August '09

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by Beth Sleven

Animation, by its very nature is a collaborative process, one that necessitates the talents and input of many people. What comes from this process are the films and T.V. shows that inspired us all to become part of this industry. 

What is also born of this process is a feeling that all too often the ideas we contribute to a project never make it to the screen. We put our heart and soul into the projects we work on, because of our love for the medium. However, as often happens with collaboration, there are more opinions and ideas then there is time.

That is part of the reason I began working on this book.  "The Cryptid Case Files"' was something I could not only have fun with, but also something I could have creative control over too, which for me turned out to be both wonderfully thrilling, and at times very daunting. 

The book most definitely grew out of my love for the "B" monster movie genre. I've been a fan of cheesy monster movies since I got to stay up all night for the first time at the age of 9.  That night I got to watch "Return of the Living Dead". My little kid brain nearly exploded. I found it both horrifying and thoroughly entertaining. Ever since then I've had a real soft spot for creature features.

"The Cryptid Case Files" actually started out as something quite different. I was actually going to do a sketchbook with figure drawings, watercolors. zoo sketches, and monsters. After showing the rough version to a friend she suggested, "Why don't you just fill the whole book with monster drawings?"

Two months later I showed up on her doorstep with a big stack of monsters. As I showed the ever-growing stack of drawings to more friends an idea began to form in my head: a secret government agency that has to use little kids to hunt big monsters. 

I wanted to make it feel as real as possible, like the pages of the book were actually photos of existing documents, as though an employee of this secret government agency was trying to give you a peek at classified information.

Before coming up with this idea, I'd already taken the book fairly far down a different path. This new idea, which I thought was much stronger meant that I would have to essentially start from square one again, reworking the entire book. 

A small voice somewhere in my brain asked and answered the following questions:

Q: What is the greatest thing about working on your own projects? 
A :You get to make all the decisions. 

Q: What is the hardest thing about working on your own projects? 
A: You get to make all the decisions. 

I felt this new direction was going to make the book stronger and a lot more fun, but at the same time I felt an overwhelming sense of pressure. If the book didn't turn out well there was really no one else to blame but myself. To push past these feelings of doubt I forced myself to think about how much fun I was having just doing the book. I thought about myself as a little kid finding it on a shelf somewhere and having a blast adding in even more monsters. The long and short of it is that the fun I was having kept me motivated the whole time I was making "The Cryptid Case Files".

While working on the book I never tried to steer it toward any one particular audience or demographic. Instead I focused on trying to make a book I could enjoy if I picked it up off the shelf. Since finishing the book I've gotten excited reactions from children and adults alike. I've had little kids tell me they can't wait to include their own monsters, and adults who laughed and smiled as they turned the pages. So even now that it's done, I'm not sure I can say which group enjoys the book more. 


My plan from the beginning was to self-publish. I knew I wanted the book to be high quality, and I knew I wanted to do a large run. However I didn't even know where to begin. At that point, in walks my good friend Sharon Wu, owner of AnimatorMade. Having worked with printers before, she was there every step of the way for the printing process. I decided to work with her company in publishing the book.  Sharon is definitely a big part of why the print run turned out so beautifully. 

"The Cryptid Case Files" took me about nine-and-a-half months in total to complete, with the bulk of the work being done in the last four months. I spent lunch hours, and every night after work on the book. I was trying to spend every spare moment pushing to get it don, only sleeping 5-6 hours a night. But by the time I handed the file off to the printer I was more exhilarated than tired. I had so much fun doing this book I definitely plan on doing more.

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