• Inside Out Animator Round Table!


    A few months ago I was able to get Shawn Krause, Victor Navone, Guiherme Jacinto, Travis Hathaway, Jamie Roe and Dovi Anderson in a room to talk a bit about Animation on Inside Out. Its been a long time since we did a round table like this, but you guys wanted it! I hope you enjoy the interview. Thanks for all the continued support of this little site over the years. I hope to have some more content in the future. Enjoy! Thank you to the animators and Pixar’s continued support to make things like this possible.

    Inside Out Animation Round Table


  • A quick look at Animation Schools – Part 1


    Its that time of year when everyone is finishing up their final projects and the end of the semester is coming to a close. I wanted to do a post about animation schools.As an animator I am biased towards schools that are doing character animation and also schools that have strong story or 3d. I also like schools that care about appeal and character. I can’t tell you how much I dislike seeing stock rigs or animated characters that are done with a rig that has been animated the same way. All of this is only my opinion

    Calarts. Calarts is a great school and focuses on students producing films. Great animators and directors have come from there and I always appreciate the work. I think they could improve the 3d character animation department, but Calarts till remains to be one of the best Animation schools out there.

    Ringling. Im always impressed by the 3d films that come out of this school. There is certainly a house style but many of the student films look very appealing. I love that they don’t work as much with stock rigs. You can see they teach students how to rig and animate which is important.

    Academy of Art. – Having taught there for 7 years there are so many incredible animators that have come out of the classes taught by industry people… The big issue for me is what happens to the folks that don’t get into those classes? Its a giant school that you can easily get lost in. However, it does produce some gold. You just need to wade through the giant meat grinder that the school sometimes seems to look like from the outside.

    California College of Art: Having helping start the animation program there it has grow in a huge way. The jury is out still but I do know that they have a great program director and great teachers. Just waiting for some great work to come out from the animators…

    Animation Mentor. – They are still the best online school in my opinion. They have the passion. Its a great place to go but I would suggest any student looking at them get a foundation of art or acting before they go online. Its so important to really have a diverse background as an animator.

    Gobelins. Because of the stringent admission standards and excellent teachers, this school produces some great student films. The production quality of the films they produce is amazing.

    Vanarts. I went to a school that turned into this place. They have great teachers and great programs of study. The people running the school really care about the students. A great place if you want to take a year long program.

    San Jose State. San Jose has a pretty large animation program. They seem to be doing some really cool stuff. I do worry that with PDI closing they will not have as much access to animators who teach and work there but I could be wrong. (apparently I am wrong) – see comments

    Keep animating!  More to come…


  • Insane Story and Animation Classes!!!

    Kelsey Mann, The Head of Story on  Monsters University is teaching a really cool online story class HERE.

    This is one of the best kept secrets out there… This class could be a one time only opportunity.  These guys are busy. Anyone wanting to be taught by the best has just two more weeks to sign up.

    Also, take a class from Peter Kelly, Veteran ILM animator  who just finished Pacific Rim.

    He is teaching an amazing class on animation. Again, a very rare opportunity! These guys are not only the best artists, they really are some of the best teachers in the world. Don’t miss out on this…16 weeks of pure animation awesomeness starting in two weeks!You could be in such a small class that its like having a personal mentor!

    Online, affordable, recorded and personal!!!

    Check them out!

  • Something…Different…

    I am really excited to say that I am going to be leading  a new, amazing animation program with  The Art Department. Jason Manley and John English contacted me a while back about developing a program for the school. When I heard about all the things they have done and how passionate about education they were, I couldn’t say no. They really do want to change the face of art education and think the current system is broken and too expensive. I agree. I feel that animation education, brick and mortar and online can also be way better and has a long way to go. We want to provide the best experience and teachers possible. The education will primarily be provided online, but there will also be studio spaces where students can come to and work in a real collaborative environment. We also hope to offer free and low cost workshops for kids and adults and hold all kinds of events. We are putting together a list of instructors, guest instructors and advisors that will blow your mind! We are also going to be giving away a lot of scholarships to make it easier for students to be involved. We hope to start the first few students in fall. We also hope to be down at CTN to answer any questions and meet people. As always, thanks for supporting Spline Doctors. The site has always been about sharing and thats really what I want to continue to do. Its about making the next generation of great artists, animators and directors, not just plug in animators!


  • Story Book List


    Derek Thompson (amazing story artist and teacher) gave me permission to post this great list of books that you can read to learn about story. Thank you to Derek for compiling such and awesome list and sharing it.


    - considered one of the best books on structure...period.  andrew stanton says this is his " most dog-eared book "
    written in the 30's and pertaining primarily to PLAYWRITING, it's a truly eye opening read.  also deemed a STORY must by Joe Ranft, Andrew Stanton, Alexander Mackendrick, and many, many more.
    2)  ON FILM-MAKING by Alexander MacKendrick
    - Ealing studios writer/director ( ladykillers, sweet smell of success and more ) and CalArts legend Alexander MacKendrick's book of teachings and insight is the culmination of many years of DOING and TEACHING about it...absolute gold.
    3)  ON DIRECTING FILM by David Mamet
    - a lean, mean series and course work on the craft of FILMMAKING by the great David Mamet.
    4)  IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE by Walter Murch
    -  a literally eye-opening work about the craft of FILM EDITING.  a book that can be read over and over again that continues to be useful for developing your EDITORIAL senses.
    -  two wonderfully insightful and anecdotal books by screenwriter supreme, William Goldman ( all the presidents men, princess bride, misrery etc...).  He tackles many subjects that the film scenarist has to deal with, using his personal experiences as the basis for deep insight. his discourse on the challenges and pitfalls in ADAPTATING material for the screen is particularly amazing.
    6)  TRUFFAUT-HITCHCOCK by Francois Truffaut
    - a book length series of conversations between film giants.  a book unrivaled in it's depth and analysis of the mind of the filmmaker. the discourse between these two ( mostly recorded in the 60's ) will teach you more about great storytelling than many other 'how-to' books.
    7)  20 MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias
    - a useful examination on the 'archetypal' plot structures that MOST films follow. a reminder that while there are any number of ways to tell a good story, there are always foundational guidelines to buttress them.
    -  Block's examination of iconography, motifs and rhythm in Visual Storytelling is a MUST for any Story Artist, and his techniques and practices are in heavy use throughout our work.
    - formal and foundational study of the nuts and bolts of the scene mechanics, shot design, staging and execution for aspiring filmmakers. dry, but essential reference.
    10)  INVISIBLE INK by Brian McDonald
    -  with keen insight and some surprising revelations, Brian's book on the UNDERSTRUCTURE of story is a must read!
    10b) THE GOLDEN THEME be Brian McDonald
    - the sequel/companion to Invisible Ink, this time the emphasis is on the underlying and universal notion of the GOLDEN THEME.
    11)  MAKING MOVIES by Sindey Lumet
    - step into the mind of the great director as he breaks down the DIRECTOR's process. f you've never seen any of Lumet's films, put them on your PRIORITY ONE list! ( network, the verdict, dog day afternoon, 12 angry men...)
    12)  CONVERSATIONS WITH WILDER by Cameron Crowe
    - another excellent dialogue between two filmmakers that gives you the kind of insight into Wilder's work that you may not find anywhere else.
    - an absolutely stunning book that peels back the curtain on major film studio United Artists and the film that sank it, Michael Cimino's HEAVEN's GATE.  Written in an amazingly frank and insightful way by Creative Executive Steven Bach, this book offers unfettered access to moviemaking from both the creative and financial sides of the coin.  it also delves deep into the history of the studio and the way the the system has changed and mutated...nearly impossible to put down, and you won't need to see Heaven's Gate to enjoy it.
    14) COMICS and SEQUENTIAL ART by Will Eisner
    - The definitive Study by the Grand Master of Graphic Storytelling, Will Eisner, this book is a MUST for anyone involved in VISUAL STORYTELLING.
    15) UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud
    - award winning examination of the function and practice of visual communication in COMICS. a keen and surprisingly unique book that is another essential for Visual Storytellers.
    16) CINEMATIC MOTION by Steven Katz
    17) THE 5 Cs OF CINEMATOGRAPHY by Joseph Mascelli
    18) FILM EDITING by Karel Reisz
    19) THE CONVERSATIONS: Michael Ondaatje and Walter Murch
    -This one is integral for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it helps define character archetypes and really explores sets of rules you can use to keep characters "in character".  ( note: this one is dense and academic...but amazing )
    21) A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH by Karen Armstrong
    -Very unique breakdown of myth and WHY myths are created, laid out in a historical timeline of where and why myths evolved culturally. What's great for story purposes is that it helps give a sort of blueprint of how to develop plot through character stakes, a key to why myths are timeless and relatable to the masses.
    22) ON WRITING be Stephen King
    - surprising, personal and practical, here is a book on the craft from one of the master's of his art.
    23) THE CREATIVE HABIT by Twyla Tharp
    24) USES OF ENCHANMTMENT by Bruno Bettelheim.
    25) THE WRITER's JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler
    - Vogler applies the teachings of legendary Mythology JOSEPH CAMPBELL to Film Structure in this rewarding book.  In addition to covering all of the parts of the journey from a practical standpoint, he applies the breakdown to a number of familiar films. Very helpful for STRUCTURE.