Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Princess and the Frog: Dud or Boom

I, myself, like many out there am waiting for Disney’s newest 2D animation feature film to reach theaters. Many even thought at one time that Disney would forever be lost to 3D animation and never make another 2D feature film. I figured this was more paranoia than anything. Sure at the time 3D was the new kid on the block and can do things easier than can be done with 2D, but it does not have the same charm that people like myself love that can be gained from 2D.
But I digress, back to the reason for me to write this. I have been watching all the previews for “the Princess and the Frog” and think everything about it looks great. With that said, however, I must point out that I feel that it may not have the effect that Disney and many animations are expecting. I feel this way for one reason; Disney has done the same thing that it has done to most of its films, with a few exceptions. They have over run the movie with Broadway musical like scenes where the characters break out in song – song that some extent that has nothing to do with the plot other than to explain the obvious or hand the audience a gift wrapped lesson or moral. I think this is Disney’s fatal flaw, the reason why people enjoy Pixar or Studio Ghibli movies over Disney classics like Snow white and Beauty and the Beast. Neither Pixar or Studio Ghibli films need the Musical scenes- they understand that the audience is not idiots.
Some people may feel that I am wrong or too cynical in my observations; however, I would like to point out that the observations that have brought me to feel this way are not mine. The observations that I use are those of my Daughter, the person who these movies are made for. I have had her watch several of the older Disney movies: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, etc. The ones that she loves and would sit through have not been the Princess classics, which are the most heavily musical, but instead have been movies like 101 Dalmatians, Lilo and Stitch, and many of the Pixar and Studio Ghibli movies. All these movies have one thing in common; they are not over run by pointless plot slowing musical numbers.
This is why I fear that “The princess and the frog” will not do as great as everyone hopes. Sure many people will see it, but I doubt that it will become a classic (except by Disney). The best thing that Disney can do is re-analysis their films to discover what makes one movie more likable for children now compared to 50 years ago. I believe that they will discover that they don’t need the lengthy musical numbers any more.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steampunk: Wizard of Oz

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned a project that required me to choose a story and design several characters from it in a steampunk style. So for this assignment I chose to go with the Wizard of Oz; which I was informed later on has been steampunked before. This would get some people down but not me, I just figure that, since I am steampunk that whatever I do would look more steampunk than what other people have done before.
For the characters that I chose design I went with our heroine Dorothy, the Tin-man, and the Gate keeper to the Emerald City. Dorothy became a tornadonaut, an explorer and traveler of the dangerous tornado twisted skies. The Tin-man was no longer a metal lumberjack, but a machine that lived in a dense metal forest where he unscrewed the bolts that held up the metallic trees so they could be turned into scrap metal. And the Gate keeper was still the gate keeper with his endless supply of green glasses (goggles) and keys. Here is the end result.
I plan to at some point to make more of these, I had a lot of fun making them; when I get them done I’ll post them here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Animation Character design

I am working on designing two characters for my final project in my adv. Animation class. My first step is to figure out the basic shapes that I want to use. This is what we call “Shape Language”. This is because it is much easier to move simple shapes around then complex ones when it comes to animation. So if I have the simple shapes figured out first then half my work is done.

When designing character there are a few things that I have to keep in mind: Shape (which I already talked about), silhouette (which will help the characters read better.), and attitude (this would reflect the character’s personality). These are even more import for the turnaround, if everything is not designed correctly then the turnaround of the character will look weird and then I’ll have to go back and fix the designs and have to do a new turnaround until I get it right. So it is best to get everything looking right the first time.

The child character was not working out right. First time it was because he did not fulfill the one requirement for the project; he is a bit too skinny. So I tried to make him more fat, however, this did not look good either so I ended up going back to my sketches and going with another character that worked better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Peng Lai

So i have been working more and more on finishi9ng the game for Jake's awesome Fantasy RPG challenge, since there is only seven days left.
As of now i have the basic rules and the resolution aspects of the system complete. Now i have to work on the hard stuff (in my opinion), the dreadful background on which the game is played. As i had stated in my previous post about the game, the game is about a group of people from all walks of life who were born at a pinnacle time and were in turn blessed to be chosen by the heavens to bring about a new age of man. However, change never comes with out a fight. There are too many people who profit from the world being as it is.
Now a few of the aspects I have to think through in the creation of this mythic world will help the players make the connect with the game. So to start i had to figure out what the land or world was going to look like. So i drew out a large island on a piece of paper and then started to work stuff into the world. I decided that there were going to be eight kingdoms and a set of mountian in the center of the island that have myths and legends behind them. Later i gave the world a name- in which gave the game its name. The name for the land mass came about during my research into Chinese mythology. As i had stated before, the game is a mix of several stories: The Twelve Kingdoms and The mysterious Play are the main two. Both of these have very strong Chinese elements to them. So when i was doing reseach I came upon the name "Peng Lai", which is the name of an island in Chinese mythology. It fit what i was going for in the game so i took that as being the name of this land.
Once i had this all done, it was all pretty much down hill from here. I just had to watch my footing so that i wouldn't trip up somewhere and fall down my proverbial hill. So i had to figure out what was going on in the world that needed to be changed by the player characters. So first i wanted to show that there was corruption in the world, no one likes corruption, and since this was a mythical world I wanted to show it using magically. This was inspired by Twelve Kingdoms to tell the truth. So there are Yaomo that appear in the world, which are pretty much demons, when ever there is corruption of the state/kingdom. So now i have a defined enemy, so to speak, for the players to deal with. Now i have to write out the current situations for each kingdoms, some being in better shape than others. This will help me figure out what characters in the world would be more willing for there to be change in the world than others. This is pretty much were i am at. I'll try to post once more efore i turn this in at the end of the month.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Dragonwake Project

A friend of mine asked if i would draw some characters for a websites logo. he at first thought that i would be too busy, but since i am taking an advanced Character design class at school i could do this for him without it getting in the way of my studies (as long as i schedule my homework time).
The character were to be a group of fantasy style cartoon adventurers and a dragon. There is more to the final drawing than this, but i rather keep some of what i am doing for this back for now. So anyway, i started working out the shape language of the characters to see what would work best for what each character represented. What does a cleric look like, are the short and round, some what golly fellows? Or are they thin wisps of a man stooped from years of hand writing text in thick tomes? a golly fellow would consist of more rounded shapes, while a bend scribe would be made of square and triangle shapes. And i thought this through for each character and played with their designs.
I also had to think about what style of "Cartoony" i want to do this in. There are several ways you could classify "Cartoony" This could be iconic (power puff girls), simplistic (the Jetsons), or broad (bugs bunny).
So heres what i came up with:

The first one is the one i like the mostand i think is heading in the direction i want for this project. The second image is of some of the exploration of character i went through.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fred Gardner: Layout artist

So this past Friday my teacher the very kool and talented Cris Sasaki had his past co-worker and friend Fred Gardner come in to speak to His (my) Advanced Character Design class at the AI.
Fred is currently working on a Tom and Jerry cartoon that will be coming out for the new Sherlock Holmes movie that has Tom and Jerry living in Mr. Holmes' house. Fred is the led Layout artist on the project and for those of you who don't know, a layout artist creates all the backgrounds for a cartoon. And some would say, "hey, thats easy", but there is a lot more to creating Tom and Jerry backgrounds than i would have thought. For instance, the WB wants the style of this Tom and Jerry cartoon to be more in the style of the Tom and Jerry cartoons made during the 1940's when it was produced by MGM. At the same time Fred uses photos take at the Muesum Sherlock Holmes house in england as a reference when designing the layouts for the cartoon. And if you have never seen the Sherlock Holmes meusum you should check it out; but in this case i will say that it is full of stuff. All kinds of crazy stuff that would make a steampunk pee his/her pants. But that doesn't work for a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The next time you watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon, check out the background at some point. Theres is very little in those backgrounds- no matter who is animating that cartoon. So Fred had to not only make this look ike sherlock Holmes apartment, but also keep the backgrounds becoming overloaded with too much visual information.
He was showing us he's process with a few of the backgrounds and it just amazing to see how someone like him thinks. And how he works out this problems that i spoke about. Unfortinately, i don't have a photos of the project he is working on to show or i would. There just awesome. And there all designed on sheets of paper that measure something like: 4ft x 1ft in length- mostly for pan shots designed to follow Tom and Jerry back and forth across the screen during a chase scene.
he had also showed us some of his past works like some of the backgrounds he did for movies like the Iron Giant and back grounds for the animated Hercules TV show.. Which apparently, was created at the same time as the movie- which seems a bit weird to me.
He also gave us a lot of great advice: such as if you are ever offered a job doing anything- just say yes and figure out how to do it later. So if you are offered a job to animate something and have no animation experience- take the job anyway and figure out how to animate later.

Coraline: Answers found

I was speaking with a great Layout artist: Fred Gardner, the other day and i had brought up my views of the Coraline movie. I had told him that i felt that there was some kind of disconnection in the movie that held me back from getting involved with it. He said that the problem that i encountered and was having a hard time putting my fingure on was the fact that the movie was to slow at the beginning. Basically, Laika took to long to get the audience involved with the character- to make that emotional connection that usually takes place so that the audience can forget that they are watching a movie and become wrapped up in whats happening to the main character. Laika took to long in get to that wonderful moment and thusly it never happened for me. The end result being that i was more distracted by the stop motion animation than by the emotional content of the story or the story itself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Awesome Fantasy game

So currently, i am working on figuring out a few things for the game i am designing for "Jake's Awesome Fantasy Game Contest".
The main characters of this game are the Chosen or children of heaven, and they each have a sign of heaven. These signs or marks are: Chimera, Unicorn, Naga, Satyr, Pegasus, Dragon, Phoenix, Great turtle, and Ogre. Each one of these has a special ability/power. The problem is that i have to figure out what those abilities are, but at the same time keep them balanced. They can't be too overpowering or be used constantly. Plus they have to work with the rest of the system. I have worked out parts of a few of them such as: Unicorn- can heal another character. Make a Heart roll, the number of successes equals the number of boxes (either body or blood) that are healed.
The other thing i am trying to work out is what the benofit of have the characters have friendships. In combat i can see it being important as far as overall morale, but in non-comabt situations i'm having a hard time coming up with a reason or benofit to have them. I don't want the game to be all about combat- i want it to be more about the character interactions. So this stage is really important- i feel.
On top of that i have to work out more stuff for the magic system for the game. One thing i know for sure is that the ability to cast magic will work off a skill for the most part. more on this later.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Laika's First Big Hit

So i was finally able to see the movie Coraline, Laika studio of portland, OR. first big project. I have to say that i like the story, it mature enough for adults but the right type of story for kids. I wonder how much of the story changed during its transition from book to movie.
How i didn't love the movie. I will not be buying it, mostly because even though the story was good, its not the type of story that I can watch over and over again that I require in order to buy a DVD. Beyond this, i felt that there was something off about the film, or more specifically, off about the animation. Unlike other stop motion movies that have been made in the last 15 years, there were many moments where I as a viewer couldn't help to notice that this was stop motion animation; that the suspension of disbelief was not there. I'm not sure why this was happening. Part of me wants to blame this on the lighting, but since i know nothing about Stop motion i cannot say for sure why this was happening. It was distracting and bothersome. I was not watching the film in 3D since i got my copy from Netflix and they didn't send along any 3D glasses. So i watched it in standard 2D. So if this was a side effect of the lack of 3D then i think Laika should rethink their plan to make all of their future projects in this style.
To tell the truth, i don't see a lot of people keeping hold of their 3D glasses for 20 years just in order to watch their copy of the DVD. i could be wrong, but i see them getting lost quite often. However, its a kool idea for the theater only- its a way to get people to go to the theater more often, over just waiting for the DVD release.

So to end this i will say that Laika did go and experiment with a lot of new stop motion techniques that looked kool and seemed to work and other that didn't work as well as i think they were hoping. It over all a good movie and everyone should see it at least once.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jake's Awesome Fantasy RPG contest

So a friend and fellow GOplay PDX member Jake Richman, the creator of indie rpg games such as Ocean and Panty explosion, challenged the members of our community to design a simple Fantasy rpg game in 2 months. The outline of the contest is as follows:
-Must be 48 pages.
-Must include a distinctive core mechanic.
-Must include complete rules for character creation.
-Must include complete rules for magic.
-Must include a flexible skill system.
-May include guidelines for resolving actions during the game.

This game was announced while i was out of town and sick. So my fever induced brain decided to work on the basic story of the Fantasy game that i want to create and came up with an idea. The game would be about characters who were chosen at birth when the stars in the heavens had come into alignment. Each would gain a mark of heaven 20 years later that would prove who they were and dispose upon them a power of heaven. The purpose of these children of heaven, as they will be called, is to herald in a great change in the world. The setting will be inspired by both the anime's The Twelve Kingdoms and The Mysterious Play, as well as the Sukodain video games. I have always liked these settings and how strongly they are tied to anceint Chinese histroy and Culture.

However, i should point out that the purpose of the game will not be like games such as D&D or Warhammer where the focus is Combat and killing. The game will focus more on the roleplaying side of things and will be about the gathering of allies and friends. This will all be mechanicely gauged for maxium benofit. I will post some of the stuff i have been work on for this at a later date.
Jake's Awesome Fantasy rpg Contest

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


My name is Josh Dixon, but most people call me Skull. I am a student at the AI of Portland, Or. I am currently getting my BFA in media arts and animation. I am married to the love of my life, and we have a little girl named Niko.
The purpose of this blog is for me to talk at length about my many projects that i am working on. The types of projects that i am working on range from anything from TRPG game system design, to illustrations, to animation and storyboarding, to writing. My hope is to help other (and to some extent myself) in understanding how the creative process works. Where do ideas come from? Where does one start? How do ideas evolve over time? Hopefull, this will help inspire other and help orginize my own thoughts so that i can work more proficantly.