April 30, 2006


Sorry for the monday absence--there were blogger issues. Now, another deconstruction post, before we move into the storyboards. Today, the jazz scene:

The idea here is that as an adult, Mike is having a tough time holding down a job--he doesn't play the same kind of music that the other cats are playing. There's a rock band version of this, and a classical concert hall take, but for my splash page, I thought a jazz scene would be fun.

I referenced photographs, obviously, but also got out and listened to some big band at one of toronto's many jazz festivals.

The basic setup of the scene was always the same, although it did take a while to translate my meaningless scribbles to something more specific.

At the same time that I was designing the characters, I was also trying to invent a colour scheme, again struggling to avoid the literal and cliche insofar as I could--Toot Whistle gets pretty wild with its colours sometimes, and I thought that this was a great place to heighten things similarly--perhaps push lighting or atmosphere, in a film that's otherwise meant to be pretty flat.

In my work I try to construct rythyms and patterns, scripts and arcs for stuff like the use of space, colour, shapes, framing (etc, etc. etc.)--it's all very Bruce Block, and very much tied in to the concerns I have at work these days. It took a lot of reminding from my friend Dani to really listen to what the scene was about--how it's supposed to feel--and to use that as a starting point; thanks to her, I think it turned out alright in the end.

As something of an aside, there was a bit where I was really trying to figure out what the hall itself should look like, and eventually my approach turned to designing the outside of the place to give me ideas for the inside (?). In the end I just dropped it--kept it pretty vague, because it wasn't so important anyway, but it was fun to go down this road nonetheless, and it helped me think about the wider world he was in and its bounding visual rules:

Tomorrow: on with the show!

April 28, 2006


No time to post today--I'll be back monday.
Have a good weekend folks, and thanks for dropping by!

April 26, 2006


I promised someone I'd get more into this, so I thought I'd show some of the development art that went into these images. I do a lot of redrawing, trying to think through every concievable possibility, and trying, trying anyway, to improve my drawings.

I was really searching for appeal here, trying to ape the greats like Alice and Martin Provensen, Tom Oreb, Milt Kahl, Sunny B Cook, Marc Simont and JP Miller, and new guys like Joe Moshier who spin out these very sophisticated graphic drawings--designs that suggest three dimensionality while at the same time being pretty clever with the graphic space. For a while I got caught up in UPA stuff however, and it sort of got me off track--"Oh yeah!," I remembered, "TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM!"

Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom by itself was a big resource, although the characters come in many different shapes, sizes and styles. The solutions Toot Whistle suggested over similar films like its sister Melody, and UPA's masterpiece Gerald McBoingBoing, were more appropriate to the type of storytelling I anticipated in my 'film', so I went after that Professor Owl character of theirs; that was the level of complexity I felt my characters needed to get across the emotions they were to have... if my writing and boarding stood up.

I should also mention that colour was a big thing for me, as I'm not usually accustomed to making coloured, or even toned artwork--I'm a lot better at it now as a result. I was really trying to push myself in new directions with this thing--trying to think more graphically (also not the way I typically draw), and as a result, it took me a while to get off preconcieved notions about how colour 'should' work. I spent a lot of time trying to make grass green believe it or not, but after some convincing from my friends Dani Strijleva and Mary Blair (mostly, although I also referenced Aurelius Battaglia, Eyvind Earle and Joseph Albers), I eventually learned to think outside the box and defy my own expectations.

At first I wasn't sure if I was going to try to gouache it or photoshop it--photoshop won, but I did try to do some gouache layers for texture. Below, photoshop viability test, then, some alternate versions...


Younger and Older.

April 24, 2006


So, as you can see, I made a book. It was very fun to do, and I'll get into the process later perhaps, but for now I think it's good if I just start showing images. Above, my cover, introduction, and text. Below, a rougher version of the story and the text so you can read it.

The binding of the book was delightfully done by DonTaylor, and my printing by Pikto. All artwork above was drawn and coloured in Photoshop, except for the kids who I borrowed from a Ding Dong School kidsbook. I would've liked to have made my own endpapers, but I ran out of time! Next time I guess.

The story was written to reflect the sensibilities of Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom, Gerald Mc Boing Boing, Dr. Seuss stuff and the like. There's a real ease and lightness to the stuff when it's done well, and I really wanted that in my text. I had to go to some lengths to match the music, which really fenced me in, but it worked out alright in the end. I hope I got close...

There were a couple of ways to take the OMB idea. The PIXAR short (although I haven't seen all of it) seems to play with the idea of the mechanics of a OMB, something which I had hoped to do too, but in the end limited. Instead, I latched onto the idea of a OMB in the real world--a fellow out of place in almost any time or place; the One Man Band as estranged artist, trying to find his place.

this is the story of musical mike
who wiggled and giggled a lot as a tyke
when one afternoon while out riding his bike
he happened to happen on something he liked

heya mike - now that's alright
honk! honk!

with this inspiration he clamoured away
and soon it became what you'd hear day-to-day
the neighborhood kids would all dance in array
whenever young mikey was let out to play

they'd hoot and they'd holler
they'd swing and sashay
they'd jingle and jangle
they would hip and hooray!

and nobody cared they got carried away
and that's the way mike got accustomed to play

but not everyone liked his music...

when mikey was older he went off to class
where he kept in his margins and struggled to pass
but schools weren't places for woodwinds and brass
and teachers all found his shenanigans crass

but mikey continued with what he would tend
though no one with ears ever bent them to lend
and though he quite often felt missing his friends
he knew on his dixieland he could depend

so mikey decided he would skip outta town
where his musical talents could find some renown
he packed up some things
(some percussion and strings)
and set off to see what the city might bring

it wasn't too long 'til he found some employment
though not of the sorts that inspired enjoyment
and sooner or later there would be some annoyment
which'd always result in his speedy deployment

things were looking pretty hopeless...
until one day...

well, go ahead - PLAY!

and he did!

he played and he played and he played and he played,
and the next thing he knew, they had formed a parade!

there's people who'd say
that it's foolish to play
more than one music maker in tandem

though your head's double sided
your attention divided
can only make melodies random

or you may've heard it said
that while patting your head
how impossible's rubbing your tummy?

more correctly without
staying purely devout
you'll end up unabashedly bumbly

yet tellers have told
of a fella so bold
he can keep 14 instruments goin'

but what can i say
to describe how he plays
when it's probably better to show 'im?

so if ever you're wondering if whether you can,
all that needs recallin' is the one man band!


A long time ago now, my friends Matt, Dani and James and I became aware of a credit on Michael Giacchino's online resume--something for PIXAR called ONE MAN BAND. Now this was pretty exciting, as rumors had been floating about that the studio had secretly begun working on 2D projects, and that Brad Bird was possibly at the helm. This made complete sense of course--who was a one man band more than Brad Bird?

When the Incredibles came out however, it replaced OMB on the resume. Well, it was a code name, we decided--like Blue Harvest for Return of the Jedi. Many months passed, and this information all but slipped out of my head, until I was at a point where I really felt like I needed a kicker of an idea--I had a bunch of projects in 'development' but I was searching for something... sort of inevitable feeling. What a perfect idea!, I thought. It's evocative, and perfect for animation, it's classic in its appeal and could be handled well as a tribute of sorts. If Pixar wasn't going to make it, I was going to--or at least I'd do the preproduction.

What appealed to me about the OMB idea at first was how perfect it was for animation. If this had been Disney 1953, I imagine Ward Kimball, Tom Oreb and the Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom crew would have really done well with this. Toot Whistle became my model film, and style/tone reference, and Ward Kimball's dixieland revival band, The Firehouse Five Plus Two quickly became my source of music. (They also, if you hadn't figured it out, influenced the name of my blog!)

Anyway, writing was a very long, back and forth process between writing independently, trying to match the music I was unofficially adapting, and storyboarding the ideas as they came--but more on that later.

It was a number of months into the production of my film before I found out that the Pixar one was real. No Brad Bird, but Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews and Osnat Shurer. I was pretty nervous at first about what that meant, but our ideas proved to be very different. I did eventually get to see a clip at the Moma Michael Giacchino / Gary Rydstrom lecture this winter in New York, and it looks pretty cool I must say.

Here's links to PIXAR's ONE MAN BAND and composer MICHAEL GIACCHINO.