Friday, February 28, 2014

Blue Sky Panel

Blue Sky Panel

 Mike Daley (story artist)
Deb Stone (manager of talent development)

Over in the repurposed church that is now the beautiful St. Brigid's Theatre was an enlightening evening with Blue Sky's Mike Daley and Deb Stone. We got to watch the trailer for Rio 2 and hear a little about BlueSky's internship program, Acorn Academy. However, the highlight of the evening was Mike Daley's talk about being a story artist. 

Through a hilarious and adorable series of boards, Mike illustrates the process of a story artist's "life cycle". First is "The Egg" where the story artist is hatched. After the script or idea is created, the concept is handed to the story artist, who is still an egg, and is "kicked off" to hatch into a little caterpillar story artist to start working. The caterpillar story artist will look for various references stemming from real life and/or movies. After working hard to collect all the references, the little caterpillar story artists takes all the ideas and hides away in a chrysalis to finalize the draft of storyboards. Once the boards are finished, the story artist emerges and either turns into a beautiful butterfly, if the idea is liked and approved, or a ugly moth, if the idea is no good. If the story artist becomes a moth, the moth will give birth to another egg for the whole process to start over again.

While showing some of his storyboards from Ice Age 4, Mike gives some tips vital for being a quick yet effective storyboarder. Most important is the eyeballs and silhouettes have to be clear. Storyboards are seen quickly in succession so in the few seconds that a board is on screen, the character and the composition has to be able to be quickly grasped. As story artists have to churn out hundreds of boards in multiple iterations, it is important that there is economy in the drawings and is efficient. Digital tools have allowed artists to take advantage of the fact that not all drawings have to be done over from a clean sheet of paper but rather can be copied and have only certain elements altered. A step further is to limit yourself in what goes into a storyboard. They do not have to be incredibly and excruciatingly detailed but with simple of blocking in limited values (black, white, and a few grays in between) with a focus on contrast, a whole composition can quickly come together depicting depth and focal point.
Thinking about camera work also comes into play. Depending on where the camera is "placed" different types of feelings may be conveyed. A camera closer to a conflict is more intense while further away is clearer and is better used for static shots to set a scene. The camera can be moved closer towards a certain character, from over the shoulder, point of view, or a closeup to see reactions. To determine where the camera should be is to think about who's story is the shot telling.
For all of you story artists who are looking to creating a portfolio, Mike's advice is to make it clear. Start off with a written opening description to help setup what will be shown. Layout the boards clearly. A great way to show off a story artist portfolio is to have the boards in a video and be able to pitch through the boards. There is no need to have voice acting and sound and music attached, but rather you want to show a strong grasp of the boards and the story that they are telling.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Day Rob Minkoff, Alex Schwartz and Denise Cascino Chose Tea Time over the Dalai Lama; A Story.

Lana and George with Tea Time's brand new autographed Mr. Peabody and Sherman poster

In all of our time hosting the variety of honoured guests that we have, I must say, last night's event was quick to soar to the top of my favorites list.

After a month or so of planning, we were proud to host Lion King and Mr. Peabody and Sherman director Rob Minkoff, alongside producers Alex Schwartz, and Denise Cascino (Click their names to see their hefty IMDB repertoires) in a fantastic evening Q&A that I don't think I could have been more nervous for. Despite the fact that I've done this at least a dozen times by now, the time leading up to Friday night was disaster delivered by e-mail...

        "We've got a presentation we'd love to deliver about the animation development in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, provided the space can handle it!" I am told by the lovely and talented Kelda McKinney, my point person for Friday's shindig.
        "That sounds fantastic!" I immediately reply, "I've been to the space before and I am 98% sure that there is a projector there, so let's definitely plan on that. It will be perfect." To my dismay, we are quickly snubbed with the news that there is definitely no projector on the premises (it's a theater), and absolutely no way of setting one up as the stage is set for an upcoming play (which it wasn't). Good thing I didn't say 100%.

        "That's alright!" Says Kelda, "we can do this old-school and get some hand-outs for everyone to look at."
        "Great," I agree. "Plus then there's a take-home! It will be perfect."

Naturally, it in't too long until I hear back from her.
        "I'm sorry! There appears to be no hand outs available that we would actually be allowed to give to or show to the students." Needless to say I am a little bummed, but Kelda does mention that Rob, as a former Disney man and the talented artist that he is would be thrilled if he could do a drawing demo for us!
        "Well, that's wonderful!" I reply. "I've seen the school do this a few times. They set up an animation desk on the stage and everyone gets to watch the masters work. It. Will. Be. Perfect."

What next? Snubbed. Again.

         "We are unable to acquire the necessary desk/pen/pencil/paper for the drawing demonstration." I read through the palm on my face. At this point I'm feeling a little hopeless. "However, we can get you a whiteboard and some markers?" It will have to do.

I am quick to relay the news to Kelda who seems unfazed by what feels to me like utter despair at the lack of resources at my disposal (hint hint, TOWNHALL, hint hint).

         "That will do fine," she says.
         "Okay," I reply, "and the rest of the time Rob and Tiffany will talk about what it was like revamping the franchise into a modern film?"
         "Oh, that's right! Tiffany has been called away unfortunately and will not be joining us for the lecture on the 21st." My stomach sinks and all at once, a thousand advertisements reading 'ROB MINKOFF AND TIFFANY WARD' that we have had posted around the school for weeks begin spinning through my mind. I think my heart has stopped.

Luckily, I'm not left hanging long and Kelda tells me that we have some exciting replacements for Tiffany - two rather prestigious producers from the film.

          "Cool! And very relevant to many of our students' interests as well. The three of them will do a presentation on what it took to develop the film into the final product?" I ask.
          "Actually, I was thinking it could be one big Q&A. Do you think you'll have any trouble filling two hours?"
          "Nope!" I say, despite flashbacks of the Cannery. Room 301. 100 silent faces. "Two hours should be just fine." After having to turn town every other fantastic offer Kelda had extended, I don't want any further hiccups in the planning of this event. I am eager to please.

Jacob, Richard, and Kyle model all three flavours of Tea Shirt while waiting for the event to start

The day finally arrives, and the drama isn't over yet. Arriving at the theater, the signage I was promised directing patrons to the event is missing. It's 3:20 before the 4:00 start time and the doors are locked. After 10 or so impatient minutes waiting for security, I am finally let into the theater where I am quick to realize that I've forgotten my own Tea Shirt...after harping on others for doing the same...and the shirt I am wearing has been torn by my necklace in an unfortunate location. Naturally.

Morgan, one of Kelda's co-workers and another fantastic mind behind the execution of this event shows up shortly after...with signs! Hooray!

          "Good afternoon!" I beam, spilling my coffee as I go to shake hands.
          "Yes! Good to see you again!" she radiates back, and, indicating the signs, "where should I put these guys?" Before I can reply, she adds, "Oh! And I've got treats for you." Morgan quickly drops the variety of boxes, bags and foam core she has bundled in her arms and hands me 4 adorable pairs of Mr. Peabody and Sherman glasses complete with strap-on red, satin bowties for the Tea Time board to wear while presenting. I love it. Things seem to be looking up as the theater slowly fills. That is, until our guests arrive.

All of Tea Time filters in at the exact moment that Rob, Denise and Alex show up. Thus, the time I had hoped to have for a brief aside to discuss the rapidly changing game-plan with the Tea Time folk has vanished as I shake hands with Alex, then Denise then....Rob.

Now maybe it is just my nerves, but I am sure I've never seen someone look as displeased as Rob did upon arriving at the theater. He stares me down as we clasp hands, eyes wide, mouth locked firmly in a stern, subtle frown that seems to scream "Where is my drawing table?! Why couldn't you get a projector?! A white board? Seriously? That's the best you could muster for the director of your childhood dreams?!"

It takes every ounce of my courage not to run in shame. I put my best courteous smile on and say, "Lovely to meet you, Mr. Minkoff!" His reply is naught but a curt nod in my direction. "If you'd like, the three of you could feel free to settle in and take a seat at the table just to my left." Alex and Denise seem friendly enough. Still not a word from Rob. Not even so much as the hope of a smile. Internally, I panic.

Our stage complete with sad whiteboard

       "Mike! Jonathan! Mendel! Take these glasses! Team meeting!" But alas, I've spoken too soon... Rob, Denise and Alex haven't moved far enough away from where we're standing and must have had their ears pricked by the words 'team meeting'. All three immediately turn to join us in what I hoped to be our private huddle where I would explain the NEW new game-plan that I had thought up earlier that afternoon to the rest of the board.

       "Uhhh..." I stutter, not knowing how to approach the subject in an eloquent light, "So. You guys go on the stage and sit down." I repeat to the guests though they are clearly waiting to hear the end of the meeting, so I continue with, "We'll conduct a moderated interview for the first half,  and then open it up to the rest of the room for general Q&A for the second. Sound good?" Alex and Denise both chirrup a pleasant agreement. Rob, a very tall man, stares at the audience over our heads, silently listening, and, I assume, judging me. "It will be fun!" I blurt out, more for my own sake than anyone else's.

Finally, Denise, Rob and Alex make for the stage.

       "Okay, guys," I stage-whisper to the board. "Alicia and I wrote down a whole bunch of questions this afternoon and we thought it would be good to do a moderated thing at the beginning to keep the ball rolling before opening it to the floor, what do you think?"
       "Works for me," says Mike.
       "Yeah, sounds good," says Jonathan.
       "I can't see out of these glasses," says Mendel.
       "Oh! There's a film on both sides of them that you have to scratch off; I'll show you," I say and snatch Mendel's glasses and begin to fumble at the lenses. "Does anyone want to do step up and do the moderating? I will if you guys don't want to, but you can definitely do it if you feel up for it."
       "You can go ahead," says Mike.
       "Yeah, sounds good," says Jonathan.
       "Can I have my glasses back?" says Mendel.
       "Yes. Of course. I'm sorry. Great. Okay. Y'all know your roles. Let's do this."

Jonathan, Mendel and Mike are fantastic, I am struggling to stand upright through the shaking of my knees. After the schpeel, I walk to my seat, stage right of our trio of guests only to find sitting doesn't make it better. I nervously flip through my notebook of chicken scratch and try to ignore the feeling of Rob's eyes burning into the side of my head.

Messy interview notes

        "Um...Well.. perhaps you could start us off introduction? Who you are, where you got started and what you're doing now?" I'm tongue-tied and shaky like I'm talking through a mouthful of molasses while standing naked in the Arctic Circle. I look up at the trio of guests hopefully.

Alex speaks first. Powerfully. Elegantly. Denise is immediately both lovable and intimidating. Motherly kind of strong that knows how to get a job done. (or, as she will tell us later, the whip-cracker) Two strong women I can see myself looking up to.

There is a beat before Rob says anything and I feel my breath catch in my throat when he speaks: Booming, pronounced, and so....friendly! He's confident about his past work without even a hint of ego, and I can feel him immediately engage our audience. Before I can ask another question he goes on to tell us about a hitch in their own journey to get to us.
         "I'm sorry, I've just got to tell you guys this," he says. "We were just about to leave our hotel, it's very close to here and we knew it wouldn't be a very long walk, but when got down to the hotel lobby, it was absolutely packed with people; wall-to-wall!" He leans forward in his chair and I can hear the simultaneous groaning of the theater seats as all the students do the same.
         "Well, we didn't know what was going on, but we couldn't yet find a way to escape. We figured it must be some celebrity coming through...but you know who it was?" The audience simultaneously shake their heads. "It was the Dalai Lama."
The audience is tickled with laughter, but Rob cuts us off.

         "I'm serious!" he continutes "and you know what? Instead of hanging around and hoping for a chance to meet the Dalai Lama, we looked at each other and said 'we gotta go!' because we knew we were coming here to be with you."

Rob is greeted with a roar of joyful applause. I turn my eyes to all the Tea Timers in the audience and realize that Rob wasn't upset or displeased at all. What I took for a stern and judgmental man was really just all of my own fears reflecting back upon me. In fact, he's one of the more pleasant people I've had the opportunity to meet, though I didn't get the chance to speak to him candidly.

I look out at all the faces in the crowd and felt their enthusiasm building up the strength I needed to do the rest of the interview.

      "Well in that case," I say, "perhaps you like to draw us a picture?"

Rob draws us a picture as Denise and audience look on. Thanks Alicia for the video

Paraphrased by Lana Bachynski

As it was a simple Q&A, and not so much specific animation notes or tips or tricks, there's not really much I can provide by way of summary here, but you can find and discuss the rest of the 'story' in the event thread on our forums!

A big thank you to Rob, Denise and Alex. What an absolute pleasure! I could not have had more fun interviewing them, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Thanks to Becky Johnson for always having our back behind the scenes.
Thanks to Mike and Jonathan for rallying the troops at 180.
And a big thank you to everyone for your excellent, excellent questions.

Happy Animating, and we'll see you Friday.

Don't forget to join the conversation at
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Photos from the First 180 Meeting

I am so pleased to say that our first meeting at home was a smashing success. We put some of the animation newbies to the test on the principles, offered a helpful bunch of critique, and naturally enjoyed a heaping buffet of snacks and warm beverages. 

For those who were looking for the more in depth look at the 12 principles, you can find the link here:

Finally, here are a few images from the event:

The room filling as 3:30 fast approaches

Alvin tellin' it like it is to a full house

The last leg of critique

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Monday, February 10, 2014

February Game Developer's Drink Up

This Thursday is the second of the month which means it's Game Developer drink up night! Woo! Here's the text copied directly from the RSVP page:

It's that time, and we can't help but feel loved that you'll be spending Valentine's Day Eve with your local DrinkUp chapter. 

What better way to celebrate your passion of video games than with your local game development community! So, join us for a candle-lite evening of networking, tasteful libations from Twitch & raffles of surprises you'll hope to win.

When: Thurs., 2/13 from 8 - 11PM
Where: Dear Mom – 2700 16th St., San Francisco 94103
Raffle & 50 free drinks by Twitch

Some FAQ:

Do I have to RSVP to attend?
Nope! It just helps Warren and team get a good idea of what the numbers will be.

But what about the screening?
Yes, this is the same day as the Mr. Peabody and Sherman screening - but this is in the evening, so don't worry, you can do both!

I mean, I'm an <animator/modeler/lighter/rigger/texture artist>, but that doesn't mean I'm a "game dev", does it? Can I still go?
Not a problem! You don't need to have shipped a game to come to the event -- it would be nearly if it was only people who already had a job! This is a chance for you to rub elbows with people you might like to work with some day, ask a few questions, and - more importantly - have a few beers among friends.


Happy Animating and we'll see you there!
(Wear your Tea Time merch so you can find each other, too!)

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Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rob Minkoff and Tiffany Ward

On behalf of the 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation’s release of MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN, Tiffany Ward - daughter of creator Jay Ward - will be joined by Director Rob Minkoff to answer your questions on Jay, Dreamworks, and the creation of Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

In further news: The delightful people listed above have invited Tea Time to join them for a Press Screening of the Film well before its release on March 7th! Please join us this Friday, February 7th @ 3:30 PM in room 420 of 180 New Montgomery or visit for full details.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First 180 Meeting and Second Run of Tea Shirts

Okay, I know - it's no Nickelodeon raining amazing swag down upon us, 
but we're excited to be coming home! 

Obo and Jonathan wearing their sweet Tea Time swag from @TeaTimeAnimation on Instagram

We also announced at the Nickelodeon Panel that we will be doing a second run of Tea Shirts! Please bring $15 dollars cash to the meeting if interested. Men's and Women's both available. 

Happy Animating!

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Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Nickelodeon Animated Shorts Program


Sherley Ibarra - manager of talent outreach and development.
Jill Sanford - vice president of animation development

The past Friday, the Academy - in conjunction with Tea Time - was proud to invite Nickelodeon's own Jill Sanford (VP of Animation Development) and Sherley Ibarra (Manager of Talent Outreach and Development), to share with us what the Nick Shorts Program is all about and tell us exactly what they are looking for in 2014.

Nickelodeon's Animated Shorts Program was started back in 2012 to find and assist the development of a new generation of content creators (that's you). Now, going onto its third year, the program has seen well over a thousand pitches and produced a total of 22 shorts for Nickelodeon's website and app.

So, what are they looking for?
The Animated Shorts Program is looking for comedies that target children ages 6 to 11 with entry points for both boys and girl -- Nickelodeon feels that this demographic is right at the core of the company; they prefer to focus on making cartoons that are character driven, warm, and playful. They aim to be silly and 'smart funny', while still being immature (in the way it is to be a kid); Unique, exciting, and surprising stories with kid-relatable issues.

Nickelodeon is not:
Weird for weird's sake, excited by stories that are too traditional and safe, trendy (as it crosses over into the teen age group), or looking for stories that are oriented around gimmicks.

Interested? Here are some of the finer points:
Your pitch should be limited to two minutes, primarily in one setting, and with a total of 2 or 3 characters.  Materials to submit include:
  • Concept treatment (a writeup of who the characters are, what the story is about, and where the setting is)
  • Character descriptions - written/and or drawn with a preference to have both
  • 2 minute rough story boards or outline/script (more info is better)
  • Signed submission release form which can be found on the website
The short can be produced in any medium such as  2D, 3D, and/or stop motion. What is important is that the shorts must be comedic, character driven, and have kid appeal. You do not have to do everything yourself; the pitch submitted can be a collaborative project with people working on concept art, storyboards, character designs, etc., but ultimately, if it's your idea, you should bring the pitch yourself. There is no limit to the number of pitches that can be submitted and this program is open to everyone. Don't try to guess at what Nickelodeon wants to see. They want to hear your voice! Authenticity and uniqueness is what makes a story stand out and often times that comes from something personal. 

The deadline for submissions is March 14th, 2014. The winning pitches will be chosen approximately 2 weeks after the closing. Once the pitches are chosen, preproduction begins immediately with the goal of a  finished short by the end of the year. 

As the story creator, you will be working with Nickelodeon's production team to realize your vision and be able to give feedback and suggestions as the company seeks to support the creator. While working with Nickelodeon to produce the short, you will not necessarily be at the studio. There will be check-ins and meetings that may happen over the phone, Skype, or e-mail, but you mainly only shows up to the studio for key check-ins, such as voice recordings. While the 'gig' is paid, it is far from a livable wage. You should not consider this a full-time job; they will work around your schedule. (Of course if the short does extremely well and gets picked up for a series then you may have to reconsider your job at Starbucks.)

Don't be shy about sharing your stories! We know that it can be intimidating to think about how many other people are submitting ideas. Don't let the "they will never pick me" mentality take over. If you think that, probably everyone thinks that, and that means there are even less people competing and even better chances that you will get picked. Think about it.

Best of luck and Happy Animating! 
We'll see you Friday.

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Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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