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 Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold.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!



Last week my wife did... stuff... to my computer. I think she put in a new hard drive? Maybe a new operating system? I don't know, she's the one who handles that kind of stuff. I just draw pictures, darn it.

All I know for certain is my desktop no longer has 1000 icons on it, my background is the Windows logo, and anytime I need my files I have to go to a new, scary drive called "F" instead of C. Also Firefox doesn't have any of my bookmarks and I had gotten so lazy that I don't even know the websites I used to visit automatically.


I suppose it's nice because it's a fresh start. All the digital clutter has been swept away, and if I use something then it gets added to my new setup and if I don't then... I guess it was never that useful to begin with. It's akin to putting everything you own in boxes and shoving them in some corner of the basement until two years later when, if you had never opened those boxes, you should just donate the lot to Goodwill and not even bother looking in them because clearly you didn't miss the junk within. (But then you stupidly open them and think "Oh! I can't get rid of THIS!" and it goes back in the box for another two years.)

So far I've moved the folder containing my book that's ready to be edited and a single image to use as my new background. This one:

For those who don't know, this is art from one of my favorite animated clips of all time. Hopefully when I see it daily it will inspire me.

I also created a new Animation folder because if Toon Boom doesn't have the files directly on the C drive it goes bonkers and corrupts your data. One of the few downsides of the program. Of course, I exaggerate a bit because when it would corrupt the files they were located in places like "C:/Users/JKR/MyDocuments/Art/Animation/Animationtests/Tuesday/imHungry/Pearswouldbegood" or something. That's probably on me for nesting it so deeply. Now, just to be safe, I just keep it in C:/Animation.

Change is hard.


Winter 2015 Q&A Answers

Last Friday I asked for any questions readers might have in order to answer them for today's blog update, so let's get right to it!

Jordo says:

Yay, Q&A! I guess I’ll keep it simple. How have you been? How’s life? How’s Q doing? I hope all is well. :)

I've been fine, thanks for asking! :)

I could probably go on for quite some time given the subject of "how life is" but I'll keep it simple as well. Life is good, I'm appreciating the time I have here and for whatever reason am currently extremely enthusiastic about rolling up my sleeves and getting some work done. Probably because it's been so long since I had an office to settle into for the long haul. Q is doing well (for those of you who don't know, Q is my wife) and since her appendix surgery last year it seems like she's been healthy and focused on work. I've been trying to get her to help with some non-work projects, but I feel bad about bugging her when she has so many deadlines at her actual job!

How about you? All well on your front in the cold frozen tundras of Ohio?

Side note: Since Jordo included his website in his login, I'm linking to it here should you like to stop by and see what's happening on his corner of the Internet.

Mike Hearn says:

Here’s a Q for you to A, my twitter debate partner: 2 3D mixed animation. It is VERY common place now. Every 2 show uses it for vehicle and the like. It has come a long way, but I still think it sticks out like a sore thumb. What do you think of it?

I think the combination of 2D and 3D animation is a great technological step for the medium. As you said, the issue is when they don't play nicely together. It's curious, because clearly it CAN work beautifully (Disney has used it fantastically over the years, and even in smaller budget projects like Futurama they manage to nail the blending of the two styles). One has to wonder, why doesn't everyone create this unity well? Why do some shows have it sticking out like a sore thumb, as you said?

I think partly it's because animators fail to understand much of the magic of 2D comes in the imperfection of the human hand. Computers are perfect (in the mathematical sense) so when they render something, it is exactly 100% spot on. Humans can't be perfect. (Which in my opinion can spark a wonderful, deeper discussion, but we'll leave that for another time! :) ) In order to properly blend 2D and 3D, the CGI done by a computer needs "roughed up" in a way. It needs to be imperfect so it blends with the rest of the lovely, hand-crafted imperfect animation around it. Many studios simply skip this step. As a result, you get the obvious 2D vs. obvious 3D without the appealing blend of both.

It's really important animators understand where 2D excels and where 3D reigns supreme. Both are great for certain applications, and rather lousy for others. When you use the strengths of each, and keep in mind the limitations so they can be blended well, that's when you can have a magical marriage of both styles.

Of course, in the old days before CG animators did the cars and complex ships or whatever by hand, and in my opinion they did a DANG good job of it. There's something to be said for the epic quality of CG water, for example, but give me the hand-drawn end sequences of Pinocchio any day.

Besides being my "twitter debate partner" (we have conversations that are much deeper than most people jam into 140 character bursts) Mike is also author and artist of webcomic Walter the Wicked, which you can see here.

Wegra says:

So what kind of animations will we see in 2015?

Are you asking in general, or specifically from me? :) I'll put the less egotistical answer first: 2015 is shaping up to be a very fine year for animation it seems. You have new films from Pixar and Dreamworks (more than one a piece), plus the Minions have their own feature and the CG Peanuts looks better than I would have expected. There will be plenty of other things from smaller (or at least, less known) studios as well. Hopefully the market doesn't get over saturated this year, because there are an awful lot of animated films on the horizon!

As for my own production, it really remains to be seen. I'm currently working on a short animated test that a fellow animator gave me as a challenge to show him my very best work. You see, I've never truly tried 100% at a finished animated clip, and we both thought it would be interesting to see where my skill level topped out. In the past I've been more concerned with either getting things finished (ie. Fred cartoons) or doing rough tests (like this one). This test will be a chance to put all my skill into play and see where I currently stand. I don't expect the drawing to be phenomenal (that's currently what's holding me back, mostly) but I am hopeful the movement will be pretty top notch. Guess we'll see! (The reason I've never tried 100% is because I have no use for a demo reel, which is where most animators will put things they make in order to show off their maximum competency. Since I have no use for a reel [given I own my own studio and am not looking for a job] I have never actually taken the time to polish something to "as good as I can possibly make it." This will be an experience!)

Beyond that I would love to say I'll have a new FtM cartoon this year, but I just don't know. I also may be working with Ferdinand on an animated short, but given that we want it to be full hand-drawn 2D of a high level, there's really no way to tell if that will be ready in 2015 or take longer. Hand drawn animation of top quality takes a LONG TIME. Much longer than you'd ever expect... Probably why so few people do it these days.

Plus I'd like to give another shot at the 11 Second Club one of these months. If I can manage to squeeze it in! Most of my time early on this year will be working on the book I'm finishing to publish and also really learning Toon Boom Animate Pro well. It's slow going, this animation thing I've chosen to dedicate my life to! :)

CJVanNice says:

Alright, I have a couple of questions for ya,

1. While Fred is on hiatus for a while, I’m interested what your process was for making the cartoons was. Did you have a vague game plan of what the next few episodes were going to be, or did you make them roughly as you came up with them.

2. Have you had a chance to watch the Netflix series VeggieTales in the House? While it’s clearly aimed for a young audience, the 3D animation is, in my opinion anyway, kinda impressive, using lots of squash and stretch and being usually quite fluid. I figured you might want to take a look if you haven’t already.

3. What was your favorite animated film you saw in 2014?

1. That's a terrific question! Most of the time I had a pretty steady plan for the general direction, and then added things as I went. For example, I know the general story of the next few episodes (whenever they end up being made) but if something else springs to mind I'll make a detour and do that instead.

Overall, my process was to come up with a joke of some kind and then build an episode around it. Sometimes I would have a storyline instead, and have to jam jokes into it and try to make it as humorous as possible while still sticking with the plot I wanted to put in. Almost all FtM cartoons started as a script of just text, and progressed from there.

Later on in the years I would do storyboards before jumping into the animation itself. This was a great change for me, because if you're going to do animation it REALLY pays to do storyboards first. Highly, highly recommended.

I also know how the series "ends." But alas, I doubt we'll ever see that episode because there are so many stories I'd like to tell with the characters first. :)

2. I have not! I don't have Netflix, so that's probably why, but should I have access to it this year I will add that to my list of things to check out. Thanks for the recommendation!

I do have several Silly Songs with Larry on my go-to playlist of random songs. "Endangered Love" just came on last week as I was cruising down the highway in the car. Speaking of which, I really need to add His Cheeseburger to my phone...

3. I'd probably have to go with The Lego Movie. Thoroughly enjoyed that from start to finish! Unless we're talking about ANY movie I watched, in which case possibly Lilo and Stitch for the 7th time. 😉

Actually I'm curious what other folks' answer to that question would be. So if you have a moment, let me know what YOUR favorite animated film was of 2014. It would be great for me to hear what and why as an animator, so while I work on my own animations I can keep these things in mind. No point in me making animations no one would want to watch, right?

Thanks so much!

I really appreciate everyone who wrote in questions so I wasn't just showing up Monday with nothing to answer, ha ha. I hope it has been informative and/or entertaining. I'd like to do this again, so perhaps in a few months when the snow melts I can do the "Spring 2015 Q&A" huh? We'll see!

In the meantime, it's back to the regular blog post updates tomorrow, which as a reminder go live at 12:01AM. (And as always, if anyone has questions or comments BETWEEN the Q&A posts, never hesitate to leave them in the comments, I read them all and check to see if there are new ones about 17 times a day. 😛 )

PS. In case you didn't know, it's Groundhog Day today so let's go eat a groundhog.



No Rest for the Weary Animator

Class is over. Long live the class!

Despite the fact that technically my Animation course is finished, we already have another homework assignment! For anyone continuing on to Animation 2 (which I most certainly am, it's been amazing so far) the next task is to take the "Ball on a Hill" exercise and replace the ball with the Flour Sack. After the second "bounce" the sack then sees something and has an emotional reaction. That's exciting because it will technically be the first piece of soulful, character-driven animation we've gotten to do, and that's my favorite kind of animation!

To get accustomed to the Flour Sack I decided I'd start with a simple test of the character moving a bit, so I could get a better feel for him before I start animating the actual assignment. And here is the early work for that test:

He'll just be swaying/dancing back and forth, but it should give me a chance to feel out a lot of poses and get comfortable drawing the little fellow, which should lead me to decide what "thing and emotional reaction" I want to go with. I already have an idea, but I'll admit it's much too complicated... Still, I would like to do it! So we'll see.

In other, slightly related news, I have been trying some Toon Boom Animate tutorials to once again attempt to learn how to do puppet style animation in the program. It has unfortunately crashed on me several times while I've been trying to use the undo feature. So... I need to figure out why or things are not going to go well. I can't live without the undo option...


Down with Flash!

After cheering for Adobe Flash (or more like Macromedia Flash) for a long time, I am now one of the biggest supporters of any-other-animation-program. Flash has become outdated and Adobe has no interest in supporting animators. So today we've got an editorial on Flash over at Animator Island, if you'd like to check it out!


Good News and Bad News

The good news is... Well, I'm sure there's good news, I just can't quite think of it at the moment. I'm alive, how about that. There's some good news.

The bad news, which is what this post is actually about, is that things are not going well on the front. The clock is quickly approaching October 1st and there's so much left to do (like learn an entire program) that having something animated for that day is highly unlikely. I was, however, considering doing a new FtM Podcast since that doesn't require me to know Toon Boom. So there, maybe that's the good news. I'm working on an FtM Podcast.

As such, I haven't asked for questions since the last one (which is what, two years ago?) so if you'd like to send something for the gang to answer please consider emailing it to Podcast@FredtheMon... well, you know the rest, and I won't type it so the spambots don't flood my inbox.

Now back to work I go so hopefully SOMETHING can get done in time.


11 Second Club Results

The voting has completed and my "Old Guitar" entry ended up taking 135th out of 299 entries, with a 4.03 rating. I believe that's one of my lowest scores ever, but truthfully there was hardly any ANIMATION in the darn thing, so it is fully deserved. Funny enough, I myself voted it a 4/11 which is classified as "Needs a lot of improvement." A long way to go! The good news is mine was definitely the only entry like it, so my experiment on "Do I have original ideas" was a success. Next time I can focus fully on the animation.

I doubt I'll enter for September since I've got Fred to concentrate on, but we'll see.

I ended up going to the emergency room to get my head checked, and they seemed convinced I'll be okay. I passed their concussion-check tests but am still left with a headache. I guess I'll take some Motrin.

Not much else to report, I'm off to work on the Fred model in Toon Boom now, and then I need to get a bunch of non-FtM stuff done today so that I can fully focus on getting things in order for October 1st.



First of all I'm really surprised at the number of people who thought last week's "All New Fred Character Designs" posts were serious. I thought I made them off-the-wall enough that no one would think I was actually going to DO those things. Clydex becoming a rap artist? Zombie Pip? Mr. Deutsch as a deadly computer program? I guess I didn't go far enough some how! To make sure we're all on the same page, yes there will be a new look to the cartoons come October 1st, but no, none of that nonsense is happening. The characters will be exactly who they were before, don't you worry.

Regarding those characters, my animator friend Ferdinand spent a few hours with me over the weekend showing me the starting stages of rigging characters in Toon Boom. Though I felt like my brain was going to explode (and now I seem to have trouble remembering people's names for some reason) it was extremely helpful and I absolutely love this program's potential. I can't wait to get everything in place and start animating with it. Though that is still a ways off.

This week I'll be trying to put together the actual Fred "rig" (what the puppet/model is called) and find out if I retained the information Ferdinand taught me. So far I think I know what I'm doing. Of course, we might have to redo it all later as we both learn more about the program, but for now I've got a good idea of what to do first.

In other news (though certainly not NEW news) I am not feeling particularly well, so any well-wishes and prayers folks would like to send my way are much appreciated. Several weeks ago I had a bad case of heartburn in the middle of the night, and I may have damaged my esophagus. I'm now on medicine to hopefully right the ship and heal up, but at the moment I'm feeling pretty awful, not being able to breathe well and my chest hurting/feeling tight a lot. It's rather miserable, and I'm trying to keep my spirits up. When you can't breathe, that can be tough to do.

So this blog post doesn't go by without a picture to look at, here is a drawing I did earlier. It is lifeless, but technically not terrible.

Alright, off to work! Distractions help me feel much better and ignore the lack of breathing well.



More FtM Futures

Again, not final models here, just getting colors and such in place in Toon Boom Animate so we can go in and make the models more easily. This is step 1, I suppose. A few of the colors are tweaked, but you wouldn't notice just by looking. They're subtle differences. I think Sceb might be a bit too dark here, but I could be convinced otherwise. I wanted to give it more contrast.

The Olympics begin tonight, and like it or not I will be watching 24/7 for the next two weeks as I live with someone who loves the Olympics. I don't mind most of it, but some events (speed walking) are not my cup of tea. I think I'm a bigger Winter Olympics fan, personally. Almost all those events are interesting.  Anyone else tuning in to any particular sport?