Sunday, April 19, 2009

FableVisionary Hidden Talents

You betcha, that's a mini Etch-a-Sketch right there...and holding it is the super talented Ryan McNulty (developer extraordinaire at FV). Ryan spent many long hours (20 minutes) slaving over this piece. It took him several days (2 minutes) to render the delicate detail in those little crawfish eyeballs. Ryan attended Harvard satellite Etch-a-Sketch School at a very young age and trained with the masters (no he didn't and that doesn't exist).

Oh whatever - he's AWESOME and he drew THIS still life on an Etch-a-Sketch! Now THAT'S a hidden talent.

I think this guy's got some competition!
Make your own Etch-a-Sketch. (This is for Gary)
How it works.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scarygirl Game

Scarygirl Game Trailer from Touch My Pixel on Vimeo.

So, the game landed on the web yesterday. I only found about it today (thanks Brian Romero), but I can guarantee you word is spreading. The fact that the site is currently pretty bogged down supports that. Catch the trailer above, then head on over to play the game at:


Where to begin? This is a Flash-game, folks. Not unlike the games we make at FableVision (see Lure of the Labyrinth). The visual impact is probably the most striking. It's practically like dancing around in an illustration. I haven't had a chance to become fully immersed in the game, but Keith dove in and I was impressed with what I've seen so far. Very responsive controls, great sound name it. Load time is a bit cumbersome right now, but I suspect that will improve.

I'm first reminded of Crappy Cat, and then Poptropica. But the presentation here exceeds both of those games. How are they getting this level of performance out of Flash? First off, I measured the gameplay window: only 750 x 480 (give or take a few pixels). When was the last time we designed a game that small? You don't even realize this because they've designed a smart html shell around it with even more beautiful artwork that doesn't distract from the gameplay. Also, they have an impressive parallax working in the sidescroll part of the game. None of this appears to slow anything down. The mixing of vector and pixel is seamless, but definitely intentional for optimization. They've figured out how to pull it off (they being: Touch My Pixel).

I keep posting stuff like this to inspire everyone to think big. I know we can create something this fabulous.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Does dialogue-driven TV animation need animators?

This is the question posed over at Cartoon Brew by Amid Amidi in his latest post Xtranormal: A Glimpse Into the Future of TV Animation Production. The animation below was created using free web software available at (honestly, you can try it out right now), where their slogan is:

“If you can type, you can make movies.”

This isn't meant to be a fire-starter (or maybe it is) (edit: a heated debate has indeed sparked). Amid raises several points:

"I’ve long felt that the amount of effort invested into TV animation is disproportionate to the quality of work that appears on the finished screen. Too many production dollars are wasted on menial artistic tasks that could more efficiently be handled by a computer."


"Dialogue-driven shows that are visually formulaic (i.e. Fairly Oddparents, The Simpsons, Family Guy, most pre-school and “Adult Swim” series) could easily be replaced with automated production systems. Crazy talk? Consider South Park, a half-hour show that uses automated systems to deliver finished episodes in as little as two weeks and doesn’t suffer with audiences one bit."

So really, what he's getting at is that so much of the animation on TV amounts to talking characters with repetitive movements (or no movement at all) that could be handled by trained technicians (not necessarily requiring a trained animator's touch). Amid posits that animators would be freed up to create truly unique material that requires an artist's hand, instead of tediously moving arms, choosing from a series of mouth shapes, canned expressions, etc...tasks that could in many ways be orchestrated by an editor/technician trained in the software. I don't believe any of this discussion is meant to slight the animators currently working on the shows (edit: it has). He simply puts the question out there: what is stopping this from coming to fruition?

I encourage everyone to chime in on this. Admit it, we're looking into auto-lipsync apps to handle the brunt of our educational games that feature talking heads because it is tedious and time-consuming to have to do something by hand that is so repetitive. We're always looking to optimize our processes by building organized libraries of characters and their parts. The philosophy built into Flash is all about cutting corners and creating efficiencies, so at what point do you need one artist to get the ball rolling, and then hand over the brunt of the work to smaller teams that know how to work the software?

This doesn't need to be the case. But it goes to show that certain forms of entertainment don't require the unique talents of individual animators. I would argue that there is a growing market for storytelling and animation where the hand-made (human) element is more evident. Both visually, and in the writing. I would argue that we offer it up at FableVision all the time, and it's why people flock to us. It's also what makes Animation-ish what it is—compare our version of the "anyone can animate" mission to that of Xtranormal and the differences are plain to see.

That's where I've landed. Discuss, or just think about it :)

EDIT: So, after an mere afternoon, Amid is definitely drawing criticism and protest from many an animator over at Cartoon Brew. Many of them working on shows targeted in his post, defending that they've been unfairly labeled as technicians when they are in fact animators. Definitely worth checking out the comments in the post. It's also important to note that some of his comments on shows have been labeled inaccurate or over-generalized (South Park is actually made by a small army of animators who work incredibly hard and fast for 2 weeks).

Some have asked if he purposely baited everyone (if he's half joking). I don't think so; this isn't the first time Amid has taken a point of view that has riled people up. But I still think it's a debate happening in the animation field worth highlighting over here at Creative Juices. For me personally, I think the more you give over to the computer, the more likely that processes can and will be automated. I also agree that the technology to do what he suggests is definitely coming, especially in the realm of CG.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Upstate Four: Flash Animation

GREAT discussion going on over at Cartoon Brew. HIGHLY recommended--> here. Nearly all of it is music to my ears. Even though the show didn't get picked up by Cartoon Network, it proves that there is a way to push through the shortcuts and tweens of Flash to approach something that has the vibrancy of hand-drawn animation. They also talk about the importance of voice talent and sound design. My highlights:

Describe the animation process a bit. Like Superjail, a Flash-animated series that both of you worked on, Upstate Four is refreshingly free of the Flash shortcuts that we’re so used to seeing nowadays. It feels more like a traditionally animated cartoon than Flash. Would it be budgetarily possible to maintain this level of quality throughout the entire run of the series?

Fran: It would definitely be possible - it’s what was done on Superjail, though the workflow was different. We started with an animatic of the boards, from which the key animators based their layouts and Will started the backgrounds. I tried to key out as much as possible to keep the style consistent. From there, it went to the animators to rough out the movement. The assistant animators handled the clean-up and lipsync, and the interns covered the in-betweens and coloring. Shadows were also blocked in with Flash. The scenes were composited in AfterEffects, at which point the camera moves and shadows were added. Oh! Also, this cartoon wa produced entirely in the USA! No outsourcing whatsoever! In fact, except for the music, which was composed and recorded in LA, the entire production, animation, voices and sound were completed in New York.

Will: We wanted to make a modern cartoon within our budget that didn’t look cheap. We had both worked with Flash on other projects and we’d learned a few tricks to make Flash produce animation that didn’t look like a web banner ad for home mortgages, like turning down paintbrush smoothing and avoiding motion tweens. “Utica Cartoon” was traditionally animated, and we figured that since we didn’t have to spend money on paint, film, cels, photocopying, re-registering, etc… that we could spend more time making full animation. Being animators ourselves, we wanted to get the project done without outsourcing since we figured that each job that wasn’t outsourced would lead to hiring another one of our skilled friends. New York is chock-full of animators that I would be psyched to work with.

Fran: I also have to add that the image alone can’t keep a production from looking cheap. The voices and music blew me away. The voice actors were all wonderful to work with and added a ton to the project. They’re creative and hilarious. They were a big factor in keeping this project from looking “Flashy.” The musicians, Miles Kurosky and Nik Freitas created about twenty-eight different songs to fill eleven minutes. I think there’s only about fifteen seconds that don’t have music. Not many cartoons these days have all real live instruments and real live musicians.


Also to note that you can watch the the pilot, too. So head on over and read the full interview.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

FableVisionaries on Twitter!

Friends of FableVision and followers of the Creative Juices blog might be interested to know that several of us at FableVision are on Twitter. Paul Reynolds heads up the primary handle (@FableVision) and tweets frequently about all things pertaining to the company.

Here's the current list of FableVisionaries:

@FableVision (Paul Reynolds)
@peterhreynolds (Peter H. Reynolds)
@Gerrickg (Gary Goldberger)
@johnlechner (John Lechner)
@bobjinx (Bob Flynn)
@keizu (Keith Zulawnik)
@reneekurilla (Renee Kurilla)
@alliebiondi (Allie Biondi)
@JesseACH (Jesse Anna Haines)
@Popmama (Leigh Hallisey)
@adam1217 (Adam Landry)
@briangrossman (Brian Grossman)
@bargarelli (Matt Bargar)
@sheikaf (Shannon Frederick Meneses)
@juliay22 (Julia Young)
@wildsamoliver (Samantha Oliver)
@PauletteGreene (Paulette Green)

See you on Twitter :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oh, Twitter

Twitter is currently down for unscheduled maintenance.
We expect to be back in about an hour. Thanks for your patience.

Twitter has been super buggy today. I had to laugh when I saw this moments ago. First time for me, anyway. Most of us have seen the "Fail Whale" before, or the missing page "ghost" bird. Here are those and some others. It's a fun use of illustration to communicate something that would be cause for alarm for most of their audience. Lightens the mood, I suppose.

Adventures in Cartooning

via BoingBoing

This fabulous book was just brought to my attention by Bill Gonzalez (thanks, Bill!). I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet, but it appears to be one of the more creative and charming approaches to teaching comics that I've seen in awhile. Perfect for any aspiring cartoonist, young or old. And any fan of comics!

BoingBoing sums it up nicely:

"Adventures in Cartooning is a comic that tells the story of an elf who teaches a kid how to draw comics -- a kind of Understanding Comics for kids. It's incredibly charming and full of sly wit, and the combination of the story (and there is a real story here) and the instruction is perfect inasmuch as the story illuminates the techniques in the construction. Taking kids through the basics of layout, dialog, and doodling, Adventures in Cartooning is an inspiring text for any kid who loves comics, regardless of artistic abilty."

First Second Books offers a preview on their website --> here