Monday, October 17, 2011

Baman Piderman: Season 2!

Baman and Piderman return! Need I say more?

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Embroidered animation

Have you seen this?! Aubrey Longley-Cook has made what is probably the first animation done with embroidery. Having done some embroidery myself, I have an idea how much work must have been involved in this. Amazing. I really like the reverse side, as it reminds me of Bill Plympton's work.

Embroidery animation by Aubrey Longley-Cook

Thanks to the guys at the Alt Animation podcast for bringing this to my attention!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mary and Max

There aren't nearly enough stop-motion animated features out there. And, although Talk Like A Pirate Day is less than a week away, Aardman's The Pirates! Band of Misfits won't be out for another six months. But I'm temporarily satiated after stumbling upon Adam Elliot's Mary & Max, which I seemed to have missed two years ago. Although the themes are similar to those in the director's previous works ("Uncle", "Brother", & "Cousin"), this film is neither creepy nor depressing. It's a little bit quirky, and absolutely charming. Check out the trailer:

Instead of spoilers, I'd like to share one of my favorite little details from the film: The Noblets. It's an animated cartoon that both Mary and Max watch on television. I'm always fascinated to see animation depicted within animation. How do animators pull that off? When it's done right, an audience can distinguish between "real life", "live-action film", animation, and even fantasy sequences -- all within an animated world. It's amazing to see so many distinct styles gel together in a single piece. Mary & Max may only employ the two styles, but I think they pair very nicely.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Full of Awesome

"There was a time when you were five years old, and you woke up full of awesome," blogs Melissa Wardy on Pigtail Pals.

You don't have to be a girl to appreciate the sentiment. No matter how hopeful, carefree, and energetic we may have been once upon a time, somewhere along the path to 'adulthood', most of us have lost touch with our inner awesome. But you can get it back. I did.

During a particularly rough week making my student film, I found myself drowning in doubts and fears. What was I thinking? What on earth had I gotten myself into? How was I ever going to get through it alive? And then I had an epiphany; It occurred to me:

"I'm in animation school... Fuck yeah!"

Thank you, Amelia, for reminded me of that feeling.  It's one I'd like to remember more often. So I hereby declare: I'm full of awesome!

Are you full of awesome, too?

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Draw on paper; capture digitally

As much as I love the idea of doing paperless animation with Wacom's Cintiq, there are a few problems. One, at $2000, I don't have it in my budget to purchase one right now. And two, I've not spent enough time on it to master the skill of drawing directly on a screen. There's just something about drawing on paper and flipping those drawings by hand that feels right. Three, it's not quite as portable an an animation disk.

Well, Wacom has just introduced a new technology that, with some modifications, could bridge that gap. The new Inkling is smaller than a cell phone, costs only $200, and allows you to make ink sketches on paper while capturing them digitally. Could the stylus be altered to use non-ink, such as graphite or Col-Erase? Could the receiver be modified to fit on a peg bar instead of clipping directly to the paper?

In any case, it's a fascinating advance of drawing technology. See for youself:

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's "Up", Doc?

Pete Docter, the director of Disney/Pixar's "Up," got his hands on some architectural drawings by Utah home builder, Blair Bangerter. The plans were for a full-size, functioning replica of the "Up" house. Rather than shoot the project down, he gave it two thumbs up.

The completed house is explicitly faithful to the original, down to the very last detail. Everything including the furniture, wall paper, coin jar, and paintings, were painstakingly replicated from the movie. Although it may not sit atop Paradise Falls, it could certainly be paradise for someone! Check it out:

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Film festival: Kino sen limoj

July marked a monumental moment in the history of Esperanto cinema. The international language made its "big premiere on the big screen" in São Paulo, Brazil. Being the first of its kind, the Esperanto film festival, Kino sen limoj, is a big deal. Although Esperanto culture has accumulated a wealth of literature, drama, poetry, and music during its 124-year history, its cinema has remained shamefully meager. Until now. The appearance of this Esperanto film festival is the beginning of a new era.

As part of the program, my film, Ĉapeloj, had the prestigious honor of screening as a non-competing entry. This may be the first time my film has played for an entire auditorium of its intended audience. Although I'm always grateful to hear English speakers laugh at all the right places, it's feedback from the Esperanto-speaking audience that really makes me proud. I take no offense when the words "naughty" and "rude" are used to describe my film; it's nearly always meant as a compliment. But when I hear it praised as "witty" and "genius" time and time again, I know my audience appreciates my visual puns on an intellectual level, just as I trusted they would.

Julie venis monumenta momento en la historio de la Esperanta kino. La unua Esperanta kinofestivalo ravis spektantojn en San-Paŭlo, Brazilo per dekoj da filmoj kaj videoj. Kiel pironira entrepreno, Kino sen limoj estas rimarkinda. Malgraŭ la granda kvanto da literaturo, dramo, poezio, kaj muziko en nia kulturo, E-istoj sentas la mankon de kino en nia lingvo... ĝis nun. La apero de Kino sen limoj estas tre esperiga. Finfine komencas nova erao.

Mia filmo, Ĉapeloj, estis unu el la honoritaj (ne-konkursantaj) filmoj, kiujn oni prezentis en la programo. Eble temis pri la unua fojo kiam tuta kinejo da Esperantistoj spektis ĝin kune. Kvankam mi dankemas kiam krokodiloj ridas ĉe la ĝustaj momentoj, plej fierigas min respondoj de Esperantistaj spektantoj. Priskribante mian filmon, la vortoj "fia" kaj "maldeca" ne ofendas min. (Kutime temas pri komplimento.) Sed pli kaj pli mi aŭdas laŭdojn je "sprita" kaj "genia". Tiam mi scias ke mia spektantaro komprenas kaj estimas la videblajn vortludojn, tiel kiel mi fidis.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Betty Boop ain't no brunette

A year ago today, Betty Boop celebrated her 80th birthday. And she remains as charming as she was in 1930. But despite her persisting popularity at the age of 81, few realize that Miss Boop isn't actually a brunette. All her modern depictions, and 89 of her 90 short films lead us to believe she has inky-black hair. But, in fact, she's a redhead.

During her whole career, Betty Boop starred in only one color film. Playing the role of Poor Cinderella, Betty's hair was neither black nor brown. It's fire-engine red:

Happy birthday, Betty! Don't let them take your Boop-Oop-A-Doop away!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

When I was still studying animation at Vancouver Film School, I watched a lot of animation. This proved to be less of a break from the drawing table, and more of a change of pace, because I was still studying the animation, critiquing the character designs, analyzing the camera angles, trying to spot what they'd done well, and what they'd done wrong.

At one point I made the mistake of revisiting one of my all-time favorite childhood cartoons, Rocky & Bullwinkle. As a student of animation, I was horrified. Much of the animation was bad: cycles of three keys with no inbetweens, bodies leveled off in such a way that only the legs moved in a walk, and so forth. But it wasn't just the animation. Everything was sloppy. Frames were out of focus, "cleaned-up" drawings looked smeared, background cels were scratched or panned in the wrong direction, hairs were trapped between levels, greasy fingerprints were left behind. It was filled with glaring problem after glaring problem. As one of my instructors put it, it looked like they got drunk and made a cartoon over the weekend.

But the production value of the show was particularly tragic for one reason: the writing was brilliant. You could listen to the soundtrack without picture and still laugh. It had so much potential, but it was executed so hastily I wanted to weep.

It remains a great example of how to cut corners and, more importantly, what not to do. But I haven't dared watch it again for enjoyment. I've hoped that one day I can overcome my training and see it only for what it could have been. I do so miss Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and Peabody's Improbable History.

But today I got a glimmer of hope. In a list of projects rumored to be in production at Dreamworks, there is mention of Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

After so many botched 3D adaptations of television cartoons, I'm usually cautious of such news. But after Sony surprised me with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I'm a bit more willing to suspend my doubts. Mr. Peabody and Sherman on the big screen? If only I could find the keys to the WABAC machine! In the meantime, check out this concept art of Mr. Peabody.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nikola Tesla: Rockstar Scientist

155 years ago Nikola Tesla was born. His bold experiments, mind-boggling discoveries, and startling innovations changed our understanding of electricity forever. If he had been born 75 years later, when the first electric guitar was made, would we now be playing rock music on a bolt of lightning?

I like to think so.

As seen in Pete Oswald's artwork from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Nikola Tesla is a rockstar scientist -- or perhaps the rockstar scientist.

I wish Sony Pictures Animation would get the hint, and make these posters available for purchase. Flint shouldn't be the only one allowed to hang it in his bedroom. Man, do I want one!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crab * Krabo

A while back, I was looking for a short project to refamiliarize myself with Adobe Flash.  Then my roommate brought home some beer from the local Crabtree Brewing Company.  The little tree crab on their logo caught my eye:

Although there are a few glitches with the build, and the animation leaves room for improvement, I'm relatively pleased with the result, given the small investment of time. To view it, visit the Crabtree Brewing website. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Antaŭ iom da tempo, mi serĉis etan projekton por refreŝigi mian konon de la softvaro Adobe Flash. Mia kunloĝanto hejmen portis bieron de loka bierfabrikejo (Crabtree Brewing Company). La eta arbokrabo kaptis mian atenton:

Kvankam estas kelkaj eraretoj en ĝia konstruo, kaj pli bona animacio eblas, mi pli-malpli ŝatas la rezulton, konsiderante la malgrandan tempon elspezitan. Por spekti ĝin, vizitu la retejon de Crabtree Brewing. Komentoj, kiel ĉiam, estas bonvenaj.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bill Plympton = badass

"IT WAS SO AWESOME! PSHHH! Bill Plympton is a bad ass. Just sayin'. Maybe you can join next time a bad ass animator comes to town."
These were the kind words I received in consolation after missing Bill Plympton's visit to Broomfield a week ago. To avoid being shamed as I've been, don't miss Bill Plympton when he comes to your area:
Just sayin'.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Although my film, Ĉapeloj, was animated on paper, the schedule didn't allow time to finish everything traditionally. Once upon a time, one would have to redraw everything with pen and ink onto sheets of acetate, and then fill in those drawings using brushes and acrylic paint. Finally a cameraman would photograph these, stacked seven high, meticulously following paperwork showing which drawings would appear where. This film then had to be developed, edited, and so on and so forth.

Fortunately, a lot of this process is done in the computer nowadays. The pen, paintbrush, and cameraman are replaced by a scanner and software. The software we used at Vancouver Film School was ToonBoom Harmony.

Today I noticed Ĉapeloj is being showcased on the ToonBoom website under the Schools and Students category:

Kvankam mian filmon, Ĉapeloj, mi animaciis sur papero, la horaro ne permesis tute tradician produkton. Antaŭ multaj jarcentoj, kiam la mondo estis juna, kaj kiam estis drakoj en Eŭropo, kaj kiam estis gigantoj en Azio, oni devis redesegni ĉion per plumo kaj inko sur plastikaj folioj. Poste oni devis pentri inter la inko per broso kaj farbo. Fine kameraisto devis multfoje foti ĉiun desegnaĵon en sepetaĝa fasko, detale sekvante liston da ĉiu kunigaĵo. Sekve oni revelis la fotojn, kunmutis ĉiun scenon, kaj tiel plu, ktp.

Feliĉe, multe da tio estas ĉi-epoke farite per komputilo. La plumon, farbobroson, kameraiston, kaj muntilon anstataŭigas skanilo kaj softvaro. Nia softvaro ĉe la vankuvera filma stud-ejo (VFS) nomiĝas ToonBoom Harmony.

Hodiaŭ mi rimarkis ke Ĉapeloj prezentiĝas ĉe la retejo de ToonBoom sub la kategorio Schools and Students (Lernejoj kaj Studentoj).  Por vidi tion, bonvolu klaki sur la supra marko.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Varsovia Vento

I was recently interviewed by a radio program broadcast out of Warsaw, Polland. We talked about a lot of things including my film, Ĉapeloj, and other projects I plan to tackle in the future. I was nervous at first, but I got over that the more we talked. Although the internet makes it possible to use Esperanto daily, I hadn't actually spoken it aloud in nearly four months. It felt so good.

Min lastatempe intervjuis Varsovia Vento. Ni parolis pri multaj temoj, inkluzive mian filmon, Ĉapeloj, kaj aliajn projektojn, kiujn mi klopodos realigi. Mi komence sentis min malkomforta, sed trankviliĝis post pli da babilado. Kvankam mi uzas E-on ĉiutage per la interreto, ĝis la intervjuo mi ne voĉe parolis la lingvon dum preskaŭ kvar monatoj. Kia sento!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Plagiarized Portfolio

Recently I met a guy seeking traditional animators. He gave me his card and asked that I send him my demo reel. I rejoiced. It was just the opportunity I was waiting for! Or was it?

Fortunately, I did what every applicant should do before sending a resume and portfolio. I researched the company I was applying for. While exploring the website, I watched his demo reel to get a feel for what I should include in my own. In it I recognized some of the work. At first I was excited. This was clearly a seasoned animator who I could learn a lot from.

But my spidey sense began to tingle. Soon I found myself looking where I first saw the piece of animation I recognized. To my shock and disappointment I found a different animator's name attached to it. So I continued my research. An instructor was able to identify another piece from the reel and gave me the name of the studio. Within an hour of sending an inquiry, the Executive Producer of the studio wrote back to confirm the clip in question (and a dozen others in the reel) did not belong to the artist claiming ownership. Later that day, a handful of scathing comments appeared on the video telling the artist not to steal other people's work. By the next day, the video had been removed.

While I'm disappointed not to be involved in a project that sounded very interesting, I am quite happy not to be working for someone who thinks it's okay to take credit for another artist's work. Good thing I did my research.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kia animacio en Esperanto plej interesus vin?

Plia filmeto
Filmeto por infanoj
Filmo longdaŭra
ALITIPA -- Lasu komenton

Senpaga baloto de

Simono KEITH estas animaciisto loĝanta en Fort Collins, Koloradio, Usono.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Will Vinton: Claymation pioneer

Yesterday, as part of their Visiting Artist program, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design hosted animator and filmmaker Will Vinton. The presentation was inspiring, energizing, and very edutational.  He told us about the many phases of his career, from his first experiments with clay, through the more refined animation  he came to call ClaymationTM (a term he coined and trademarked), and finally to his experiences pioneering computer generated (CG) animation.

It's interesting to note that, regardless of whether he was talking about stop-motion or CG, he referred to both types of animation as "3D".  I'll admit it does make a certain amount of sense.  Clay can be manipulated in three-dimensional space in ways paper drawings cannot.  But I'm not sure whether to be a-Noid annoyed or amused that the term has such a muddy definition.  When another filmmaker says they work in "3D", what is a person to conclude?  Are they a stop-motion animator working with three-dimensional sets and characters?  Do they work with computer-generated imagery?  Or, as theater-goers are again wearing 3D glasses, are they responsible for stereography?

One of the most interesting things Will Vinton showed us from his large body of work, were clips from The Adventures of Mark Twain, a Claymation feature film targeted to grown-ups.  Any film featuring Mark Twain piloting an interplanetary blimp en route to Halley's Comet has got to be good!  Although the film is already available on DVD, there are plans to rerelease the film in theaters for its 25-year anniversary.  I hope it get the chance to see it on the big screen!

After his presentation, Will Vinton opened the floor for questions.  I've always been fascinated with stop-motion animation -- particularly clay.  I grew up with Vinton's Noid, The California Raisins, and his Claymation Christmas Celebration.  I remember dinosaurs and other creatures brought to life by Ray Harryhausen.  I'll admit I watched Art Clokey's Gumby religiously.  And, for over 10 years, I've been totally enamored with Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit and other Aardman Animations productions.

But after studying traditional animation, stop-motion animation has become even more mysterious to me than it ever was.  On paper, we animate from key drawing to key drawing.  Each character is animated one at a time, on its own separate sheet (unless they are touching).  Background elements don't actually interact with the characters, but only appear to.  None of this is true of stop-motion animation. So, of course, I was dying to ask him: how on Earth do stop-motion animators do it all at once?!  Will Vinton's response came down to this: experience, pre-planning and paperwork.  I suppose it would have to...  I guess if I ever want to get involved with clay, I'll just have to spend more time doping and slugging out my animation beforehand.  Man, would I love to take a look at some of Will Vinton's exposure sheets!

Will Vinton's assistant just informed me that the Extras on the upcoming TWAIN HD DVD "should be pretty interesting and show and provide a lot of questions," and include "all the things [I] requested".
Looking forward to it!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Here I am featured on the cover of the latest Kontakto, one of the most popular magazines in Esperanto, distributed in approximately 90 different countries.  The interview, luxuriously illustrated with sketches, movie stills, and photographs, spans multiple pages.

Jen mi sur la kovrilo de la lastatempa Kontakto!  Tra pluraj paĝoj de la revuo, oni povas legi detalan intervjuon, lukse ilustritan per skizoj, bildoj, kaj fotoj.  Legu la novan numeron hodiaŭ!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I was recently interviewed by a reporter for Fort Collins Places & Faces. She asked me about animation, film school, filmmaking, and my animated short, Ĉapeloj. You can read the interview in all its stuttering, rambling glory on

Intervjuo (en la angla) ĵus aperis ĉe la retgazeto Espereble, en miaj venontaj intervjuoj, mi respondos demandojn iom pli glate.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living, as you may have guessed, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Animators @ Walnut St. Gallery

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting animator Ron Campbell at the local Walnut Street Gallery. As I had not yet left for film school, I had a million unformed questions I wanted to asked him, yet most of them would not take shape. I watched in awe as he doodled the Saturday Morning Beatles with the ease and confidence of someone who has drawn the same character tens of thousands of times. All I could think to ask him was what advice he could give a budding animator. This is what he said:

"Learn to do it with computers. And learn to draw; go to art school."

He went on to say he had worked with a lot of famous animators over the years, and many of them "couldn't draw for shit." In hindsight, I might have struggled less learning animation if I had taken his advice to really learn to draw before attending film school.  Seeing how many of my classmates worked, it became apparent that a fine arts degree would have made a better foundation than I had.

Last night, at the same gallery, I was pleased to meet Todd White, former character designer for Spongebob Squarepants.  Among his paintings he had one or two sculptures that reminded me of maquettes that are sometimes used by traditional animators to supplement the model sheet.

When I told Todd that I had recently graduated from Vancouver Film School and was trying to start a career in animation, I could tell part of him wanted to warn me to steer clear of the industry entirely. Instead, he bit his tongue and simply reminded me that it's extremely competitive field. Then he said (more or less):

"But hey, you gotta do what you love, right?"

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Usona Esperantisto

Ĉapeloj made the front cover of this month's American Esperantist. It's a small article, but the cover looks great. Click for a close-up:

Ĉapeloj regas la kovrilon de la nova numero de Usona Esperantisto. Por detale vidi la kovrilon kaj legi la anoncon, klaku sur la foto supra.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, as described by my fellow animator and colleague, Connell Garvey, was "beautiful and heartbreaking":

Rather than squee about the obvious superiority of animation or wax philosophical about the enchanting and melancholy story, I'd like to examine an interesting and rather bold choice for the film's U.S. screenings.

Although The Illusionist had much more dialogue than Chomet's previous films, The Triplets of Belleville and The Old Lady and the Pigeons, the theatrical release had no subtitles. Though I speak neither French nor Celtic, the lack of subtitles did not diminish my appreciation for the film but, rather, enhanced it. I assume this was intentional. As the two main characters of the film do not share a language, subtitles would have been inappropriate. The lack of translation gave the audience an additional layer of empathy for the characters because we, too, could understand very little of the words being said. We had to rely on non-verbal communication, just as the protagonists did. Their rich and subtle body language made this not only possible, but a pleasure to watch.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2nd Place goes to - ĈAPELOJ - gajnis 2an premion!

Yesterday was Local Filmmaker Night at the Lyric Cinema Cafe. There were seven local films competing, ranging widely in genre and style. Ĉapeloj was the only animated film, and it took 2nd Place!

Hieraŭ okazis Loka Filmista Vespero ĉe loka kinejo. Konkursis sep lokaj filmoj, kies ĝenroj kaj stiloj tre variis. Ĉapeloj estis la ununura animacia filmo, kaj gajnis la duan premion!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My second "film" * Mia dua "filmo"

Here's my second film, made in a few short weeks after an animator's crash course in Adobe Flash. Watch below, or on YouTube.

Jen mia dua filmo, kiun mi kreis dum nur kelkaj semajnoj post hasta kurso por animaciistoj pri la softvaro Adobe Flash. Spektu supre aŭ ĉe YouTube.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

My first film * Mia unua filmo

Here's my first film, representing more than four months of work. It's the first animated film in Esperanto. Also viewable on YouTube.

Jen mia unua filmo, kiu necesigis pli ol kvar monatojn da laboro. Ĝi estas la unua animacia filmo en Esperanto. Oni povas ankaŭ spekti ĝin ĉe YouTube.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.