I spent Nov 18th-20th in Burbank California, the animation capital of the world for the CTN Animation Expo. This event was filled with amazingly talented artists and creators. Despite a rainy sunday the event was an inspiring one.
My first stop was at a favorite storyboard artist Sherm Cohen (Spongebob, Phineas & Ferb, Fish Hooks) who was promoting his Storyboard Secrets DVD set which I purchased last year. Sherm is one of the nicest and approachable professionals I've met. His DVD's are amazing, I showed him some new storyboard samples and he gave me some very helpful tips on how I could improve. I always walk away from his table with a wealth of knowledge. He even hooked me up with a complimentary copy of his new DVD "The Key to Powerful Storyboards". I gotta say he really lays down some knowledge!
I wasn't really familiar with Jim Smith before this convention but after a few people recommended his sketchbook I had to met him. He was one of the original creators of Ren & Stimpy, and a very talented animator. He had some animation pages from the show. They were all so great. His characters are classic and his drawings have so much energy and gesture. I picked up both of his sketchbooks and got a picture with him. I think he may be a little crazy, but damn it he can draw.
I Signed up for a some panels a few weeks before the convention, unfortunately most of them were full by the time I signed up so I grabbed whatever was left. I managed to get a panel with Don Bluth. I didn't really know much about him before this panel, but by the end I was happy I had a chance to hear him talk. He left Disney to create his own studio where he created some classic animations such as The Secret of NIMH,Dragons Lair, American Tail, and The Land Before Time. He talked about starting his studio in his garage. His goal was to make a superior product because Disney at the time was cutting to many corners and it was effecting the quality of the animation. It was a very inspiring life story about taking a chance in what you believe and following your heart. I was very impressed.
Another panel I attended was with the guys from Creature Box a blog created by two friends who enjoy drawing well… creatures. Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin talked about how they got into art and gave some great advice on how to stay motivated and focus when you are trying to be creative on demand. I found there panel to be incisive and practical. They don't sugar coat things and told us about their struggles which is great to hear from people you admire. They are super cool guys. I was able to pick up their book which comes with a DVD.
Friday ended with a very special performance by Richard Sherman one of the brothers who wrote all the classic Disney songs. He sat down at an old piano as he played songs from Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Book, Marry Poppins and Disneyland Park. In between songs he would talk about working with Walt and how the music was such an important part of telling the story. The best moment of that performance and one of the most moving things I have witnessed was Richards performance of "Feed the Birds" from Marry Poppins. He explained how this song was the key to the whole movie, it represents kindness and love in a simple sincere way. He told of many days when Walt would call Richard into his office and have him play this song for him. It's a truly beautiful song with a great message and I am so happy to have been part of that moment. The crowd was completely silent as he played. I posted a link to the video. The story he tells afterwards is amazing.