Sunday, June 29, 2008

Go See Wall-E

Drop what you're doing and go see Wall-E. I mean it! If you've seen it, feel free to leave your thoughts.

Also, the Pixar short Presto is a real treat as well.

What are you waiting for?...stop reading!!

Previously: Wall-E

Friday, June 27, 2008

Best Cartoon Bumper Ever?

I often post on some of the more striking things John K. has to say about animation. His latest post analyzes the opener/bumper of Rocky and Bullwinkle:

"How the Hell did they come up with this great bumper? Not only is this frame the best drawing of Bullwinkle, but just about every aspect of the cartoon is inspired...How would you plan a cartoon like this? Certainly not with a script. I don't think you could do it with just a storyboard either, because it has no logical continuity , but it all seems to go perfectly to the crazy wonderful music."

Link to Video

Previously blogged about:
The Design of Rocky and Bullwinkle

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wall-E

Whenever Pixar puts out a film, animators and the public as a whole take notice. They've kind of replaced Disney as the standard bearer for animated feature films. So far, the buzz around Wall-E has been extremely positive—some are already touting it as Pixar's Best to Date. One early circulating "spoiler" is that the first half hour of the film is almost entirely silent...just Wall-E hanging out on Earth all by himself---little to no dialogue. Which intrigues me.

However, I just came across the first heavily negative review I've seen. And it comes from Michael Sporn, one of the top bloggers in the animation community. He says that "the film, to me, felt less like an animated film than a special effect film." Which is an interesting statement in it's own right....heavy on spaceships and robots (obviously). But, here's the essence of his criticism:

"The technical abilities are high, and the film is done with the greatest professionalism. But they’re machines being animated, and I never felt close to them. The Iron Giant, from that film, was a hostile, war machine and was supposed to stay a machine, but I felt more for that character than I did for Wall-E or his cutely developed girlfriend, EVE.

The film has a better concept than story. It’s the bane of all movies these days. If you can narrow the story down to one sentence, it’s more concept than story and has a harder time being successful. Wall-E feels a lot like Short Circuit 3 with no humans - for at least the first half."

Definitely disappointing if true. I'm gonna hope for better. I think that for me, it will fall on character development. R2-D2 and C-3P0 were extremely likable robots. But it IS an interesting choice for Pixar to work with less animated-looking characters. What are people's thoughts and expectations for the film, based on reviews and trailers you've seen? It hits theaters tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Open House Animation

video

We set up a light table at our FableVision Open House last Friday. I prepared a stack of index cards for people to draw on and what ensued was an animation tag of sorts. Where one person draws a couple frames and leaves their last card for the next person to step up to the plate. We stole the idea from a "Drinking and Drawing" event held in Boston by Frederator. Here is the animation from that event.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wobbly Land

via Drawn



Wobblyland is a new show for toddlers created by Ireland's Brown Bag Films.

FANTASTIC!

What can science learn from Google?

I just read an interesting essay entitled "The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete" over at Wired, by Chris Anderson. Here's the link. He asks "What can science learn from Google?" Here are some excerpts:

"Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition. They are the children of the Petabyte Age."

"This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear. Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves."

The essay general speaks to the intrinsic value of a data in vast numbers—that by listening to the data, you can predict a lot without an underlying theory. Models are continuously trying to catch up with data. While I'm not personally ready to abandon scientific theory, it's definitely an interesting theory in it's own right.

There's a feature over at Wired on the Petabyte Age, which you can read here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Power of Child Art


Paul Reynolds came across this nifty site and the lovely work of Suzie Arrington who is commissioned by folks to take their kid's art and turn it into a jewelry keepsake. I was chattin' with Bob Flynn at the FableVision party last night about her work and the power of children's art. If you want to get more inspiration from children's art - check out a great group - the International Child Art Foundation in Washington, D.C. My friend, Ashfaq Ishaq, is the director of this great group. Notice he has "Ish" in his name! 

UPDATE: Suzie is "Suzy", and this is her KidO's website

Friday, June 20, 2008

Creating Video Games Is Not Just Fun, It's Educational

We've recently been talking a lot about the educational benefits of video games around the studio. We create lots of great games and activities that helps kids learn as they play them. Below are a few examples that take another 'meta' step outward to promote the idea that students can learn through the act of actually making the video games.


Alice - An Educational Software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment

Alice is a visual programming environment that is used to teach students Computer Science concepts. It is often used in introductory Computer Science courses.

Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student's first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.

In Alice's interactive interface, students drag and drop graphic tiles to create a program, where the instructions correspond to standard statements in a production oriented programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice allows students to immediately see how their animation programs run, enabling them to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behavior of objects in their animation. By manipulating the objects in their virtual world, students gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course.


Scratch - A visual programming language from the MIT Media Lab

Scratch has a very simple interface for creating video games. It can be used to help students learn concepts in math, programming, design, and digital media.

Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design.


Computer Games As Liberal Arts

Here's a cool article that talks about how creating video games can even help students learn concepts in writing, logic, math, science, marketing, sociology, and Internet culture.

[...] some educators are going a step further, teaching kids to make the games themselves. It turns out to be perhaps the ultimate form of liberal arts. In order to create a computer game you have to think about the content. You have to write a script. The programming involves logic, math and science. And to understand how you distribute a game you have to get into issues of marketing, sociology, and Internet culture.


Given the above, think about how much smarter we're getting every day at work!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Magic Tent


I bumped into Bart Coughlin at a local party and discovered he is part of the team producing The Magic Tent, a new production from the team who created Between the Lions. I believe he said it was show designed to be shown in India. Some really nice elements - the Shape Shifter and the Story Scroll... check out the trailer. www.themagictent.com

Friday, June 13, 2008

Character RE-design?

Great article in the New York Times (I found through John K):
"Strawberry Shortcake was having an identity crisis. The “it” doll and cartoon star of the 1980s was just not connecting with modern girls. Too candy-obsessed. Too ditzy. Too fond of wearing bloomers....She is not the only aging fictional star to get a facelift. An unusually large number of classic characters for children are being freshened up and reintroduced — on store shelves, on the Internet and on television screens — as their corporate owners try to cater to parents’ nostalgia and children’s YouTube-era sensibilities. Adding momentum is a retail sector hoping to find refuge from a rough economy in the tried and true."

UGH. The article details more atrocities on cartoon characters.

"For parents, nostalgia is considered a bigger sales hook than ever because of the increasingly violent and hyper-sexualized media landscape."

And this is the solution? Strawberry Shortcake gets a makeover? Why not make a NEW character for girls?

"At KidsWB.com, which is rolling out a revised site over the summer, the studio will let people customize Looney Tunes characters as they see fit...You want a dark, Goth version of Tweety Bird? Have at it,” said Lisa Gregorian, executive vice president for worldwide marketing at Warner Brothers Television."

Now, that would be a sight!

Monday, June 9, 2008

J.K. Rowling on the power of failure

via Boing Boing:

J.K. Rowling's terrific commencement address at Harvard:

"The fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure....

I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. ,...Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way....Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned...."

Available as video and mp3 on Harvard Magazine's website.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

ZAC Browser: For Autistic Children

I just read about this via Monkey Bites.
A little info from the ZAC website:

"ZAC is the first web browser developed specifically for children with autism, and autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), and PDD-NOS. We have made this browser for the children - for their enjoyment, enrichment, and freedom. Children touch it, use it, play it, interact with it, and experience independence through ZAC."

PC only for now. If you scroll down, there is a video to watch of the browser in action. It appears to fundamentally alter the way you browse the internet.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

Ahoy! A new cartoon! Looks GREAT! Finally, something fresh to feast my eyes on.

Preview videos: HERE

Official Website at Cartoon Network.
Show premieres this Thursday at 8:30. I'll be watching in anticipation.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Phil Hansen

http://philinthecircle.com/

Has anyone mentioned this site yet in Creative Juices? Check out his videos -- the one of creating Lance Armstrong with a tricycle is a must-see. The syringe painting is wild too.