Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Willies

Did you ever get "The Willies?"
Where you find a place so creepy that you can't stay?
Where were you when it happened?
It happened to me on The Big Island in Hawaii one summer.
I was in my teens, vacationing with my family. I wanted to see the Southern Cross (and nearby Alpha Centauri) for years, and knew they would be low in the southern sky at dusk.
The threes and shrubs of the resort blocked the lower parts of the sky, but I knew I'd have a good view from the huge lava field nearby.
The sun went down. As the sky darkened. I hiked to my observation post, delighted that I'd finally get to see parts of the sky I couldn't see at home. Alpha Centuri will be the brightest one I reminded myself and if you line it up with [the second brightest star] it'll point to the top of the...
Suddenly the lava field loomed before me. Hours earlier it'd looked like a sea of black rocks under a postcard-blue sky. Now it was blackness. Vast blackness. It was the creepy!
There was no time to search for famous stars or constellations. I got out of there!
My fear didn't make any sense. It wasn't like there were lava monsters or Jack the Hula Ripper on the loose...
...why was that lava field so spooky at night?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New 'Toon, New Rules

I've started my next animation. I've picked the song, and made reference keyframes for the lyrics and beat. Above are some trial "looks" for the protagonist.

I learned a lot from animating I'm So Tired.
Here's some commandments I'll apply to this cartoon:

I. Thou shalt block in major shapes and movements before futzing around with details.
For example, than once I did the lip sync first and then discovered the timing or position of the character needed to change. I'd apply the changes and find the lip sync was off. Or I'd fall in love with a single drawing, only to find it didn't really fit into the animation plans.

II. Thou shalt design an animation friendly character.

Shorpy, as I came to call the purple guy, wasn't designed well.*

Flat, no eyebrows (big mistake!) and a basic "I'm sitting on fire ants" expression. (Okay, he was so tired, but still...). His face expressions and movement were limited. He was at his best when he was morphing into other characters.

III. Thou shalt remember looping animation and use it.
Some time-consuming animation from I'm So Tired zips by like a train, never to be seen again. If I had any sense I would have made more of the animated symbols play in continuous loops.

IV. Thou shalt make the first thirty seconds more interesting
I'm So Tired starts out calm and later goes berserk. I fear some viewers never saw the crazier parts because they thought He's just rocking back and fourth and complaining! and hit the back button. Any good story teller knows you should hook 'em up front.

Of course, I'm open to any additional advice anyone can throw me.

*I'm not saying he's a piece of garbage, just that in retrospect he could have been constructed better.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Put it in the cart!

Grocery shopping splits my personality in two. On one side is penny-pinching, nutrition conscious Practical Namowal. The other side is Devil Namowal, the perpetual kid.
If they talked out loud, they'd sound like this.

Devil Namo: Ice Cream! Chocoloate ice cream with caramel! Put it in the cart!

Practical Namo: Like hell we will. That's fattening.

Devil Namo: Deep Dish Frozen Pizza! Put it in the cart!

Practical Namo: Are you kidding? That's over 600 calories per serving! Do you want to fit in your clothes or not?

Devil Namo: Ooooh! Root Beer! "Hand Crafted" Root Beer with "full bodied rich and creamy flavor!" And it's diet! Put it in the cart!

Practical Namo: You now better than to fall for hype. Geez! Put that down.

Devil Namo: Look! Vita-Whiz Diet Energy Drink! Vita-Whiz Diet Energy Drink! Put it in the cart!

Practical Namo: Were you dropped on your head? That's overpriced soda!

Devil Namo: but it has vitamins!

Practical Namo: Yeah, so does most food. Don't be an idiot.

Devil Namo: but it's fun to drink! Put it in the cart!

Practical Namo: Okay, okay. You win. It's expensive and stupid, but it is fun.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Funny Dresser Uppers

For a short time I had three candy-apple-red streaks in my hair.
I wasn't trying to make a statement or be hip. The hairdresser suggested it. I thought why not? It would be kinda funny.
I can't say I stood out. I live in Los Angeles. Many friends, neighbors and aquaintances are creative types. Goofy hair, clothes and jewlery aren't unheard of.
To really stand out you have to work at it. A few people do: Wacky hats, crazy clothes, nutso hair, maybe even a prop (non-dog pet on a leash, ukulale, rubber chicken). Brazen weirdness.
What's even weirder is how people react to them. It's binary. They're either admired or scoffed.

When admired, the Funny Dresser Upper is considered:
  • original
  • creative
  • cute
  • funny
  • living by their own rules
  • not caring what everyone thinks
  • fun (a trip, a scream etc..)
When scorned, the Funny Dresser Upper is considered to be:
  • trying to look original
  • trying to be cute
  • trying to be funny
  • desperate for attention
  • wanting to impress everyone (caring what everyone thinks)
  • obnoxious (a freaking weirdo, a creep etc..)
I'm still trying to figure out the factor that sways these opinions. Is the admired Funny Dresser Upper more friendly or confident than the scorned Funny Dresser Upper? What sets them apart? I don't get it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I'm So Tired

Here it is:
My first flash video:
"I'm so Tired" by the Beatles.
I wanted to do a Beatles song and picked this one because:
  1. As far as I can tell, this one hasn't been animated before.
  2. I like how the mood vacillates between lethargy and freaked out meltdowns.
  3. It's only two minutes long.
I learned a lot about both Flash and animation as I put this together (mostly what not to next time!)

Special thanks to Sally Cruikshank for helping me out!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Who's Your Muse?

If I had a muse, she'd look a lot like this.
She doesn't inspire me with music or poetry.
"You're fooling around on the internet again!" she says. "You should be working on your Flash cartoon! Get to work!"

Who's your muse?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Paperbacks of Doom!

(Note: Some of this was originally posted as a comment to 10 Great Books for Traumatizing Children)

When I was growing up (late 70s early 80s,) I remember a series of cheap paperbacks, which, in retrospect, must have been created with Let’s get these kids reading with our gritty, tough stories in mind.
These included:

  • The "True Ghost Story" featuring a ghost with a bleeding hole in his head (drawing helpfully included). We’re told in life he “sniffed glue”
  • The "True Ghost Story" of basement haunted by the decomposing corpse ghost who'd been murdered by her husband, then cut up and buried under the floor bricks. Gruesome illustration included.
  • The guy on the baseball team who brought cheer and joy, even when the team lost. Surprise! He was secretly sick. Then died.
  • Little Jimmy is sick in the hospital. For Christmas he gets a dog and names it "Lucky." He seems to be getting better. Surprise! He dies a few weeks later.
  • ”Cool Sed,” some pimp-esque lowlife who’s oh-so-cool. Then he gets shot. “Cool Sed is Dead.”
These books also introduced me to Lizzie Bordon, Kitty Genovese, the Hartford Circus Fire, and Hiroshima ("their skin turned black and fell off").

Real or fictional, characters in these books had it rough. Blood pooled, bones broke, diseases struck, animals attacked, ships sank, quicksand awaited... wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me how violent and grim these books were, and how odd it was that they were aimed at kids. What were they thinking?