What happens when you’ve been writing a blog for seven years

Have I really been writing for seven years? Apparently so. What have I learned? How have I changed? Why has it become ever harder to sit down at the keyboard and type?

Continue reading “What happens when you’ve been writing a blog for seven years”

Animation Books That I Own

Ever since my passion for animation was ignited a couple of years ago, my collection has been on the increase. It’s still relatively small though; buying school books puts paid to that. It’s a good selection though that represents a good variety of animation styles and genres. Have a peek (click to see full-size) and let me know what you think in the comments below ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Not Just Cartoons, Nicktoons! – By Jerry Beck. Well, how could I not have this? Goregous graphics and backstory to all the original Nicktoons all the way through to The Mighty B!
  2. Cartoon Retro: The Art of Shane Glines – Lots of great lines in this one. The 800+ page ebook that Shane did a few years ago is awesome, but everything looks better on paper.
  3. Animation Magazine 20 Year Collection – This one’s a gift and in addition to a bit of writing, it’s also a cool way to see how the industry has changed so much since the late 80s. They’re getting ready to launch the 25 year edition too!
  4. The Art of Spirited Away – I picked this up in Belfast the day I finished my undergraduate degree. Lots of lovely sketches and illustrations but also a great insight into some of the production methods used. There is also a full copy of the English script.
  5. An Teachtaire – An Irish comic written by Colmรกn ร“ Raghallaigh but illustrated by Tomm Moore of Secret of Kells Fame.
  6. Animation Art – Edited by Jerry Beck, this is the book that kicked it all off. Seeing as it’s a bit trick to find now, I still think there was a bit of fate involved that day I stumbled across it in a Borders in Bowie, Maryland. A great book that I re-read often.
  7. The Art of The Incredibles – Surely no reason to justify this being there, right?
  8. Assorted Life In Hell collections – Matt Groening’s indie comic. The self-portrait at the start of Work is Hell got me hooked.
  9. Stewie Griffin’s Guide to Life – Apologies for this one. It was purchased back when Family Guy was still funny in a non-brain-dead way.
  10. Planet Simpson – By Chris Turner. If ever you wanted a detailed breakdown of one of the best TV shows ever made, this is the tome you want. It gets a bit complicated and existential, but it really is hard to beat.
  11. Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive
  12. Animation Development: From Pitch To Production
  13. Directing Animation – These three are all written by Dave Levy and even though I’m not directly involved in the animation industry, these have nonetheless been a superb guide to it and how animation is produced. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from reading them.
  14. The Animation Pimp – By Chris Robinson. This one was a toughie, but the descriptions of people at the end was well worth the effort.
  15. The Vault of Walt – By Jim Korkis. I love the oddball and quirky stories in this one. Much more interesting than the usual Disney stories.
  16. The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes – By Jerry Beck (again?). It may be small but it packs a great punch as it guides you through some of the best output of the Golden Era
  17. Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings – Sadly I’ve yet to read this one.
  18. The Book Of Big Little Books – Big little books were a kind of book released in the 30s (?). This book has quite a nice selection of them.
  19. Walt Disney: An American Original – By Bob Thomas. A great read, whether it has a slight bias or not.
  20. How To Make Animated Movies – By Anthony Kinney. This is the kind of book I enjoy; detailing how to do something in a completely obsolete way.
  21. Walt in Wonderland. Detailing Walt’s early years and the silent films he produced. Michael Sporn has written a bit on this book if you’re interested.
  22. That’s All Folks! The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Although they’re often taken for granted, there really was a ton of great art produced throughout the studio’s existence.
  23. Serious Business – Hiding in the back is this overview of the American animation business.
  24. Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life – By Matt Groening. Being older now, I appreciate the humour a lot more. Plenty of Groening’s trademark wit that characterised the series’ early years.
  25. BFI Classics: Spirited Away – I just finished reading this and it makes a great companion to the Art Of book listed above.
  26. Cartoon Modern – By Amid Amidi. I recently wrote about this, a must for any bookshelf.
  27. Children’s Television – By Cy Schneider [signed]. Although dated by the time of its release, it is a window into the animation business of the 50s through the 80s. Mattel toyetic shows ahoy!
  28. The Art of Walt Disney – This is a recent acquisition but it was published in the early 70s. So Walt was still a very recent memory. I haven’t read it yet, but I am curious to see what it reads like, considering that we know what came after.

Not shown: Walt’s People Volume 11 put together by Didier Ghez. I am currently in the middle of reading this and I can safely say that it has whetted my appetite for Amid Amidi’s upcoming book on Ward Kimball.

Prologue: Applying the Toyota Production System to Animation

This isn’t any sort of official announcement per se but it is a wee peek on what I’m currently working on at the moment in between semesters. The last class I took centered on supply chain management and decision-making and one of the systems we studied was the Toyota Production System, a kind of ‘lean’ setup.

Long story short, we studied how the system was implemented in a hospital in Seattle and it got me thinking as to whether or not it could also be implemented in a studio environment.

Anyways if you’d like to see a copy of the (almost completed) first draft, just drop me a line at charles at animationanomaly dot com

Start An Animation Blog Now!

Via: XKCD

It was a year ago tomorrow that I wrote the first of what would become what I would consider a ‘daily’ post on the blog. Sure, it existed before that and I averaged about one post a week (although sometimes less) but on this day last year (April 1st), Gilligan over on the Retrospace blog posted some advice to bloggers. After I read that, I made up my mind that I needed to put in much more of an effort.

Before I knew it, a whole year had passed and here I am writing about it. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to sustain a blog every day for an entire month let alone a year. Funnily enough, I’ve never run out of things to write about and I’ve barely repeated myself at all.

Yet it’s funny to look back and see that I’ve come a very long way with my blogging. I dare say my writing has improved, what I write about has become slightly more nuanced than simple reviews and my commentary has become more vocal instead of simply relaying the news.

All of this I still enjoy very much. Even though I normally have a gym session under me before I sit down at 6am to write the day’s post, I don’t feel any overbearing obligation when doing so. Oh, sure there are some days when inspiration can be a bit hard to come by, but those are relatively few and far between and I always resolve them in the end.

Why mention all of this? The answer is simple, you CAN do it too.

There are tons of people out there who have a blog (or tumblelog, twitter, etc.) and update it every now and again. For some of them, I am forever grateful for the invention of RSS, because without it, their blogs wouldn’t be getting a peep of a visit from me. I simply don’t have the time to check back and see if they’ve written something new or not.

I think the main reason is that you do have to schedule time for your blog, otherwise its just not going to work. I do it in the morning before work, perhaps you can do it before you go to bed. Either way, if you don’t specify a time to work on it, it’ll never get done.

For animation types, I simply cannot fathom why some of them don’t update at least once a day or at the bare minimum, once a week. As creative types, a blog can serve as a great output for your work, inspirations or even your non-animation hobbies.

Besides all that, blogs are stupidly easy to set up and maintain. This blog began on Blogger before it moved to WordPress.com (where it went daily) and before it moved to it’s own host using WordPress.org. Along the way, I’ve garnered some experience that continues to serve me well.

My point is that only you can make your blog the best it can be, no-one else will or want to. Put in the effort and you’ll be surprised what you get out of it. I sure am.

My favourite Piece of Art That I Own

I don’t have a lot of art and I sure wish I had a lot more, but with a small apartment and the school bills to pay, it can be tough to acquire pretty pictures to hang around the place. Thankfully, I purchased this piece before I started school, when I had a bit more moolah in the wallet.

As you can see, it’s clearly Roger Rabbit and it’s also painted by none other than Tara Billinger!!!

There’s a lot to love about this piece, it’s from one of my favourite movies, it’s in Tara’s unmistakable style, Roger is clearly going off his nut and there are some very nice shades of red to boot. Check out Tara’s creation process here.

On top of that, it’s all original. I’m one of those people who appreciate art because it’s nice to look at, not because it’s made by some high-flying artiste and I would much rather appreciate something like this than a run-of-the-mill poster or what have you. So she didn’t create the character, so what? She made this awesome picture from the film that inspired her and gives me something nice to talk about when we have guests over.

What I like best about it though, is the satisfaction I get from knowing that by buying it, I supported an artistic organization and artist. There was no auction house, no art dealer, just Tara and I (although the comic book shop in Philly along with The Autumn Society helped put together the show that the piece was in). Just knowing that I’m helping individual artists makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

There are literally tons of similar art being made out there right now, so before you consider dropping hundreds of dollars (or more) on that next “limited edition cel”, perhaps consider buying some real, original art instead.

 

The Two Weeks of My Life When I Could Have Been Considered An Animator

Via: Wikipedia.org

Yes, the tagline for my blog is not entirely accurate, I did dabble in animation before I became a civil engineer. Now granted, I still cannot draw properly, and never really have been able to do so. I once entered an art competition for the Community Games and it was only after they announced the winners that my mother pointed out that my drawing had everyone swimming out to sea, complete with tropical island and palm trees. Needless to say, I did not win.

So drawing really isn’t in my genes. I kind of wish it was, but at the same time, I know my kids (all four of ’em) will have at least some capabilities that enable them to draw more than a straight line.

You would think that would have limited me in the animation field wouldn’t you? Oh, no. This is the 21st century, where I could, theoretically, carve a whole career out of making films consisting straight-lines all made on the computer (if I really wanted to). But this post is set before that, all the way back in the early, early days of 1997 AD (or BCE for the Jewish folks).

It was at the very beginning of January that year that I paid a very rare visit to the US with my Dad. Long story short, my uncle had a computer (with something called America On-Line that allowed you to do stuff on the “internet”) and on said computer was, Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego. However, that is not all. Also installed on that Packard-Bell-branded PC was a copy of Spider-Man Cartoon Creator.

Sadly, Google failed to turn up a screenshot, but if you can imagine a screen with a scene in the middle and plenty of big buttons around the outside for adding characters, objects, etc. then you’ve got the gist of it.

With this basic program, you could create an entire show using either the included backgrounds and characters. For the voices, you had to supply your own, and I’m sure I did the best impressions of Peter Parker I could. Everything was based on Spider-Man: The Animated Series which was being or had recently been broadcast and is one of the very few comic book TV shows that I watched regularly as a child.

Naturally, whatever I created has long since been lost to the ether, but I remember having great fun playing it and acting out the role of a creative overlord. Perhaps it was because I was a kid and kids are more easily entertained, but I really did have fun when my imagination ran wild.

After nearly two weeks of playing the game, it was time for me to head back to The Auld Sod, but before we left, we headed up to a computer show. Now this is back in the pre-dotcom bubble when computers were awesome and not merely a tool of everyday life. Long story short, we’re wandering around and guess what I see is for sale. That’s right, the Spider-Man Cartoon Maker!

My Dad asked me if I wanted it, and I did, but at the time, I thought computer programs cost $200 and up. Where I got this notion, I do not know, but long story short, so I said….no, because I didn’t want my Dad to spend $200 just on me (I was a selfless kid, really).

Where would I be now if I had had more than a fortnight to act out my animation fantasies? Who knows. I would most likely still be an engineer, seeing as having a cartoon-making program on the PC will not exactly improve my drawing skills in the slightest.

What the program did teach me though, was that cartoons are ‘made’, they don’t just appear out of thin air on the TV or cinema screen. I suppose it’s just a wee bit of a shame that the full realization of that didn’t come about until I was about 20 years, 7 moths old.

Why You Should Always Meet Your Heroes

They say you should never meet your heroes. Why this is so, I can only presume, is because it’s happened to some people over the years; they got the chance to meet their idol, and when they did, were left thoroughly let down by the experience.

All I can say, is that if you feel you can never meet your hero(es) because you’re worried about being let down, then you’re looking up to the wrong person/people.

Your hero should inspire you on a daily basis and should be a decent enough sort of a person that you would feel comfortable meeting them and being able to ask them anything. Yes, celebrities are heroes to lots of people, but your hero doesn’t have to be famous, you know. I value being respected in the community and industry far more than being merely ‘famous’, fame can be fleeting after all.

That’s your homework for this evening, to sit down and think about who it is you look up to, and why you would feel good about meeting them.

Reflections on the Past Year

While it may seem strange to look back on the year in the middle of September, there is a genuine reason for doing so, at least in my case. For it was in September, that I left Ireland and came to the US and it seems that every year, I seem to sit down and ponder the events of the previous one.

For starters, I’ve been in school a whole year, which is quite hard to believe in and of itself. That would mean that I’m somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way done with my MBA, a sobering thought if ever there was one.

Back in January, I had the pleasure of meeting the one and only Mr. John Canemaker at a screening for the Secret of Kells. He had just returned from a trip to Ireland and had plenty to say about it, namely that it was quite wet the entire time!

In February, I had the great distinction of meeting Mr. Tomm Moore, director of the Academy Award nominated The Secret of Kells. Despite the fact that it was a cold and snowy New York kind of day, it was great to chat to him ins spite of his incredibly busy schedule.

I once again took the day off work to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. A few days later, I celebrated turning a quarter of a century old and began to feel old.

In May, I celebrated one year dating my very special girlfriend who tolerates this silly Irishman on a daily basis and I paid my first visit to the Midwest, going to, of all places, Milwaukee. I can safely say that the beer there is indeed the best I’ve had on this side of the Atlantic. The city itself was also quite fun to wander around, even if it’s clear the recession is hurting things.

My brother came to spend the summer with me. There was lots of reminiscing involved.

Not much happened in June.

My mother and sister came for a visit in July. We did plenty of touring and visiting relatives and also spent three fabulous days in New York City. A good time was had by all.

For 4th of July, we visited my girlfriend’s hometown in upstate New York where her mother owns an ice-cream shop. The ice-cream was delicious and the fireworks were spectacular.

In August, I paid my second visit to the Midwest, in particular, Columbus, Ohio. It was a great weekend but we were so stretched for time that we didn’t get to see much besides the city centre.

In late, late August, we adopted an English Bulldog named Mona, who so far has been pretty well behaved in all consideration and, despite barking at me the first time we met, she has grown much friendlier in the meantime.

My attendance at various ASIFA-East events has been slightly curtailed this year because of school. A couple of events I would have loved to attend were on nights where class was in session and with the pace we were going at, I just couldn’t afford to take a night off. The sad thing is that I was all set to attend a board meeting when a deadline at work popped up. I didn’t leave the office till 9 o’clock that night so suffice to say, I didn’t make it.

So, what does the coming year hold? Hopefully more of the same, although I am most looking forward to a trip to Ireland in July ๐Ÿ™‚

My Aims and Objectives for the Animation Anomaly Blog

Have you ever written a dissertation? Besides all the hard work and countless nights spent in the library when it seemed that just about every other student in the entire college was out at the pub, there was a great sense of satisfaction once the whole thing is done and dusted.

At the beginning of the year, one of the things we had to submit was our aims and objectives for the dissertation. These basically listed out what we were to achieve by our completion of the dissertation. Long story short, I realized that while I’ve been posting on the blog here for the last couple of weeks almost every day (and I’m pretty proud of that by the way, considering how lax I was at updating it before), I’ve never set out what I hop to achieve with it. So here, for your reading pleasure, is my somewhat inner monologue for what I hope you gain by reading my blog.

First off, I want to post about stuff I like, which for me means animation. I follow a fair amount of blogs, news sites, etc. and although I don’t intend to merely replicate the news here, there may be days when I will put my own spin on the topic of discussion. Why would I do that? Well, for a start, I’m not in the animation industry. Of course that has its advantages and disadvantages. I don’t have any experience and can easily make a false statement or politically incorrect statement. At the same time, I can see things from a perspective that I would not perhaps have if I was in the industry.

I must admit, creative writing was never a strong point of mine at school. Having last studied it over 7 years years ago, things have become a bit rusty since then. Nevertheless, I will endeavour to improve that over the next couple of months.

I also intend to post plenty of reviews of films I’ve seen (the next one will be Disney’s Hercules), festivals, discussion panels and general social events too. Unfortunately with school, these posts will be a bit farther spaced than I would like. The movie review posts will improve. Maybe I should split them into two or three parts so I can go into more detail about the different parts of the movie. This is more of a time thing than anything else. In order to write a proper review post, I would need about 2 hours, something I can’t seem to scrape together in one day, so spreading it out over a few days will lighten the load.

The Anomaly Approved posts will continue with gusto. I follow literally hundreds of blogs so they will take a long time to go through. The reason I post about them is that I enjoy them immensely, that’s why I follow them after all. I hope that by posting about them and explaining why I like them, hopefully you will like them too!

Industry commentary is perhaps my pet area. There are plenty of snarky blogs out there already and I’ve already said I do not under any circumstances want this site to become a gripe blog. So for anything industry-related, i.e. Pixar’s release schedule, who got promoted at Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network’s latest live-action series, etc. I will try and keep the posts as positive as possible. Positive criticism I guess is the term.

I do intend to keep posting daily. I’ve found it therapeutic in a way to kind of spill my thoughts out in cyberspace. Of course there are some days when I can’t post (like St. Patrick’s Day) and I’ll try to get a post in reserve for those days so at least something new goes up.

Again, feel free to comment on anything I post. Reader feedback is the best tool available to me for refining the content of what I post. Besides, its fun to see fellow bloggers and so far, I’ve discovered a few, quite nice blogs simply because their authors commented on mine.

Do I want to become the greatest blogger in the world? Nah. Do I want to become the eminent source for animation information? Nah. Do I want to make this a highly personal blog that only I enjoy? Of course not. I might as well write a diary if that was the case. Do i want this to become a blog where my thoughts are somewhat inspirational and promote debate and discussion among my readers? YES! Absolutely.

So there you go. That’s why I’m writing this blog. I hope that provides a bit of an idea of the rationale behind it. Of course I’m writing about animation because I love animation and I’d hope that you’re reading this blog because you love animation too! I’m not after madly high hit figures, or a cult-like following. I just hope that the thoughts I write here resonate with at least some of you out there.

Thanks for reading.

Charles

My Tumblelog: Genuinely Imported

No, I’m not that vain or egotistical, but I do post a fair amount of stuff over on my Tumblelog. I’m just posting about it in case you didn’t know.

Tumblr by the way, is a pretty neat blogging platform that favours short posts at shroter intervals than a regular blog like this one does. I’ve been on there for nearly two years, so you already have your work cut out by having to visit my archive ๐Ÿ™‚

As I’m heading to Milwaukee this evening for the weekend, don’t expect a new post until Sunday night, that’s not say I won’t have any surprises though ๐Ÿ™‚