More Real Life Inspiration and the Danger of Preconceptions

I see real life true stories all the time that I think are way funnier than most of the movies and TV shows I see. Check out this recent one from about a bear getting stuck in a car.

What's the funniest aspect of this article? Is it that the bear climbed inside the car to get at an old peanut butter sandwich? That the door slammed behind the bear trapping him inside? That he started to panic and thrash around and starting honking the horn, accidentally freeing the parking brake and rolling down a hill? That the deputies had to open the car door with a rope so the angry bear wouldn't maul them as he was freed?

Or do you agree with my kids, that the funniest part is the "present" that the bear left on the front seat? No matter, the point is that there are many aspects to the story, and an infinite number of ways you could translate this event into an entertaining short film, depending on the point-of-view you used (the bear? The neighbors? The owner of the car? The police?).

I know animation students around the world are heading back to school soon and many of them will face the quandry that many have faced before: what subject will my student film be about? And looking to real life can provide you will completely original inspiration.

I first read this little blurb on The Onion three years ago when it first appeared and I never forgot it. I always love it when people come up with imaginative and creative explanations for the unremarkable non-events that happen to us every day. This paragraph is maybe the most brilliant piece of writing I've ever seen and hopefully you will find it as inspiring as I did. Any number of great short films could be made from that kind of an idea: explaining every day mundane events as the work of unseen forces, a battle between good and evil even.

Next is a short piece from "The Colbert Report" that also left a big impression on me. It's a great story of some petty bureaucrat holding people to "rules" that nobody cares about. Watch how the producers and writers of the show are able to turn this small town annoyance into a funny piece by the way they present both sides in the kind of hard-hitting style that "Dateline" or "60 Minutes" uses to tell the kind of bigger, more serious stories that those programs cover.

It's about four minutes long and it doesn't get into the story right away...there's a bit of Stephen talking about other stuff first. You can watch it here.

The thing about this one that strikes me is that the story isn't really told from one point of view or the other. The piece shows everyone in an unflattering light and pokes gentle fun at everyone involved. They don't take sides. They don't treat the kid like an innocent who's being punished by an unfair tyrannical system like you might see on a more serious news show. They edit the piece to make everyone involved look nutty!

And that brings me to a bigger topic. I think that our preconceptions can inhibit our development as artists.

The defines "preconceptions" as a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation.

When we hold strong opinions then we naturally aren't open to new information that can challenge those opinions. Artists need to be open to new ideas in order to grow and improve as artists. So do yourself a favor and examine your own preconceptions. Where dd your preconceptions come from? Are you sure they're true? And are they hindering you?

This is a tricky, sensitive thing to write about. People's personal beliefs are more sacred to them than anything and they don't like it when they are challenged. So bear with me here and read with an open mind....

I have known people who wouldn't attend life drawing classes because they felt their religion would forbid looking at nude people. I respect their beliefs and I know it took a lot of bravery on their part to stand by their convictions. I know they feel like they made the right choice and I applaud them for that. But I also think they probably didn't get as good an education in life drawing as they could have, so their preconceptions held them back.

Years ago I worked with a female writer who wrote great female characters but her male characters just weren't quite as great. There was something lacking in the men in her script and I couldn't figure out what it was that I felt was missing. But as I talked to her and got to know her better I realized that she had certain preconceptions about men in general and, in my opinion, some resentment towards the whole male gender. We need to be able to climb into our characters and inhabit them and have a deep affection for them on some level in order to bring them to life, and I have to say that it's uncomfortable for me to talk about, but over the years I think I've seen artists of both gender that had strong opinions about the opposite sex and it held back their ability to breathe life into their work. It kept them from creating unique and special three-dimensional characters. Their characters never quite broke out of the preconceptions that their creators ad.

Obviously any prejudices we carry around are going to keep us from seeing others in an objective light. I think artists need to be as objective as humanly possible to do their job. One of the biggest challenges to an artist is that we must always surprise the audience. If we don't constantly give them the unexpected they will lose interest quickly. And what's more unsurprising or more of a cliche than a prejudiced view of other people?

The internet is full of blogs where people post artwork and say "look how horrible this is, it's terrible, what kind of idiot would do this garbage?" It's good to be critical and we should never treat shoddy work like it's genius but also you can learn a lot by studying artwork that doesn't fit into your usual taste. Somebody put some time and effort into every piece of art that you see and chances are there's something well done about it and something you could learn from it that you won't get if you discard it automatically. So be open and don't reject things out of hand; ask yourself why the artist made the choices they did and are there some successful aspects to the work?

People who have narrow tastes and are completely intolerant of things outside that range don't develop as quickly as artists who accept a wide range of styles and are open to more influences (in my opinion anyway).

When I was a kid Time magazine had an ad (or was it Life magazine?) that showed Picasso just starting a painting on a canvas. The text of the ad said something about how Picasso "woke up every day and saw the world anew like a kid". I think that's a pretty good goal for artists and also a fairly decent recipe for happiness in general.


Pat Aulisio

Ian Harker

Jason Clarke

Rafer Roberts

Bryan G. Brown

Space Salesman Ver 3

The latest version of the "Space Salesman" illustration that I have been working on for class.


SECRET ACRES is the awesome publisher of such fine books by Eamon Espey (Wormdye) and Ken Dahl (Eisner Nominee for Monster), both of which will be attending PACC. SA is based out of New York and always seems to carry the newest talked about comics and mini comics of the convention circuit. PACC is proud to have these noble publishers in its midst this year.

Pres Romanilios 1963-2010

Pres Romanillos lost his battle with leukemia last Saturday. He was 47.

I didn't know Pres all that well but we used to sit in cubicles next to each other during the making of "Aladdin". At that time he was a rough inbetweener for Glen Keane and he enabled Glen to crank out massive amounts of footage of Aladdin. Glen would do the key poses and Pres would fill in the breakdown and "inbetween" drawings to flesh out the acting and motion and Glen could move onto the next scene. I remember Pres telling me that Glen was able to do 50 feet in a week once (an unbelievable amount for Disney - most animators dream of being able to do 5 feet a week consistently) because of Pres's help. Pres was an excellent draftsman and very good at drawing in Glen's style so he was an invaluable help to Glen.

Pres had his own style, of course, and his dream back then was to become an animator in his own right (as was mine). He had gone to the Art Center in Pasadena and, like a lot of CalArts students, I was amazed at how great an education in drawing he had received compared to the one I had gotten. I think that he worried a bit that he had missed out on the animation training that us CalArtians had received and he hoped that it wouldn't hold him back. He needn't have worried, though, shortly after that he became a full-fledged animator and went on to work on many timeless characters and films.

I parted ways with the studio during "Aladdin" and Pres went to work in Florida while I was gone from the studio so I lost touch with him. He was always a very nice person (and well-known as a snappy dresser in those days) and an extraordinary artist. I am sorry to hear of his health troubles and it's sad to think that he is gone now.

During the making of "Aladdin" he had an old animation desk that was covered in years of graphite rubbed into the wood surface. I remember being shocked one day to see that he was using an eraser to "carve out" likenesses of Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie from the black surface of his desk. How he had the time or energy I don't know but that was Pres! He was always enthusiastic and tireless.

That was my strongest memory of Pres and I wanted to write down that story. So when I checked the LA Times obituary to double-check his birth year I was amazed to see that a picture of Pres and that very desk accompanies his obituary! Click here to see the photo. Apparently he later added Pocahontas to the desk as well.

Hulk Painted I finaly got it right I think..


First watch the cartoon (Thanks, YouTube!)

Now look at the B/G art...

A Kick in the Head, Part Seven

This final one is a little bit different.

One day I was on and I saw a story about how Conan O'Brien's closing words on his last show had really affected a lot of people and caused them to change their lives.

“All I ask of you is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism - it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

Everywhere I've ever worked, certain things have always been the same. Our jobs are very difficult and there are a lot of long hours. In the Feature Animation world, you can work for years on a picture and never really know if the film you're working on will get finished, be released, and if so, will ever really be any good. The story process of making a Feature is filled with experimentation, blind alleys and false starts. People in every department tend to get nervous about the amount of work ahead and they have to have a lot of faith in order to believe that the ultimate product will be worth all the long hours and effort.

It takes a lot more energy to stay positive and have faith in the process. It can be easier to give in to the temptation to become bitter and cynical. Working long hours and seeing screenings of the movie that don't quite work can easily lead to complaining behind closed doors and becoming cynical about the whole thing.

Some people fall into this type of attitude because their personality is disposed to be that way. And some people are easily influenced by their co-workers and they end up becoming negative because that's all they hear from their office mates. And some people just don't want to sound like a simpleton, and they know they'll be ostracized by their friends if they try to stay positive, so they just give in.

Certainly there's never any shortage of people on the internet willing to be negative about our films before they're even completed and that can have a devastating effect on the morale of our crews as well.

As with any kind of faith, there's always way more reasons to give up and be cynical than to stay positive and believe that things will turn out for the best and that all the hard work will be worth it (I'm not a religious man, by the way, but I do have a lot of faith in the story process).

So the only argument I can offer is to ask you what kind of people you, personally, would rather be around. What type of people do you like to work with? Spend time with? Date? Marry? What kind of attitude would you like your kids to have?

If you became a supervisor, or director, or the head of a studio, what type of people would you want working on your crew? What would you want them to be saying about you and your movie when you're not around?

Cynicism and bitterness are very unpleasant and unattractive qualities. Everyone gets discouraged and frustrated and needs to express that sometimes. There's nothing wrong with that....otherwise we wouldn't be human. Relentless optimism in the face of all evidence to the contrary can be just as unattractive (and scary) as the other side of the coin. But once people become permanently embittered and react to everything with cynicism it becomes impossible for them to do great work. To do great work you need to be inspired at least a little bit and embittered people are incapable of any amount of inspiration. Once you become cynical it's very difficult to keep developing as an artist. We need fresh eyes and hope to keep seeing the world anew and learning and growing artistically.

So stay as positive as you can and always try to see the situation from the other side. If you were directing the project you're working on, would you look forward to meetings with you? Or would you dread them because your negative attitude is discouraging?

It's easy to fall into being cynical but it's also a very quick way to turn a job that can be uplifting and amazing into a living misery and your own personal Hell. If you bother to read this blog I know you're interested in doing great work and staying inspired at any cost. I know how hard that can be. Believe me, I do. But to do great work and create something of value it's one of the prices we have to pay.

Robot Bird Ver..I dunno..

This is the latest version of a painting that I am working on..I am trying to get the technique down and the colors and everything else..we will see how the feedback for this works as well.

Space Salesman Ver 2

This is the latest version for an assignment that we had to complete for Illustration class.
The theme had to do with illustrating a concept of "Jet Lag" which I likened to a traveling salesman being disoriented in space. I did a version with the black hole and without.
We will see what the feedback is tomorrow.


More gorgeous digitally re-assembled background art from Disney's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG!