Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts on CTN Expo

This past weekend, I attended my first CTN Expo down in Burbank. For those of you who may not know, CTN is a three-day animation-focused convention, mainly for animation professionals & students (though there seemed to be a fair around of just plain fans there, too.) It's what I imagine Comic Con was about 15-20 years ago. Just artists meeting and sharing their work and having the kinds of discussions many of us just never have the time or opportunity for.

Since this was only the second CTN Expo ever, it was cool to see it in its early stages, without all the corporate hype that surrounds Comic-Con and WonderCon. (However, GM apparently wanted to be first on what they think will be the next bandwagon, and had costumed elves handing out T-shirts. They were the only people in costume and completely stuck out of the crowd.)

Even though I could only make it fro Friday, it was still well worth it. Ran into several old buddies I hadn't seen in a while, and got some good info from people at Disney (both TV and feature) and Sony animation. There was a pretty interesting talk given by Sergo Pablos, the creator of the characters and initial story that would become "Despicable Me." He had some great 2D concept art that he'd created to pitch what he called "Evil Me" to the studio, and while a lot was changed from his initial version, the core of everything was there. Funny to see it in 2D, and in a somewhat different art style than what showed up in theaters.

I also saw a talk about the new "The Looney Tunes Show" series, which was enlightening if not somewhat dismaying. I understand that the Looney Tunes characters are WB's "evergreens" and that they don't want to let go of them, the fact is there have not been too many truly great iterations of those characters since Termite Terrace shut down (and even in the waning days of TT, things were going downhill.) I do think that this show has the potential to be the best "spinoff" of those characters since Tiny Toons, but we're not talking about related "children" of the classic characters, but the characters themselves. What gives me any hope is that the crew spend 2-3 years going through several iterations that probably wouldn't have worked before arriving at what they have now, and that they purposely moved away from cutefying or kiddifying them, but instead grounded them firmly in adulthood. I remember avoiding "Baby Looney Tunes" like the plague, and this show seems to swing almost entirely away from that approach. I do like the character designs, they make the characters look distinct from the originals, without bastardizing them like.......well, we won't even bring *that* up!

So, CTN; it was a blast, gotta do the whole three days next year. Here's hoping it stays popular within the animation community, without becoming a lookie-loo show overloaded with vaguely-related things like Comic-Con, which is at this point, frankly, a beast. CTN Expo is a great place to just network and buy cool art and hear what's going on in our industry, and I for one couldn't be happier that it's taken off!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Destination: APE

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I've been pretty busy with my latest art gig, as well as completing my multitude of new pieces in time for APE. Yes, it's that time again! Alternative Press Expo is back at the Concourse Exhibition Center in S.F. Come out to see me and lots of other fantastic comic and animation artists October 16th and 17th. I love APE because it's way less crowded or intense than Comic Con or even WonderCon, and it doesn't have all of the pop-culture/Hollywood stuff that has increasingly become the focus of the other two shows. It's all about the art!

I'll be at Table #539, toward the middle of the exhibit hall. I've got a lot of new stuff, including greeting cards, magnets, T-shirts, and a bunch of new art prints. Just look for the purple table and big black Funkybat sign! See you there!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Secrets of the Transbay Terminal!

As many of you may know, I'm something of a history buff, especially when it comes to 20th Century commercial or public architecture. So you can imagine how excited I was when i stumbled upon a news story detailing the "hidden history" of San Francisco's Transbay Terminal.

Originally built in the Depression, as a kind of Grand Central Station for buses and trains crossing the new Bay Bridge, in recent decades it has become a run-down blight, serving just as much as a homeless shelter as a bus terminal. It's slated to close down in a few days, and as part of the preparations for its demolition, CalTrans crews have uncovered some of the long-lost amenities of what was supposed to be a vibrant crossroads for commuters and travelers.

CalTrans workers gave a one-day-only tour of these "secret" spots, and I made sure to make it over there despite short notice! The tour started off in the old bar, a throwback to the 50s if ever I've seen one. Most of the furnishings had been removed, but you could feel the "spirit" of a bygone age coursing through it. The low lighting helped add to the spooky mood, leavened only by the crowds of living people now poking their heads in for the first time in three decades.

Next we saw the old jail, originally intended to hold train robbers (!) and other troublemakers until SFPD could come collect them. Seemed more like something out of the Old West than the 1930s...

After that, we saw a number of photos of the terminal in it's "glory days," complete with newsstand, shoe-shine station (which was there but I sadly missed) and train after train pouring into and out of the upper level. Yes, what many folks know only as an epically creepy and loud bus depot was once intended for both commuter trolleys like the Key System and Southern Pacific's electric trolley systems. WWII, and then, scheming by the automakers, tire & oil companies managed to do away with that. (Within 5 years of the end of the Key System, people began clamoring for a replacement, thus, we got BART. Might have been easier to leave the original rails alone, eh?)

The tour ended at the old diner, a wonderful, authentic time capsule of an old-fashioned greasy spoon. The tour organizers had set up a projector, playing on loop an old movie from the 40s talking about the history of California, and how it has now led to this "wonderful new terminal!" The end featured a bit of animation (from I believe Warner Bros. "Termite Terrace.") with the apparent mascot of the Key System talking about the glorious present and future of the system. Had some great retro-future concept art for luxurious trolleys to come, ideas I'm sure that had more to do with the imaginations of the animators than anything concrete that the Key System ever planned to do! More pics are below...

Overall it was a fascinating glimpse of what the Transbay Terminal was *supposed to be* and was all the more sad seeing from this day and age how much it failed to serve it's intended function, though not entirely by fault of its own. I hope the new Transbay Terminal serves as a better "Grand Central" to San Francisco and the region.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In the thick of it at Comic Con

Though many have given up, amid the ever-growing hype and throngs of crowds, I am one again here at Comic Con in San Diego! For me, Comic-Con has gotten "off-message" compared to smaller Cons, and I worry the same thing is happening to WonderCon, but for me they are all still tremendously fun and exciting. I mean, where else can I go to see Scott Bakula in a Quantum Leap retrospective, meet the guys from Look Around You, and Penn & Teller all in one place? (Oh, and get some free ice cream being given out by the guy who plays Master Shake & The Alchemist?) Not to mention the chance to run into many other animators, both old friends and new.

I would say this year is actually a little less crazy than last year, perhaps enough people got fed up that it reduced attendance a bit. Well, it's only Thursday, I'm sure the next couple of days will be in-sane...

Anyway, off to the next panel. Till then...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Futurama's back with a blast (or 5)!

Last night was a momentous occasion, the return of new episodes of Futurama! Though I see there are some new folks writing for the show, the two episodes felt like they were in fine form compared to "classic" Futurama. The first episode was kind of manic, mainly because of trying up the loose ends from the end of the last "movie."

The only downer for me was that it appears there is no (legal) online streaming of the new episodes, both Comedy Central's site and Hulu had no indication of planning to offer Futurama episodes. Futurama is basically the only reason I have not cancelled my cable, everything else I regularly watch is either on broadcast or streamed online, and the PC-to-TV streaming box I recently got means Hulu on my big-screen LCD instead of sitting at my PC. C'mon Viacom, get on the ball here. Futurama is a geek show, and geeks are watching online these days...

In any event, it's great to see the Planet Express crew back at it (with all their voices intact too!)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WonderCon was a blast!

Hey everyone,

I'm still unwinding from my first time exhibiting at WonderCon, and I will just say that I had a great time. Ran into a lot of old friends and met some new people as well. My "Two-Dee's" logo seemed to be very popular! Nice to know 2-D aficionados are still out in force at these cons...

Below I've included a few of my other recent designs. I plan to have a lot more illustrations, as well as a book of my sketches at APE. I'm also looking into setting up a store on my site so that folks don't have to wait until the convention to pick up one of my T-shirts or illustrations. I'll keep ya posted, but in the meantime, I'm just glad to have gotten my WonderCon presence established. See everyone there next year!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2D on the ropes again already?

After the toure de force that was "Princess and the Frog" I really thought it would be a while before the rumblings of a pullback in 2D features would be heard again. You know, like maybe 4-5 years at least?

Apparently studio honchos feel that even though it made $100 million, P&tF was a "disappointment" at the box office. Now the plug has been pulled on "The Snow Queen," what was to be the 3rd 2D film in this nascent renaissance for traditional Disney animation. Much of this is outlined in the story below:

I have read and heard elsewhere that the Winnie the Pooh 2D feature is still a go, but that at this point, nothing else is really in the pipeline. I'm hoping that John Lasseter and other 2D-friendly directors & animators in positions of influence can keep this train on the tracks.

It was absurd of execs to expect Princess and the Frog to pull in Lion King numbers, it was the first 2D Disney film in years, and the first one in almost a decade anyone really cared about. I saw P&tF 3 times in theaters, and at two of those screenings there was cheering and clapping at the climax and as the credits began to roll. I haven't seen audience reaction like that in a Disney 2D film since Lion King. This film is very well loved by those that saw it, young and old alike. Frankly, with the female focus, it's impressive that this film earned what it did, considering a good number of young boys probably opted out. A film like Mulan or The Little Mermaid would have been a better benchmark for BO comparison than Aladdin or The Lion King.

It's important for anyone in any position of influence in the industry to push hard against this sabotage of the rebirth of 2D. Hand-drawn animation was always the primary creative medium of Walt Disney's empire, the wellspring of most of the shows, rides, and other fantasies that were born from the studio. Disney needs to ease in to reintroducing 2D features to today's kids. Older kids and teens probably have a bias against 2D to some extent, but adults fondly remember the magic days of Disney and will definitely pay to renew those fantasies for their children. Let's not give up before we've even started...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Where does the time go?

Just came full circle on a bit of web surfing, following my curiosities and whims, when I realized how a moment of "I wonder..." can lead to hours "wasted." (Whether they are truly a waste is somewhat subjective I suppose.) Still, this is probably something more of us can relate to than we might at first realize.

I'm just unwinding after a long week, no commitments this Friday evening, but an inkling to maybe work on some character cleanups or maybe get around to boarding a short that's been rattling around in my head for a while. Well, after checking my email (not a big time-suck for me compared to some folks) I decide to finish reading a news story I had open in another tab left over from by morning web browsing. Story's about NorCal scenic highways and quirky stuff along them. Someone in the comments section mentions that Route 101 around Monterey used to run along a adjacent road from the current 101, and that there's a lot of cool old buildings along there. Well, we're off to the races now.

I try to look up the location of this "old 101" so I can check it out next time I'm traveling near Monterey. I look at the page for the 101 on Wikipedia, and it mentions a bunch of obscure history about old routings of the road. I decide to look for an older Bay Area map to see what they are talking about. About 40 minutes in to looking at old maps, I see one of downtown S.F. that mentions an "Alcoa Building." Never one to ignore "lost history" I decide to look up this Aloca Building I have never heard of after living here more than a decade. Turns out it's the big dark diagonal cross-beam encased building over by the Embarcadero. Oh, good to know.

At this point, maybe I could have cut this stream of searching, but no.

This building reminds me a lot of a building seen in various Star Trek episodes, some kind of Starfleet facility. (Heck, they even position it near the Embarcadero towers, just like the former Alcoa Bldg.) After browsing various image links looking for it, I stumble upon images of a GM pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair that "inspired" a different Starfleet building. I see that it looks almost identical to the "Venture Industries" HQ in The Venture Bros., and go browsing for comparison images. Find one, and it is on a page with other Venture links. So of course I end up watching a streaming episode, one I have already seen (only once before, tho!) from Adult

As I close the window after the episode ends, and see the string of tabs, I realize it is like a sedimentary layer, recording the progress of my web surfing for the night. With that US 101 news story at the bottom of the pile, I see that it is 12:30am, my evening is gone, and I should probably go nighty-nite. All that was the result of a domino effect from one moment of "I wonder..." I had about an offhand comment I read. And so, THAT is where the time goes...