Tag Archives: Animation

The Year of the Pyre!

Now that I’m about 10 pounds heavier full of candy canes and egg nog, it’s time to start dropping some weight. Figure I’ll start with what I’ve been working on these past few months.

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COSMOS: 

2014 saw the rise of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey which has gone on to win more awards than I can list here, but I will mention that it won 4 Emmy’s and earned a place in the world’s hearts. It was an incredible honor to be so involved on a project of that scale that touched so many people and will inspire generations to come.

HAMSTERS WITH MUSTACHES:

DreamWorks TV contracted this series out to us at my studio and I once again took the helm of this … tiny little hamster wheel. I’m actually really proud of what we did in such a short amount of time. I had a great team of artists working under me, and it was my first experience using Toon Boom’s Harmony animation software. Flash is dead to me now. The difference in quality and ease of control is night and day. Check it out for yourself. Episode 2 and 3 to come soon … the Hamster Trilogy.

And finally, announcing:

 MEET ME AT THE FALLS – PART THREE!

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The journey to the Falls has been the beloved side-project for myself, Zack Keller and Ben Tuller, but it’s truly the closest to my heart.

Now, in part Three, the Murphy family travels deeper into the wild of the post-apocalyptic world, still pressing on toward Snoqualmie Falls, where they hope everyone will be waiting. But much still stands in their way. Part 3 will be released in the next few weeks.

Parts 4 and 5 will be completed before the end of the year, and finally printed as one, complete volume. We plan to approach agents about publishing and TV mini-series rights when all is said and done.

It’s been nothing short of inspiring to see draft after draft of this story unfold and discover what the rest of my “family” has been up to on their own journey to the Falls. With Zack and Ben miles away in real life, Meet Me at the Falls has truly reflected my own life.

Much more to come in 2015:

  • Involvement with a yet-to-be-disclosed Animated Feature Film
  • Turner of the Century with the Keller Boys
  • Two New Novels poised to drop
  • … and much more animation!

The road ahead is long and filled with adventure, but I came prepared, with Pen, Pint and Pyre in hand.

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Every Line, a Roller Coaster

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Shrunk and White published a little book that is regarded as the ultimate guide for mastery over the written word. The Elements of Style. Authors around the globe swear by it, and while some of the techniques don’t mesh perfectly with the way modern literature is going, I swear by it too. Certain rules about grammar and construction are more fundamental than passing styles or what is considered “fresh.” Every writer should pick up a copy and study its pages well.

Among the most important is how to structure your sentence.

Basically, put the “new” part of the sentence at the end for greatest impact.* I’ve found this to be true of the sentence as much as even the paragraph itself–and on to the page, chapter and entirety of the book. It goes both ways, too, even stretching down to lines of dialogue. Cross media, cross genre, it’s a universal rule that’s rarely better when broken.

Let’s look at some examples:

When Ellen Ripley confronts the Queen Xenomorph in “Aliens”, she boldly steps in front of her and says,

“You, bitch! Get away from her!” … wait that’s not right. See how when we reverse it, it just loses it’s power? “Bitch” is the MEAT of that line. Save it to the last possible moment for most impact.

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“Get away from her, you BITCH!”

Those writers knew what they were doing. It’s bold and commanding. But, it doesn’t always have to be some exclamation. It works even in description.

“Fifteen years past, when they had ridden forth to win a throne, the Lord of Storm’s End had been clean-shaven, clear-eyed, and muscled like a maiden’s fantasy. Six and a half feet tall, he towered over lesser men, and when he donned the armor and the great antlered helmet of his house, he became a veritable giant.” –George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones.

Maiden’s fantasy” defines the rest of the sentence. Everything builds to that point and puts the line in context. The next sentence does this as well with “veritable giant,” And the two even work together. We get a sense of The Lord of Storm’s End. He’s a veritable giant out of a maiden’s fantasy. Those are the parts that really stick.

This especially works for the mundane.

“Horses were always her favorite of all the animals.”

works much better as…

“Out of all the animals, her favorite was always the horse.”

Careful ordering of words creates a roller-coaster-like experience when reading. Remove what’s being said and focus on the cadence of the sentence. You want the reader to be thinking: “What is this? What are they getting at? I think I might know. Oh, It’s coming. We’re getting closer. Wow, there’s the punch! … Okay, what’s next?”

It doesn’t have to be the subject of the sentence, but it should be the word or words that sell the idea; the part that’s really defining. The part that’s new. Different. The Oomph!

By putting this part last, it gives each line a sense of satisfaction. They’ve accomplished a TINY journey by reading it and want to know more.

Story theory dictates that the plot will rise to a climax, then drop down slightly, rising to an even higher climax at the end, until it fades off to the FADE OUT or last page. The Hero’s Journey.

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I would argue that should we zoom into any one section of that line, we would see lots smaller rises and falls. Each Act would have a climax then fall down again just before the end. So would each scene. And further each section of the scene. Each line delivery. It makes the story dynamic. The ending never drops as far as it started, keeping the plot moving along, but it definitely drops. That last bit of impact changes something and propels the story forward.

*If this really isn’t working in your text, Shrunk and White point out that “the other prominent position in the sentence is the beginning. Any element in the sentence other than the subject becomes emphatic when placed first:

Deceit or treachery she could never forgive.

Yet, even there, the sentence builds to what about deceit and treachery she could never _____.

The most powerful tool a storyteller has in their arsenal is withholding information.

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Duke of Fancy Free Drawing!

Duke contest

Got DUKE OF FANCY swag? Submit a photo of yourself wearing some from the Official RUGBURN store and we’ll send you a personalized sketch from the show’s creators! Tag @DukeofFancy on Facebook, or tweet (@dukeoffancyRB or @JohnDusenberry / @zfkeller) so we know who to contact for your prize.

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Duke of Fancy Update

Over the past few weeks there has been a growing response from fans loving Duke of Fancy! I’d like to thank all of you for your support and as a way of showing thanks, we’re holding a special discount on t-shirts.

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Appropriately named GoldLabel offers shirt, hats, mugs and other apparel at the Duke of Fancy store. Send your money to the world’s richest man in exchange for Duke of Fancy tees, now 15%-off with promo code SWEETTEEZ15 – shop here: http://goldla.be/1bXqmrg

And in case you missed them, don’t forget to watch the latest few episodes of the show:

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Duke of Fancy – Top Hats & Sugar Canes

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Unless you’re diabetic. Let’s see if Duke kills a bunch of innocent children shall we?

This episode is chocked full of hidden references and gags that inspired us to create Duke in the first place.  Fun facts about this episode:

  • This was originally the pilot episode Zack and I made to sell the show to Rugburn.
  • There’s the clandestine group of scoundrels from Zack’s novel The Success of Suexliegh (part of the inspiration for Duke)
  • There’s character from the beloved Monty Python series–pulling inspiration from their humor and of course Terry Gilliam.
  • Roald Dahl references
  • Several in-Duke references about the origins of his Butler, Chauncey, the multi-functional pipe and monocle, and the reason why Duke’s hat is so magical.

See if you can spot more – There are plenty more.

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Duke of Fancy – How to be Rich (Episode 3)

In this week’s Duke of Fancy episode, we learn the secrets about how to become rich (not as rich as Duke himself, of course–that’s impossible. But kind of rich. Rich like some prince out of the Arabian desert maybe, or Elon Musk rich.)

A change of pace for Duke, Zack and I figured people don’t want to just see the exploits of the world’s richest man, they want to be him; follow in his Bertuli laid footsteps. The first of several 1950s inspired “how to” videos, we learn from the man who knows absolutely nothing about everything!

Credit for part of this episode must also go to the incomparable Kari Casady, who helped on this episode with design, backgrounds and animation.

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Duke of Fancy

I’m super proud to announce that starting next week “Duke of Fancy”, the web series I produce with Zack Keller, will be making it’s grand premiere! The animated series follows the exploits of the richest man in the world who does whatever the  hell he damn well pleases, only to have it backfire in everyone else’s face.

I wanted the show’s visual style to reflect its whimsical yet high brow humor. The solution was the obvious perfect marriage between Ronald Searle and The New Yorker comics. As for the style of animation, having worked on Dick Figures for four seasons and a movie, I learned quickly that poppy pose to pose style can not only be hilarious, but allow for each of these episodes to be animated in about a week. Using puppets, the style is also heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam cartoons from the old british series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

As Zack points out, Duke himself is “in no way, shape or form inspired by his book The Success of Suexliegh … Okay, well, maybe just a little bit.”

Duke of Fancy.

September 17.

Get ready to be greedy.

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