December 30, 2012

More Reviews

Monsters Inc.
I saw this in its 3D re-release. I hate 3D and this was no exception, but I hadn't seen the movie in a while. I think it and the Incredibles are my two favourite Pixar movies. I don't generally find their movies that funny (although this one does have some good comic moments) but I really admire their tight, disciplined story structures. The plot hits its various peaks and valleys like clockwork, and every single line of dialogue is either a payoff or a set-up to something else, which is always said to be the goal in screenwriting books. I also love the Muppet-like designs and the door-hopping climax is pretty cool. Plus, John Goodman.

Patlabor 1 the Movie
The placement of the "1" in that title bothers me. Anyway, I watched this and a bit of the TV series, mainly to have some context for the second film, which I've heard is great. 'Giant robots' isn't an anime genre I'm especially interested in, but I like how Patlabor takes a realistic, plausible approach to the idea, in which the mechs are mainly just used as construction machines. The movie was a pretty enjoyable, if forgettable, detective story with a sprinkling of trademark Mamoru Oshii philosophy. Any time I get to hear Toshio Furukawa doing his Ataru voice, I'm happy.

On a related note, I watched Gosenzosama Banbanzai fairly recently. It's another Oshii work-- a strange OVA series from the late 80's with a writing style that seems to ape some form of traditional Japanese theater. Not being familiar with the style, I don't know if it accomplished what it was trying to do, but I really liked it anyway. It's definitely not for everyone, as it's full of jarring product placement and long, mundane soliloquies, but there's also hilarious slapstick and a lot of work by amazing animators like Tatsuyuki Tanaka and Shinya Ohira. The voice cast is almost entirely made up of Urusei Yatsura regulars, including the aforementioned Furukawa in another lead role. To top it all off, it has an interesting abstract opening by Koji Nanke (the indie animator who did all the Urusei Yatsura openings) with a catchy song.

Macross Plus
This was praised extensively on ANNcast's "Best of the 90s" episode, so I was excited when I found it pretty cheap on Boxing Day. After watching all four OVA episodes, I wasn't particularly impressed. It seemed fairly generic. The music by Yoko Kanno was good, and it's hard to go wrong with Bryan Cranston and Richard Epcar as the main characters' dub voices, but other than that it didn't do much for me.

I'm still eating up the Funimation dub of Shin-Chan, now that I've managed to fill the holes in my collection. I wish that more of the early seasons had been translated, as that mid-90's period where Masaaki Yuasa was working on the series is the stuff I'm most interested in seeing. There are a few of those episodes in these sets, but not enough! And I'm still sad they only used three seconds of the hilarious theme song.

Finally, I started watching Breaking Bad and obviously it's awesome, but I have nothing to say about it yet that hasn't already been said elsewhere by better writers. So that's it for now... Happy New Year, everybody!!

December 24, 2012

Xmas BGs

Here are some backgrounds from the Christmas short, which by the way is also on Vimeo now with the audio synced up properly. The Youtube encoding seems to have delayed the sound by a few frames, which isn't a huge deal but results in less snappy timing.

Xmas Dancing GIFs

Due to popular demand, here are GIFs of the dancing cycles from the end of Fester's Christmas Fiasco.

December 23, 2012

Fester's Christmas Fiasco

Merry Christmas everybody! Here's a special gift for Fester fans.

This one's a bit rough, but that's because I only started working on it about three weeks ago.
At the beginning of the month, I started toying with the idea of doing a Christmas short. I knew I'd have to keep it simple and economical, which is why it's mostly dialogue-based. I didn't spend as much time on the story as I usually do, because I wanted to jump into animating as soon as possible. It's a bit disjointed because of that, and some of the animation is choppy and wonky, but overall I'm just relieved that I got it done in time.

I have to thank my amazing friends Ashley Vanchu and Jen Schollen for stepping in to colour some of the backgrounds, because without their help I wouldn't have been able to finish it until after the 25th, and nobody wants to watch a Christmas special on Boxing Day.

December 09, 2012

Another DITB Appearance

I'm on Dynamite in the Brain again this week, to discuss the Lupin III 2002 TV Special "Episode Zero: First Contact," as well as Wreck-It Ralph, South Park and more! Check it out here.

December 07, 2012

More Fester Fan Art And Updates

Been too busy to post anything, and haven't really had much to post lately anyway. Just wanted to let people know I'm working on a Fester Fish Christmas video! I'm not sure how long it will be yet but probably way shorter than the usual length. If I don't get it done in time for Christmas, I'm not sure what I'll do with it. It's going to use more limited animation than usual, because I'm looking at it as just a little bonus video rather than the next real short, and I'm doing it in a rush... That said, it should still be fun, so look forward to that sometime before Christmas.

Speaking of Fester, here's some new fan art!

 By my friend Kyle Mowat, creator of the fantastic short "Ballpit". If you haven't seen it yet, check it out.

"UPA Fester" by Dominic Noble

Still working on those long-promised Fester T-shirts. The smart thing would've been to have them ready in time for Christmas, but... Fester isn't smart.

Finally, I recorded another guest appearance on Dynamite in the Brain last weekend, so it should be online in a couple of days. The episode's subject is the 2002 Lupin III special "Episode Zero - First Contact."

November 30, 2012

Lupin - First Contact Scene

I was watching Lupin III 2002 special "Episode Zero: First Contact" recently and this scene's animation stuck out to me. It's got interesting timing, and the poses are amazing. If anybody has any idea who animated this, please let me know!

Sorry for the terrible encoding and the lack of audio.

Toons on Tap - the Driver

Drawings from this week's Toons on Tap session.

I should note that the model didn't actually look like Fester.

Miscellaneous doodles from the session. The model's mohawk reminded me of Hayashida's magical mohawk from Cromartie High. And obviously whenever you think of Cromartie High you have to draw Mechazawa because .

Some fast ones from the end of the night

November 10, 2012

Ur Doin It Rite Disney

My two favourite current cartoons are both Disney productions. This is pretty unusual for me.

I think Wreck-It Ralph is their strongest movie in a long time (some might prefer Tangled, but it didn't do much for me apart from the visuals). I was initially eager to see Ralph because classic Simpsons vets Rich Moore and Jim Reardon worked on the story, with Moore also directing. The cast was another reason I wanted to see it-- It's rare that the celebrity-casting shtick in big-deal animated movies actually pays off, but John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch all have distinctive voices that fit their roles perfectly, especially Reilly. Mainly because they're all character actors rather than the kind of generic "whoever's big right now" teen stars or A-listers with dull voices that are often chosen.

I was also surprised to see some very nice snappy animation on the King Candy character, and lots of subtle details in Vanellope's acting; things like her playing with the strings on her hoodie while Ralph is talking to her. I thought the emotional parts of the story worked well, such as the scene where (SPOILER) Ralph is forced to destroy Vanellope's car.

I loved how they incorporated ideas like lost levels, hacks and glitch characters into the original games they created for the story. I wasn't expecting them to go so deep into those kinds of video game "secrets" and it took me back to the days of poring over "Secrets of Sonic the Hedgehog" websites, and trying to learn out about the hidden glitches in Pokemon Red and Blue. I know some people were hoping for more jumping through different game genre parodies rather than the characters staying in one game for the second half of the movie, but I didn't mind. It wasn't a road movie, and the point wasn't just to make video game jokes-- it was to tell an actual story too, and I think they did a good job doing both.

The other new Disney production I really like is Gravity Falls. I can't remember liking any American cartoon this much since Clone High (has it really been a decade since that aired?!) The humour on the show has a similar sensibility to the latter, as well as the Simpsons during its peak years. This is even more impressive when you realize that it's allegedly aimed at kids. The direction is tight, the backgrounds are nicely colored and full of hidden jokes, and the voices are all excellent. Kristen Schall is obviously the standout as Mabel, who often comes off as a little-girl version of classic Homer Simpson. Series creator Alex Hirsch also does a great job as Grunkle Stan and Soos. And Neil Hamburger plays a recurring character!
The show also features my favourite kind of plotting -- the episodes each tell a self-contained story, but they're gradually building a larger narrative through minor events in each episode and background details. In short, it's amazing. If you're not already watching it, you should be!

November 03, 2012

Listen to Me on Dynamite in the Brain

As I think I've mentioned on the blog before, one of my favourite podcasts is the British anime discussion show "Dynamite in the Brain." In this week's episode I'm a guest, talking about the sixth One Piece movie (the one directed by Mamoru Hosoda, one of my favourite anime directors).

Listen to it here!

October 27, 2012

Sub! by Jesse Schmal

This is my favourite animated short I've seen in a while. It's from 2000, by Jesse Schmal. It was recently featured on Cartoon Brew, which is where I saw it. Go watch it now.

October 01, 2012

Masaaki Yuasa is Crowd-Funding

Masaaki Yuasa's trying to crowd-fund his newest project through Kickstarter. He is a wise man.

The world needs more of Yuasa's brilliant work! Give him some money! I did, and I'm really excited about the prizes, as well as the project itself obviously. If he doesn't reach his goal, I will cry a thousand tears.

HE MADE IT!!!!!!

September 22, 2012

Finished Watching Kemonozume

 It only took me four days to finish the series. Probably the closest I've come to actually marathoning any show. I planned to spread it out over a longer period of time and savour each episode a bit more, but I just couldn't help myself-- Almost every episode ends on such a riveting cliff-hanger. I'd read that some viewers weren't satisfied with the way things progressed in the final episodes, but I didn't mind the ending. The villain does get pretty over-the-top, but he was extremely entertaining while doing it so it didn't bother me. Breaking the fourth wall has been overused in comedy for a long time now, but using it just a little bit in a mostly serious work can still be effective, as he proved.

The middle of the series brought a couple of slight dips in the art and animation, but that was more than made up for in the final episodes, particularly the last two. I'm so glad I finally got around to watching this series. It somehow manages to balance drama, horror, comedy, romance, action and suspense. It's one of my favourite shows ever, animated or otherwise.

I really liked how each episode had a different mood and feeling. So many different artists with unique, but generally complementary, styles worked on the episodes, and the series really embraced that, in a way rarely seen in animation (Ren and Stimpy springs to mind as another example, in a drastically different style obviously).

I have a lot of favourite episodes. #1 and #2 felt the most purely Yuasa-driven to me. #6 was hilarious and gave us a proper introduction to my favourite character, Bon. #9 had a wonderfully light atmosphere and provided a nice breather from all the craziness in the surrounding episodes. #12 was entirely animated by Michio Mihara. I'd just seen his Okashina Hotel short, and was really excited at the chance to see so much more of his work in one place. It completely lived up to my expectations. #13 had just as much amazing animation, but in that case it was the work of several animators. It also had some classic Yuasa insane action.

I think overall I prefer this series to Kaiba. Somehow it felt both more substantial, and easier to comprehend. It's difficult-- and probably pointless-- to compare the series, since they were so different stylistically, but I did find Kaiba maintained its quality more evenly than Kemonozume. It didn't really have anything as mediocre as Episode 4 of Kemonozume, which was the one notable blemish on the series. But on the other hand I feel that Kemonozume reached greater heights and was more ambitious in its art style. And I definitely thought it had stronger characterization. One problem I had with Kaiba was that, for a show where the hero gets put into a different body in each episode, he didn't have much of a personality for the viewer to hold onto. He remained a cipher throughout the series, which made it less interesting to follow his body-switching. I do still love Kaiba though.

As I mentioned before, Bon was probably my favourite character. I was happy to see him reappear later in the series. Now I want to go through the series again at a slower pace, particularly so I can study some of the animation and direction more closely.

September 18, 2012

Spreading the Gospel of Yuasa

Considering what a huge fan I am of Masaaki Yuasa, I don't know how it's taken me so long to see his 2006 series Kemonozume. I just watched the first episode and it did not disappoint. It actually exceeded my expectations. That's the crazy thing about Yuasa-- no matter what order you see his stuff in, you can never be prepared for how amazing and different each work will be. I'm currently watching Shin-Chan and seeing some of his earliest animation work, and I love it too. Yuasa's work is consistent, but it's also incredibly varied and he seems to make a point of constantly defying his audience's expectations.

Anyway, I just had to share some images from this first episode.

 And there's plenty more where that came from. If the rest of the show is anywhere near as good as this, I will be a very happy boy by the time I get to the end.

Don't worry, I won't be posting about the whole thing obsessively the way I did with Lupin Part III. I only did that because I knew the show as a whole wouldn't be worth watching for most people, but I still wanted to share the good parts. This series is only 13 episodes!

So if you haven't gotten around to seeing Kemonozume yet, go watch it. You won't regret it!

September 17, 2012

Fun with Markers

I suck at painting but lately I've been wanting to use watercolours. First I got some watercolour pencils, then I got some fancy markers. Neither really gave me the effect I wanted, but I enjoyed using the markers.

This one is supposed to be Nick Kroll.

On a semi-related note, the reason John C. Reilly (although it looks more like Shrek) has a shirt reading "Da Reillz" is because I've been listening to old Comedy Death Ray episodes.

Yesterday I finally just bought a little watercolour kit and I like using it a lot better. The colours get kind of screwed up when I scan them, both with the markers and the watercolours.

September 12, 2012

Rambling Reviews

Time for another round of my thoughts on things I've watched lately.

Despite the main character being annoyingly passive and whiny for most of the film, I liked it. The designs are great, both in the characters and their environments. They're full of unusual shapes and angles, and the result is a film with a really unique look to it, which is rare. I want to get the art book. The story and characters felt pretty familiar, but the filmmakers did throw in a couple of clever twists. The ending sequence was genuinely creepy, and featured really impressive animation. Overall Paranorman was truly a breath of fresh air in American animation. I'm now interested in what else Laika has done, which means I have to finally see Coraline.
Directed by Rintaro, this OVA from 1992 has impressively loose, wild animation. Yoshinori Kanada did the character designs, as well as some animation. It also has some amazing Tatsuyuki Tanaka scenes, which are what made me want to track it down.Unfortunately this thing is ridiculously obscure-- it's never even been released on DVD in Japan, let alone translated into English. And obviously the name makes it difficult to look it up online. So I couldn't understand most of what was going on in the story, but it was very enjoyable to look at.

I may have covered this late 80's anime anthology before on my blog, I can't remember. But anyway, here's what I thought upon seeing it again recently-- I absolutely love the first segment, "Manie-Manie" which is also by Rintaro. It's probably one of my favourite animation pieces ever. It's packed with neat ideas in the designs, the direction, the animation and the sound work. Too bad it ultimately doesn't seem to have any real point. "The Running Man" has lots of great FX animation but again, there's not much story. This one feels longer than it is. The final segment by Katsuhiro Otomo, "The Order to Stop Construction" feels a bit like a warm-up for Akira. It's pretty fun. All three shorts work better as mood pieces than as narratives, in my opinion, but they all have great visuals. I'd say it's worth seeing.

Samurai Champloo
I'm only up to Episode 9, which has the Masaaki Yuasa animation sequence, which was just as amazing as I'd expected. Overall I like the show, but it's not quite as absurd as I hoped. There are some hip-hop elements and some funny moments (my favourite example of both being the vomit scratch-cut in Episode 6) but neither the hip-hop flavor or the comedy are as prevalent as I'd expect from a series that bills itself as "samurai/comedy/hip-hop." So far it's mostly just been a bizarrely anachronistic samurai series. I do love the main title sequence though.

Shin-Chan Season 1 Part 2
I picked this up cheap and I'm really enjoying it. Up until now I'd been avoiding the English dub because I didn't think I'd like all the extra dirty jokes they added, but so far it turns out I do like a lot of them, and I already knew I liked the original series so this is turning out to be a lot of fun. I'm now trying to get the other volumes at a decent price. The English voices are surprisingly close to the Japanese originals. My only problem is that they cut the great opening theme short.

Yellow Submarine
Every time I watch it I feel the same way-- there are a ton of cool visuals, and obviously the music is spectacular, but the script is a jumbled mess and I find it hard to watch the whole thing in one sitting. Once they get to Pepperland it feels like the movie should end much faster than it does.

(a late-70s one-off short by the staff of Lupin III)
The story is childish but the Miyazaki-animated scene near the end is fantastic. Between this and his epic battle scene in Animal Treasure Island, he's become one of my favourite animators. His early animation work is a lot more cartoony and wild than I'd have thought from his later directing style.

Roujin Z
Written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, soon after Akira. The budget is noticeably lower but there is some very good animation in certain scenes, and it's generally a well-told satire about how society treats the elderly, with a wacky science-fiction bent to it. I like the character designs, even though they're not as caricatured as the stuff I usually prefer. They don't really stand out that much but there's enough variation within the characters to keep them interesting. The ending theme has been stuck in my head for days now.

I also re-watched Shin-Chan - The Adult Empire Strikes Back and Urusei Yatsura - Beautiful Dreamer which are both still great.

In other news, I'm back to school for my final year. It's going pretty well so far. I'm also working on Scout Raskin's Bakerman and the Bunnymen short, coming up with ideas for another project and working on designs for Fester Fish t-shirts. The shirts should be available soon, I hope...

September 10, 2012

The Popes of Placeland

Here's the new trailer for a series called "The Popes of Placeland." I animated the character introduction segments and the final section. The middle section was done by Brian Kaufman. The series was created by Anthony Alfonso and Alex Alessi.

September 03, 2012

Some Lupin GIFs

I just found a bunch of cool GIFs from various Lupin III cartoons. This first bunch are animated by Kazuhide Tomonaga and taken from Episode 92.

No idea what second-series episode this one is from, but it's funny:

This is from the first episode of the recent 2012 Lupin series. Not sure who the animator is.

I got all of these GIFs from although it's frustrating going through that blog because they don't actually tell you what anime the GIF came from, or who the animator is.

August 30, 2012

More Fester Fan Art

Here are some cool pieces of fan art I got recently, in the wake of "Fester Makes Friends":

 This one's by Kevin Arsenault on DeviantArt.

Fester graffiti by "Cormic IsNobody" or "Dick & Balls" as he likes to be known on Flickr

And here's this "Pocket Fester" sewed by my friend Jane Archibald.

Finally, here's a piece by Jesse Oliver.

If you've drawn any Fester Fish fan art, send it to me and I'll post it!

August 27, 2012

Better version on Vimeo

Here's a higher quality version of Fester Makes Friends on Vimeo. It also fixes some minor technical issues that are in the earlier Youtube version such as certain scenes being one or two frames out of sync, and a couple of camera shakes where the edge of the background is visible. I noticed them before I uploaded the initial video but didn't have time to fix them. You might find it a little funnier now that the audio is more precisely synced up, for tighter comic timing.

I've been working on Bakerman, watching Samurai Champloo and Shin-Chan (I've really started to like that Funimation dub of it, as different as it is). Oh, and re-watching the first two seasons of Trailer Park Boys. I think that show went downhill later on, but the early years are still wonderful.

August 23, 2012

Fester Makes Friends

Aaaaand here's the third Fester Fish cartoon, finally! Did I say it was coming out on the 22nd? I meant the 23rd. I just kept making typos, you see.

From rough idea to finished short, this took me about a year. The story of Fester going around town trying to do good deeds and make new friends came out of a desire to expand the character's world and introduce some supporting characters, since people kept telling me to pitch Fester to a network but all I really had was him and his girlfriend. I don't know that any of the new characters in this short are interesting enough to bring back, but anyway, that's what initially led me to develop this story. There is some familiar ground being covered here, with another Tex Avery 'homage', but Fester being on the opposite end of it makes it different enough from "Fester's Nephew," at least in my mind.

A couple of people have asked me if the household objects are really supposed to be alive, or if it's just in Fester's mind. YOU be the judge!

August 21, 2012

Fester Makes Friends Playlist

Here's what I've been listening to while I worked on Fester Makes Friends:

Beach Boys - Friends and 20/20 (Break Away is an underrated gem, right up there with the best of their 60s output)
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Frank Zappa - Hot Rats
Stereolab - Chemical Chords
Various Urusei Yatsura soundtracks
Dynamite in the Brain podcast
Comedy Bang Bang podcast (my favourites are the episodes with Paul F. Tompkins, James Adomian or Neil Hamburger)

1 Day Left


August 20, 2012

2 Days Left

Everything's going well and the cartoon should be ready for Wednesday as planned. I'm definitely going to be working on it up to the last minute before I upload it, but I think I've given myself the bare minimum amount of time needed to finish it properly. Which is exactly the kick in the pants I needed to get it done, so I can move onto my other jobs and projects.

In less about 48 hours, you will get to see Fester meet a lady on a street corner with disastrous results in FESTER MAKES FRIENDS!

August 19, 2012

Catsuka page on Masaaki Yuasa

Taking a break from the Fester Fish countdown to post something I found really cool, and infinitely inspiring.

I'm sure most animation fans are already aware of Catsuka, but until recently all I looked at on the site were the model sheet pages. Recently I stumbled across the "Focus On" pages, which are fantastic galleries and collections of videos related to specific animators. And there's one for Masaaki Yuasa! The site's mostly in french, but it's still pretty easy to navigate through. There are MADs of his animation, and a whole whack of concept art that I'd never seen before. There are even some awkward early drawings he did as a teenager. I found the page really inspiring and thought I should share it.

I also recommend the Hiroyuki Imaishi page and the Tatsuyuki Tanaka page. The Tanaka MAD is gold. I wish Tanaka would return to that looser, more high-energy style he used in stuff like Green Legend Ran and Download, before he entered that more subdued but equally impressive Toujin Kit/ Canabis Works era. Don't get me wrong, I love all of his work, but as any reader of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of wild, cartoony animation.

3 Days Left

Here's a scene from "Fester Makes Friends" where Fester meets a sad little girl. Why is she so sad? You'll have to find out on August 22!


August 18, 2012

4 Days Left

4 days till the new Fester Fish short comes out! In case you forgot what Fester looks like, it's something like this!


August 17, 2012

5 Days Left

Here's a background drawing of Fester's house to remind you that there are only five days till the new Fester Fish short "Fester Makes Friends"!


August 16, 2012

6 Days Left

6 days till Aug. 22 and the new Fester short! Here's a GIF of Fester driving in his car.


August 15, 2012

7 Days Left

Here's a background (or at least, the main layer of the background) from Fester Makes Friends.


August 14, 2012

Release Date for New Fester Short

I've only got a few shots left to animate, and a bunch of audio stuff to do. Other than that, this muthaclucka is pretty much ready to go. Fester Fish will return on August 22, 2012 in "Fester Makes Friends." It'll be about seven minutes long. I wanted to make it shorter because, you know, people don't watch anything over two minutes on the internet, but I just couldn't decide what to cut. So it's all in there! It's an epic tale of friendship (or lack thereof), heartbreak, home invasion and more. It's a transcendental meditation on life and death. It's a tear-jerker that will have you busting out your extra-absorbent hankies! As a wiseau man once said, "experience this quirky new black comedy... It's a riot!"

Mark your calendars!
Warn your neighbours!
Drink your milk!
AUGUST 22!!!

I would've made a teaser video like I did with the other two shorts but I'm too busy animating. So instead I'll be posting non-spoiler stuff from it to whet your appetite, like an advent calendar but with production art and GIFs instead of chocolate. So let the Countdown to Festercy begin, with a walk cycle from the new short, available in two sizes, suitable for avatars and such!


I suck at making GIFs, so the colours got messed up. Oh well.