We'd like to give a warm welcome to David Gouldthorpe as Eric Miller Animation Studio's newest team member! David has joined our social media & marketing team working with Mary Lou, and will be writing some of our weekly blog posts.
David grew up in the nice quiet town of Mesa in Arizona, where he spent most of his childhood painting and writing "outlandish stories". This was when his passion for Illustration began. David is currently attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York working on his Industrial and Labor Relations degree! While he is not an art major in school he recently began to freelance as an illustrator.
"Illustrating can tell a story like no other medium is able to do. I've spent years learning the language, and I'm trying to use it for my own tales now."
David's hobbies include: illustrating (of course), writing both fiction and nonfiction stories, and keeping up with his favorite YouTube channels. He also finds a great deal of interest in reviewing films, as well as finding their impact to himself and others. We look forward to reading more of his reviews on Eric Miller Animation studio's Blog (be sure to read the previous ones on Coco and Adventure Time!).
After David graduates he hopes to move to Los Angeles to do more with his passion for Illustration or a position at a theme park, which he has had experience with in the past. He also looks forward to LA's warm weather! Along with keeping up with his blogs on MillerAnimation.com, be sure to check out his website here!
We're excited to introduce Hayden Patterson! He recently finished working with us as a freelance 2D Animator on one of our client projects. We had such a great time working with him we wanted to learn more about his journey as an animator.
Hayden grew up in the small town of West Bend in Wisconsin. Spending time outside with his siblings and reading Sunday comics were the results of his imagination and his inspiration to be a cartoonist at a very young age. Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Sheldon are just a few of the comics he was inspired by, along with Looney Toons, especially "Tom and Jerry" being his visual influence. With the support of his parents and the guidance of his teacher in high school, he was able to go to school for Animation at Maryland College Institute of the Arts!
Working at several small studios, while he was in college and over the past couple years, gave Hayden the confidence and skills he needed to move forward with his career. Some of these studios include; Moving Colour, Eskimo, and Locus New Media. Now that he is in California it has opened even more opportunities. After working as a freelance animator at Eric Miller Animation Studios, he went on to working full time at the NFL Network doing animation and other facets of video work.
"I met Eric at The Creators Society Mixer, which helped me acclimate to LA and the professional network here. After the first one, I had to check out Eric’s studio online, and really enjoyed the content he has produced, particularly “Bink”, which is absolutely stunning, and adorable."
He loves spending his time animating, but tries to spend time outdoors as often as possible. Being in California gave him the opportunity to spend time outdoors a little differently than he did in his childhood days in Wisconsin. He surfs any moment he gets the chance as well as playing basketball and disc golf.
To check out some more of Hayden's work be sure to visit his portfolio.
We're excited to introduce Rich Draper! He is currently working with us on one of our client's projects with our team of animators. We had the chance to learn more about Rich's journey through the creative industry, and wanted to share what makes him a great animator!
Rich grew up just outside of Toronto in Burlington, Ontario Canada, and was I nspired by the Warner Bros. Cartoons, old Disney features, and Mad Magazine. He knew being in the creative industry would be perfect for him; from childhood he loved watching movies and was constantly drawing cartoons.
After studying Classical Animation at Sheridan College in Canada, Rich moved to New York for a couple years. It was not long until he was back to Canada to work on features and commercials, which eventually landed him a job in Los Angeles. After spending 7 years in LA working at Creative Capers, Kurtz & Friends Animation, and Sony, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia. There for 16 years now, he's done everything from directing, animating and character design for studios like Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, Adult Swim, and clients such as IBM and UPS.
Though Rich started with "just good old pencil and paper and film cameras", he is glad to be doing digital animation with Eric Miller Animation Studio because he is "always happy to get a chance to work with new studios, to see what they do, get inspired and continue to grow". He's been animating for 30 years now, but he knows how to keep his life balanced! His free time is spent playing hockey, cycling, and traveling.
We're really excited to be working with such a talented animator, and if you interested in seeing more of Rich's work then head over to his online portfolio at www.richdraper.com
We're excited to introduce Joe Castillon! He is currently working with us on a client's project with a team of animators. We had the chance to sit down with Joe to learn more about what makes him so awesome.
Joe grew up in the "Windy City of Chicago, Illinois". He started drawing at a very young age and has always been inspired by the art and technicality of games, tv commercials, and movies, especially "Toy Story". He had laid out his life plan to become an animator very early on and didn't stop until he followed that dream through!
He attended Illinois Institute of Art to pursue a degree in Media Arts & Animation, and shortly thereafter Joe moved to Pasadena, California! Though this may not be his final destination, it gave him the opportunity to work on his first feature length animation at Asylum Entertainment and opened the do to many freelance positions, including Eric Miller Animation Studios!
Sketching at cafe's, attending animation and gaming conventions, such as E3, and the many people he meets at the local food kitchens he volunteers his time in are all inspirations for Joe. He's excited to be able to make it as a creative, doing the voice overs and animations for others to watch, and hopes he can spread the word that you can have a job doing what you love with strong work ethics and a positive mindset!
We’re so excited to introduce our newest team member, Ruby Wang. Ruby is a talented illustrator who will be working with Eric Miller Animation Studios to provide illustrations and concept designs. When not working on specific projects she will be creating some fun illustrations for both our website, and social media. So keep an eye out for some of her amazing work.
Growing up on a small island in Taiwan surrounded by a crisp blue ocean and huge mountains filled Ruby Wang’s mind with many stories that she wanted to share with the world. She has been drawing for as long as she can remember, but thought making her art move would make a bigger impact for the stories she had to tell, which is what made her interested in animation.
After studying 3D animation in Taiwan, she came to the United States and worked towards her Master’s in Visual Development. She felt fortunate to be accepted into the internship program for Tonko House in the Spring of 2017 and shortly thereafter started as a concept artist at Flight School Studio. After seeing the Bink teaser, Ruby saw great potential in Eric Miller Animation Studio and hoped to contribute to the project. So here she is now, very excited to start as a freelance illustrator, and we are also very excited to get to work with her!
Mary Lou is a first generation Syrian who was born and raised in Los Angeles. During a visit to San Francisco, she fell in love with the city’s history, eclectic culture and arts. She graduated from the Academy of Art University with a Masters in Art Education, continuing to teach art to K-12th grade for a number of schools in the Bay Area.
While developing her Art Advocacy project she became inspired by the city’s growing indie game culture! She got into Social Media Coordination for a few small game studios because she believed that game art and development was a bridge to youth and their possible future careers in the art industry. The idea of sharing the art that was being created in games became just as important to her as sharing the importance of art being taught in schools.
After moving back to LA, she continues to promote and support artists and projects through social media. She is excited to find inspiring news in animation as she helps Eric Miller Animation Studio share more about the world of animation on the many platforms we have.
We're excited to introduce you to Ken Bielenberg, a talented animation veteran who's credits include Shrek, ANTZ, Monsters vs Aliens, The Simpsons and many more! Ken has worked in both live action and animation, and has directed, produced, and was a VFX Supervisor on several projects. Not only are we excited to discuss Ken's career on our blog this week, but we are happy to announce he will be taking on an advisor role for Eric Miller Animation Studios. Ken will will be advising Eric on a variety of business and creative areas.
What was your path to get into animation?
I went to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for computer science, but what I really loved was film and animation. So, I used all my electives to take as many film and traditional animation classes as I could. After 2 college co-ops at IBM, I realized that I didn't want to be a computer programmer, so I decided to combine my interests and pursue computer animation. This was in the early days of CG -- it was a risky move. But, my parents were really supportive so I went for it and eventually landed a production assistant position at PDI in 1990. I was SO excited to be at PDI and practically lived there to soak it all in.
What do you think the major differences in the animation industry today are from when you first got into the industry?
Oh boy! Everything is different. When I started at PDI, flying logos were still state-of-the-art computer animation! Five years later, TOY STORY came out, proving it was possible to make a feature length animated film. That was huge! Then, the next two features were ANTZ (which I worked on) and A BUG'S LIFE. At that point in time, the power of the computers and the state of animation technology really did limit the stories that were feasible to produce in CG. Toys and bugs were what we could handle at the time. Now, there's really no limit.
What do you feel will be the next big breakthrough in the animation industry?
Computer Animation is getting closer to being able to create believable, photorealistic humans, but we're not there yet. The "uncanny valley" is still very much an issue, but it's a holy grail challenge that will get conquered at some point.
What has been your favorite/most rewarding animation project you worked on thus far?
There are so many! But, I'd have to say SHREK 2. It was a perfect combination of a great team super excited to push the envelope and a great story.
Are there any little known fun facts about any of the projects you've worked on?
I worked on the Simpsons segment where Homer goes into the 3rd dimension for the Tree House of Terror VI episode in 1995. It was the first time Homer would be realized as a 3D CG character. We were nervous about translating this iconic 2D character into 3D. I wasn't sure how things like his hair (he has big Ms on the side of his head!) would translate. Would that look weird? But, it worked and the Simpsons team was a dream to work with. So much fun.
We're excited to have you as an advisor for Eric Miller Animation Studios, what are you most excited to share your expertise on?
I'm excited to help in any way I can. When Eric left Dreamworks to start his own animation studio, I thought "that's incredibly ambitious and a little bit crazy." And lo and behold, Eric's successfully launched his studio, is producing excellent work and is consistently adding new clients. I'm especially excited about the next chapter for BINK. He's such a cute character with a ton of potential.
What is your dream job, or what do you want to work on next?
My dream job is really simple. It sounds corny, but it's all about working with great people. I love creating an environment where insanely talented people can produce their best work.
Thank you to Ken for sharing his experiences and thoughts with us!
We'd like to introduce you to Carl Johnson, a talented Emmy-winning composer of music for film, TV, stage and new media. He's spent much of his impressive career working on animated projects, which we wanted to explore further in this blog post. Enjoy!
How did you become interested in music/composing music?
I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old, and from the very beginning I picked out little tunes that I made up for fun. I also played trombone in marching band at school and several times in high school I wrote arrangements for the band to play. I always treated music as a hobby, and never took it that seriously until I was in college. I had been taking some music classes at the University of Kansas just for fun (I was a pre-med major) but soon found I was spending all my time on music-related activities and finally decided to change my major to music half way through school.
My first interest in film music definitely started when I got the original Star Wars album as a kid. I remember wearing out the “Cantina Band” track because I thought it was so cool. I played it over and over.
What was the first project you composed music for?
I didn’t plan it, but I really started my freelance career in animation. The first project I was hired to compose for was an animated series called Goof Troop by Disney TV Animation. The head composer was Mark Watters and he was looking for people to help him out. I got a nice recommendation from Bruce Broughton, who was an instructor of mine at the USC Film Music program, and Mark brought me on board to be part of his team. I worked for Mark on a few series (Goof Troop, Bonkers, Raw Toonage, Marsupilami) for Disney, then met Richard Stone and Shirley Walker who invited me to help them on their projects at Warner Brothers (Taz-Mania, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Batman: The Animated Series). That whole period in the ‘90s was such a booming time for animation and animation music. We got to work with live players several times a week. The studios were really putting a lot of resources into their shows.
Was it a hard industry to break into? What were the biggest challenges for you to break into the industry?
I was lucky, in that I got some really nice recommendations early on. It used to be a tradition in town that the more established composers would really make an effort to help out the newer ones trying to break in. I had some wonderful mentors in Rich Stone, Shirley Walker, Bruce Broughton and Mark Watters.
But really the industry has evolved to the place where you’re constantly trying to break in. The biggest challenge is trying to make an effort to meet new filmmakers, and constantly re-invent yourself. I find that I spend much more time marketing than I do actual composing!
What is your process when creating music for animated projects?
Animated projects are different from live-action ones in that you often don’t see final picture until the final mix of the film. It’s not uncommon to start composing music to very early drawings that only approximate the timing of the final film. Before animation was done digitally, they always started out with hand-drawn storyboards that were filmed and edited into a rough assembly of the project and synchronized with the recorded dialog. I would often start with these “Leica Reels” or sometimes just a script. And begin coming up with themes from those.
Once an initial creative meeting is held with the creative team, I go home to my studio and start work, either sitting at a piano or in front of a computer. I’ve had to learn to be very organized about getting the music written and ready in time to deliver it. I usually figure out how many total minutes of music I have to write, divide it by the total days I have available and come up with a minutes-per-day number that is my daily goal when I’m writing. I’ll start working at 4:00 am and finish around 5:00 pm so I can have dinner with my family, where I’ll complain about not meeting my daily quota.
Congratulations on your Emmy! How has winning an Emmy changed your career?
Thanks! Actually two Emmys. :-) It’s hard to say what would be different without them, but it’s a nice marketing tool. Sometimes it will get you in a door that would otherwise be closed. The best part is being in the TV academy and getting screener videos for that year’s Emmy Awards. It’s a good way to see the best of what’s going on without having to spend days watching TV to find it!
Are there any little known fun facts about any of the animation projects you've worked on?
There are lots of little quirks and challenges with every project. One experience that sticks in my head is writing the music for the end of the Hunchback of Notre Dame II. There’s a scene where Quasimodo is ringing a bell for something like a minute and fifteen seconds while dialog and action happen over it. I had to come up with a piece of music that supported the action, stayed out of the way of the dialog, and matched the exact tempo and pitch of the bell that was ringing away for 76 consecutive tolls during all that time. It was certainly a challenge!
What project are you currently working on?
I’m currently helping put together music for an animation-inspired theme park in the UAE. I’m also actively writing several works for musical theater (www.bagelsthemusical.com, www.marymariemusical.com) and doing short films and projects as I can. This year I helped orchestrate music for the features Finding Dory and the Magnificent Seven as well as wrote the score for an independent feature called “Price for Freedom.” There’s always something interesting going on!
What do you still want to achieve, or what do you want to work on next?
I’d love to keep working in animation, especially recording scores with an orchestra. My favorite experiences in this business have been conducting in a big recording space surrounded by dozens of expert musicians all working to create emotional, dramatic music. As a composer it just doesn’t get any better than that!
We'd like to thank Carl for taking the time to let us interview him, and we are so lucky we are able to collaborate with such a talented musician on our projects. Carl did the scores for both Bink, and the MagicMeeMees web series for us, and we look forward to continue working with him in the future!
Director Jared White discusses his first experience directing for animation, and the differences he noticed from directing live-action. Jared worked with Eric Miller Animation Studios by writing and directing the MagicMeeMees 3D animated web series for Future of Play.
Written by Jared White
As a live action writer and director, but also a lifelong animation fan, working on the computer animated MagicMeeMees web series has been a thoroughly rewarding creative challenge.
MagicMeeMees are a new line of toys from Future Of Play, a Los Angeles-based toy company. Future Of Play approached Eric Miller Animation Studios about creating a web series to help introduce the characters and worlds from the toy line. I worked as writer/director of the web series, in addition to contributing to the storyboarding and editorial processes.
MagicMeeMees are cute, little creatures – 100 millionth the size of you, in fact – who live around your home, quietly making the world a better place. There are differently themed lands that the various MagicMeeMees reside in which correspond to their actual location in the home: Berryland takes place inside of a fruit bowl, and Holidayland takes place in a trunk full of decorations, to name two examples. Their motto: "No matter how big or small, we all have a purpose in this world." We were tasked with making four episodes of a web series, with each episode running two minutes long and focusing on one of the worlds and its respective characters.
This presented some challenges on its own. Typically in a series, be it for television or the web, the pilot episode establishes all of the main characters of the show and sets the premise of the series into motion. This frees you up in future episodes to explore the characters, relationships and conflicts without getting caught up in introducing everything. But here, each episode takes place in a new location with three completely new characters to introduce. In effect, each episode is its own self-contained pilot, making the writing process more similar to writing multiple short films, or an anthology TV series such as The Twilight Zone.
Another challenge was that, aside from the occasional buzz or purr, the MagicMeeMees don't talk. This meant that the show had to be written without the aid of any dialogue. I'm actually a big fan of this type of visual storytelling, and had previously made a few dialogue-free short films that went a long way to prepare me for this project. Animation is certainly a visual medium, and the more the story can be told visually, the stronger it is. But introducing three characters, showing what function they serve within their world, and establishing and resolving a conflict all within the span of two quick minutes is no easy task. One big lesson I learned over the course of this experience has been to keep things simple. The last thing you want to do is lose a viewer because they can't understand what's happening. And in working with Producer Eric Miller as well as the client, we discovered that keeping the plots simple made them that much more effective, and allowed us more freedom to explore fun visual gags and character moments.
This is my first time writing and directing for animation, and it has been quite the learning experience. One of the biggest differences has been the editing process. On a live action film, there are three main stages to the process: pre-production, where the script is finalized and the schedule and budget are worked out; production, in which the actual filming takes place; and post-production, in which the film is edited together, music composed, and sound and picture finalized. So the editing basically takes place in the last stage, after principal photography has completed. But in animation, editing starts at the beginning. Even while still in the writing process, the episode will be storyboarded, and those storyboards will be turned into an animatic. An animatic is essentially the boards edited together onto a timeline to see how they're cutting together and working for timing. Because animation is such a time- and labor-intensive process, it's important to work out as many of the problems upfront as possible. The storyboarding and animatic stage is a great place to do that.
Now, storyboarding is not unique to animation. I storyboard at least part of every project I direct. It's an essential tool to work out problems before arriving on set, clearly communicate a day's shots to all of the various departments, and streamline complex live action shoots. Storyboards in animation differ in a couple key ways: first, storyboards are both far more extensive (everything needs to be storyboarded in animation, whereas not all live action shoots require it); and secondly, as mentioned above, storyboarding actually kicks off the editing process of an animated film. Once edited into an animatic, the boards are then swapped out with shots from layout. Layout is the stage in which the character staging and camera placement are worked out before animation begins. After that, the layout is replaced with rough animation shots. Then those, in turn, are replaced with the final animation. And so on, through lighting, compositing, and final renders. Put simply, editing in animation takes place throughout the entire process, which is very different from traditional live action editing.
The client asked us to do these episodes on a relatively low budget, so we took on the challenge to work within their budget. In computer animation, there are certain things that can really drive up the cost. Things like fur, liquids, clothing, reflective surfaces, and other visual effects can all be cost prohibitive on a project such as this. This meant that in an episode like "Penny Gwen and the Iceland Intruder," we had to stay away from things like showing ice forming or characters falling into a pond and causing a big splash. I'm of the mind that constraints can actually encourage creativity. It can encourage you to avoid going with your first idea, and instead come up with a better solution that you never might have otherwise. Here's an example: in our first episode, "Piney Apple Saves Berryland," there's one part when a very frustrated Piney jumps up and down over and over, until he jackhammers himself into the ground up to his neck. Originally I had planned to show him drilling into the ground, but then found out that it can be very costly to show the ground being churned up. So I came up with a solution: cut away from Piney while he's jumping up and down to show the other characters' reaction, then cut back to reveal Piney's head sticking out of the ground. This created a nice visual punchline that we wouldn't have had if we had just shown him going into the ground. Creativity thrives on these sorts of limitations, if you let it.
Another big difference was the actual process of directing. Rather than working on set closely with the actors, cinematographer, production designer, sound mixer, etc., everyone on this project worked remotely. This can have its benefits, in that it allowed me to take some time to think about a particular shot before responding with my notes. (On a live action set, many decisions need to be made quickly and on-the-fly). But it could also have its drawbacks, as some notes that could perhaps quickly be communicated in person might take several typed-up paragraphs. I learned to work around this by including illustrated mock-ups with my notes. For one particularly difficult-to-communicate camera move, I actually filmed an example shot using miniatures and my iPhone as the camera. It proved to be invaluable.
Since there weren't any voice actors on this dialogue-free project, the performances came down to the animators. Rather than discussing a character's motivation and arc with each actor, these discussions happened with the animators. What these animators are able to convey in the tiniest eye movement, or using a character's full body language, is just remarkable. It was a pleasure working with such talented artists, and that goes beyond just the animators. From layout, to modeling and surfacing, to lighting and sound, the artists who I had the privilege of collaborating with on MagicMeeMees truly brought this project to another level.
My background working in live action was a big help in preparing me for this project, while also illustrating some interesting contrasts. I've always been in love with animation as an audience member, but now I'm smitten by the process of making it, too. At the end of the day, the storytelling process is universal no matter the medium. It's all about telling a compelling story.
We are very excited to once again have Bink be featured in the 3D World Magazine. In this article Bink's animator Scott Raymond shares 10 Animation Tips and Tricks to help us all become better animators. We have been very humbled by all the attention Bink's first episode has received, and it is thanks to the very talented crew members like Scott.
I had the privilege of first working with Scott at DreamWorks Animation on Madagascar 3. After 8 years at DreamWorks Animation Scott left, and started teaching and developing a new animation program at Austin Peay State University. When I was looking for an animator to help with Bink I reached out to Scott, and he agreed to come on board. Scott was recently featured as one of our Talent Spotlights, so to learn more about him check out the post here.
To read the Bink article click the image below or to read other great articles in the September issue of 3D World Magazine you can purchase issue 211 at the 3D World Magazine's website.
After reading the Tips and Tricks watch Bink to see Scott's advice put into action.