Sunday, 15 January 2017

Retro Geek Quiz

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Hello there animators,so I'm a massive lover of all things geeky. I started listening to a great podcast called 'the indoor kids'. It is all about the games people played as kids. It got me thinking about all the things I loved when I was young:

What's your childhood era? : The 80's!!!!  

What was your first console?: My first console was an Amiga. I got it for Christmas when I was 4. It was huge and everything had to be done via Dos, but it was amazing.

 What was your favourite game to play on it? I loved Codemasters game Dizzy the Egg. I never finished it and it drove me crazy. There was a game with a bear where you had to paint a house. I LOVED IT! I also had a game where you had to repair an electronic circuit. I realise as an adult that it was trying to educate me. Maybe that knowledge has secretly been placed in my head for an electronic emergency.
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What was the first comic you read? As a British kid my first comics were Twinkle , which was a little girl nurse who fixed wounded toys and also The Beano. The Beano was amazing. Billy Whizz and The Numbskulls were my favourite characters.
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Favourite movies as kid? The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were watched so much in my house that I broke the VHS. My other favourite was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There is a lot of embarrassing footage of me dancing 'the old bamboo' around my house when I was 5.
Mary Poppins was another favourite of mine..look at that bumbag

Favourite books as a kid? Every Saturday my mum, brother and I would head to the library. We'd leave with handfuls of books. There aren't many photos of me as a kid without a book in my hand. My favourite was Matilda when I was really young. I thought that I could definitely move things with my mind if I tried long was preparing me for my life goal of being a Jedi. When I got older I started reading Harry Potter. I was exactly the same age as him every time a new book came out so it holds a very special place in my heart. #TeamHufflepuff

Favourite televison shows?Anything Henson. Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies and Sesame Street were watched religiously in my house. Sesame Street was the place that I first saw Luxo Jr and my mum explained animation to me when I was confused at how lamps were dancing.  Then again Raggy Dolls, Shoe People, Poddington Peas , Duck Tails, Rescue Rangers and Gummie Bears were all 'must see' Saturday morning watches. 5am starts were very common for my brother and I .... incidently this website is called 'marshmallowpenguin' after the little marshmallow moon creatures from one of my favourite shows 'Button Moon' . You gotta love those British animations.

Favourite characters? I thought Rainbow Brite was a hero when I was little. I did a mean Miss Piggy from Muppet Babies impression when I was a kid. Minnie was also a big love of mine.
I was really trying to make my brother like Rainbow Brite

Favourite toy? My addiction as a kid was Polly Pocket. Every Christmas and Birthday was a chance to get my tiny plastic pocket fix. This may be why I love my job working on the Polly Pocket TV show so much. Oh Penny was another favourite. My doll, called Christina, came every where with me, and I had a lot of older cousins so I did get lots of second hand My Little Ponies. I loved it.
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Mario or Sonic? I only had an Amiga , but my Nan had a Sega. This meant I was a sonic kid all the way.

DC or Marvel? I had two favourites , Wonder Woman and it's hard for me to decide.

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First album you bought?My first album was on double tape. It was 'Now That's What I Call Music - 32'. The worst part was I just use to listen to one song. 'Golden Eye' by Tina Turner .....opphs

What geeky memory do you have that reminds you how old you are? 
When Lee and I were about 12 years old we use to play Doom together. We use to bring his whole P.C from across the road (including the screen). We would then connect them together and put a big piece of wood between the two of us so we could see each others screen. I'd then kick his ass. This was only because I taught him how to use a computer for the first time when we were 11. By the time we were 13 he was a computer pro. As soon as he started to get good I did a 'Bart' and retired from Doom victorious. Now we've been together for 11 years and have been friends for 22 years and he beats me at every game we play...apart from Othello....which weirdly he refuses to play :)  Related image

So that's my weird geeky confessions that shows you just how old (I mean 'retro') I am. 
How about you guys? What are some of your answers? 
This was the day a very kind man on the Disney animation tour took a long time to talk to us and gave me an application form for the future. I remember thinking 'whats a showreel?'

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Felt Has Feelings Too

There is one thing you should know about me...I LOVE The Muppets.
If you know me even slightly you will have read that statement and scoffed at the crazy idea that I would need to tell anyone that. I am a little bit of a super fan. As far as I'm concerned, Jim Henson's Muppets are some of the greatest, most realistic and loveable characters ever created. There is something wonderful about watching people suspend their disbelief when they talk to a Muppet on screen. In CG we spend our entire careers trying to get as much emotion and love in a shot as puppeteers can get with a quick flick of the wrist.  
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Here is a fantastic podcast about Stephanie D'Abruzzo who has worked on everything from Sesame Street to Avenue Q. This great interview is about making an audience not only believe, but fall in love with a piece of felt. I think that learning how puppeteers sell their performances can really help animators add appeal to their work....or maybe I'm just using that as an excuse to re-watch all my favourite Henson films.


2017 - Animation Resolutions

Happy New Year! 
 I use to love resolutions when I was younger. I'd make big to-do lists and inevitably put too much on my plate and give up. (I'm sure I'm the first person in history to encounter this issue)
So this year I've decided to make my resolutions a little more focused and aim them toward my animation work.

So here are my hopeful aims in 2017:

. Finish a 11second club -
I've been following the 11 second club since it was 12 second club. I've animated a lot of clips for the site ,but never had the guts to post them. So this year I aim to put one online. Fingers crossed.  Any excuse to animate a dialogue clip! I love them.

. Create a horse run - I've animated so many animals in my career ,but I haven't created an animal mechanics shot purely for my reel since uni (back in the dark ages) . I've always been a very cartoony animator so doing some realistic animal stuff really excites me.
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. Finish a project I've been thinking of for years - I've planned it, I've done the thumbnails, I've even set up the maya files. I just need to get going on it.

. Animate something in 2d -
My sister has asked me to help her with an animation for her website so I'm think of animating it in maya and rotoscoping over it in photoshop. It'll be my first step into 2d and hopefully be a good stepping stone into some 2d projects.

 . Create a new showreel -
I love editing just as much as animation so I'm going to put together a new reel this year. Hopefully it will inspire me to make some new stuff for it too

Basically my aim is to animate more. After a 14 hour day in work it can difficult to motivate myself to don't own thing, but I love it an it makes me happy. So I'm kicking my butt into gear this year. Here's to a year of creativity.
Happy New Year lovely animated people xxx

Friday, 7 October 2016

Walt Disney : The Futurist

Sometimes a person can get so wrapped up in the myths that surround them that they don't feel real anymore. For me that had started to happen to Walt Disney.

He is such a prominent feature in our industry and in the world today. I think people find it easy to roll their eyes or shrug his achievements off. He does have many rumours and myths surrounding him. Rumours that, I'm sad to say, had almost permeated my brain and got stuck there.  Almost all of which were reveled 20 years after his death. It is sad that to post this video on here and to say that you should watch this documentary about Walt Disney I first felt the need to defend the reasons I'm posting it.

What we do know about him is that this man hired some of the worlds first woman animators in 1938, despite it not being seen as a 'done thing' back then. He gave us talents such as Mary Blair, Retta Scott, Bianca Majolie and Sylvia Moberly-Holland. He introduced the world to incredible talent such as Floyd Norman, Disney's first African American animator/story artist in 1956, and helped create war films that would help end World War two. Most of the time he did this by using money from his own pocket, not government funds.
I am not naive enough to think I know even 1% about this mans life, but it is a shame that younger generations are taking jokes from Family Guy and Robot Chicken as 100% fact. Here is an interesting study on both sides of the Disney argument: Here

This man created so many technical advancements and brought out the best in so many creative people. His films have made millions of people happy . This is a documentary looking , not at the myths, but at the Futurist side to him and all the things he dreamed up. It is slightly baffling to watch a documentary like this and realise just how much he created for us.  I loved this documentary. It made me proud to be in our industry and it had me jumping around the room with inspiration.

Our industry is just in its infancy. Documentaries like this make me excited for the future. If we have achieved all of this already then I can't wait to see what is to come.

I'd definitely recommend you give it a watch:

Happy Animating x

Friday, 30 September 2016

The Next Steps In An Animation Education

Back in my university days, when I'd tell people I was studying animation , they would often joke that I was just watching cartoons all day. Obviously, this was a big part of my university life, but people would often be surprised when I started to explain all of the different elements that you must understand to be an animator.  We all know that we should be animating bouncing balls and reading The Illusion of Life to help us learn animation,  but what about those other aspects of our field that help us be a more rounded animator?  Here are some of the subjects I'm trying to get my brain to absorb:
cat glasses smart
Physics is the reason I started thinking about the subject of sub-genres inside animation. I recently heard an interesting interview with Professor Alejandro Garcia, a physics expert for Dreamworks (video here). It is obvious that Physics is involved in animation , but I've never read a physics book , or gone back to the actual science. Surely I should understand Newton's law if I'm animating it every day? I've been listening to some science podcasts and also watching experiments on Youtube. Sometimes you think you can predict a scientific outcome, but I'm constantly surprised. Such as this person throwing a spinning basketball off a ridge:

Even after a lifetime of using gravity and physics (and often clumsily not using gravity right in my day to day life) , I couldn't predict what would happen. It is interesting to look at the 12 principles of animation and apply exact physical rules to them. It changes your perspective.

Psychology (Animals and Humans) 
Most people are aware that the things on this list are part of animation, but it's rare we take the time to study them individually. Studying and looking into psychology and philosophy have really made a difference with the way I see my work. I've been reading some psychology books (mainly things like 'psychology for dummies') , but mainly I've been watching a butt-load of David Attenbourgh. I love everything about those documentaries. It started as wanting to study animals , but it became a study in comic timing. The animal kingdom will teach you more about comedy timing than anything else. I love it! Plus that beautiful voice...WE LOVE YOU ATTENBOURGH!

Okay, so I know this is an obvious one and that every tutor or mentor you've ever had has told you to get to Life drawing class, but once you aren't a brand new, bushy eyed junior, how many of us actually do this? I've started life drawing again (it's burlesque ladies in costume, which makes it extra fantastic). I've bought watercolours and I'm setting time aside every weekend for art. It's annoying because I am so out of practice. I'm hoping if I persevere it will get better. It feels good to be in a life drawing room again and to be using tangible materials instead of being on a p.c. I am instantly more inspired and thinking about the body and composition more. Which leads onto the next topic...
Philippa Rice drawing writing craft cute
I think I know things about the anatomy, but I don't. I know the animation basics. I am hoping to look at some massage books and physiotherapy books to understand the way the muscles connect. I heard an animator Samy Fecih, in a great interview you can see here, explaining how difficult it is to make a fist once your wrist moves your hand past 90 degrees. I'd never considered this. I also want to study animal anatomy to get a better understand of what the hell is going on there.

Going to the gym
This is kind of linked to 'anatomy'. I have started going to the gym a lot , and I've been trying to lift weights. I am normally a lightweight who does cardio and a few push ups before giving up. Once I started having to lift weights I started really studying my center of gravity, my foot placements and my bodies movements. Most people in the gym are staring in the mirror to see their rippling muscles. I'm looking at my line of action. I've even started taking a tiny sketchbook to thumb things out quickly if I do a pose that I didn't expect to work. If nothing else, it makes the gym a lot of exciting.

Editing is a passion of mine. I love grabbing my holiday videos and sticking them together in an entertaining way. Editing it an incredible tool . It's storytelling and it's most basic. I love that it feels like reverse engineering. This is what you've got, now tell a story using it. Obviously, if you don't like editing or haven't done any , you will feel weird the first time you step into editing software (I use Premiere, but there are so many free ones online now). I'd say that you don't even have to show anyone. Even if it's just a phone app.  I'd recommend watching some of these incredible youtube film analysis:
10 most memorable edits of all time
or this one: 

Then I'd recommend doing a few little tests of your own. Understanding how cuts work and how film language can alter a scene is stupidly interesting to me.

Get some popcorn, get comfy and once a week try to watch one of the films*  on this list:
The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
It is research after all.

I'm embarrassed how many iconic films I haven't seen. I love film. I watch them every day and yet I'm wasting my eyeballs on awful stuff, so why not watch the ones the world agrees are amazing. Next up for me is Lawrence of Arabia and Misery.  I'm not limiting myself, though. I'm going to re-watch a few of my favourites. 12 Angry Men and Rear Window should  be watched at least once a year. 

*TV is so good now that a new list of 'Greatest things committed to film' may have to be the new list. Battle of the Bastards in Game of Thrones....pure genius!

So that is how I'm occupying my time at the moment. I want to up my animation game and i'm hoping these things are going to take me a step further. Go Go Team Animation !