Saturday, April 30, 2011

Art Project WIP #1

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I am pleased that this particular project lends itself very well to gif-ification.

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The actual name for this project isn't "Art Project". I am amusing myself by calling it that, though. I was thinking about this the other day. There was a time in my life (and certainly this is the norm for most people) where I had my life and the things I did all of the time and then there were art projects as separate things. Now just about everything I do is somehow connected to what would be considered an art project. I prefer this arrangement. This piece is probably the least audience-friendly thing I've made, but I think it'll be rewarding for those with whom it clicks. Clickety-click-click.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Post-Mortem - Emily's Story



My wife and I live a few blocks from the south shore of the Monongahela river. In spring, summer and fall you can often find us walking or biking on the lovely and well-maintained paths that run between Station Square in the west to Southside Works in the east. Those two places are more or less the bookends of our neighborhood, the south side. Several important moments, conversations and decisions of my adult life have happened as we walked along that trail.

I'm not from Pittsburgh originally. As such, my view of the place is probably a bit different from that of the natives. Pittsburgh seems to me at times to be roughly 15% city and 85% river, bridge and slope. We only have the three rivers, but the way the city is crammed into the valley where they meet makes it seem like we have about 25. Seriously. I've been all over the country and I've never seen so many bridges. Ages ago, Pittsburgh was a major industrial boomtown, as you most likely know. Factories were built practically right on the river and no one was too concerned with what they were doing to the air and water. The city has been decidedly post-industrial for decades, and the riverfront has been slowly reworked with trees, walkways, and trails like the one that we use all the time. Which brings us to:

The Project : A few months ago, Riverlife, a nonprofit advocacy/planning/guiding organization for the the redevelopment of the Pittsburgh riverfront, contacted me about doing some animated pieces. They had gathered a few interviews with people, detailing their memories and thoughts on the rivers in Pittsburgh and they wanted to visualize them. That sounded awesome, and they have been a pleasure to work with. In our initial meeting we listened to the interviews and discussed what they wanted and what ideas I had. We were on the same page from just about day one, which is always great. I did some character designs, knocked together some boards and away we went! Emily's story is the first of four episodes. I think the next episode is releasing next week with the final two coming out later. I'll do shorter, more process-focused posts on each of them.

Design-wise, I wanted something friendly and approachable. I haven't really seen Pittsburgh animated before, so I wanted to do this saturated, storybook version of it. That informed the character designs.
These are the initial sketches for the main characters of the four pieces. Kyra looks a bit more like a girl now.

In the process of making these, I boarded out some shots that later proved to be far more difficult to execute. Emily's Story contained a few of these shots, most notably the fish's-eye view of the fireworks. I like to challenge myself with shots I have no idea how to accomplish. I thankfully haven't boarded myself into a corner yet, though I certainly banged my head on the desk a few times trying to get them right. I mean, look at the sketch:
That looks easy! Let's do that!
This shot used almost no 3d layers. I was surprised at how much I was able to cheat it.

Another challenging shot was the Fort Pitt Bridge shot.

When I boarded it I thought I'd find some way to cheat it a bit more than I actually could.
In the end, I spent a while building out a semi-3d, forced-perspective version of the bridge and downtown.
Here's what it looks like from a different angle.

Final Verdict - This has been a very busy year for freelance work. Because of various scheduling plans, none of it has been released yet. This is the first to be viewable, and it feels good to put something out there. I've also had the pleasure of having some dream clients this year, and Riverlife has certainly been one of them. The amount of creative latitude I was given is rare and much appreciated. Here's to successful collaborations!

As I mentioned before, you'll be seeing more of these as the weeks go on. I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tadly Weeklies #4

Just look at it. One can't help but be suspicious.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tadly Weeklies #3

It would henceforth be known as the frozen expedition.

The worst attempted robbery ever.

He needed to work on his thievery, but his small talk was great.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Six Worst Things I Heard Today, Plus Three Great Things

Today was one of those days you sometimes have when hocking your wares. They are thankfully very, very rare. I'm going to vent about it.

Neither of us slept very well, a bunch of annoyances and issues compounded throughout the day, and we were treated to a rare amount of difficult people. Most people were awesome, but for some reason the very few who were not were very much on top of their game.

The six notable things we remembered:

#6 - A customer pointed to one of our stuffed squids and said "Look! This is so trendy! Her book says 1984. She's totally into the 80s".

#5 - A customer noticed the book that Abigail was holding and said "I don't get it, is it supposed to be patriotic or something?"

#4 - A customer read the back of Abigail's tag. "Well, she likes history, and that's all you need to tell me", he proclaimed. He then threw it down in disgust and walked away.

#3 - A customer read the tags for Tadly and Abigail. "Tadly mentions Abigail on his tag, but Abigail doesn't mention Tadly on her's. Looks like Abigail is the man in this relationship!" The customer's girlfriend squirmed and looked at us apologetically.

#2 - A customer lifted up Tadly, looked at it and said "I don't get the joke. What's this a reference to?"

#1 - Upon seeing a shelf full of Tadly, a customer said with a dismissive tone "LOOK! He's wearing glasses! He's a HIPSTER octopus!" When I explained that Tadly wears glasses because he is nearsighted and he has coke-bottle round frames because it's the same kind he had when he was a child and he is attached to them. He also needs sturdy glasses that will last. She said "Oh, you KNOW it's hipster. What's more hipster than saying it's not hipster?"

I understand how silly it is to be annoyed when someone questions the motives for glasses-wearing of a fictional character, but this struck a nerve with me. I want to put up a sign that says "We like the things we like sincerely. We make things because we love them. Please do not assume irony. We are not Tim & Eric. If you think what we make is amusingly lame, that is ok. That does not not mean we are being ironic. That just means that we are not making these for you".

On the other hand, I did see a ten year old kid who looked almost exactly like me at ten years old. He was wearing a shirt that had a constellation map of the southern hemisphere. I complemented him on it. Upon hearing it he stopped, looked down in surprise, then pulled the shirt out straight so we could see it while giving us the thumbs up. Awesome. Later, Bethany spotted the same child wandering into the bathroom, air-drumming.

This one lady just came up to Bethany and, out of nowhere, said "I think the things you make are beautiful. They're just really, really beautiful". Then she walked away. That was nice.

Then, near the end, a man came up to us and introduced himself as a fellow creative. We were visibly tired, and he said "Yeah, I'm really beat too. I just spent all morning producing a flash mob for the furries". We were obviously intrigued but he rebuffed our questions, saying "No no. I think I need to keep that under my hat for the moment".

So that was our day. I am tired. Any of you I met today who are reading this, I'm obviously not complaining about you. You were the greatest. You keep on being great.

Bed now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movies I Have Seen : The Passion of Joan of Arc

Astonishing is the only word I have for it. Roughly 2/3 of it is taken up with Renee Jeanne Falconetti's intensely expressive face. In fact, until I watched it all I had ever heard about The Passion of Joan of Arc involved Falconetti's face and the huge amount of short close-ups that make up the movie. It's so raw and intimate that by the time it ended (spoiler: Joan doesn't make it) I almost felt that I had lost a friend, or at least a fond acquaintance. It's funny to think that I've seen Vampyr several times but until today hadn't seen Dreyer's undisputed masterpiece.

Not that Vampyr is bad. Vampyr is awesome.

Start saving your nickels.

Here is a rough, sneak peek at some very small bits of something, in the not too distant future, you will ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO PURCHASE FROM ME. Contain your excitement, lest you forget yourself!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tim Minchin's Storm




So it's a bit smug and choir-preachy, but otherwise I really really liked this, particularly where it eventually goes when it ratchets up the scale to larger issues.

I am always super-jazzed when I see animators employing a full range of after-effects tricks in their character-centric pieces. There is so much cool stuff you can do when you employ it as more than a finishing/color-correction/compositing tool. The commercial world currently has a monopoly on combining character animation and mograph techniques, but I am happy to see it being employed in more arty or narrative circles.

A piece I just finished (awaiting release at the client's discretion sometime in the next few months) has some similar leanings, specifically the grandeur possible in a naturalistic outlook. Having a lack of belief in specific supernatural or pseudo-scientific claims in no way precludes a fulfilling, ethical, thoughtful life full of wonder and and discovery. For those who know me personally or watched me work through things on my other blog last year, this will come as no surprise. It's nice to see that the ready availability of production tools and publishing platforms makes content like this possible and viewable. There are countless tv shows featuring psychics and ghost hunters and faith healers, yet there are no programs about how none of them ever deliver any hard, documented results that stand up to scrutiny. Perhaps the independent sphere is the best place to talk about that type of thing, as the money is very small.

Of course, all of this was already said by the great They Might Be Giants:



Tadly Weeklies #2

Tadly is unsure of why he thought such an attempt might prove successful.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tadly Weeklies #1

Tadly didn't want to be faddish, nor did he wish to appear démodé.

Where has Tadly been?

About 11 months ago, we introduced Tadly Waldorfington and his friend Abigail Addams. We had been planning it for about 4 months, and I spent April of 2010 making this episode right here, with some help from friends for extra voices:



We were very excited to make it. We were very excited to show it. We were very excited to introduce the handmade plush Tadlies and Abigails. Soon after, we introduced Tadly at shows and started spreading the word. Lots and lots of people were very into the idea and jazzed about what we were trying to do. We followed up with two more shorts throughout the year:



Notice how the end of that clip promises "Episode 1" in August? We have always envisioned the animated series to be split into the short Abigail episodes and the longer, numbered adventure episodes. Well, that didn't happen. What happened were some job problems which lead to a few grey hairs on our young heads, which took our focus off of Tadly. I worked on and off through the fall, but some external issues left me unable to complete the first proper episode of our little series. We'd go to shows and tell people about it and they were super excited and supportive, and then we'd have nothing new to show them. This isn't what we had planned.

Actual storyboard sketches from the first scene of episode 1!

When things finally became stable, it was November. We decided to do a new episode of Abigail Recommends, and it became a song about being thankful. Because we were. It had been a very trying few months and we had come through it with flying colors. Hooray for us! This song will surely become a part of the burgeoning genre of Thanksgiving carols.


I realize that this is the second time in the past few weeks I've referenced and posted this video. Consider it an exercise in archiving.

But no new episode has come. This is for a few reasons:

1. We make these ourselves, between our bill-paying work of animating things and sewing squids. I am a bit of a workaholic on creative endeavors, but things had been very up in the air job-wise and an episode of Tadly takes many, many, many hours of work. It's a massive undertaking, and it was difficult to stay focused on the task at hand when we were being pulled in so many different directions.

2. Voice actors : we can't afford them, and we've had a difficult time filling the roles we had written. Also expensive : music that isn't terrible and is legal for use in a fly-by-night independent cartoon series. We have the music problem solved now, at least, and we are working on the other one as we speak.

3. I have this tendency to make everything bigger and more elaborate than it needs to be. If I come up with a funny little story, I will in 5 minutes have turned it into The Brothers Effing Karamozov in 3d Imax. I wrote an entire season outline for Tadly, complete with recurring secondary characters and an overarching plot. This made everything far more complicated, and it pushed the ambitiousness of our diy project so far past 11 that we simply couldn't get our heads around it.

4. This was secret for awhile... but oh, what the heck. I was approached last fall about pitching some animated series to (insert popular childrens network here) and for a while we thought that Tadly might be one of the ideas pitched. In the end, we realized that we would have had to change much of what we wanted to do with the little guy in order to meet (insert popular childrens network here)'s very reasonable creative mandate. Also, there was a good chance he might end up on a Burger King cup. That just tasted bad to us. We have dreams for this. We have stories, plural, that we want to tell. There's an empty niche out there we wish were filled, and Tadly is our way of doing just that. Over the trials and tribulations of last year, we grew rather attached to the little guy, as well as his best friend.

In summary, we launched this thing last spring and found out that we were in no way ready for the enormity of the task we'd set out for ourselves. So behind are we that even those who have followed our efforts have no idea how big the concept is, and all we want to do with it. That is a crying shame. And so we are going to remedy that, and I will tell you all about it right now.

We've grown a lot in the past year. Things have stabilized quite a bit for us and we have settled into the lives of freelance artists. Part of that is getting our big projects rolling along and finally taking the bull by the horns, or rather the octopus by the tentacles as it were. The biggest part of that can only be described as the return of Tadly. We're going to do this like we should have done since the beginning. This means that you can expect Tadly's facebook to be officially resurrected and updated regularly with pictures of his exploits, news of note to intrepid explorers (curated by Tadly himself), along with weekly book recommendations and reviews for students of history typed by Abigail's own paws. TadlyWaldorfington.com will be redesigned in the next few weeks. We'll be offering prints for sale in the spring which will help us along our way to the next big milestones - finishing new adventure episodes, along with a couple of smaller shorts this year and a few other surprises (perhaps a Halloween carol? Any suggestions?). Like public radio, we survive on the support of those who enjoy and believe in what we do. So watch what we do. We received a ton of interest in and questions about storybooks, and we would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to do one. I can honestly say that nothing would thrill us more. Books are very expensive to make if you want to do them well, and so we are going to save up and weigh our options. Rest assured, when a book emerges it will be something special - no cheap spiral-bound trifles for you. Beyond that, we'll be at a great many shows this year, starting next week right here in Pittsburgh at Handmade Arcade. Each show will be announced through Tadly's Facebook as they are confirmed. We were on the road almost every weekend from Halloween through Christmas in 2010, and we plan to do even more if we can this year. We traveled from Providence to Atlanta and Cleveland and St. Louis and Chicago and New York City. Like Tadly, we are travelers. There's an excellent chance we'll be in your neck of the woods, so keep your eyes peeled! In the meantime, multiple varieties of handmade Tadly and Abigail plushies are available in the shop. A new Abigail will be available starting at Handmade Arcade, and then online thereafter. There will also be some new Tadlies coming as we go ahead.

As I said before, we are doing this partly because we love the characters and want to share them with you. We have so many stories to tell you about them. Do you know the why Abigail can speak, and is named after the wife of our second president? We do. Do you know why Tadly rarely visits home? We do. Do you know of Tadly's encounter with the great ice worm? We do - and we shiver at the thought. Do you know about the mysterious tomb of Benjamin Franklin, and what may be found there on the night of the autumnal equinox? We do. Do you know what is floating in the north Atlantic?

We do. And we want to tell you.

The other reason we do this is more a matter of personal identity. Some people deal with numbers. Some are teachers, or firemen, or lawyers or farmers or builders. We are makers. We make things. Like sharks, we simply cannot stop for too long. Like sharks, we also have multiple rows of teeth and protective membranes that close over our eyes just before we strike. Like sharks, we will ruin your trip to the beach.

We want to tell you stories. We want to take you places. Come along with us.
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-Scott and Bethany

PS - Oh yes, and if you are interested in being a voice actor in an upcoming Tadly episode, do not hesitate to contact us. We have no money as of yet, though there may be a free print in it for you when the time comes.

PSS - For further information on how we are like sharks, see this informative video:



Monday, April 04, 2011

snap-happy

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Good lord this has been a fun project. The first two of these should be up in the next week or so.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

I have succumbed to a meme : The Influence Map

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In the interest of transparency and proselytizing, as well as something to do on an enforced day off from work, I give you my influence map. I've very much enjoyed the maps of other artists, and I always find such things very interesting, especially when the artist doesn't wear their influences on their sleeve. This is also going to be a difficult exercise for me, as I'm going to try be extremely, extremely brief in my writeup. So, shall we?

1. Mike Mignola : Much has been written about Mignola's visual style - the shadows, the composition, the incredibly smart and thrifty uses of color. But beyond those takeaways, what sticks with me is his world building. Mignola creates a coherent world in which conflicting ideas of supernatural entities can all coexist, each with their spheres of influence, great and small. And he treats them all with the same respect, if not reverence. He also doesn't explain more than he should.

2. German Expressionist Cinema : The angles! The silhouettes! The dreaminess! Metropolis, Vampyr, Faust, Nosferatu, Caligari and others provide a rich vocabulary for scenery and atmosphere. Also : don't worry about making things look real. Sometimes it's better when it looks impossible.

3. The World/Inferno Friendship Society : I wanted to have some non-visual influences on this list, as they are just as important if not more so. The direct visual influences start me out in a direction, but it's the non-visual things that keep me going and more often than not inform the choice of destination. It was hard to narrow down the choices, but no band has had a bigger impact on me in the past decade than WIFS. I've personally been very slightly involved with them, having done a great deal of their merch designs for several years and a video to boot. No band is more exciting to me, and no band has aged with me so well. It's non-cynical music written by adults with a penchant for self-mythologizing and poetic fight songs. It's punk rock for people who got out of their garages and traveled the world. It's bleary-eyed optimism. It's music that says "yes".

4. Dave Quiggle : So if you were to look at my artwork from, say, 2006, you would be hard-pressed to find any influence other than Dave Quiggle and influence #13. I came across his work on christian hardcore albums in the late 90s and was blown away by the colors and the thick, tapering lines. His designs just looked so... substantial, like they were these flat, solid, heavy objects made of ink. He also shares with me some foundational influences from Mignola and iconography. I learned a lot from out-and-out faking his style in my early years, though it was long before I really thought about what I was learning so it's hard to quantify all that I took from him. In 2007 or so I began to move away from his style and started developing more of my own voice, but I can't deny that his was a foundational influence. These days you'll mainly see him in my work whenever I design a tattoo, and I hope that never completely goes away because I can't think of tattoo designs I find more attractive than his.

5. Art Deco (mainly in poster design) : The shapes! The optimism! The refusal to treat progress as something laughably impossible! The future is ours! Doing things not because they are easy, but because they are hard! Onward! Look at how huge that building is! Look at how awesome these zeppelins are!

6. Yann Tiersen : I won't lie - 9 times out of 10 when I am making a cartoon, I wish beyond wishing that I could have Yann Tiersen score it. Actually, 9 times of 10 when I do ANYTHING, I want him to score it. For me, listening to his music is one of those rare occasions where listening to instrumental music makes you want to live in such a way that it mirrors the feeling you get from the music, if that makes any sense.

7. Video Games : For those of us who grew up with little to no exposure to art and music, video games were a fine introduction to a variety of styles of illustration and electronic music. For example, I have recordings on my computer of music from old Mega Man games not because I'm reveling in nerd-dom, but because I honestly grew to love the melody from the Magnet Man stage when I was young. It's hard to narrow down the specific takeaways from such a huge and broad influence, but I'm going to have to pinpoint games like Out Of This World (or Another World, for our friends abroad). Games like this have a very distinct sense of place, and the side-scrolling view is still what I tend to default to when setting up a scene. I never seem to tire of it and often have to force myself to break out of it, which is something I'm thankfully doing more of now. Out Of This World also had this wonderful visual style - all big chunks of color, and again with the heavy silhouettes. That game put you in a place and told you nothing about it but what you could discover by traveling it, and I still vividly recall playing through it in 8th grade. I may have liked other games more or played others longer, but this game was the first that popped into my head as an honest-to-goodness influence.

8. Henry Selick : You'd think that with Henry Selick and German Expressionist Movies on my list that I'd like Tim Burton, but honestly I can't think of anything interesting that guy has done in the past decade and a half. I find him to be a more interesting art director than a writer/director, and even his art direction got old to me back in the 90s. I mean, I don't think 90-degree angles are especially oppressive, and I though I was a skinny misfit as a child I actually rather enjoyed the time we lived in a planned suburban subdivision. Anyway, back to Selick. He directed The Nightmare Before Christmas (not Tim Burton!) as well as my personal favorite animated movie of the past several decades, Coraline. Coraline is, as far as I am concerned, a near-perfect movie. James and The Giant Peach : also visually masterful. Did you know he also directed the stop-motion effects in The Life Aquatic, and was very close to directing The Fantastic Mr. Fox? Oh wait, we'll get to that later. I also love that his new production company has this in their press release - "a new stop-motion company whose mandate is to make great, scary films for young ‘uns with a small, tight-knit crew who watch each other’s backs." Can I have that job?

9. Iconography : I was a very devout Christian for most of my life. I am not anymore. I was raised protestant, and so there was never anything close to saint-veneration in my life. I inherited a large painting of Jesus from my great-grandfather, and that's that closest we got to such things. However, in my late teens I discovered the world of iconography and fell in love with it. When I was first married, my wife and I would hang out at the Catholic store at the local small-town mall and just pour through the liturgical art. There is something about the way people try to capture divinity, importance, gravity and reverence in these flat images that really grabs me. You can see this influence all over my work. Icons are some of the least apathetic works of art I've ever seen. I love the use of shorthand symbols like the halo, or the hand signals for peace and blessing, and the strange things that get lost in translation like the animal symbols for the apostles, the initials that I still have trouble nailing down, the heavenly rays of divinity. I also dig the flatness. This is art that is trying to communicate something that many believers consider too high and lofty to be communicated by anything other than God himself. But hey, it never hurts to try.

10. Wes Anderson : Full disclosure - I can't stand movies that are heavily influenced by Wes Anderson. That said, I am one those people who make things that are influenced by him. I am DOOMED. The obvious takeaways for me have been his composition and usage of color, along with his very flat staging (again with the flatness! I am all about flatness, it seems). I have a soft-spot for visual direction that mimics what one might see in a theater, and Anderson's movies always have this feeling that they are not taking place in the real world, but in an elaborately staged production of the real world. There's a distance and an artifice in the look of his films, but where someone like Kubrick (whom I love as well) gives me this dispassionate "humanity in a terrarium" feeling, Anderson gives me an empathetic "humanity in a lovingly-made diorama" feel. There is a humanity in these films, however stylized. Many people who are inspired by Anderson only take his "quirky irony" but miss the empathy. They forget to care about the characters. On the visual front, I aspire to be so meticulous in my art direction. I inherited a litany of my favorite ways create a shot from him. Want to count the amount of slow tracking shots in my cartoons? How about the straight-on-face shot of someone blinking? The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite movie of all time, depending on when you ask me, and Rushmore and The Fantastic Mr Fox (which deserves a full post of its own) are each up there as well. It also helps that my own preferred sense of humor is dry and understated. I think my friend Kev once referred to the quiet comedic tone of Wes Anderson as "PBS funny". I'll take that.

11. Mystery Science Theater 3000 : Continuing a theme here, my love of MST3K has little to do with ironic enjoyment of bad movies. It's about formulating your own reaction to what you are seeing. It's about being proactive and never passively watching. It's about talking back. It's about laughing at everything. It's about taking a miserable situation and choosing to make something great out of it. It's about making puppets out of junk and hot glue and creating one of the greatest things of all time with no budget to speak of. Oh, and the show is also incredibly hilarious. ROWSDOWER!

12. Early 20th Century Halloween Illustrations : This is kind of oddly specific and esoteric, but it's a little sub-genre of illustration that has been incredibly influential on me. Something about the way the culture treated all things occult and spooky at the time, mixed with the prevailing illustration style does something to my brain that I can't quite explain. Go on a search through flickr, specifically for vintage Halloween postcards and magazine covers. You'll be glad you did.

13. Becky Cloonan : In 2001, I discovered Ms. Cloonan's excellent indie-comic "Social Unrest". I sent $20 and received two xeroxed zine-like volumes of this angsty, inky, post-punky comic. Since then she has gone on to fame and fortune in the comic world with Demo and other such things. I love love love the way she draws people and skulls and trees. Hers was another big influence on my younger years that has been diluted in recent times, though I still follow her work blog religiously.

14. Chris Ware : Of course I am influenced by Ware. Of course. From him the confidence to go simple, and go with my own vision of the world, as opposed to the vision of the world I wished I had. I spent so many years trying to emulate other illustrators, but in the end I was still most comfortable making characters out of simple shapes- round heads, round ears, pointy noses, etc. Reading Chris Ware gave me permission to just go with it. There is nothing wasted in his art. Every line does the work of ten of mine. He regularly tackles some of the most complex human experiences and ideas with mind-blowing clarity. Above all, I think that it is this ability to organize information visually that I wish to emulate. His pages contain the most complex and diagrammatic sequential storytelling artwork I have ever encountered. I have a long-time love of extremely complex diagrams and flowcharts, particularly when the creators take the time to organize them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Like the aforementioned Kubrick and Anderson, Ware's style can come off as cold and removed (something he regards as a failing), but perhaps I'm just cold and removed because it connects with me on some very deep level. Every artist who wishes to tell stories can learn something from Chris Ware.

15. John Hodgman : Speaking of permission-givers, John Hodgman's books were a revelation to me, as if I'd found some sort of hidden lunch table where all the kids like me sit. Other people find a standup album that gets them into comedy, or a novel that helps define them. I found fake almanacs. Also, as I've said countless times, do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook of The Areas of My Expertise on a really long car ride. The section on the states is worth the price of admission all by itself. Hey! He played the dad in Coraline! And he was on Battlestar Galactica! And the Daily Show! Note : I have a similar build to John Hodgman, and similar hair and I also wear glasses. This is all actually purely coincidental. I'm not trying to emulate the man that hard.

16. This American Life : Ira Glass is the only man that I've ever had any sort of crush on. Seriously. He's just the best. I often feel somewhat alienated from the community of animators, many of whom want to follow in the grand traditions of Disney or Looney Toons or Pixar or John K or their favorite anime, and they want to tell stories that follow in this tradition. I applaud them and love watching such things, but my goals for storytelling are hopelessly influenced by my years of religiously listening to This American Life. Among adults, a self-insulating cynicism that borders on misanthropy is extremely common. Ira Glass produces a show that is eternally curious about humanity, endlessly interested in their experiences, and filled with such deep empathy for all manner of people. It's a show that consistently gives a damn. There's no hip apathy or self-aggrandizing nihilism here. Their forays into investigative journalism actually seek to address problems and make the world a better place. There's always something else to explore if you're willing to make the trip. I'm an obsessive overthinker, and no other program has made me think and feel so much. It also introduced me to David Sedaris, David Rackoff, Sarah Vowell, and oh yeah - John Hodgman has contributed several times, as has Chris Ware. Small world. When I think of what I'd like to do, if I had time and resources to do whatever I'd want, I inevitably come back to the types of stories that owe more to fiction and nonfiction you'd hear on This American Life than, say, Walt Disney.

17. Early Animation : Well, I mean, look at how I draw people. This is the obvious influence. Beyond that, I start to lose interest in the old animated shorts when they stop being somewhat surreal and based on an ongoing rhythm. My two favorite old-timey shorts are Bimbo's Initiation and Jack Frost, which is pictured above. After we hit the 40s or so, things get so codified and smooth that I start to check out. I prefer it when things don't even attempt to look real, when the trees bob up and down to the music in the background, when cars walk instead of roll. I also like how cartoons of this period had a predilection for the spooky and dangerous and sometimes downright incomprehensible. Also, it was the golden age of background art as far as I am concerned. Go watch Jack Frost and marvel at the colors and the fields as autumn ends and winter rolls in. Fleischer's rotograph! Mindblowing! It's all up in the air, it's all experimental, and none of it is stuffy. Many of these cartoons are almost a century old, making them almost mythical in and of themselves.

Alright, so that's done. Some of you artist-types should do one of these too. I'd love to see what you're into and what made you the people you are today.