Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Who Are Your Influences?

We decided to compile lists of our top 10 most personally influential animated films. These are not necessarily the best animated films, nor are they necessarily our favorites. They are films that inspired us to become animators and influenced our work.

Dr. Angus' Top Ten Most Influential Animated Films

10. Bambi- Many people have been scarred by Bambi's mothers death. I'm no different. Bambi is a film that is equal comedy and tragedy. Recently, I watched it again and found it to be refreshingly simple and honest. It's a good antidote to noisy modern film making. I wish people would make movies like this again.

9. The Adventures Of Mark Twain- Good luck finding this one. I grew up in Portland and followed everything that Will Vinton Studios produced. I worshiped The California Raisins so when a feature was released, I was first in line. The film has it's problems, but it's worth seeing for Barry Bruce's character designs alone. The humans in the film are caricatured brilliantly. I wish more films were able to create a world this consistent. Claymation has a warmth that CG cannot match.

8. Watership Down- For some reason 1970's animated films were largely dark and depressing. The rabbit carcasses in this film still haunt me. Bloody Bunnies are not the best thing for a child. I'm sure if I saw it again it wouldn't seem so gruesome, but I'd prefer to keep the memory of my enjoying this film. Just like Goonies.

7. Toy Story- What can you say? Still holds up. What I hope isn't lost with the passage of time is how revolutionary this film was story-wise. Yeah, it was the first all CGI film, but it was the story that set it apart. At the time, the powers that be were convinced that the only animated films that people wanted to see were broadway-style musicals with animal sidekicks. Of course they were wrong.

6. Aladdin- The Arsenio jokes were old when it came out, but the Eric Goldberg Genie stuff is amazing. I think Robin Williams gets a lot of credit for Mr. Goldberg's work, but whadaya gonna do? If you want to be famous- get out of the cartoon business. *

5. Iron Giant- Like everybody else reading this I saw it opening day and think it's the best thing ever and the most overlooked gem of our time and you can't believe how bad the marketing was and so on. Doesn't mean it isn't true. Everything is great about this film. At the time I heard some complain that the animation was sub-par because it wasn't constantly moving. Well those people are wrong. Animated films would be a lot better off if they weren't always moving. See it again.

4. Alice in Wonderland- Walt was reportedly disappointed with this film and seeing it recently, I can understand why. The limitations of the budget and running time don't allow for a faithful adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic tome. That said, the design is incredible and the animation is stunning. Some of my favorite scenes are the Doorknob bit and the Tea party.

3. Sleeping Beauty- As a kid, this was the best Disney film- largely because of the ending. You had 3 fairies equip the hero with a sword and shield and a cool villain that turned into a Dragon. What more could you ask for? Seeing it again, it kinda drags. The hero is dull and Briar Rose- while beautiful, is not that interesting either. The 3 Fairies are both the focus of the film in both story and animation. It's as if they built the film around these characters so that the animators could explore a variety of acting ideas that they were interested in exploring. That in itself is pretty cool. The design is well stylized, and Eyvind Earle's square trees are neat.

2. Wind in the Willows/The Legend of Sleepy Hollow- A toad that drives a car and A lanky dude that rides a horse. Pure gold. Creepy and engaging. The Bing Crosby numbers are a good match for Sleepy Hollow. They give the film a timeless innocence that contrasts nicely with its chilling ending. The Ichabod animation is ridiculously cool.

1.Who Framed Roger Rabbit- This film is kinda all over the map, but it hit me at the right time. I was 13 when it came out, and after I saw this film I knew what I wanted to do with my life. The film makers went to so much trouble to do things with props and sets that the computer can do easily (but not as well somehow). I think that counts for something. Plus you'll never see Donald Duck in the same frame as Daffy Duck ever again (unless Wal-Mart buys both AOL Time Warner and Disney).

Honorable mention:

G.I. Joe: The M.A.S.S Device- Can the Joes defeat Cobra to recover the missing elements?
The Hobbit- Good story weak execution. But Smaug's Eye beams were cool.
Fantastic Planet- French, Freaky, and Amazing.
The Sword In The Stone-Not the best story, but the best animation.

Dr. Stephen G's Top Ten Most Influential Animated Films

10. Sleeping Beauty
- So rich too look at with great color and design, and the mastery of Marc Davis' Maleficent.

9. 101 Dalmatians
- Again Bill Peet!!!! with animators at the top of their game.

8. Jungle Book
- Not as refined as Lady and the Tramp or Peter Pan production value wise, but the nine old men where at the top of there game animation wise. Plus the xerography process of putting the drawings to cel left more of the animators hand in the final images on screen. That process alone to me was like a magician just barely showing you his magic trick.

7. Iron Giant
- Simply Perfect. Refer to my Dumbo comment. Replace Baby Mine with the sequence where the giant finds out why he was built and replace Bill Peet with Brad Bird.

6. Toy Story
- During the dredge of musicals Toy Story was as innovative as they come not only to the computer graphics industry, But more so to animated story telling.

5. Knick Knack
- Short Film by John Lasseter When I saw this film back in 1991 or '92 I knew I was gonna work at Pixar someday. The ideal short film perfect in every way.

4. Peter Pan
- The color design, layout and animation is some of the best ever done. From Ward Kimball crazy Indian chief, to Frank Thomas powerful acting with Captain Hook, and Ollie's humor with Smee It's hard to say that Peter Pan isn't one of the best animated films ever.

3. Pinocchio
- When I was younger I would just watch this over and over and over, it got me into animation, got me into drawing and still inspires me today. The Watercolor backgrounds, the crazy multi-plane camera move at the beginning, ripple glass for the underwater scenes...they were breaking new ground. Plus I'll never forget the power of Bill Tytla's Stromboli and Frank Thomas' animation of Pinocchio during the got no Strings song.

2. Lady and the Tramp
- Absolutely beautiful to watch from the production design to the animation, super inspiring to me.

1. Dumbo
- Simple and Heart Felt. The Baby Mine Sequence shows you how powerful animation can be. Plus it's all Bill Peet!

Dr. Gordon's Top Ten Most Influential Animated Films

I wasn't a huge Disney fan. More a fan of Warner Brothers Cartoons.
This is in no specific order.

1) Warner Brothers cartoons in general. Some of my favorite are feed the kitty, duck amuck and most anything Chuck Jones directed during the Golden age. These cartoons were amazingly timed and the drawings were funny. I think they influenced my sense of timing.

2) I remember being really blown away by Toy Story. I had seen the shorts and commercial done by Pixar and knew they were the best, but this film just blew me out of the water. I knew that Pixar was doing some of the best stories out there.

3) Fantasia - I really love the idea of music telling stories and doing it without dialogue. The night on Bald mountain sequence is amazingly done. Great mood.

4) The Secret of Nihm - As a kid I really loved this film. It was a bit over animated but the story was one that I read as a kid. I remember the performances of the OWL and Nikodemis. I know its not everyones favorite, but I did enjoy it.

5) My Neighbor Totoro... I love this film because of the time that Miyazaki takes with the moments in the film. It also takes me a world that is so wonderful.

6) Wallace and Gromit - My favorites are: The Wrong Trousers and Were Rabbit. Aardman's attention to detail is amazing and all the characters are fun to watch. It just goes to show again that the characters performances are just as important as the "poses" Gromit has more heart than most characters in Live Action Films.

7) Aladdin - I always had fun watching this film and thought the Genie was very well done. Some of the songs went well with the animation.

8) Akira - As far as Japanese Anime goes, this one is awesome. Its a classic. Great effects work too.

9) Monk and the Fish and Father and Daughter. Michael Dudok De Wits films just have a great feel to them. They make me want to do short films and explore characters. I love the simplicity of the characters and how fun they are to watch.

10) Jungle Book- It wouldn't be fair to not include work of the 9 old men. I appreciate what Disney's did now more than I did before I got into animation because I can see how amazing the performances of the characters are. I love Milt Kahl's work on Shere Kahn. Also, all the work done with Baloo and the snake character is amazing. Great choices. It wasn't so much the story that blew me away, but more the animation.

Early Morning

So I woke up today as normal and got to work around 8:30am, when it quickly dawned on me that is was not 8:30 as I had thought. The time had changed over the weekend and I was the stupid one showing up at 7:30 to go to work. I got my coffee and bagel and went back to my desk to kill some time. Last week I was wondering around the department as so many of us do from time to time looking for some needed energy or just human interaction, when I walked into Sanjay's office one of my regular stops. As I sat down on his couch I noticed four Calvin and Hobbes books sitting next to me. Now it's been a while since I have looked at my collection of Calvin and Hobbes books but that day I kicked my self for not looking at them everyday. It might be said that the best books ever written about animation are the "Illusion of Life", or "The Animator's Survival Kit" and it's true they are the best but I think any of the Calvin and Hobbes books can rival any Illusion of life and survival kit book out there. Just looking at one strip you can learn just as much about animation than you can in any other book. Squash and Stretch, Anticipation, Timing, Staging, Appeal, Solid Posing, Exaggeration, and you could probably say Arcs, Slow in and Slow out, Overlap and Follow Through, Pose to Pose and Straight Ahead, and Secondary action are in each strip as well. Then most importantly each strip is entertaining, Heart felt, imaginative and focuses entirely on Story, which in animation are also the most important aspects of successful film or shot. You could probably ask any person working in feature animation today and they at one time or another if not still were inspired by the work of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. I know I was. I would stare for days at strips and drawings like these.

-Dr. Stephen G.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Reference Book of the Day

I came across this book recently Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists by Mark Simon. I'm a sucker for books like this. Few words to read + lots of people making stupid faces= Pure Gold. All that AND it's a good value.

While most of the expressions are a bit broad acting-wise they are at least clear and well presented. This book is a good way to better understand how expressions are communicated from multiple angles.

Worth Checking out-

Dr. A

Tigers and Shapes

Oh Sh**, there is a mad Tiger coming for me, I'm about to be eaten... but wait, look at the shape change and the line of action... I doubt that is what I'd be saying if I were in my last seconds before I got clawed by a tiger, but I saw this sequence of images in this months National Geographic and was very impressed at how amazing the design of the "poses" were. Shape change in animation is so important. Getting a good change between poses is something I try to look for. Reversals are something that are talked about alot in animation. This is just another way of changing the shape of your character. On this tiger, you can clearly see the shape changes which are happening in her body and limbs.

Just thought this was a great image.

Dr. Gordon

Tip of the Day!

So we came up with this idea of posting a tip of the day. We will not get to it everyday but here we go.


Animation is hard and it really doesn't get any easier the longer you do it. As you learn more about animation you realize just how much more there is too learn. Animation is a life long journey of learning and understanding and I think most animators stuggle everyday with some aspect of animation no matter how experianced they are.

Dr. Stephen G.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Laguna College of Art and Design

Wednesday October 26th

Dr. Gordon here...
Just got back from visiting the Laguna College of Art and Design with Travis Hathaway and Steve Purcell. Seems like they are doing some really cool stuff down there. The Animation department is really great and is headed up by a guy named Aubry Mintz. We took a tour of the place, gave a presentation and reviewed some films that students are working on. What I liked about the school was that it is small enough to really have a good teacher to student ratio. The students concentrate mostly on foundations and 2-d animation for the first 2 or three years then hop on a computer and do a film. The schools' animation program was started by Chuck Jones, so it has a good history. All students are required to have a laptop (mostly macs) They do most of there work on the laptop and can work on projects around the campus. It seems like a really great place. They just had a Glen Keane Lecture and Art show. We currently have an animation intern from the school named Rob Thompson. As you can see from the photos, Students get to work on Disney Animation Desks. I guess Disney was donating a bunch of them. I was told that if schools wanted desks, then you had to go and pick them up from the studio the same day. Apparently, they would not let employees buy their desks. I guess Disney needed the tax write offs...

Anyways, keep your eyes open for good work coming out of this place....

Dr. Gordon

Holy Crap!

We're on Cartoon Brew. Too bad we got nothing to post.

--Doctor Stephen G.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Great Model Sheet Website

Somebody went to a lot of trouble to collect and scan all these model sheets. Ah, the internet.

-Dr. A

Thoughts on hand poses

Hand poses can be one of the most important tools that the animator has to communicate attitude. They also can be some of the most difficult to master. If that weren't enough, computer animation allows for ugly hand poses never before possible in hand drawn animation. A few years ago I scribbled out a few do's and don'ts of hand posing. I don't know what happend to those drawings, but I was searching on Google images and found them. Click the images for larger versions. Apologies for the illegibility of my handwriting.

Dr. A

New Logo

Here's our new logo. I'm sure T-shirts and Hats are to follow. This could be the next Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt sized craze.
-Dr. A

Crew Jacket Contest

Ok, Who really wears a bad Crew Jacket? If you in the Biz, you know that Crew Jackets get handed out on most every Movie. When I was a younger lad, I would sport my geekness around universal city walk in Los Angeles sporting my nerdy Warner Bros Classic animation jacket hoping someone would give me attention. I also had pride in where I worked. But as you become older and wiser, and your wife or girlfriend tells you... Most of the Jackets are pretty Nerdy. What's with the whole varsity jacket theme? What am I in High School? Anyhow, the other day at work, we had wear your old crew Jacket to work day. It was a big hit. We had prizes for Best overall, Ugliest etc.... I took home one of the awards with my Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension Flight Jacket which was designed by Fred Gardner. Great Jacket for its time....

On an Animation Note, notice my boring hand pose. Maybe I could have spiced that up with a little raised pinky action....

Dr Gordon

Millions of Dollars Spent.

Isn't it amazing that so much money can be spent this way?

You have to admit that it's pretty rad that Dick Van Dyke is willing to strap on a lycra suit and reflective ping pong balls though.

-Dr. Sclark

Photo Oppertunity

Look who I had the oppertunity to meet. Blade F@#$!! Two. He was very polite.

Can't stop postin'-

Dr. A

Dr. Sclark is in the house

Hey there. Scott + Clark = Sclark. That's my name on this blog and don't wear it out. Today I'm suffering from a pretty nasty hangover because we had our Animation Department party last night. I think it might be appropriate to talk about headaces. Are you aware there are 4 types of headaches? Here's some more infro for you from

Types of Headaches

While there are many different kinds of headaches, tension-type and migraine headaches are most common. Since these two headache types may be treated differently, determining which type you have is a critical step in relieving the pain.

Tension-type headaches are sometimes called muscle contraction headaches. The pain is usually a dull ache on both sides of the head and has been described as feeling like a tight band across the head.

Migraine-type headaches produce moderate to severe pounding or throbbing pain, common on one side of the head. Migraine pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sensitivity to light and/or sounds. Click to answer your questions about migraines in the Managing Migraines area.

Other types of headaches you may have heard of include:

Cluster headaches are relatively uncommon, but cause excruciating, sharp-as-knife pain around one eye. Attacks occur daily in clusters of weeks or months , then disappear completely for months or years. 90% of sufferers are males, most aged 20-30. See your doctor if you think you have a cluster headache.

Rebound headaches occur in patients whose persistent headache pain causes them to overuse headache medication. This may cause symptoms to worsen instead of improve. See your doctor if you are taking maximum recommended doses without relief.

Lego Space Lion

I wanted to share a new Lego creation- "The Lionstar"

here is a link to the folder with more pictures.

If you'd like to see more of my lego work click on the link on the right.

-Dr. A

before lunch

Got to work this morning hung out with Sanjay Patel (click for his homepage) for a little bit talking about animation and stuff. Then I went back to work, Ahhh the life.

just thought I'd let ya know.

Dr. Stephen G.


I just want to say to the other Doctors how happy I am to be a part of this new found organization. With our combined knowledge, I think we really can help some animators our there. The aim of this group is to let people know about the classes we teach as well as to educate other users. My first posting will come in the near future. In the mean time I look forward to the FUTURE. I'd like to send a hiyo to Dr. Angus for setting the blog up.

Dr. Gordon

Welcome to The Spline Doctors Blog

As the subtitle explains we are Pixar Animators by day and Academy of Art Teachers by night (well Tuesday night anyways). We wanted to create a forum to discuss animation education and whatever else.

Our crack squad of Spline Doctors-

Scott Clark
Andrew Gordon
Stephen Gregory
Angus MacLane
Billy Merritt
Mike Venturini

Stay tuned for more-

-Dr. A