Thursday, October 18, 2007

A little animated inspiration...

The other day I met another classical animator who recently jumped on board the BigFott project. He's a graduate of VFS with some fantastic animation...his effects work in particular is nothing short of spectacular. Check him out (I like to promote good art when I see it!)...

His style reminds me alot of New York animator Patrick Smith, with the sketchy line quality and visible construction lines. This was inspiring to me because it's the same kind of look I want to achieve for 'Nigel' where the drawings are clean but not TOO clean...rough around the edges. I can also tell that some International Rocketship folks like Marv Newland had some input into his graduate film, cuz it has some of those same qualities.

There's lots of animation events happening in Vancouver over the next few weeks with independent shorts hosted by the NFB, so I'm expecting this will give me lots of inspiration to re-visit production.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Librarian" to screen at 2Dornot2D

I'm happy to say that The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, the film I got to animate on last year for BigFott Studios, has been selected for the 2Dornot2D Animation Festival. Looking forward to seeing it again there.

Still plugging away at the current BigFott project, and Nigel is waiting in the wings. Soon the scanning shall start...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Settling Dust...

So "Nigel" has been on a small hiatus, but the dust will be settling soon. Just recently we got a brand new computer which purrs like a kitten and is 10 times faster than our old 2002 model, which needed to be shot. Instead though, it has been donated to the cause of my brother-in-law and his wife who needed a word processor.

So the entire "Nigel" folder has been transferred onto our new machine, but I still have yet to open it up and make sure the Leica Reel file still works in Premiere locating files and whatnot.

I'm working now on a freelance animation project directed by my friend Galen Fott, on another childrens' book adaptation, about a backhoe loader. It's fun stuff and will be keeping me pretty busy through the Fall and into Christmastime. While that's going on, I plan on starting to recruit a team of animation students to scan in and possibly color in all my drawings thus far.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Crisis Averted! Turns out our drive didn't crash...we just had a faulty cable. Thanks to my brother-in-law Mikey for helping us. Now I've backed up the entire "Nigel" folder to an extra hard drive as well. Soon we'll be getting a brand new computer and all will be right with the world again. Whee!

Monday, August 20, 2007



Well, the latest update on 'Nigel' I can offer is that it appears that the Video drive in our computer might have crashed. That is the drive containing all pencil tests, sound files, etc for the film, including the work-in-progress Leica Reel.

BUT not to worry too much....I do have the majority of files backed up, and my latest leica reel with all the timing changes, etc exists as an Mpeg file at work, so I'll be backing that up today. Although it will still require a bit of work, I may be able to import the Mpeg into Premiere and then use it as a guide for lining everything back up again with the original files. Here's hoping, anyway.

I still have all the dope sheets and the drawings (one of the many advantages to making a 2D film!) which need to be scanned anyway. So rather than re-shoot all of my pencil tests, I might as well get them scanned instead so I can start assembling them in their semi-final state.

As the dust settles from recovering our computer and moving into the new campus at VanArts over the next few weeks, we'll see how many updates I can continue with here...keep checking back! I'll be working on some freelance projects in the meantime and my personal blog will still be alive & well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

August Update

Not too much new to report on the filmmaking front. Most of the scenes I still have in my possession are completed. A few scenes are still with Steve and being finished up. At the moment we are in the middle of planning for Ariel's first birthday and forthcoming family visits. Once we get past summer and are settled into the new VanArts building as well, I will get a crew started on scanning all my drawings.

I'll try to find time to perhaps dig up some old ghosts to post here in the meantime. I've added some more happy links, so that's something.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

July Weekend Pencil Tests

Here's the latest scene I've finished in-betweening, with some help from Steve's students as well. It's a walk that moves with a panning background and comes to a stop. Underneath the camera I fudged the entrance of the monkey a bit by just moving a drawing off the pegs in stop-motion fashion, just to get a rough idea of how he will come into the frame. It's not perfect. The whole logistics behind the pan are somewhat guess-work. This is one shot I'm not entirely confident with in terms of the technical side of the layout. It will start in 11-field and zoom in slightly to 8-field when the monkey lashes out. The elephant is saying "What's wrong?" and the monkey says "I'll TELL you what's wrong!" A few more cushion frames needed for the elephant at the end...I stayed up til 1am with this scene already though. :P-ppfft!

And here is the final version of the elephant eating peanuts off the ground.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Finland Podcast

Recently an animator from Finland, Juha Niemi, interviewed me for his filmmaking podcast.

You can find the KinoSilmä podcast from iTunes store or from the

Here is also a direct link for the file:

Starts with an introduction in Finnish, then moves on to the interview.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Little Assistant

I had some help animating this weekend.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Last night I was needlessly freakin' out a bit cuz there were some drawings I had shot last weekend and couldn't find them! I thought I might have brought them home, but they were nowhere to be found, and they weren't in my office either. Turns out I had left them by the pencil tester all week. Luckily, nobody threw them away. A non-crisis happily averted.

Animation is stressful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I've been reminding myself I really need to make sure I keep a record of all the people who have been assisting me here & there on the film, so that when the credits roll I don't leave anyone out. On a production that takes this long, it's easy to forget things like this. So this is as good a place as any to keep track. Here's a rough list of credits so far:

Animation Assistants/Inbetweeners
Rick Curts
Kassandra Fry
See Hang
Chris Houghton
Jodie Hudson
Jennifer Isaak
Agata Matuszak
Carlos Miranda
Steve Stanchfield
Stephen Pearce

Nigel - Bob Godfrey
Baby Elephant - Jessica Esau
Big City Toad - Ken Priebe
Cranky Monkey - Charles Phillips
Kids - Ken & Janet Priebe

Janet Priebe

Production Baby
Ariel Lynn

Special Thanks
My Family
Colin Johnson
Bill Matthews
Bonita Versh
Marcos Gonzalez
Students & Staff of VanArts

Dedicated to the memory of
Vickie Worth
Robert & Mary Priebe

Monday, July 16, 2007


We're now getting to the background stage! Yesterday my lovely wife Janet turned one of the layouts into a watercolor painting. So now we can start to get a glimpse of how color will factor into the 2D parts. This particular BG is during one of the more somber moments in the middle of the film, when the sky is overcast and cloudy. The elephant simply walks along the road (as happens in many, many, many shots!) and comes to a stop. Perhaps at some point soon I'll try doing a color test and place a frame of the elephant colored-in over top of this.

Until then, here's our first background...

Where Everything Happens

Here is my animation desk where the bulk of the film was animated on. It was built by Colin Johnson, who is "the man" in Vancouver who can create these things quickly and at a reasonable price. VanArts has kept him very busy over the years too. Note the glimpse of the infamous "Muppet Shelf" in the background. Resting on top of the desk is Lombydoo II, my stuffed leopard. Lombydoo I was my favorite stuffed toy as a child, who ran away to Australia to open up his own bar.

And here is the film so far in its resting place in the studio closet. About 40 scenes more-or-less completely animated and ready to scan! Just a few more out there being inbetweened or yet to complete.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Want a Peanut (in progress)?

This is a new version of a pencil test with some recently added in-betweens. The scene, as it is here, is still not complete. There will be a camera move zooming in as the elephant approaches the monkey, so that once they are together, it's more like an 8-field or 9-field two-shot and we're closer to the action. Plus, there are some cut-away close-up shots which will be inserted into the middle part, after the monkey starts growling. No sound here at the moment either...the monkey growls and the elephant (voiced by my church pastor's daughter Jessica) asks, "Want a peanut?" I'm thinking another blink by the elephant is in order, during that hold after the monkey glances quickly up at the elephant, and before he grabs the bag.

Final In-betweened Silhouette Walk

Hooray! Now the silhouetted walk has been in-betweened so he moves much smoother now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend Update

Over the weekend I managed to finish in-betweening the silhouetted elephant walk and fix the "picking peanuts off the ground" scene so I'll be shooting them sometime this week.

It's all very exciting.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Reflections on Making a Film

I just piped in to a NEW POST at Mark Mayerson's blog which talks about other animators' thoughts about creating an independent short. Nice to see that I'm not alone in this.

I've often felt that this film is just taking too long, and worried about whether or not it will all be worth it in the end...looks like these are normal feelings to have about the process. I know it's basically my own fault for making it as long as it is, and not sticking to something simpler or shorter. In the amount of time it's taken me to get this far, I could have probably created 3 or 4 shorter films. But I don't think about that too much. I'm happy doing what I'm doing and totally committed to finishing it. The work itself dictates how long it will take. It calls to me when it needs feeding, and lets me know when it's time to take a break. Perhaps this is why they call them "pet projects." I'm starting to sound like Madeline L'Engle, which is not a bad thing.

I also enliken it to my wife Janet's thoughts about her cross-stitching. She has a big box full of patterns that she started years ago, even from high school (which was over a decade ago now). Every now and then she'll pull out whichever one suits her fancy and chip away at it some more. Some of them she may never finish, and that's OK too. It's better to have a big box full of unfinished projects than nothing to work on at all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Elephant Silhouetted Walk

Here is a brand new pencil test hot off the presses, from the weekend's animation. This shot, including the hill and the elephant himself, will all be colored black in silhouette. It's a rather familiar, almost cliched, kind of shot seen in other films, but I like the way it looks. He's basically walking along eating his bag of peanuts until he stops suddenly in his tracks. These are mostly keys that will have to be in-betweened as the next stage of finishing it off. I'm thinking that the stretch on his take when he comes to a stop might be a bit too exaggerated? Or maybe not... Any thoughts anyone has on this, I appreciate it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Color Tests and Production Photos

Here are some color tests I did awhile ago in order to see how these characters might look in the final version. I'll be attempting to approach the scanning/coloring process in a way that will maintain the rough quality of the drawings, which are essentially cleaned-up right on top of the blue-pencil roughs. The result, which I like, is that of the Xerox look common to films like Winnie the Pooh where you can see the odd construction lines dance around, just like real drawings.

Here's me animating Nigel back in 2003 in our first one-bedroom apartment before my wife Janet & I moved into our current place. He was set up on a TV table between our computer desk and dining room table...rather cramped corners in those days!

And here are some photos of one of my scenes drying out after somehow getting wet...I don't remember how it happened.

Baby Elephant Walks

This is one of the final shots in the film, of the baby elephant (who has never been given a name other than "Baby Elephant") looking around and walking down the road. This shot was in-betweened, I do believe, by College for Creative Studies student Jodie Hudson, who did a great job.

Baby Elephant Eats Peanuts - original version

Here's the original version of the scene, including the bits I cut out.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Baby Elephant Eats Peanuts

This is a shot I animated which recently had some material cut out of it. There used to be a squirrel on the ground by the peanuts, just about to grab them, and then he screams and runs away when he sees the elephant. This ended up being too distracting. Also, before the elephant stuffed the peanuts into his mouth, he blew the dust off them. I asked my 2D students for advice on which version played better, and they all seemed to agree with me on his one. Now that I have a human baby of my own, I've learned that babies aren't concerned about dirt on their food, and wouldn't blow it off before eating it!

Edit: As per comments, yes there will be a blink in there eventually to break up that long hold, and music & narration will span over the whole film.

I'd love to post more, but it's late and I need to finish some illustrations and go to bed. Tomorrow I'm driving to Portland for the Platform Animation Festival, so I'll post more recent pencil tests upon my return.

Happy Dancing Flowers

Here's a new pencil test of some happy dancing flowers! This was actually animated by my friend Steve Stanchfield from Thunderbean Animation. In the final film, it won't look like this (for one thing, it will all be in color!) will likely be a panning background with three or five of these flower cycles all dancing. This is just a temporary test to fill in the gap of my leica reel and see how they look. How can you not love rubbery dancing flowers?

Teaser Trailer - June 2007

Here is the first brand new teaser trailer for the film! At this point, all animation is still in pencil test format with rough camera moves yet. The music in this trailer is a temp track only.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It all starts here...

Welcome to my new blog for documenting the production of my short film, Storytime with Nigel. Everything leading up to this point is on my previous web diary, which can be accessed thus...

At least this prior web diary, done before the age of the blog, goes up to 2005. In 2006 much of my time was devoted to other projects, namely my 'Art of Stop Motion Animation' book and the birth of our beautiful daughter Ariel.