Monday, 19 March 2007

Brian Moore "Teddy and Anna"

This is the second of our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.

Lewiss Needham interviews Brian Moore

Brian Moore is an animator from the USA who has animated the fantastic web series “Teddy and Anna”, which is a series of short animations about a little girl learning about the factory where her dad works. In each episode both Anna and the viewer learn something new about the factory. Anna then meets a Teddy. However it’s no ordinary teddy and Anna is soon involved in a world of the robot teddy and its job catching two crooks. It’s a strange world, what Brian Moore calls an “alternate past”, a mixture of old and new. Brian Moore is currently making a seventh episode of Teddy and Anna and his website is showing a rough preview of this episode. In my interview I ask him about this unfinished episode. Brian has also explained that he has changed the way he creates his animations and instead of relying on shape-tweening he is now doing more frame-by-frame animating, something we have learnt about at school as we progress. So we can only wait and look forward to the seventh episode of Teddy and Anna when this technique is shown off.

Brian: Hello Lewiss. Thanks for writing. I'm glad that you liked Teddy & Anna. I wish I had more time to work on it these days. I liked your Christmas animation! Nice driving sequence, good choice in background music too. Here are the answers to your questions:

Lewiss: Teddy & Anna are fairly short animations, have you ever thought of making a longer episode of Teddy & Anna?
Brian: When I began making web animation in 1999, the accepted wisdom was that you didn't want to make the viewer wait too long for your work to download; they might get bored and click on to something else. Shorter pieces of animation were smaller files and would download faster. Now everyone's connection is faster, and they're more used to waiting for video to stream. I was also in a hurry to get the story started, and to keep new episodes coming out. With every new episode, I thought of new animation tricks to try and new elements to add to the story, so that each episode took longer to make than the one before it. Eventually it took me about a month to do about a minute of animation with music. I figured it was better to release shorter episodes with a month's wait, than to work on longer ones that might take many months to complete. I didn't want people to get impatient or forget to come back to the site for the next episode.
Lewiss: How did you come up with the idea of Teddy & Anna?
Brian: It was a mix of things. I wanted to do an adventure story that was colorful and science-fictional, but using an alternate past instead of a futuristic setting. I also wanted to re-use my villains from my first animation, Nightcrawler. Some friends of mine were expecting their first child, and that put me onto thinking about fathers and children. Eventually I made a short animation with Anna being given a teddy bear by her father, with the villains sneaking in through the window, and I built the story from there.
Lewiss: When did you start to animate and what training did you have?
Brian: My first attempt at an animated story was Nightcrawler, which you can watch here: I went to university for Fine Art and studied drawing and painting. I taught myself animation by studying other animated cartoons and reading as many animation books as I could find.
Lewiss: Do you animate every day and if so how much hours do you roughly animate a day?
Brian: When I worked on Teddy & Anna regularly, I would animate for maybe four to six hours a day (when I could get that much free time!) I don't do much animation these days - I have too much work making un-moving drawings.
Lewiss: Is animating your full time job or do you do other work as well?
Brian: I am currently working as an illustrator and designer, and fitting in my own projects whenever I can.
Lewiss: Have you won any awards for Teddy and Anna or for any other animations you have done?
Brian: I received two Artist Grants from my local cultural council to help subsidize my work on Teddy & Anna.
Lewiss: What does the future hold for Teddy & Anna or are you thinking about making a different animation series?
Brian: I can't say when I'll get back to Teddy and Anna - it would probably take me a long time to complete their story. I may have to do it as a graphic novel or illustrated book. I would like to do more short animated pieces someday.
Lewiss: Are there any animators you admire and can recommend their work?
Brian: I love the films of Hayao Miyazaki (he directed "Castle in the Sky","Howl's Moving Castle", and "Spirited Away", among other movies). I loved"The Triplettes of Bellevile", directed by Sylvain Chomet. I also like a few of the 1940's Superman cartoons (like "The Bulleteers" and "The Mechanical Monster") made by Fleischer Studios, and of course Looney Tunes directed by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng.
Lewiss: Is it possible to make a living creating animations for the web?
Brian: I think so, though it takes a lot of effort to create something good and promote it successfully. The current way that web cartoonists and animators seem to make a living is to sell merchandise related to their creation. It may be in a few years that people will be willing to pay directly for animated content on the web.
Lewiss: What happened to episode 7?
Brian: I decided to try a new animation technique (for me, anyway) - frame-by-frame animation. Previous episodes used Flash's shape-tweening abilities to do a lot of the animation work. It made the animation smooth and regular, maybe too smooth. I wanted to make the animation more irregular - like the difference between a well-programmed drum machine and a jazz drummer that can keep the beat as well as inject some personality into it. This ended up being a tremendous amount of work, and I ran out of steam about halfway through. Most of the episode exists in line drawing form, with some color sections; I think I made some of the music as well. At that point I had less time to spend on Teddy & Anna because of paying work, and I also wanted to try some new things like a comic book featuringTeddy and Anna. So the animated series went on hiatus.
Lewiss: Has the work you are doing for Smithson and Plastic Box taken over from Teddy & Anna?
Brian: Yes - although it probably takes about half as long to draw a month of Smithson comics than it does to draw one Teddy & Anna episode. I'm spreading my time out over more projects now: illustrations, comics, paintings, and other things. So I don't have a large amount of time to devote to just one project like Teddy & Anna. But maybe I will again in the future. Good luck in your studies! I hope you keep having fun with animation.

Lewiss: And thank you for your time, Brian.

For the first in the series “Teddy & Anna” visit:
You can find links to Brian’s work on both our website and our blog:
Brian has another commercial site in which his artistic talent is plain to see (Plastic Box) and a blog, Brian Moore’s Sketchblog.

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