Monday, September 28, 2009


I have had something I needed to finish for quite some time. A draft of a screenplay that some people are waiting on. Actually, that's not quite true. It's not that I needed to finish it. I needed to start it. I'm so far away from finishing it that there's no point in worrying about that bit yet.

So I locked myself away at the weekend to attempt to get some momentum going. It took my at least a day before I got back into it and knew who my characters were. It doesn't surprise me how difficult I was finding it. It's not something you can just jump into.

It almost requires a journey even to begin. Me, in my own world, walking slowly step by step into the world of the story. There's no train. No quicker route. It just takes time.

But I got there eventually and have finally managed to make a start. That's good.

I don't have this difficulty with children's shows. I can just jump in and, withing an hour, I'm there. Characters and stories are living for me. The mind of a child comes more naturally to me.

But to pretend I ever really made it to adulthood and try to get inside the heads of adults? Well, that's just hard work.

Being an adult must be rough.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Like that guy from Scanners

This comes from July '08 and I'm not even sure what prompted it beyond a post at Uncle Eddie's site. It sounds like it was brewing for a while. But it was something I had to get out at the time and, rereading it, I'm glad I'm reposting some of these because I feel the need to get it out again.

This will be the last of the reposts. I declare Blogday Week officially over.
I think it was Scanners at least. No, not the head exploding bit (though that's very cool). No, I'm just talking about the bits early on where he can hear everyones thoughts and it's too much for him. Bombarded by thoughts, feelings, fears, insecurities - sensory overload. It's too much for a person to handle.

And that's the world we live in today. We are bombarded with information, news, advertisments, opinions and fears, much of it misinformation. Too many choices. Too many decisions. Our heads are full, like the guy who hears everyones thoughts at once.

Much of it is a diversionary tactic. It suits certain groups of people for this to be the way the world is. Governments love it - a simple diversion and people move on and forget what the problem was to begin with. The trick to hiding the shit they get up to is not to hide information - it's to give too much information, each piece contradicting the last, and end up with nothing but confusion and doubt. It works a treat. Governments love conspiracy theorists. The more the merrier because each new theory muddies the water further. Most of us just try to block it out.

And it works with our consumer society too. Preying and building on self-doubt, companies tell us that we deserve to have everything we want and need. Then they show us just how broken our lives are, how incomplete we are, how utterly inadequate we are without the shit they are selling us. Then nicely bombard us with 'choice'. So many choices every day that we simply don't have time to stop and think about any of them. Then when they get caught doing shit they shouldn't, the consumer accountability card comes out - you make the choice and vaildate them by buying their stuff. People call it 'voting with your wallet'. Can you really make any kind of informed decision when there are thousands to make each and every day? And when, instead of clear information, we're fed propaganda, half-truths and often straight-out lies?

That's bullshit. So we have to try to block it out.

On top of that, we have atrocities going on each and every day. British soldiers forcing 14 year-old Iraqi boys into sex, soldiers beating civilians to death and much more. Much worse. Children walking over landmines in countries we have long forgotten about. Too much for people to think about. If we thought about each daily atrocity as we go about our lives, we would be metally crippled. We have to block it out.

We're bombarded with sound bites about 'weapons of mass destruction', 'freedom', 'threats' and all kinds of other bullshit and many find comfort in latching on to one of these as a justification so that they don't have to think about it any deeper. Because the rest? We have to block it out.

And yet, even with the hideous things going on in the world, the media loves to hype up this local culture of fear. Every young person will stab you. Every guy out with his kids is a pedophile. Everyone is your enemy. We're led to a 'pre-emptive strike' culture. Why the hell wouldn't kids have knives when they are told all the time that all the other kids have knives and are about to stab them? We are coiled springs, feeding on paranoia. But we couldn't go about our lives like that. We have to block it out.

Then, on just a basic day to day life level, we have bills, rent or mortgages, a fragile economy, fears of job losses, just trying to survive. And companies have been very good at making people dependent. Careers become our lives because they have to. And some companies are great - full of perks, great working conditions and so on - but they are traps, locking us into that dependency. So much of our energy goes to just paying those bills and feeding those traps. So of course we have to block out all that other crap. We don't have time or energy for it.

We are too busy.

Luckily we provide for that - we can fill our brains with action films, reality tv, sport (that's just reality tv too), games and so on. We end up like those aliens with big brain-heads. Full of information. Only, it's mostly misinformation and useless crap. It weighs us down. All the while, we try to block it out. Just to get on with our lives. We're just trying to live.

An older person asked me recently where the hell all the young people were protesting about the illegal invasion of Iraq. He said that their generation ended the Vietnam war. Asked what had this generation done? Well, people did protest. I was at one - a really big one. Didn't matter because the government knew all it would take was a little distraction and people would move on. Their lives would get busy. They'd have to worry about the next bill, their careers, what they would buy next, what the next media paranoia frenzy is, what's the next popular troubled area in the world. Simple basic distraction.

To survive we just have to block so much stuff out.

Where this post came from was a post over at Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner on animation acting. I was thinking, how can we know acting when we are withdrawing from the world? Because that's what I see happening. We're getting so much more comfortable in our own heads. On text messaging. Email. Yes, you can contact millions of people online - hard to think of that as anything other than social. But it's not real contact. The world is just too difficult now. We are withdrawing.

But every now and again, someone snaps. Shoots up a school or something. I think we're going to see much more of that sort of thing. I think people are going to feel more and more isolated, separate from society. And I think that, given time, there will be more people ready to snap than actually able to function in society. The solution isn't to get a gun to shoot those crazies first. It's to look at society. We're people. It should be our society. We should be taking it back.

But, right now, we're living in the Age of Distraction. And we're blocking it all out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Changes

Only choosing a few, it's hard to find the posts that really mean the most to me. But this is one of them. This repost comes from June '08 and it comes after the death of my dog, my oldest friend who had been with me for 17 years. Hard to believe that was well over a year ago now. I miss him all the time. I think I always will.

But the realisation that life continues for the living comes at unexpected times.
I've been pretty down lately. Losing my dog hit hard. The dog people among you will know what I mean. Those of you who aren't dog people, well, take my word for it that it's hard. 17 years is a long time. And I had to just get on with it at work and be professional and all that, and in everyday life too, so I was just burying how hard this is inside and it has been kind of eating away at me.

And I've had tough weeks and tough weekends around all that. Things, generally, have been pretty crappy. Then there's the thought of this godawful company outing.

Well yesterday I had managed to track down some of that Indy Lego I was looking for. I went out to get it at lunchtime and got absolutely soaked on the way back - how did everyone else know they'd need coats and umbrellas? And on the way back I was thinking about this company outing. I've been dreading it from the moment it was brought up. I can think of about a thousand different things I'd rather be doing and most of those involve sitting on my couch not being out with people I work with.

But then I thought, okay, I'm going. Accept it. Who knows, it might not even be awful. Maybe, just maybe, I'll find something to enjoy. Maybe not.

Suddenly, one little weight was lifted. It's still a crappy company outing and it's just one little part of my life but I think what it did was signify a willingness to just get on with things. Some forward momentum. I've still got some life to live and I'm going to just go do it.

A small change but a change nonetheless.

It helped.

Then I was rained on again on the way home and I realised I was just being delusional.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Bloggiversary to me! (not a repost)

Well today is the day. My blog's birthday. Two years old. Man, how it has flown.

Last year, I did a whole big post with a nice little birthday image but, this year, for some reason, making a big deal out of it doesn't seem quite right. Although I am enjoying browsing through some of the old posts to see what I'd like to post again. I haven't done that before. There will be a couple more reposts over the next few days of posts I like and then it's back to regular service. Hey, if there's a post you remember that you like, let me know.

A lot has changed this year and I think that's what I tried to reflect in the image above. The future is far less certain and recession is hitting pretty hard in some places. Like where I am. It's funny that a huge amount of people are still in complete denial about that so I think that's going to start to hit even harder in the near future.

For me, I don't know where I'll be this time next year. Quite possibly, I'll end up on the streets looking for animation work. I don't know if it's a skill that really translates to the streets but it's worth a shot. "Animate you a character, sir? No? No? God bless you, sir," and so on.

But it has actually been a really good 12 months since my last bloggiversary. I've been working hard on a project I love and it's something I think will contribute to the rest of my career. Possibly the rest of my life. That's a rare thing and I'm really thankful for it.

It has been a good year.

Well, here's to another year. Thanks as always for dropping by my little blog. Who knew when I started writing about depression two years ago and ranting about my crappy animation job that I'd find a little blog community of people I would call friends? If I'd known that, I probably would have tried to make those early drawings a little better. Look back, they're unbelievably crap. Well, not to worry, they served a purpose at the time. Helped me get stuff out.

If you're reading this, I hope you're doing well and thanks again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Oliver Postgate 1925-2008

It seems a little odd to repost an obituary but, in a way, the passing of Oliver Postgate reminded me why I do what I do. Postgate, who died in December of last year, made such a massive difference to a whole generation of children. Adults think back to his shows and have such fond memories, often just feelings. Feelings of warmth and comfort. He didn't do it to sell advertising space, to sell toys or to brainwash your children.

He did it to put smiles on the faces of children.

That's what's important. That's what counts. Since this post, we also lost John Ryan, of Captain Pugwash fame, another fantastic artist and creator.

Oliver Postgate died aged 83.

Oliver Postgate created Bagpuss, the Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings and more. He was one of the top figures, if not the top figure, in a Golden Age of UK children's programming. It was a time of creativity, a love of fun and all things silly. It was a time when the sole aim was to put smiles on the faces of children. To make them laugh.

And that's exactly what Oliver Postgate did. Over and over again.

His importance, for several generations of smiling children, can't be overstated. Even now, thirty and forty years on, mentioning one of his shows will bring people right back to their childhood. The Clangers has become a common language for fun, for carefree times. Mention Bagpuss and a room can fill with warmth. For those of you outside the UK and Ireland, this effect is truly amazing. Look inside to the playful innocent child inside someone who grew up in Britain or Ireland from the 60s on and, somewhere in there, you'll find some or all of Oliver Postgate's characters.

He inspired a generation of artists, creators, animators, illustrators, writers, dreamers and free thinkers. Anyone with an ounce of imagination.

We may have lost a legend but his influence will be felt for decades, possibly much longer.

Goodbye Bagpuss. Goodbye Clangers. Goodbye everybody. I'll miss you all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Bleak Future of Animation Part 3

On the 23rd of September, My Medicated Cartoon Life is two years old. So I thought, as I have never reposted anything so far and I have a few favourites, it might be a good excuse to repost some oldies.

Over at John K's blog recently, he made a post asking will traditional cartoon principals survive? Well, I had given my answer to that close to a year ago in my 4-part post - the bleak future of animation. My answer was no.

Here is Part 1.
And this is Part 2.
Part 3.
And Part 4.

But, for my repost, I've gone for Part 3. Firstly, I just like the doodle that goes with it. I can really see this scenario playing out in a couple of generations time. And, secondly, it marks the birth of my child. One of them.

Here it is -

I meant to get to this post yesterday but ended up having to attend the birth of my child. Live blogging would have been seen as bad form. So where was I?

7,000 drawings a year. Possibly a little less. Possibly much more. That's how much a traditional animator or would-be animator could rack up in just the normal course of their day. That doesn't include personal studies or sketches or little thumbnails that they would do along with those drawings. That's 7,000 finished approved drawings.

You don't get this from Flash animation.

Nope, really. You just don't.


In Flash, with most working methods, it is about manipulation of libraries, often totally flat and completely predefined. Drawing within Flash is for two things - to rough out a piece on the timeline so you have an idea of what you're doing (and some animators skip this, at their peril), or to make a missing symbol or hide a join, and some studios discourage or completely disallow this for fear of loss of control. The good Flash animators will likely (hopefully) have doodles of poses and expressions around their desk from the scenes they are working on. But that's not the same or even close to what is expected from a traditional inbetween, clean-up or animation drawing. And certainly doesn't approach the same numbers in volume.

But Flash animation isn't the same thing, is it? So does it matter?

You also don't get this from 3D. In 3D animation you are manipulating marionettes effectively. It's about posing them. It's an art in itself of course so not really all that directly comparible to traditional. But, like Flash, good animators will often have poses roughed out in pencil first. Again, not close to what is expected from a traditional finished drawing.

3D animation is a whole different form though, more like stop-motion. So does it matter?

Some of the best Flash animators learned traditionally and then were trained in Flash. Some of the best 3D animators learned traditionally and then were trained in 3D. In both methods, traditional animators have a massive advantage, are often the people directors seek out first and can have a great positive influence in studios.

Those are the 7,000-a-year drawing people.

Could it happen the other way around? Could someone spend five years animating on a Flash show and then produce a great piece of 2D animation? Or even 3D?

Not the way the 7,000-a-year people could.

Yes, I'd say it matters.

The most-excellent Cold Hard Flash reported on something Brad Bird said about a Marky Maypo spot. He said "I sometimes worry that people whose knowledge is limited to Flash tricks will never be able to reach the level of skill demonstrated in these little demonstrations of genius." Personally, I think he's right. How could he be wrong? We're comparing with the 7,000-a-year people.

But what happens when those animators retire or die? What happens when their influence is gone? What happens when you take away the people who were practicing to the tune of 7,000 drawings a year?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

That's not a storyline

Of course, this is someone clearly missing what a 'storyline' actually is. And creating a problem where there was none. You knew that, right? You got that.

The actual script wasn't about Christmas but was about an annual event so it seemed like an obvious comparison. How can writers possibly get away with writing more than one Christmas episode? In fact, how do they get away with even one? Stories about Christmas have been done before. How derivative. Broadcasters expect new storylines. Not repeats.

And I didn't really finish the end of the notes in that pic. They usually go something like this -

Please don't proceed with the changes without consulting me. I'll be on holiday until July 2012 but you can reach me in the office any time after that for a chat.

Oh to have the holidays of one of these people. It would be just lovely.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Astro Andy for a Monday

A little iPod Andy doodle for a Monday. He's not hurtling to his doom. Not oblivious to some hideous fate that awaits him. Not this time.

He's found a friend.

No catch. A little friend. That's nice, isn't it? Astro Andy deserves it after all this time. And it's Monday, so I thought we could do with a bit of good news.

Mr.Trombley postes in the comments of my last post that he's back blogging. He has interesting things to say so, if you've got a few minutes, check out his blog.

While I'm mentioning sites, have you checked out the Daily Grail for some interesting articles on things you probably don't know about but certainly should? No? Well check it out here.

Also, check out some zombies. If you like that sort of thing. I do. I like zombies. Why? I'm not quite sure. Any theories?

Anyone impressed with Apple's announcements last week? The iPod Nano seemed to get all the good new features while the rest sort of got nothing. And to do it on the same day as the big Beatles release and not to get them on to iTunes? Well, I guess people are better off getting them on CD but still, it just doesn't look good. And Apple know by now - image is everything. Still, I'd love a fancy MacBook.

I left my heart in Tokyo down by the river, don't you know? I didn't really. It's a song that's on right now. Oh yes... it's one of those days... of those days.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I've often heard about these 'out of body' experiences. Where people feel themselves float out and above their body looking down at themselves.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with depression, one of the things I felt was that I wasn't living my life - I was watching myself living my life. Like I was out of my own body or looking through a television or something. Turns out this feeling is quite common with depression.

I wonder if it's connected with these out of body experiences? You know, you didn't just have a spiritual experience, you're just depressed dude. Maybe there are miserable monks everywhere. Or maybe those of us with depression are approaching enlightenment... actually, if being depressed is close to enlightenment, maybe that's not something to strive for.

That small work for hire project I mentioned in my last post is officially dead. Which leaves me with a void. An uncertainty. Actually a certainty - that I have nothing to go on to.

I'm throwing my all into the project I'm on. Everything I have is going into that, hence the infrequent updates. It's making me a little bit crazy. Nothing seems good enough right now and those few elements that do seem good enough, I'm wondering if they are too polished for the spirit of the show. I'm constantly second-guessing myself right now.

Susan informed me that it was Suicide Prevention Day yesterday. I missed it. But, if you're reading this, you prevented a suicide yesterday simply by living so well done to you. To some, that may seem flippant but, to others, that achievement doesn't come so easily.

Be good to those people.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I don't mind not having my phone with me but my iPod is an essential. As is my pants. Not sure how that happened. I leave them out so I can't miss them.

Unless somebody moved them...?

Forgot my headphones too so I can't just listen to music from my computer either. Oh well. One of those days.

It's September. I've been doing this blog almost two years now. That's flown. I have been far less prolific over the last while. Things have been busy. Is anyone still here?

But it also means we're going into Autumn and on towards Winter. And the project I'm on finishes early next year and I have no idea what will happen after that. I am faced with the prospect of having nothing to move on to and that is something I haven't had to face in a long, long time. It's a little scary. Actually it's very scary as the last times I faced this, I didn't have children to feed. Now, I do.

I'm not sure how it will all work out.

There's a small work for hire project that may happen but it's looking less and less likely. That wouldn't be an awful one to do by any means. Well within my comfort zone. Then there's another project that might happen but it's one I feel should never be made and I just don't see it in my future. If I was going to do a job I am completely against, there are probably ones that can make me more money - like dealing arms or drug running.

And then there's... nothing.

If I didn't have a family to feed, I'd live on beans for a while and write a book or something. I'd actually use a break to really put my time into something creative. But things are different now.

All part of growing up, I guess.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Well it can't all be great, can it?

Something has changed in my work. I always wanted to do good work, but this is more.

I feel like Han Solo when he saw Lando take out the Millennium Falcon.

For some reason, on this project, my thoughts always come back to this - I may never get to make something like this ever again. I hope I'm wrong, of course. But the result of that is that I don't want one frame to make it to air that I'm not 100% happy with.

Even to the point of throwing out whole episodes.

Because, once the show is finished, it has a life of its own and can never be redone. And I may never get to do it again. There may never be more.

But there are realities to the business end - budget and time. People can't afford just to throw out whole finished episodes. Well, maybe they can. Maybe things can be shifted, budgets juggled and producers can get a little bit creative. After all, we all want a great product, don't we?

The idea of a last chance changes everything.