Sunday, September 30, 2007

Schulz on American Masters

I just caught a preview of a documentary on Charles Schulz to be featured on the PBS series American Masters. It's called "Good Ol' Charles Schulz" and will air on WGBH on October 29 at 9:00. Here's the press release:

This is a quintessentially Midwestern story of an unassuming, self-doubting man who, through expressing his unique view of the world, redefined the comic art form with "Peanuts." His genius lay in depicting the daily collisions of insiders and outsiders, of mundane cruelties and transcendent hopes - seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. The "Peanuts" cast of characters is as familiar as our own siblings; their trials and tribulations speak of our families and evoke our childhood desperations. They are portrayed with whimsy and poignancy - and always with love and tolerance, each representing different facets of Schulz' personality and his perspectives on 20th-century America.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Thirteen/WNET New York

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yo Gabba Gabba!

Some of you might be familiar with this new show on Nick Jr, Yo Gabba Gabba! Just when you thought TV couldn't get any more sugary sweet! Anyone seen it? I made it through 15 minutes and had to take a break from stimulus overload. Here's a good article to read at PRINT magazine online. A lot of talented artists and musicians are contributing some amazingly creative stuff for the show.

UPDATE: Cold Hard Flash has video clips of a couple animations for the show by Nick Cross and Joel Trussel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Suck at Math and I can't Draw to Save My Life

On more than a couple occasions, even around the studio, I've noticed how people are very quick to throw up their hands when they have to do math. Some people wear it as a badge..."I can't do Math!" Or maybe a bumper sticker—a statement that they are proud to hate math and just as quick to write off any possibility of getting good at it. Interesting enough, people are just as quick to say that they aren't good at art. Why do you think this is? In one regard, they both occupy the polar regions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain: pure creativity versus raw logic. I think it's interesting that people are so quick to freeze and give up when asked to perform an artistic or mathematical task when the brain is wired to do both. One theory is that most people have had a bad experience with a math or art teacher.

We already have a spokesman on the art side—our very own Peter H. Reynolds. He's the champion of ishful thinking and gets energized when people say they can't draw. Well, Danica McKeller (better known as Winnie Cooper of the Wonder Years) just wrote a book targeted at teenage girls that makes a similar claim, the title being Math Doesn't Suck. She has a website to go along with it, too. Who knew she was a mathematician? She's basically a proponent of teaching math using a conversational approach and is also trying to erase the stigma that girls aren't good at math. Sounds like a great cause to me!

Hi Def in the High Desert

I had an opportunity to participate in a documentary production this past August. What an incredible experience! Produced by two of my closest friends, the basic idea was to document the ride across the Oregon Back Country Discovery Trail (an all off-road route across the entire state). We shot in HD, direct to P2 cards, and downloaded the dailies to a Macbook Pro.

Needless to say, I was in absolute heaven. Around the campsite conversations ranged from motorcycle chat about the relative advantages of BMW vs KLM, to techie discourse on various forms of HD resolution and image quality. Doesn't really get any better in my world.

Check out the trailer on the website:

Oh and the picture? That's my bike, after a pretty good crash. My friend Thor (anyone seen Jackass 2? He's the mini-bike loop guy) is using epoxy to patch the hole I put in my engine. That black stuff? Oil. Cus, you know, there was a hole in my engine! Luckily I escaped relatively unscathed, and the bike made it home in one piece. Too bad the cameras missed that little piece of drama!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Aaron Renier

Above: "Giant Robot Signing" by Aaron Renier
Every so often I come across artwork that completely reinvigorates the artist inside of me. Maybe half a dozen times a year. Like a swift kick to the gut, it's a humbling experience—it reminds me that I have a lot to learn. Tonight I discovered Aaron Renier. He's a cartoonist with the greatest attention to brush stroke, line-weight, and composition—and he has a wonderful knack for character design. When you get a second, be sure to hop by his website. He also has a comic book for kids on the market called Spiral Bound which looks like a fun read.


Every once in a while you see something and have to say WTF?! Here's what is essentially a Flash-based implementation of Garageband: with a dash of Web2.0.

Keith... hopefully you will show up for work tomorrow instead of creating Labyrinth ambiance.


Business to the Googleth Degree

So, I was reading something on Slashdot, and I saw someone saying that Google encourages their employees to spend 10-20% of their time working on their own pet projects. WOW! That's one day a week! Have you ever wondered how things work over at the Googleplex? I did a little sleuthing and dug up this article. I pulled out a couple of the bullets.

  • Innovation is not about instant perfection: New products and ideas are launched early and often, rather than spending time and money perfecting ideas before they are released to the public. Popularity determines which will be the most successful.

  • Failure is good: Figuring out why a project failed offers something to apply to the next project. But fail fast to minimise the investment in shoddy ideas and damage to the brand.

  • Give employees the time to pursue their dreams: Employees are encouraged to spend 10-20% of their time working on their own pet projects. This gives employees a creative outlet and gives them ownership of their ideas.

  • Focus on users, not money: Anything that consumers find useful will inevitably make money, so focus on the user rather than something you can sell.

It's a wonder anything gets done over there. FYI, if you go to the article they mention something about not needing managers, but if you go to their corporate site, you'll see a list of 50 some odd managers. So I'd take that with a grain of salt. I'm not sure what the sources of the article are. There is also this bit on their company philosophy. Anyway, I thought some people might find this interesting. Have we parsed our company culture out anywhere? I feel like there were some cool things in the company handbook that might be worth sharing with the rest of the world.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Blue Man Creativity Center

Via BuzzFeed:

Apparently the Blue Man Group just opened a creative school for 2- to 4-year-olds in New York City. They've rejiggered their live show into a preschool. Here's an excerpt from the New Yorker Article:
"Every day at the center will end with a ritual called Glow Time, during which the shades are lowered, the regular lights are turned off, and black lights are turned on, illuminating the parts of the room (including work created by the students) that have been painted with special UV paint. The collection of Blue Man-inspired educational gewgaws on hand is a far cry from flash cards and Play-Doh. There’s a hypnotic Bubble Machine, with kid-controlled colored lights; a futuristic Water Machine, with a mini-whirlpool; and a trippy installation, left over from the B.M.G.’s 2003 tour, of giant computer- animated dragonflies that can be made to light up, flap their wings, and fly."

Saturday, September 22, 2007


You may have heard me rant on this around the office, but I really believe there's a little bit of 'magic' in creating good multimedia projects. It's that magic that makes it difficult for a print designer, a C++ coder or a textbook editor to simply 'slot' into a position at FableVision.

I think one of the best ways to learn how to perform this kind of 'magic' is to better understand everyone else's jobs. If you look around the office, you'll see a number of people with crossover skills. On the Developer side, for example, Jay can design the crap out of a T-shirt, Matt studies multimedia in college, Ryan is a designer as well as a programmer, and I errrr.... I was voted most artistic in 8th grade.

I've been trying to think of ways to educate the rest of the team on what it's like to be a developer on one of our multimedia projects. Here some thoughts I've had:

  • Similar to that fileprep meeting we had a while back, I'd love to have one that focused on how a developer takes a prepped file and makes it into a multimedia application.
  • I will soon be setting up monthly developer brownbag-type meetings to discuss relevant technologies. These meetings will be open to the staff as well our freelancers.
  • I've been tossing around the idea of some sort of 'job shadow' that we could do in the office. I haven't worked out the details, but I'm thinking something like buddying up with someone else in the office. Then, one Friday afternoon you'll explain to your buddy what you're working on for an hour or so. The following Friday, your buddy will show you what he/she does.
Anyone have any thoughts on these ideas and/or other suggestions for helping foster our MULTImedia skills?


Thursday, September 20, 2007

About the Arts + Boston Children's Museum = FableVision :)

The first thing people ask you when you visit FableVision is: "How did you hear about us?" I've been an employee here for about 2 years now, but I still really like telling how I found out about the company, because it illustrates happenstance and serendipity so well. :)

When I graduated from college, I spent most of my time on the Craig's List job hunt page. I was so desperate that I applied for a workshop teaching position for a Boston-based company called About the Arts (Mind you, I had no experience at all teaching children, nor did I know how to put together a curriculum.) I met with two of the nicest people I have ever come across for an interview. James Brown (epic name!) and Yssa Santos are the co-creators/producers of About the Arts.

James and Yssa are not self proclaimed artists, but they have this undying love for all things art that I can't explain. They both have full time jobs, but devote their spare time to helping to celebrate artists of all sorts on their website, hosting gallery receptions, workshops, and, the seed of the entire operation, they produce a television show that airs on WGBH. The show is filmed documentary style and they have interviewed over 150 artists since 1995. And when I say artists, I mean painters, sculptures, actors, graphic artists, dancers, writers, and so on... I highly recommend you spend some time on their site.

They were very supportive, loved my proposal for a "Beginner's Illustration Workshop" for kids. They advertised the class....buuut...nobody signed up. Ho hum.

Months pass and I get a call from a woman working for the Boston Children's Museum. She says she got my name from Yssa Santos and wanted to know if I would headline the museum's annual fundraiser called "The Early Start Art Brunch" at the former Ritz Carlton. (wuuhhhh?) I said yes, and when I got there that morning after weeks of nervous jitters, I discover that my headlining spot had been taken over by a certain Peter H. Reynolds. (haha)

I had mixed feelings, but as soon as Peter came over to my humble little workshop area littered with colored pencils and construction paper (see photo -->), we started chatting. I was a little frazzled, but I remembered hearing - "Animation Studio" - "Watertown..." Afterwards, I watched him wow an entire ROOM full of kids, while I could barely keep 5 interested.

I went home...found my resume to Dawn....yadda yadda yadda... :)

Check out About the Arts!! Maybe they can change your life too :)

Drawing on Air

"By putting on a virtual reality mask, holding a stylus in one hand and a tracking device in the other, an artist can draw 3D objects in the air with unprecedented precision. This new system is called “Drawing on Air,” and researchers have designed the interface to be intuitive and provide the necessary control for artists to illustrate complicated artistic, scientific, and medical subjects."

Or it would be just plain cool! I've wondered if Nintendo is planning some kind of Wii Paint for their system.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kid Nation

Anyone catch Kid Nation tonight on CBS? The show has gotten a lot of buzz, both good and bad. Basically, it's 40 kids put in an abandoned ghost town out in the desert for 40 days to fend for themselves. Lord of the Flies ring a bell? They have to build the town and make it work without adults telling them what to do. Some of the negatives have been that it's cruel to put kids this age in such a stressful and emotional situation. They didn't even screen it with critics, choosing instead to show it to schools all over the country today before tonight's airing. But after a first viewing, while there was a lot of crying, I thought it was cool to see kids taking charge of their own lives. And amazed by how serious and profound kids can be, more-so than your average adults (or maybe that was just the editing?). The kids are also allowed to leave if they want to. The producers have set up a framework with class structures and breaking up the towns into four sects--plus they appointed a team of 4 leaders. I'll have to see a couple more episodes to make an official call, but it's definitely an interesting show, even in the wake of controversy.

UPDATE: There will be an encore presentation of the premiere on Saturday, September 22, 8pm in case you missed it. You can in fact view it online in full as well. Also, has a decent review of the show.


One of the best animated films of the year (or so some are saying) won't arrive until Christmas Day in the U.S. Persepolis is an animated film based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Marjane Satrapi. They are autobiographical comics that detail her life growing up in Iran after the revolution. The story is amazing, and from what I've seen so far, they've been able to adapt the black and white comic into a lush black and white film, matching and improving upon the style of the comic. Cartoon Brew (they feature a number of clips) and a number of blogs have been covering the lead-up for some time. It was just in the Toronto Film Festival, and already won at the Cannes Film Festival. I've been looking foward to seeing this all year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brain Squeeze

Now that I have every one's attention, I thought it would be the perfect time to open the table for suggestions. Give your brain a squeeze and see what you can add to the juicer. For starters, does everyone like "Creative Juices" for the name of the blog? What sort of things would you all like to see discussed here? You'll notice I've added some links to the side bar. If I've missed any FableVisionary blogs let me know. I've also added a set of links for some of my favorite animation and illustration blogs. The sidebar is a place to stick inspiring, insightful, or just plain fun websites and blogs. If you want me to add anything, just mention it.

At this point, contributors should feel free to post away. I personally hope to use this forum to stir up discussions related to animation and picture-making, but that is just one of an infinite number of possibilities. Similar to the email thread that was going around about the value of art and music in a school curriculum. What's on people's minds these days? Do we need an icebreaker? Start squeezing!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hello World

Welcome FableVisionaries one and all! If you've got something to say, this is the forum. All friendly topics welcome. Only rule is that you can't talk about client work....PERIOD! This is a place to branch out and connect the dots. I envision people talking about art, music, film, literature, culture, education, philosophy, science, technology, and much more! A place to come for daily inspiration and discussion. Details to come!