Friday, November 20, 2015

My second LAIKA film - KUBO and the 2 Strings -

Hey Guys,

  I have reached the End of another EPIC Artistic journey guys.

My 10 months on KUBO have been incredibly rewarding and challenged me more than any other project in my Career.

This Film will once again BLOW minds and show what is possible in our Medium. LAIKA
is Creating a Library of films that are going to Launch a lot of Young peoples Imaginations for years to come.

I am leaving with 35 approved shots in the film and some pretty killer moments I cant wait for you to share. I hear that a couple of my shots are making the first teaser I will call them out when it lands.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a fellow animator was to {Fall in Love with your characters.} Fall in love ---- WITH  them......

WHEN YOU LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS - like your family -

you will care for every frame in a very different way.
You will apply that Love - that energy - to all aspects of the character.

know who they are  - understand all of their motivations - care for every hair - every gesture.

I felt the HUGE difference when I really really took this advice in. The animation becomes even more emotional.....the care you put in the movements are so much more thoughtful and less was a big moment for me.

   I hope to carry this through my entire career from here on.

You guys will get your first peek at KUBO in the very near future and I will post it here to make sure.

I finished my last shot on the Friday night before Halloween
then I jumped in my truck and made my way towards Los Angeles. I made it home in time to trick or treat and have a Sunday with the family.

The very next Day I started my new gig back in the CG chair at Blizzard on the cinematic's team.

I have been here for 3 weeks now ad have to say.....this is the BEST cg job - studio I have ever worked for. I am kind of Blown away.

Great subject matter - GREAT characters - wonderful Story's And Super Fun animation!!

I feel very fortunate in life and in my Art....

the Animation I am doing here is getting my Passion Boiling.....and I will definitely share here as it goes live.



Sunday, August 23, 2015


Hey guys!

   I am nearing the end of my adventure on KUBO and the 2 strings. I have just 10 weeks left
on the film before I heard back to CG land.

The way time fly's on this production It will pass way faster than I want......but at the same time I am very very excited to get home to my family!!

and UNDO....ha!

I have gotten 25 shots approved now and the next 2 shots on my list are what I call the { REASON I CAME TO LAIKA } shots

These are the 2 coolest -EPIC and most visually exciting shots that I would have done so far.  In other words - GREAT for the REEL and exciting in the doing.

There is Complicated character action...Complicated Element animation with Complicated camera moves. The shots are also both 6 - 10 seconds long which means bigger chunks of screen time.

Most of my shots have been between 2- 4 seconds....due to quick cuts..... so a 10 second piece  feels EPIC.

Wish me Luck!!! a tense production ......

I had a big moment of growth 3 weeks ago......

I found my confidence.....after having a serious low in production.....

I had a shot that I rushed through due to production push and I was not happy with the outcome.

 I was in fact even embarrassed....ashamed.

The shot was approved { owwwch } and I learned a BIG lesson.....


when production is pushing you to finish a shot faster than is required....faster than you are comfortable with......Faster than you  NEED...

   step back .....

and say......THIS IS FOREVER......This shot will be up in CINEMA animation history FOREVER!!!

    I understand productions job of keeping things moving.....and I also have come to understand they really don't care if the shot is good or not.......{serviceable} they just want it checked off on the to do list.

BUT an animator - YOU must PROTECT THE SHOT -

 In the end.... that shot could sting your eyes for the rest of well as hurt your reputation as an animator.

When the production is over and they look back at your one will will remember how long it took.....they will remember is it GOOD or BAD.

  So after I figured out this creating a bad shot. I have decided to never let that happen again. The animation we are doing on KUBO is the hardest most complicated stuff in stop mo history.

AND - it is at the highest level of LAIKA is known for.


I have felt such a relief and JOY in my last 3 weeks at work.

Creating fun animation!!! ......with confidence that I will do my very VERY best to make sure the shots are as high quality as I can.....and that the shot is protected RESPECTED for its complexity and time requirements.

I am going to Savor every frame that I take in the Last 10 weeks and the BIG shots I am undertaking.....
I plan on POURING every ounce of my passion and soul into the making.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Over a min of footage!!

Hey guys,

  Been a little gap since my last post.....

I passed the 1 min mark guys -

 .......I Have been busting my hump at LAIKA and have not had much time or energy to blog after some of those Hard weeks on the field....

Here it is Friday..... and I just finished my 19th shot....a quick 45 frame shot of one of  our heroes running from one of our villains.

Short or Long they all are hard and they all have at least one Puzzle to solve...
also....with all the sets getting over 100 degrees on stage it doesn't make it any easier.

One of the puzzles that you never hear about from stop mo guys are {RIGS- shadows- lighting?}


In every shot I do....a rigger will set up something to help me control- support - move my characters through the shot.

this is like an erector set of metal gears and rods to control and rotate many axis's ......or float -fly characters.

It also is often used for BIG characters that are just too HEAVY to support them selves with their legs.

now ----once you have a contraption to support your puppet - you need to animate it smartly-

This can be a big puzzle-

......especially when dealing with multiple characters who are interacting physically with each other.

1. Keep the support rigs from overlapping the puppets - hard to paint out in post.

2. Keep weird rig shadows from crossing the puppets or - hard to fix places - this can often happen and can be a pain for post guys....its all just another puzzle to think about while trying to create smooth animation.....arrrghh

3. Animating then ----MID shot ---- switching out for new rigs throughout a shot -{Due to cross over or say coming in from flight to a landing..} spinning and needing to prevent overlap.

 This can be very very slow and often pulls your puppet out of position which you have to spend time getting back as close as possible.....

I never really knew about this stuff till I went Pro at LAIKA.....and Now I feel VERY comfortable with it......

because every shot I do is a Rigging MASTER class.....tons of action requires TONS of rigging.

just wanted to share.

in LAIKA news -

   I feel a full member of the team now......{been here almost 6 months}..and am producing on average 1 shot a week....all though the last 2 weeks have been 2 shots each..which is the most I have done so far.

This is over a min of footage guys...that's a big milestone. I left Paranorman with 3 min of footage....I am hoping for 2 min on KUBO.....but these shots are so much more complicated it might not happen.

The fight scene will be my task the entire time I am at LAIKA. The 19 shots
 are editing well together and with the post are looking quite Nice.

I really cant wait to share!!!

last but not least.

Since I have been in Portland I discovered an awesome BMX park...{The Lumberyard}...

.. I landed one of my DREAM tricks that I wanted since I was a little kid....and being 40 now and having pretty much quit riding.....

I truly thought I would never do it.....but....... I made it happen!!! IT was an incredible feeling...... another DREAM come true.

here it is ----

Sunday, April 12, 2015

11 shots and a CREDIT!

Hey guys,

    I was told during Paranorman that after 10 approved shots you get a credit!!

 This..... I am pretty sure this was a joke but I took a mental note and since then and have used it as goal on every Film or Show that I have worked on.

Well....I just got my 11th shot approved last Friday and I am feeling like a real part of the crew.

It sounds silly........ but I often feel like I am just a CG guy who is pretending to be a stopmotion animator. I feel like I don't totally fit in or like I am just there because I lucked my way in.

Sneaked in?

It is just insecurity and I am aware of that....but depending on how good or bad a shot is going those thoughts can creep in.

either way-

My sequence is looking pretty freakin cool..... and I do feel I am mostly in the groove of stopmotion production..

I am in the start of my fourth month at LAIKA and with November being the end of my time in Portland I am excited to think I will have another 30 possible shots before the end.

One of the really magical things that are happening right now with my shots are that VFX is starting to get ahold of them.

VFX usually is like the cherry ontop of most stopmotion shots {effects-fog-dust-particles-comping-wire removal}  but in my sequence they have a much greater relationship.

The work on the shots I have been completing has been incredible to watch!!

They are doing many of the basic VFX effects but there is a GIANT environment element that is interacting with our characters and to see it all comped in with what I have animated is BREATHTAKING!! WOW.....its a very special High.

It looks so amazing all together and fells like Pure movie magic to see it Projected on the BIGSCREEN.

Its crazy to think how far away the films release is.....but It is going to be INCREDIBLE!!!

   In family news -

 I just had my wife and daughter here for spring break and was lucky to have the Bring your Kid to work day at LAIKA.

 LAIKA ran a great little tour of the various departments and really showed some amazing creations that will be showing up on the big screen next year. I felt so proud to share this with the family and even got to take them on my sets where I will be spending the next 6 months.

It was a very clear picture for them to imagine where daddy spends his days.

And a really cool peak into the whole KUBO cast and sets.

             another year of wait for the rest of you guys 2016 seems so far away!!

                        cant wait!!


Saturday, March 21, 2015


Hey Guys!

   8th shot was just approved and I feel like its my best yet on Kubo.

 I feel very excited that my Next shot is not only my first REAL dialog piece. Its a  GREAT dialog piece....I get a good 5 second spot of the character rage filled and boiling before she lashes out.


and I feel like this could be the reel piece front runner I am looking for!! wish me luck!!

as for getting into a groove the last time we talked...

It has been Hard and the stress definitely has gotten the best of me more than once
...felt a few hints of a sore throat....and some lost sleep....but luckily i was able to fight the sick off fight my inner demons- and take some perspective that the sun will come up tomorrow and the world moves forward.

Stopmotion is already an obsessive field - tracking body parts in the search of perfectly smooth movement as well as the perfect performance can really mess with your head.

Every little imperfection can feel like the end of the world  -

when you are chasing the LAIKA standard - trying to make your Quota - as well as battling your own internal dialog one frame at a time. It can put you in an state where you could easily get a bit kooky.

  I have questioned my own abilities on this project many times.....but a few conversations with some of the sr. animators reassured me that they all go through the same thing.

They feel that after I get a few under my belt I will be able to move smoothly and a lot of the angst will go away.

I think its true and can even feel it starting to happen....

Stopmotion is HARD guys....really really hard.

....nothing comes easy.

   and......I love it!
 sharing the process with you guys...

I thought I would clarify a few things with NEW shot Rigging set up for anyone interested.


When a new shot is analyzed before starting-

The rigging team looks at the shot and whats required - the puppet being used and access for the animator on the set. The main puppet will need support - Lots of falling rocks - The Main Rock Base and then pebbles and leaves

After Talking to the camera guy and animator they will usually build a rig that will get you through a rehearsal on 2's-

after the rehearsal is looked at in the Theater by every department head- Puppets -VFX - Lighting camera - sets - so on

The animator - VFX- will ask for any changes needed from lessons learned in the rehearsal.

Then you go into the real shot.

  That is how rigging works....and the rigging team at LAIKA is incredible. They pretty much take as much pain out of the shot as possible before we start the clicking.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

4th Shot - and Getting my feet under me.

Hey guys!

 I just finished my 4th shot which was { THE shot } I was thinking was going to be my very first moment on KUBO.

Due to scheduling changes....I ended up with 3 others before I got it.

It was not easy shot ...but ......-NOTHING IS EASY in stopmotion.

I am a guy who try's to prepare as much as I can for a shot I know is coming down the pipe....but time and time again.....until you are on set and in the real situation its not always that helpful.

Spacial - timing differences - camera staging - puppet limitations....its all problem solving.

But............I did the job-  I got it approved after a hard few days and I think when its all comped in and played in sequence it will do the job!


Moving forward....I am rehearsing my 5th shot and starting to feel the groove of making feature films again.

There is a hustle and bustle going from set to set  - shot to shot....

You finish a shot and you get directed for the next one - problem solving -new rigging puzzles -puppet needs and then meeting the expectations and quotas.

Alot going on....and each shot is an emotional journey.

I have definitely felt unsure more than once during the production of an animation......... but then when it gets approved and I know its going to be in the film and Up on that BIG SCREEN I get High as a kite.

Its a thrilling moment!!

    I am PROUD proud proud to be part of making this film....

            DREAM STUFF!!


Friday, February 6, 2015

1rst Shot of KUBO approved !!

Hey Guys!

    Its Friday night after 4 weeks in the test unit.......and I just got my first shot approved and
 5 seconds of footage on the big screen for KUBO and the Two Strings.

Man oh man in the frying pan......I gota tell you....I fought for every single one of my 164 frames.

I did a rehearsal on Monday and that just did not go very well....I missed a few things that I wanted to do with the character and generally was just not pushing things far enough......  it was a bit stiff in some of the transitions....and I also was learning how to use the rig and puppet as I went ........

Learning how to use the rigging that is created for a shot can be tricky and I ran into a few issues that I figured out by the end....but.....the end is not typically when you want to learn....ohh well?

After getting feed back from the director you can be launched onto the real shot.....or....they can have you do another rehearsal if they want to see the changes they ask for...

 I was launched into the real shot.....
The changes they asked for....they felt I could handle by just going into the some understanding of the character, rigs and all the hopes in the world.....I begin!!

..............After grinding through my first couple of days of real shooting - a few new puzzles to solve  and a few cut backs to keep the quality as high as I could..... I reached that last frame on my x sheet.

deep breath.......whats next?

When you finish a shot on a film ....there is a period between having the shot published....and waiting
to see if it is approved?
You typically have a feeling of maybe....... it will get approved??

Will the director or directors buy off on the shot? .......I had a very strong ---- MAYBE?

I addressed all of the notes from the rehearsal review which was great but I had one timing element
I wasn't sure the director would go for?

I felt sooo much relief when they told me it was Green lit!!!!

I literally was smiles for miles!!! I had been fantasizing about that moment for the last 5 first GREEN LIT shot.....and there it is.

So...Its official-

I am a Feature animator on KUBO and the 2 strings....My second LAIKA film.

What an honor.....

I  walked down those long halls and look up 40 feet at the ceiling of the building and just feel like
I'm on the field playing at the superbowl....

Feel Like I am fighting at Madison Sqaure Gardens

Like I'm riding my BMX Bike at Hell Track!!

        this is the first of MANY shots to come guys.....I left Paranorman with almost 3 minutes of footage......I hope to have a big bunch of fun stuff to bring home with KUBO as well.

               more to come...