Sunday, June 21, 2015

Brad Bird and Jerry Rees Letter


One of my mementos I picked up along the road to developing as an animator is this letter I received from Brad Bird and Jerry Rees.

Notice the lack of a formal letterhead on this letter from Brad and Jerry. They definitely weren't wasting any of the budget on non-essentials.


Several months after receiving Brad and Jerry's response to my portfolio and sample animation scene of The Spirit, I visited with them at their
KINETOGRAPHICS office in San Rafael, California and showed them my animation reel from "Rock & Rule," which consisted of my characters Cindy Schlepper, Officer Quadhole, and Mylar the Club Owner. At that meeting, I was offered a spot as an animator on their Spirit crew once they got the project off the ground...which unfortunately never happened. A few years later, Brad tracked me down and asked me to animate on his "Family Dog" episode of Steven Spielberg's TV series "Amazing Stories." However, my plate was extremely full at the time and I had to decline his offer.

The following is my interpretation of The Spirit for animation. It would have been fun to do.


John Celestri's interpretation of Will Eisner's Denny Colt aka The Spirit.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Disney Letter And The Road It Set Me On

I had finished my summer school animation night class at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and decided to apply to Disney. For my portfolio, I sent in my one-minute-long silent pencil test I'd completed as my class assignment...which was the very first (and only) animation I'd ever done. This is the response I received.




Below is the one surviving animation drawing from my very first piece of animation (a rabbit character boxing with his own shadow), which is the film the above letter refers to.

 
Six months after I received the Disney letter of rejection, I was hired in 1975 at New York Institute of Technology as an inbetweener to work on "Tubby the Tuba"...where I met and worked under the master Popeye and TerryToon animators Johnny Gentilella and Marty Taras. During the 14 months I worked on that feature, I developed into a Cleanup Assistant Animator...which led me to getting hired in 1976 for "Raggedy Ann & Andy", directed by Richard Williams...which led me to getting hired by Friz Freleng as an animator in 1977.

But when I tried to reapply to Disney in that summer of 1977 (less than three years from my initial submission), I was told that I'd had TOO much experience and they preferred to start with younger art school students...they were clean slates that could be "molded to the house style."

The influences of working daily on those rare non-Disney features for almost two years led me on a path that enabled me to develop my own style of animation. I have NO regrets!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Animation Studio Setup

This is my animation work area. It's a combination of traditional animation board and computers for scanning my pencil art and importing into Toon Boom Studio. It's not glamorous, but it gets the job done.

Seen below is my animation drafting with my old Filmation disc. This can handle both 12 field and 16 field paper.

I've had this Acme Peg registration punch since 1987. I use it to punch cheap paper for my rough animation. I save the pre-punched Ingram Bond for my clean-ups.

Here are my 3 Computers: Moe, Larry, and Curly! Moe (on the left) is a Mac G3 I've had since 2001 (along with an Epson Scanner); Larry is a Mac Quadcore Tower (on the right) I've had since 2008; and Curly (in the center) is my iMac I bought in 2009.

My 15 year-old Epson Scanner...I call it Shemp (for those of you who know the Three Stooges and understand the inside gag)


 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nelvana Seminar Notes (circa 1981): Part Three

These are the third and final set of notes from my Nelvana seminar. Please remember that I was asked to explain my personal method of animating (and the Frank and Ollie tomb "Illusion of Life" had not yet been published). We were all youngsters, experimenting on our own and trying to learn from each other.

The third seminar session consisted of answering questions that were handed in by animators a week after the first two sessions. I believe that the material covered in this series is as relevant today as it was 30+ years ago.
 







The following is how I rough out my full-size poses after working out my thumbnails.

Above is my first rough pass at a Quadhole key pose.
Above is my second rough pass at a Quadhole key pose...I mold the character's form over the forces I laid out on the first pass, making subtle changes as I feel the body reacts to those forces. This pose would be cleaned up on a third sheet of paper.
The next three sheets show how I filled out the basic posing and interpreted the timing of the previous examples shown in sessions one and two. Please refer to the exposure sheets in session one to see how I described the action with particularity. I find that writing it out in this manner forces me to analyze the movement in terms of "anticipation, action, and reaction".

If you have a mind to, you can cut out the poses (registering them by their leg placement and shifting of weight), then film them in sequence as a rough pose test, using the exposure sheet for timing.




Sunday, January 4, 2015

Nelvana Seminar Notes (circa 1981): Part Two

This post contains the notes from the second of three seminars I gave at the Nelvana Studio back in 1981. The Quadhole artwork included here is a portion of what I handed out during those lectures, helping to illustrate my personal creative process in molding my animation. In a future post, I'll include the rest of the artwork with those third session notes.



 

To see how the phrasing of Quadhole's acting works with his dialog, please refer back to my exposure sheets in my previous post.





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nelvana Seminar Notes (circa 1981): Part One

It's been a very long time since I last posted. I always promised myself that I wouldn't write just anything just for the sake of posting something on my blog. Now I have a topic that I believe will be of interest to those visiting here.



Recently in a communication with Ken Duncan (Owner/Executive Producer of Duncan Studio), Ken said "John, when I was in Paris in the 80's I thought I saw some 'how to' notes that you'd done during Rock 'n Rule.....
1- Am I delusional?
2- If not, are they available to see?"


Well, Ken is not delusional...and after searching through my files I found the original typed notes that were xeroxed and handed out at Nelvana during the production of Rock & Rule. Basically, it was an explanation of my approach and work-flow method, going from initial thumbnails through to tie-down drawings.

Originally, there were 20+ pages in my handout for the three session seminar, which took place over three afternoons, using poses of my character Quadhole the Policeman to illustrate my approach. Because of the amount of material covered, I've decided to post them all here as a series. I have also supplemented the examples with Cindy Schlepper development material I created months after this seminar was given.

(Note: At that time, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston's bible "The Illusion of Life" had not yet been published. Young animators such as ourselves were basically learning from our own experiments...studying the silent results on the studio's Lyon Lamb Video Animation System...not seeing if it worked with the dialog until it was shot on 35mm film and synced up on the flatbed.)

The following are my original typed notes from the first session. I'm including the exposure sheets and samples of my thumbnail analysis of a couple of Cindy Schlepper scenes.


 
These above poses were my very first exploratory sketches of Cindy Schlepper.   





Above are my thumbnail analysis of the first time we see Cindy.
Cindy has arrived at Club 666 and is excited. "Oh, Boy! Mutants in the foyer!"

The following exposure sheets are for a Quadhole scene---the poses of which were originally handed out as a packet including the typed notes. I'll be posting those drawings in the next installment...and you can then cross-reference them with these sheets.




For those who are not familiar with the process, there's a lot to digest on these pages.
Hope you find it informative and useful.