Phew! I’m coming back up for air.  As is the typical bloggers lament: after all these months of neglect, it’s finally time to start communicating again. And there’s a lot to communicate – what’s been happening, and what’s on the horizon.

Let’s just make a list and make it easy.


What happened at the end of last year?

gah_wedding1) I got married. After 2 years of cross-country romance, and 2 more years of local romance, I got married last fall. I’ve extended my family by 4 new humans (and 2 cats and one very small dog), and I’m rather happy about it. We bought a great house on a great piece of property in a really small town, with lots of pretty trees, starry skies, and serious internet connection.  Life could not be better 🙂

gah_pixel2) I spoke at Pixel in Quebec City. Back in October I was invited, as a representative of  to speak at the Pixel Mini event being held in the beautiful (albeit cold) Quebec City, Quebec Canada. It was held in conjunction with Cartoon Connection, and together they made for a really fun, and incredibly well organized, social/educational animation event. Our hosts were awesome. The hotel convention center was great. And I made some really great new friends, as well as being able to hang out with my old friend, and fellow speaker, Stephen Melagrano. I highly recommend both the Pixel events and the Cartoon Media events if you have the ability. Nothing better than talking animation (and eating and drinking) for a whole weekend. Check out the video interviews from the event here and here.

gah_ginger3) Worked on a few fun freelance jobs. I was fortunate enough to get asked to supervise and produce the animation for 2 really fun 60 second spots to advertise 2 new “Talking Friends” titles. Not only were they cute and snappy, they were also a great exercise in producing high volume footage in a relatively short time. Both spots required 60 seconds of animation in 2 weeks, which for this pampered feature animator is exhausting. But it was incredibly fun, and challenging, and ultimately rewarding. It taught me so much, and I plan to blog, podcast, and tutorial-ize about it all over the next few months. Not just about technique, but also about collaboration. I’ve been working a lot with my friends over at Arx Anima  (Vienna) over the last year, and we all seem to have a good groove together. They are always looking to connect with good artists and technicians, so I highly recommend letting yourself be known to them if you think you’d have something to offer.

gah_carlito4) Created more Crackerbox characters. Two more global peeps were added to the “Geo-Me!” roster this fall – “Camila from Manila (Philippines)” and “Carlito from Cardito (Italy)”. Switching gears back to simple 2D cartoons is brain-wrenching when it happens. But man, once it get back in to the groove it is so relaxing and enjoyable. Each new short is 60 seconds long, with characters and settings and backgrounds and compositing to worry about as well. Not to mention a weekend in Chicago with my good friend Scott Tallarida hanging out in his studio mixing the new song verses. It is such a rewarding process. And while the final output is intentionally crude, the freedom of shape, and the color and life is so fun to see finished and integrated in to the app.  We like it so much that we’ve decided to simply release all the little animations for free on their own YouTube channel. Go check it out and leave us comments, suggestions and requests. We’d love to hear what you think!

gah_jp5) I did a video interview with My friend and fellow animator, John Paul Rhinemiller, interviewed me for his blog last fall. He just recently posted it, and you can check it out here.

6) Taught 2 more great blocks of students at iAnimate. It has been a hefty dose of Feature Workshop 6 for me over at iA since the fall. I had 2 big classes of students last block, each wielding a 30-second, multi-shot scene. And another big class is in full swing this winter. Phew! It can definitely rattle the brain. But holy cow, are they all good! It is really inspiring be allowed to work with such talented people, most of which are successful working animators. I think we all get a lot out of it in the end, and the results have been amazing. You can check out some of the stand-out work from fall 2013 here.

7) Trimmed trees and cleared brush. Yep. I bought a chunk of land that is rather tree-filled. A lot of them old and neglected. And large brush piles everywhere, which I’ve been adding to by the wheelbarrow-load. I spent a good number of sundays by the burn pile, and put a good dent in it all.  Once the snow clears and the temperature rises a bit, I’ll be back at it again. Good exercise for this old body.


What’s coming up this year?

gah_kick1) First… A new tutorial video!!! Yes! I aint kidding! It will be called “Push It!: Using Strong Graphics, Smears and Snappy Timing to Cartoon Your Character”, and it should be done and up in the store for sale by the end of February. It will be based on a lot of the exploration in to pushed and snappy movement that I’ve been doing over the last year or so: working with extreme spacing and timing, “describing” force and intent, breaking a rig, smear frames, tasteful squash and stretch, and more. I finally felt like I had found a way to put it all in to an easily replicable process, and clear explanations that it finally warranted a video of its own. I plan to release small podcasts that will include related concepts and/or actual snippets of the tutorial. But the full thing will be out really soon!

gah_wam2) WAM – World Animation Masterclasses! I’ve been invited to participate in the inaugural “WAM” animation event in Birmingham, England this May (23rd – 25th, 2014). The roster of teachers is awesome: Jason Ryan, Ed Hooks, Keith Lango, Chris Derochie, Eamonn Butler. I’m humbled to get to hang with the cool kids for a weekend, and rather excited. In fact, one of the cool twists to it all is that Jason Ryan and I will actually be teaching the class together! Our plan is to collaborate on an acting challenge, compare and contrast our approaches to it all, and come up with a process to “solve” an animated acting performance right there, live, over the course of an 8-hour day! Crazy! If you want early bird tickets, go check it out!

3) New podcasts, and blog tutorials! I swear. I totally swear.

4) 2 new Crackerbox titles! While I was back in Chicago last fall, my partners and I got together and came up with our strategy for the coming year. We decided we would produce at least 2 more titles. These will of course, once again, be animated musical educational shorts. We hope to enlist the talents of more of our prolifically artistic friends, tackle some interesting topics, and finally start a brand. Whether or not an animated title becomes an iPad app will depend on feedback from each video. So I look forward to letting you know when we release.  I promise the music to be more adult, the visual style more edgy, and the education nuggets to be juicy. Ah-ha! moments. Lots of em.

5) More fun freelance jobs! Working on a series of 6 30-second shorts for a client right now, that I look forward to sharing. Cute. Cartoony.  Fast-paced workflow combined with my own self-imposed pressure for quality and appeal (and, of course, the client’s too.) Buried in it now.  Better get back to work!

6) More teaching at iAnimate!  More Feature Workshop 6, for sure! (In fact, I think my first FW6 class is filled for next block, but they will open another.) AND the bonus is, I’m going back to teaching the FW4 Facial Animation class as well! I really miss teaching that class, and I’m excited to get back in the groove. A few slots still open, so if you’re interested, get over there!

7) Lots more tree trimming and brush clearing. Yep. Big lot. Lot’s of trees. Yadda yadda yadda.


Back on the horse, people. Subscribe or keep your eye to the interwebs!

See ya!


2 Responses to "GAAAAAHHHHHHH…"
  1. Thanks for the update Ken. You have been very busy and continue to be so. I’m excited to have purchased your tutorials and look forward to a new one. Just a quick question. Do you have any opinions on using motion capture technology to create animation? I haven’t used it, but I’ve seen the folks at Dreamworks putting it to use. It could be a good tool to create your main poses and tweak from there. What are your thoughts?

    • Hey! I’ve never worked with motion capture before either. I know a lot of the “behind the scenes” DW footage shows a heavy reliance on motion capture for the animation, but it is a bit exaggerated. They kind of just show off that stuff to visiting dignitaries and press because it’s cool new fun technology. While they use it for pre-vis and layout, the animators are still working in keyframe animation.

      What I think is useful, is the way it can help an animator see the basic physics behind the movement they will be interpreting. It’s like a step beyond video reference, and one more chance for in-depth study of your subject. In fact, I’ve heard from friends in the VFX world that mo-cap really helps them hone their mechanics in such a good way. But, in my opinion, real life movement is boring 😉 An animator’s job is to caricature and tell a strong story. Too much real life “noise” can sometimes cloud an otherwise good narrative. So, in my world, I like to consider stuff life that a good learning tool, not so much a means to an end.

      I also hear tweaking mo-cap curves is a pain in the butt. I am sure the technology is getting exponentially cleaner by the day, so it could become a good key pose tool in the future. But nothing compares to artist interpretation, in my humble opinion.

      Cartoons forever!!! 🙂

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