Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baltimore Orioles Scoreboard Animation 2014: AL East Division Champs Edition

Recently, graphic designer and blogger Todd Radom did a great article about the history of the Baltimore Orioles' cartoon "Swinging Bird" mascot. I'd previously known about the history of James Hartzell's bird who graced the 1954 logo and appeared daily on the front page of the Baltimore Sun to quickly illustrate whether the O's had won or lost the night before. And I'd known about Mike Ricigliano, the cartoonist who brought the tradition back in 2009.

But Radom's article covered the direct inspiration for my stop motion Bird, the 1966 Swinging Bird. And to my surprise, this Bird was designed by Disney animator Paul Carlson. Maybe I'm being sappy here, but I like the fact that the Oriole Bird that inspired my Orioles animation was designed by another Los Angeles animator. (But make no mistake, my blood runs orange and black.)
Paul Carlson's original drawing of The Bird. What I wouldn't give for that framed in my den!

Anyway, on to the 2014 animation!

2010 brought the original stop motion Bird animation. 2013 brought Oriole Park at Cardboard Yards set into the mix. For 2014, I wanted to animate more things that the costumed Orioles mascot couldn't do in real life: wardrobe changes, stunts, different environments, and crazy vehicles.

As with the previous Orioles stop motion animation, I collaborated with John Sumner who created all of the incredible sets and the majority of the props. (Although I did get in on some of the prop-building this year!) Costumes were all created by Season Mustful who really brought her A-game on this!

The first new animation of 2014 was a new Home Run train. The Orioles used to actually have an old animation of The Bird conducting a train for home runs that they showed on the old dot-matrix scoreboard in the 90s. Not sure if anyone else remembers this, but I wanted to do an updated version of it.

Here are some photos of the animation in its native environment:
photo courtesy of Shea Magazine

The second animation played with a simple pun. Get it?

In the third animation, The Bird finally got to leave the confines of Oriole Park, dressed as a daredevil similar to Evel Knievel.

For the final animation of the season, I wanted to do a "Make Some Noise!" spot. What could be louder than a construction worker with a jackhammer? (Answer: Orioles fans in October baseball.) Funny enough, there was some jackhammering going on outside of my studio as I was animating this!

Thanks to all the great people at Orioles Productions for being awesome!

Monday, July 14, 2014

an [adult swim] short: Fist-Man: Strongest of the Slab-Bodied Slab Lords

Title logo created by David "Bulletrider" Göbel

Early last year, my old friend Dave Park (of the comedy troupes Dr. God and The Lusty Horde) and I pitched a couple of ideas to the producers at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios for their new Adult Swim shorts program. One of the ideas we pitched them clicked with them and we were on our way to writing and directing our own short for Adult Swim.

Dave and I both love the absurd, campy, cheesy-yet-somehow-compelling He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoons from the '80s and we felt they were ripe for a send-up. Somewhere along the line, we decided that vintage live action toy commercials could make for good cutaway gags.

Thus, Fist-Man: Strongest of the Slab-Bodied Slab Lords was born: (Click the little square in the top right corner to watch in full screen mode for best results.)
Animated by Stephanie Simpson.

As you can see below, we were lucky enough to get some very talented friends to help us with the project:
Original character designs by Vick Trochez

Alvah Smith came in and did a pass on the designs as well.

Storyboards by Kevin McShane (also the voice of Cannibaloid)

Colin Geller rocked the backgrounds, which really sold the vintage Filmation feel.

Lauren Horoszewski created the custom action figures. Collect them all!
Jessica Dalva fabricated their accessories.

Ben Wise created a full version of the Love Theme from Fist-Man.
I'd love to see the opening credits to this!

Dave Park was the voice of Zantor, Kevin McShane as Cannibaloid, Neil Garguilo as the announcer, and the one and only SETH GREEN makes a cameo as the voice of the kids in the commercials!

Lots of other amazing people contributed their time, effort, and talents to this short as well. Dave and I are incredibly thankful for their help. A full list of credits can be viewed by clicking here.

Take a trip over to the official Robot Chicken website for more Stoopid Buddy Shortz.

And no, we're still not exactly sure what a Slab Lord is.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cardboard animation for Google!

A few weeks ago, I got a call to work as an animation director on a project for Google and jumped at the chance! Google's got a bit of a legendary status as a cool place to work and I wanted to try out some of the cafeteries on their campus at the Googleplex in Mountainview, CA. Nick Carbonaro, a talented director that I worked with on a series of Ronzoni commercials, would be directing this spot and remembered me from our previous work together.

I brought the incredible Musa Brooker along for the ride to animate with me on the spot. We were total tourists when we got to Google:

We actually shot the spot up in Sonoma with Colin Blackshear & Josh Livingston with a crazy moco camera rig at their production house, Film Country. Director of photography was David Jacobson.

Check out the Cardboard app for Android.

The animation ended up being a demo for Google's Cardboard. The big surprise of Google i/o Conference this week, Cardboard is literally a package made of cardboard that unfolds into VR goggles that will work for your Android phone.

Photo courtesy of @sree_raman

You can scroll down the page HERE to step through the animation.

Musa at work.

Google's gotten the ball rolling and I'm really excited to see where developers are going to take this from here...

Friday, June 13, 2014

WWE Slam City: Brawny Wrestlers vs. Mundane Day Jobs

From October last year through this past April, I got the pleasure to be part of the crew making WWE Slam City. Slam City's a web/TV series based on a series of WWE toys that Mattel has released. In the show, the mysterious Finisher has kidnapped Vince McMahon and fired all of the Superstars, forcing them all to find ridiculous day jobs.

While I remember watching a little of Hulk Hogan's Rock 'N' Wrestling in my youth, I was never a huge wrestling fan. Despite my lack of wrestling knowledge, this series managed to strike a chord with me and I came away really loving my time on it. It turned out to be a great mix of absurdist humor and Looney Tunes style gags and was a lot of fun to animate.

The series was produced by my old friends at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and directed by Harry Chaskin. It's got a great look to it, using silicone puppets and 3D printed faces with replacement mouths.

Harry and I try on burlesque gloves as a way to avoid fingerprints on puppets.

Kelsey Stillmaker and Harry destory the illusion of forced perspective.

For this season, I took on a new role as a scheduler/problem solver/coordinator type as well as doing a lot of animation for it. Definitely two very different parts of my brain at work, but it was a fun challenge.

As well as appearing on the WWE Network, Hulu, and YouTube, Slam City will also be appearing on JumboTrons at live wrestling events! (After the Orioles and Lions animation, JumboTron stop motion seems to be becoming a bit of a niche!)

Here are a couple of episodes:

Be on the lookout for the second half of the first season, starting back up on August 11th...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Oakley: Heritage -- a downshooter, paper cut-out, pixillation, replacement, handdrawn, rotoscope, puppet, stop motion spot

At the end of February, I got a chance to direct this fun Oakley spot with Alden Wallace. Produced by Colin Hudock for Transmission Creative, this spot really goes for it!

Oakley is celebrating their 30th anniversary of making sunglasses with their Heritage line of glasses, bringing some of their classic designs back for sunglasses enthusiasts. For this spot, we wanted to go through all of the most iconic sunglasses as well as incorporating Oakley's most iconic spokes-athletes.

To do this, we played with several different kinds of animation on a downshooter setup: puppet animation (Frogskins), cutout animation (Flak Jacket and Airbrake), photo animation (the Lindsey Vonn sequence), flipbook animation (the Julian Wilson/Shaun White/Eric Koston sequence), replacement object animation (Radarlocks), and the pixilation of human hands throughout.

The art director was Maria Sequeira. The hands belong to Michael Stellman. So, so many things fabricated by Karen Knighton (but especially the big flipbook sequence). Drawings by Javier Barboza. Frog puppet fabricated by Greg Sesma. Animation assistant was Brandon Lake. Andrew Racho did some great post work. Ada Trinh did hand make-up. Oliver Wyatt Lewis was a production assistant. I'm probably forgetting people. Oh yeah, as well as being a co-director, I also animated this thing.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Comedy Bang! Bang! -- Zach Galifianakis has a run-in with Grumplegus the elf

I don't watch much TV, but one of my favorite current TV shows is Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! I originally got addicted to reruns of the show on Netflix, but new episodes air on IFC. It's based on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, which in turn is based on the live show Comedy Deathray. (On a coincidental side note, I actually saw Zach Galifianakis perform an unannounced set at a UCB Comedy Deathray show a few years ago!)

The show on IFC pokes fun at the talk show format and takes advantage of the incredible talents of Scott's co-host, Reggie Watts. If you haven't seen Reggie Watts, go look him up on YouTube right now. He's amazing.

Each episode features different guests, some real and some fictional. For the Christmas episode on December 20th, Zach Galifianakis (on his second visit to the show) plays Santa Claus.
Santa tells Scott about his Christmastime procedures and life back at the North Pole and then flashes back (in animation) to tell the tale of Grumplegus the Elf.

The good people at Comedy Bang! Bang! went to Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to produce the animation and they brought me on as director and animator for the segment. It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to be a part of this show!

Click hear to see where you can watch the episode "Zach Galifianakis Wears a Santa Suit" and all the rest.

Credits (for the Grumplegus segment only)
Animation Produced by: Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
Director: Pete Levin
Co-Producer: Ethan Marak
Supervising Producer: Janet Dimon
Animator: Pete Levin
Puppet Fabricator: Sarah Brown
Set Builder: Roy T. Wood
Character/Set Designer: John Sumner
Storyboards: Alex Zobolotsky
Visual Effects Artists: Kaitlyn Yang & Carlo Vega
Editor, Music, Sound FX, Additional Voices: Hank Friedmann
Track Reader: Jeremy Fisher
Production Accountant: Shalonda Ware
Featuring the voices of Scott Aukerman and Zach Galifianakis

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baltimore Orioles Scoreboard Animation 2013 - New and Improved!

Stop motion and the Baltimore Orioles: Two of my favorite things in the world. Since the last time I'd created any new animated rally sequences for the JumboTron, the Orioles had come back and broken a 14-year streak of losing seasons and made it to the postseason. The new, invigorated team needed some new, invigorated animated clips and I was thrilled to lend a hand.

Finally, for the 2013 animation, I was able to use the cardboard set that was never used for the animation back in 2010. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice some little Baltimore shout-outs: a "Why Not?" sign, a small billboard for "Floyd Rayford: Attorney at Law", and other little fun details. John Sumner lead the way in building the cardboard stadium set (Oriole Park at Cardboard Yards?) and I added some little touches to it like the turf made out of dishtowels and the sequins used for stadium lights.

As much as I loved my original Bird puppet from 2010, we decided the Bird needed a makeover, too. Sumner created a new Bird, this time with shoes, a stronger armature, and a set of replacement beaks and eyelids to convey a wider range of emotions.

One of my favorite things about this new series of animated segments was getting a chance to do some prop-building. In the one, I made The Bird's jetpack from a dollar store toy truck, a couple of kazoos, and some miniature golf clubs. I went for the vintage 1980's elastic-belted uniform look:

I had fun making the Camden Yards-style brick Noise-O-Meter for this one. Check out those 1989-era birds on top!

A big thanks to all the guys at Orioles Productions for giving me the chance to put my fingerprint on a small piece of the Baltimore Orioles experience!

Looks like the fans dug the spots, too! Amazing!!