Tuesday, December 20, 2016

FLASHBACK: Me & My Shadow

Today on Cartoon Brew they posted some leaked test shots from an abandoned DreamWorks film called Me & My Shadow - which of course got pulled down by Universal almost immediately.

I got to spend a very brief amount of time on this show helping the crowd head, Allen Stetson, do some cycle animation tests.  We were timing how long it took to keyframe a typical cycle animation.  Then we compared this to having to clean up mo-cap, and adding in face/hand animation on top of that.  It was only a few weeks of work, but it let me peek into the world they were making of Shadows.

It was....awesome.  I saw as much as one initial sequence that went through all the way to lighting and paint fix.  I think it would have been an amazing combination of 2D and 3D - and would have developed a fan base amongst those who love Roger Rabbit, etc.  Sadly, as was too often the case at DreamWorks, they couldn't nail down the story.  And an higher price tag for all the cool hybrid tech became the nail in the coffin for Shadows.  There's rumors of Edgar Wright coming in to revist this...so hopefully it'll see the light of day eventually.

Oh, and here's some leaked GIFs that have been floating around online for a few years to give you an idea of the film.  The shadows were all 2D hand drawn animation, then were cleaned up on the computer and projected into the 3D scene.  It wasn't just as simple as that of course, and I remember seeing a great and complicated demo explaining the processes they developed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Heather and Disney

So proud of Heather this month. She has TWO amazing Disney projects being released!

First of all is the release of Moana in theaters. Heather worked on some of the very first sequences in production on this film. We finally got to take our two boys to it this week, and it's a stunning and beautiful film. I'm so excited my wife got to contribute to this film - one that joins the family of such classics as The Little Mermaid (in fact, they had the same directors).

The second project is the debut of Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration at Walt Disney World. Heather helped create the imagery that is projected on Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom. It's part of a night-time stage show during the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party special event.

I have to admit being extremely jealous. To be able to have worked on a Disney animated musical and contribute to an attraction at Disney World are probably the two greatest reasons I got into this industry myself. I'm so proud of my wife, and that she has been able to make her dreams come true.

Friday, December 2, 2016

More DreamWorks Layoffs

News finally broke this week of additional layoffs happening at DreamWorks Feature Animation.  This actually occurred several weeks ago, the day I flew into Burbank for the CTNx Conference - so I heard about the news that night (appropriately over several beers).

This round is 170 employees, notable hitting the production artists hard, who had been spared in the last round or two.  Overall I'm told the company has reduced it's staff by about 400 in the last several months.  Even the Animation Dept, which usually is the last to get hit, is taking some losses - including the notable voluntary departure of several supervising animators.

Some major news that is the direct cause of this is that Croods 2 has been cancelled, and possibly other film in production going back into development mode.  Also, some big unspecified changes seem to be happening for the studios in India and China.  I actually really dissapointed that we won't be seeing Croods 2.  The initial story pitches I saw looked really fun and already there was some great animation tests under James Baxter being done.

I remember how stressful times like this are in the company and the industry.  It was very bittersweet to be back in Burbank the other week and see all the old friends, co-workers, neighbors and hangouts.  But this waiting-nervously-for-news cycle seemed to be coming more often and more dramatic each year.  It was an interesting weekend to visit, and reminded me of all the stress I've left behind in that world.  It was also interesting at the conference to see what all the amazing artist that were let go when they closed PDI have done.  Many are working on their own projects, and VR studios in Silicon Valley have sucked up most of them.  At the studio it always felt like there was nothing outside those walls, which amped up the stress level among everyone.  But honestly, most artists are thriving post-DW and creating amazing work.  It's just a shame such a talented pool or artists was broken up.

Rumor is more layoffs might hit in January and I'll be hoping for the best for my remaining friends and DreamWorks.