My Top 3 Animation Moments (okay, 5 (or 6))

So on the RubberOnion Podcast this week, the audience question asked Stephen and Rob to list their top three moments in animation. They gave their answers, and then encouraged their listeners to submit their own. Turns out, I had a lot to say about it…

Here’s my top 3 animation moments (and 2 honorary mentions):

1) Transformers was my cartoon growing up. I loved how quickly they would transform (and I loved the sound!), and was always frustrated that I couldn’t transform my toys at the same speed. I also remember a sage piece of advice Optimus Prime gave Ironhide: “There is a thin line between being a hero and being a memory.”

2) Princess Mononoke – The scene where she wipes the blood from her mouth was a major feminist moment for me – she’s such a badass. (1:15-1:22) Also, the design of the Forest Spirit is just so exquisite.

3) A tie between a piece of character animation in The Incredibles, and a moment so perfectly captured in Ratatouille. In the Incredibles, Syndrome does this crazy little shimmy dance when he’s saying “Oh man! I’m still geekin’ out about it.” I must have watched that 500 times on YouTube to catch all the motion, and how it added up to such a great moment of character acting.

In Ratatouille, I will never forget when Anton Ego ate a bite of Remy’s ratatouille for the first time. The scene is freaking perfect. I love the lighting, the pacing, the extremely subtle use of sound, the super-zoom into his mind and then his childhood, and feeling the comforts of home in that bite of food, watching him come back to the table, dropping the pen… basically watching this guy who’s been such a fantastically hilarious prick the whole movie melt into his humanity because of an experience. It’s just the perfect climax for a movie, the whole thesis of the film is perfectly captured in this moment. And the “Defense of the New” monologue that follows is something I cling to as I try to make my own way in the artistic world.

Two other films/moments that made an impression on me:

1) Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and specifically, Jessica Rabbit’s song, “Why Don’t You Do Right”. I mean, it’s just hot (creepy old dude vibe aside). I was also obsessed at how perfectly all the live action pieces meshed with the animation. I really love live action/animation blends, and I think my love for it started with this movie.

2) Prickles and Goo was my introduction to all of the animations that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have created to the talks of Alan Watts. It was so cool to see the super simplistic style of South Park work with such philosophically profound content.

KaBloom! #rubberonionbattle

So I’ve been listening to the Rubber Onion podcast recently, which I highly recommend. Every month, they have an animation battle: Anyone can enter, as long as the content is 15 seconds or less, and is based on the month’s topic. The prompt this month is Angry Flowers. Here’s my submission:


Per current battle rules, I submitted it here on Instagram. It’s the first time I’ve done this, and I’m really enjoying it. It makes me kick out content quickly – and lets me see how quickly I can kick out content. If I have the focus, I can work fast. This is really good for me to know, and to internalize, considering some of the longer form projects I have in the planning stages right now. (More on that later).

It’s also great to be in contact with a community of animators! Under the #rubberonionbattle hashtag on Instagram , everyone comments on everyone else’s posts, whether they are works in progress or finished submissions. It’s a very positive, encouraging space. I’m enjoying meeting everyone, and seeing the creative and diverse spectrum of styles. I think animators are a unique breed in how we see the world, and this is a neat way to be in contact with part of the tribe.

Really looking forward to seeing how these battles inform my progress.

Lake Shore Drive!

My two year project is finished! It is a wedding present for my wife, Elizabeth Perryman. It features our inner children and Chicago, her home city. I was able to show it at our wedding reception, which meant the world to me.

I learned so much from this project, and I’m really proud of it.

Ripping off Seurat

Lake Shore Drive, my current animation project, features a scene in which my characters are inside the Art Institute of Chicago, and they are contemplating the famous Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I decided I would copy the painting, instead of importing a jpeg of the original. This will allow me to change up the picture later for a subsequent shot.

Copying Seurat, in all his pointillistic glory, became a project. It took me eight days, one to three hours a day, to get it done. Here is a png file of the original:

A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

And here is my rip-off:

Photoshop Study of Seurat

Photoshop Study of Seurat

For the placement and proportion, I imported the png file into Photoshop and traced the hell out of it. Then I chose the color I thought best represented each section and colorblocked it. After that, I added another layer and used a coarse airbrush tool to fake a pointillism effect. For my project, I think it is enough like the original to be instantly recognizable (which it has to be, because it only gets 2.1 seconds on screen). But it is also flat enough to better match the cartoonish animation style I’ve been using. (Although I just did a test run in the scene, and it still may not be flat enough. I may have to retouch it.)

Pointillism is wild. I used the color picker tool, just for fun, on a piece of the original that I was *sure* was blue, or purple, or orange. It threw colors back at me that I never dreamed would be in there. And the construction! Each figure in this piece is a fully realized character. The more you zoom in on any one of them, the more the personality jumps out at you. (Don’t zoom in on mine; it has the opposite effect.) I love what Seurat does with texture, volume and shading. I wish I could have attempted to draw it freehand, and spent longer studying the nuance of the pointillism. But time passes quickly, animation is tedious, so, moving on. However, I am glad I spent the time I did to copy this piece. It was an excellent learning experience.

But, now that I’ve finished the copy job, I have questions.

What’s up with these certain pairs of wooden characters?

Sunday Afternoon, detail

Zombie Pair #1

Zombie Pair #2

Zombie Pair #2

Everyone else looks human in the painting, even if they appear relaxed, or disengaged. But these guys are standing at attention like Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace; particularly Pair #1, who actually look like soldiers. But even if they are soldiers, why are they standing at attention all by themselves, in the middle of a relaxed Sunday atmosphere?

The couple in the foreground are doing the Zombie Stance as well, but they are in profile, facing left, so it’s not quite as obvious. Nonetheless, they appear to me to be standing stiffly, in the midst of everyone else looking relaxed.


Zombie Pair #3

Also, the monkey. Does it look slightly transparent to anyone else? Like it may not really be there?

I’ve read that the painting could be interpreted as the isolation felt in the company of others; no one is making eye contact with anyone else. They are each in their own world as they recline on the bank. The little girl in the white dress is, as far as I know, the well-known exception. She appears to be staring out of the painting at the viewer. But what about the lady with the red hat? Does she seem to be looking directly at the little girl? And if so, what does that mean?

Perspective of a Perspective?

Perspective of a Perspective?

On to strange objects:

WTF is this?

World's Biggest Creampuff?

World’s Biggest Cream Puff?

What is this thing?

I got nothin'


And these things are crazy… what are they?

I’m sure a Google search could probably answer my questions. But, again: Giant project. Must go finish. If anyone has an answer for me, or would like to ridicule my lack of knowledge of late 19th Century French standing postures and artifacts, please feel free to leave a comment.

Holy $#^%, I Finished Something

I had mentioned earlier that I’d wanted to do a little side project, and take a break from the big piece I’m working on. I thought it would be rather uninvolved, and I’d whip it out in a week. A month and a half later, here it is:


I am learning that things will always take longer than I think they will. And that is OK.

Special thanks go to Will Newman for his voiceover talents. Will is an attorney in New York City, a guest blogger for the Huffington Post, and the frontman for his band, The Will Newman Trio, which performs his original songs featuring unbelievably inappropriate lyrics. You’ve been warned.

Stick Figure Walk Cycle

This is a walk cycle I developed for a quick project I’m doing. There’s some stuff I would tweak if I had more time, but I don’t. So I’ll take it for now.

I am taking a break from Lake Shore Drive, which is a rather epic endeavor, and thought I’d do a sketch on the angst of the creative process. Hoping to be done with the whole thing by this Sunday, May 10th. (Which most likely means two Sundays from now, May 24th.)