Monday, March 12, 2018

Bad Filmmaking 101: Pigeons

Dear Animateducated Reader,

You can learn from good films, but I think you can really learn more from films that contain, "bad choices" and  a great way to learn from other's mistakes. It could be a character design flaw, unclear storytelling, acting, a bad composition choice or editing problems. 

I am in search of content showing examples of bad story and filmmaking choices in short animation films. If you know of any short films which contain unclear story or cinematic choices, please send me a link and let me know what's wrong with the film.

Here is a short film on Youtube which has some examples of "Bad Filmmaking choices". This is a film about three bored baby birds who discover a cup cake and try to get it.


Enjoy this wonderful fun story of Disney/Pixar magic and then we will talk about it below.

First of all, this short was written and directed by 4 different people and is not from "Disney/Pixar" short. The only thing Pixar about this short is that the filmmakers have slugged in a lot of music from past Pixar films to create their soundtrack. And since the Disney legal team hasn't gotten around to shutting this film down yet, let's take a look at how many things we can find learn from in this short and compare your notes with mine below...

Our story begins as we move up to the roof where sits a nest. It takes about 30 seconds to get from the main title
to this first image.

Notice that you can see, bits of the yellow of the characters inside the nest already. And what are those detailed structures in perspective in the background? This is bad Staging. Take out the birds completely or introduce them from a different camera angle.

Cut to the characters, three yellow bored birds in the nest. 
The biggest of the birds yawns and stretches while the middle bird looks about. The biggest bird very slowly plops down again, and then there are lot of eye movements with all the characters and then they all laugh. 

What happened here? Why are they laughing? 
A situation has been set up, its not clear what they are all laughing at. This causes your audience wonder and fill in the missing information. 

I'm thinking the biggest bird farts and they are reacting to it, however there is no sound effect or music cue indicating this. I am coming up with a solution to why they are waking up and laughing. And they laugh a lot about whatever just happened, so much so, that a dissolve is needed to show that some time has past.

They are all waiting and looking bored. Starting a story about a bored character can turn into a boring story. We need to know more about why the character is bored in the first place. If they are waiting for Mama bird to return because they are hungry, we need to show them doing something that shows this situation.

What are they waiting for? Its called the "Inciting Incident" and before any story begins, we need to see our character or characters in their typical way of life. The "Inciting Incident" is the thing that occurs that changes the character's routine and it sets the story in motion.

In Pigeons, the biggest pigeon suddenly looks upward, screen left to see... What?! 


CUT to: Wide shot of the blue roof top, which you probably notice first. Screen right is the nest of French fries, but then you might have noticed toward the upper left near a window sits a cupcake.

This is not a Point of View shot from the Bird's perspective, but a wide establishing shot of where the white frosted cupcake is compared to the bird's nest of french fries. 

PLOT POINT 1: The birds make their exit from the nest which takes some time to do. Now we cut to this shot and Where does your eye go first?

I bet you noticed that the RED crushed (coke like) can. Why?
Because your eye goes to the one thing that is different in a scene. My question is, why is the red can there? If its in the scene, it must be there for a reason. Somewhere in the story, it will be used because its there for a reason, right? Why is the cupcake there? We are in a very interesting and clean environment, yet someone likes to drink soft drinks and leave cup cakes outside on their window ledge. Are they diabetic and hiding their condition from someone else in the apartment?

All these thoughts could be flying through your audience's head as they are watching this film full of unanswerable questions. But let's continue; the birds arrive, ignoring the can, but really wanting that cup cake.

Sorry, audience here... How do these birds know what a cup cake is? I'm Sorry, I'm just thinking too much again...

So, the biggest bird looks sneaky...

... and then has an idea.
(Fade to Black)

Do you think we should see a little bit more of where that cup cake is? Right now, I think we are a little too tight in on this frame. Your eye is looking around at all that Sky area.

This is the beginning PLOT POINT 2 and setting up a joke (gag), because at the bottom we see the top of the bird's head enter and move about. 
Then we show the joke; all three birds are working together, balancing on top of one another attempting to get that cup cake. Notice the red can is still there. Maybe the birds will use it to help them get the cup cake later, after all it must be there for a reason, right?
Then we cut back to a closer shot which should show the top bird grabbing onto the cup cake. But, due to poor character design, the bird has very small wings and so, nothing really happens in this shot.
They lose their balance and all fall down. Red can is still on the right.
They all look around and then, the middle bird turns around to look at the little bird next to him. 

This must be a joke intended for the birds, because the biggest birds just looks at the little bird that moves a bit and then we FADE to Black again. End of PLOT POINT 2.

PLOT POINT 3 is where we see this. Where did all this stuff come from? What, no red can? What do you think they will do next?

Of course, the two birds help the biggest bird to fly up to the cup cake above by jumping onto the plank. The biggest bird goes up and out of frame.  We cut to this shot of the cup cake just sitting on the window ledge. We don't see the bird go up, but it does fall back down and past the cup cake and we Fade to Black again.

CRISIS: The lowest or highest point in the story.
Fade In: The bored and hungry birds are now back in their nest again looking sad.

CLIMAX: Sounds of a Mama bird, a shadow zips by and the baby birds are all excited with wide mouths opened.

RESOLUTION: A worm drops into the next and the bird's look disappointed.

Did you find anything I missed or something you didn't understand? Did you like this film or not? Anything you would have liked to see happen? Please leave your feedback or a comment below, because this isn't a horrible, just had a few things that could have been changed.

Please send me a link to any films you may find like the one above. Also, please click on the ads on this blog if you can, every click will go to helping a local animal shelter. We only need $25 in ad clicks to get to the $100 goal. Every click helps!

Next Post: Bad Flimmaking 101: The Big Catch

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Stop Motion Demo Day!

At Woodbury University, on a gray and rain day, 
six High school students got a chance to play.
Shooting stop motion at 1 or 2 frames at a time.  
Here are the results and the end of my rhyme.

Stop motion by: Jameah Palmer, Katleen Bolanos and Brian Hung
Woodbury2018_Group 01 from Toondini on Vimeo.

Stop motion by: Nathan Severson, James Wilcox and Brandon Macias

Monday, March 5, 2018

Animation Student Scholarship

ASIFA-Hollywood’s AEF 2018 Student Scholarship Call for Submissions

We’re pleased to announce that the ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Educators Forum Student Scholarship opens for submissions on March 5, 2018

This is an international opportunity designed to support students enrolled in college animation programs, anywhere in the world, in their quest to complete their education in this field.  Proposals will be accepted from undergraduate students entering the sophomore year or above and for graduate students working toward the completion of a thesis.

The awards range from $2500 to $5000 US and may be applied to tuition, books and supplies, animation equipment (including computer hardware or software), formal academic research and senior or graduate thesis production.

Online submission for 2018 begins March 5, 2018 and ends on May 7, 2018. To apply or find out more information please visit our site at

You can also contact us directly with any questions at: Please mention Scholarships in the subject line.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Animation History: March 2nd

Yesterday in Animation History

Back in 1886, Willis O'Brien was born and would eventually animate the first stop motion puppet of King Kong which would premiere on this day in 1933! 

This is from "Mighty Joe Young".

1922- A 21 year old veteran named Walt Disney after getting out of the army began studying in the public library Edwin Lutz's book "Motion Picture Animation and How it is Made" in the public library. In Kansas City, he and his brother Roy persuaded the owner of a small chain of  vaudeville theaters to fund some cartoons. The Newman's Laff-O-Grams Company was formed. A year later the Disney brothers would move to Hollywood and start a new enterprise called the Walt Disney Company. (from Tom Sito's blog)

Also in 1904 - Ted Geisel, cartoonist, animation director and author, Dr.Suess was born. 

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Monday, February 5, 2018

45th Annie Awards 2018

From UCLA's Royce Hall last Saturday, Greg and I got an opportunity to attend the 45th Annie Awards, which is like the Oscars of the animation world. Now, I have to say, that every time I have attended this event before, people have mistaken me for some well known person in animation.

The first time this happened, someone thought I was Animator/Historian Tom Sito. The second time, someone thanked me for my moving tribute to Roy Disney, which was actually given by Disney producer, Don Hahn. Then last year, someone wanted me to draw a picture of Bart Simpson, thinking I was Simpsons creator, Matt Groening. 

The only things I have in common with these gentlemen are; that we all are men with facial hair, we wear glasses and share the love of animation.

The only person I wanted to meet this year was Glen Keane. For those who aren't in animation, Glen Keane brought the Disney characters of Ariel, the Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan, Long John Silver to life. and this year's animated short film "Dear Basketball.," a love letter by Kobe Bryant about his favorite sport. The film won an Annie for this year's best animated short subject and has been nominated for this year's Oscars.

Upon entering the pre-party, we met Adrian Molina , the co-writer and co-director of "Coco". He spoke to us and was very friendly. He was a story artist at Pixar and was given the opportunity to help write the screenplay "Coco" and then to co-direct it.

Coco won most of the awards that night. and "The Breadwinner" won best independent animated feature which executive producer, Angelina Jolie help put together.  

Other highlights included, Angelina Jolie in attendance, "Cuphead" won special achievement award, TV Paint won the Ub Iwerks Award, The Winsor McCay award went to the NFBC duo of Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, Tom Kenny (the Voice of Spongbob) presented a Winsor McCay Award to Spongebob creator, Stephen Hillenburg and Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) presented a Winsor McCay Award to animator James Baxter. 

Afterwards, we attended the VIP party where I got to meet and congratulated another animation hero of mine, James Baxter. 

When we first met Glen Keane, things were going well. And then, it started. When I meet famous people that I admire I have discovered, that I have a tendency to physically go out of focus. Most people will become nervous or shy or begin to sweat or can't think of what to say next, I go out of focus and here's proof.

I could tell Glen was noticing my blurry condition was getting worse, but he was very polite and the out of focus attack didn't last too long this time. Afterwards I remained in focus long enough to take this nice picture with him.
We met a bunch more people, but the real surprise of the night was meeting the model for Tinker Bell, Margaret Kerry!

She was also very friendly and I didn't go out of focus at all, not once. 

What a small world animation is after all. Just before we left, I ran into an old friend of mine, Wendie Owens. We use to work together at StarToons, back when I was in Chicago. Her husband, Mike Owens directed a new show on Amazon Prime called " Danger and Eggs", which was up for the best Character design in an animated TV/Broadcast production.  

As we finally began to leave Royce Hall for good, a group of people began to follow me. I am not joking here, one guy held out a pen to me and said, "Pen?" I looked around and then back to the guy. "Aren't you Pendleton Ward?" 
"Oh no, I'm sorry that's not me," I said, "I'm Don Hahn."

The group looked very disappointed as they sadly walked away. My friends said I should have signed it, but I couldn't have done that, besides it was late and we had long drive by back to Burbank.

* * * * *
Wow, what a night! Did you enjoy this post? Please click on our ads to let us know you liked it or not. 

Do I really look like Pendelton Ward? (It was dark and about 1 in the morning.) Please let me know and leave a comment below, don't be shy. Can't wait to find out who I will be mistaken for at next year's Annie Awards.

I am available if anyone needs to be at an important event or a meeting at the same time. I'd be glad to help you out.

Here are a few student animated film from the 2016 Annie Awards.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions tell your audience how a character is feeling at that moment by their emotion and without the use of words. They are kinda like drawing hands in that they take a little practice to get them to pose the right expression. Can you decode these emotions?

Here's a good article about real and fake facial expressions in animals in a test format, can you tell which is which?

And speaking of facial expressions, Aardman Animation is back working with clay again with their latest feature film, Early Man.


Here's a fun video with the stars of the movie making a character out of clay.


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Monday, January 22, 2018

Richard Williams

This Day in Animation. 1/24/18

Related image

1961- Warner Bros. cartoon voice actor Mel Blanc had a terrible auto crash. He lingered in a coma for several weeks. The way the doctor brought him around was to say: “Hey Bugs Bunny! How are we today?” Blanc replied in character:” Ehhh…fine, doc!” This is an amazing story to hear!

2006- The Walt Disney Company acquired CG animation studio Pixar. Apple and Pixar head Steve Jobs got a seat on Disney Board, Ed Catmull was named head of the studio, 1 and director John Lasseter became it’s creative head.

I first discovered Richard Williams when I was in High School. Years later, I got to meet him in person at a studio where I worked. He gave us his 2 day Master lecture based on "The Animator's Survival Kit", which he was writing at the time. Check out: The Truth about the Bottom of Page 83 .

The whole studio had to end this once in a lifetime event. I remember seeing several producer in attendance, who were either trying not to fall asleep or were wishing they were somewhere else. The rest of the audience were learning for a master animator and taking notes. 

Another occasion was when he signed his ASK book for me at Dreamworks and later when he was being honored by the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences. 

Here's a very interesting video about Richard Williams which you should see.

Richard Williams- Animating Movement from The Royal Ocean Film Society on Vimeo.

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