Friday, December 11, 2015

The Annie Awards and What It Means To Me

The Annie Awards recently announced its nominees for the 2015 year. Excited as ever, I chatted with some of my colleagues about it, only to find that many are still unaware of the Annie Awards and what they stand for. Others felt some powerful disdain for the ceremony. Why do we need it? Isn’t it just a popularity contest?

The Annie Awards were created by June Foray (that famous voice over artist of many loved cartoons) in 1972 due to the lack of awards for animation in Los Angeles. The Annie Awards is a ceremony done through ASIFA-Hollywood and is voted on by animation professionals who hold memberships.
This feeling of a lack of acclaim is still prevalent today in the awards circuit. Animation is generally looked at as a genre, rather than a medium. No real credit is given by other organizations to try and support animation as something more than just children’s television. This opportunity to support and acknowledge the amazing work done by our peers and mentors is the main reason I love the Annies. To really show off all this hard work and talent to audiences everywhere (the event is now livestreamed).

Not that it hasn’t had its own growing pains and trials along the way. There have been a few scandals in the past years, including a period where Disney and Disney/Pixar completely backed out. Some controversy about studios buying their employees ASIFA memberships to try and stack the votes. Also other ”technical problems” on their voting website during key hours. Yet things have come together the last few years and will continue to streamline.

Coming from a show that almost always lacks nominations, I can be bitter at times that our talent dont receive the proper recognition I think they deserve. I think that is normal. There is just so much talent everywhere and we all think we are the best; don’t let that spoil the whole thing for you.

In the end, I remember that this event means more to me than the actual award. Its the symbol of the Annies. Of a night where we can all come together, pat eachother on the back, and pay tribute to the amazing industry we all love.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Good Dinosaur Review

Spoiler Free

Saturday I had the opportunity to see an early screening of Disney/Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" through ASIFA,

I had mixed feelings about the film.

Story: Without giving anything away, the plot of this film was a bit bland for me. There were several moments that took me out of the movie where I thought, oh, this is Lion King, and oh, this is Homeward Bound. I didn't quite understand what the feelings behind the movie were supposed to be. Then there were the few moments where the plot decided to hit us over the head with things. Telling us what we should be thinking, rather than crafting a strong enough premise to ensure we come up with that ourselves. Also, I felt there was a great opportunity at the end of the film that they did not act on. However, there were several moments within the film that I loved. Some fairly moving, some pretty funny. Yet sadly, good moments does not make a great film.

Characters: The voice acting is something I want to immediately address. The choices they made to have very accent heavy voices was difficult for me. Every time the dad (with a strong southern farmer twang) spoke, all I could think of was a baked beans commercial. The main characters, Spot and Arlo, have a great connection and their relationship successfully imitated a boy and dog scenario. The supporting characters were pretty weak (with exception to the dad trex, he was great). If you don't know, I'm a huge villain fan. This was a let down of the film for me. There was no real villain in the traditional sense and I felt that lack of tension. Classic "man" vs Nature film.

Visuals: The juxtaposition of styles has been the reason behind a lot of my hesitancy for seeing this film since the first teaser. The hyper-realistic background design with the cartoony dinosaurs is just weird to me. It didn't mesh in my brain. After watching the film, my assumption as to why they did that is so that the characters would stand out against the lush environments. I get it. I didn't personally care for it. And hats off to the Pixar Shading and Sims teams. There were some shots in the beginning that looked like live action film and the water sims were just insane. The animation itself was gorgeous. There were moments I would watch the dinosaurs move and see how amazing the rigging was to allow for all these minute muscle movements.

After mulling on the film over the weekend, my overall feeling is good, but not great. Maybe its because this film is coming from Pixar and I have such high expectations of them, but I would rank it in the middle of their franchises (underneath WallE and Monsters Inc, above Cars and Brave). Definitely worth seeing, especially as an animation-holic, but don't expect to leave with your mind blown.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

La Noria IndieGoGo

La Noria holds a special place in my heart for me. I started doing texture/shading work on this as soon as I graduated from Art Institute and I was so excited (that was over 4 years ago now!). I was blown away to be working remotely with so much talent and on a great concept.

Carlos Baena was a huge name to me. He animated Spanish Buzz Lightyear, and was a very loud voice in the animation community. I was jazzed to be helping. I also met some crazy talented fellow artists that I've kept in touch with.

I worked on a few props and set pieces, but it was so much fun and wish I could do it all over again.

Please check out and support La Noria.

Indiegogo Campaign

The Social Media Problem

 I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

 I love the ability to be inspired by artists all over the world. To instantly see what has been happening in the lives of my friends and loved ones. To peek into the lives of people I look up to and see all the amazing things they create and do. It can be great motivation to push myself harder and to start creating better work of my own.

 Yet, the downfall with social media is its one-sided. I never really see when my favorite artist tries to do a drawing and decides to start over. Instead, its just the magical perfect finished art piece. The process is lost. This leaves me to assume that everything comes easy for them, for everyone. Each person who's life I'm looking at through social media is only made up of the experiences they show.... and that's the lie. THAT is my issue with social media.

 We only see the successes, never really the process or the failures.

 Everyone wants to show off what they are proud of, and brush under the rug, or ignore, the things that they didn't do that well. The constant bombardment of only the success leaves me to feel like I am the only one struggling. I'm the only one who doesn't get their dream job right away, or who spends hours doing a sketch only to delete it in frustration. I look at my friends and their jobs and their lives. I see how much they travel, the fact they buy a new home or a new car, and I feel like the accomplishments I may have aren't nearly as cool or substantial. I feel like my life is a failure by comparison.

 Social media is dangerous for that reason. It can end up being a deep pit where all you do is compare your art and your lives to others. It can quickly get unhealthy.

 Instead one must remember that it only shows the good. These people you are comparing yourself to also got plenty of rejection letters, have to redraw things many times, and make mistakes in general.

 Glen Keane frequently says that he has to do many many bad drawings and "get them out" before he can start creating anything good.

 I always go back to that statement because its the truth. Its a reminder that nothing is easy for anyone. That there is so much more that goes into anyone's success. It's time, practice, perseverance, and effort. Behind the curtain of social media, everyone has failed at times.

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's on You

After having students reach out to me, talking at colleges, and hearing what my peers have to say, I've really begun noticing a trend in students now. That would be entitlement.

Here is the number one thing every student should know;

You don't deserve anything.

Just because you went to school, or because you are talented, doesn't mean the world will hand you the job you want once you have graduated. I know it may suck to hear it, but this industry is hard work.

Whether you attend CalArts or an Arts Institutes, YOU are responsible for the work you produce the entire time you are in school. A degree doesn't mean much, its what you actually take away from it. You need to be aware of what else is being produced out there and hold your art to your own standards (which may be higher than what your school expects of you). Honestly, most of the professionals I know will tell you this as well, but you only learn about 50% of what you need to know while you are in school. College only really provides you with the tools of the trade. Then it is all in your hands to create with it.

Yes, some colleges are "better" than others. Some have more industry connections, more aggressive courses, but even those schools just facilitate your learning.

As an artist, its your responsibility to stay driven and inspired. Don't just look at your fellow students, but compare your work with students internationally. Push yourself at all times, because the learning doesn't end once you graduate.

Some colleges have better "placement" than others, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look for yourself. All the responsibility for your future falls on your own shoulders; how well you network, the quality of your art, and some luck.

With that comes how you present yourself to others. When you reach out to professionals or recruiters, be respectful. You are asking for their time, and its a privilege, not a right. Be grateful with whatever they can give you; animation has some long hours and if someone has 5 minutes to give you, its a lot to them. Be aware of how you are representing yourself. This industry may seem large, but its a small knit community.

I completely understand that it may not seem fair. Sure you have worked hard and may have been the best in your class, but sadly, that means nothing. You need to keep at it until you fight your way in with perseverance. You will get there eventually, but there is no golden path. You will see friends straight out of college land their dream jobs, just remember to smile and congratulate them (even if you are jealous). You will get there sooner or later.

Keep learning after graduation. Keep working to be better. The Animation Industry is worth it.

Monday, October 5, 2015

CTNx Breakdown

*This was written in 2015. I know some details have changed, like types of passes and prices, maybe what is included in those passes, but the basics and the concepts behind my breakdown are the same*

I have been involved with CTN for the last 4 years as a staff member. In that time, I've definitely found there are good and bad things to be aware of.
Changes for this year:
- Workshops are included! Yes the prices overall for tickets went up, but something I've been waiting for has happened. Workshops are now included in the price of your 3 day ticket. They work the same as any panel, those with fastpasses can get in first, but you no longer have to spend an additional sum to attend them. (after checking the small print, the only EXCLUDED talks that still have a cost are the Conversations with Creators)
- You MUST have atleast a 3Day lite to attend panels
- VIP does NOT get free parking

Before the Convention:
1. Tickets:
 - There are several ways to do CTN. As either a volunteer, 1 day, 3 day lite, 3 day Plus, and VIP 3 day.
 - You are broke but still want to attend: Volunteer. But know, if you are a volunteer, we expect you to be volunteering during your shift. This is a pet peeve of mine. How it works is you have a shift during the day for 4-6 hours, then you get the rest of the day to do stuff.
 - If you are at CTN just for fun to talk to artists and buy stuff: Do a 1 day pass. The Exhibit halls are large enough to keep you busy for an hour or so, lots of people hang out in the hallways, plenty to see. But if you don't want to go to the talks, you only need 1 day.
- Getting your feet wet but cant commit financially: 3 Day Lite is a decent. It includes all panels, 6 fast passes.
- If you want to do and see everything: The VIP pass. This pass has unlimited Fast passes, which though it seems simple, is its biggest perk. Also, you have access to the VIP lounge. They advertise it as a place for snacks and coffee, but most the time they are out. The real perk here is that all presenters and panelists MUST be in the VIP room before their talk, so its a good way to find and have exclusive access to the talent at the convention.
2. What you should know:
- Fast passes are important. There have been talks in the past, I remember a Glen Keane one several years ago, where there were SO many people with fast passes inline, that only 20 or so regular attendees made it into the room (they had their own line that ran around the building in the rain... to say folks were unhappy is an understatement). These fast passes are the only way to guarantee you get into what you want to see. So if the panels are a huge draw for you, note it. And for the first time, fastpasses can be used to jump you to the front of the line for a workshop you may want to attend.
3. Extras: Alot of the actual learning kinda courses, where someone teaches you their way to draw or gives you advice, are done through workshops now, instead of the panels. These will be key to anyone who is here to directly take a mini class from well known artists. To guarantee that you get in a workshop, you have to have a fastpass for it. To be able to even attend one, you need a 3 day pass. The only exception to these are the Conversations with the Creators talks, which still have to be purchased (but they are usually maxed out at 12 people, so its fairly intimate). There is also the Breakfast with the Pros, which is alot of fun if you go do it.
4. Be Prepared: 
- Print out maps/schedule: There are small last minute changes, but you will be very happy if you have your own version of this printed out for your convenience. There is an app, but the Marriot doesnt always have the best reception. Best to be safe.
- Business Cards. You will meet a ton of new exciting people you will want to hang out with. Have something with your contact info on it.
- Portfolio/Demo Reels: Another huge reason alot of people come to CTN is to network and try and find a job. Bring your demo reel, and portfolio. Print it out. Have a copy on your drive. The internet is spotty, so if you are waiting to load a website, you may lose your opportunities.
- Have a notebook/sketchbook: You will want to take all the notes you can. CTN is boiling over with talent and advice. Have folks critique your work. Write down notes for panels. Take names of the recruiters you talk to. Draw observational stuff.

At the Convention:
1. Try to stay at the Marriot if you can. It really is the best way. You are right there in the convention center. You can take a nap in your room. Drop off that heavy stack of books or art prints. Highly advise this choice. If you DONT stay at the Marriot, parking is around 10-15 a day in the lot that is always full. You can find some street parking if you are there very early. Or you can park somewhere along the shuttle line and take the CTN shuttle in. There are options, but definitely less convenient.
2. Get there early. Each year CTN grows. The lines are getting more ridiculous. Plan out what you want to see. Look at what programs are competing at the same time with eachother. If you want to see John Musker talk about Moana in the large hall, expect to get in line.... HOURS early if possible. Trust me, it sucks, but its better than missing out.
3. Have fun. With all the potential for serious life altering opportunities at CTN, its important to take the time and have fun. Enjoy yourself. Meet some people. Take chances to talk to artists you look up to.
4. Don't go to bed early. TRUST ME. Some of the best times to be had at the convention is the late night scene. I've seen Disney legends at the Daily Grill bar at 2 am, because the crowds had died and they wanted to talk to their old colleagues. THESE are the truly magical moments, and if you are asleep, you will miss them. The networking parties and mixers are worth every moment you are there. The artists in the hall always attend, as well as the studios and recruiters. So much of this industry is being at the right place at the right time. You need to make sure to give yourself every chance to do that.
So there! I feel like my 4 years of experience can advise you a little bit. But you also know your goals better than anyone else. See you at CTN!
Any questions? Feel free to ask!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

WIA First Student Event! Disney Talk

As a member of the WIA Student Committee, we had the pleasure of doing our first real event this past week.

It went great!! The turnout was around 40 students or so. We did a fun mixer where we encouraged each person to meet 5 people and find a similar interest with each of them.

After the mixer we did a presentation on WIA and what the organization is about. THEN, the wonderful Disney recruiters did a talk and stayed really late to answer all questions.

It was a fabulous evening. Here are my notes from the Disney talk!!

Matt Roberts, recruiter in charge of vizdev, story, animation
Camilla Eden, recruiter for production, FX, character td
Doeri Welch, recruiter for layout, lighting, lookdev, tech/engineering

What's most important, top 3
- Compelling Stories
- Believable Worlds
- Appealing characters

Applying at Disney:
Be sure your reel is specifically for what you are applying for
Tailor it to Disney
Take apart the job listing and and find ways to directly incorporate that into your reel/portfolio/resume/coverletter

Be really good at 1 thing. Be versatile in it and master all aspects of it.

They have internships and the talent development program

For those returning to school
Summer and schoolyear versions

Talent Development:
Apprenticeship for graduates 0-5 years out of school
paid mentorship
3-12 months

Reel/Portfolio Advice:

dont worry about textures or lighting, just playblasts are fine
variety of styles and genres, subtle and action
2d is great to show as well

One panel per pdf page if digital
show the action, tell a full story
work fast, you redraw things alot at disney, focus on the moment more than draftsmanship
life drawing, observation, gesture should be included at end

Variety of either characters, or sets, depending on what you are working on
Not just variety of styles, but kinds of characters, personalities

Look at how to put a 2d illustration into 3d space
Keep everything as interesting as possible

have an animator friend take your rig through its paces
show extremes
talk about problem solving or tools you may have made
Any sort of popping will kill it for you

Any experience you have is good, no matter the field
find a way to relate

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Zbrush Summit Videos

I sadly did not manage to make it to the Zbrush Summit this year at Gnomon, but came across their livestream and a great video disney did last year. When you get a few, check them out!

2014 Disney video above
Here is the mainstage of the Day 1 live stream from this year!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Wrote an Article!

I wrote this article in an evening to fill a vacant space in the Animation Guild's monthly newsletter, The Pegboard.

I think this is a super important subject and at the core of all the problems we are experiencing.