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: