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!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spy vs. Spy on Mad - Season 4

Just recently wrapping up on Cartoon Network, was season 4 of Mad. I was happy to get a chance to return to the world of Spy vs. Spy again and bring to life these iconic little sociopaths!

The buddies over at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios put it best on their website: "What began as a humor magazine founded in 1952 has transformed into one of the most widely influential and imitated pieces of satirical media in the history of magazine entertainment. Since its rise to popularity, MAD has successfully grown with the times as they have branched off into the realm television, all while maintaining the original sensibilities and spirit of the print magazine – which is a tremendous feat! ...we’re so humbly proud of being part of MAD’s deep history and tremendous imprint on our culture."

This year, I split up the animating duties over 25 episodes with the very talented animators Alex Kamer and Brad Schaffer. Ethan Marak produced, John Sumner and Emily Franz were responsible for the sets and props, Tennesee Reid Norton oversaw puppet fabrication, and Helder Sun was director of photography. (Sorry if I forgot to mention anyone.)

Here are the four episodes that I directed this season:

And just for the completists, here's all of season four in one massive, violent compilation:

Thanks to whoever compiled and uploaded this crazy thing!

Previous entries about the spies can be found here, here, and here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Just Shut Up!" A Saturday Morning Fun-Time Romp!

Before becoming an animator, I was trained in live action. It's always nice whenever I get a chance to go back to that world and play in it a little. This summer, just such an opportunity presented itself with Just Shut Up!, a web series produced by the guys behind Smosh. (For those who don't know, as of January 2013, Smosh had become the most subscribed-to channel in YouTube history!)

The concept for the show is simple; Andy runs a local Saturday morning kids show in the vein of Bozo the Clown or Captain Kangaroo (or my childhood favorite, Captain Chesapeake). With him are his co-hosts, Miss Wendy and Mr. Squirrel. Poor judgement and not-so-kid-friendly hijinks ensue.
Photos courtesy of Dan Levy

The dry wit of head writers Steve Murphy and Peter Meadows along with the natural reactions from the "kiddos" made for a really fun show. The show also features clips of cartoons from Smosh's successful Shut Up! Cartoons lineup.
Three-camera studio shoots present challenges that are very different from those in single-camera shoots and it was a great opportunity to explore this way of putting a show together. I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to work with a cast and crew who had such a strong enthusiasm to work together and commitment to get these made. Did I mention we shot all 20 episodes over the course of 3 days?
Here are two of my favorites Episodes, Death and Religion:

John Williams (animation) at the Hollywood Bowl

Back in 2010, I helped produce a short Lego animation for Jon & Al Kaplan.

Fast forward to 2013. John Williams actually sees the animation, digs it, and decides he'd like to incorporate it into this year's concert performance at the legendary Hollywood Bowl.

I edited together several different videos I found on YouTube along with some footage from some friends who attended the show. Hopefully these views from different seats around the Bowl can help illustrate a little of what it felt like that night.

With John Williams's first mention of the animation and then as it appeared onscreen in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,000 people, I can't describe the excitement welling up in me. It was a pretty amazing experience seeing so many people react to something I had a part in creating.

Here's the original short we made:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

In which I make an appearance on Das Process (the podcast)

I got a chance to have a really fun conversation today with Mackenzie Astin on the Das Process podcast. They talk to artists, filmmakers, and creative types of all sorts. This one ties in with trying to promote our Kickstarter for I'm Scared, based on the incredible artwork of Greg "Craola" Simkins. (We also talk quite a bit about baseball and the Orioles animation I've been doing.)

For more information about Greg, you can take a listen to his Das Process episode. (Recorded well before we started scheming about I'm Scared.)

Here's a picture of Dan Levy (producer of I'm Scared), Greg, and Mack:

Monday, August 5, 2013

"I'm Scared" -- a short stop-motion film based on the artwork of Greg Simkins

A lot of projects going on, some projects I haven't written about yet, some of projects I can't write about yet. But, here's a project where I need to write about it in a timely fashion!

It's (hopefully) going to be a short stop motion animated film. And if it happens, it'll be based on the artwork of Mr. Greg "Craola" Simkins. Greg Simkins, for those who don't know him is a painter, an illustrator, a designer, and a strong presence in the contemporary/pop surrealist/new brow art movement. He's also a super nice guy and can hopefully soon add "stop motion animation producer" to his long list of accomplishments.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Produced by Dan Levy, Greg Simkins, and myself
Based on a poem, drawings, and concept by Greg Simkins
Directed by me!
Art director would be Robyn Yannoukos
Sculptor would be Lesley Padien

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Getting out of my dark studio for some Starbucks

STARBUCKS - SIP FACE from Nicholas Gaul on Vimeo.

Every now and again, I get to leave the cavernous darkness of the animation studio and venture into the sunlight to be part of a fun pixilation shoot. Dallas Sterling, the brilliant DP who I got a chance to work with on an XBox commercial, brought me onto this Starbucks SipFace spot as animation supervisor.

Over the course of three days, we shot dozens of setups from Venice Beach to Griffith Park. Frappuccinos were frozen with dry ice so they wouldn't spill out of their cups, but still every shot was a race against the frozen-coffee-melting-clock. A special thanks to all the very patient actors!

Produced by Radical Media and directed by Dennis Liu.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New trailer for "Minhocas" a.k.a. "Worms"

Here's the new trailer for Worms, which has its Brazilian premiere date set for December 20, 2013:

I was an animator on this a couple of years ago, living in beautiful Florianópolis and working with an incredibly talented crew. Happy to see how it's all coming together!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cartoon Network posted a bunch of Spy vs. Spy season 3 episodes that I animated!

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there's an easy way to embed them. C'mon Cartoon Network website, make it easy to embed stuff!

I directed and animated this one:
M.I. Spy

And I animated all of these:
Spy-cial Delivery
Double-O Spy
Moon Spy
Paper Airplane
Spider Spies

To see the previous Spy vs. Spy posts I've made, click here and here. All animation done with the fine folks at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.

Here's a picture of a Spy vs. Spy board game that I found on the internet.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My friends' movie, The Kitchen -- coming to theaters!!

Everyone knows that the really good stuff at parties always happens in the kitchen.

My old buddy Ishai Setton directed the indie comedy The Kitchen and it gets its non-festival theatrical debut this week! It'll be showing at the Laemmle Noho 7, starting this Thursday, March 14th. The film was produced by Emily Ting and shot by Josh Silfen. (Readers of this blog may remember Emily as the woman who brought Justin Beaver into this plane of existence, Josh as the DP on the Foo Fighters video, and Ishai as the editor of Foo Fighters and Gold Lamé.) One of the actors in the movie is another old friend, Adam Michael Rose. (Adam has a horrible habit of always being out of town when I want to cast him in something!)

And the (intentionally bad-looking) cake on the poster, along with all of its stunt-cakes, were baked and decorated by the beautiful and talented Jen Hoche of Uhu Baking. (Full disclosure: she also pays half the rent and often cooks dinner at Pete Levin Films HQ. Also, I probably shouldn't refer to our place as Pete Levin Films HQ.)

The film stars Laura Prepon, Dreama Walker, Bryan Greenberg, Tate Ellington, and Matt Bush. It's got music by a lot of popular bands that the kids know and like, such as "fun." and "Architecture in Helsinki". It's a lot of fun and you should see it twice.

Eagle-eyed viewers of the film may be able to see a glimpse of my facial hair, making it's feature film debut on my blurry face in the background. (I'm in the scene that takes place in the kitchen.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

I made some ink!!

This last Saturday's issue of the LA Times had a great article about Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the place where I've been working the better part of the last year and the home of Robot Chicken, Spy vs. Spy, and Dinosaur Office. I can't say enough good things about everyone at the studio and I'm happy to see the Buddies are getting the recognition they deserve!

Click here to read the online version of the article.

If you still read your paper the old-fashioned way, you might have seen this bearded animator while you were drinking your morning coffee.
Check out the little Spy puppet I'm holding!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Detroit Lions: The Season of Your Life

While the Baltimore Ravens occupy the top space in the football part of my heart (how about that Superbowl two Sundays ago?!), my dad was from Detroit and an avid sports fan, so I've always had a fondness for his team, the Detroit Lions.
John Sumner (a born-and-raised Michigander) and I had previously collaborated on the Baltimore Orioles animation, so when I saw that the Detroit Lions were having a video contest, I knew I had to mention it to him. I sent John a text when I was parking my car to see a movie and by the time I was out of the theater, he'd not only agreed to do the contest, but had already sent me full-color storyboards.

We had two weeks for him to build the puppets and for me to light and animate them. We were working on Spy vs. Spy segments for season 4 of Mad during the days, so nights and weekends were spent with John fabricating and painting and I was in the garage, composing shots and pushing puppets.

With it being due on Monday, January 14th, we worked until the late hours of Sunday the 13th. We brought in Alan Franzenburg to do some post production touch ups and edit and we used some music from the band Brian Von Jawa and the Takedowns, fronted by Brian Perez, one of John's old friends. John ended up directing the spot and I did the animation.

We used a fun technique of full-body replacement puppets done as cardboard cutouts. Each individual character cutout had animatable elements like the throwing arm or detachable football. It's kind of great how much movement you can imply with just a few simple poses.

You can see the fruits of our labor here by clicking here.

Oh, did I mention we won first place in our category?

Thundercats Ho!!!!

Here's a Robot Chicken Thundercats sketch I did some animation on. As a kid, I actually had the Lion-O figure this puppet was based off of. And as a bonus, here's the aforementioned Power Rangers sketch:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Return of the Robot Chicken

In Sunday's episode of Robot Chicken, I return as an animator for the first time since 2006! Good to be back.

(Previously, I'd worked on the first two seasons of Robot Chicken, starting in 2004 when it was still Untitled Seth Green Project. I started as an assistant animator and got to animate -- as well as act as coordinator -- more in the second season.)
Photo courtesy of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios's Facebook stream.

In the above scene, I worked on a bunch of the shots of Zordon's head.

After finishing up on last year's Spy vs. Spy and Dinosaur Office, I was brought on to Robot Chicken for a couple of episodes at the end of the season. Getting to play with animate some of the toys I remember from my childhood was really great.

Check it out Sunday@midnight!