Friday, June 29, 2007


Saw Ratatouille for the second time today. It was just as good as the first time. Brad Bird is 3 for 3 in the animated feature business.

But what else would you expect from Pixar?


Saturday, June 23, 2007

For the Birds?

Wow, check out this "For The Birds" ripoff. They didn't try to change much in the character designs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Laika hub bears likeness to Nike

Tualatin - Phil Knight shares his grand plan for the new headquarters of the animation studio he acquired in 2003
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nike's landmark 211-acre campus, in a Portland suburb, features on-site gyms for employees, is surrounded by an earthen berm, and was designed by Oregon architect Robert L. Thompson.

On Monday, animation studio Laika Inc. unveiled details of its new headquarters on a 30-acre parcel in a Portland suburb. It just happens to feature a gym, a berm and a Thompson design.

No surprise, since both are controlled by Phil Knight, who founded the former in 1964 and acquired the latter in 2003. Laika announced its move to Tualatin from Portland last year, but hadn't said who would design the new facility or how it would be laid out. In an interview Monday, Knight said the project reflects his vote of confidence in the studio and its filmmaking ambitions.

"I've been around the company for several years now and it's got a lot of creative people. And I think we've got the ingredients to be successful," he said. "So it's either get in, or get out."

Laika's first film, a stop-motion picture based on the spooky children's book "Coraline," begins shooting next Monday in a temporary facility in Hillsboro. The novel took place near London, but director Henry Selick plans to give the movie an Oregon touch and set it in Ashland.

Due in theaters late next year, "Coraline" features the voices of popular teen actress Dakota Fanning in the title role and Teri Hatcher of "Desperate Housewives" as Coraline's mother. It will be distributed by Focus Features.

After acquiring the former Vinton Studios in 2003, Nike's chairman set about transforming the Portland animation house into a production house in the image of California's Pixar Animation Studios, hiring veteran Hollywood talent and pledging to finance its first two films himself.

Knight's son, Travis, works as a Laika animator and serves with his father on the studio's board of directors.

In the past 15 months, Laika has grown from a little more than 100 employees to about 350. Laika expects to employ 600 when the Tualatin site opens in 2009.
The four buildings on the Tualatin campus were designed in consultation with Laika animators and tailored to the filmmaking production cycle. The campus will have separate buildings for computer-generated animation and for stop-motion film, plus a 300-seat theater for screenings.

The Tualatin site will provide a creative center for the studio, Knight said, and the facilities for a steady pipeline of films.

"This will take care of us for a while. This will give us the capacity to do both CG (computer-generated animation) and the stop motion, two movies at once," Knight said. "Ultimately, maybe you'd want to be able to do a third, but there's no plans to draw that up yet."

Knight paid $6.7 million last year for the undeveloped Tualatin land near an industrial park. Laika declined to say how much it will spend to build the campus, but the cost of making each of its first two films could easily top $50 million.

Bill Foster, director of the Northwest Film Center, said the scale of Laika's ambitions stands out in a state where business decisions tend to be conservative. Rather than try to bootstrap a studio and limit the upfront investment, he said, Knight has chosen to take a gamble on a grand idea.

"I think they have a long-term vision and they're laying out something that's going to unfold over a decade or more," Foster said.

The studio's launch hasn't been without setbacks. Last month, Laika parted ways with former Pixar animator Jorgen Klubien, who was to write and direct Laika's first computer-animated film. Laika is looking for a writer and a director to take over the project, and Knight said the studio remains committed to a computer-animated movie.

"We think we've got good people to make the CG," he said. "It's just hard getting the script. It's not an easy process for anything, but we're making progress and we're confident we're going to get there."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Laika, Inc.

Anyone wondering about this up-and-coming studio can visit to see what they're up to, and possibly find an opportunity to help out. I'm incredibly honored to be working there, the talent they're gathering is nothing short of amazing. As long as they want me here, I'm sticking around. Thanks to the kind souls who made Michelle and I part of a top-notch team.

RATATOUILLE Rough Animation Test: Emile's Magic Trick

Most animators have probably already seen this, but I'm posting it anyway. Great test done by an animator at Pixar----what I appreciate most about those Pixar guys is that they're not afraid of a hold. There are times where I'm watching their work and I'm not even sure if any pixels are moving at all. Methinks the trick has a lot to do with how successful the storytelling pose is, that's being held. So hats off to this Doug Dooley guy.

Typically, I tend to enjoy Bluesky's animation a bit more.... not that it's necessarily better (I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" way to animate something, there are just different styles of animation which can be animated well, or poorly). I prefer to subscribe to a "toonier" style because it's fun, and I enjoy it. If I were, say, important enough to give an award for my favorite CG-animation... I think that title would still go to many shots in "Ice Age 2".

The animation in IA2 is energetic, creative, well-timed, and well-thought-out. I know several people who disagree with me on this and have argued that Bluesky sometimes over-animates... but I challenge you with this thought----- maybe Pixar under-animates? Hmmmmmmmm??????

The answer is neither. I think both studios are just badass at the styles of animation under which they are directed. Someday I might find critique in their animation-execution, when I feel I can pull off just one shot worthy of being in a film from either studio.

I'll get it, eventually. I come from a long line of rednecks.... it takes a little longer for us Pennsylvania backwoods boys to catch-on.

Anyway, just for the record---the highly un-prestigious honor of "Joe's favorite animated shorts of all time" go to these guys:

Animation at its most entertaining.