September, 2005

Sept. 12, 2005 - First week on campus:

I've finally started my Junior year at Calarts! I'd like to get into my summer a little. Overall, I think it was the perfect summer. I didn't actually have a job and most of the time I would be sitting around reading books or watching movies. Hey Mario's been a lazy bastard this summer! Not really. I went into the summer knowing that I needed to take some time off to absorb everything I've learned and to just relax a bit. I sold my car so that gave me enough cash to work with so I wouldn't need a summer job. Along with watching movies and reading books, I managed to get some work in on my film so I felt pretty productive overall.
After my second year at Calarts I think that I was a nervous reck because of how intense the entire year was. I nearly lost my mind trying to finish my film last year! I barely made it. So one of the good things about my summer was that I gave myself some time to relax and just enjoy quiet moments a bit more. I'm hoping that it'll pay off. Right now I feel pretty good and ready to get back into an intense schedule.
Another great thing about this summer was that I had time to be with family and friends a lot more which is important because I barely see them anymore. I worked 12 hours a day, 5 days a week last summer and didn't really get time to catch up with anyone. So I'm glad that the time was there this summer. As you can probably assume, I feel really good coming into my junior year. I feel ready.
I have a few goals this year. First goal is to trust myself a lot more. I need to be confident enough in my own abilities to actually get work done. One of my downfalls last year was that I was so unsure of what I was doing that I asked everyone and their mother for advice. Everyone is different and will give you different answers and opinions. So in a way, I feel like my film last year became a big mess of other people's influences. My own insecurities inhibited me from making decisions that were more true to myself. . I don't really feel like "For Giving" is my baby. I feel like my first year film is alot more true to myself than my second year film. But I think I learned a pretty valuable lesson last year so I'm glad I made the mistakes last year.
Like I said, I have a film idea already. I have designs just about where I like them and I have the entire film on storyboard. I plan on showing a couple teachers who I trust and maybe a few of my buddies. Other than that, I'm just going to plow full force ahead. Even if my film is a complete failure, I won't mind because all I want this year is to come up with something that is really me. If I can manage to stay true to myself and to begin trusting my own creativity more, I'll be happy.
Another one of my goals is to start my film early and try hard to make things simple. Also, I'd like to take time out this year to relax a bit more and to experience life even if it's just sitting around the sunny campus with my girlfriend for a couple hours here and there. I think it'll help to keep my sanity over the year!

I already signed up for classes the other day. Monday will be a pretty easy day. All I have is "Advanced Story" with Redson, (a new teacher) at 7p.m. Tuesdays are going to consist mostly of my working my workstudy jobs and then "Animation 3" with Overman at 7p.m. I'll have "History of Character Animation" with Furniss at 9a.m on Wednesday morning. After that I'll work at the admissions office until 4 and then go to "Advanced Character Design" with Rick Maki at 7p.m. On Thursday, I'm taking "Motion Analysis" with Cynthia Overman from 9am to 4 and then her animation class at 7p.m. All I have on friday is figure drawing with Eckert from 9am to 4.

Today is officially the first day of school! I still can't believe that the summer is over! Sweet!


September 28: Presdient's Picnic:

We had the annual President's Picnic the other day. I actually took photos of this event specifically for the journal. This journal just seems to look so boring if I don't supplement it with pictures so here they are. Nothing too special happened in the picnic other than me eating waaaaaay too much. The food was great because it was free. When you're in college, any free food is greatly appreciated. I'd have to say that the cookies were the tastiest treat of all. I had a million of them. I'm definitely a cookie monster.


Group of us char animators at picnic


September 30, 2005 - "Third Week of Junior Year"

Three weeks of this semester have already gone by. I'd have to say that the first week seemed like it would never end but every week after that until graduation flies by. It's been like that every year. So yea, the days go by like minutes now and I'm busy as ever. Still, priority is the film which has gone through a lot of changes in the last couple of weeks. When I first got to school I thought that my story was just about ready to animatic but I should have known better. It's never ready. Story is a nightmare! I showed my story teacher my boards (Aurian Redson) and he gave me great advice on how to make the story better. But after that I just started to feel like the story was way too ambitious. I started thinking about what a nightmare it was to finish my three minute film last year and finally decided to at least make an attempt at a simpler story.
Redson gave us an assignment that required us to come up with three different stories using only 3-4 beat boards each. The first beat board (story sketch) would establish a character and the goal of that character. The second sketch would introduce the conflict and the last board would be the resolution. It's an amazing exercise to do to make sure you have a clear, simple idea that can be communicated visually. I would say that if you can't boil your story idea down to three images your story is most likely way too much to handle for a student film. So for all of you who are thinking about ideas right now do this and save your ass! You'll be thankful late next semester.
Anyway, my original story idea included four different characters. In a student film, I would consider that to be border line insane. I took my favorite two characters from my first film idea and built a really simple story around them. It feels sooooo good to know that I have a simple story this year. I have so many more opportunities to explore character moments and subtleties that will bring more life to my characters. I'm still in the process to boarding out my ideas but they change a lot, of course. I'm constantly visualizing how my film will look, feel and sound. The story runs through my head all day long. This is something everyone should do before and during the boarding process. Just kick back and play the film in your head. You should be excited about it!
I'll talk a bit about my classes. They're all awesome this year! I definitely feel like I have a lighter load this semester which is great because I can spend more time on my film. Story with Redson on Mondays is superb! He's one of Shane Prigmore's buddies (Calarts alumni). I've already learned a hell of a lot just in three classes. One of the great qualities about Aurian is that he communicates very clearly. He gets ideas across in a way that it's impossible to not understand. He's a really good teacher. He's currently working at Disney as a story artist, by the way. Awesome!
Animation with Cynthia Overman is awesome! She's taking Frank Terry's place as Director of the program while Frank is away for creative leave. Third year animation is focusing a lot on getting more character, personality and emotion into our animation. We're taking closer looks into why people feel the way they do, different variations of feelings and how to communicate them in drawings.  We're also talking a lot about how to convey emotion, weight, balance and gesture in our drawings. These are the kinds of things that you think you know but once you begin studying it closer, you realize that you don't know anything at all. I'm also taking Motion Analysis with Overman which is amazing too. We've been looking at the most basic actions like walking, siting or standing up and looking into how emotion, thought process, body type, personality all have an affect on these simple actions. The class is 6 hours long on Thursdays. 80 percent of the time is actually spent animating in class. It's pretty exhausting but well worth it if you want to be an animator.
My only critical studies class this semester is History of Character Animation which is turning out to be pretty fun. I don't think that the class will ever get too crazy with homework assignments so that's good. I have a pretty good grasp of animation history just by reading a couple of books but this class is elaborating on things that I know or heard of. Good class.
I'm finally taking Rick Maki's character design class on Wednesday nights and it's turning out to be a great class just as I thought it would be. The entire class time is spent drawing gestures, designing characters or just coming up with ideas and putting them on paper. It's almost like a life drawing class because you're drawing the entire time and at the end of the night you're completely exhausted. But I like how we're constantly drawing throughout the class. We've learned a bunch of techniques and principles of design so this class is the type to finally put it all to use. Homework assignments are an important element to the class. I spent a lot of time on the last assignment which was to draw a weird animal which consisted of parts from several different animals. I'm always amazed at what my classmates come up with.
Character design would be a great job. I know that my preference is character animation right now but if I had to choose a number 2 it would be design. The problem is that I suck too much at design but hell, I can dream right? One of my goals this year is to learn how to exagerate more, come up with interesting shapes and try to detach myself a bit from the strong Disney influence that i have. I want to experiment. Should be fun.
I look forward to Fridays because of life drawing. It's the only class that I have on Friday so it's a nice way to get into the weekend. In the three weeks of life drawing, I feel that my drawings have already gotten a lot better. I think my gestures are stronger now and I'm also trying to focus on hands and feet alot more. They're so important to get the sense of weight in a pose so I better get good. Bill Eckert let me try a Primacolor drawing stick the other day which helped out a lot because they're less messy than the Conte that I used before. For some reason, once I started using the Prismacolor stick my drawings improved a lot. It was weird.
The first three weeks have been really great but stressful at the same time. I need to finish this journal entry already so I can get back to the cube to storyboard my film! It's driving me crazy but I'm used to it by now.
I've noticed that there are a few more 1st years that know of my website and of this journal. It's nice to know that I might have helped them out in some way. I'm still getting to know a lot of the new comers but yea, everyone's great so far and I'm excited to be back at Calarts!

Pictures of my Junior year cube!! It's really boring but it's home. I still have my little Incredibles toys displayed on top of the cabinet. My roomate from last year, Steve McCloed got them for me from the Disney store.

September 30, 2005: "Henry Selick and Frank and Ollie"

We usually have guest lectures once in a while on Friday nights. So tonight we had the privledge of having two guests come to our school. First, the director of "Nightmare Before Christmas" (awesome film!) Henry Selick came to visit Calarts to talk about his new studio out of Portland Oregon, "Laika Studios". He came at about 5 o'clock. I ended up being a bit late to the presentation and when I finally arrived there was hardly any room to breath. This was partly because Laika Studios came to Calarts not only to talk about their studio but to announce that they are currently hiring for several positions. So students and alumni prepared portfolios and had Laika look through them. I'm assuming they'll contact students sometime next week. I was kind of an airhead about this opportunity. For some reason I thought the portfolio review was only for seniors and alumni but I was wrong. I could have put my portfolio in but I ended up missing the opportunity. Fortunately, they're coming back on Job Fair in May. I'll be way more prepared by then anyway.
I remember seeing documentaries about "Nightmare Before Christmas" and seeing Henry Selick all over the place so I was a little star struck when I actually saw him there in the Palace. It was a great opportunity. I failed to bring my camera so I don't have any sweet pictures.
Later that night at 8p.m, Frank Thomas' son and wife visited Calarts to present the documentary, "Frank and Ollie" which was directed by Frank's son, Ted Thomas. This was probably the most inspiring experience of the year so far. I remember seeing the documentary before but this was a different deal with Frank's son and wife present. I had a moment to talk to Ted and Frank's wife in the cubes after their presentation and told them how much Frank and Ollie meant to me. Illusion of Life was the first book that I read about animation and it definitely provided the spark for me to persue animation. I'm greatful for all the amazing work and support they've given to all of us. After reading their book and watching the documentary I feel so close to them. I feel like they're my grandparents or something. I admire Frank and Ollie so much.
Some character animators decided to put up street signs in the cubes. The signs are named after some of the most influential people in animation history. One sign was named after Frank and Ollie so Ted and Frank's wife wanted to check it out. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a picture so I went for it. It's the BEST PICTURE EVER!

Halloween Lockdown! (48 hour films) : October 14

So a bunch of people in character animation thought it would be sweet to bring back the 48 hour films since it was such a success last year. The 48 hour film is an idea we came up with last year. It was a really crazy idea actually. We chose one of the busiest times of the school year and decided to dedicate an extremely valuable weekend to making one short film in two days with virtually no rest. The rule is that nobody can leave the school during the two days. You can only go to the bathroom or the cafeteria outside of being in your cube. This is sort of a loose rule since many people are caught strolling around parts of campus that they shouldn't be in like the dorms or even way out at Vons or something. Tisk, tisk.

With that said, I chose to be a wus and not particpate this time around because of several reasons. I'm just waaaaay too busy with my film and other school projects and on top of it all I have my mid-residence review this Tuesday that I need to be prepared for. After two years at Calarts the faculty want to see what you've done and what your plans are for the rest of your time at the school.

Anyway, I took a bunch of photos mainly of the traditional ceremony held at midnight on Friday for the 48 hour film. Everybody who is to participate in the "Lockdown" writes a word on a piece of paper and tosses it in some sort of bucket. In this case, since it's Halloween, as you can see Ant used a trick or treat candy bucket. One word is finally chosen to be the theme of the 48 hour films. This time around, the theme was "candy". Can't wait to see the Lockdown show! I think they're showing it one week after Halloween. It's either one week after or one week before. Oh well, we'll see. The good news for me is that there are plans to do three more lockdowns this year. One will be towards the end of this semester. It'll be a Christmas theme ( I definitely want to do this one). Another will be around Valentines day and thelast will be in May when films are all done.

So here's Austin explaining rules.
He was in charge of setting everything up.

everyone putting their themes in the basket

Here's a picture of the sacred trick or treat basket:

And last, Ant gets pumped up to pick the theme out of the basket. As you can see, it was pretty weird and silly but really fun.

Here are a bunch of random photos from the 48 hour friday night get together.

Calarts Dodgeball! Sunday, October 16

I'm having so much fun with this new Dodgeball thing that I just had to include it in this journal. One of my classmates, Adrian Molina is in charge of starting up Dodgeball on Sunday nights at 8p.m. He just so happened to do an awesome film about dodgeball last year. I tried starting up a football club but couldn't really generate much interest for it so I know how hard it is to start something like this and have people actually participate on a regular basis. I guess Adrian did an awesome job advertising because Dodgeball Sundays are becoming more and more popular even among students outside of character animation.
The last time I actually remember playing dodgeball was in 2nd grade and I've had a longing for it ever since. You can't get any better than dodgeball. I just love throwing the ball a hundred miles an hour and nailing some kid in the gut. I guess you can call it a release from all the built up stress accumulated over the week. What really sucks is when someone nails me in the gut with a dodgeball going a hundred miles an hour. Actually, the only thing worse than that is when someone nails me in the face with a dodgeball. That happened twice this Sunday. Damn. I'm still seeing stars but I think it's karma. I accidentally hit a couple of people in the face too. One of the dudes was my own teammate. My bad.
For those of you who don't know or don't remember, Dodgeball is a game that grade schoolers usually play in gym here in the States. There are two teams and a few bouncy rubber balls that you throw at each other until one team is completely eliminated. Once you hit someone on the other team, he/she's out unless that person catches your throw. Then you're out! It's a lot of fun but I recommend wearing a face guard just in case if you're smart.

(I'm the dude in the bright yellow shirt)

I'm going INSANE! Monday, October 17

So we're a month and a half into the semester and I think I've lost all of my hair already. Well, at least I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up tomorrow morning and found all of my hair frantically jumping off of my skull because they're so sick of dealing with my stress.
Wow, it's amazing how lax and easy going summer was. I can't even remember how it feels to be relaxed. I'd have to say that most of my stress is the result of not being able to figure out my story. As I've said before, I came into the school year with story boards ready to go. At least I thought so until I realzied that what I had kind of sucked. I've been revising ever since and at one point I just couldn't see the light. I re-revised my storyboards once again changing nearly everything that happens but I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere so that's a relief. I showed my story teacher (Aurian Redson) my boards and for the most part he liked where the story is heading. He gave me some really good suggestions on how to improve it but yea, I feel good about the story so far.
I've simplified the hell out of the story which is great. I want to focus on the relationship between this baby dragon and the dwarf character. I want these characters to come to life on the screen. I'm trying to make sure the story has character in it. It's so easy to come up with a story that is more situation driven instead of character driven. I think that was one of my biggest issues with my previous versions.
More than anything, I want to focus on animation this year so that's why I'm freaking out so much about starting early. I actually want to have the luxery of being able to spend a couple of weeks on one scene if it's at all possible. Last year there was a point where I was doing a few scenes a day which is ridiculous. Those scenes really killed my film. And I'm frustrated that I never got the chance to take my animation to the next level where I could finese things and add subltety.(sp? too lazy to spell check)
Other than my film, classes are going great. I don't have a huge number of assignments it's just that the assignments that I have are really huge. I need to do a Winnie the Pooh dialogue test for Animation. I'm looking forward to this project but my film has pushed it aside a bit. Also, I was just assigned an enormous storyboard project for story class. I need to storyboard an action sequence with a character that needs to take some object from point A to point B. Time needs to be an issue here and there also needs to be an antagonist of some sort. On top of it, the character needs to use two different modes of transportation not including walking or running. It's gonna be insane. I've decided to dedicate Saturday for this project. The good thing is that Redson is giving us two weeks. It'll be tough but I'll learn a lot.
All of my other classes are going great. Motion Analysis is amazing! Like I said, we're just breaking down everyday movements and looking at how body type, emotion, personality all have an affect on how these movements vary. Figure drawing is sweet. I've started to use this new prismacolor stick and I've found that by sharpening this stick to a long sharp point, I can get a good loosness but at the same time get really nice fine lines for detail in the face and hands.
Instead of going to Overman's animation class on Thursdays, I've worked out an arrangement where I could sit in on a Maya class instead. I'm still going to her class on Tuesdays though. I figure it's about time that I learn more about CG animation and after a couple of classes in Jeremy Cantor's class, I'm really glad I made the move. His class is really awesome so far.  I'm excited to learn more about this strange but amazing thing called CG animation.
Character design with Rick Maki is going really well so far but frustrating at the same time. Ijust can't come up with anything that I really like. In the meantime, I'm blown away at some of the work my classmates are coming up with. Seriously, Calarts has some amazing designers. I like character design a lot and I definitely want to get way better at it this year.

Thursday, November 3, 2005 - Halloween!

It's been a pretty busy and eventful 2 and a half weeks since I last posted. First of all, we had our annual Calarts Halloween party last Friday which was an OK time even though I chose to bartend. I figured that I could use some extra cash these days and would catch the last two hours of the party after work anyway. The cool thing about bartending at the Halloween party was that I could sort of socialize with everyone instead of just socializing with people I knew. There were some pretty sweet costumes but I was surprised to see that the alcohol wasn't as popular as it was the last two years. I remember waiting in line for about 10 minutes just to get a beer last year but we didn't have a long line all night this time. We actually had four kegs of beer left by the end of the night so there you go. People aren't such alcoholics at Calarts anymore!
We had good beer from BJ's so I made sure to take my share after my shift. I didn't get wasted this year so that's sorta positive. Oh, my costume. I decided to dress up as Frankenstein but once I suited up for the party I was too lazy to put on the extra scars so I ended up ripping a shirt and going as the Incredible Hulk instead. I'd say that it was one of my coolest costumes yet. I liked last year's costume too but my girlfriend hated it because she thought it was gross. I can't blame her though. It wasn't the most attractive costume in the world. A few of my buddies dressed up as bloody zombies again this year. They looked pretty cool so I made sure to pour them a quality beer for that.

There's been so much going on with my work this past couple of weeks it's hard to figure out where to begin. I had my Mid-residence review a couple days after my last post. Even though i feared the worst, it turned out to be a really productive meeting with the faculty. There were about 5 faculty members from my department including Dan Hansen, Mike Mitchell, Bill Eckert, Cynthia Overman, one dude from critical studies and a new guy who teaches directing for animators. They sat there as I showed them my reel. Everything I could accumulate from the past two years was shown. It was really painful to watch some of the old crap I did before.  And I don't know why it's so painful to watch my films again from last year but it is. I actually had to sneak out while they viewed my stuff. Maybe it was just nerves. Anyhow, they gave me really positive feedback. They liked my films and agreed that my second year film was better than my first, which is a good thing. Hey, I'm getting better! Another thing they agreed on was that I have the tendency to hold back a lot therefore not producing up to my potential. I agree with that too. Something about my work is just really unsatisfying to me because I feel that I'm always holding back on going all the way with things. With animation for example, I was recently working on a Winnie the Pooh dialogue test and it came out sorta cool but Cynthia told me to PUSH it more. The character just wasn't expressive enough. I think that I'm always too afraid of messing up so I pull back and go the safe route. That goes with everything I do. Everytime I come up with a story idea, I have the tendency to second guess myself instead of going all the way wth it. Even my character designs could use a push or two. I think I had a bit of a breakthrough in character design class the other day. Maki liked what I came up with but he told me, "Mario, don't be afraid to pull and push things a little more." It's insane how this issue is so consistent with every class. Damn!
So what the heck do you do when your teachers tell you to push things more? I've been thinking a lot about this. I just can't be afraid of messing up first of all. I need to start having way more confidence in my abilities (it's hard when you're surrounded with unbelievably talented peers). Cynthai told me to push things to the point where I feel it's gone too far and that should be about right. I ended up reworking Winnie the other day and let myself loose a lot more and wow, big difference. I showed Cynthia the latest pass and she thought it was a big improvement. But hell, she said that it still could be pushed a bit more! Wow, I really just gotta let loose. So everytime I think of a story idea or gag, instead of questioning whether it's good enough I gotta ask myself if there's any way of taking it further. I wrote down a bunch of quotes and stuck them to my animation desk to remind me that I need to push and pull and squash and stretch more. I need to let loose dammit!

There's one thing I wanted to mention about character design. First of all, it's just amazing what some of my classmates are coming up with. It makes me feel like I suck and am not worthy of being in this school. But either way, it's inspiring as hell to see their stuff. That's what's great about this school. Your classmates give you the motivation, the fuel to work harder. Whenever I'm back home in Chicago, that atmosphere is gone and it requires a huge amount of energy to get myself motivated. All you have to do here at this school is keep your eyes open and you'll be working night and day trying to get better.
Character design is frustrating! I just can't seem to come up with anything I like. One thing in particular inspired me the other day. Austin Madison, a fourth year had some of his monster and snowman designs pinned up in the showcase this week. I thought they were amazing not just because they were very well designed but because each little sketch had some sort of story to it. Hilarious stories too! I thought about that and realized that I was missing that in my designs. I primarily just think about coming up with interesting looking designs with interesting shapes. So I sat down this week and started to add some gags in my character designs and poof, big improvement. I actually had sooooo much fun. I colored them too, which is something uncharacteristic of my designs probably because I would feel nervous about messing the work up if I added color. But then I thought, screw it, who cares if I mess up right? It's amazing how much simple risk taking can help your progress as an artist. Anyway, the lesson for today is to think of a story everytime you sketch something whether it's in your sketchbook or a finished work. Story story story!

Film progress report:

My film is driving me crazy. I'm trying so hard to rush the story because I know how long it takes for production. Either way, I think that mentality is what was giving me such a hard time. Also, I'm just not approaching story development the right way. I THOUGHT I knew what my film was going to be about but after who knows how many storyboard passes, I find myself going all over the place with ideas and characters. One thing is for sure, I didn't know who my characters were so of course I'm going to have a hard time storyboarding! I finally sat down in front of my computer the other day and wrote a script for my film. I wrote down everything that would happen in detail and eureka! I have characters! Two distinct personalities! woo hoo! One thing that helps is to think of an actor who you feel would play the part of your character best. In this year's case, Gimli the dwarf from Lord of the Rings would be perfect for my dwarf. I mean his personality. He's a very rough, tough, gruff little dude. My other character will be a baby dragon who's abandoned in a huge cave. It's also a good idea to identify what your characters want. What's their motivation? Where is your character going and why? My dragon wants companionship while the dwarf just wants a place to stay the night to hide from a blizzard.
I'm going to spend the majority of this weekend working on my film. The first thing I'm going to do is come up with little drawings of the two characters interacting with each other. They're like little story sketches and they'll be great for my portfolio. They're also a great way to get to know your characters better and to come up with a design that fits their personalities. I've been trying to design my characters for ages but couldn't find anything that fits. Now that I know who my characters are it should be easier. I hope so.

I've been thinking a lot about updating my online galleries since they're so outdated. I'll try to put up a bunch of work soon.

Portfolio Update: Finally!! Nov 6, 2005:

I thought I'd let everyone know that I've FINALLY gotten around to updating my site. It's been a while so I hope my work shows a lot of progress. If you have any comments or suggestions at all feel free to email me. I plan on doing a major update for my animation gallery sometime later this month. I updated my character design and life drawing sections for now. Whoohoo!

Eric Goldberg visit #1 - Nov 11, 2005:

The greatest living animation genius, Eric (holy crap he's so amazing) Goldberg visited the second year animation class tonight. I actually skipped out on CG to see him instead. Bad Mario!  He's good friends with their new teacher, Bert (I don't know his last name yet). He came to see some of the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck tests that the class has been working on for about a month or so. First of all, I was REALLY impressed with everyone's tests. I wish I could animate that good! They looked great and it even impressed Eric Goldberg! He gave really good constructive criticism to everyone who showed their test.
Just so everyone is aware of who Eric Goldberg is all you have to do is think back to the GENIE in Aladdin! He was the genius behind that character. He started his career with Richard Williams in London and also did some commercials in his earlier years. He eventually moved out here to work for Disney's Aladdin. After that he was animation director for Pocahantus and then directed two shorts for Fantasia 2000, (Flamingos and Rhapsody in Blue). After that, he worked on Hercules as supervisor of Danny Devito's character, Phil. He's currently working for Disney creating entertainment for some of their theme parks. He showed us a couple of things he's been working on including the Pink Panther intro credits. I was completely blown away at how amazing his work is. This was just another one of those days that I felt really, but I mean unbelievably inspired. It also made me feel relieved that I made the move to Cali because I just wouldn't have witnessed such an amazing opportunity in Chicago All I know is that I have a loooooooonnnnng way to go and that there is still hope for traditional animation. Eric also showed us a 3d genie piece that he did for Disney Tokyo 6 years ago. It was part of an interactive show of some sort but it was some of the best CG I've ever seen!! His ideas are unbelievable and hysterical! He was giving us some tips on how to make animation more fluid. He primarily talked about successive breaking of the joints and how to us "breakdowns" to create a sense of fluid motion. It was enlightening. I just can't wait to start animating!!!! I really hope I get way better at animation this year. I'm just freaking out, people. He'll be coming back later this year to visit the entire department (woo hoo!). Just so you all know, Eric Goldberg is my freakin' idol!

Mark Walsh and Bobby Podesta's animation lecture - Nov 11:

When you get this far into the semester sometimes it's really hard to keep your spirits high because you're just too beat up from worrying about, homework, critical studies, sleep, health and on top of it all, THE film. So you have to train yourself to always take a step back and realize what it is that you're studying. Character animation! Nobody said it's easy but damn it sure beats every other job. One of the best ways to get really excited about animation is to go to guest lectures like Eric Goldberg's visit and also to hear Bobby Podesta and Mark Walsh talk about character animation. Pixar has arranged 5 visits to Calarts spread over the course of this school year. Mark and Bobby kicked things off by talking specifically about animation. Everytime Pixar has sent guests over it's always been great. Mark and Bobby had a great presentation and I found that it not only inspired me but a bunch of my buddies as well. One of my friends, Joel, is working on some acting scenes for his film and this lecture couldn't have come at a better time. It gave him a better idea of how to approach an acting scene.
They started the presentation by introducing themselves. They went to calarts in the mid 90's so I definitely could relate to them right away. As they told some stories of their experiences at Calarts I thought it was so amazing how similar it is to go here today. They talked about how they got into Calarts and then about their films and finally about how they got hired at Pixar. Pixar wasn't really a big deal when they first started so they weren't too sure what they were getting into. But yea, everyone and their mother wants to work for Pixar these days.
They put together a presentation of everyday life at Pixar including some really great notes about acting and animation. Their focus was definitely on the "character" end of animation. They showed us some really good acting clips as well as performances that weren't that great just to know what to stay away from.
Overall, the lecture was great and entertaining. I got a chance to talk to them afterwards and they signed my Incredibles and Monster's Inc "Art of" books! Bobby Podesta actually remembered me from Job Fair freshman year so that was pretty awesome. I met Mark Walsh at the Producer's Show both years and I hope to see them there this year too! I gotta get to work on my film! Speaking of THE film. It's actually going well these days. My goal is to figure out how to inject as much character into my work as possible. It's been a struggle but I think I've finally figured out who my characters are. This is making storyboarding go much smoother. I'm really excited about where my film is going but knowing me, that excitement won't last too long so I'll take advantage of it now. I can't believe there are only about 4 weeks left of this semester! What the heck happened? Anyway, gotta get going. I have History of Character Animation in about 20 minutes and I NEED my coffee. Later!

In case you want to work for Pixar, here's what they're looking for! Acting is the key! Good luck!

Thanksgiving weekend -

Actually it's about a week after Thanksgiving right now but I'll just make this the official Turkey day entry. Steve Silver came by a couple of weeks ago on a Friday to talk to us about character design. I didn't really know what to expect from the visit but all I know is that I heard of Silver a few years ago when I began drawing caricatures at Six Flags. He's pretty famous in the caricature world. That's how he started out his career and it eventually led him to character design jobs at several studios including Disney, Nickolodean and currently Sony. He's primarily worked in TV but has recently signed on with Song to do features. Some of the things he talked about during his lecture were great. He showed us a bunch of his designs and even drew some things for us. He shared some of his tricks with us but I think the best thing about his lecture was the advice he gave us on how to become successful in this industry. It's definitely not easy and he's put in a crap load of work to get where he is today. But it's all worth it because he's doing what he loves to do and that's what I want out of my career one day.
I've recently timed out my storyboards for a first-pass story reel. My film was really rough at first and a bit too long. After showing a couple friends and teachers, I edited it down to 2 minutes and 30 seconds roughly which is great! Once I finally animate it'll probably end up at about 3 minutes but it's OK as long as it doesn't go over that. I'm at the point where I'm pretty sure everything is working as far as story/character goes but all I have to do is flesh out some of the acting beats and layouts just to nail things down a bit more. As usual, story has been a living hell but it's all worth it when you finally get something to work. Wow have I learned a lot this semester. I think the one teacher I'd have to credit for pushing me the most this semester is Cynthia Overman. She's my animation and motion analysis teacher as well as one of my main mentors for my film this year. I just appreciate how straight forward she's been when I've shown her my animation and storyboards. I've nearly gone insane a few times after showing her some of my work thinking it was finally good but finding out that it needed more work. But it was all for the best because I'm happy with how much I've grown this year.

I'm beyond excited about finally starting animation!! The dwarf design that I settled on is going to be so fun to animate. The dragon will be pretty fun but more of a challenge because I've never animated something like it before. On top of it, the dragon's going to fly in a few scenes so that'll be tough.
Winter break is right around the corner and I can't believe it! Damn did this semester fly by! I could use a bit of a break right now because I'm completely worn out from school. I just finished a 7 page paper for one of my critical studies classes so it's pretty much smooth sailing for me the rest of the two weeks. Although I'd like to finish up the Genie animation test before break. My plan for winter is to go to Chicago a couple weeks and then fly back on Jan 5 to work intensely on my film. I'll definitely be animating by then!  Whoooo Hooo! I'm looking forward to visiting Chicago especially since I didn't make it down for Thanksgiving. That was the first Thanksgiving I've ever been away from home. I ended up going down to L.A to hang out with my girlfriend's family which was really nice. The food was great! Thanksgiving is right up there in my top three holidays. I'm not sure but it might have passed Halloween for #2 just because the food is so delicious! But I think it's just a case of being a college student who's used to eating really crappy food so when Thanksgiving rolls around it seems to be extra special.
Anyway, yea it'll be freezing in Chicago but nice to stay in my room again. I plan on making some Christmas cards for my family once I get there. Oh I can't wait to watch the Chicago Bears on TV! I've been catching every game through online radio which sucks but is better than nothing. The Bears are 8-3 this season! Awesome!
The year's gone really well but as this semester ends I'm feeling more and more the pressure of graduation. I'm beginning to imagine how life would be after Calarts. I guess everything would be awesome as long as I find a cool job but that's harder than it sounds. I know that once I graduate it'll be a bitter sweet experience. I'll miss Calarts sooo much but at the same time I'll be happy to finally move on with my life and actually make some cash. Time is flying though so I need to enjoy this experience while it lasts.

End of 1st semester:

I'm writing the last entry of the first semester in Chicago, one week into break. I was meaning to write this earlier but once I got home I sort of collapsed and couldn't get myself to do anything but watch movies. I've been watching a ton of foriegn films lately. It's refreshing to see some new perspectives and it makes me realize how bad most of American cinema is.
I've also been thinking a lot about my film. I've finally finished an animatic but continue play the film in my mind, changing things here and there. I think the story part is totally done. Now it's just a matter of telling the story in a efficient and entertaining way. I'm constantly trying to visualize the acting that would be most suitable and how to tell the story in the most economical way because I don't want to go over 2 and a half minutes of animation. I'll get back to Calarts on January 5th to start animation immediately. I'm pretty excited!

One of the coolest events of the last couple of weeks was our Character Animation dodgeball tournament. A bunch of us have been playing dodgeball on Sunday nights so Adrian (Dodgeball organizer) decided to end the semester with a tournament. About 48 people showed up to play. There were 8 teams of six players. I was on the "A-Team" with Devin, J.G, Sam, Austin, and Jules. We actually won the tournament but it was extremely close. I'll have some pictures to post up later.