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.