June / July '10

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This issue of FLIP is so late that it could almost be NEXT month’s issue.  What possible excuse could I have for not committing to my self-appointed responsibility of providing free, online, quasi-industry related material to a small, yet loyal, group of readers?

Excuse #1: The garden. 
After a long, miserable winter, outdoor projects beckon.  The vegetable garden, featured in FLIP, is one of these projects.   I went a bit mad buying plants this year, and had to plow the field extra wide.   There are onions, three varieties of lettuce, red cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, squash, zucchini, jalapeno chili, bell peppers, horseradish, supersonic, cherry, and roma tomatoes, and lima beans.  May is always the busiest month for the garden, when most of the vegetables are planted. 

Excuse #2:  The renovation project. 
We bought an old commercial building in town, built in 1888, and have been slowing renovating it.  The first floor was completed last summer, but there was a long hiatus on the second floor work during the winter.   Now I’m back on track, replacing 120-year-old windows full of 120-year-old dirt.  The building, skewed over years of settling, presents a challenge: do you make the new windows level and reveal how crooked the building is, or do you put them in crooked as the building?  Since I really don’t know what I’m doing, progress is very slow and time consuming.

Excuse #3: The bank is closing. 
We got a letter two weeks ago stating that the only bank in town, in fact, the only bank for THREE towns – is closing.  They say the $10 million in deposits is not enough to be profitable.  Meanwhile the bank president gets $980,000 a year salary.  So my wife and I have tried to rally the locals with e-mail and letter drives, and a petition for the bank president to wipe his ass with.  In the old movies, small town America was what it was all about.  Turns out that’s just bullshit.  But we continue to fight the good fight!

Excuse #4: Bay Days. 
There’s a local event here put on by the Bayshore Discovery Project.  It’s a very cool non-profit that has restored an old oyster schooner and the shed from where oysters were shipped for historic posterity.  Well, every year they host a festival and my wife volunteered me to make booths for the kid’s games. Four plywood booths with blue and white stripes coming right up!

Excuse #5: Life. 
When I left California in 2003, I didn’t have a life.  I’m not sure I fully understood that then, but really, I did nothing but work.  That was great when I was young and it was new and glamorous and I had the industry by the tail, but at some point I realized the industry had ME by the tail.   Not anymore, booby!  Animation is a great industry to work for, but not so great to live for.  So if FLIP is a week late, oh well.  That’s life!

What the hell happened to Cap'n Crunch? FLIP special correspondent (and Pixar art director) Ralph Eggleston reports on the latest box art found in the cereal aisle.

CONFUSION is the word that comes to mind when I look at that image. WHERE do I look? WHAT is the character MADE of? Is it an attempt to make him look "more realistic?" or just more "dimensional?" All the airbrushing makes the surface of the character busy and distracts from the clarity of the image and what's being sold. It's as if every INDIVIDUAL element of the product packaging has gone through over-intense scrutiny by a room full of middle-management types segregated by departments that have become entrenched fifedoms. Did anyone ever bother to put all these elements together and see if they work TOGETHER? Obviously not.

It's a problem that's plagued simple cartoon characters since at least the mid-1980's. Someone in the marketing chain decides that look of character, or some tasteful artistic representation of it, isn't "flashy" enough to capture people's attention. So they attempt to "verve" up the image with shiney bells and whistles--clarity be damned. I'm not anti-rendering. I'm anti-BAD rendering.

Here's a couple of good example of very tasteful rendering (by Chris Schnabel:

And here are some examples of what usually wins the day:

Everything is rendered to look like a balloon animal:

Compare today's Cap'n to one from the 1960's, at left:

I've taken each of the Cap'n Crunch images and made them black and white.

In the first/older image, I know where to look, and I can also take in the overall image. In the second/newer image, there's s much random rendering that it's confusing. It may be a little misleading because the newer image is not the entire box cover...but you get the idea. I'm always for simple clarity above all else.

I did a few cereal commercials myself (Cookie Crisp). I almost had to eat a few boxes to get sugared up to finish those suckers on such tight schedules. Maybe THAT'S it: The executives are so sugared up, they have short attention spans!!

Bill Kroyer once told me that after finishing the animation on a commercial, the client wanted to go to the "shoot." Bill tried to explain to him that it was animation...a very tedious camera process. The client was insistent. So Bill took him to the camera company shooting the commercial (working, as they often did to meet deadlines, at night). The client started asking for changes to the artwork UNDER THE CAMERA. The camera guy booted them out.

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