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Jam Roll Studios

19 Jul

The length of time that has passed since my last post here is just astounding… Much has changed in the past two years. I hope to continue my documentation of projects I’m involved in here and I’ll try to make more frequent updates. There’s no shortage of recent projects that I could post about but I’ll start with one big recent development: The formation of Jam Roll Studios!

I join two very talented people – Matt Davidson (of Ibish Comedy and Hot Metal Arts Collective) and Jordan Hammill (of Wizard TV fame and champion of Allegheny College’s 2005 Jalapeno Pepper Eating Contest) – to bring you the best mix of thoughtful, independent filmmaking and dumb internet videos. Our premiere comedy short, Pizzaspotting, was featured on national television a few days after its release!

 

We also announced an upcoming Jam Roll Studios project entitled YEAR OF THE BEARD which you will really want to keep an eye on because I think it will be amazing. Enjoy our awesome teaser art created by the great Lizzee Solomon Studios!

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Speaking of amazing, another in-progress Jam Roll Studios project is a video collaboration with the RPG-inspired metal band Dethlehem! More info on that to come soon.

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Thanks for hanging on and hope all’s well with all of you out there in internet land.

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Universal Monsters / Aliens

26 Feb

This past fall, I had two super fun animation projects with Diamond Select Toys: Universal Monsters and Aliens!

Universal Monsters was my first time working with a 7″ scale toy line for Diamond Select and although I love the simple coolness and unique design of MiniMates, I really enjoyed being able to play with the texture and lighting on the detailed sculpts of this line’s toys. Not to mention, I’ve been a big Universal Monsters fan most of my life, so this whole project was one of the highlights of my year. I focused a lot on the set design as well, watching all the classic original films for reference. I’m pretty proud of the custom doors I built and painted in the opening shot, the Metaluna Mutant’s space-y/science-y living room and the expressions I got out of DST’s original UM figure, Van Helsing. I’m glad to hear from this month’s New York Toy Fair that this line is continuing with new toys!

And another highlight of 2014 would definitely be this Aliens short where I was able to play with MiniMate-d versions of the Xenomorphs from Aliens as they attack some unsuspecting soldiers and Paul Reiser. Super fun, and I hope maybe I can return to the Alien franchise someday for a longer video.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

18 Feb

(or, in this case, Va-LATE-ntine’s Day)

In fact, I have a loooot of catching up to do on posting recent projects. And since it’s close enough to Valentine’s Day, how about a V-Day-related post? I just completed our most recent episode (Episode 40!!!) of Marvel Super Heroes: What The–?! in which Jessica Jones and Luke Cage interview an array of terrible applicants for their request for a babysitter.

 

Pretty cool to animate the Marvel Legends Thunderbolts Luke Cage for the first time, plus I put together a custom figure of Jessica Jones using a Sharon Carter head and Willow body from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This episode was shot and animated entirely within a one week period, I hope that it isn’t clearly evident in the final product… And it’s always weird when The Watcher shows up, he’s especially creepy in this episode. Enjoy!

 

And here is another Valentine’s Day episode from back in 2013. This was the very first episode written by our new head writer, Todd Casey, and I think the positive shift in humor and storytelling in What The–?! from this point on is clear. Todd, being a damn talented writer (and involved in things such as the new Thundercats series, Batman: Brave and the Bold, and Wander Over Yonder) brought What The–?! up to a higher level of comedic quality, I feel. The pacing is tighter and the visuals and animation cues that he works out with me have made the last 2 years of episodes the best ever. Yay Todd!

I also made a few Star Trek-related Valentine’s Day cards this year. I’ve been watching all the Star Trek series and movies for the first time in my life during the past 2 years or so and I’m pretty much obsessed with it now. I started with TNG and I’ve seen all the movies, now I’m halfway through the Original Series, DS9 and almost done with Enterprise. Still haven’t touched Voyager, hope it’s good!

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Bill Plympton & Winsor McCay

22 Mar

I attended an Animation Master Class last week featuring one of my favorite artists: legendary indie-animator Bill Plympton. It was hosted by the Pittsburgh Toonseum and Point Park University. I was swamped with work and it was the same day as the traffic-disrupting St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown but I am so glad that I dragged myself out of my slug-like mood and attended. I left with an inspired soul, a sore gut from laughing too much,  and a copy of Winsor McCay’s “The Flying House” on DVD.

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I was introduced to Plympton’s work back when I was pretty young. His work was the most memorable of the disturbing, twisted shorts I used to be afraid of, yet absolutely mesmerized by, on MTV’s Liquid Television.  I also urge you to check out his Oscar-nominated short film, “Your Face.”

 

Bill had some great quotes that were especially meaningful to me (and I’m doing the best I can to remember his exact words here…):

“Why would I pay someone else to help me to finish my animations faster? It’s what I love to do, why spend money to take that joy away from me?”

“It’s great to have heroes that inspire you… but make sure they aren’t wrong heroes that you are looking up to.”

“Make your work SHORT, FUNNY and CHEAP. Those are my three rules of a successful film.”

“When I see that a short film at a screening is 20 minutes long, I already hate it. I don’t want to risk wasting 20 minutes watching something that could be crap. If it’s 5 minutes long, then that’s perfect, I can sit through 5 minutes of crap.”

“If you want to make an experimental film about your personal struggles, that’s fine, but no one will buy it. Comedy is much, much easier to sell. If you can make an experimental film about your personal struggles that’s ALSO funny? Then you have something.”

Another important thing I took away from the class was a new appreciation of  Winsor McCay, one of Plympton’s heroes whom he talked about at length during the class. McCay is perhaps most popular for “Little Nemo,” a weekly comic strip published in the early 1900s. He’s also one of the very first animators and his 1914 short “Gertie the Dinosaur” preceded any character animation that Disney or Fleischer did. Plympton showed us his restoration project of one of McCay’s animated films, “The Flying House.” Originally a black & white silent film, the work was restored, colorized and supplied with voiceover, music and sound effects by Plympton and his team thanks to Kickstarter. The result is a beautiful and funny masterpiece able to be experienced in a new way. If you’re interested, you can buy the DVD here.

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