Category Archives: personal

Are the new readers gone yet?

So, about a year ago, a few things happened. We bought a house. We moved to the suburbs. I started working on a new movie. Our kid turned two. And this blog ceased to exist. I’ll spare you the details, mainly because I don’t understand them, but it had something to do with a bad database, or gnomes, or sunspots. Maybe all of the above.

They say that being a parent really changes your priorities. What that means in practice is, you have an incredible excuse to be lazy about anything not directly related to your kids. Awesome! So the blog remained dead.

Then, last week, things got a little worse: the machine with the dead database crashed altogether, taking all of my web sites with it. Basically, the Internet forgot I existed. This was a little too much to take. So, I dug up my poorly maintained backups, found a new web host, and set to work making things right.

A lot of interesting things have happened in the past year, things I would have blogged about if I could have. So you might start seeing backdated posts popping up here and there. Be nice and pretend I really posted them on the “published” date, would you?

With the right teacher, school can be awesome.

Andy James works with Chautauqua students, including Shayla Malm, left, during a recent music class. Photo by Elizabeth Shepherd

My friend Andy James teaches elementary school on Vashon Island, a rural community a short ferry ride from Seattle. He’s got a real passion for teaching, and my conversations with him about it always leave me inspired. His latest project is no exception: faced with a new role as music teacher, he decided the thing to do would be to get the kids to compose, perform and record an entire album. And they did it. Not just any album, mind you: a concept album made entirely of original songs written by the kids, based on a South American folk story called “The Whistling Monster”. Now they’re selling the CD to raise funds for the school (and in the process help save Andy’s job, which like many teachers’ is on the chopping block). I haven’t heard the music yet, but if I know Andy it’ll be worth a listen!

The whole operation is pretty low-tech, so as of now you can’t buy the CD online. Update: Chautauqua Elementary School has made the CD available online! You can order it here in MP3 form or as a physical disk. Take a listen, and leave a comment below if you’ve got anything to say!

Dragon wrap party… in 3D!

Just got back from the wrap party for “How to Train Your Dragon” in Hollywood. At one point, a bunch of us animators were hanging out on the dance floor, and there was this line of people all taking photos of us at once. These two photos, by Jen Stern and Lilian Ku, must have been shot within a fraction of a second of each other. So I stitched them together into an animated gif. Check us out in 3D!


On the Value of Drawing for CG Animators

Last weekend I got to see a live interview with one of my all-time heroes, Hayao Miyazaki. He said, through a translator, all kinds of interesting things. When asked about computer animation, he had this to say: “One time we hired an expert to animate some scenes on the computer, but in the end we found that we could draw the scenes faster with a pencil.”

Now maybe this was his choice of words, and maybe it was the translator’s, but I found this response pretty revealing. It reflects a thought process about what animation is, in which drawing is central to everything. If what you’re trying to do is draw a scene, a pencil really is faster than a computer. But is that necessarily true? Is animation, at its heart, about drawing?
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Tropical fruits of Brazil

I’m in Brazil for a couple of weeks, Visiting family. My favorite thing about Brazil is the abundant fresh fruit, stuff you never hear about in the States. Shown here: figs, passionfruit juice, and atemóia, which is a hybrid between the cherimoya and the pinha. The flavor is sweet and wonderful and hard to describe, somewhere between a pear and a pineapple, and the texture is slightly chewy and fleshy like a lychee nut. I could eat these all day.