Sunday, January 31, 2010

Funhouse Exterior Concept

Here's some test animation I did for the fun house exterior. I may change it for the final cartoon - it's a bit derivative of Sally C's cartoon houses and I don't want to be a crook.
Sorry I haven't been posting more. Work is keeping me busy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Anti-Muse

Greek mythology gave us the muses. The poetry muse inspires poets. The musical muse inspires musicians. Dramatic and Comedic muses help playwrights and writers. Had animation existed in ancient times, I'm sure an animation muse would have been thrown into the mix.
The ancients have also overlooked the worst muse of all. She's the Anti-Muse. Her job is to sabotage creativity. A stern guardian at the threshold of ideas. She won't even let you have a peek at the bad ideas.
I've been working on my Flash cartoon. I've blocked most of it and have done a lot of the rough animation. I saved the musical bridge of the song for last. My characters would spend it in a fun house were all sorts of cartoon craziness would happen. Anything could happen! It would be so fun!
Then it was time to start the funhouse sequence. I was stumped.
My inner dialog played like this.
Namo1:Now what?
Namo2:It's a fun house. Have weird things happen.
Namo1:Like what?
Namo2:You know all about Laff-in-the-Darks. Have corny stuff jumping out at them. Or make it  a walk through with goofy floors.
Namo1:I'm drawing blanks.  Can't think of a thing.
Namo2:Oh for crying out loud. Have anything jump out at them. Have office supplies jump out at them. Have junk mail and pop up windows chasing them around. Send a giant rolling cheeseball after 'em.
Namo1:Arrg!!   "Fun House" is too broad.  Now if it were "Fun House" + Pickles, say, I'd have more to work with.  They'd ride pickle mobiles with picklechip wheels.  There'd be a volcanoes spewing condiments.  A relish monster.  Pickled artichoke forests! Flying peperoncini!
Namo2: That's nice, but it's not Funhouse + Pickles.  
(Loop back to the top of the dialog to continue conversation)       
Anyone know how to make the Anti-Muse go away?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Film directer Tod Browning worked carnivals when when he was younger, both as a talker ("Step right up folks...!") and as an attraction (he did a live burial stunt.) He'd carnival films before, but it was his 1932 film Freaks that got him into hot water.
The problem was the cast. He used sideshow performers: People without arms or legs (or both). Conjoined twins, a half-man-half-woman, pinheads and more..  Critics and viewers hated it.   The movie bombed, and was was widely banned..   Browning's career hit the wall.
Freaks follows a traveling circus. Cleopatra, a glamorous trapeze star, is engaged to Hans, a dwarf. Her secret plan is to murder him so she (and her thug boyfriend) can get his pending inheritance. Things get ugly at the wedding party. She gets drunk, insults her groom, and cackles. The freaks (who throughout the film have been portrayed as kind and friendly), offer to "accept her" as "one of us" and perform a chanting ceremony. Offended, Cleo has a meltdown, screams "Freaks!  Dirty, slimy freaks!" at them, and kicks them out.
The seal trainer overhears the murderous plans. Hans and his pals are warned. He plays dumb, secretly spitting out the "medicine" his wife gives him. Other freaks are always nearby, watching...
A storm hits. The freaks confront Cleo. With knives. (Thug Boyfriend is busy trying to assault the seal trainer.) Soon the villains flee in terror into the woods, with the freaks in persuit.
Our villains, we learn, get mutilated.
It's a weird movie. Part freak show, part "Why, they aren't that freakish at all" show, part "evil people get punished" fable. I suspect this and the fact that it was banned helped make it a cult hit.
Also, I think everyone fells out of place or powerless sometimes. Seeing the underdog (in this case, the freaks) outwit  jerks assures the audience that they, too, might be able to defeat their tormentors (hopefully not by carving them up, but you get the idea). It assures us, "Underdogs are people too. And we can kick some serious %&!! if provoked."

Friday, January 15, 2010

That's Offensive!

I remember the teaching instructions from the mid 1990s.  It was some sort of lesson or activity based on this  nursery rhyme:
Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn't keeper.
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Except the lesson had swapped out wife for mouse.  Why?   There was some nonsense about how Peter's wife in the pumpkin shell was a bad example.  I couldn't believe they found it offensive.  Never mind that putting anybody in a pumpkin shell was implausible and silly.    Did they really think the original version would corrupt kids?   The whole thing struck me as "look how enlightened we are!" posturing.

I think nearly anything can be interpreted as offensive.
Take Jack and Jill:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown.
And Jill came tumbling after.
Let's squeeze some bogus outrage  out of it...
...Why, it's insensitive to people with head injuries.  It trivializes brain trauma!   It's sexist.   Why Jack and Jill and not Jill and Jack?  Why is Jill a secondary character?  They both fell down the same hill, yet we don't hear about Jill's injuries.  It implies that girls are less important It's racist by omission.   It's sexist against men because it implies the male character is incompetent.  It makes fun of the working class.   It mocks those who  rely on wells. It trivializes child labor.  It makes fun of thirsty people.   It makes fun of people named Jack or Jill.  Jack is a variation of John, which in turn is a from the name Yochanan which means "God is Great."  And you want to send someone named "God is Great" on a bungling adventure?  I guess you hate religion too....

Back to the people who replaced "had a wife" with "had a mouse," I wonder what they'd think of these early varients of the rhyme:

Eeper Weeper, chimbly sweeper,*
Had a wife but couldn't keep her.
Had another, didn't love her,
Up the chimbly he did shove her.
Peter, my neeper,
Had a wife,
And he coud[n't]  keep her,
He [put]  her [in the wall]
And [let all] the mice eat her.

 *This later was incorporated into a song that began:
Did you ever hear the story of Willie the Weeper? 
He had a job as a chimney sweeper,
Which in turn inspired Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher."   Who knew Peter and Minnie were relatives?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Flash Carnival



Part of the Flash cartoon I'm working on takes place at a carnival.  I'll need some carousels and twirling rides in the establishing shots- not the easiest thing to animmate in 2d.
Above are "test rides" created with the help of a Flash plugin called swif.t3D Xpress.   I added a cartoony bounce to the second ride using regular motion tweens.
These examples are a bit too mechanical and complex for the final cartoon, but I had fun making them!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"You're Doing it Wrong!"

If a snotty critic or know-it-all snob says or implies that you're "doing it wrong!" because s/he finds it weird, ugly, offensive, obnoxious, sloppy, crazy etc...'s often a sign that you're on the right track.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Pie Show

I learned how to bake over the last several months:  Cookies, cakes, bread, even rugelach.
Now it was time for me to master a big Kahuna of baking:  A boysenberry pie.
No pre-made crusts or fillings.   A real, home made pie..
Could I do it?
I got the crust recipe off the internet.  It suggested using liquor  to help keep the dough soft.
I followed the rules.  Cold, cubed butter, cut in the dough, not overworked, add enough liquid so it's not crumbly but not so much that it's sticky... ...geez, it smells like a martini.   Maybe I should have checked this on Snopes....
On to the filling.  I drained the  boysenberries (carefully saving the liquid from one can).  I poured the latter in a saucepan, along with my pre measured portions of sugar and cornstarch.  I stirred.   A great blob of lavender foam rose. It looked like  a freaky science experiment.   Huh?  Why was it doing this?
Here's why.  When you store the baking powder next to the cornstarch in similar containers, things can go very wrong....
I dumped the foam to start over.  But whoops, I'd already poured the syrup from the other can down the drain.    In its place I cooked up some sugar, water, lemon juice, and mashed up berries.
Now, for the top crust.
I'd planned a smooth, ornate one, with petite scalloped  cookie cutter holes and maybe an egg wash.  The dough  ripped open when I put it in place.  I could have balled and re-rolled it, but I was afraid it would toughen the dough..  It was getting late too.  Well, the gash will work as a vent, right?
I baked it and set it down to cool.  It smelled great.  It looked like it was dropped off a  building.
The next morning I tasted it.  The top crust  was tasty.  The filling was fruity.  The bottom crust was... ...doughy.
Ah well, I thought, they'll still enjoy it.  Then I remembered the secret ingredient.  Wait!  If the bottom  crust isn't fully cooked, it might still have alcohol... ...don't be silly, there's not enough to get someone intoxicated... ...but what if someone happens to be highly sensitive or allergic...?
 I added a note warning about the bottom crust.   It never hurts to be safe.  Then again, it looks astoundingly weird when you serve your pie with a note warning not to eat the bottom crust and drive.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


This ramshackle tree house was somewhere on my street, 95 years ago.
I love old photos, especially from areas I'm familiar with.
The only problem is the unanswered questions.  In this case- who built it?   What became of them?  What became of the tree house?   What became of the tree?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Was it 400 Degrees Yet?

I'm to be struggling with the hot objects are, in fact hot concept.
Last week I was baking bread. Before slipping the pan of dough in, I wanted to make sure the oven was hot enough. Was it 400 degrees yet? I opened the oven to check the thermometer- but the dial was at an angle. So I reached to turn it towards me and-
You idiot! I thought, running the kitchen tap over my fingers. What were you thinking!?
What was I thinking? I used the stove and oven all the time, handling hot cookie sheets, pans, cast iron skillets etc.. with an oven mitt and common sense. How did I slip up here?
  My theory is people do a lot of routine cooking on autopilot, unconsciously following basic rules. For example Use oven mits when taking stuff out of the oven as opposed to thinking Gosh, I bet that thing in the oven is hot, thus I'll use oven mitts to insulate my hand.
When I couldn't read the dial, it probably activated the same part of my brain that habitually turns the alarm clock for a better look.   Whoops.
I mentioned my blunder on a message board and people responded with similar stories.
Everyone remembered to use oven mitts when removing hot pans.  The problems started when the still-hot item was out of the oven.   People would grab handles and lids and get a surprise.  Autopilot.
One person caught themselves using a oven mitt to take a pan out of a cold oven.
That autopilot!