Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy Birthday to Jim Smith!

So one of my idols, a VERY talented layout artist from the (unfortunately) deceased animation studio, Spumco, is having a birthday today. I decided to make a special drawing for the occasion, starring the warden and Phil from "Big House Blues," the pilot episode of Ren & Stimpy. He did layout and was also the voice of the warden.

It was a tad sloppy since I freehanded it on my computer, at least as far as the warden goes. Jim also voiced Abner, one of the dimwitted sheriffs in the episode "Out West." It just so happens I drew Ewalt and Abner in May of this year!

Anyway, have an awesome birthday, Jim!

Friday, October 4, 2013

More than you'd ever want to know about the Mr. JB Show

As my friends from YouTube and DeviantArt most likely know, I've been animating a cartoon series since 2007.

It stars James Bean (best known as "Mr. JB"), a 24-year-old lemon-flavored jelly bean, who's based heavily on myself. Of course, at times he's stupider than me, but not by a long shot. Mr. JB lives in Wabash, Indiana, in the house where my dad grew up. He has a dachshund named Kippie, who is usually pretty laid-back and fun, unless Mr. JB's stupidity overwhelms him. Sometimes, Mr. JB isn't too fond of some of Kippie's behavior either. The two don't always get along too well, but they're still best pals. (Don't let that fool you; it sounds like a total Ren & Stimpy ripoff when I phrase it that way, but they're not quite like that. Though R&S is a huge influence for me.)

As the series progresses, things change drastically; for example, the animation style from episode to episode. I began animating the series using MS Paint and Movie Maker, and by Episode 12, I was animating frame-by-frame in Flash CS5/6. Also, Mr. JB's personality and taste in things change; over time, he becomes increasingly opposed to several aspects of modern society. He hates gangsta wannabes, really loud music shaking his house, texting lingo being used verbally, etc. This is first truly revealed in "Time Toilet," and after this episode, you can see that he's renovated a lot of his house to have 1920s and 1930s color schemes and several Art Deco cues.

Mr. JB has two vintage cars, a 1940 Ford Panel Van, and a 1950 Mercury Lead Sled. At first, his Ford wasn't even based on a real car, so its design has also changed drastically. However, his Mercury has been the same since its debut in "Time Toilet."

Overall, you may also notice how my influences in animation, visual style, sound effects, music, and tons of other aspects have evolved through the course of the series. In the beginning, David Feiss was a big influence (more evident from the intro than ANYTHING in the animation style; this episode is so humiliating to me). As the show went on into late 2007 and through 2008, C. H. Greenblatt was my next influence. No offense, Carl, but I wasn't satisfied with that style. Finally, I started trying to go more on the course of classic Nicktoons in style: Joe Murray was my NEXT influence. In 2009-2011, I tried to replicate parts of his style, and I even copied his style of blinking.

Finally, in late 2011 and through the present, John Kricfalusi and his team at Spumco have truly overhauled the way I think about animating. I try not to repeat frames, I try to make the characters move a lot more, and I mostly try not to repeat any expressions or gags in order to keep the cartoons fresh. Plus, I've worked on my voice acting a bit, and I've started using background music from Associated Production Music (APM), Ole Georg Music (OGM), Columbia Records, and Raymond Scott. Not only have the Spumco guys helped my style, but they've also gotten me FAR more interested in classic cartoons. Don't get me wrong, I've always been pretty into them... but these guys brought the classics to a new level of worship for me.

Well, anyway, let's get to the show, shall we? I'll just say it now: none of the episodes were truly planned out by storyboard or anything until Episode 8.

Episode 1: The MP3 Player

This episode (if you can even call it that) was based on a short comic I made in 6th grade one day. Notice the lack of backgrounds, movement, and just the overall horrible quality of everything. Of course, I was only 12 when I made this. But this is what started it all.

Production time: I don't remember.

Episode 2: Mr. JB Vs. the Evil Squirrel

I've always had a thing for squirrels, and evil things. In 6th grade, I made another short comic of Mr. JB tricking a squirrel into thinking he'd feed it some peanut butter. The comic never got very far, so I made up the rest of the plot as I animated it. Overall, as much as I still hate this episode myself, I'd have to say improvement is visible in a couple of the backgrounds, as well as the voices.

Production time: I think this took a couple months.

Episode 3: The Spicy Pizza

If I remember correctly, I animated this in one day. Of course, I was still only 13 years old when I made this. I made it on a different computer than the first two, and I didn't have a microphone with me. That should explain the stock scream and the lack of speech. Overall, I think this episode started heading in the wrong direction again. I used solid colors for backgrounds, several 8000-Hz sound effects, and the only true backgrounds were photos. Once again, though, if my MS Paint animations had drawn backgrounds, I'd have to redraw the background every time something moved since Paint has no layers.

Production time: One day (I think)

Episode 4: Return of the Squirrel

This is another one I made in a couple days. Again, solid color backgrounds were dominant, and there was no speech since I made this one on the same computer as Episode 3. At least we have some action again though. Also, I can hardly believe I actually drew almost all of those pink vehicles! I tell ya, the bike riding animation was a PAIN to do in Paint. I had to do it WITHOUT LAYERS. I couldn't quite think of a proper ending, so of course, I made a quick one. I made the text at the end say, "To be continued... of course," because I figured pretty much everything had that at the end of it and it was cliche by that point. This episode wouldn't be continued until summer 2010, or two years later.

Production time: A few days in early July, 2008

Episode 5: The RC Jet

I've ALWAYS had a fascination with trains, and in the summer of '08, I had one for Lockheed F117s. Well, that explains that. Nah, there's more. This was the first episode to truly feature a detailed drawing. Okay, THAT'S all.

Production time: I don't remember

Episode 6: The Whistling Obsession

I made this episode not long after I figured out how to do a bird call with my hands. It's not too far from the truth! Alright, maybe I didn't do it in the shower. But I did it all the time.

This was the first episode to feature Kippie, and Mr. JB's house. Luckily, I think I gave people the right first impression with having him get angry at Mr. JB for something, then Mr. JB getting angry at him in return. This episode showed how annoying Mr. JB can be to people, and that he's persistent in doing what he likes. Still though, even if I was 14 when I made it, I just wasn't good enough for me!!

Production time: Almost two months?

Fun fact: Kippie's voice is a set of nine stock dog sound effects that were used in "Streets of SimCity."

Episode 7: The Cruddy Motel

This was the first long episode. It featured tons of actual backgrounds, for the second time. Which was tough since I was still using MS Paint to draw. This episode gives us a much deeper look into the relationship between Mr. JB and Kippie. It showed us how tasteless Mr. JB can be at times, as well as stupid.

Originally, I planned on having Mr. JB turn out to hate his visit at the motel. I went through countless ideas for the plot over the span of time I worked on this episode. I started working on it in December 2008, and I didn't finish until December 2009. During mid-production, I began having panic attacks almost every day. This slowed down production drastically. One way you can tell it took me so long is that the eye style and other aspects of the characters change through the episode.

Production time: December 15, 2008 - December 21, 2009

Episode 8: The Mall

This episode was based on a true story, encountered by my siblings and me. We were at the Markland Mall in Kokomo, IN on December 23, 2009, doing last-minute Christmas shopping. There were countless other last-minute shoppers inundating the mall that night. My brother, sister and I were all looking for a place to sit, because our feet were in pain from standing so long. I saw a guy outside Subway in the mall, sitting on a bench. He was eating a sub, and there was no one else on the bench. I figured we could sit next to him since there was so much room... until he obnoxiously slurped some spilled sandwich contents off his finger. My feet hurt so badly I was willing to resort to sitting on a toilet or in a trash can. I don't remember if we found a place to sit or not, but we made it out eventually.

Anyway, this episode wasn't TERRIBLE animation-wise. It had a walk cycle (which was lousy) and some real backgrounds again. Plus, the style was more consistent throughout than in Episode 7. But still not what I wanted it to be.

Production time: I think this one took a couple months.

Episode 9: REVENGE!

This was originally planned to be Episode 8, but the final version of Episode 8 ended up being long enough for me to count it as an episode. Anyway, I decided after two years that it was time to continue where I left off with the evil squirrel. I wanted Mr. JB to finish the squirrel off somehow without killing it, so that was tough to figure out for a while. (Even though I'd planned out Episode 8 beforehand, Episode 9 had no formal planning.) I was playing "War of the Monsters," a video game from 2003 that I played all the time when I was in third grade, during that summer. I decided that if I could find the soundtrack from that game, a couple tracks from it would be very appropriate for parts of this episode. Heck, this was truly the first episode to have a moderate amount of music in it. VERY little of it was original (since I can't really think up melodies at all).

Production time: January 2010 - July 20, 2010

Episode 10: Time Toilet

This is one of my favorite episodes. I FINALLY made the switch from MS Paint and Movie Maker... to Paint.NET and Movie Maker! At last, I could use layers to draw in.

Ever since my visit to Cincinnati Union Terminal in June 2009, an interest in Art Deco, architecture, and history in general grew rapidly for me. I began trying to find jazz to listen to, maybe some old show tunes... then in 2010 I began watching Pawn Stars and American Pickers. These shows boosted my interest in the 19th and 20th centuries even more. At least, in late 2010, I began developing cynical views of society. I realized how much I hated the current pop music, rap, you name it. I'd been wishing and wishing there were some way I could go back in time to the 1920s or 1930s. So I thought, even though it's probably a pretty cliched plot, I'd make Mr. JB go back in time. Only, he'd go to the time period that I want to. I thought this would also be good because it was less cliched than seeing Wabash in the future, or going to prehistoric times. Finally, I hoped to prove to the world that old times must've been really cool. I had to make Mr. JB return to the present though, and I wasn't sure how to. So I went with something quickly and just tried to finish the episode. But I still hope I got some of this generation interested in the old days.

Fun fact 1: "Time Toilet" was a title of a comic I made of Woscald the Octopus, who was a parody of Oswald the Octopus.

Fun fact 2: The recording of Eric Osterling's "Bandology" during the 1930s montage was a recording played by my high school band in 2011. I was one of our five tuba players.

Fun fact 3: The opening scene of Mr. JB standing downtown was animated in MS Paint, and the rest of the episode was animated in Paint.NET.

Production time: November 13, 2010 - July 19, 2011

Episode 11: The Talent Show

Ah, the first episode with consistent music use. At first, I planned to use nothing but my own MIDI compositions for the music. However, when I realized I can't write music at all, I turned to Ren & Stimpy production music for help. The music from the APM library has been one of the greatest things to happen to my series. Also, now that I was using Paint.NET, I could make my characters move around a lot more when they talk. The beginnings of Episode 11 actually go back to early 2011, early into the production of Episode 10. I was looking for the trumpet POW sound when Mr. JB punches the cop in the face. While searching for this sound, I randomly came across another trumpet sound. I thought it might be what I was looking for; instead, it turned out to be a recording of a guy playing two high notes... kinda badly.

So I started a short comic with Mr. JB showing Kippie he can make a person (later changed to Millard Fillmore, thanks to my brother for the idea) out of his gelatinous, jelly bean inside. Kippie was amazed at this, so he urged Mr. JB to enter a local talent at Wabash's Honeywell Center. Like the episode, Mr. JB says he can do something much greater than that... and he plays the really high trumpet notes. That was originally the end of the comic. But I had no better ideas for the next episode, so I stuck with this idea. The amount of possible endings for the episode I wrote was ridiculous. But an internet friend designed a character who had feelings for Mr. JB (Madison), and I liked this character. So I put her in the episode and decided to give Mr. JB a happy ending. (Also, I think it's pretty apparent that Ren & Stimpy was now a huge style influence for me.)

My friend, Travis, helped me come up with ideas for the performers before Mr. JB in the talent show. He would end up performing their voices as well.

Fun fact 1: The announcer at the talent show is my lousy impression of Foghorn Leghorn.

Fun fact 2: Richie Clord was based on Richard Ford, who has provided the funds necessary to restore tons of buildings in Wabash. His health wasn't doing too well recently, and I haven't heard how he is for a while now. I hope he turns out fine.

Production time: October 30, 2011 - June 29, 2012

Episode 12: The Date

Alright, this episode has probably been the biggest change of all in terms of production. I was finally using Flash CS5 to animate, and the music soundtrack was entirely production music. Plus, I made the mistake of setting the frame rate at 30 FPS. That's WAAAAAY too many frames, if you didn't know.

In continuation to Episode 11, Mr. JB now has a girlfriend, Madison Berry. Basically, this episode is what a dream date would be like for me... you know, without the chunk being bitten out of my head, the mugging, and the annoying "scientists." Just having a huge, Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza in an Art Deco metropolis at night... renting out an entire skyscraper hotel just to sit on top of it looking at the sunset... you get the idea. But Episode 12 is the last episode that will have any trace to Madison's existence. I protest the idea of adding new protagonists to cartoons that stand well enough on their own.

Anyway, this episode brought a new sense of confidence to me in terms of animation. For the first time, I was REALLY happy with how my animation looked. The frame rate was a tad too high, but I was too happy to care. So I hope to keep making my episodes look better and better as they progress.

Fun fact 1: Mr. JB turns into Peter Lorre when he's holding the beaker towards the end. Had it not been for John K, I'd still not know exactly who Peter Lorre is. I knew his face from watching classic WB cartoons, but I never knew his name.

Fun fact 2: I was originally going to voice the gangster, but I couldn't sound manly enough for it. I got my friend Dylan to do the voice. At first I wanted him to imitate Roberto from "Futurama," but he leaned more toward the Edward G. Robinson-type gangster, which of course, was awesome the way it turned out.

Fun fact 3: More like "Embarrassing fact." Originally, Mr. JB and Madi were going to take the elevator inside the hotel they rented out to the ground. They were going to walk outside from the entrance of the building, only to find that Mr. JB's "genius horn" had landed on the Green Guy's head.

...the only reason this scene was left out is because I completely forgot to put it in. Yeah...

Production time: October 11, 2012 - August 6, 2013

Episode 13: Chicken Jog

This episode is currently in the EARLY development stages. It's another one based on a real experience of mine from July 2013, and hopefully the title will make sense later on. But this episode will ALSO change from the last episode: the backgrounds will be simplified to a more retro style. I felt it fit the style of the show better.

Anyway, I'll be working on this one for a while.

Production time: August 18, 2013 -

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bob Clampett's 100th

Well, yesterday was legend Bob Clampett's 100th birthday. I made a special drawing for the occasion, since I missed out on doing so for Chuck Jones's 100th birthday.

I'm disappointed with how Daffy turned out... there's not enough of his entire head showing, the bill seems a little off... but it was a first attempt.