Monday, June 6, 2016

Steamboat School in stores today!

June 7, 2016...

Today Steamboat School, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, authored by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by myself is available at Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores and can be ordered through

Steamboat School has a long history. It would take ten years from initial concept to it's release today.

After thirty years in Disney Feature Animation I landed at Disney Publishing Worldwide located in Glendale, CA.  The department publishes coloring books, activity and chapter books. For our department to attempt a book of this sort was a vast departure from the Disney themes and characters the department is known for and to utilize my pen and ink drawing style was a first for the department.

Barbara Nelson, one of the many talented artist in that department wrote the first treatment entitled 'Our Floating School'.

Tony Fejeran, one of the senior designers in the department put together artwork for a presentation to the head of the department, Ken Shue and dept. manager Brent Ford.  Since no artwork existed at the time, Tony used illustrations I had previously done, stock illustrations, chose type size, font, the unique book dimensions and suggested the aged paper background that is used.

With the ok from Ken and Brent, we got the green light to proceed.

The illustrations of Steamboat School are truly a labor of love. The early success of this book (see below) is due to the combination of words and art work.  Deborah Hopkinson's text is extremely moving. Many times I read over the text and played the words over and over in my mind as I sought the best way to visually communicate her words. It was not until I read the story to a group of children at my church that I felt the impact of the words. There were several times my voice broke as I read aloud this story. You 'could have heard a pin drop' which is saying a lot for an audience of four to twelve year old kids who listened in rapt attention.

The illustrations in Steamboat School are an offshoot of two things, my quick sketching technique (story telling drawings using body language) and the philosophy of storytelling I gleaned from my years in feature animation.

In animation you tell a story in a series of drawings, in illustration, a story is told in a single drawing with communication as the goal.

I first did small sketches on tracing paper.
(Pencil sketch done on tracing paper)

Then I enlarged the sketches to illustration board (2-ply Strathmore 500) to the full page size.

Next, mechanical pen and black India ink. Color was added in photoshop over an aged paper background to finish the illustrations.

There were many years from the start to the completion of this project and it was placed on "hold" for several years with changes in editor, designer, etc.

Finally, the name was changed to Steamboat School and the final go ahead to finish the book came through. It was my final assignment before I retired on September 20, 2013. A few weeks into retirement I was called back to the department to do some minor changes in the artwork and was told the summer of 2016 would be the date of publication. Now all I had to do is wait a couple of years.
The wait is finally over!

Steamboat School has been named a Junior Library Guild selection for 2016 and has been given a starred review by Kirkus (below).

I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Workshop and lecture at Sam Houston State University

Wednesday April 6, 2016...

Willie Williams, Assistant Professor of Animation at Sam Houston State University located in Huntsville TX and I met a few years ago at Creative Talent Network.
CTN for short, is an international gathering of animators, illustrators, film makers, creatives etc.held in Burbank, CA each year.
 At our first meeting a few years ago Prof. Williams extended an invitation for me to visit his students at SHSU. Last week it finally happened.

This photo taken right before the animation students enter the classroom.

(Prof. Williams, second from left and Prof. Melissa Glasscock, flanked by student film crew.)

Rapt attention in the crowded room...

as I gave a drawing demonstration.

 The students and I pose after the demo and Q&A session.

I had the opportunity to sign a few books, VHS and CD covers, sketchbooks, scraps of paper and even a sun visor...

critiqued a sketchbook or two...

 passed on some helpful advice...

and encouraged a student who just the day before wanted to call it quits. Now she feels 'I can do this'.

Later that evening...
a lecture and power point presentation to an almost full auditorium of animation, art students, faculty and public. To my surprise many non art majors attended and commented I spoke meaningful words to them too.

There is always time to sign for those kind enough to hear what I have to say and wait in line for a signature. 
Thursday April 7th...
On the way to the airport we stopped off for lunch at the #1 Bar-B-Que restaurant in Houston, Corkscrew.

We got there early (10 am) first to place our order. The first 26 or so get a number, the rest form a line. All food prepared fresh that day, or should I say the morning before and as the sign says "11am to sold out".
One bite of brisket, sausage, ribs, beans or cobbler and you'll know why it is the best BBQ I've ever tasted.

Kamm, the manager of Corkscrew took this picture for us...
( l to r Professors Glasscock, Williams, teacher Shelby Tedder and myself.)

and I drew his.

(me with Kamm, who the owner Nicole Buckman calls the "best manager ever".)

Meeting at the George Bush Airport...

Nate 'Hawk' Hawkins met me at the airport. Hawk and I played football at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas back in the 70's. He was on the first football team UNLV fielded in 1968.
He started as a receiver all four years and holds or held records for most yards receiving(173) in a game, touchdown passes caught (2) in a game and longest pass play (82 yds.) in a game.
He was one of the few football players to graduate. His determination, work ethic and friendship gave me the incentive to graduate the next year.

Nate was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and retired from the Houston Oilers after a few seasons. He is originally from the Houston TX area and resides in Pearland TX, supervising a crew that unload cargo ships that pull into the Houston Harbor.
We talk at least once a year as we were born on the same day and call to wish each other a 'happy birthday'. We hadn't seen each since Sept.19, 1997 in Las Vegas for a tribute to Bill Ireland, first coach and 'Father of UNLV Football'.
This was truly a special occasion for both of us.

(me and the Hawk)
Until next time...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Back to Beauty...

Fantasia completed...
 My next assignment was a revisit to Beauty and the Beast... Advertised as a  'Special  Platinum Edition featuring an all-new musical sequence'.

It was an 'All- new' musical number to the public, but for the crew who worked on the original feature, this musical number had been around from the beginning. This sequence had been story boarded but not taken to the animation stage.

Lesson #1... 

One of the most important things I lerned at Disney over the years is the importance of story telling. How to convey a story or get over a story arch is crucial to the success of any entertainment piece.
As the story of B&B played out throughout production, it became apparent that the musical sequence 'Human Again'  was not a crucial part of the story and cutting it would save time and money.

There was a time at the studio when an animated feature was released and after it had played its time in the theaters, it was back in the 'can' for five years or so then re-released to an audience who were not even born for the pictures' premier.

Today it is only months after a theater run before a feature is made available as a 'two disk set on blue-ray' or available digitally to any number of devices.

But, back then the studio wanted to appeal to people who already owned a copy of Beauty and the Beast...What could be done to get the public to buy it again? Give it a catchy name (Encore Edition) and insert the musical number (though shortened from the original) Human Again. Bring in writers, both story and song to fine tune and add to its success....Bingo!

The studio assembled as many of the original animators as possible.

For me this assignment proved to be challenging but fun.

I originally animated Gaston as part of lead animator and Disney Legend Andreas Deja's crew.

The Human Again sequence required more versatility on my part as there were new characters (mop, broom, pillow, hair pin, perfume bottle, garden tools and plants) and a few old (Lumier, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, footstool) that I had not animated before.

As always I started out with thumbnails...

The footstool enters the scene between the suits of armor and sniffs his way to the chair...

I played the situation as the cushion on the chair reacts like a cat that has awakened face to face with a canine.

More thumbnails to 'flesh out' the action...

These are the thumbnail drawings I showed the directors to get approval to take the next step which would be rough animation.

This was a fun scene panning in to the footstool with a load of linen on his back and a chair scurrying by also holding linen. The initial idea was to have the chair walk around the still footstool...

I did not want to loose the silhouette value of either character, so I had the chair jump over the footstool. The idea came to me to have a piece of linen get caught on a leg, adding a little bit more entertainment without detracting from the main point of the scene which was to introduce the audience to the activity of the household objects cleaning house.

The (above) smaller thumbnails for me and the larger ones (below) to show the directors.

Small rough thumbnails to map out a path of action as the footstool/dog chases the throw pillow/cat across a freshly mopped floor.

Again small thumbnails with the camera angle as the mops and brooms chase the footstool and pillow out the door...

This action starts off the scene as a broom swats the footstool's behind...

And these 'thumbs' help me work out the animation of the mops and brooms as they chase the culprits that messed up their floor.

More inanimate objects come to life as the powder puff  joins the dance with a hair pin, perfume bottle and others...

Towards the end of the sequence the inside and outside objects come together from both sides

 to form a line in front of the fountain as they sing the finale of Human Again.

Again thumbnails to the rescue as I work out a multi-character scene.

Sequence completed...
 communication from management confirming it's time to celebrate.

until next time...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Miss Foggerty's Cake

Since it's my birthday... I hope you'll enjoy a slice of...

  As I sat by my window last evening,
  The letterman brought unto me
  A little gilt-edged invitation
  Saying, "Gilhooley, come over to tea."

  Sure I knew 'twas the Foggertys sent it,
  So I went for old friendship's sake,
  And the first thing they gave me to tackle
  Was a slice of Miss Foggerty's cake.

  Miss Martin wanted to taste it,
  But really there weren't no use,
  For they worked at it over an hour
  And couldn't get none of it loose.

  Till Foggerty went for a hatchet
  And Killey came in with a saw;
  The cake was enough, by the powers,
  To paralyze any man's jaw.

  In it was cloves, nutmeg and berries,
  Raisins, citron and cinnamon, too;
  There were sugar, pepper and cherries,
  And the crust of it nailed on with glue.

  Miss Foggerty, proud as a preacher,
  Kept winking and blinking away,
  Till she fell over Flanigan's brogans
  And spilt a whole brewing of tay.

  "O' Gilhooley," she cried, "you're not eating,
  Just take another piece for my sake."
  "No thanks, Miss Foggerty," says I,
  "But I'd like the recipe for that cake."

  McNulley was took with the colic,
  McFadden complained of his head,
  McDoodle fell down on the sofa
  And swore that he wished he was dead.

  Miss Martin fell down in hysterics,
  And there she did wiggle and shake,
  While every man swore he was poisoned
  By eating Miss Foggerty's cake.

(Author-Anonymous -  Illustrator-Ron Husband)


until next time...