Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nine Old Men

Well I told myself I wouldn't touch this thing until I polished up Byron's knots - so here I am, Thursday of week 12 (how crazy is that?) and I have Byron looking pretty polished in the first shot. He's still a bit floaty so I'll have to work on that, but right now the second shot is what really needs fixing up. Going to work on Eddie's hands, face, shoulders, and legs, altering the posing a bit and tightening the timing. The girl will have to wait - the focus is on Eddie.

My parents and grandma arrived here on Sunday and we unpacked the whole van that night. To celebrate on Monday, we all went to Disney's Epcot. It was a fun time, and great to be there with my grandma especially. We wished my grandpa could have come, but he wasn't up for this trip, understandably. It was a long drive. Epcot was a lot of fun even though Naveen and I just went in October - we saw some things we didn't get to see then, but mostly the difference was being with family this time.

At the end of the night, after the spectacular fireworks show, we were on our way out and I stopped at the Disney art store (ripping people off since 1972, 'tm'). It really is an incredible art store with some amazing works of art - most of which are two to five thousand dollars if worth anything at all. They do have an animator's desk set up and file folders of character tracings that a 2d animator did that day for purchase - except really that's all it is, a tracing of an original cell from various Disney films, done by a real animator, yes, but let's face it, anyone with a steady hand can trace well, and I couldn't see how people could spend $40 on that.

So then I passed the book section and found Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation by John Canemaker. I have been wanting to get that book but thought it was out of print. It was $60. So I called my friend Jess and asked her if it was on Amazon (which took a little while because my phone died so she had to call Naveen back and then there was all the explaining, etc)... Those Disney shop people were so mad at me! Of course they had every right to be.. I was avoiding spending $60 on a book by calling a friend and finding out that I could get it for $38 online from while these people were trying to close the store.. it was really "ballsy" of me (so I have been told). But hey, that's how I met Mel Brooks and a number of other cool people... so there!

Anyway - all right, 9am, time to get to work.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Beautiful First Day in Florida

I arrived yesterday afternoon around 4:30pm after an easy-breezy flight from Fort Wayne. I would definitley fly Allegiant again. Saved quite a bit of money and basically everything (baggage, seating, in-flight food) is a-la-carte so people can choose what matters to them and leave out what doesn't. And nothing beats getting to your destination nonstop after only 2 hours.

Of course there were the re-acquantancing hugs, kisses, etc. Really good to see Naveen again. There's still that initial shock, like finding something really special in your spring jacket pocket after a long winter - it's been so long since you've seen it, you have to keep turning it over in your hands to re-identify it, remembering how much you cherished it, and after a few minutes the familiarity comes back and you take full ownership of it again. He brought me some cute blue-dyed daisies along with his loving affection.

Pretty much the first thing we did was grab some Royal Thai, which is one of those restaurants you just crave. I got shrimp pad thai and some potak soup, and Naveen got some Ga-ree Gai and potak soup as well. We watched old Friends episodes while eating, and pretty soon after that I fell asleep on the couch, as expected. My last night at home had been spent sorting, packing, and cleaning - I didn't sleep. I had laid down to rest my back and my eyes first around 7am, and got back up around 7:45 to finish everything. My uncle took me to the airport - he's also watching the cats this week while my parents and my grandmother are moving things down here with our van.

My family was supposed to leave before I did on Friday. By 9am when they were all starting to get in the van, I was running on pure adrenaline, and squeezed in a few last things like shoes. In fact it occurs to me now that I forgot two pairs of sandals in my closet. Darn. Anyway... darn. Ok, I won't dwell. :-) So anyway, around 9:30 they were all sitting in the van and waving, and my mother turned the key, and there was a horrible clicking sound and flashing lights in the car. At first she blamed me for leaving the doors open so long the night before (thinking the lights inside the car would drain the battery). We got jumper cables out, but before we used them, we determined it was probably the starter that wasn't working, since the radio, lights, and headlights could all be turned on. We had to have the van towed out of our own garage.

Sadly they did determine it was the battery after all. I was disappointed more than anything, because each time I got in the car to pack some items, the lights were on for about a minute and then turned off automatically, so I didn't think I was draining the battery. It was probably me, but on the other hand, we've had the van in for service for a couple times this month because of some strange shuddering happening, but they never found an explanation. I guess there's a chance it was related to that. So, it's turning out to be a much more expensive move than I thought!

I'm so glad to be here though. It may have been difficult, but it continues to feel right, and now I have to focus on animation - I have tonight and tomorrow after church until 3pm. After that we're going to go to Bally's Total Fitness and do a short workout, and then we'll go to the store for some last-minute items and finish cleaning and organizing before my family arrives. Monday will be spent with them at Disney, and the rest of the week is up for grabs - which means a lot of animation, probably some contract work, and tax forms. But it's Florida, and it's with the one I love. (ok, enough mushy stuff - getting back to work now!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

In De Nile

I'm in serious denial. As much progress as I made yesterday, I just don't think I can fully comprehend this move and all I have to do between today and tomorrow.

I know it's for the best - still believe that - but it's so easy to want to stay here. Change is never easy. But I'm liking the 'defining my sense of self' part.

So I fly tomorrow (I'll be at the airport by this time) and then I'll be in Florida. I'll have all of Saturday to work on the so-called 'finishing touches' on my shot. I have so much to do though. A lot of work and not a lot of time these next two weeks. That's sort of how life is going at the moment. I'm looking forward to the change of pace starting April 2 - start of Class 5, which will be great - going on my first cruise the following week, and when I return, I can focus on AM, help CVC when I can, and we can finally get some wedding plans going and those marriage prep classes.

Until then, it's a big transition, and I've gotta focus on the flow of progress. - In Between The Keys -

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Do Ya Feel Lucky, Punk?

I am so lucky. I am so *freakishly* lucky to have been able to spend these twelve weeks working with Brett Coderre of Pixar on my shot. Man, what a once in a lifetime experience. And in a class of 10 students, I bet he made each of us feel like we were getting special attention. Our critiques have been 10-15 minutes long on 10-15 second animation clips - I don't think it's just my Pixar bias talking, but wow. That's generous, in the midst of working on a major motion picture.

I've gotten a huge chance to connect with Brett over the last 3 months and I've learned a ton. His attention to detail has been great, and his encouragement imperative. Just thinking about how far I've come just this term, I almost wish I had left my job sooner so I could have more immediately devoted my time to AM, which would allow him to see more of my potential and really dive in with those critiques. The great thing about Brett is, I think he sees the potential in all of us, despite our limited schedules. He's calling our bluffs before we even know we're making them. What an inspiration.

Ok, that's off my chest. Now I'm getting back to business. :-)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Moving to Orlando

Well, it's a scramble. I am moving on Friday.

Aside from moving, I still have some contract work to do, as well as Animation Mentor work, of course. But there's an update: originally, my parents and I were planning to begin driving very early on Friday morning, stop overnight in Dalton (Georgia), and get to Naveen's place by late Saturday night. Sure doesn't leave a lot of time for animation on this last week to submit work for class 4.

So, for kicks, my folks asked me to look at flights to Orlando. Flying from Fort Wayne is generally too expensive (I try to book flights from Indy to cut my cost in half). However, Allegiant Airlines just came to our airport, and if you book early enough, you can get service to Orlando for $79 (plus taxes/fees, plus baggage cost, plus seat selection cost). I saw a flight on Friday for $99 but didn't book it quick enough. There weren't any left when I tried.

I kind of gave up on the idea, but when I overheard mom telling the story to a friend of hers on the phone, it occurred to me that there might be a cancellation. So I checked, and sure enough, there was a seat available - this time for $129, plus all the extra fees, but we still decided it was worth it to get there early to work on animation all day Saturday and help Naveen clean if necessary. Perks: now my grandparents can fit in the van and come with us for a nice vacation, and I won't have to sit in the car for 2 days wishing I were at a desk animating. :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More MEAT... less CUTE...

After watching my critique for 409 work, I'm compelled to make some progress. I've spent too much time on the third character. At the moment I can sense my passion for animation being domesticated. It's stifling, and yet, hopeful. I want to put every ounce of energy into every character, simply because I can. However, these days, it's the subtlety that sells, and lately I'm an overactor in a crowd of real people. Identifying that helps my ability to improve.

The running joke among animators is that animators are lazy. They like simplicity, they don't want visuals that are too complex. If that's true, I'm in a lot of trouble. I've always liked visuals that are complex. I like being surrounded by busy-ness. I love detail. So how can I channel that into a love for subtle detail?

My shots that people are complimenting the most have virtually no change in facials. How disappointing, for an overactor! Has anyone ever thrown a lasso around Jim Carrey's neck, or Will Ferrell, and said, "Whoa, Nelly, why don't you keep that same expression on your face through the whole shot?" On the other hand, look at their careers and how they've grown since they've tamed their own fleeting ambitions to always be eye-catching and sporadic. I still need to see Stranger Than Fiction, but for Mr. Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Truman Show? These are a couple of my favorite movies. Isn't that fascinating.

(I don't know how many hands I actually have, but) On the other hand, again, I don't know how many times I watched The Mask growing up, or Bruce Almighty, or Liar Liar... I definitely love those for the crazy Jim Carrey.

I think the point is, I need to show both sides of the coin. A lot of people can show crazy play acting. A good pantomime can get you hired, after all. But good serious role-playing will more than likely sustain your career. I don't necessarily mean SERIOUS acting, but I mean serious ACTING. In other words, living through a character shouldn't be the ultimate goal (which it has always been, for me): letting your character live is the goal. Letting it tell its own story in its own way is the way to rendering it a relatable being.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And the secret of an animator's life is...

Copied pairs. My word. There is nothing cleaner looking. Really helps you focus your ease-ins and outs, and make "moving holds" what they are. Sheepers, those are clean. I'm excited to show you my latest project from the movie America's Sweethearts:

Byron Allen: "So guys! What's going on? Are you two back together? You look very comfortable with each other."

John Cusak: "Look, Byron, I want to be honest with you. Before I came down from the room, I took about a half a pound of vicadin. So I'm gonna be really comfortable until late March."

It's been a really fun shot to work on. I have 2 weeks left to polish it. Working on refining body language at the moment. I'll get back to you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Embarking on the SS CHANGE

I woke up this morning anticipating the daunting task of somehow trying to refine my animation between today and tomorrow (since I haven't had the energy to do so at all this week). Much has changed since my last entry - I informed my supervisors that I decided to move to Florida, which, in short, means I won't be working full time anymore. It means I'll have a lot more time and energy for Animation Mentor and working on my reel. It also means I'll be able to focus on marriage prep (which takes about 6 months thru the church, in most cases). My fiance is happy about this move, of course. It's bittersweet for me.

More than anything, I've missed him these last 6 months that I've been working in Indiana and he's been attending further schooling at Full Sail in Orlando (he is a game programmer). We haven't felt very "engaged" since we separated, despite the use of cell phones, web cams, internet conversations, etc. I think in this stage of life, it's best to live near or with each other so that you can plan together and read each other fully, not to mention starting good habits together like going to the gym consistently or taking care of chores and projects as a team.

That's of course the positive side, along with the feelings of responsibility and independence and a take-charge approach to life. Oh, and the warm weather. On the other hand, it has been the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work as an art director this past year with CVC. It's been an incredible learning experience, and from what I've told, I've been a good resource for them as well. They invested a lot in my being there - I wanted to invest my time and efforts as well, especially through our busy season, which never really ends, but gets the most intense from September through March (just the months I've worked here full time). Prior to that I was freelancing with them and worked on a few projects, namely their website and a couple of other branding items and event media. Being full time really gave me a chance to flex my muscles at multi-tasking, attempting top-of-mind marketing techniques and growing relationships with the clients I worked with, and always going the extra mile, even during the off-hours. It's all something that I've grown to be proud of over the last several months, and it's difficult to let go of that kind of opportunity.

On the other hand, it has been splitting my focus. I got into Animation Mentor last April, before I had started working, and the number of hours and brainpower I've spent on animation has dwindled to half (or less) over the past 6 months. I've been staying afloat, but I haven't been giving AM my "all" which you have to do these days. Such competition... and my competitive spirit has taken a hit since I'm losing time to have to work during the day. A few of my most admired AM classmates have gotten hired recently in animation, and they admitted to freelancing only enough to pay the bills, otherwise focusing on AM.

On a positive sidenote - I haven't burnt any bridges or closed any doors. CVC plans to continue hiring me as a contract graphics designer (on a project to project basis), so I'm not leaving the experience or income altogether.

I like to live as much as I can without regrets. I try to live in the moment, anticipate where I'll be in the future, and remember the past I've come from.

In this case, living in the moment has been entirely "work" - either CVC or AM, and no considerable time off to enjoy life - not to mention my fiance is so far away, and I don't get to see my friends often because so many have moved across the country.

I anticipate being a professional 3d character animator before the end of the year. But I can't see that come into fruition if I don't work at it - and without the time or energy, I can't make it happen. I anticipate getting married next year, maybe in fall - but without being able to sit down with my fiance and discuss our wishes, we haven't even decided on a date yet.

I've come from a childhood of yearning to be an animator. I was drawing all the time. Anytime we went on a family trip, I would spend the whole time drawing, and people would venture to say "Hey! Look, she's going to animate for Disney someday!" (I loved Goofy in particular, but otherwise various Warner Bros cartoons, etc; and then I'd also make up my own characters).
I even had elementary math and science teachers disregard my questions on the subjects because, "what does it matter? You're going to be a famous artist someday anyway."

You can't ignore comments like that, growing up - and meanwhile, I always felt I could do it, if I just sat down and dedicated myself to a drawing for a day or two. My mom used to have to kick me out of the house to play with kids down the street so I could remember to have fun with my friends. The only thing that's ever stopped me or held me back is fear - fear of rejection, worrying about a lack of expertise or experience, wondering if I'll be able to support myself financially, hoping I won't have to stray too far from my family. All these are legitimate fears, but "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" comes into play here. Those fears are the only things that have ever held me back. If I can become fearless - who knows what I can accomplish (same goes for anyone in this dilemma).

So all things considered, I'm going to Florida where I can focus on my animation and marriage preparation, and I'm not going to be afraid of trying. I've had a great experience working for the past year, and now it's time to plunge forward, full speed ahead for classes 5 and 6.