Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Animation Design Comes to Life – Actual Shots from Different Spots

Here are shots from actual spots demonstrating how animation design fits content and brand; a variety of looks I've come up with for a variety of requirements – and shown in a variety of venues...
from online to on-the-air...

Design for an online animation, the kind I specialize in at

The hand-drawn style supplies unfolding action to the storyline...

Designing an entire world
where every character
is built from it's own word,
for Word World, airing on
PBS Kids...where I created a lot of easily-read characters,
their legible locations, and lots of their well-spelled stuff.

An editorial look for a groovy trip back in history...

And an upcoming animation describing what animation can do...

...maybe we'll end up with a corner office!
See what I do with IdeaRocket,

Call on me for any kind of animation design solution,
particularly if it's perplexing, pop, or playful!

Codename: Kids Next Door - 2 x 4 Technology, Flying Vehicles!

The KND needed lots of different vehicles built out of whatever I (and #2) could find out in the cartoon junk yard. A lot of them rolled, a lot of them sailed, and a whole lot of 'em – like these four here,
flew like crazy...
This was called "The TrailerChopper"

Here's "The BaitPlane"

...and "The CazhShip," cuz it was just so casual...
And of course they needed a "KndAirliner," for those special travel arrangements...
...color on these has been adjusted to meet original specifications.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's the End of the World As We Know It!

"The Promised Land has nothing to do with real estate."
Joseph Campbell

Remember that poor old evangelist who promised his flock that the world would end soon? He had a lot riding on that prediction, so I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him when it apparently didn't happen, like he said it would. It didn't happen like he said it would, but I wonder if it would make him feel any better if he knew that it did happen. In Dr. J.C. Calleman's interpretation of the Mayan calendar, the world (as we've known it) "ended" with the end of the Universal Underworld in October of 2011; cul-minating in a state of Trust (or Faith); and an Ethical Era. He was right about that too.

May I be the first to make the announcement right here right now? Despite whatever evidence to the contrary, The World, as we have known it, did end in 2011.
This crazy old world has seen the "end of time," and "the end of the world" so many times now, it seems like it'll never end, and it won't. Of course, it's never actually the end of the world. As George Carlin (the patron saint of cynical enlightenment) said: "It's not the end of the world, it's the end of people. The world will still be here." I expect that at this point of his own spiritual evolution, floating around in another dimension, Saint George knows that even that isn't true. Everything, including people, keeps going along just fine...at least right now.

What "The End of the World" has always been describing is a psycho-logical end; the re-framing of a new reality brought about by a singular coalescence of transcendent consciousness; a singularity after which old ways of thinking and doing are in a instant rendered obsolete – like what's happened around here in the last few years. It fits quite nicely into Calleman's Mayan theory, that at some point just after 2011, the Earth be-gan to resonate with a level of consciousness that simultaneously informed it's occupants that a major change was taking place. Then Spring came early in the Mid East. The "occupiers" showed up. Fraudulent elections be-came unacceptably obvious. War became obsolete.
Everywhere you go now, people know that the Earth's endless potential is being mismanaged by a criminally unconscious minority (God bless 'em). It's global knowledge that great swaths of humanity are intensely wasteful, while even greater ones are subject to unnecessary deprivation. That our extreme economic disparities are selfishly foolish. The occupants in every small town know about the "elite class" of super-wealthy, extraordinarily fearful (suffering) people, who feel they need to control the world's re-sources and media, who put "Big Boxes" on the edge of every town. We can see their mess on TV everyday (God bless 'em), and increasingly we live in it, too. The real occupants are aware of what the miraculous potential of the Earth actually can be.

Naturally it's all happened before, when these literally medieval dis-parities bring us to a spiritual renaissance. It suddenly dawns on us that our need to identify ourselves with the insistent demands of materialism, like "your class," "what you deserve," and "how your way is right," is a form of destructive insanity, forcing us to live the totally inauthentic lives so many of us are all too familiar with. The death of that inauthentic self becomes inevitable. Nothing can ever be the same after that.
Everyone deserves to be who they are. Everyone deserves to be reborn into a fulfilling, authentic life – and they can be, but there almost always seems to be a kind of "Dark Age" first, where "faith is not always a well-lit place." I can't say exactly where we are, at the start of that dark age, in the middle, or towards the end of it, but I do know one thing for certain re-garding The End of the World:

Humanity is currently experiencing a mass metaphysical impulse to transcend the delusion of separateness. It's the collective death of an illusion, and it's spreading quickly. The resurrection is arising in Christians; the "Ethical Era" is settling upon the followers of the Mayan Calendar pro-phecy; it's the closing bell of the Kali Yuga to Hindus.
As a global entity, we all recognize the unfathomable mystery that everything comes from somewhere and goes somewhere, to a kind of ultimate ground of being that we're becoming aware of through quantum physics, cyber-consciousness, and verifiable sixth-sensory perception. We know that mysterious ground of being transcends this form we're in; that this "radiance of the eternal" penetrates everything and everybody, and in-tuitively informs a graceful and responsible way to live that's possible for everyone, and that everyone in this world deserves as their birthright.
That "radiance," that understanding we all share illuminates the dark place where we find trust in ourselves and each other – our Faith. That is the light we can shine now to penetrate our media, our destructive mass-ego, our "One Percent," to penetrate through back to the mystery. Now we can stand our ethical ground with an unassailable authority; the boundaries protecting humanity simply can no longer be contested; and if you stop for a moment, and just listen...you can own it.

The best and easiest way to make all this happen is to simply show up for life with this knowledge in our hearts, and try our best to live our authentic lives – where the inspiration for our actions comes from the inside, not the outside. That's a nice metaphysical impulse, isn't it?
It's even mystical...

Here's the good news: The world has ended. Welcome to the new world.

"It will not come by watching for it. No one will be saying, Look, here it is!
Or, Look, there it is! The Kingdom [of the Father] is spread out over the whole earth, and people do not see it."

Logion 113, The Gospel of Thomas

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyondbased on lessons (learned the hard way) by a three time near death survivor is now available everywhere – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 27: Just A Day in L.A., Part 1

I'd call it the heart of Los Angeles—if it has one—that narrow strip of the world that runs across from La Cienega to the Golden State Freeway, and down from the Hollywood Hills to Interstate 10. An odd golden rectangle of sorts, within which all things two-dimensional in nature are eventually bound to occur. In New York, you can feel the connection, as though you were a functioning part in some kind of or-ganism with everything happening at once right there from bottom to top, and vice-versa.
L.A. is more like a spread-out Venice—canals criss-crossing and wandering around the flatness, gondolas in rush hour gridlock. Life tends to run downhill there, and who's to say when anything will happen. It's all about a strange kind of dis-connection – a sunny, ungrounded alternative reality. The only things easily understood are those that are readily visible on the surface, it's just that sometimes life makes you look underneath. This was going to be a day like that.

I'd gotten a  call from Playboy Enterprises to do an illustration for the Playboy Jazz Festival, so I rolled over the Cahuenga Pass and on down to their old building in West Hollywood where at one time, I hear, Hugh Hefner actually lived up in the penthouse over-looking the glory days of "The Sunset Strip."
It was dim up in their offices, and sumptuous, like a prime rib res-taurant with a Tony Bennett soundtrack. No one seemed to be quite awake yet (it was just before noon at Playboy, after all) and so it fell upon a well-dressed underling to fetch me my assignment folder, and to direct me to my Art Director, who actually wasn't actually there. He was inexplicably working out of The Schindler House, an architectural landmark nearby.

I was drifting on a bit of that Vegas-like up-all-night atmosphere, riding the elevator back down alone, when it stopped on a floor and the actor Robert Vaughan got on with me. I felt a queer, sudden schoolboyish surge, because here he was, "Napoleon Solo, The Man From U.N.C.L.E."— one of my favorite childhood TV heroes—in close quarters on an elevator at Playboy—my favorite childhood magazine (when I could lay my hands on a copy.) What a funny world.

He looked at me furtively, then instantly back away with the pain of recognition, and then stepped right up to the elevator door and stood just inches from it, looking straight ahead, glancing sideways si-multaneously avoiding me and keeping track of me. Without speaking, he very clearly said: "Don't speak."
He had the classic look of a screen actor – a short guy with a big face, big features, and he appeared, upon observation, to be a nice enough guy if he'd given it a chance, but it didn't seem like he would, or could. It was as though he were afraid. Afraid of what, I don't know. Me? I certainly was no threat, smiling there like a stand-in. Maybe he saw me notice his platform shoes, which I'm very sorry to say I did.
Maybe he really wasn't the unassailable character he played on TV. Maybe he was really a very vulnerable guy, there with the hairspray and the lifts. I liked him, and was honored to be on the same elevator with him, but the moment the doors parted he quickly stepped out—like a racer out a gate—and there he went...The Man From U.N.C.L.E...The Magnificent Seven...safe again, at last.

I gurgled around the innercity suburb streets lined with fat palms and eucalyptus, like the jungle cruise at Disneyland, over Beverly and jogging on up Kings Road. It was a little hard to find the Schindler House at first, with it's back to the street like the best of those modern residential designs—Neutra, and the Eichler houses—like the house I lived in until I was eight. I gently pushed the door open and said hello into an empty room, when Rip Georges, the accomplished and respected designer and creative director poked his head in too. Why he was working there I never really knew, but he showed me around the classic modern residence, the home of the architect, elemental and open. It was like a mix of a cave and a beautiful japanese house, with every room facing the garden, and light angling in under the angled roof. Concrete walls like a Roman villa.

It felt a little bit like breathing to me, that house. A comfortable, anthropological aesthetic as close to the region's natural architecture as any would ever be. An intuition for not needing much that so many people had sought in those foothills—like my father, who'd tried for it in the houses I knew as a child, before he left the western world be-hind. It felt that familiar, and that empty.

We sat by a built-in desk and he gave me the low-down: They wanted a portrait of the Latin per-cussionist, Willie Bobo (famous for his cool version of the Jobim song,"Gingi"). Mr. Bobo had sadly died an early death just a few months before and the festival pro-gram would include a dedication to him, so perhaps it should be something colorful, something celebratory. The only problem was photographic reference. There wasn't any, and in those days, no internet images available at the push of a button; but they did have the address and phone number of Mr. Bobo's widow. She lived out in Highland Park, and she might have some photos I could borrow to work from. It was clearly part of my job to awkwardly call her, set up a meeting time, and get directions...

.......................continued in Part 2

The latest book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor from Llewellyn Worldwide can be ordered direct on this page or online; and the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for them it at your local bookstore!

Thank You For 20,000 Visitors!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

IdeaRocket Animation: From Homebaked to Lift Off

I've recently joined up with Will Gadea's team as Art Director of the newly rebranded IdeaRocket Animation production house (formerly Homebaked Films), specializing in "explainers," animations that describe what a business is or how something works.

Pretty soon, our new IdeaRocket explainer will be up, but in the meantime, here's a peek at the kind of work we're doing:

GlobalEnglish from Homebaked Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 26: The Road to Chetumal; Entering the Underworld

The fat, brown old '75 Chrysler that they'd rent-a-wrecked next to the airport in Cancun hovered down the road across the peninsula, from Escarcega to Chetumal, sucking up the pale, gravelly length of it. The highway seemed to extrude endlessly from a vanishing point ahead, as though oozing from an ever-retreating pipe, pulling them towards the Carribean, the low jungle creeping in along each shoulder. They weren't at all lost, they just felt like it.

It was probably because it seemed such a long ride, this second leg of the three; out past Valladolid to Merida, down to Campeche and Champoton having been the first part; now from the western blue water side to the azure east coast and the border with Belize. All he heard was wind with all the windows rolled down (the old school air conditioning), and everyone was asleep it seemed, even Koko, though he may have been driving – he couldn't say for sure. The twilight colors of the zocalo in Merida seemed so long ago, and since that silly light show in Chichen Itza they'd been sent off into their alternate world of tourism alive in the Yucatan wild.
They'd all caught that strange fever, as though drinking from the first bottomless cenote had laid out a subterranean map to follow, from ruin to ruin searching out jaguars, ufos, and entrances to the underworld. They were all there, holes in the sky and the earth, they just had to find them. Intuitively, they knew the underworld stood in for their own interior landscapes, though as usual it was never dis-cussed. The lush but arid overgrowth invading every road and each moment of life on the surface betrayed those deceptions so typically found in "paradise" – a little like the appearances of their own exteriors, flowered and casual.

On either side of the highway they saw the occasional mud hut, but never any people. "There's a smart one!" Jean would say each time they passed a mottled, meatless pig by the road. It was an ongoing bit of sarcastic fun, in response to Koko having told her about an article he'd read that mentioned how truly intelligent pigs were. It got a laugh every time in those days, when they were all asleep and still mistaking sarcasm for humor.

Any hand-scrawled sign on a dirt turn-off promising a ruin or an entrance to the underworld de-manded a requisite exploration, observed overhead by invisibly vi-brating alien spacecraft and lan-guid jaguars in the underbrush.
No stone in that respect could be left unturned, and so he'd swung the old boat down a wide dirt path and followed it to where an elderly yucateco and a dirty little boy loosely held vigil over a small opening in the rocks. They paid a quarter U.S. each, the little boy attached a raw wire to a car battery, and bare, flickering bulbs lit the way down the slippery hole.

Timelessly, the descent into the semi-darkness leaves every pro-mise, every safety behind. They clamored in an unsteady procession down the long, constricted passage until it finally opened up into a vaulted cavern. A shaft of light poured in through a break in the cave ceiling, and as their vision balanced out, the crystalline water began to glow a deep blue-green. Guillermo and Jean watched as Grace and Koko stripped and ventured into the water, carefully at first as the jagged bottom looked like you could reach down and touch it, but once they got in they realized it was only the surreal clarity of the water that made it appear so. It was really six or eight feet deep.

As Koko floated out, he realized that the center of the cenote dropped down in a circular shaft of the densest blue, plunging down beneath them as though straight into the center of the earth, to the raw, unprotected heart of every experience he'd ever hid behind. Grace floated fearlessly out over the unfathomable depth like she was teasing it, like she was offering herself up to some ancient unknown. Exposing herself to some suppressed demiurge. The water was soft with minerals, and felt familiar and healing, amniotic, while at the same time it was like some kind of time machine, rearranging their elements sub-atomically, sending them on to a different, totally silent life.

When they finally reached Chetumal they'd expected hospitality, but instead were met with furtive looks and men with guns – an air of mistrust and danger brought on by recent slash and burn class warfare and forced resettlement of the local Maya. They kept right on going. The road led them straight into the shell encrusted entry arch of the Hotel Laguna Bacalar, an oddly angled moderne-esque building perched above "The Lagoon of Seven Blues." It was peculiarly unfinished and lightly occupied by a strange assortment of windblown travelers and semi-permanent guests in various states of inebriation. After a day or two of assiduously avoiding insanity, they headed north on their last leg.

In Tulum, they parked at the end of road on the bluff above the crazy virdant sea, and strolled into the ruins. A viejo walked briskly out of a small block house, buckling his pants. He was, of course, the toll taker – every ruin had one – and after collecting his quarter from each walked briskly back to his quarters, just a chair and fan visible through the doorless doorway.
Only sage old iguanas guarded the ruined structures, still practically livable. With it all to themselves, and after what seemed like years of turning inside-out in the dust and the jungle, the ancient stone beachfront felt like home. Like they'd never left, or lived anywhere else. Diving chamber to chamber in the crescent caves of Xcaret, where the freshwater collided with the sea, and the lagoon of Xel Ha, alone again as they always magically seemed to be, they were spirits trapped in blue-green amber, their invitation to stay and move into their underworld permanently interrupted by the first busload of tourists to ever see those sacred places.

It was time to go, to move the sky back into position, and to detach themselves from the endless subterranean waterways that wove the underworld of their lives together. Time to head back into the world above, where there was no risk of revealing the broken-open places they'd stumbled across.

About a thousand years after they'd arrived, they sat outside at Don Cafetos on the dusty main street of Tulum, had an excellent meal, and rolled the old chrysler past Playa del Carmen, past Cancun, past sleeping jaguars and blinking lizards, off the end of the flat peninsula, and on out right past ufos following alongside, clearly visible out the airplane windows.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Codename: Kids Next Door, From the Extra Sooper Obscure Vault – Crazy Killin' Time

Codename: Kids Next Door was probably one of the last animated TV shows on the air that was designed on paper, old school style, with a bunch of us sitting around "The Design Pit," each with our cubby-holes and boards. The grind of creating a heavily designed show season after season can lead to some unusual ways to fill the few and far between breaks in the ever-steady stream of work. Oftentimes, just to keep the juices flowing, it leads to slightly irreverent sketching, mostly on Post-Its and on scraps of paper...which I just happened to run across some of, cleaning out a drawer in my flat-file (remember those? They were where you used to store files).
Here then are a few scenes, out-takes, and time-fillers from the Extra Sooper Obscure Vault – for real gluttons for KND punishment, and definitely not for the faint of heart...

I'll lead off with some legitimate work (well, sort of...), an evil baby-abductor, a thumbnail mega interplanetary sooper rocket, and a guaranteed nugget mining device, for scratching and clawing your way to treasures...
Our kindly boss, Mr.Tom Warbuton, tried his best to keep us happy by plying us with candy and sweets – there was a huge bin of it available 24-7; but sometimes, like here when one of our BG designers, Gideon Kendall came back after a couple days off, what he discovered upon his return wasn't all that pretty...

Working on comics often leads to coming up with a few of your own.
Here's a classic waste of time: Salmon Man, and his arch-nemesis The Grizzly (with his troublesome little sidekick, Racoon Kid).

This is just plain wrong, and someone should apologize for it! (Run out and find me someone...) It's probably some kind of heresy for an animation guy to boot...but it did happen long ago (before I got better). Allow me to apologize to Mr. Lucas...

Uh oh...

...I've saved the last (and practically the worst) for last and practically worst. It's this imagined depiction of what happened when our erstwhile Inker Extraordinaire, Sir Robert Smith, (aka, The Iguana) didn't make it in to work due to illness. Man, did we ever miss him. In fact, I still do!

PS to all you moved to L.A., out there you've got coyotes, but here there's just crickets...........................................................XO RK