Toy Concepts For Disney’s “Camp Rock”

It’s been a while since I posted any actual artwork on this blog. I’ve been cranking out artwork like crazy all spring and summer, but because of NDA’s and other client arrangements I haven’t been able to show much of the work publicly…yet. Here’s one project that I can finally let out of the box.

One of my clients is a local company that produces themed birthday cakes for licensed properties. Each cake includes a toy as part of the decoration, and I sometimes get the privilege of working up concept sketches for the toys.

Disney’s megahits High School Musical 1 & 2 were recently followed up by a new TV movie, Camp Rock. My client was hired by Disney to develop a Camp Rock-themed cake. The target audience for Camp Rock was a little older than for most cake toys, targeting teens and preteens instead of kids. Ultimately the Camp Rock cake concept never made it into stores, but the client has given me permission to post some of my work. Here’s a few of the concepts I helped develop:

Wall•E Vignettes: Show vs Tell

Pixar’s new movie Wall•E opened this past weekend to big box office and rave reviews. I am really looking forward to seeing it. I had hoped to catch it on opening weekend but plans fell through. We had relatives come to visit and then my daughter broke her ankle (she’s doing fine, thanks).

However, I did download some little animated vignettes based on Wall•E from iTunes. You can also view them on the official site (just click on the “videos” link and then scroll through the thumbnails at left). They are absolutely brilliant! Cute, charming, and full of life. Like much of the film, they contain no dialogue. But the animation is so lively and entertaining you don’t even notice.

Go to the official site and view these clips (or download them from iTunes, they’re free!) Each clip is a perfect example of true character animation. Wall•E doesn’t just move, he lives, breathes, thinks, and feels. You get a real sense of his personality and who he is from just a few seconds of film, without a single word being spoken.

If you ever wanted proof that less is more, this is it. Good writers, actors, and directors know that actions and expressions are always more effective than mere words. You can often communicate more with an movement, gesture, or glance than you could with an entire paragraph of dialogue. It’s more powerful to show than to tell, a point these little vignettes make beautifully.

New Animation Book From Eric Goldberg

Many animation fans will recognize the name Eric Goldberg. He’s an accomplished animator and director with a long list of credits in advertising, television, and feature films. He is best known for animating the Genie in Disney’s Alladin and for directing Pocahontas, and is one of the “top-drawer” animators currently working in the biz.

Goldberg has just written a book on animation, Character Animation Crash Course!, that will be released at Comic-Con next month. To give you an idea of Goldberg’s revered status in the animation industry, the foreward is written by none other that Brad Bird (Oscar-winning director of The Incredibles).

While there have been many animation books published in recent years, few go beyond the dry basics of walk cycles, lip sync, etc. Judging by the title, I’m hoping this will give us more than just the nuts and bolts and take us into the realm of true character animation. It’s one thing to make a character move. It’s entirely another thing to make that character appear to think, feel, and act.

Here’s the details, courtesy of the Creative Talent Network:

Well, the animation book Eric has been writing for 25 years, based on his animation notes, has finally arrived! Character Animation Crash Course!, published by Silman-James Press, is available for pre-order at the CTN Artist’s Storefront. It’s 240 pages of cartoon goodness, all geared to getting great performances from your characters on the screen. It comes with an accompanying CD that has animation movie files of selected sequences in the book. You can watch them in real time, or frame-by-frame, and they all include X-sheets, inbetween charts, circled keys, and underlined breakdowns, so the tests can be analyzed while you read the book, revealing how the principles actually look in movement and why. Also, Eric will be premiering this book at the San Diego Comic-Con, signing copies at Stuart Ng Books #5012, Friday July 25th from 2 – 4, and Saturday July 26th from 11 -12.

This looks like it will be a must-have resource for any serious animator. As mentioned above, you can pre-order the book from the CTN storefront. If you prefer, you can also order a copy from

Pixar Announces Upcoming Films

In a recent New York Times article Pixar announced its upcoming slate of animated films. (You have to register to read the article). The list includes:

Wal-E (official site) — A film from writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) that tells the story of a robot stranded on earth all-alone in distant future. Large chunks of the film will have no dialogue, just pantomime and sound effects. If anyone can pull that off and still engage the audience, it’s the masterful animators at Pixar. After all, as the author points out, the Road Runner and Cyote never talked either. Wall-E hits theaters on June 27.

Up — Described as “a comedy about a cranky, cane-wielding 78-year-old who transports his home to exotic locales by attaching hundreds of helium-filled balloons”

The Bear and the Bow — Pixar’s first fairy tale,

Cars 2 — Pixar’s second attempt at a sequel. Their first, Toy Story 2, was actually better than the original. Let’s hope the same for Cars 2.

Pixar has one of the best (if not THE best) track records in Hollywood: Every single one of their films has been a box office smash. They have yet to produce a flop. I can’t think of any other studio in Hollywood can make that claim. Including Disney. So I’m very excited to get hints at what they’ve got coming down the pipe.

Animation Notes From Ollie Johnston and John Lasseter

The passing of legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston has stirred a lot of emotion, memories, and discussion among animators and animation fans. In that spirit fellow Minnesotan Robbie Halvorson sent me a link to some of Ollie’s notes on animation. The notes came from Disney animator G. Scott Owen Pixar’s John Lasseter, who writes:

When I was an animator at the Disney Studios, I had a xeroxed list of simple notes from one of the great Disney animators, Ollie Johnston, pinned to my drawing table. The list was originally written down by another great Disney animator, Glen Keane, after working as Ollie’s assistant for a few years.

Robbie also sent me a link to some more notes on animation, also attributed to Pixar’s John Lasseter:

Tricks To Animating Characters With A Computer

These notes are loaded with valuable information and highly worth reading. And they aren’t strictly for animators only. Much of the information can also apply to anyone (like myself) who works in humorous illustration or cartooning.

This and That

I’m super busy finishing up a client project, so today I’ll just post a few miscellaneous links:

Calling Minnesota Animators. My friend Kelly McNutt is a very talented artist and animator in his own right. Check out his blog and website. He’s currently looking for some Minnesota animation artists to help him out with a client project.

Disney’s Announces Upcoming Animated Films. The Disney/Pixar studio has announced their upcoming slate of animated films. They will be releasing ten new animated films over the next few years. Most are original stories but there will also be two sequels: Toy Story 3 and Cars 2. Normally I’m not a fan of sequels, especially of the Disney variety. In recent years Disney has made quick profits with “cheapquels”—low quality sequels to classic animated films. But now that John Lasseter is running things, this time things could be much different. After all, Lasseter’s Toy Story 2 was (in my opinion) better than the original. No small feat!

New Mac Ads. Apple has released two new ads featuring the Mac guy and the PC guy. These ads are always a treat to watch.

Stuff I’m Selling. I’ve been cleaning out my closets and unloading a few animation-related items on ebay. If anyone is interested, here’s what I’m selling: Disney yearbooks from Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the yearbooks were only given to artists and crew members who worked on the films. I bought my copies on ebay). I’m also selling a copy of the Ken Southworth Animation Program. There’s still a day or two to put in bids before the auctions end.

Mascot Contest Ends Tomorrow! Don’t forget to take your shot at my advertising mascot contest. If you can correctly name the products associated with all twelve mascots, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free copy of the new book Hi-Fi Color For Comics: Digital Techniques for Professional Results. The deadline is midnight tomorrow.