Journeys from the desktop of a traditional animator in the digital age!


For my latest work/commentary on what I'm currently doing, visit the new 'Spirit of the Game' blog page - or alternatively my Facebook page. (Just too little time to keep this blog going too I'm afraid!)  :(

My 2012 Showreel

Haven't been active for a while so I thought I'd so some work housekeeping and put the best of my award-winning old and new work into a new showreel. 


Lecturing at CTN Expo: "I don't want to see your degree - I want to see what you can do!"

I've been shocked and dismayed at the feedback I've received since my recent workshop presentation at the CTN Expo, entitled "I don't want to see your degree - I want to see what you can do!" It appears that so many students, past and current, are entirely dissatisfied with the education they are receiving... especially in terms of the huge fees they are paying to their schools to give them that education! The main criticism seems to be the fact that some animation teachers do not do, or even know, what they are teaching - and therefore students are being turned out totally unprepared for the industry of today.

I don't so much blame the schools for this entirely but I do find the accreditation requirements they are subject to a problem. The core issue is that many of the top industry professionals who want to teach (and are totally capable of teaching) are prevented from doing so because they don't have a degree. Conversely, a graduate who barely scrapes through a slack degree program and is subsequently totally incapable of getting a job in the industry is embraced as a teacher because they have a piece of paper to their name! I even know of experienced Disney and Pixar level artists/animators who can't teach at most schools because they don't have a degree... because they have never needed one, as progress in the industry is measured by demonstrable skills not pieces of paper.

I began to learn of this issue when I researched my book, "JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS: The Animation Job Coach". However, I had no idea of the scale of the problem until after my talk at CTNX, since when so many students shared their tales of woe with me. I do believe that it is necessary to insist on academic degrees for the sciences, for math, for medicine, for engineering, etc. but it is totally inappropriate to insist on these in a creative, 'other-side-of-the brain' disciplines such as art and animation. In these fields it is what you can practically do that measures you, not what you know intellectually.

Consequently, I jumped at the chance of developing my own 2-year, 'Advanced Degree' program at AIE-Seattle, where I believe it perfectly possible to prepare students well for the industry in that amount of time without the other distractions that longer degree courses are required to offer. I am also currently developing an exciting animation degree program for AIE-Seattle too - but that will be totally focused on preparing students properly for the industry of their choice and not just throwing a number of inessential classes at them to make up the numbers. 

For me the best animation school in the world is Gobelins in France, where they don't have the same degree/accreditation requirements to fulfill - they are essentially funded by the government and the industry itself. Hopefully we can get close to that in Seattle, despite the challenges the US educational system offers the betterment of the animation industry. Luckily, by having the Bad Penguin apprenticeship option to offer my AIE students in the future I can supplement the program with that most difficult qualification any school might ever provide... 'industry experience'!

For the record, here's a recent Gobelins student film... 'Oktapodi'! This example is not alone in the level of competence displayed by their films, as any search on YouTube will reveal. 

Time for us in the USA to fight back I'd say!


I recently gave a "How To Make Animated Films" lecture at AIE-Seattle and showed these - the first solo animated commercial I ever directed/animated and the one I'm most proud of. Of course, they were made back in the old days when we animated everything on stone tablets!


Two of my students working on that magical place called a 'lightbox'!

Great to be teaching students 2D animation again at AIE-Seattle! Mind you, its only temporary (sadly) as we're moving on to 'Maya' now. Its not that I dislike CG animation of course - its just that I was born with a pencil in my hand and will die with one there too!

The digital camera - where all the magic reveals itself. Or not!


Here's a demo of the first animation challenge I'm setting my new AIE students - a basic bouncing ball with fixed light just above it. Normally gravity would cause the ball to bounce slowly downward to a halt on the ground of course. But as its a first 2D assignment I figure this will be challenge enough for now!


As the 2D animation equipment hasn't arrived yet it was time to do the next best thing - take students out into the 'real' world to observe natural movement in preparation for their 2D animation assignments. Consequently - lots of time looking at walking figures in the grounds of the Pacific Science Center!

Of course we didn't neglect nature either...

Then back into the classroom the next day to study gesture and pose using the most compliant (and pliant) of desktop models!

And of course, I had time to introduce students to some fine and original hand-drawn animated films. This week it was "The Illusionist" by Sylvan Chomet and...

..."Secret of Kells" of course, by Tomm Moore! (Start as you mean to go on I say!)

'Bouncing Ball' here we come!  :)


Quick 'sneak peak'! I just roughed-out the first quick pencil test from our 'Bad Penguin' teaser. Its only on two's right now, is a mere 31 frames long and there's still a lot to do (such as clean-up and adding the penguin's raincoat, etc.) but its a solid start after all this time waiting to get going! (By the way... Its not supposed to freeze at the end like that - the penguin is animated to run out but it seems to uploadthat way  on Vimeo for some reason?) 

Anyway... 'YIPPEE'! Its great to be doing drawn animation after being so long in the wilderness!  :)


I started my first day of teaching class at AIE-Seattle on Tuesday and began with the all-important drawing instruction for future 3D animators. There's no doubt the today's digital animators need both drawing and art skills before embarking on the technology, so our first class was all about initiating basic drawing practices that will support the student animation studies later on. We jumped in with 'perspective' from the get-go. The drawing above was by AIE student Steve Worden after about an hour of instruction - on 'seeing what is in front of you', as well as 'basic perspective' knowledge...

AIE students Eric Imhott and Christina Cronin produced the following during a 30-minute study session also...

I have to say that I really loved the opportunity to draw along with the students. (Below)  Its been so long since I've been able to draw in such a freestyle way that I loved the creative liberation it offered me. I also think it is very important for the students to see that their teacher can actually practice what he preaches!

With the second class I combined an early introduction to 'walk' animation with 'still life drawing' of a artist's adjustable, wooden model. This seemed a fun way to kill two birds with one stone...

I have to say that in drawing along with my students it reminded me as much about what I don't know about 'seeing and doing' as what I do know! (They do say that if you want to learn about a subject, teach it!) 

Of course I've drawn all my life but that's been mainly in relation to executing 2D animation professionally, not teaching fundamental drawing techniques per se. It takes me back to the days when I was an art student and my teacher - the great Ralph Steadman - made it all so interesting and meaningful for me. I hope my own students will begin to view these AIE classes in the same light.

Anyway, there's more to come as we venture further into this really unique program! 

(And for anyone wanting to take a 2-year, vocational course in animation for the Games and Film industries - and for VERY reasonable fees - there's still time to enroll at the AIE campus in Seattleif you hurry!  206-428 6350)

Maybe I'll see you there?  :)


I just recently saw an advance copy of my new (and probably last) book, "Animator's Notebook", so I wanted to share a glimpse of it with you. In all honesty I'm very excited about it as I think it picks up where "The Animator's Workbook" left off many years ago. No actually, it goes much further and speaks to ALL animators everywhere, whether 2D, 3D or anything else that comes to mind. I do believe its my best book yet - being the summation of over 30 years industry experience and 10 years of teaching experience. Its primarily for young to intermediary students of animation - and a perfect primer for the ultimate 'bible' of all animators, Richard Williams' "The Animators Survival Kit". Its certainly going to be the class textbook for my new AIE students here in Seattle!  Woo-hoo! Can you tell I'm excited! :)


OK, so I've not been certified 'insane' but I am now eligible to teach for the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) in both Australia and here in Seattle. AIE is an exciting, non-profit, vocational school that offers two-year training in animation and program - primarily for the games industry but also for film and other media, depending on what course a student goes for. AIE is about to open in central Seattle and can offer industry-ready training for a much cheaper fee than most of the comparable degree schools out there. I'm doubly excited to be part of this initiative as I have been asked to redevelop the AIE animation program for the US animation world. This will put 'art' into the technology and integrate the core and often forgotten 'principles of animation' process into latest tools and software. An exciting opportunity indeed!

AIE is is also opening a school down in Louisiana too, although its parent campuses are in Australia where my certification adventure began.

The first AIE campus began in Canberra but our first port of call on this two-week trip was to the Sydney campus - which is actually part of an impressive greyhound racing and soccer stadium! It was here that we were given a quick overview of the core (and inspirational) AIE philosophy, and where I was handed the 92-page digital questionnaire that was to form the core requirement of the certification process!

Although in not such an august setting as the Sydney campus, the founding AIE Canberra campus was a hive of activity and an equally exciting place to be. I actually liked the bright and breezy interior of this campus best. It reminded my of an active, living professional animation studio - a great experience for the students studying there! Here I completed 7 of the 10 certification questionnaire sections required for the qualification. Canberra is the center of government in Australia, although its the most impossible place to park in at night - outside of Seattle that is! Locals call its sleepier lifestyle - 'One big roundabout, with politicians'! Next, on to AIE Melbourne...

We had stayed in very reasonable hotels throughout the whole trip but I was totally unprepared for the the luxurious decadence of "The Langham" in Melbourne! Seen above is just the hallway entrance to the restaurant - which had a melted chocolate fountain to die for! We discovered many wonders in Melbourne but I think the most magical was the hot air balloon that floated silently across the city at sunrise, as seen from our breakfast table...

Melbourne is a city of great variety and ethnic mixture, combining the best of the new and innovative with the richest of the old and traditional. Magical old alleyways, now filled with bustling restaurant and coffee house tables & chairs, lead to both the newest and the oldest of what Melbourne has to offer. It is indeed a place of rich textures.

All the AIE campuses treated us like royalty throughout the whole trip and convinced me that I was joining a kind and generous community that will be a joy to work with - i.e. embracing no 'pecking-order' or 'hierarchy systems' that exist in the larger, more corporate and fee-driven schools that are all too frequent. Really refreshing! 

A memorable part of our Melbourne experience involved a lavish dinner of the famous dinner tram. Trams and other forms of public transport make it easy and a joy (are you listening Seattle?) to travel throughout the city and some of these older trams are renovated in the original style to provide a wonderful mobile eating experience through the night streets of the city. My mind was filled with thoughts of an Agatha Christy mystery, inspired by the 'Orient Express' style decor we encountered...

Melbourne repeatedly offered an amazing array of entertainment options and is arguably the most 'European' style city I came across. (Although each city we visited had its own unique flavor that will always fill a place in my heart and memories.) As I stated earlier, Melbourne offered many things -including a swanky display of 'Dame Edna's' renowned glasses...

After Melbourne, back to AIE in Sydney to complete our certification journey and receive the tangible evidence of that - as illustrated at the top of this article. 

I can only say that Australia is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited - in terms of its wildlife, its culture and the friendliness of its natives. (I soon termed it as - 'Like England, with a smile'.) There were so many memories and images that I brought back with me but I can't resist closing with the cutest of them all - seen at the Featherdale Zoo, just outside of Sydney...

Can't wait to go back another day!  :)

Oh, and if anyone wants to find out more about AIE-Seattle and its amazing value for money, do check out the website below. I think it has so much to offer those who want a career in programing and animation but can't afford the larger fees of other schools...

Farewell, dear DigiPen friends and colleagues!

Just has a great farewell dinner with my soon to be 'ex' teaching friends and colleagues at DigiPen. I will miss you all! (And an extra special thanks to Peter Moehrle for drawing the great leaving card!)

Lots of exciting things lie ahead but I'll never forget the fun and teaching we all shared together, once upon a time. May the great project fairy shine on us all, so it won't be long before we can perhaps work together again in some shape or form? (The Penguin says 'hi' too by the way - a rare gesture on his part!)  :)


Been laying low just recently, working on the designs for my "Bad Penguin" project. Above is the final outcome - and here are some of the development sketches that got me there...


Fans of BAD PENGUIN might like to know that we now have a new production website, so the widespread team can keep in touch with progress on the trailer. Some of the site is password protected for the sole benefit of the team members. However, everyone is invited to keep checking the rest of it out as it begins to evolve as we make progress with the production. The plan is to show the finished trailer at the CTN Expo in LA next November.

And while you're at it, why not check out my own new homepage! I thought it was about time to share everything I've done - and plan to do - all in one place!

Viva la 'traditional animation'!  :)


Exciting news folks - the "Bad Penguin" trailer project has just been successfully funded on Kickstarter. Now the real work begins! But I first want to thank everyone - supporters, pledge givers and artists alike - who have already got us to first base. Now our thoughts turn to design, concept and animation for the trailer. I think this is as good a place to start as any...

Image from "Blacksad" by Junajo Guarnido.

OK, so we're not going to use that exact style of course - but I think its a great starting point to develop the world that Bad Penguin will live in. What we can show however is our existing 'work in progress' on the main character, Cooper. Original design sketches were created by Dreamworks artist, Rune Bennicke. This CG sculpture from Rune's designs is by Gerritt Perkins...

Hat, glasses and facial whiskers are still to be detailed!

(Note: We're creating sculpts of all the main characters in CG so that the 2D animation team can rotate each image through all angles for greater drawing accuracy.)

Anyway, watch this space for more 'work in progress' as time goes by folks. 

And thanks again everyone for your incredible support! We had 153 individuals support us on Kickstarter in the end with 753 'Likes' for the project on Facebook. I wonder, could this be the humble beginnings of a return to 2D animation production in the USA?  :)

Tony.   :^{)}=-


With six days still to go our 'Bad Penguin' project has already reached its original funding target of $12,000! (Thank you to everyone who has pledged so far!) This means the shorter version of our trailer will definitely go ahead - to be created by a top team of great animation professionals who all want to see a return of traditional 2D animation in the USA. Working entirely in our spare time, we'll complete the trailer for launching at the CTN Expo event in Burbank, CA in November. That said, we're now we're asking for even more funds - so we can make an even bigger and better trailer. Therefore we've upped our pledge target to $20,000 for our most perfect trailer option. So, please help us consolidate our dream further by clicking HERE. You still have 6 days to pledge - but do hurry as the clock is now ticking down fast! (And remember - all pledges are tax deductable as the project will produced through the non-profit [501(c)3] Animaticus Foundation.)


Not us! Our own 'Bad Penguin' project is almost flying too - we're just over $300 short of our pledge target with just 12 days to go! So if you haven't pledged already, please do so soon - so we can get our own bird off the ground. Flight of fancy or not, your world may never be the same again!


I have to say that I’m truly grateful and excited by the response we’ve had so far for our project on Kickstarter. At this moment of writing this we are 90% funded with 112 people pledging to the project! I thank each and every one of you for supporting our cause – the ultimate aim of which is to create the most original and amazing hand-drawn animated movie to be made in the USA for decades! The story is totally unique and the script - written by Phil Clarke Jr. - promises to take 2D animation into areas it has never been before.

Just remember that in the sidelines we have a whole team of top Hollywood/Disney/Pixar level artists, designers and animators who each wants to devote their time and their talents to this trailer. Our collective objective? We all want to show the world that the highest 2D animation production values can still delight audiences around the world.

Without a doubt, ‘Bad Penguin’ can be the big breakthrough that traditional animation has been awaiting for so long. Creative individuals within the industry want it. Audiences want it too. Certainly all our great pledge supporters on Kickstarter want it! So it is now just a matter of closing the final funding gap to ensure we can achieve our pledge target and jump straight into production.

As it stands we are now just a tantalize 10% short of our target, with just 3 weeks to go! But please remember everyone; if we don’t make that target we don’t get any of it! Therefore please help us cross that line by doing all you can to make this great project happen. Some of you who have already pledged to the project are now beginning to increase your pledges. Others who have pledged as much as they can are making extra efforts to contact their own network of friends and family - to urge them to pledge something to support this great cause. But whatever you do, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being on our side!

Remember, we are not just making just another animated film here. We are hopefully starting a revolution that will bring mature, high quality and progressive traditional animated filmmaking back to the USA. (i.e. Note: THE once great leader of traditional animated moviemaking the world over!)

So please do enable us to make this penguin march. If you can, I promise you we'll deliver something quite amazing!


Yet another innovative and independently-based European 2D animated movie - Mia and the Migoo

What has happened to the US-based industry that once defined the traditional animated medium? The rest of the world still cherishes 2D animation and makes profits as a result, so why has Hollywood given up on it? Michael Eisner was NOT right when he alledgedly said '2D is dead' - i.e. when closing down the Disney traditional animation studio in 2002 and then receiving an Oscar for "Spirited Away" a short while afterwards!

Wake up Hollywwod! There are still amazing people here in the USA who can also make breakthrough, low-budget, traditionally animated movies that WILL make money. (Indeed, it will be a refreshing change from many of those endlessly predictable, gag-a-minute, big budget movies you do make - that don't!)

I talk more about this (and much more) in an interview published HERE.


Bet you haven't seen a Disney song melody like this before. Incredible stuff from Nick Pitera

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