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 Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold.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



Ed Hooks (via Animator Island)

While at the FMX last week I had the pleasure of attending Ed Hooks' Acting for Animators class. Two classes, actually, and even then I feel like it could have gone on another 4 or 5 from there. The magic of Mr. Hooks lies in a combination of information (of the most valuable type) and frank, caring humor. Ed's class feels more like hanging out with a friend than a lecture, and it was brilliant.

I learned a great many things about acting in the workshop, some of which can be found here on Animator Island. I think the bigger lesson, though, might have come inadvertently from his teaching style. He was so personal and sincere that you couldn't help but be sucked into the topic. At one point we watched scenes from Chico and Rita, and as he played the end reunion scene he (and many others in the audience) sat sobbing at the beauty of it all. How many speakers do you know who get up in front of an audience and allow themselves to feel to the point of crying?

Another wonderfully surreal aspect was that whenever anyone got up to leave partway through (for the bathroom or to go to another lecture) he would immediately stop whatever he was doing and say "Where are you going?! Are you leaving?! Are you coming back?!" It felt like he really meant it, too. Now, he's an actor by trade (alongside teaching the subject) so it's possible it was just a persona, but I don't think so. I think he really wanted to know if they were coming back. He simply did it in an over-the-top way that made everyone smile. It was fantastic.

Amongst a sea of dry, power-point-filled lectures Ed Hooks' class was a real joy. It made me want to incorporate so much of what he does into my own presentations, to make them more entertaining, alive, and honest. He made me want to go teach others in a similar way, and share with the world a few hours of truth and goofy fun. The bar has been set, and I will judge future presentations I attend at the level of Ed Hooks.


Back from Germany!

Last week, while the blog was auto-updated with Gifs, I was attending the FMX in Stuttgart Germany!

Ferdinand Englander and JK Riki
I was invited to host a panel on "What Makes Good Animation?" at the event, as well as several other things. Well, I should say Animator Island was invited, of which I am part of (alongside Ferdinand, above). It was fantastic. One of the best trips I've ever been on.

After the panel my desire to work increased 100% so that I might be invited back to sit on similar panels and give talks in the future. The feeling was amazing, and after a brief taste I wanted more. I wrote a list immediately after the panel ended of possible workshops I could create for such conferences. I'm seriously fired up now, sitting back at my desk in Pittsburgh. It was a long trip and I'm tired, but in many ways it refueled my Creative Spirit and I'm anxious to get some things done!

I'll probably talk more about the FMX and trip to Germany in the coming days (with more photos) so stay tuned if you're interested.


Milt Kahl’s Advice

Today over at Animator Island there's a collection of quotes from the great Milt Kahl, who many believe is the greatest animator to ever walk this dusty planet of ours. It's hard for me to argue against (though I have a few others who at the very least tie for the top spot, in my opinion). You can check it out in full here:

One I wanted to talk a little more about is this one:

“They’re not terrible, but they’re not as good as they should be. That’s the trouble. People would rather be left to wallow in their mediocrity. They’d rather not be bothered.”

At one point in my life I'd have agreed 100% with the idea above. And even today there's a large part of me that sees the truth in this concept. Some people WOULD rather wallow in mediocrity (and misery) that put in the effort it takes to get out of it. Wallowing is easy, non-wallowing is hard. Hard things are hard, so why not go the easy route? Makes sense, even if I disagree. Wallowing will never be as joy-filled as striving and pressing on.

That said, I think there's another side of it now. The older I get, the more I find myself content with more simple things. When I was in my 20s, I was extremely gung-ho about changing the world. I was going to do it, get out there and make such a difference it would be unbelievable! I looked at people ahead of me in life and wondered "Why do they settle for such mediocrity? Why are they not trying harder?" It's a very "younger" attitude, actually. I learned that as I got older and my perspective changed.

See, it isn't necessarily "wallowing in mediocrity" all the time. Sometimes you just discover that focusing down a bit smaller and changing your priorities makes you feel more content, and you get more accomplished. My one time dreams of ending world hunger and building Disney-style themeparks (with a monkey in place of a mouse) have given way to realities of helping beginner animators as they take those first steps and struggle, and shoveling the walks of my neighbors on big snow days to help them out. What once seemed like insignificant little things, "wastes of your life" even, now seem a deeper, richer "life' than I could have imagined owning theme parks.

So I think Milt had a certain truth narrowed down here. A lot of people would rather not be bothered with being great. But also I think the one thing he missed when he was speaking on this topic was just how varied the definition of "great" is. To some, it's being the best animator in the world. To others, it's being an amazing dad, or a terrific neighbor. We each get to define for ourselves what greatness we want to shoot for.

Where he's most right of all is in the wallowing part. It saddens me daily when I watch people wallowing. Sometimes it's just that moment where wallowing happens, and honestly it's part of life. Some days it's time to wallow. But other times, much too often, it is a cycle that I see people spiraling downward into, giving up instead of working towards the other part of life that's out there to grasp: Joy and peace. I'm not saying it's easy, because boy is it difficult, but it is worth every moment of the struggle to get there.



New Year, New Reflections!

I love the start of January, because it means that wonderful time to reflect back on last year's to-do list and then plan the road ahead. It's a yearly tradition around here to share that bit of reflection and planning, so let's get to it!

Some Goals I set in January 2014

  • Complete New House and Move In

Status: SUCCESS!

Woo! After over a year of renovating and hard, manual labor, we've returned the new house to "livable" condition and are now in and settling. There are still so, so many things to do of course, but we plan to stay here a while so there's plenty of time to put them off until it's time to sell the house and then do them all and wonder "why didn't we do this sooner?" Because that's how it works when you own a home.

  • Studio Technique Animation Class

Status: Success and then some!

I took Animation 1 over at Studio Technique last year (good gracious, it feels like five or six years ago...) and it was wonderful to get back to animating on paper traditionally. I learned a ton, and refreshed on a lot of stuff I knew before, and was so enthralled I proceeded to take Animation 2 and Drawing 1 and 2 as well! Next up: Drawing 3, hopefully starting in March.

Status: Pretty Much Successful

With only a few late updates and some time off in September for a trip to Florida to hang out with Ferdinand in person, we managed to keep new things appearing at Animator Island at least once a week for all of 2014. It's a lot of work, but I love the work. I adore helping people, and I adore animation, so helping people with animation? Little slice of heaven right there. Hard for me to think of anything else that might describe "dream job" in my life. Plus having such an amazing co-editor-in-chief who is consistently positive, creative, and a terrific friend makes things wonderful every day I sit down to do work.

  • Launch FredtheMonkey Shortcuts

Status: Sadly, no

FredtheMonkey Shortcuts was an idea I had when I realized the main thing holding me back from doing more FtM cartoons was "plot." I'd come up with cool ideas for single-serving jokes and situations, but then I always had to pad them with actual plots to make full cartoons. And at one point I did that because I felt I "had to" only to finally come to terms with the fact that I was the only person making such a rule up. Why not just produce the little hilarious jokes by themselves? Hence "shortcuts." Each cartoon would be only a handful of lines, and that would be the end of it. I wrote a bunch, storyboarded some, but thanks to my lack of learning Toon Boom (I was busy with house stuff and class) they were never fully made. I'd still like to do this in the future, though!

  • Fully Read Through the Entire Bible

Status: Slow going but not complete

In spite of my faith being pretty much the most important aspect of my life (there's not much I'll be taking with me when I leave this world besides it and the lessons I've learned here) I have never read straight through the Bible in one effort. This is probably because for most of my life I didn't understand what was happening, or the language used. Now that I'm in a place where so much makes so much more sense to me, I started tackling the whole thing from page 1 verse 1. It was going pretty well, but then I stumbled in Exodus as we hear description of the holy tent for about three dozen pages... It makes a good point, with plenty to draw from, but since I mostly read before bed, I tended to get tired quickly. But I'll keep at it, and maybe this year I'll progress further along with a bit more speed!

I had some other things as well, including working on the few books I've been writing for a while now, but most of the other projects took a backseat to the house and animation class. And taking care of my wife who had both mono last year and a ruptured appendix. Not fun. Glad she's okay, though, and hopefully 2015 sees her consistently healthy!

What's on the docket for 2015, then? That list will have to wait until Monday, so stay tuned!



A Roundup of “It All”

Hey folks! What's up? Been a little while since I posted to the ol' blog, so I figured I'd catch up with what's been going on in my little world.

For starters I've been having some weird breathing problem for the past few weeks that only seems to be getting worse, so after trying a few medications I'm headed to the hospital tomorrow for some tests. No idea what that's about but it's been extremely annoying. I can breathe, but it's difficult and sleeping is a nightmare every single night. So hopefully we can figure this out and move on from it.

The new house is coming along, though there's still SO much to do that I feel like it's never going to be done. Eventually, I'm sure. Especially if I can get my energy back from whatever is inflicting my health.

Animator Island continues to be updated, and we're getting closer to the launch of a few new videos over there, so I hope people will stay tuned to that. This article has skyrocketed in popularity for some reason, so if you haven't seen The 25 Fastest Ways to Fail at Animation feel free to check it out. I sure have learned a lot of ways to fail at animation over the years. 😛

Speaking of animation, I'll be hopefully starting another class in May continuing on at Studio Technique, and progress further in my journey to do great traditional animation. Also going to take a Life Drawing class, because it's been a decade since I took one of those and it's about time again.

I haven't done anything Fred the Monkey related in a long while, but I still would like to continue with that at some point. Can't say when, though, because I have zero idea. I did a few voices just playing around with some lines today, but unfortunately whatever is wrecking my lungs seems to be messing up my throat too, so I can't even manage most of the characters at the moment. Gotta get this taken care of...

I think that's about it, then. Seems like not a lot new/going on, though life continues to just roll right down the road and overall I can't complain. I've been trying to stop by animation forums and websites and help folks with critiques whenever possible. I really enjoy doing that sort of thing, makes me feel good about not just wasting all this studying I've done (since I'm not putting it to much use on my own work at the moment).

Hope everyone else is doing well! Anything new going on?



Happy April 1st!

First of all, there is a new Homestarrunner cartoon. No, I'm not messing with you. Serious.

It made me smile just as much as the old ones did, like they never went away. I'm glad they didn't just abandon it forever!

As far as myself and April 1st, I've chosen today to announce a huge project I've been working on with Ferdinand via Animator Island: Our own online animation school. Yeah, I know, it's pretty exciting. We've got the promo video for it out now, and enrollment starts immediately, so if you're interested, register ASAP. I have a feeling classes will fill up quickly!



New House Get

Well I officially have a new house, and all the work that comes along with such a thing (especially when said house falls concretely into the "fixer upper" category of houses). I also spent the last week and a half sick with the flu, which is never any fun. I tried to actually spend my time in bed getting rest so it would go away faster, but I'm not sure how much that helped. Oh well! I appear to be on the mend now.

Over at Animator Island we're doing another Giveaway, so if you're interested in this book:

I highly recommend you follow this link and answer the giveaway question! A winner might be you.


Yo Momma Animation Jokes

Today at Animator Island we've got a collection of amusing Animation-related "Yo Momma" jokes. If you're an animator, you should check them out. If you're not an animator, feel free to stop by but frankly you're unlikely to understand a single one of them because they are all pretty inside-jokes.

In other news, Friday we closed on our house so that project is officially over! Hooray! It only took four years longer than expected. Now it's on to look for the next house, but first we have to figure out what price range we can afford. The money we made fixing up the previous house will allow for a larger down-payment (which is why we did it in the first place) so maybe we can start looking for a more long-term dream house instead of another short-term one.