Life, Art, and Monkeys


Well, given how infrequently I update this ol' personal blog, I think it's about time I moved things over to permanently. It's updated every Monday, after all! Plus I'm going to be upgrading it in the next few months to include links to other spots I hang out online, such as my new digs at Instagram. If you're looking for me in the meantime, check over here!

Zipping over to!


Past Archives Begin Here

Caution sign
Please note: Posts here older than June 24th, 2015 should be considered officially archived. I am not removing them, but in the ten years that I have been writing on this blog I have changed a great deal. Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold. These things tend to happen as you grow and live life. Or at least, they hopefully happen as you try to become a better person as you age! I just want readers to be aware of that, so that if you decide to go poking through history you will know that it doesn't necessarily reflect my current or future views. :)


If you'd like current thoughts and posts, please visit for regular scheduled updates that provide better insights and information. Thanks!


I don’t have a demo reel

When you work for yourself, there are a few "industry standards" that you really don't NEED. For example, I have a college degree. The things I learned at that school were very helpful to me. What is not in any way helpful is the piece of paper that says I have a degree. My boss is not impressed. (Yes, that would be me.) Also unnecessary is a resume. I'm pretty good at resumes, too. Once I convinced a company that I had experience "Leading an improvisational acting troupe of youth members" when what I really did was play Dungeons and Dragons all the time. It's all in how you say it, you see. (And to be fair, I wasn't lying or anything. That's what D&D IS, just improv in a weird format.) I probably wouldn't make claims like that outside of a written resume, though. That's the art of the resume.

Likewise, when you work for yourself there's no need to go woo your potential employer, which is a big reason that animators make demo reels. For those who don't know, just in case, a demo reel for animators is a collection of short animated clips that they've done to show off their skills and hopefully get companies to hire them. Here's a really cool demo reel I came across the other day. (It's a little long for my tastes, could have been edited down to about 2 minutes instead of 4, but that's a personal preference thing.) My favorite part is the cat at marker 1:46, and the guy at the end beat boxing about chess club.

The problem is, I've been helping to critique a lot of younger animators' demo reels recently, and it's made me extremely jealous. Not of their animations, per say, but of the fact that they have demo reels at all. I want a demo reel! I want to show off!

The issue with that, of course, is back to the fact that I don't NEED a demo reel. A demo reel would get in the way of my job that I already have. They take a long time to produce if you want it to be great (unless you already have animations to put in it, but I don't have anything good enough for a reel right now). I would very likely obsess over making an amazing reel, and not just put in animations I've already done that I'm not completely happy with. Since it's unlikely I'm EVER completely happy with an animation, that also means it would never truly be done. Which is probably why most animators just put in work they've already done.

The closest thing I have to a piece I'm almost content with is my Captain Head Turn and Reaction that I did at school. I spent about five weeks on it, and it's still not done. But it's closer than anything else, most likely. It needs a bunch more inbetweens and a few other parts cleaned up, but it would be demo reel content at that point. I also rather like the animation in Operation Old School where Sceb lassos SC and grabs the time travel device. That also needs work, but is much closer to something I'm truly proud of animation wise. Oh, and maybe the "SC removes his helmet" thing from Blast to the Past. I'm very pleased with that shot.

Anyway, I guess this is just me venting (and probably secretly hoping I'll get a thousand replies from every Fred viewer saying "Oh JKR, go make your reel! We don't care, we'll watch FtM reruns!" *cough cough* But I don't really want that. I want to work on FtM stuff too). Seriously, though, if I work on a few off-hours projects as I plan to, like the 11 Second Club animation, I think I could put together a decent enough reel even if it wouldn't be up to my highest standards. And I'd like to do that at some point. Hopefully...

Oh, and today's sketch is of Mr. Ron Swanson, the Chief of the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee Indiana!


And so it is completed!

Yesterday I said farewell to my animation class, tears in my eyes. Not literal tears, but I was still sad to see it go. It's taking most of my willpower to not run right back next semester and do more. I REALLY want to. So, so much. First, though, Fred. Fred needs work, and if I can't do both, then school has to go!

For my final assignment, we had to create a walk cycle for our characters. A simple 16 drawings (though you'd be shocked how many people failed to do it correctly, which I really don't understand) in pencil just like the rest. For me, this was a chance to go out with a bang. So, unknown to my teacher and classmates, I did all my drawings and then scanned them in, inked them, colored them, and added a scrolling background in Flash to completely win the competition of "Best of Show!" A competition which, by the way, I am probably the only one competing in because I want to be the best in class. It's been a looooong time since I had that sort of competitive drive in school. I actually used to be that way in Elementary school. Straight A's, top of the class, full marks. Then in high school I just stopped trying (which I think was because I just wasn't challenged much anymore.) Anyway, it was fun to be back in top form.

You can check out this lovely bit of animation on YouTube now. I'm pretty proud of it. It's not perfect, but I could sit and watch it for hours. It's fun to stop and think "I created that out of nothing." Hooray for animation!

Now if I can just master drawing Fred the way I have the Captain, I'll be in great shape. Practice time for me.


September 2010 Q&A with JKR

Firstly, a very merry Labor Day to all those who celebrate it. One of these years I should probably learn why we have a holiday called Labor Day. I'm sure I was taught about it in school many moons ago, but I certainly don't remember.

Now on to the Q&A!

"My question, have I been banned from the blog, and why?
Yes, I’m aware that if it was true, you wouldn’t be seeing this."

JKR says: I don't believe you've been banned from the blog, but in the event that it appears that has happened, you can always send an email via the contact page at and I'll try to fix the issue.

"Dear JKR, what do you think of Telltale’s new poker game?"

JKR says: Dear Papytendo, I think it's a brilliant marketing strategy that involves the highest level of selling out, and I'm thoroughly jealous I can't get Fred into something like that! Honestly, I don't expect a lot out of it, but it's a fun idea, and one day it would be cool to do something like that with other artists. I do love me some cross-overs.

"Who is your favorite author? Artist? Composer?"

JKR says: Wait a minute, that's THREE questions! Though I guess I didn't specify 1 per customer or anything, so that's fine. My favorite author is James Rollins. Artist? That's a tougher one because I don't necessarily like one "artist" over another, but more so their works. I have not found an artist that I've loved 100% of the work of. That's the nature of art. I am a very, VERY big fan of Glen Keane. And finally, for composer I would have to say either BDDB or George Gershwin. Gershwin because of Rhapsody in Blue, and BDDB because I need to butter him up so he'll do some music for Fred's upcoming 7th Season.

"Dear JKR,
When’s Homestar Runner– I mean Fred the Monkey coming back?"
-Optimus Prime

JKR says: Alas, I wish I could give you a date for Homestar's return. Sadly, it appears it very well may be in the "never" category. I personally believe if we don't see a new Halloween cartoon from them this year, it is very unlikely they'll ever return to Homestar. Which seems odd, not giving him a proper send off. Still, from one Flash animator to another, I know the pressures of the process, and after taking almost a year off without any word, I don't think they'll return. Which is sad, but at least they had a brilliant run and we have a ton of cartoons to still enjoy that they created.

As for Fred, he shall make his glorious return on a certain "anniversary" of a particular occasion. Catch my drift?

"What is the meaning of life?

…Just kidding. Real question: What is some of your favorite manga/anime? Or even Chloe’s, since she seems to like it so much."

JKR says: The meaning of life, I believe, is something that needs to be discovered for each individual on a personal level. I can't just tell you what it is. I know what it is in my opinion, but it wouldn't mean as much if you didn't discover it yourself. Good luck!

Also, Cloe is spelled Cloe, not Chloe. So many people spell her name wrong! I know why, of course, but still. My own favorite manga is Hunter X Hunter. Though the artist of it goes on hiatuses more often than I do! And for longer. Years at a time, he'll stop. I cry. Runner up favorites include Maison Ikkoku, Prince of Tennis, and One Piece. Cloe is a huge Naruto fan, and wants to be a huge Bleach fan but she hates how things drag on and on with no real story sometimes. Just fight fight fight fight fight. She really liked it in the beginning, though.

"how many pizza rolls can fred put in his mouth at one time?"

JKR says: Some of life's questions may never be answered... Still, I fear if I ask him he'll feel obligated to find out. (And by "obligated" I mean it will give him the idea to try and he'll probably choke to death in the attempt.) If I had to guess, I'd say about 10. The smaller ones. They have these new "Super Sized" pizza rolls, and then all bets are off. Those things aren't nearly as good, though.

"Would you ever like to see your own characters in a commercially produced video game? And, if so, what Genre?"

JKR says: A Poker game! No, I'm just kidding. I would indeed love to see the Fred crew in a "real" video game, however I would probably drive the developer crazy with all the things I'd make them do. If such a game were to exist, I would want it to be of the Adventure (point and click) or low-level RPG variety, because I think the charm of the characters comes from their interaction. Something like a fighting game wouldn't work. They would need to have conversations, so I think an old school Adventure game would be perfect. Also, 2D. None of this 3D nonsense. NONSENSE!

As far as other characters of mine, I think the Kingdom Blue gang would fit perfectly in a side scroller action game, and the Captain was actually DESIGNED to be in a game, so I wouldn't talk more about that right now.

"What’s your favourite CD?"

JKR says: Like artists, I don't have one particular favorite CD. I like random assortments of songs when I listen to things. I don't know if I own a CD where I like every single song. Some of my favorites, though, include the Annimaniacs soundtracks, the soundtrack to Charlies Angels 2, and the artists Switchfoot, Relient K, and Bare Naked Ladies.

And there you have it. Another successful Q&A from yours truly. Want to chime in on the answers, or answer some of these questions yourself? Post a comment. I'd certainly enjoy hearing about what other folks' favorite CDs and Manga are, or what y'all think about the fact that I let slip when FtM will return. Finally.


The final version of the head turn FOR REALS!

Well, I know I said in the description on YouTube that I was putting aside my head turn, but I just couldn't leave it alone! However now I think I can finally accept it as "complete" and move on for good. It's nearly exactly how I wanted it to be when I started the timing sheets and key frames for it. Yes, there are still a few nagging issues, but I can honestly say I'm happy with how it turned out. Next up, adding color! (Okay, maybe not.)

See the actual regular sized version by clicking here.

Yesterday I spent a good eight hours in the animation lab, drawing away. It was bliss. I probably had a giant smile on my face the whole time, I don't know. When I looked at the clock at one point it was 3PM, and then I looked up again a few minutes later and it was 6:30. I couldn't believe it. I kind of felt guilty, because it's SO much fun that I felt like I should be doing actual work. It was like I was goofing off. Man is this the job for me!

The next animation I'm working on will be an actual cartoon short. Very short, but still, it has a beginning, middle, and end. It's like an animated joke of sorts. I hope people enjoy it, because it's going to take me WEEKS of working hour after hour in the lab. Unlike good ol' Flash where I could have it done (looking less pretty) much quicker. But there's just something magical about drawing it all by hand on paper. It's quite like breathing life into the pages, and I adore it.


Whoops, it’s Saturday!

I was at school animating so long yesterday that the hours flew by and I didn't get to update the blog! Oops. Sorry about that.

I can at least share one of the things I was working on, which is the new version of the Head Turn Test I posted on YouTube. Sadly, it's not the way I want it but I'm going to have to walk away. I have a new project due in just a few days, and it's not NEARLY close enough to being done to continue working on this head turn. Ah well, tis the life of an animator with deadlines I suppose. It could have come out worse. I'm not entirely unhappy with it, it's just there are a few key issues I'd like to fix. Guess it's too late now. Grumble grumble.

The next project is about 100 times more complicated than this one, and I'm looking forward to being in the exact same position I am now because I've clearly bitten off more than I can chew with the next one too. Assignment: A pitch with anticipation. Nearly the whole class: Baseball pitch, nice and simple. Me: A tennis serve, complete with pre-serve ball bouncing and reaction after the motion is complete.

Why do I do this to myself?


A new animation awaits you

Taking a pleasant stroll on over to the FredtheMonkey YouTube Channel will net you a look at what I spent the last two week working on. It's a short animation starring the Captain from the previous blog post found here. It's taken me forever, but don't blink or you'll miss it! I personally am pretty thrilled with how it's coming along, and also with how much I'm enjoying the process. If I wasn't out to change the world, I would absolutely find myself a 2D animation job, get paid for it, an-d do it every day for the rest of my life. But alas, I have a higher calling than that. Hopefully I'll be able to mix the two in the future. (Also, I added a category on the blog for the Captain. I think we'll be seeing more of him in the future.)

Speaking of animation and the process, it appears that this autumn may be the last of my return to schooling, as there is one major 2D animation class left that I want to tackle. After that's done, it looks like it will be time to return full-time to work. However while I'm taking that final class, I plan to do a few smaller updates for Fred. Anyone miss Mailbags? I do. I want to make a new one in the coming months. At the very least.

Of course, the curriculum at the school changes often, so there's no saying they won't add another class I'll try to take, but regardless I think it's about time to get back to work on things. I miss it dearly. And now I have SO many new techniques that I can't wait to try in Flash. I've created an insane amount of more work for myself, but the end result should be beyond anything I've done in a Fred cartoon before. I'm excited to give it a shot.


Introducing an ALL NEW CHARACTER!

Meet the Captain! Though it's slightly premature (and by slightly I mean COMPLETELY) to be introducing him, this is what I've been working on for the past few weeks. When we needed a character to animate for class, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and use him for my projects! It's win-win. Except for the birds. Sorry, birds.

I know what you're wondering. "JKR, how did you come up with such an AWESOME CHARACTER EVEN THOUGH I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HIM BUT STILL HE'S CLEARLY AWESOME?!?" Or maybe you're actually wondering if this is for FtM. I would probably wonder about the FtM thing first. To answer that inquiry, no, he is not in fact for FtM. "Then... wait... why did you make him? You aren't starting ANOTHER series that you'll neglect, are you? You better not be or so help me..." Um... I, uh... No, I... I...


Not really, though. See this is for a different project I'm working on, that isn't a series or anything, but a one-time deal. It won't be replacing Fred or taking over for the never-updated Kingdom Blue. It's just a single-shot project that I'm enjoying trying out. The good news is that when it's done, everyone can enjoy it! It will be released publicly, and I'll be sure to post links here once that happens. WHEN that happens, who knows. Could be years, could be tomorrow. It absolutely could NOT be tomorrow, because tomorrow would be an impossible deadline. But still, sometime. Hopefully. I'm not trying to build hype for this, by the way, I'm just talking about it because it's what I'm working on. Sharing, is all.

Also on the "What You're Wondering" list might be "Why are there a dozen different versions of him in a bunch of colors?" Well the answer to THAT is that I have no idea what color direction to take him at the moment, so I tried out a bunch of schemes to see what worked and what didn't. I don't think I've found quite the right one yet, so I'll keep experimenting. While we're on the subject, though, which do YOU like? Leave a message in the comments and let me know, would you? It will help me get an idea what other folks think.

Have a great weekend, everybody!