Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Goodness Gracious

I am just amazed at what the American consumer will buy. Yikes. Can't wait for Easter. I can see it now, a blow up Christ on a cross. The Wall Mart Crucifixion. That will be great.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Toy Story

Working on a toy commercial before Toy Fair was always an adventure. Once upon a time, I worked on a doll commercial that was a very special vehicle for knuckleheadism. The toy company and agency was in the midst of shooting the live action for the commercial when they contacted us to design the doll character for the animated section of the spot. Unfortunately for us, there was only one doll on the planet, the prototype, and that was being used for the live action. I asked the producer to send a photo via the internet even though it was the early days of dial up. She agreed and soon a photo was in my inbox, when I opened it I was surprised to find a 50 pixel by 50 pixel thumbnail photo with a tiny image of a doll in it. I called and asked to send the photo at a larger size to which the producer responded that they were too busy with the live action shoot and to just do the best I could. She continued to say that I should just design a cute doll with pigtails and that should work and that she needed the design asap due to the client being available. Well, I got right to work and within a couple hours faxed the first design. In less than five minutes, I received a call from the producer who was extremely upset that I had missed the flower on the doll's jumper. How could I miss something so obvious. The flower in question was one a little more than one pixel on the reference photo they had sent. Unfortunately for me, it didn't stop there. To be con't.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Have fun with it

Ever have a client or agency pitch an idea and then say, "Hey, you know, have fun with it". This phrase especially comes into play when everyone in the room knows that the idea is about as fun a three hour lecture on the "Weeds of North America". "Have fun with it" becomes synonymous with "Can you save it?" Give it the baby seal treatment and save me the trouble. Eeesh.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Story from Don Bajus

Don Bajus was a remarkably talented artist and an incredibly enthusiastic animator. He had a unyielding energy for plowing through some of the most difficult animation jobs and making them sing a very loud animation song. He told me a great story once and even though it is not a true knucklehead story, it is an entertaining one. He was awarded a commercial from a prominent potato chip company and received a one panel presentation board of the bag of potato chips riding atop a flat-bed train. Don designed a beautiful moving 2d animation of a train traveling through a landscape of rolling hills.

The work was incredibly detailed and the movement fluid. The entire frame had to be animated as the train, the background together frame by frame. The train passed car after car, to the scene where the bag of potato chips rode atop the flatbed (just like the board) and then off into the glorious distance. I don't remember but I am sure the smoke trailed behind to create a wonderful morphing tag.

Once the pencil test was complete, the agency and client, flew up to Minneapolis to view the spot. The film was placed on the KEM (a flatbed motion picture film editor) and the client readied himself front stage center. As soon as the film began the client looked at the scene with a concerned and confused expression plastered across his face. The animation flawless, the motion of the train bordering upon reality. Don needless to say was puzzled by the lack of a positive response. Then the bag of potato chips rolled on the screen. The client shouted, "That's it, that's what I want, just that. I don't want all that other stuff".

So all that amazing animation was scrapped for a simple cycle of the bag of potato chips bouncing gently atop of a flatbed train for the entire 30 seconds.

Friday, September 4, 2009

So let's wrap this bad boy up.

So in the continuing saga of the soft drink commercial that would die a horrible death, where the live action director didn't want an animated character to ruin his combination live action animated spot and so forth and so on. The worst part of this whole fiasco was revealed in the live action tag, the "money shot" where the soft drink is tossed back in one big hearty gulp by a macho stud. The actor not previously present on the set, walked in and donned his wardrobe and instantly reminded everyone of Michael Jordan. Everyone of course except the live action producer and director who assured the client that he was too muscular to be "Mike". The situation came to a head when the video assist revealed that this guy's profile, Helen Keller herself couuld have seen the resemblance. The soft drink executives asked this animation director his opinion, and I stated the obvious truth (too heated glares from the live action company), "He looks exactly like Michael Jordan". Why is this a problem? Well the main issue would be infringement upon Jordan's image, false advertisement, and the fact that Jordan was not under contract with this soft drink company. OOPs. Duh. Not good. Okay, so they re-shot the tag a week later, and used a non-union talent. Guess what? He turned out to be a convicted felon. The soft drink company received a call from a New York drug lord telling our little soft drinkers, that the new tag guy was a convicted murderer. Oh happy, happy, joy, joy our greatest opportunity in the proverbial toilet. The spot was pulled after only three weeks on air. It took us over a year to get it for our reel. YAY, KNuckleHEads!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The saga continues

So back at the soft drink commercial that died. Why did it die? Bad decisions plus, might be a reason. I went to NY to observe the live action shoot. If you are an animator and have to have a character interact in a live action environment, you better make an appearance at the live action shoot. The main reason is that you want to make sure that the live action director keeps the character in mind, leaves room in the shot for the character and doesn't make a decision that will cause you to lose sleep later. And when you have a live action director who doesn't want the animated character in the spot, it is a journey in diplomacy, eye-rolling, and conflict. During the shoot, our wonderfully talented live action director continued to brush me off, when I would remind him to "leave me some room". He wanted to direct and didn't want to hear from some animator, so basically he ignored me. I had to talk to the director of photography on the sly who understood and agreed with my direction and "slipped" in shots that woudl work for me while the director wasn't paying attention. This lack of cooperation from the director definitely hurt my companies rep with the client even though I was trying my like crazy to put on a smile and work through it. The client, a huge soft drink company, surely appreciated how poorly we were working together, and they returned the favor by never working with us again. Yes, there is more.

Invisible? (con't)

Yes, I am finally back to telling the continuing saga of the soft drink commercial that went to "hell in a hand basket". So here we were, a live action director who felt that the live action should be "king" in a combination live action and animated character spot. He lobbied the soft drink company through out the production of the spot to eliminate the animated character. He wanted it to be a ghost, completely invisible, so that the interaction was mystery. The reason the film was being destroyed was due to an unknown phantom. Thankfully, the soft drink company in question stepped in and saved the character. This director wasn't the easiest to work with, he demanded that he design the character, which of course, we re-designed, then he tried to get rid of it. And that's not all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who was the Knucklehead this time?

Back in the early 90's, I was awarded a commercial from a very big soft drink company located somewhere near Atlanta. It was a big break, a fabulous coup for a small animation company. We were very excited about working in several innovative techniques we had developed and it was good money. The live action company (the commercial was a combination of live action and animation) in their great wisdom had issues with making the animation "king" and announced that the live action should supersede any animated character and began to lobby to get rid of the character all together. "It could be invisible", they stated. (to be continued.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A great photographer

I worked for a great photographer (Jim) in Chicago in the mid 70's. He was a master technician, a great photographer, and incredibly adept at dealing with clients. I remember one shoot where Jack (the photographer's main assistant) and myself (the plebe) set up a table top shot for a food product. Jack and I set up the lights and Jim came in and set up the composition of the product and it accessories for the shot. At around 10am the art director arrived at the studio to take a gander. He discussed the shot with Jim and moved several of the objects around "improving" upon Jim's expert composition. The average photographer might have bristled, or just went with whatever the client wanted. Not Jim, we worked throughout the morning and shot several rounds of tests while the food stylist prepared the product. Little by little, I noticed that Jim moved some the objects around with no real plan, something he rarely did. He furrowed his brow and looked at our test shots immediately throwing them away in disgust. We wrapped the morning and went out to lunch with the art director. When we returned, Jim proceeded to work the composition. The art director (half in the bag) talked to the Sales Rep and the Food Stylist recounting stories of his artistic prowess. Jim eventually returned all the objects to their original position, his initial composition. I know this because Jim had sketched the composition on a piece of vellum and taped it to the back of the 8 X 10 Deardorff camera. He knew what he was doing every step of the way and slowly took control. When Jim was ready, he tore the vellum from the back of the camera and handed it to me to throw it away. He called the art director over to view his final composition which the art director approved without a quick nod and a pat on Jim's back. Excellent. Done deal.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Observation No.1

Doing work on "spec" rarely pays off. Usually, you are just handing over your creative to someone to run "away" with it. The jumping through hoops in the creative business gets old quick especially if you are not getting the work. It is an age old problem that started when you first showed any talent whatsoever. Remember, "Draw me something!" or "You're good at art, can you help me draw this?" Freebies started early in life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Come?

Why when you inform a client that something will not "work," they invariably insist upon you doing it and then when the project is complete have the gall to berate you for it not "working."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The dumbest comment ever.

An unnamed Cartoon Network Executive once said while rejecting the continuation of one of my cartoon concepts, "It's to smart, it's like the Simpsons."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Once upon a toy client

Once worked on a commercial for a small toy company who shall remain unnamed. They had a new doll coming out and wanted a commercial produced before toy fair. They only had one doll, "the prototype" and needed it for the live action segment of the commercial being shot in NY. No problem, they assured me they would send plenty of photographs so I would have no problem designing the character for the animation. After a day or so past, I finally received a jpeg. in my e-mail of the doll. When I opened it I was surprised to find the smallest jpeg. I had ever seen. The doll was approximately 1/4 inch tall in a jpeg. that couldn't have been more than 70 pixels square. I called. They were swamped, the live action shoot was going over budget and they just didn't have the time to take the photos they had promised. They instructed me to design a standard "cute little girl" and they would adjust. So without delay, I got on board and designed a character based upon an impression and a quick phone call. Later that evening, I received a call from a distraught creative director who started to berate me on my design skills. "It is cute and well drawn", she started, "BUT, IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE OUR DOLL,AND WHERE IS THE FLOWER?" "What flower?", I responded. "THERE IS A FLOWER ON THE DRESS, IT'S OBVIOUS", She explained angrily. I explained to her that I did not notice a flower and looked to my jpeg. for reference. The flower in question was a pixel. I sent her the jpeg. and never received an apology. That evening and into the night, I drew revisions of the doll for the client. After seven or eight redesigns, I sent the original drawing with a slight adjustment to the lips. "That's it", they exclaimed. Knuckleheads.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Those who remain unnamed.

Ah yes, Knuckleheads, a wonderful breed of human of unsurpassed ability to make the wrong creative decision with all their might. Those wonderful creatives, creative executives, producers, agencies, and yes, even your Aunt what's-her-face who has a "great idea for you". Share the adventure of the most ridiculous stories from my storied past and of course, many of my associates. Please feel free to share some great knucklehead story from your storied past as well. Should be fun.