class) with Bruce Morris and Story for Animators 2 with Chris Meeks. The second story class is more of a writing/reading class. My ultimate goal is to be able to come up with solid ideas all the time. I'm a bit nervous about my film idea because I haven't come up with anything that I like yet. Hopefully I'll have an idea within the next month with the help of these classes..
The rest of my classes are not even work for me. They're just fun. We have a new animation teacher. His name is Shane Prigmore. I hear some very good things about him so I'm pretty excited. He worked on Iron Giant, Looney Toons, Back in Action and Gollum from Lord of the Rings just to name a few. Prigmore is very energetic and seems like he'll do everything he can to make us kick ass by the end of the year. Oh, we'll be learning dialogue this year! Along with that, he'll cover character design. Awesome.

I'm taking 20 credit units this semester. Yea, I won't have time for anything but school!  Here is a list of my class schedule.






Animation 2


7-10 p.m

7-10 p.m

Video Anim/ Computer



Life Drawing






Design and Concept



Int. Story Dev



Story for Animators 2



Animal Drawing

Brown (Sat 9-4)

Acting for Animators



It's great to be back for a second year at Calarts. I almost forgot how inspired I can get here. When you're around so many people who are passionate about animation, it rubs off on you. I can't wait to start on my film. Gotta think of an idea first, though. D'oh!

Sept. 22,:
In the Swing of things again:

I can't believe I'm already half way through the second week. I realized that I haven't posted an entry for a while so I thought I'd do a quick update. Time flies here at Calarts once you get used to the routine. Everything is going great so far but I've been slammed with a crap load of work. At least it's work that I actually enjoy doing though.

Design and Concept class is KILLING me! I've just finished a 5 second animation of a circus flee balancing on a rope (I'll post it when I get a chance) for a 1 minute film we're assigned to work on with a group. On top of that, we have to paint guoache (sp?) self portraits every day of the week. I just can't wait till we get into the character design stuff.

Story for Animators is turning out to be a really cool class. It's fairly reading intensive which isn't all that bad since we're reading Harry Potter to analyze story structure and a book called "How to Write for Animation". We're talking about how to come up with story ideas and creat "turns" or "beats" which will keep audiences interested. I need all the help I can get with story because I suck at it. I just can't seem to come up with interesting ideas as well as some ppl can. Damn.

Story Development is another class that I'm sure will help my story skills this year. We had to come up with three "what if" ideas and draw a story sketch illustrating one of the ideas. My illustration was way to complicated and unreadable from a distance. It was a cool exercise though. For next week, we need to come up with a character and place him in different situations. I can't seem to come up with an interesting idea for this just yet but I'll work on it this weekend. It's a really good assignment.

Animation 2 is sweet. For the most part, Shane Prigmore is just reviewing a bunch of stuff we should already be familiar with. Our first assignment will be an acting test of someone coming up to a mailbox and putting an envelope inside. With acting, our job is to make clear what is in the envelope. I have a pretty cool idea and I'm DAMN excited to start on it! I love animating.

Wednesdays are crazy. I don't actually have a class on this day but I end up sitting in on the figure drawing workshop in the morning and then the character design class with Rick Maki at night. I LOVE the character design class so far. It's an advanced level class (juniors and seniors only) but I stay for the lectures anyhow. There are so many friggin talented designers at this school. It's intimidating as hell but at the same time inspiring. I plan on taking this class for the rest of my time at Calarts. Hopefully I'll be a good designer by the end of it.

I learned a lot from our first layout lecture. Dan Hansen went over some basics on design and about composing a layout which helped me understand the whole thing a lot better. He had us design a jungle scene with one girl placed in it somewhere. Our job is to somehow design it in an interesting way and lead the eye towards the girl. On top of that, we had to draw a street corner sketch and compose it well.

Figure Drawing is on Fridays this year. I've improved over the summer, somehow, but I still suck so I need to hit that life drawing class pretty hard. It's fun. Our models dress up in the coolest costumes.

Second year is more intense than the first year so far but I'm lovin' every minute of it. I don't have a social life though so that sucks. Oh well, I think I got the partying out of the way in summer. It's about 2 in the morning right now so I'll stop rambling.

Sept 29, 2004: Celebrating Frank Thomas at the El Capitan Theater:

Frank Thomas, one of Disney's "Nine Old Men", died early September. He was 92 years old. Disney put together an event which celebrated his life and accomplishments in the animation industry. Calarts character animation students were invited to the event on Wednesday. It turned out to be an amazing experience. Andreas Deja, John Lasseter Ollie Johnston along with Frank Thomas' friends and family showed up to speak in front of the packed El Capitan. Various clips of his work were shown and many touching stories were told about Frank Thomas. His amazing work will continue to inspire the animation industry for generations to come.

After the event, we had a chance to mingle with some of our animation heros. I couldn't believe I was in the same room with people like Ollie Johnston, John Lasseter, Pete Doctor, Eric Goldberg, Glenn Keane, Andreas Deja, Roy Disney. It seemed like everyone was there!

Here's a picture of a few of us with John Lasseter.

My roommate, Steve, Pete Doctor (Director of Monster's Inc) and me.

Group Picture!

Picture of Ollie Johnston on stage

Ed Catmull, Pixar President visits Calarts:

Things just keep getting more exciting here at Calarts. We had the privilege of having Ed Catmull from Pixar talk to us on Thursday about "Crisis in Production" and how to deal with it. He talked about Pixar's history and how they faced problems with some of their feature films. Toy Story 2 was supposed to be a direct to video release. Pixar appointed two animators to direct the film. The story wasn't coming along too well but since it was a direct to video, the assumption was that it didn't have to be very good anyway. About a year before the expected release date, John Lasseter saw the existing story reel and decided that it wasn't working at all. The studio decided to scrap the entire script and start over again even though Disney, their distribution partner told them it was impossible. Ed Catmull explained that Pixar didn't want to lower their standard of quality not even for a direct to video release. The studio had only eight months to finish the film. Several of their employees were hospitalized and one of them permanently injured a hand and had to retire because of it. They were working day and night but it was worth it because Toy Story 2 ended up being a huge success. Pixar makes it all look so easy but they didn't become successful without going through hard times.
Catmull went on to talk about problems they had in making some of their other films and a little more about their filmmaking process. He stressed the importance of a good story and these words echoed in my mind as I began wondering about my second year film. Good LORD! I’m having a rough time with story! Bleh! If you look back in my 1st year journal I'm sure I complained quite a bit about my story. I believe that story is BY FAR the most crucial and most difficult part of filmmaking. If you don't have an engaging story, the film is a bust no matter how well it's animated. Story is definitely one of my weak points and I'm trying to focus in on that this year.

Anyways, Before Catmull went up on stage for the lecture, we saw a list of clips that he was going to show on the projection screen during testing. "Boundin," the latest Pixar animated short, was on there so I was anticipating it for about an hour. He finally got around to showing it and I thought it was AWESOME! I won't spoil it for anyone but I will say that it had some of the funniest animation that I've seen. I especially love the owl even though it's on screen for about 4 seconds. It was a really good story that definitely got me to care about the characters. All the good stories make you feel SOMETHING.

Catmull talked a bit about the 3d vs. 2d debate. To keep it short, he basically said that the studio's are blaming the downfall of 2d on the notion that it is outdated. The fact is that the latest 2d films have had horrible stories and that's why they have failed. Audiences will always come to see a good story.

Here is a list of other significant comments that Catmull stated. They're paraphrased:

- It's extremely easy to learn 3d if you're a good 2d animator. Don't stress yourself out trying to learn 3d programs before you learn how to animate! Pixar hired a bunch of the animators who lost their jobs at Disney, Florida. Catmull says that they're doing very well in their training program.
- It's important, as a student, to make sure you finish 1 film every year. Repeating the process every year pushes you and stretches you.......and I forgot to write down the rest but you get what he means. I learned so much last year from that first film. It's frustrating as hell but I'm glad I get to tackle some of the same problems again this year.
- The key of making a good film is creating your world and the character of that world.
- There are certain things that are more rapidly taught in 2d animation like poses, silhouette, timing, expressions. All of these can translate over to 3d. Pixar highly supports Calarts and the traditional training we get here. Our program actually added some CG elements this year and supposedly Pixar wasn't too thrilled about it.
- become great artists
- He also mentioned that most of the people at Pixar came from Calarts. Just hearing him say that made me realize what a great opportunity I have to be where I am. Yay.

Ed Catmull went further into animated shorts and why Pixar continues to make them. He said that they are a training pot for potential directors and other potential artists who can gain some experience. Damn. There was something else he said but I can't read my writing! Ultimately, Pixar creates shorts for the pure love of it, even though they don't get any $$ out of them. That statement stuck with me. Pixar is a great studio because they're passionate about what they do. How can you be good at anything if you don't care about it? I think a lot of the studios that aren't doing well today have lost passion for the art form and are getting too greedy. Hopefully that'll change.
A question came up about the possibility of Pixar exploring 2d animation sometime in the future. Unfortunately, Ed Catmull explained that Pixar didn't have the infrastructure to support 2d animation and he wishes that it would someday come back in the LA area before it's too late. The rumors are friggin FALSE! Damn!

Oh, and one last detail......BRAD BIRD IS COMING TO CALARTS ON OCTOBER 18 TO SHOW US THE INCREDIBLES! After the movie, he's going to have a Q and A chat with us. We're so damn lucky. My buddy Matt Nolte said that we will be speechless after the movie. It's THAT good. He was hired by Pixar over the summer.

Oct 13: Random Update:


We're supposed to line up for the tickets tomorrow at 4, I think. I'm pretty damn excited. We just saw "Family Dog" last night in animation class. Prigmore, our animation teacher and long time friend of Brad Bird showed it to us. "Family Dog" was Brad Bird's first directing job back in 1986. He also directed "Iron Giant" and now "The Incredibles" over at Pixar.

I'd like to talk a little bit about how lucky my class is this year to have Shand Prigmore as our animation teacher. He's friggin awesome and on top of it he's hilarious as hell. It's obvious that he has a burning passion for animation and it definitely rubs off on the class. I'm so excited about this year and I can't even begin to tell ya.

We were assigned our first animation test about three weeks ago or so just to kinda get back into the groove of things. It's an acting test where we take any character we want and have him/her place an envelope into the mailbox. Sounds simple, but there's a catch. The audience needs to figure out what's inside that package/envelope just by looking at your acting.

I animated a dog who packages a cat and tosses it into the mailbox rather violently. It was cool because there was an opportunity to explore the actual character and how the two felt about each other. I had a lot of trouble trying to get the acting clear but I guess it turned out alright. I'm pretty much done with it. Along with that assignment, I animated some dog walks because I'm thinking about doing a film with a quadraped in it. It's pretty complicated but I'm getting better with each walk cycle. Shane said he'll bring me in some video reference of a dog walking, trotting, galloping and running. That'll be helpful.

I can't really complain about anything at this point. I'm literally having the time of my life this semester even though my social life is non existent. Doesn't matter, that's what summer's for, right? Every class is awesome, including Leo Hobaica's design class. Many people were skeptical about his class this year but I've learned a lot about design so far. That's all I ask.

I feel that I've had a major breakthrough as far as story writing goes. We read Harry Potter and analyzed it in our Story for Animators 2 class and now we're looking at a book called " How to Write for Animation". Something clicked the other day and I'm suddenly REALLY excited about writing short stories! I've wrote three in the past two days. Once I brush them up a bit I'll open a new section on the site for my short stories. I definitely want to keep writing. By the end of November, I'd like to have several story options for my 2nd year film. That's the deadline though! After November, I'll storyboard for a month and then get right to animation as soon as Christmas break ends.

One more piece of news....I'm FINALLY redesigning the site! I have the "look" down and all I have to do is go in and apply the new design to all the pages on the site. I emailed Chris, Buzz Cut writer, and he said he liked the new design so I'll go with it. It has a big ass caricature of me sitting in my cube animating!

Oct 18 - Exclusive "Incredibles" premiere with Brad Bird!

First off, I'd like to start this post off with a Happy Birthday to my sister, Eve back in Chicago. Happy 15th! Yay!

Okay, and now I'd like to thank Brad Bird, Mark Andrews and all of Pixar (and Disney) for giving the character animation program at Calarts an exclusive premiere of the Incredibles on this amazing Monday. Pixar rented out a local theater in Valencia for us. Here's a picture of the long line waiting to get seats!

The Incredibles is THE BEST FILM EVER MADE! Well, tha'ts a matter of opinion but I've never had such a great experience watching a film before in my life. It's MY favorite movie ever! The movie is sooooo good! There isn't a bad scene in the entire film! Unbelievable! This film brings animation to a whole new level. Shane Prigmore, my animation teacher, told us that what we just saw was the best animated film ever made. It's so solid. He's seen it three times already and can't find a bad scene in it at all. Prigmore said that Brad Bird is the most decisive, maticulous director he's ever worked for so that explains why this movie was so perfect!

AFter the film, Brad Bird and Mark Andrews arrived at the theater for a Q and A forum. There were some interesting questions asked and Brad spoke in detail about everything.

- One question came up about what influenced him to make the Incredibles. He said that it was a combination of all the things he loved as a kid (comics, animation, super-heros, film) and his family life. He found he had a conflict between finding work that he loved to do (animation/ directing) and spending time with family. Keeping that balance and responsibilty is one of the themes in the "Incredibles".

- Someone asked him how he thought of the ideas for the characters. He said that Bob Incredible was the man of the house so he would be strong. His wife, Elastigirl, was a mother and we all know how mothers get pulled in every which way so that's why he gave her the stretch power. Dash is the son and since little boys are full of energy, Brad gave him speed. Violet is a typical insecure teenage girl so she has invisibility and force-field projection powers. I love how Brad thought each of the characters through and gave them powers that made sense. Awesome stuff.

- Brad Bird talked a little about one of the first rules he set when production began on "The Incredibles" at Pixar. He told everyone that every scene should include the mundane AND fantastic. He wanted to put the characters into real, believable situations that everyone can relate to and THEN have his characters react in their own fantastic way. There was a small clip in the Incredibles trailer that I feel would be OK to use as an example. The family is together at a dinner table and the kids start to fight. That's the "mundane" part and its a real situation that every ordinary person can relate to. But the Incredibles aren't an ordinary family. They have super powers so that's where you start playing around with the "fantastic". Mark Andrews, (head of story on the Incredibles) said that you can't just have a huge action sequence without injecting character moments into them. The best thing about action is the character. Put CHARACTER in every scene!

- I knew that a question about story would come up eventually. I think the question was about how Brad Bird develops story or something. His answer was really interesting. He said that there is no clear cut way to make a story. The more rules you learn about writing, the more you'll break them. He said that the more experience you get in making movies, the more mysterious they become. There are no FORMULAS. Ask yourself what YOU would want to see up there on screen. Pretend you're an audience. Surprise and delight your audience. Thing of stories that will entertain. Brad Bird highly recommends watching a lot of films and reading screenplays to get a feel for how they're written. Also, when you watch a film, ask yourself why you liked or didn't like the film and try to come up with solutions to the story problems. He said that this is a great mental exercise. You sometimes learn more from watching bad films just by analyzing what went wrong. Figure out why good movies are good. Why did you get that chill down your spine? There are no formulas to making scripts.

- I guess it sometimes seems that people like Brad Bird magically become good at what they do but Brad mad clear that he spent a lot of time banging his head against the wall. He just recently became successful.

- Brad Bird's favorite animated films are 101 Dalmations, Lady and the Tramp, and Pinnochio. He also loves Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and a bunch of others but I couldn't write that fast. Damn. Mark Andrews favorite animated films are Lapita and Porico Doso. I don't know if I spelled those right.

- Brad Bird went to Calarts (along with John Lasseter and Tim Burton). He went to the school for two years and left because he was offered a job at Disney. The only reason he went to Calarts was to get hired at Disney so he figured it wouldn't be necessary to stay the last two years. Brad said that he sometimes regrets leaving early because being in school gives you an opportunity to work on your own films. When he arrived at Disney, it wasn't nearly as great as he always thought it would be. The old crew (9 Old Men) were retiring and a new group took the studio over. Brad Bird didn't like how things were turning out to be so he left Disney and got into TV animation. He was one of the main guys responsible for "The Simpsons". He expained that he had a choice between staying with Disney and doing full feature animation with bad ideas (which was the job that everyone wanted) or working on great ideas but in limited, cheaper animation. He decided to work on the great ideas and I think that decision helped make him awesome at story.

- Brad Bird decided to get into directing because he was sick of working on bad scenes. He figured that the only way he could work on better ideas is if he would be the one coming up with them.

- One of the biggest challenges in computer animation is animating humans but Brad Bird's goal was never to make "realistic" humans. He wanted to make stylized humans who
felt real and can connect to people. Some of the most difficult technical problems that Pixar faced in the making of "The Incredibles" was hair, wet hair, hair under water, and fabric. On top of it, this film had four times more locations than any other Pixar film. Brad Bird said that there were some peole who doubted that it could be done but fortunately, others said "lets go"! That's why Pixar is FRIGGIN AWESOME!

Here are some quotes from Brad Bird and Mark Andrews that will hopefully inspire people to stick with their dreams.

- BB -"Figure out your trick"
- MA - "Don't ever lost PASSION! LIGHT THAT FIRE UP UNDER YOUR ASS! Don't EVER give up!"
- BB - "If you want to become a director you need to have PASSION for film. Brad's amazed at some people who aspire to become directors but they don't even have a film that they want to make. Brad Bird has tons of ideas and he's BURNING to make them!
- MA - "You Gotta be on FIRE!!"
BB - "Stay focused, Calarts is a great school, remain passionate!"

Once the film was over, everyone was in shock and very excited so we decided to get together at Denny's and talk about the Incredibles for hours. We flipped through the "Art of Incredibles" thousands of times and discussed our favorite, most memorable scenes. The funny thing is that the whole movie is packed with amazing memorable scenes so we couldn't cover everything! I can't wait to see this film again! I've never wanted to see a film twice so bad in my life!

Oh, there are a couple of really cool references in the Incredibles that are directly related to Calarts since Brad Bird went to this school. There is the famous A113 reference which is in every Pixar film. A113 is a classroom in the character animation department. Also, there is a reference to the "D-Wing" which is another word for the "Rat's nest" at Disney studios. This is where all the animators were. And last, Shane Prigmore, my animation teacher IS DASH! Shane worked with Brad on the "Iron Giant" and I guess Brad used Shane as the inspiration for that character. When I think back at the movie, I remember the interesting mouth shapes that Dash had and I thought that they looked a little familiear. DUDE! It's totally Shane!  How awesome is that?! My teacher is a charcter in the best movie ever!

I Super now! I can take on the world with my.. PENCIL! Ok, maybe not but here's a super incredible caricature of me drawn by my buddy Austin Madison (friggin' awesome artist).

Oh! And look what I have here!!! Brad Bird signed my sketchbook. I ran out to Border's to get a copy of the "Art of Incredibles" right after I saw him signing more stuff outside of the theater but I was tooooo late! Damn. Oh well, I still got his autograph!

Oct 22 : The Lockdown!:

A few of my character animation buddies and I are about to do something very insane this weekend. We're calling it the "Character Animation Lockdown". The Lockdown is about making 1 film each in 48 insanely intense hours without leaving the cubes at all. We'll eat and sleep there....on the floor or something. The less sleep, the better. Coffee will help us out a lot. One of my friends came up with this idea and I don't think it's bad at all. Hell, we'll each have a film done already! Whoo hoo! I'm hoping to get a possible story idea out of this and to just have a lot of fun making a film that won't matter too much. In about 20 minutes (midnight), we're all meeting in the cubes to start. Everyone will throw an idea in a lottery and the one that is picked will be what everyone will make a film about. It could be about cars, boxing, cats, dogs, dog crap, whatever. It'll be interesting to see what people will come up with.

Finished my Lockdown film!

The Lockdown turned out to be a huge success! After a lot of coffee and a sore back from sleeping on the concrete floor for two nights, I came out with a really simple and fun film. The best part of this whole experience was the opportunity to explore something that I would never have tried in a million years. I played around with style in character design and I tried something a little more gross with story. The theme turned out to be anything about lollypops. There are all sorts of sick and twisted things you can do with that topic! Since there was no pressure on any of us to make a masterpiece, I found that a lot of the films had more spontaneity in them. Next time I do this I want to push things and explore even further.

We're having the "Lockdown" show on Sunday for the entire department. After the films are done, we'll show some of the documentary footage that one of the participants took. Ethen Metzger (a fellow Chicagoan) made an awesome intro for the show in Adobe After Effects. Word spread about the Lockdown all over the department and I heard that Frank Terry, the Director, wants to see a copy of the show, too. We plan on doing a "Lockdown" every couple of months. I think the next one will be a lot bigger because tons of people have expressed interest in it all week. I just finished putting my film together in After Effects and I should have it ready to upload pretty soon. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

Ant Ward shuffles and picks the winning theme, "Lollypops"!

(right) The crew drinking coffee on Sunday morning

Oct 29: The Halloween Party!:

Thank God for the Halloween party because I was beginning to get pretty burnt out from school. I think I went to one party all semester. On Halloween, I was ready to get a little drunk and have fun.

Some of my friends wanted to get a huge group together to be zombies. They called it the "Zombi Armada" and made little armbands with logos and everything like that. I decided to join in because I didn't really know what I wanted to be anyway. It turned out to be awesome because some of them went down to "Cinema Secrets" in LA for some professional quality makeup, scars and blood. My roommate had a American Red Cross shirt that he gave to me for my costume. I ripped it up and smeared dirt all over it. After that, I put the makeup on. My friends bought me the trachia scar. It looked gross as hell! Check out the pictures. The actual party wasn't the greatest. I think they put more effort in last year with decorations and themes. I still had a pretty good time.

Nov 23: Mark Andrews (head of story on the Incredibles) visits Calarts:

Before I get to the Mark Andrews lecture, I'd like to sum up what's been going on the past month since I haven't posted a journal entry in forever. It's been really busy and I haven't had much time for anything but homework and my film. My classes are going great. I'm still learning a hell of a lot and I'm in the process of writing for my second year film. I'ts gone through several revisions so far but I think I'm pretty close to locking it down. The next step would be storyboarding, then visual development, animatic and finally animation. I hope that I'll start animating by the time I get back from Christmas break. This film is going to be 3 minutes long so I'll need all the time I can get to make the animation right. Anyhow, I thought I'd share the premise of my story with you all. It's about a little boy who eats Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve. It's a pretty fun idea to work with. The best part about Calarts is making use of all the resources available to you. It's not just the teachers and facilities we have here. Bouncing ideas off of your peers can be extremely valuable. I showed my story to several friends and I've gotten so many cool ideas. There is just so much talent here is ridiculous.

Ok, we had a couple other guest lectures before Mark Andrews for Animation class. Shane Prigmore brought in Wendy and David Bruster. They both worked on Iron Giant so that's where Shand met them. It was a really cool lecture that provided insight into how life really was as an animator. It's not all that glamorous. Animators work long hours and constantly have to deal with executive who don't know anything about animation. At the same time, all the hardships of working in this industry would be worth it if you got the chance to work on awesome films like the Iron Giant.
David Bruster talked about a couple things that really hit home for me so I'll share them. He said that when you're visualizing the acting of your scene, try not to construct what the character is going to do. Just let the scene play naturally in your head. It sounds a little weird but I know exactly what he's talking about. When I did my first few scenes for "Brokin' Toys" last year, I found myself trying to force the acting in my mind. Towards the end I found that it was possible to just let the character play naturally in your mind almost like you're watching TV. It was awesome. So yea. This was a really good tip.
Another good tip that David talked about was to have confidence in yourself as an artist whenever you're drawing. If you have doubts about the way you draw when you're animating, the drawings WILL turn out to be crap. You need to believe, at least while you're animating or drawing, that you're Glenn Keane. Have that confidence. Once you're done animating, that's the time to be critical on yourself. I can relate to this. I had a hard time at Six Flags this summer because I couldn't get my mind together. I got to be so nervous and worried about what other people thought of my drawings that my caricatures turned out like crap. I didn't have the confidence to do the job. It's all about setting your mind to it. Believe in your mind that you can do what you're setting out to do and it will be done.
Shannon Tindle came in the other day as a guest artist. He went to school with Shane, my animation teacher. The class was spent going over character design. He showed us clips of some of his favorite character introductions in movies and even read a few character descriptions from Charles Dickens books. They were trying to tell us that character design is not only about how the character looks. You have to dive deeper into the character. Who is that character? What's his/her personality and how will that affect the look of the character. It was cool. It gave us a better understanding on how to develop designs.
Ok, now I'll get to Mark Andrews. It was funny. I went to the restroom to take a leak and I saw someone in there that looked like Mark Andrews. He was washing his hands. I asked if he was Mark Andrews and yea, he was. I dorked out about how awesome the Incredibles was and how excited I was for his lecture. I'm sure he was annoyed but I just thought it was cool that I talked to one of the main artists behind the Incredibles. He was head of story, by the way. He's Brad Bird's right hand. He worked on Iron Giant with Bird and even did storyboards for the first Spiderman. Mark Andrews graduated from Calarts and was a teacher here for a while, too.
Anyhow, he covered some great stuff on visual storytelling. I'm not going to get too specific with what he went over because there is a book out there called "The Visual Story" by Bruce Block which covers the things he talked about in detail. It's a really good book. I read it last year but didn't really understand it too well. Mark Andrew's lecture reenforced everything and made more sense out of the concepts. He showed us clips from movies, shot by shot and broke down how the visual elements in the compositions were specifically designed to manipulate the audience's emotions. It's insane how much though goes into just one shot.
Visual storytelling is about progression, emphasis, and intensity. Every story should have a beginning, climax and resolution. The climax is the most intense part of the story and the visual structure should support that. The visual structure should progress from the beginning of the story to the climax. There should be emphasis, visually, on certain things that are important to the story. Contrast and Affinity is very important when dealing with visual storytelling. The more contrast you have, the more intensity there will be. The more affinity, or sameness, the less intensity. The visual elements which include, line, tone, color, shape, rhythm, space, and movement can be arranged to achieve either contrast or affinity in a shot. For example, if you want a shot with high contrast, or intensity, you should use dynamic variations of the visual elements to achieve high contrast. A triangle is more dynamic than a circle just as a diagonal is more dynamic than a horizontal line. There is a lot more to this and I highly suggest reading "The Visual Story". It's great stuff to know for storyboarding. This is the kind of stuff that makes up the "film language" of the movie. I always heard that word being tossed around but never understood what it really meant till now.
I didn't get Brad Bird to sign my Art of the Incredibles book but I did make sure that I got Mark Andrews autograph. He signed his name and underneath it he wrote, "Story is hell" in Latin. Pretty sweet.

The lecture was on a Friday night and traditionally, after every Friday night visiting artist, a bunch of of us go to Denny's and talk about how friggin awesome animation is. Yea, it was great. I had a breakfast meal with blueberry pancakes that didn't agree with my stomach a half hour after but oh well. Mark Andrew's lecture was sweet. I still can't believe that the one of the master minds behind the Incredibles talked to us for three hours. It was an awesome experience. After Denny's, we went back in the dorms to watch the special features on the new Iron Giant special edition DVD. Awesome stuff.

End of first semester: Part one

So I'm sitting her in my room in Chicago and I've finally forced myself to finish this semester's last journal entry. I've been such a slacker ever since coming back home for break but it's OK. I worked damn hard this year so I'll let myself chill out for a couple of days even though the animatic of my second year film is haunting me every minute of the day. I REALLY need to get working on that animatic but I can't do it until I finish work on my site that I've been planning for a while now. I just can't stand the look of this thing anymore and on top of it, a lot of the artwork makes me sick. It's outdated! I'll try updating the galleries but unfortunately, I can't get my latest animation tests on here yet because I haven't imported them into the computer.

The last month of school was awesome! Again, I can't emphasize how much I love this school! I know some people might not enjoy Calarts as much as me for whatever reason but I for one wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now. I love animation and I can't wait to learn more about it. There is just so much to learn! I'd like to share some of the breakthroughs that I've had over this insane semester. Did I mention that I took 20 credit hours? Yea.  Won't EVER happen again! It was insane but in retrospect, well worth it.

One of the biggest breakthroughs I've had this semester didn't have anything to do with visual arts at all. Even though I dreaded "acting for animators" at first and had to take a couple shots of gin before class to loosen up, it ended up being one of the most beneficial classes of the year. I finally got the balls to get up in front of a group of people and let all of my inhibitions go. I actually performed a friggin scene! It was an amazing experience and I'm so glad I did it because it's affected me in so many ways in and out of school. I feel that I'm able to express myself and be more comfortable in my own skin no matter where I am or what I'm doing. I owe a lot to that class because I'm aware that in order to become an artist, you HAVE to be able to let ideas flow without those pesky inhibitions standing in the way. That is the only way an artist can get past conservative and generic work.

This breakthrough immediately affected my character design work. I struggled so much over the year with my generic designs until I finally had enough! I sat in my cube for hours experimenting with character design. I finally ran into an interesting process that resulted in more spontaneous, unpredictable designs. The designs weren't anything special but they were a stepping stone. I pushed forward on my next assignment the following week (which was the last week of school) and came up with the best designs that I've ever made of two witches and two wizards. They're not the best character ever created but hell, it was definitely a step up for me. After that, I went ahead and designed my Santa Claus character for my film and came up with something that I actually liked!

I've already wrote about my breakthrough in story development this year but I'll recap quickly. I owe a lot to my "Story for Animators 2" class for helping me become a better writer. I hated writing for as long as I could remember until this semester when something finally clicked. I can't wait to write more stories! I'm actually just as passionate about story as I am about animation and design. That's a huge leap in the right direction. I'm taking a Screenwriting class second semester so I think I'll have some scripts to share in my galleries.

Since I started working at the film library, I've had the awesome opportunity to watch tons of films this semester. My goal is to soak up as many stories whether they're films or literature and form my own opinion on why I like or dislike them. If a film sucks, I ask myself why it sucks and how it could have been better. These are things that some of my teachers and even friggin BRAD BIRD has suggested doing! It's good practice.

This concludes my reflection on the first half of my second year at Calarts. I'd like to mention one last thing to all of you who read this journal. For God's sake, do something you LOVE to do with your life! You only live once so make it worth while. I've never really lived until I started learning animation at Calarts. There is always risk involved but don't let fear drive your life! Ok, I'm done preaching. I love animation. booya!

End of first semester festivities:
I couldn't end this semester without writing about all the badass parties we had. I still work at the admissions office at Calarts so I included a picture of our awesome Christmas party where I ended up eating way too much. I felt like I was going to explode after the feast. There were actually a lot more people at this party but I couldn't get everyone. You get the general idea.

This is a picture of me and Libby Hux. I probably had some form of alcohol in that cup judging by the way my eyes look. You can never see my eyes when I'm typsy. Anyway, Libby is the Film/Video counselor at Calarts and is the person that most of you will talk to when applying to Calarts. She's very nice and extremely helpful. The picture came out a bit fuzzy because my camera is weird.

Later that day, the Character animation department held a Christmas/Haunika party. I included a couple of random pictures to show you how friggin crowded it was at this party. It was a great time. If i remember correctly, most of my time was spent on talking about how freakin' AMAZING THE INCREDIBLES WAS! If you're not insane about the Incredibles, shame on you. We all love it at Calarts. I want Syndrome's hair.

Here is a picture of the coolest Illinois natives that you're ever going to see. I'm cooler because I'm from Chicago and Chicago is way cooler than Fingham or wherever Kammy's from. Still, Kammy earns points just by being from Illinois.

After the food was devoured, we had some games of course. What party would be complete without playing the uh......hanukkah dradle game? Lucky for us, Lissa (I was her secret Santa by the way) made a huge dradle. There were tons of people who wanted to play so we got into about 18 groups. I was in the coolest group of all because we called ourselves "team awesome". I included a picture of "team awesome" below. Yes, we were definitely awesome but not awesome enough to win so we tried cheating. That didn't quite work out either so we just pretended to be "too cool" for the dradle game.

Here is a picture of the real winner that night! Bert Yoon and his team won a huge Super Soaker! Go Bert!

After the games, we went ahead and showed the Christmas Lockdown Show. Yes, we went through another 48 hour film weekend but unfortunately I couldn't participate this time around because I was sick as hell. Either way, there were about 15 films in the show and most of them were hysterical. I really wished I finished a film that weekend. I think this show was way better than the first one. It was just so awesome to have a show at the end of the Christmas party because we usually only have the Open Show and then the Producer's Show. I heard that there will be another 48 hour film weekend after our real films are due in April. Ah yes. Good times.

I hopped on a plane the next day and arrived in frigid Chicago late Saturday night. It was like zero degrees that day. The break is going well. I went downtown to take pictures of the city while the Christmas decorations were still up. That was cool. For Christmas, I went to a couple of family parties. It was nice to see everyone again. Today, I was home all day procrastinating so I decided to try spiking up my little sister's hair Syndrome style. It didn't work out even when I piled on the spiking glue. How does Syndrome do it? Man!