interesting times

i'm guessing that many of you have already read the news that laika has pulled the plug on their proposed CG film "jack and ben", leading to the layoffs of 65 employees. weird timing, right? obviously this totally sucks for those 65 people. i don't think i personally know any of those directly affected by the layoffs, but i can relate since i was recently "rolled off" from the company myself. there is a huge difference, though. we got to finish a movie, and they didn't even get theirs off the ground. i can't imagine how bad it must feel to invest yourself in a project only to see it come to a grinding halt and have nothing to show for it. i think this decision really surprised everyone, so there is an inevitable negative emotional component to the parting of ways. i sympathize.


i can only see this as a good thing for the future of laika. according to this article in animation magazine, "jack and ben's animated adventure" was announced in july of 2005. (that article is so old that coraline is then referred to as a hybrid CG/stop motion film.) when i started work on coraline in 2006 "jack and ben" was well into the development process. the 2005 article linked above states that:

"jack and ben will reportedly tackle the ever-popular talking animal formula as it follows the adventures of two brothers from a yet-undisclosed sector of the animal kingdom."

a more recent synopsis was a little more specific:

"A young bird, desperate to fly solo, and his little brother, determined to tag along, risk their tail-feathers when they skip migration to compete in a cross-continental race."

maybe they didn't feel like it had the right tone for a follow up to comparatively edgy film like coraline. another article published in the oregonian a couple of months ago left me with some questions along those lines. in brief, the piece is about how laika is going against the grain on coraline by using an unconventional animation technique (stop motion), telling an unconventional type of contemporary children's story (scary), and doing it in an unconventional town (portland). (its still too early to use the word maverick isn't it?) i remember trying to reconcile that philosophy with the rather typical sounding "talking animal movie" and it just never made much sense to me. in some ways i'm relieved that they pulled the plug on it, because it is an indication that they are trying to refine the direction they want to take things in the future. hopefully the NEAR future. if coraline does well, i think laika is going to be in a good position to make good on those claims of creating a niche for itself with films that are a bit more distinctive than all that other CG mung out there, and that can only be good, right?

ultimately, we all know it just comes down to 3 things. yeah, STORY, STORY, STORY! if you start with an interesting, solid, tight story and then manage to tell that story in a compelling way by using the technique that best suits it, then you are really doing all you can. if you can tell great stories and still manage to stylistically stand apart from the crowd, then you've really accomplished something rare. if laika wants to tell some of these stories with CG, that's great. i hope they're awesome. if laika wants to tell some of these stories with stop motion, that's even better. i hope they kick ass too, and i hope i get to work on some of them. according to the article reporting the layoffs laika will have more announcements after the first of the year. let's hope those announcements lead to more work for all of us.

reading back over this... jeez, what a boring post... i'm really trying to come across as some kind of a know-it-all, huh? blah blah blah. at least we still have this "jack and ben" to look forward to next year, even though i really never look forward to jack...

i don't really know what the heck this is, but it looks crazy. if you live in NYC go down to 57th and 3rd and tell me what the heck is going on.



it looks like the big push for coraline has officially begun. most notably, the coraline movie website is finally completely open. no more passwords. for now. first and foremost, it looks great. it can be kind of a pain to explore, but that's all part of the fun, i guess. i think kids will dig that aspect more than most of us old farts. poking around coraline's house pays off though. there is a lot of hidden content in the different rooms. i don't want to give too much away. i will say that the design work these guys are doing is pretty amazing. you don't often see film promotion that, you know... looks good. if you can find the desktop wallpapers on the site (look in the foyer) you'll see what i mean. very tasteful, and just NICE. they're not beating you over the head with logos or huge characters' faces and all that ugly stuff you normally see. speaking of exploration, make sure you find "the well" on the site. there are a bunch of cool production stills that show various crew members at work. sadly, i'm not is any of these, but it is just as rewarding to see so many of my pals getting some coverage. if you are especially attentive, you can see some pretty cool things in these shots that probably won't make into trailers, at least until after the film is released. i'll also mention that the music on the site is pretty cool. i'll admit that i was never a huge fan of the temp score that was being used during production (sorry, dudes!) but the final mixes, which i'll assume are what we are hearing, are well above and beyond my expectations. so a round of applause for composer bruno coulais for some amazing music. hopefully it will work even better in the film. another fun thing you can do on the site is visit the other mother's workshop, where you can upload your picture and sew buttons into your eyes. yeah, sounds kinda goofy but it is strangely satisfying.

i also found what may be the very first full review of coraline. i'm not sure where it would have been screened, but it certainly seems like this guy saw it. he liked it, and that's what matters.

finally, in conjunction with the full launch of the website, a bunch of exclusive alphabet "cards" were sent to different online media recourses. yeah 26 in all, good guess. cool idea, (maybe?) but the images are pretty underwhelming in contrast to the beautiful boxes that have been going out, and nice look we've now seen on the website. hmmmm. these alphabet cards look more along the lines of that international poster i posted a while back. whatever, it is what it is. the alphabet stuff is linked below.

if you follow one of the links and it doesn't work, copy and paste the address. i was able to view all of the images that way. i found this list over at x-realms. thanks to admin "sith happens" for doing the hard part!

A: AICN (720x1067)
B: Bullz Eye (400x550)
C: Collider (719x1067)
D: Dread Central (525x779)
E: Eclipse Magazine (690x1024)
F: Fearnet (469x694)
G: Geeks of Doom (721x1067)
H: Happy News (325x480)
I: IGN (486x720)
J: JoBlo (719x1067)
K: KOL (600x889)
L: Latino Review (540x801)
M: MTV (600x889)
N: Neil Gaiman (719x1967)
O: Obsessed with Film (337x500)
P: Premiere (300x445)
Q: Quick Stop Entertainment (720x1067)
R: Rotten Tomatoes (439x652)
S: Sci-fi (400x594)
T: Twitch Film (500x740)
U: UGO (520x770)
V: VFXWorld (337x500)
W: Worst Previews (719x1067)
X: X-Realms (720x1067)
Y: Yahoo! Movies (446x660)
Z: Zap2It (720x1067)


Nice shoes!

well, i was planning to write an update today, but this wasn't what i had in mind! this is so funny i can't stop giggling. good reflexes for an older guy. i found several iterations of the clip on youtube, but i think you'll agree that i found just the right one to post.

maybe a real post later today.



big ups to mike brent at dark matters for receiving the 9th coraline "mystery box". i guess that's the term they have been given... i've known mike for a few years as the one of most prolific posters on the stopmotionanimation.com message boards. he's always got something to say, and it is almost always worth a read. to say mike is a fan of stop motion would be a laughable understatement. i can't think of a more dedicated fan of the medium. he is such natural a choice to get something like this that i'm almost surprised he DID. i'm sure he will do some in depth reporting on this package over the next few days. i think he's already planning to chop up one of the arms he got to see what's inside...



Another update.

there's not really a whole heck of a lot going on this week. i've been getting my "work bench" set up, although i have not actually gotten any word DONE. mostly i've been laying the ground work. i got the apartment pretty much as clean as it has ever been, which is a good thing since i'm stuck in this place most of the time now. i did get out today for lunch with my friend margaret. i really miss all of the old gang from work, and i really enjoy being able to see people when i can. i've found that between a couple of lunch dates a week and the weekly poker game i host i've been able to stay in touch with a lot of people, even if all we do is complain about the lack of another project to move on to, and how completely unavoidable that could have been... but i digress. i've been getting my gym time in, although i'm still hating it. but the gears are starting to turn and i can see myself beginning to be a bit more productive. i've got 2 projects that i am going to be focusing on thru the end of the year. one should be a breeze, the other a big pain in the arse, but hopefully well worth it.

i'm trying to talk myself in/out of buying the sherline mill with a DRO that i have been wanting to get for about 3 years. it would certainly be a lifesaver for doing side work, but i really don't know how much of that i'll be doing over the next few months. i am tending to think that if the answer to that question is "some" than it will save me a lot of heartache and pain to go ahead and bite the bullet and get the thing. i've been using a sherline lathe base and attaching the headstock to a vertical milling column that essentially converts your lathe into a mill. it works fine, but the lathe base is not ideal for milling operations, AND it is a pain to go back and forth between modes. not to mention, the DRO would really make repeatable operations a lot more reliable. if only i had a bunch of money sitting around. think i need to ebay some stuff.

in coraline news, a few more boxes showed up last week. check out the matrix to the right. still less than half of the 50 boxes have been discovered. on that note, the coraline website has gone into a new phase, so to speak. instead of having to enter a bunch of different passwords to see the video content you can now just enter the password: OTHERWORLD and get access to all of the previous videos as well as a few more. i like these new ones a lot. you get to talk with my old supervisor jeannie about chopping up cats. they talk to brad schiff about breaking puppets (we make 'em, you break 'em!). they talk to ollie jones about rigging, and the places they look for inspiration. finally trey thomas talks about why he loves animating women. he is definitely amazing at it. for you NMBC fans, trey animated the bulk of the sally shots in that film. i hope you enjoy the new clips.

p.s. i finished the wire last weekend, and i gotta say: A+



as part of my self mastery master plan, i put up my old whiteboard today. my friend rachel calls this a "vision board". i'm not sure what that means, but i think it has to do with goals. in that case, i guess you could call it that, but i don't really need to have a fancy name for it. it is a dry erase board that is hung next to my computer. in the past i have found this sort of thing to be very motivational. you can write out your plans (dare i say GOALS?) and then you feel like a loser if you don't do what you said you were going to do. i'm pretty skilled at making excuses and procrastinating, but i have to admit that its a pretty effective way to make yourself get things done, even for a slacker like myself. for example, your friends might come over and see your list and make fun of you for not having crossed anything off. so far i've drawn out a calendar for the month of december, marking the 3-4 days a week i am going to go to the gym. "why go to the gym, that sounds boring?", you say. well, it is boring and i hate it, but i put on about 20-30 pounds since the last time i thought i looked pretty good, and i've had enough. it will be easy to lose weight now that the whiteboard is up, as half the work is already done! now all i have to so is track my progress on the board! i've also made a list of short term (1-2 weeks) targets. of the 4 items listed, i've got 2 taken care of. but then there are of one or two additional items in my head that are not on the list and should be. you see, here's an example of how it takes discipline to do this effectively. hold on a sec... okay, i just wrote down 3 new things. now we're making progress! the most important component to the whiteboard is a short blast of inspiration that i like to read to myself whenever i come face to face with the looming white rectangle. i wrote it down maybe 3.5 years ago, and it helped a lot, although in the span of time that i have NOT had my daily whiteboard confrontations i have no doubt slipped back into my shameful old habits. but its back up now and i have nothing but success to look forward to now because i will be constantly reminded to:
1. don't be fat
2. don't be lame
3. don't be a pussy


whatever. who cares about all that crap, let's rock and roll! all you portland folk had better come out for a rollicking good time this weekend. ANCIENT AGE is playing not one, but TWO killer shows this weekend. you can bet your sweet... well, its going to be fun. come get rocked.

friday at the east end at 10:00
performing with Earthless

saturday at slabtown at 9:00
performing with Rabbits and Akimbo

it'll go something like this:




sometime last week i started noticing some strange things popping up around on the net. if you are reading this blog i'm sure you have realized by now that i am watching the evolution of coraline's marketing campaign pretty closely. in one of my standard coraline searches i came up with this link. over the next couple of days more boxes were showing up elsewhere, and there seems to be a steady stream of them showing up every day or two now. it goes like this: random internet guy gets an email from "the coraline team" asking for a mailing address. if internet guy complies he gets a mysterious parcel a few days later. he opens up the box to discover a varied assortment of detritus from the movie: stills printed on aged paper, props, bits of puppets, or costumes, a personalized letter, henry selick's autograph, and a key with a password to unlock hidden content on coraline.com. they are each numbered in an edition of 50, so there are still potentially lots of cool bits yet to be delivered. i knew something like this was in the works, but i am quite impressed by the execution of this campaign, not to mention pretty damn envious of the people who are designing and assembling these packages.

since i've been digging around looking for more of these packages online i figured i'd just keep a list of them here for you lot. hopefully all 50 will surface before all is said and done. maybe i'll copy this list to the section on the right for better access in the future. have fun looking at this stuff, it's pretty cool.


as for the passwords to coraline.com, these are the ones that are known at this time. i'm pretty sure there are at least a couple more that have yet to surface. most of the content you will see was shot during the last few weeks of shooting. the crew that was hired to shoot these spots did an amazing job. not only did they document what is already inherently cool, (stop motion, duh!) they added a whole other dimension of coolness with how they photographed and edited the footage. i got to help them out with props, and build some little rigs and stuff for some of the shots and it was a real pleasure to help out. my hands are in there somewhere.

an overview of "stuff". the point is its a "handmade" film.
an introduction to the cast of the film. that's my sketchbook in the beginning!
henry talks about what a puppet's inner life might be like. includes a great piece of animation/pixilation/time lapse by, and featuring phil beglan.
suzanne moultin talks about hair. she and jess were miracle workers. mad props!
bo henry was the set construction supervisor. i guess people think his mustache is funny. we wired it up. there's an interesting story that goes with this one.
this lady knitted some crazy tiny sweaters for coraline, working from her home. its a shame there is no mention of deborah, margaret, paloma, elodie, heidi, fiona, or any of the other foxy costume gals working with us at the studio.



i just got back from england last night and i am so out of it. my pay-as-you-go cell phone's alarm just went off... i should be getting up now, but i'm just about to go to bed... i'm OUT of it.

but it has been a busy and exhilarating week or so, and i'll go into it in greater detail on my trip here very soon. a lot of coraline related stuff happened during the time i was gone, but i'll just mention the trailer for now. you can go here for high res and downloadable versions, or just watch it below. they pretty much show you the 2 minute version of the first two acts, which is kind of spoiler-ish if you ask me, but hey, nobody did. i hope you enjoy it. tons of awesome people lost their minds so you could see this!



i just found the new international poster for coraline. i guess you kinda have to expect goofy looking stuff like this to come out, but considering how decent the previous poster looked this is kind of a shocker. i DID say this was going to be interesting.

okay, i was going to just leave it at posting the image, but i couldn't walk away. i'm reverting back into my 3 hour critique school days. i can't just say "that looks goofy", and move on. let's get in there! i think what bothers me the most is how she's just plopped down in the foreground giving you that look. what is that look all about? the image is all about saying "hey, look at this crazy world we've got in store for you!", but she's not really reinforcing that. obviously the two sides are depicting the two worlds in the story; the real world and the other world. it's too bad she doesn't appear to exist in either one of them. there are some things wrong here that i won't go into, but i think it would bother me less if she were more integrated. possibly further back on the sidewalk, looking around or something? you know, exploring. Something as simple as having here stepping toward the "dark" side of the poster would speak volumes. there's my 2 minute hack critique.



the first official one sheet for coraline was released on neil gaiman's website today. the artwork is based on the illustrated poster that was given away at san diego comic con back in 2007. this time with puppets! it is exciting to see promotional machine starting to kick into gear.

focus features recently launched their website to promote the film. a quick look around tells you there's going to be a lot more content eventually, but is kind of empty at the moment. still, there is enough to explore to make it worth a visit now. meanwhile, at the official coraline website things are a lot... darker. i look forward to seeing how all of this develops.


new Red Fang video

well, i am apparently a terrible friend and bandmate because i completely forgot about red fang's video premier last night. oops. for those of you who don't know the connection, here goes. i play bass in a band called ancient age. my friend aaron is the band's leader. aaron also plays in red fang. red fang are totally awesome! got it? anyway, pitchfork tv just posted the video. local director whitey mcconaughy really tapped into some magic for this one.

watch it.



it looks like i started this blog in may of 2006. if my math is correct, that's over a year ago. i'm trying to put myself in the shoes of the person i was on the day of that first post, and what my expectations for this blog might have been at the time.

i had just returned from a trip to the pacific northwest. it was a vacation with the added benefit of being able to visit a couple of animation studios. back in atlanta, i felt like i had been stagnating for several months, waiting for jobs to come along, and not really taking an active role in my success (or failure). when i learned that one of my former housemates had been hired in LA to work on a new stop-motion tv series for cartoon network (which turned out to be robot chicken") i was suddenly inspired to do a little research of my own. los angeles was right out. i know, i know... but i just don't want to live there. next! another city with major ties to stop-motion is portland, oregon. as a kid i loved the "claymation" california raisins, and noid commercials done by will vinton studios. over the years the studio built up a large community of stop-motion practitioners, and they had recently seen a major corporate overhaul including a name change to laika, and a shift toward an emphasis on feature animation. this was probably going to be my best hope to work in stop-motion and stay out of LA. so i went ahead and planned a vacation to visit portland, seattle, and vancouver, b.c. eventually i secured interviews at two studios in portland. the first was at bent image lab, a small-ish animation studio with an impressive body of work, and the second was with the puppet fabrication department at laika's (then in pre-production, currently in post production) stop motion feature "coraline". i felt really fortunate to get a firsthand look at both of these studios. i had certainly been involved with all kinds of animation and film related projects before (showbizzz!), but i was really impressed with what i saw at both studios. however, once i found myself back at the hotel, i felt like i had probably just wasted everyone's time! who did i think i was, walking in there expecting them to be blown away by my crappy little reel? these guys are pros, man! i should have known things would not go well when the puppet i had brought to show off actually broke in the hotel room the night before my first interview. quite impressive, indeed. in retrospect, it was better to have it break beforehand and not while being inspected, but still... jeez.

so i came home defeated. my services would not be required by the seasoned professionals out west. i decided that if i wasn't going to be working professionally in stop-motion, i was at least going to make some cool stuff at home. that is why i started this blog: to document the process. i guess i got as far as watching "the big lebowski" with my roommate because the only thing i ever posted was a quote from that movie.

now i'm rededicating myself to the blog. my basic goal is to share some cool stuff, and stay inspired to do more cool stuff of my own. i have tons of ideas at the moment, and since i am currently unemployed, my guess is that i will be fairly active in the beginning, and less so later on down the line. but yeah, i'm going to try to shoot for at lease one post per week in the long run. we'll see.