Comics Alliance Reviews The Noble Approach

As the first anniversary of The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design draws near... great reviews are still coming in for the book! This time from Patrick A. Reed of Comics Alliance.

Read the post  HERE! 

The Book of Life: Part 1

Above: One of the trailers from the book of life.

Things have been fairly quiet here on the blog for the last year. Besides some health issues, promoting "The Noble Approach," having a new baby and moving to Korea... I was busy helping director  Jorge Gutierrez put together his first feature film at Reel FX in Texas... "The Book of Life."   Unfortunately I am unable to show any of my own artwork for the movie at this time... but there is plenty of eye candy from me and the amazing crew in the upcoming Art Of Book of Life. 

There is also some tasty treats on the official website by art director Paul Sullivan. 

After the book and movie come out I will be able to share a bit more. Until then... 

A Gingerly Prepared Meal -or- Ginger eats a close relative.

A promotion video for the store window. Directed and animated by Poul Riishede

Recently my good friends Poul Riishede and his wife Sansanee, opened a new Pancake House in Chiang Mai Thailand. They have sort of adopted the lead character from my film Escape Of The Gingerbread Man!!! as their mascot.

Years ago Poul left his native Denmark to help me make my film at The Monk Studio Thailand. Like most of my personal film work, I had no budget to pay anyone. But despite that, Poul went above and beyond what was expected... and helped make the film a reality.

A few pages from the menu. Layout and photography by Poul Riishede

During the production of the film, Poul constantly yearned for a well made pancake. Then after a while, he decided to take matters in his own hands... and opened up his own shop! I owe Poul so much for helping me make my own dream a reality... so offered him and his wife the character to help them get their little dream business going. I never expected him to run, run, run with the character the way he has... but I am happy to see little Ginger running again. -tod

Some Ginger goodies for the kids! By Sansanee Riishede!

P.S.- I would like to add that I owe a great debt of gratitude to so, so many who have helped me in my personal film work over the years. Friends with much greater talent than I... who have chosen to share that talent with me for a time. Without you, I wouldn't have much... and I will always be in your debt. THANK YOU!

Shaw Cable Valentine's Spot

Not too long ago I was asked to help design an ad for Shaw Cable. This was one of a series of commercials produced by Liaka House, and directed by the multi-talented Aaron Sorensen.

Above: Color studies.
For this particular spot I was asked to push the color and lighting by adding subtle hints of yellow, purples and aquas not found in most Shaw spots. Even this subtle approach was a huge leap for the client... who in the end decided on a more muted version.

Above: More keys and exploratory sketches.
A number of people have asked me about my approach to color scripting. As you can see... it's very simple. Many designers get caught up in making beautiful art, and forget that it is the final film image that matters most. I've found that it's far better to put down a lot of quick loose ideas than spend a lot of time on a few highly rendered keys. Yes, there is a time for that too! But not in a rough color script. This method will give the client and director more to choose from... and increases the chance of getting something interesting on the screen.

PERSONAL NOTE: Most of this year has been spent balancing freelance, teaching, and a new son! Thus I've been unable to post as often as I would like. But thank you for checking in every once in a while for new updates and posts. - Cheers...  tod

Episode 15: Rising Son Color

Every once in a while I'll dig through my archives and revisit color scripts from El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. Though it has been a handful of years since the show was cancelled on Nickelodeon, I have to say it is still probably one of my favorite TV projects. Creators Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua, art director Roman Laney, and director Dave Thomas tried to push every aspect of the show.

For Rising Son I focused on contrasting a "clean" fresh look (note the rare blue skies) against the grit and grime of Miracle City. Some of the color variations are subtle. I had a good idea of what the creative leads on the show were looking for. But since we were on a pretty tight deadline, and I was working from Asia, I thought it would be better to give those variations and let the leads choose.

To see more color scripts from the show please visit HERE.

SEA Concept Design Master Class

The final design without lettering. 

Recently I was asked to design a poster for a concept design class in Viborg, Denmark called "SEA." The master class took place between Feb 15th - March 1st 2014.

"SEA (South America – Europe – Asia) is a 2-week intensive concept development master class based on cooperation between three continents, each represented by the partners: Anima Mundi (Brazil), The Animation Workshop (Europe), and Office H (Japan). Together, the three partners aim to strengthen the network between the international animation industry and young concept development artists, across the three territories." From the SEA website.

Above: I submitted several design concepts, of which the above rough was chosen.

I felt the fish in the design should be based on several folk art styles... and should also be hand-made. To get more variety, I asked several artists to participate in the final artwork. 

Linocut by our visiting intern Sirid Garff

My paper-cut fish

... and watercolor by Bang-On Phothi-In

Sirid and On working on the linoleum block in our studio.

Animation Workshop Films 2014

It's that time of year for a new crop of short films from the amazing students of The Animation Workshop of Denmark! This last year I served as a story/design supervisor... and along with a group of very talented professionals helped guide the different student teams through the rigors of short film making.  The films speak for themselves! Enjoy!


Look for these and other TAW student projects on the official videosite HERE. 

Paddle Pop Begins

A few years ago I was invited to direct a few episodes of a low budget kids show called "Paddle Pop" at The Monk Studios in Thailand. Paddle Pop Lion (called Max in Europe) is the mascot of Paddle Pop ice cream and of course the hero of the show.

Though we had serious restrictions in terms of budget, content, and schedule... we had a good time putting these little episodes together. English speaking actors are more difficult to come by in Asia, and many of the voices in the series are friends and crew members. For instance, I am the voice of the giant chicken statue in episode 7. The little robots in this episode were inspired by the Balinese Monkey Dance. You can hear hints of Indonesian music in the soundtrack.

Episode 9 was interesting because of the fact that most of the crew had never seen a real snow beast before... or real snow for that matter.  They took it all in stride... and within the limitations we were faced with... did a fine job. Most of the character designs were established before I came onto the project. However, the client asked me to come up with "non threatening weapons." If you notice the soldiers "spears" they are inspired by dental floss picks.

Jingle Bells

A number of years ago I proposed a title sequence for a series of direct to DVD Christmas specials I was supervising in the Philippines.  My inspiration was classic Christmas card art. There was no real budget per say, so I proposed titles that would be inexpensive to produce, using lots of animation cycles, and panning artwork etc. Ultimately the studio decided to go in a different direction... and even though these are just rough sketches, there is something about them that I like.

All art copyright Tod Polson

The Noble Approach California Mini-Book tour

With the talented Brooke Keesling at Cartoon Network.

 Things have been a bit quiet here on the blog as we have been traveling throughout California with "The Noble Approach." We gave various Maurice talks, and book signings throughout the region. Everywhere we went we were met with great questions and great enthusiasm! It was fantastic seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. A number of the Noble Boys joined our discussions, and a good time was had by all. A huge thanks to Disney Features, Disney TV, Cartoon Network, Pixar and CTN 13 for hosting us! A special thanks to Chronicle Books for believing in this project, and helping make it a reality!

 With Disney Vet and designer Cynthia Ignacio Gordon
 With the happy story man Julius Aguimatang who loves to goose people when he's happy.
 At the famous Lucky 7 pub with Andrew Gordan, Sirid Garff, and Scott Clark
 In the Pixar lobby, the closest I've been to having an Oscar in years
 At one of the Noble talks. You can see the excitement mounting. 
A complimentary shirt from the lovely ladies of The Cartoon Saloon!

Undercover Blues Trailer

While I was still in college I worked for a small animation company called CimityArts, ran by producer Barbara Cimity. Working in a small studio is the best training a young animator can have... and I recommend it to anyone starting out in the industry.  The fact that the crew is so small, you end up doing whatever comes in the door; animation, design, boards, ... even directing.

A section from my "Undercover Blues" trailer board.

One of my early assignments was the trailer for the family film "Undercover Blues." (1993) I was asked to art direct, and board the trailer. This was in the days before computers were really part of the production process... so we shot actual objects... and actual baby under camera. We had a "spare baby" stashed in back just in case the first one didn't work out.

During this period I was heavily influenced by the art of the amazing designer, Cliff Boule. Cliff sort of took me under his wing, and showed me the ropes production wise. At the time he was well known for his black paper pencil sketches.

I have a video copy of the trailer on 3/4" tape... one day I hope to transfer my old work to digital media... and will post the video at that time.

A Little Lindy

 As a youth the story of Charles A. Lindburgh inspired and captivated me. Through the years I have played around with the idea of making a short based on his first trans-Atlantic flight. A friend of mine even built a 3D model for me as reference. Recently I bought a balsa model of the "Spirit of St. Louis" with a 34 1/2 inch wing span!

In honor of "Ink-tober" I decided to post a few of many quick inspirational ink sketches I did for the project. In these sketches I tried to explore Lindy's inner thoughts and feelings rather than simply re-telling his story.

All images copyright tod polson

Pumpkin Miniatures

Above: Early concept sketches for "The Pumpkin of Nyefar."

I have long been an admirer of Persian and Turkish miniatures, and have always wanted to design a film in that traditional style. While researching "The Pumpkin of Nyefar" in Turkey years ago, I saw my opportunity, and made a number of small paintings inspired by the art I saw on tour. Much of my early concept art attempted to remain faithful to the style of the miniatures. But as the story of "Pumpkin" developed, and became more and more wacky. It was clear that the artwork needed to follow suit.

Above: Stills from "The Pumpkin of NyeFar. Character layouts by Mark Oftedal.

So instead of trying to replicate Turkish miniatures, I tried to create a look that better fit the story... but still contained elements of the miniatures that I so loved. One day I hope to have the opportunity to design a film that will allow me to explore this style further.

art © tod polson, film stills © tod polson and Mark Oftedal

Animation from the movie "Howl" (2010)

Howl is a 2010 American experimental film which explores both the Six Gallery debut and the 1957 obscenity trial of 20th-century American poet Allen Ginsberg's noted poem Howl. The film is written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and stars James Franco as Ginsberg. (from wiki)

My role on Howl was as the animation art director, and animation production supervisor. I would take storyboards from animation director John Hays, and designs from art director Eric Drooker, and use them to direct the crew at "The Monk Studios" in Thailand. 

One of the biggest challenges we faced on Howl was figuring out how to bring John and Eric's vision to life on such a tiny animation budget. Working with CG supervisor Salvador Simo, we broke each scene down into 2D elements, 3D elements, cut-outs, matte paintings, and full 3D sets. The 2D sequences were animated and rendered by my students from "The Animation Workshop" in Viborg, Denmark who joined the crew in Thailand for 3-4 months.

For those that are interested, you can see the original proof of concept for the film  HERE.

From the final film... see some film stills HERE... and a few color scripts and designs HERE.

Episode 14: Licito Color

By episode 14 of El Tigre we were over half way through the season. The color for the main locations of the show had been fairly well established... so I was able to focus more on parts of the story that were unique to the different episodes. For E 14 I wanted to play the cool exteriors off the warm interiors for maximum contrast. I wasn't allowed to change the character color over the course of the show... so I simply tipped in characters from the color model sheet to test how they would read on the backgrounds. 

To see the rest of the El Tigre color scripts visit HERE!

A Noble dream fulfilled

Above: Mr. Noble at work in his home studio

Maurice had wanted to pass on his knowledge about animation design in book form for many years. Now with the help of many talented artists and friends, his dream is a reality.

"The Noble Approach" kindle version is now available for download HERE.

The hard bound copy of the book will be available after Oct. 1st 2013 HERE.

A Noble Effort- Article by Eric Molinsky

A nice article about one of my mentors; Maurice Noble... Put together by Eric Molinsky -Click on the arrow above to hear the article... Or read it... and see some of Maurice's art click HERE.

If you liked this article... check out Maurice's Biography

Stepping into the Picture: Cartoon Designer Maurice Noble by Robert J. McKinnon.

.. and Scott Morse's illustrated book, Noble Boy. 

My upcoming book based on Maurice's design notes... The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design will be out in Oct. 2013

Facebook Icons


A while back I doodled some Facebook icons for my wife On, myself, and a dog named Rudolph. Embarrassingly I'm not sure what kind of dog Rudolph is... but he is an avid Facebook user... and quite a character.  -tod

all images copyright 2013 tod polson