Life, Art, and Monkeys
27Mar/13Off

What exactly is going on with FredtheMonkey.com?

I woke up this morning to an email from Jonathan. The subject was "What exactly is going on with FTM?" Here it is:

I recall a very long time ago (I can't even guess when) you stated you were on a hiatus to learn this new program to make FTM with. But I haven't seen much updating about how that is going, is FTM dead or do you plan on picking it back up at a later date?


I'm glad he asked, because I've done a rather poor job of explaining it. Not completely ignored it, but I could have done a much better job. So let's do a better job now.

For starters I want to make note that in the past I did a TERRIBLE job at keeping people posted on what's happening behind the scenes. During Seasons 4-6 (I think) in 2006-2008ish I would disappear for months at a time and not say a word about what was happening. It was because I was afraid of upsetting people, and the longer it went on the more afraid I became because things were only compounded by every day that went by un-updated.

Then a few years ago I was privileged to taste the other side of something like that: Homestarrunner.com stopped updating with no word to fans.

It was awful. Every week you wondered if they'd ever come back, but you just didn't know. And after a few weeks of that (which has stretched to years) I vowed never to do that again to Fred fans. It was too painful on the fan side, and I hadn't realized that until then.

I've updated the blog with what I've been up to in order to keep people up to date on what's been happening. However I realize now that not everyone reads the blog daily, so that means you have to post any of the biggest news front and center on the website itself (and Twitter, and Facebook, and where ever else people might stop by!) so that's what I'm doing today. Let's talk about what exactly is going on with FredtheMonkey.com.

What WAS going on with FtM

Jonathan, you're right. A while back (summer of last year, if memory serves me correctly) I discussed the hiatus in order to learn Toon Boom Animate for future Fred cartoons. My plan was to spend a few months learning Toon Boom, rigging the new character models, and then relaunching the website on October 1st 2012. That did not happen (obviously). Here is why: Rigging took a lot longer than expected. Learning Toon Boom was much harder than expected. I began my first Studio Riki short in earnest, and it took up 100% of my working time. Then things continued to be delayed as I started an apprenticeship to begin to truly understand and master drawing. Please understand those are reasons, not excuses. If I worked harder, I could have done it all. I did not work harder, and so here we are. That is on me, and I take responsibility for that. On top of those things, I had an experience last year that changed my reality from top to bottom. When you go through something like that, things are different afterward. Things don't quite line up with how the world worked before, and going back to how things were seems very difficult. So every day is a new experience for me, and has really made long term plans a strange thing to consider in some ways.

What IS going on with FtM

Now there is a slightly different plan. And I use the word "plan" loosely because every day that I live I see more the foolishness of laying out complex plans. Life is too unpredictable. That isn't an excuse, that's merely what I've discovered. And it's something that sets me more and more free every day. Perhaps I will write an entry about that later, for now let's get back to FtM.

The short answer is: FtM will continue.

The long answer is: FtM will continue in some form which I currently have little idea what will be or when will happen. I am still currently working on my own personal art skills to try to improve. I'm not content with where I am now (or have been for the past 30 years). I've been coasting. I don't want to coast anymore. Life is too short and big and powerful and interesting to coast. I'm also still working on the Studio Riki short, so that is a big project. Plus there's that "life" thing that happens outside of just work, and it's deeper and more involved than ever. I will not say this is what will happen, but this is what I'd LIKE:

I would like to learn Toon Boom along side my drawing instruction and Riki short. After I am comfortable enough to function with it, I would like to build a backlog of cartoons and updates for FtM so that I can set them to automatically release on a reasonable, regular schedule. I have been at this for almost 10 years, so I know fully well that if I do not do things this way then updates will be missed. No matter how fired up I am at any given moment, there will be times when I'm not as fired up and that will cause delays. I do not work well "running behind" so to speak. So I would like to do updates in advance and have technology give them to you on a set schedule. That way no one is wondering when there isn't something new after I said there would be.

What is the likely hood of this happening? As things sit right now, great. Because I am in a fired up state and really want to accomplish it. Read the above paragraph, though, and you'll know as well as I do that saying that is rather meaningless. So I'm sorry, the only real true answer I can give is "I don't know." It is possible that will happen, or possible that something else might happen instead. The one certain thing is that there WILL be a continuation of FtM in some form at some point (so long as some unexpected tragedy doesn't occur, such as me being hit by a bus. However we can never plan for those sorts of things).

I hope that clears it up some, and I apologize again for not explaining it all better in a way that everyone can find the answer to that question. Hopefully now that there is a link on the front page of FtM people will know what's currently happening with things!

If anyone has any questions or comments about this whole thing (positive, negative, whatever) please don't hesitate to leave a comment below or send me an email. I realize that folks who have been along on this journey with me for many years have had to put up with some tough moments as I've learned-by-doing and grown as a person, and I thank you for your patience and hope that the cartoons and stuff I do is worth the stress. If not I totally understand if you want to seek greener (more frequently updated!) pastures, and I hope you'll stop by again sometime and see what's going on and say hello.

All the very best,
-J.K.

 

EDIT: Also a bunch of comments are being flagged as spam for some reason, so if you don't see yours pop up immediately give it some time because I'll check in the spam folder and unflag any that are real comments. :)

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14Dec/12Off

Cubetoons Level 101

(click image for full size)

It's a Christmas miracle!

No, actually I just had the idea after playing (for 10 minutes before I started crying and quit and I'll never turn the lights off again) Zombi-U. It's funny, back in the day I adored Resident Evil. The original, none of this nonsense they release today. Yes, back then a fun scare via zombies (and zombie dogs) was a good time. I suppose I've continued to "grow" along with the Resident Evil franchise, though, because I've forgotten what Survival-Horror was all about. It's about insane-control-schemes and next to no ammo. Things jumping out of the dark and biting off your face. Creepy noises and THE DARK (a crazy concept, I know, considering Resident Evil 5 was mainly in broad daylight which I never understood). Zombi-U is like a return to "the good old days" except now those days are horribly, horribly frightening. And I am a wuss.

Tomorrow I've convinced JW (from ye old Cubetoons days) to come by my house and play Zombi-U while I watch, because I think I could at least stomach that. With the lights on. And a pillow to hide my eyes on occasion...

Back to watching The Walking Dead and reading The Fear. Zombie activities that don't make me weep like a little girl.

PS. Still retired. Don't expect a 102, FYI.

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Filed under: Cubetoons 6 Comments
13Feb/12Off

A Letter to Shawn

Below you will find a very long response to blog-reader "shawn" who posted a comment over the weekend wondering about my work. I welcome this sort of feedback and questioning, so I decided to dedicate today's blog entry to a response. Mostly because if I typed it all in a reply comment it would be so long that it might break the blog or something. :P

In the event that you don't much care what shawn or I have to say, or perhaps are just scared off by the wall of text, there's good news! Over at Animator Island is a nice, short & sweet post about when you have a bad day as an artist. So you can just click this link and be inspired, returning for the next Life, Art, and Monkeys blog post later in the week.

Shawn writes:

"I really don’t get how your animation is so… mediocre. you’ve been working on it for 8 years. look at how smooth homestarrunner is. and there’s only 2 guys working on it. granted, you’re only 1 guy, but you put out about 2% of the amount of content. from your blog, it sounds like you have an eye for good animation. and you have the talent. but then when i watch your cartoons, things look like they were drawn in a hurry (even though you have no deadline to meet) Example, in the 4D episode, when it cuts away to that bald guy holding the cat, the lines are so sloppy.

they say that if you put 1000 hours into anything, you’re close to becoming a master of it. there are variables that make it so you might not be famous. example, if you have no “in” to the animation industry, you might never make a successful career. but you should at least be really good at it! and i’m sure you’ve spent at least 1000 hours making these Fred cartoons if you’ve truly been at it for 8 years.

i must conclude that either you have no drive for this art, or you’re stuck in comfort zones.

sorry to sound so critical; i really haven’t done anything with my life to warrant talking down on people. but this just confuses me.

and i wouldn’t be so confused if i didn’t notice your obvious talents with all the life drawing sketches!

have you considered starting a blog dedicated to reviewing animated films? or perhaps writing a column for a local newspaper? you pick up on stuff an average person wouldn’t."

A tremendously insightful comment, shawn! I thank you for taking the time to write it.

There are several different pieces to your wondering, so I thought I'd tackle them all one at a time.

Comparing Fred to Homestar

For starters, let's get the comparison to Homestarrunner out of the way. Please understand that what follows is not me making excuses for myself. I am in full agreement with you that much of my FtM animation is indeed mediocre. I'm not denying that for a second. That said, I think there's an important aspect of animation that a lot of folks might not know about, which is this:

The better the animation you do, the harder it becomes to do better animation.

Since I myself like pictures, I put it into a sort of graph-thingy. (That being the technical term, I'm sure.)


Now let me say, there are a LOT of other factors that play into this. The image above does not take into account things like experience, age, social-affinity (for example, a favorite famous actor voicing the main character which leads to positive biases), or art style and quality. Really this is all super complicated; much more than can be put into an image. That said, let's explore this one aspect.

When an animation does not have much "animation," viewers will allow themselves to ignore flagrant shortcomings. There really is NO better example of this than South Park. South Park is an animation atrocity. Yet it draws a huge number of viewers. Why? Well, because it isn't trying to be a Disney cartoon in terms of animation. It isn't attempting to be anything but what it is, and that's a satirical comedy that relies heavily on political and shock-value humor to attract an audience. (Personal note: I'm not saying that's good or bad in this blog post. I'm saying that's how it is.)

The reason a character in South Park can "walk" across the screen by them animating a jerky, awful rocking of the cutout-character is because it as a WHOLE is so far at the bottom of the "Quality and Complexity of Animation" bar. It is acceptable as a result.

Let's jump to the other end for a moment. You have things that try to be great, but don't make it to the realm of masterpieces. Things like Anastasia and Antz. (Another personal note: I don't discount that the animators on both films tried VERY hard to make them great. They should be commended for their efforts. And in the case of Anastasia, I believe certain characters did achieve that level of greatness, while others faltered. For more on that, check out this post on Anastasia.)

Right. So. If you take a look at the chart, you'll see Homestarrunner well towards the top left, near things like South Park and Rocky and Bullwinkle. That's not bad company; those are all very popular and well-loved by many people. However they thrive based on the limited animation that takes place. Watch a HSR cartoon for the animation. Better yet, watch it for the animation with the sound off. You'll notice a few things.

1) Homestar has two, sometimes three, mouth movements. An open mouth normal, and open mouth OOO sound, and sometimes one more. That's it. The reason it can do that and still look so good is because of this concept of "the less you do the less you HAVE to do." The more mouth movements you add (or if you frame-by-frame animate them) the harder it is to get it to look RIGHT.

2) The characters are basically well designed cut-outs. The "animation" of them is extremely limited and mostly (especially Homestar) has very jerky, quick movements with no real flexibility. Again, the less you do.

3) There is very little in the way of animation principals. Things like squash and stretch are used, but not like a "Looney Tunes" squash and stretch. Easing is used, but not like a Mickey cartoon easing. Overlapping is there, but barely. There is next to no frame-by-frame work.

All of the above sounds very negative, but I don't MEAN it that way. I am not saying "Oh, look how crappy the animation really is at Homestarrunner.com!" I'm not. I'm saying it's limited, on purpose, and very well done limited-style animation.

Okay, so all that out of the way, we can get back to the comparison with Fred.

FredtheMonkey.com exists because of HSR.com. I had never heard of Flash before that point, and when I saw HSR I was elated because it showed me that just anyone, using this new program, could make cartoons. YES! Animation, something I had always wanted to do, was now in reach. And, being a brand new animator, I did what almost all brand-new animators do: I copied my inspiration. I took my already existing Fred characters (I'd been doing terribly drawn little comics for years before that) and plugged them into the Homestar formula. And what do you know, it worked! I was thrilled, and I can't tell you how exciting it was.

And there, I think, is where the similarities begin to diverge.

The Differences Between Myself and The Brothers Chaps

Here are the bullet point differences between myself and the Chapman Brothers:

-The Chapman Brothers are great artists with a terrific sense of appeal. I am a terrible artist who desperately wants to have appealing work. This is important because they could probably do in 5 minutes what would take me seven hours (and I am not exaggerating). I love animation, but I am a bad artist/illustrator. Well, I am a SLOW artist/illustrator that needs to revise many, many times to get things to the level of ability somewhere down in my bones.

-The Chapman Brothers work as a team. I mostly have worked alone. I can't TELL you how important that is. When you have two animators working together, it is not just "twice as good as one animator." It is 1000 times better. And that is because when you do animation having another animator to bounce your work off of before release takes it from good to great (or poor to good, or whatever stage to whatever higher stage). Also when you have two animators if one gets tired the other can take over until the first is rested. I believe that, along with the limited style, is exactly how they managed a new toon every week for years and years. They didn't burn out because they had a relief animator: the other one of them.

-The Chapman Brothers... I once again don't want to sound negative or mean here, but they don't outwardly seem to care very much about their fanbase and audience. For example, they stopped updating HSR.com with no word at all, to return for a cartoon or two, and then leave again seemingly forever. I perhaps care about the people who watch FredtheMonkey cartoons more than I care about the CARTOONS THEMSELVES. So during the time I might be practicing, I instead am writing emails to aspiring artists who've contacted me, or keeping up with folks on the forum and blog, or critiquing someone's work for them. I sent several emails to the Chapman Brothers over the years and never got a single response. I have made an effort to never not-respond to a single person who has emailed me through FtM, even if it's just a quick reply. I don't mean it to sound like I'm better than they are, which I think this paragraph could come off as. I just want to explain a key difference in how we operate. For me, personal relationships with people is the #1 most important part of life. Without that, life isn't much.

Two Paths Diverged In a Wood

The years that both FtM and HSR have existed have seen a very fundamental difference in what took place at each site. On the Homestar side the excellent artists of the Chapman Brothers created a terrific style and set of resources to make more and more Homestar cartoons that (for the most part) looked very much like previous Homestar cartoons. Meanwhile over at FtM I struggled to create anything half as good artistically, and continued to revise character models and methods as I went. You can see the progress I made as you watch each of the cartoons in order. They get better and better as they go.

But then, and this is the big key, I start over.

Where the Homestar crew built on the great foundation they had, I hit the reset button several times. First is obviously a year in (October 2004) when everything was completely re-hauled and the characters took on a much more "Homestar" look, with thick colored outlines. Instead of continuing in one way, like Homestar did, I kept experimenting and trying to add in "more animation." Not the limited style of Homestar, but frame by frame stuff like the works I so love (Disney, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon). Several times from 2004 to 2009 I had the site on hiatus as I went between wanting to do better work and burning out from working alone (on top of trying to maintain Cubetoons and the forum). In 2010 I decided to go back to animation school, and nearly the entire year was update-less for FtM.

And again, I started over.

After I was finished with school I knew I would never be happy doing what I had been doing for the previous five years. I would never be content doing what Homestarrunner.com did. I wanted to be an ANIMATOR, not a puppeteer who used Flash symbols to do limited style cartoons. (Nothing wrong with that, just not what I feel called to be.) Once again I redesigned the characters and style, to help me be able to put more real animation in the toons. And since then, if you'll look closely, I think you'll see there is more actual animation than there ever has been in any FtM toons of the past.

Ah, But Then There's That Blasted Chart-Thingy...

Yes, now it comes full circle to the chart above. I have entered He-man Zone. That awful middle realm where as I try to do better animation, it looks worse. Couple that with the fact that- honestly- I am only NOW (in the past six months or so) starting to learn to be an artist. "What the BISCUIT were you doing for the last eight years then?!" Well, I was copying. That's what I was doing. I was just riding coat-tails and trying to be like someone else. I wasn't learning the fundamentals, I was rushing to get things to be something else. Something better that I didn't build for myself. (For a great post on this, read John K's blog here.) It's similar to the crazy amount of anime drawings on DeviantArt. There are hundreds of thousands of anime drawings there. And some are absolutely beautiful.

There's a "but" to that sentence, though.

Some are absolutely beautiful BUT if you were to ask them to draw something else, or in another style, many of those artists would look like a deer in the headlights and possibly just refuse to do it. They have become glorified copy machines, and they could never stand on their own if you took away their copying-crutch. Just like me.

So it is a very round-about way of getting to this point, but the point is that I am in actuality a very "young" artist. I only have a few months of practice under my belt of real honest-to-goodness practice. What thrills me to no end is you saying "and i wouldn’t be so confused if i didn’t notice your obvious talents with all the life drawing sketches!" If you think my life drawing, which I've only started doing in the past year or so in earnest, shows promise, then I really believe I have a shot at my animation dreams. I look at my life drawing and mostly hate it. I see how far I have to go, and it's very, very far. I think I'm getting better, though. And not at copying, but at building myself a solid foundation so that one day I can put a feature film that I helped create next to the picture of The Emperor's New Groove up there on the chart.

I want to go back to a few last bits of your initial comment. The first is the idea of "If you put in 1000 hours, you'll be close to mastery." I can't tell you how much I agree with that concept, but absolutely disagree with the actual quote. Practice indeed WILL get you closer to mastery. 1000 hours, though, is the first BABY STEP towards that goal. Try 10,000 hours. Try 100,000 hours. Try EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Because you will not be a master after just 1000 hours, unless perhaps you are a natural genius at your chosen field. If you ask any "master" (and they will probably tell you they aren't a master yet, and name people they feel are much better) I know they will tell you they've put in well past 1000 hours. Well past 1000 times that, probably.

I'm not sure if you know tennis, but I want to make a tennis example. If you were to train in tennis for three hours a day for the next year, you would get in 1000 hours before a year went by. In the tennis world there are players by the names of Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal, and Andy Roddick. They are masters of the game. If you put in 1000 hours of tennis practice, I would bet you a great deal of money that you could not take even a SINGLE GAME off of those pros. Not a single one. If you put in the same amount of work for the next five years I'd probably still make the same bet. Not because I don't think you're a good tennis player, but because mastery absolutely will never come so quickly. So I just want you (and anyone else reading) to know that. Don't set your expectations so high that when you hit 1000 hours you're disappointed at how low-level you still are. There's eons to go still. 1000 is just a good start.

I'll finish up with a direct response to this quote: "i must conclude that either you have no drive for this art, or you’re stuck in comfort zones."

I think you might have it completely backwards there, and I understand why you'd see it that way. No, the truth is I have an insane amount of drive for this art form of animation (sometimes too much because I don't sit still and try to master one particular aspect), and I haven't improved as much as I could have BECAUSE I keep reaching out of my comfort zone. The Chapman Brothers stayed in their comfort zone. They played with art styles, but in terms of animation they sat down and didn't budge. (Frankly I think that might be why they up and quit, too. They were probably bored by the end, though I don't know for sure because they didn't tell us.) They did great work. I am a newbie. I have very little skill, but every single day I am trying to build that skill. I hope it starts to show at some point. And I hope one day I'll do great works and have artistic abilities that right now I can only dream about.

I love your idea about writing about and analyzing animation. Because I believe like you do, that I just might have "an eye" for it, even though my physical drawing skill simply CAN'T keep up with what my brain sees and dreams and creates. That's what practice is for, but it's going to take a while. At any rate, that love and eye for animation is what sparked me to help create Animator Island, so I hope you'll take a look and maybe that will be the place you see me rave about actual animation while I keep struggling over here to get better at actually DOING it. :)

Thanks again for the great comment.

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7Sep/11Off

Alright, time to hoist up the old bootstraps!

Well after writing yesterday's post, stewing about for a while talking out loud (at which point Q came in to see if I was okay), and reading the awesome and extremely accurate comments folks left yesterday (thanks, I really appreciated them!) I am feeling better. Lots of lessons were learned, and I feel like my resolve is stronger still. What it boils down to is if I want to be the best I'm going to need to be ready for each and every flaw to be pointed out to me, and be ready to fix them once I know. So this whole thing has only made me stronger.

On to the next!

I spent the workday yesterday (when I wasn't distracted by a certain mining/crafting game) preparing more for the FtM redesign coming up October 1st. As I may have mentioned before, it's nothing major this year, but some stuff will be cleaned up and moved around, and we're adding a feature to the homepage that I think will be helpful and good to have there. Hopefully people will enjoy it. Coupled in with the upgrade will be the addition of Cubetoons and Kingdom Blue archives to the comics section. Maybe even a new KB to mark the occasion! Ha ha ha! Wouldn't that be nice. Oh funny, impossible dreams...

I also prepared the first post of a new blog I'm starting, to be launched in late 2011. It's strictly animation tips, tricks, and reviews for animators out there to add to their repertoire. It will give me a place to share what I've learned specifically about animation, and be updated when the need arises, so it won't get in the way of all the other stuff I'm working on or anything like that.

Also on the agenda is a September cartoon for FtM. Gotta get moving on that today. The animatic is done, so it's time to put it all together based on the storyboards.

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22Jul/11Off

2 years, 2 months, and 9 Day (Part 3)

That is today how long until FredtheMonkey.com's 10th Anniversary. Then I will have been at this for a decade.

If you haven't read Part 1, here it is.
Part 2, on the other hand, is a click away here.

I came across that fact as I was doing some potential timelines for the next few years. It's extremely hard to predict what's going to be going on years down the road, but it was high time I tried. At least set some goals. And FtM's 10th Anniversary seems like a great marker to plan to at this point. So all my timeline concepts will go until October 1st, 2013.

The third timeline possibility that I jotted down is called Fred and the Animation Blog. For those of you who have been around for a while, you'll remember quite a few side projects that I've taken on over the years. I did a comic for IGN many moons ago called Cubetoons, and another comic titled Kingdom Blue. One might say the old Cubetoons/Fred Forum counts as a secondary project, especially because of the time it took up, and now we've got semi-related but still big stuff like Fred's Facebook page, Sceb's new blog, and of course this blog that I update daily. As Austin Kleon, poet and writer, explains over on his blog, it's very important to have side projects and hobbies. Sometimes those side projects and hobbies turn out to become the next main thing you do.

The difficulty, of course, is that I never managed to juggle multiple projects very well. Truthfully that's because none of them were really side projects, but more like more main projects that I tried to do all at once. Cubetoons was weekly, and to do it right I had to spend a ton of time in the gaming community to know what I should be poking fun at any given week. Kingdom Blue had no update schedule, which is clearly a mistake because it never got updated. I try to keep Fred's Facebook going every so often, but there are stretches without much going on there, and Sceb's Blog is at least going well because I wrote about five posts before it even launched, so I had some wiggle room. At any rate, the point is I need to do something besides my main job so that I don't go insane and become a complete workaholic.

Animation. My love and passion. There are few things I would rather do than be sitting down with a pegbar and paper and making pencil lines move around a page. Another of my favorite things is talking about animation. I could talk about animation for days straight, if anyone would listen. In fact, when I meet someone new I almost dread the standard "What do you do?" question, as it means they are dooming themselves to listening to me go on and on and on about my work for the next three hours. Poor saps...

So given this slightly-obsessive* love of mine, I thought it would be absolutely amazing to make a blog dedicated to the art of animation. There are a lot out there, honestly. I wouldn't be doing anything that new. But it would give me a venue to talk animation 24/7 and, maybe more importantly, network with other animators. I'd be able to request interviews from animators in the field to post in order to help newer (or just other) animators do better work. I could also share my own tips and tricks I've learned. If there's one thing I adore it's asking an experienced animator what his/her secrets are. What top things they'd tell someone just starting that they learned through the trials of fire of doing it. That's extremely exciting to me.

Creating and running a whole new website, though, is a big deal. As learned from Cubetoons, it can't just be a side project. So really, this timeline should probably not include Fred at all. But Fred ended up in there because when I looked at the idea of ONE cartoon a month, instead of my crazy bi-weekly impossible schedule, I thought maybe I could handle both. And that might be me overestimating myself (AGAIN) but you learn through failure so let's see what might happen.

In this plan (geez, how many paragraphs later and I'm JUST NOW getting to the plan?) I would start work on the animation blog and launch it this coming November. In the meantime, FtM would resort to a once-a-month schedule and continue updates. By the end of 2011 my goal would be to have learned Toon Boom and moved over to that. I should be able to manage that in half a year, even with all the other work. The animation blog would be updated either twice or three times a week.

In 2012 things get a little less structured on the plan, simply because I don't know what would be happening exactly or what the other blog might lead to. The thought is that during 2012 I would work perhaps with other animators online to produce the Studio's first cartoon short, for release by December 2012. In the meantime Fred would keep its new monthly update schedule and the animation blog would be growing and hopefully taking on other part-time editors.

In 2013 going by this concept I would start the search for a local freelance animator/artist for the second studio short. The second short would be released in July of that year. The downside to this is hiring that person would happen a year later than other plans, but the upside is I'd be able to try this new blog out and see where that goes. Right now that blog something I'd really like to do, so it's very tempting.

And there you have it, possible timeline number 3. Of the previous timelines, I think this one is the most hopeful and potentially delusional because I don't know if I could actually pull it off. But hey, as I said above, failure is an option. It's how you learn.

Tune in tomorrow for a super special Saturday update of the final currently-written plan, called "Disney or Bust."

 

*Lol, slightly-obsessive... Who am I kidding? I'm absolutely, completely obsessed with animation.

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4Jul/11Off

Oh Say Can You See… A JKR Q&A!

Happy Fourth Of July everybody! The 4th of July is the United States of America's birthday. To celebrate: Fireworks! And usually BBQ. And, sadly, a day off from work. Sigh... But I know a lot of other people enjoy the day off, so good for them. I just would kind of like to be getting back to animating. That's alright, Tuesday will be here before you know it.

As I mentioned Friday, today I'm dedicating the blog to a Question and Answer session. I've done that a few other times, and it's been fun, so I figured why not. Sometimes I'll have questions for other artists online, but many of them don't respond to my emails or blog comments. I understand, it takes a lot of time. Still, I don't want to be like that, so for as long as I can manage to I'll reply to as many people as I can. Once I'm running a Pixar-sized studio, well, maybe I'll have to limit that a little bit... So let's just enjoy the here and now!

Papytendo writes:
You have a wife that can put together a compy? That’s pretty awesome.

She doesn't seem to think it's very awesome when I'm constantly asking "Why isn't this working? How come this crashed? Can you get Windows to boot up faster? I forgot my password again. Why isn't this working?" But yes, she's the smart one. She can build them and she can program them. Hopefully when the robot uprising happens, there will be mercy for the humans who used to program the now-sentient beings. And maybe she can put in a good word for me since all I ever do is yell at the computers of today.

And then Papytendo continues:
And for my question, what is your new system specs? If you don’t know how to find them, ask your wife.

Yeah, I had to ask her.

JKR's wife Q says: Anyone can build a computer with a little bit of research on the internet. Here are the specs: Intel Core i5 2500K, 8 GB RAM, GeForce GTX 560Ti, Asus P8P67 Motherboard, 500GB SATA drive, Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit - around $1000. I'm waiting for SSD drives to get a lot cheaper before I buy one. One nice thing about building your own is that you leave room for upgrades.

Nico inquires:
Wait… a FtM dvd? Is it a movie or a compilation of cartoons and mailbags or what is it and where can I buy it???

It's a compilation of older cartoons (and a few Mailbags) that will release eventually on the Fred the Monkey Shop! As for when that is, I'm not sure. I keep working on it when I can, but it's going s-l-o-w-l-y. See there are a few brand new never-released cartoons on the disc (including 3-2-1 Relaunch Part 3!) and I have to animate all those before I can get the DVD made. But I'll certainly post a lot about it all over the web once it's ready. If people buy a copy that means I'll be able to fund the next Shop item! (And the next Shop item planned is quite interesting!)

Shiloh eludes:
JKR – you’re pretty awesome. So am I. What we need is a way to compare who’s most awesome… I suggest a good old fashioned measuring contest. I proudly stand up at 9 inches. What’s yours, man?

I'm about 75 inches tall when not slouching my shoulders, which I often do because most people aren't as tall as me and I want to feel included in the group. I'm trying to change that, though (the slouching, not the being included). And yes, I am well aware that was a slightly different answer than you were asking for, thank you very much. This blog is rated E for Everyone.

Snookumsgal ponders:
Do you like gravy?

Most gravy. Sometimes it can be too thin. If it's almost a dipping sauce then I don't think it's well-made gravy, so I tend not to like it. My great aunt used to make the best gravy ever. I miss it. I should have learned the recipe before she passed away. Well at least I know how to make her famous cookies...

Ray comments:
Dear JKR: For my question, it goes to the favorite utensil section, Pencils or Pens?

I was never a fan of pens, because I make too many mistakes. Pens really make you commit to your work. I like working looser, so I always go for pencils. That said, when I was in China I found the greatest pens in the entire world. I can't tell you what they are because they're in Chinese, but they are incredible. Sharp, smooth lines that just feel perfect. So any time I'm writing down ideas or notes, I almost always reach for one of those pens. (I'm running low, I hope I can find more the next time I'm in China...)

Of course, these days my absolute FAVORITE marking-stick is an extra soft Charcoal Pencil. Oh, the black lines that flow out of it! I feel like a real artist. Hands down the most soothing tool I've ever used. It makes a total mess because it rubs off everywhere, but it's almost like I don't have to even try when drawing with those. The lines just come out where they're supposed to be. Awesome stuff. (I wish they weren't like $3 each.)

Susan asks:
How do you type with boxing gloves on?

Practice.

Or, generally, I don't.

MK Bones wonders:
How can you get more publicity for one’s website? Is FaceBook really the only way to go?

I could spend a whole blog post on this subject itself! In fact, I think I will. Tune in tomorrow for a long, detailed account of several ways to get publicity for your site! That way I can do it justice.

rainbowmathDJG wants to know:
What did you use to make the Cubetoons and Kingdom Blue comics? Also, do you know where I can get a cheap tablet online?

I did Cubetoons by hand with non-photo blue pencils and Sharpies at first, and then went to doing the roughs by hand in pencil and inking them in Photoshop after I got my Wacom tablet.

And as for the tablet, if you can afford it get a Wacom, one of which is currently on Amazon for under 60 bucks! A great deal for the best tablet brand out there. If you want an even cheaper alternative, there are some pretty generic ones for less and less. I've used both. I had a small Wacom and wanted to upgrade to a larger one. Well, the large ones are expensive, so instead I bought a generic brand. Honestly it worked just fine. Not quite as great as the Wacom, but it was certainly a thousand times better for my art than using a mouse! ABSOLUTELY get one if you really want to pursue art digitally. Absolutely. After a while I wanted to go back to a Wacom, so I saved up for one. Finally these days I use a monstrously expensive Cintiq, which is the kind you draw directly on the screen. It is the most expensive piece of work equipment I've ever purchased, and 100% worth every penny. (Plus we got it at Best Buy with a coupon and I had a bunch of old gift cards which dramatically lowered the price. I was lucky to be able to do that, otherwise I don't think I could have afforded it.) A Cintiq is the way to go if you're going to make this your career. If you're still not sure if you want it as a full-time job, go with a smaller tablet that isn't a screen. It takes practice to master, but once you do you'll NEVER want to go back to a mouse!

I wish I still had my old one, I could send it to you since I replaced it. But I gave it to my cousin, sorry. The good news is you can use those links above and snag your own for pretty cheap.

Trevor Wever requests:
Hmmm…… where are these plush toys, and coffee mugs and all that jibbjab that we had a vote on in the forums? All I see in the store is still the 2 shirts. And speaking of forum are you going to reopen it as a viewable museum?

Right now I could only afford getting the two shirts made for the store, and I just about have the funds to get the first DVD cartoon-collection created. If you'd like to see some of the things you mentioned, specifically one of the things you mentioned *cough cough*, be sure to get a DVD once it releases. Those sales will directly fund the next item, and I'll only be able to get them made if the DVD sells. It's expensive to do the initial order for store items, so the previous ones have to make some money in order to roll those funds over into something new. Speaking of which a huge thank-you to all the folks who bought some T-shirts. I really appreciate it, and I'm excited to almost have enough to get the DVDs made now.

As for the old forum, I still plan to have that on display at some point, but it is currently on a hard drive that is packed in a random box when we were moving houses. Since we still haven't moved, that box is in storage. It will have to wait until after the move and I can find that box!

Jordohio questions:
Which came first? Ranch or Cool Ranch?

Extra: What can easily make JKR GO SMASH SMASH BOOM? (angry.)

I imagine ranch did. If there's a cool ranch, there would have to be a hot ranch. So likely ranch came along first in both cool and hot varieties, and they separated the two so we could get straight up cool ranch.

Extra: Technology not working properly. Almost nothing makes me angrier than that. I get furious that they make such amazingly complicated products that break SO easily. Either make them work or simplify them SO they work. Grrr...

Sterryos sort-of-asks:
My question is:
Take a picture of your Disney Pin collection for us?

I don't know if that's a QUESTION, per say... Seems a little fishy. But as a request, sure.

Note that I'm missing eight from this picture. I gave JW (of the old Cubetoons.com days) a handful to trade while he was at Disney World this week. Lucky guy... But hey, if I can't go myself at least I'll get some new pins out of it.

Annie L. finishes the line of questioning with:
My question for your Q and A is if you were not an animator what job would you have? Like what would be your second choice.

That's a good question! When I was trying to decide what to do "when I grew up" after high school I had a lot of different ideas. Art, obviously. I wanted to be either a cartoonist (like Fox Trot's Bill Amend) or an animator. But also Writing, one of my other passions. I almost went to school as an English major instead. Then on the flip side, I adore human studies so I considered Psychology. That subject interests me to no end. Why people do the crazy stuff we do. I also LOVE learning Law, but I didn't really want to be a lawyer. Too much to remember. Still, what I like about law is that it's almost like trying to find hidden arguments and "beat the system." The whole point is to "prove" something based on random writings, and that's fun to me.

I think if I was seriously going to pursue one other than art it would have been Psychology. I still read a lot of books in that vein, and love to learn more about what makes us tick as people. Maybe someday I can combine Psychology and Animation! We'll see.

And that wraps up this Q&A session! Thanks for all the questions, I hope I didn't bore you with the answers. It was a long one this time. Tune in tomorrow for that expose on Website Publicity that I mentioned. I know a lot of new Webateers (one who webs?) are interested in that topic.

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30Apr/10Off

Something new, something gone

Today is a special day. Today is the day that the Cubetoons/Fred forum retires. It's been a fun ride, but now it's time to say farewell. The good news is that there's no reason to stop chatting with the folks you knew for all this time, because a new forum has risen from the ashes to keep things going! Yay.

Best part is I'm not in charge of that one, so I can be a normal member like everyone else. Yay!

Also, after a length of time I'm not sure how long it was and don't wish to go figure out, there is a brand new Kingdom Blue comic today! Issue 16 awaits! But wait- since it's been so long, you might not remember what's going on. I know I didn't. (Kidding, I did. Mostly.) So why not just start back at Issue #1 and read through the whole thing? It will only take a minute or two, there's only 16 issues. Go for it!

Also, the new blog look will wait until next week. I had some trouble getting it working.

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12Apr/10Off

So long message boards!

Well, it has been decided. In April 2010, the old Cubetoons/Fred/KB message boards will be closed permanently. It's been an exciting ride these past few years, and in some ways I'll be sorry to see it go. It was simply designed poorly from day one, and with the Cubetoons series being now completed (and KB on hiatus for an undetermined amount of time) it doesn't make sense to maintain it any longer.

The good news is a new forum has been set up by some members of the old one, which can be found in that link if anyone is interested. It will probably house most of the old members, so if you want to move over without saying goodbye, it's a good option.

One day there will probably be a new Fred the Monkey message board, totally different from the old one, but I can't tell you when that will be. I suppose it will release when the time seems right to do so, but not before. Forums are a lot of work to maintain, so it will need to be at a time that I can devote energy towards it, which with school, work, family situations, and moving, is not now.

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in making the community over the years, and hope to see you at the offshoot forum should you want to stop by.

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8Mar/10Off

Moved-toons

If anyone is a fan of ol' Cubetoons and you want to experience the ol' Cubetoons site again, I'd suggest you do it soon. It will be going offline for good shortly, though exactly when I'm not certain. The comics themselves will find a home linked from the comic section of FredtheMonkey.com, but there's just no need to keep the dedicated site running. It's an extra cost that makes no sense to pay since the comic is finished.

As for Kingdom Blue, its future is uncertain. I will likely move the previous issues alongside the Ct comics. The old files don't work with the new version of Illustrator, so for the comic to continue I would have to redo all the assets. Since I'm struggling to find time even for Fred right now, it's pretty unlikely that I will devote much energy to a series I haven't touched in years. I suppose it's open to discussion if anyone would hate to see it go, but right now I've got school finals just around the bend and a huge, huge final project that I need to complete. Huge. I should be farther along by now, since it is 100% drawn by hand frame by frame. I'm actually planning on posting it once it's finished, since I will have spent so much time working on it. Might as well share. Of course, don't expect much. Because it's drawn by hand, it will likely be less than 30 seconds long and very rough. Welcome to traditional 2D animation.

Anyway, just an FYI.

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25Sep/09Off

No idea what’s on the agenda

So I really have no idea what, if anything, will be updated today. Aside from the blog which I'm doing now. I'm up extra early in order to wait for the latest Best Buy technician to come and try ONCE AGAIN to fix the TV. I hope it doesn't take too long, because my next appointment of the day is to remove the stitches from my hand. I'm praying my finger has healed enough to not fall off when they take them out. I'm certainly not looking forward to getting more Novocaine shot into my hand until I can't feel anything anymore.

Anyway, after the doctor's visit I doubt I'll be able to function very well for a few hours, lacking use of at least one hand, and despite that I've been given a project suddenly to complete a newspaper ad for this October event by TONIGHT. That's some nice advance warning, huh? Yeah... So I need to get that done because if it isn't in, the newspaper gets published without it.

Essentially I'm going to work as hard as I can to get stuff done, and if it happens I'll post it here as soon as it's up, but if not, forgive me for a small delay until next week. Next week which is the 6th Anniversary of FtM, by the way! I'm going to go buy a cake.

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