january , 2004
the flying sequences are coming together really well but still painstaking and boring to work on and no doubt boring for you to read about. i have been obsessively noticing birds everywhere i go now, and sat at the intersection staring at a flock of them swirl after evening bugs over the corner gas station, thinking about how difficult that must have been to animate. yesterday i was watching the big white herons by the bluffs and thought their movement didn't look quite right. back in school, deep into "lily and jim" i remember staring sleepless at people's mouths around town, thinking they all seemed 2-3 frames out of sync when they spoke.
for all of these moments i am still trading in months for seconds of screen time, and i think the first time i actually watch this film in full, all of these years will spontaneously catch up with me and i'll wither up and implode into a miserably shrivelled, mooing raisin creature. i don't know why mooing. i have been tempted to start writing the next film during all of this, which has been chasing its tail inside my head for years now but i don't think i'm ready to pull the trigger yet. i'm also not all the way sure it is the film to undertake next, or if i'd be better off hitting myself in the head with planks of wood.
meanwhile i am still looking for a new place to live. though according to the online mortgage calculators i can only afford either a one bedroom trailer home or an empty plot of land in santa ynez. and if i went for the plot of land i would have nothing left over with which to purchase a tent. the worst thing in trying to move is going to look at a total dump and saying wow i'd never live there in a million years and then finding out that you couldnt afford it anyway.
so for the time being i just broke down and bought a space heater. might i should invest in a new poster and move the furniture around and i'll be fooled into thinking it's new again. in two weeks becca and i will go telecine and fix up the trilogy stuff for the animation show dvd, as well as digitally restore "billy's balloon" which has never been done before. hopefully its original negative has not turned to leather and vinegar by now. i think i may be supervising mike's stuff for the dvd too as he's in busy production now on a new feature and is also rumoured to have fallen into a crevasse.
december 15, 2003
i flipped my hours around yet again the other night by staying up around the clock and am happily back now on daylight time. i am a circadian lab study. the sunlight is much appreciated, but it was easier to wake up later in the day because this unheated apartment is terribly cold in the morning. it's a daily struggle now to muster the courage to get up when you're cowering in the only warm spot.
the animation show is frustrating and i had to listen to two and a half hours of conclusionless business bullshit the other day on the phone and by the time i was finally off and out the door, it was already dark out here. things have been more difficult than they need to be and it feels like my head has had lots of walls in it.
some days i can whip through a bunch of animation at once but more often it's been a lot of slacking off and pacing around glaring at the desk and piecemeal and lack of fire again... the continued length of production is first to blame and i need to stop over-thinking certain bits or feel the need to pressure scenes just because i've been working on the same thing every day. basically i must not drown in the film. i tried to explain the thing to a friend and it came out as, uh, well it's kinda non-narrative and unlike anything i've done before, has no main characters, no major dialogue, it's the most difficult process of animating known to man with optical effects that i'm inventing as i go, i'm still not sure how it will end yet, i still can't come up with a title, and it's sort of about everything and nothing and it's now pushing 4 years in production... and i heard myself rambling and thought jesus hell just what am i doing, anyway. why can't we just make a simple film about an elf who loses his magic nut and he wrestles a dog or something and we all move on... it's always got to be so dense. i have been piecing through the second part of these flying bits now and decided i'd put the eyes on the animals in the wrong spots, so have been erasing and redoing all of their heads. i heard they captured saddam hussein yesterday, discovered him living inside of a hole in the floor of a farmhouse since april. also in his hole was a cache of animation equipment for a project he had been working on, alongside an art desk. saddam's pencil tests were described as "very promising"
december 1, 2003
have been working quite a while on a difficult scene involving flying animals. i've never had to animate flight before so i thought it would take quite a few runs to get everything looking right, but i seem to have kind of nailed it the first time through and was all proud of myself. getting the weight right is tricky. however i've since been having lots of unexpected trouble getting the rest of these characterizations down. they're not birds and shouldn't move like birds, however they need to flutter and preen somewhat bird-like and these are the sorts of very subtle moves that are taking me forever to refine. another big task in all of the final scenes is getting these animals moving in ways that nobody has ever seen animals move before but still keeping it believable.
so it's shaping up to be another month to get through 30 seconds of finished animation, which seems to be pretty par for course now on this awful, awful production of hate. i am meanwhile sorta getting used to having a camera on me while i do all this stuff though i'm not sure if footage of a very sleepy looking ape thing at a desk is going to thrill much. on a brighter note i've been watching a lot of movies lately which i've decided i need to do much more of. i also finally finished reading dan clowes' "velvet glove cast in iron" which was great, particularly the bit of the guy with the medicinal lobsters feeding out his eyes which i was kinda jealous of
november 23, 2003
"who'd have known such bubbles could come out of her urine?"
i think i'm almost healthy again. today i cleaned up, did the dishes, paid off some massive bills, took a walk, fixed internal animation show junk and i havent even started into the animation hours yet.
lately, maybe one of those things would have happened in a day, surrounded by much depressed simmering and sulking and some tentative, probing stabs at the art desk. i was battling a monsterous cold ever since we got back from santa fe. the last few weeks had this big black cloud sucking on my head, just exhausted and extremely dull witted and finding myself staring at things for "a little too long." then it moved into my chest and thumped and gurgled but i think it's finally through now.
to keep me distracted and give me something new to look at, i think i'm going to try shooting a little time-lapse thing documenting the animation of the new film. the footage i've shot so far is actually kinda neat. a 4 minute segment of it in-progress is playing already this week at an animation festival in italy.
about a week ago i had a dream that i was visiting the earth from another planet (mars?) in a little spaceship from which i was greeted by thousands of happy little waving people below. but i sadly hadn't any time to land or visit and soon had to fly back home to mars again, alone. and there ended the most stupidly-easy-to-interpret dream ever.
they are re-tarring the roads outside and it is all thick and smokey tonight, you can't really go out
october 26, 2003
i'm ok how are you
thanks for asking
i'm ok how are you thanks for asking
boulder was cool but we weren't there for very long. santa fe was desolate, freezing, dry. spent most of the time pasting pieces of my mouth back together with chap stick and staring at endless rows of bleak faux-adobe strip malls, auto graveyards, empty sodium light twelve lane roads. the highlight was seeing a cat ride around on top of a urinating dog in the planter box of the handy pantry parking lot. my electric razor malfunctioned and broke upon arrival and ground up my neck. rob unwisely ate a turkey melt in the ihop and later paid for it dearly. the weather only seemed to get worse every time we went outside until it was wind and piss at all hours. all of the young people we met had a permafrost look of shell-shock about them, very eager to move far away from all this one day and more than a little apologetic with the fact that post-show there was truly nothing at all to do in town but drink heavily in the hotel room and stare at slow motion rap videos on BET... by sunrise i'd somehow ended up tearing the smoke detector out of the ceiling and had vague memories of watching a really bad anne heche movie, too tired to change it or go to sleep.
so the show rolls onward and has its next sights set on a college tour, but the trips for me are thankfully over now for a good long time and i can bury myself in something warm here, listen to "i'll be your mirror" repeatedly and moisturize. i think i left off animating this sequence in a pretty good spot last week before the trip, finished a few very good designs that i'm looking forward to expand upon tomorrow. the scene in particular is getting a bit picasso mixed in with the nature documentaries i've been channeling and that's the best i can explain it. i don't even like picasso. it is one massive continued chunk of meat and potatoes animation through the end of this film. i need groceries and my clothes smell bad
october 16, 2003
trust to my lucky dice
my rusty pocket knife
milwaukee was vodka, butterfly rooms, giant ceramic road animals, a new friend, fried food, desperate maps, and iggy pop. minneapolis was piles of leaves covering deserted streets, a very bad hamburger cooked by brits, and a girl with a pretty stomach who removed my name from the marquee as soon as the film started.
rob and i have been renting the same unnecessary model of mustang on every roadtrip so it feels like we've been in the same car at all stops and sort of provides a false sense of home. i wanted to pull over and see something called robot world but rob wouldn't let me. even if it was closed it would have been nice to drive around the perimeter. mostly we see cows and trees. the guys in minneapolis said we drew their biggest crowd since peter fonda. the film had to play in mono at the little milwaukee theater but still managed to do ok and rob and i did the q+a in the dark with a karaoke amp. everyone was very sweet and there was much hugging. i forgot i rearranged furniture before i left and everything in here is now sort of disorienting, but cleaner. this trip really dug in its nails and it feels like i've been gone for months, or maybe all of the travel is starting to catch up.
i've been going through the animation where i left off for this sequence again and spending more time again revisiting older bits and improving upon them than i am forging ahead right now... this sounds frustrating but is actually a great load off with great moments of clarity to further shape the scene and improve, improve, improve.
i even had a moment on one of the flights and ended up designing shots on the inside cover of the inflight magazine.
the spider on my door is still there and i feel bad every time i go outside because my giant head ruins his web when i keep forgetting to duck. friday is the big santa barbara show which will be a nice easy one and then it's back to the airport
september 29, 2003
at home now for a spell and already back to inking. the premiere at the seattle art museum was a knockout... all things considered, venue, audience, Q&A, probably our strongest screening yet. was then straight off to the portland opening which was mikeís final scheduled stop on the tour, now deep in pre-production on his own new film. alcohol and Q&A's don't always mix but they sure make them less painful and it's too bad i will have to fly solo through the rest of these appearances and stream of interviews. mike has been very patient with doing the occasional voices onstage and even drawing stuff for the strange foreign women who wait outside our hotels, alongside the overweight sad sacks with "over 32,000 pieces of mint memorabilia," while i can tend to shell up a bit and try to disappear. in any case everyone involved with the premieres in seattle and portland were really on the ball for us and we may have found some new surrogate homes for the show. we also met too many great artists to list. everything up there looks and smells very much like san francisco, with more trees.
cheers to everyone who came to the screenings bearing gifts, to the homeless mexican in seattle who scared us with his golf club, to the taxi driver who told us, "it is better to be in a dream than living in a nightmare," and to the crazed woman on the street who said, "thatís a very lovely camera. take many pictures of nude people." however the NPR interviewer who opened with, "so you two sort of represent two really different aspects of animation. for instance, mike, youíve been really successful." ..... you i think iíll miss most of all.
at the moment i am just happy to not be living in hotels anymore and itís nice to be able to wash my hands without needing to unwrap tiny little foils from tiny little soaps with tiny little stickers every day. i'm not sure if i'm even going to bother unpacking this time. all of my clothes smell like airplane and cigarettes again. i have over 200 emails backed up waiting to be read which i don't think i'll be doing any time soon either. i think everything is going to have to sit until i have my head back. a spider cast a huge web over my doorframe while i was gone. i am getting real tired of my little apartment with its two little rooms so i think i am going to move some furniture around in one of them again this week so they look different
september 15, 2003
the travel and shows are going by quicker which is good on one hand but growing disorienting as i'm occasionally forgetting what city i'm in during sudden moments. actually it is not so much disorienting for me as it is for the other people in the area during said moments.
also my throat feels like it is starting to swell shut so i am battling something fierce in my blood that has caught up with me meanwhile, but managed to get thru SF talks ok and have set up temporary animation camp here in the bay area. also there is a really great used book shop here that i go to every time i'm in town and end up struggling out the door with armloads of oversized out of print art volumes. the last time i was in there an angry woman was hurriedly exiting, yanking a crying little boy along as she yelled, "i TOLD you this place was like a library!" and swatted him.
after i get back home i think i'll be popping in to one LA screening on friday and then it's straight off to seattle, portland, milwaukee, minneapolis, santa fe, boulder, mudville, hairtown, muleberg, catspoke, and assorted vicinities... the show has been performing well but i'm now learning of this endless challenge in convincing the press that we are not
only a release that's worthy of review, but that animation is worth covering at all. some cities having less luck than others in getting proper coverage and helping us set up our circus tent. please come buy a ticket to our miserable failure. though indeed the fewer interviews i have to do right now i have to admit the better. the last one i read was truly the worst of the lot so maybe my throat swelling shut is simply a clever psychosomatic physical reaction to prevent any and all further stupid conversations about things i have been asked a thousand times before in far fewer than a thousand interesting ways.
on an unrelated note i think every other ad i've ever seen on the internet now features a photo of some young person frozen in a joyous, mid-air leap that nobody ever actually does in life other than in other ads. always leaping on a beach or in a meadow and wearing some sort of billowing khaki number. their arms are fully extended at angles as though wrapping them around the world and their legs are bent at the height of the jump with their feet straight out behind them and they have this look on their face like the catheter has just been forcibly removed. somehow thus illustrating the overwhelming sense of freedom they now feel from being able to get faster downloads, or the new aol install disc.
there was a similar tv ad for a cable company in santa barbara.. the voice-over went on and on about the amazing new world of digital cable that is now at our fingertips, to a dissolving vaseline lens montage of children in a sunny little league field, newlyweds hiking a mountain, a group of multicultural skydivers hurtling through the stratosphere, but oddly not a single image of a drooling fat guy imploding into his ass in front of a digital television with his hand down his pants
have been watching a lot of movies with dream sequences. hitchcock's "spellbound" tonight and "dumbo" last night. "dumbo" is a really strange and brilliant film
september 10, 2003
though the sun didn't come out for the first three days, new york was beautiful. a week of rain, calling cards, giant sloth skeletons, girls vomiting on pavement, seven dollar orange juice and large mystery furred walking things rambling down the street in the fog.
we filled 108% of the seats in lincoln center thanks to the resourcefuls who were stuffed into the aisles, and reports of the show's screenings around the rest of the country only seem to be improving. i have a couple days now to catch up before heading to san francisco, though having the same motivational problems in settling in back to work on the film... trips really screw up this kind of work because you end up having to return days later to a scene you were right in the middle of animating and you lose complete focus on what was supposed to be going where, and why. i read how ray harryhausen had to learn to never even answer his phone when he was working because as soon as he returned back to his model he had no idea which hydra head was supposed to be moving in which direction anymore.
it also seems like the longer a process takes for each scene, the more i seem to over-cook things and self doubt and analyze it rather than just let it flow in one sitting, which makes me paranoid things might be getting stale and then over-work them to death again. i will be sure to bring along scenes to the bay area this weekend.. between stalling and bargaining i've just finished one more segment in this near-final scene tonight and now need to come up with another series of new designs and experiments of the next "nonhuman" characters in the film, through which i am on the fence about whether the entire sequence will play properly at all. the pencil tests are looking ok so far but it will need some tricky editing i think to get this pace going properly and the "is it good enough?" question never seems to go away... i think now that this is all 3-plus years in the making it's all this unexpected internal pressure to make sure the film is 3-plus years amazing, which is just the sort of thing that can squeeze the life and risk and soul from something like this if you are not very careful... what was a perfectly good scene within a 9 month project now becomes wracked and weighted down with additional judgements just because it's taken this long, so it had better well be perfect. i must finish this film. this stupid film. stupid stupid film.
as of a couple weeks ago, mars was no longer as giant and yellow in the sky as it has been but somebody told me that it was all just a "fraud" anyway. a phantom bleachy smell is fogging across my apartment at this very moment, as if on cue for something that nobody understands.
august 31, 2003
very tired tonight.. friday was thankfully the last drive i had to make to burbank for a long while and now the first round of finished prints are finally heading off to theaters. rebecca also finished cutting the trailer which i think is on its way out the door too. now comes a month and a half of solid travel and much press... have had to do a load of interviews this last week, all of them poorly... everyone asks the same ten questions and i am not clever enough to come up with new answers every time so i just end up mechanically repeating the same stuff. expect a big round of very dull interviews coming soon. this weekend getting packing for nyc, watching tennis and sludging away on the film. today i get to swim in the ocean though. bill plympton reports he is almost done with his new feature which will have a go at sundance. i almost forgot i did a voice a long time ago for a short scene in it with matt groening that should come out interesting to say the least
august 26, 2003
last night i dreamt i was playing this really beautiful music on a piano. it was a vivid and whirly classical piece that i'd never heard before yet it flew out of my head completely natural and i somehow knew every note perfectly. i've never written much music before but apparently i am brilliant at it in my sleep. something woke me up midway through all this at 5 in the morning but the music was still faintly playing in my head so i got up and desperately scribbled down all of the notes that i could remember because it was so amazing. i managed to get part of the melody transcribed but soon the more notes i wrote, the less i could hear them. then i went back to sleep and dreamt about clocks being wound backwards. when i woke up again later i tried to make sense of all of the musical notes strewn around the bed and recreate this music with my little keyboard but everything i tried sounded really awful.
today i read about a black woman who had to have her foot removed but the hospital only had white prosthetic feet to give her. they said the black ones cost more because they were "cosmetic" and the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. that's messed up. i want black prosthetic feet
the piano thing has frustrated me all day
august 22, 2003
the LA preview at the egyptian sold out and went real well... much excitement in the air, for me it was the first time the show seemed to flow together like a real feature. there were a couple of projection hiccups in the first reel - wonder why everyone's legs were cropped out in the intro? - but overall we're in excellent shape now heading into NY. rebecca has some work to do still in physically putting the show together.., complicated to explain but we're jumping through a couple hoops in making sure the prints will look their very best. because they're all coming from so many different sources, it's not as easy as just sticking all the negatives together.
in other news, after seeing it with audiences, i've decided to go and cut about 10 seconds out of the "intermission" cartoon to make it flow a little better. so you preview audiences in austin and LA have seen a bonus 10 SECONDS of footage that nobody else ever will. i'm going to cut it because, uh... it was just too amazing. yes, audiences were simply so overwhelmed by these 10 seconds that we found they could just not handle the rest of the program. so the intermission is a little slimmer and much improved... otherwise i've been back working on the new film, watching buster keaton dvds, and drinking a lot of wine.
am almost halfway through doing the final big character-animated sequence in the new film, a series of jumps in time spanning millions of years. then i have to design and animate a somewhat tricky opening title sequence, patch up the big outer space shot, and then come up with a series of additional outer space bits. cheers, more miserable optical effect photography. hopefully i can cruise through all this to the end of the year and work on post through next spring while starting work on a few new other bits and pieces for next year's animation show. tomorrow and monday i have to do five interviews. today i bought new luggage and a cowboy shirt
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