Ethan Golds' "Poison"

Ethan Gold - Poison from Ethan Gold on Vimeo.

Above and below: Early concept sketches for "Poison" .

A while back musician/ producer Ethan Gold approached me about making a music video for his upcoming album "Songs from a Toxic Apartment". Some of the themes of the song "Poison" dealt with loss of innocence, and temptation. My first sketches took a bit of a biblical tone... going back to the garden of Eden. Though this time, the garden was set in a modern city.

Below and above: Ethan liked the first sketches, but felt that perhaps I was being too literal. But he liked the image of a fiery haired woman.

Below: Somehow she evolved into a sort of fiery biker chick.

Lee Croudy, Poul, Parn, Tu, Ingo, and a lot of the guys at "The Monk" studio pitched in for fun... sketching, and playing around with ideas. One of the animators, Lom, had an idea of plugging LAN lines directly into the head of the innocent character. I thought it would be nice if the streaming information would slowly taint the character throughout the video. I did some sketches based on this idea using a weird baby character... which Ethan really liked.

below: I am a big Hugh Ferriss fan, and have always wanted to do a project that was "Ferriss-like". I made the sketch below cobbling together photos I found on the internet. Ethan liked the feel... so we made the city in 3D... and went into production.

Below: More concept color sketches, which I painted over the rough 3D playblasts animated by Ingo Schachner at the MONK studio. Working with Poul Riishede, and Salvador Simo who put the video together in composite. The video is meant to have a sort of primitive, low tech, video game look to it... as if seen through the eyes of a kid that has slowly been sucked into an evil digital realm.

Done as a sort of a side project... with a tiny budget, and little time... It was fun to do something a little different, and quirkier than usual.

I wish Ethan the best of luck on his upcoming album!

Check for updates on
Ethan Golds site.

Monk Reel

"The Monk"- studio has edited together a few of the projects I've been more recently involved with. It is titled as a "Director's Reel"... when in fact, it is more of my "Directors / Designers" reel.

Here is a brief credit list

Mark Oftedal as co-director.
Maurice Noble as co-writer.
June Foray on voices.
Produced at Wang Film in Taiwan, and Thailand.

El Tigre
Directed by Dave Thomas
Art Directed by Roman Laney

The Secret Of Kells
Directed by Tomm Moore, co-directed by Nora Twomey
Art Directed by Ross Stewart
Produced at The Cartoon Saloon, by Paul Young

Lava Boy (trailer)
co-directed by Veerapatra Jinanavin

Directed by Rob Epstein, and Jeffrey Friedman
animation directed by John Hays
Production design by Eric Drooker

Escape of the Gingerbread Man
Produced by Juck Somsaman and Nitipat Somsaman, at The Monk Studios
Co-produced by the Animation Workshop, Denmark
Co-produced by the West Danish Film Fund
Voices on this clip by Jon Kenny

Ginger Music

At long last, my short film "Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!!" is coming to completion with the addition of sound!

Above: Revisiting some of my old instrument designs for the "Band" of sheep in my short film "Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!!"

The actual music for the film was recorded at Doon Studio, in Waterford Ireland. All arranged and played by squeezebox man Benny McCarthy and a few of his friends. I am a huge fan of Bennys traditional Irish bands Danu, and Rattle the Boards. Fantastic stuff!!! I hope he's pleased with what I've done with his delightful music.

Originally I had asked the brilliant Billy "Keys" Benson to score the film. But scheduling conflicts got in the way. Luckily, the super talented, Mathias Winum, agreed to score the film... and has brought the story to a whole different level with music. Morten Green at Tonemasters is working on the sound mix... and helping put the finishing touches on foley. I have to send out a deep heartfelt thanks to the Animation Workshop, and the West Danish film fund, without who's help I would never have been able to finish the sound... or the rest of the film for that matter. I also have to thank everyone at the Monk Studio, for continuing to support Gingerbread.

Need for Speed

Above: Quick character roughs, "in motion".

A while back I did a t.v. commercial pitch. I was asked to create a number of quick concept designs to give the client an idea of what I was thinking. The main drive behind the commercials concept was pitting speed, against things that... well... ideas that weren't so speedy.
The client also requested designs that had the feel of a children's book.

Below: A page from the pitch book... reinforcing the idea of children's book design.
I thought it might be fun to try out some designs on white... perhaps using paper textures and such in the spot. Alas, I didn't get the job... but had a few fun afternoons putting everything together.

The Outsider

Not so long ago my friends at the Animation Workshop invited me to take part in a film Jam experiment. I was one of 6 professional filmmakers taking part. Each director was given the theme "The Outsider", a group of beginning animation students, and 4 days to put 2 short films together. The list of students involved are on the credits of "The Dude" video.

The Outsider -"Letters" from Ida MÃ¥rtensson on Vimeo.

"The Outsider" - about a letter who is left out of the group... only to take revenge.

At the beginning of the week I presented 4 or 5 concepts to the students based on the "Outsider" theme. The students chose which ideas they would like to make, and hit the ground running... sort of. None of the students had made a film before... and most of them had no knowledge of the programs we would need to use during the week. So they were learning photoshop, premiere, and flash, while they were learning the film making process! Quite a challenge.

The Outsider -"The Dude" from Ida MÃ¥rtensson on Vimeo.

"The Outsider" - about a guy who hates closed in spaces.

Some of the other directors did a lot of the work on the students films themselves... but I tried to remain as "hands off" as possible. Meaning, I laid down the basic concepts and designs, and let the students have fun with them. I gently guided the students through the film making process... only stepping in when I could see that the groups were struggling... and I tried to keep things on track so we could finish on time. The famous Jan Rybka would come in and answer our t.v. paint questions... and On would help out with any flash troubles that would arise.

"The Outsider"- about a guy who gets locked out of his house... and takes things too far.

Mid week, a few of the students wanted to break off, and work in a smaller group. So I broke out a third concept... and wrote it so the students could finish it in just a day or two. I called this piece "the door".

I think considering everything the students did a great job! We all had a lot of fun... they learned a lot... as did I.

Digital Fish

A number of years ago my pal Mark Oftedal asked me to do some inspirational designs for the presentation of his companies animation software, REFLEX.

Reflex is a 3D software that is much more intuitive to use than other current 3D platforms. Since Mark is both a 2D, and 3D animator, he wanted Reflex to capture what is best about both types of animation, and wanted that to come through in the presentation.

The software is still in development, and hopefully it will be offered to the public soon.

phi ta khon

One of the talented artists I've been working with, Nuttakorn "Kwang" Trivittayakorn, asked me to do a few inspirational sketches for a personal film project. The story concept is based on the Phi Ta Khon festival in his home town in north-eastern Thailand.

Above: A few passes on the main character.

Even though the story is set in Thailand... Kwang felt the main characters, who happen to be spirits, should feel as if they were from another land.

Below: I also did some concept sketches for several of the animals in the story. They often act as messengers between the humans, and the spirit world.

... and of course it was fun researching, and designing some masks from the festival itself!

I hope one day to celebrate the Phi Ta Khon festival in Loei. The masks, and dances, are absolutely amazing! Thank you Kwang for making me a little part of your project... and introducing me to a new world.

All images are property of Nuttakorn "Kwang" Trivattayakorn

Howl Opens!

After opening the Sundance Film Festival in early 2010, "Howl" the film, is now finally getting a wider release!

The film is basically a drama centered on the obscenity trial Allen Ginsberg faced after the publication of his poem, Howl.

Starring James Franco as Ginsberg... The film was directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman... with animated sequences directed by John Hays. The animation design was inspired by ILLUMINATED POEMS by Allen Ginsberg and Eric Drooker.

I served as the animation art director, and animation production supervisor on "Howl" at the Monk Studios in Bangkok. "Howl" was an artistically and technically challenging project. The film had a tiny budget, and a tight schedule. It was fun to work on something so experimental though, and I think we made the most of it. I was also able to work with one of my childhood heroes, illustrator / art director Eric Drooker who provided numerous designs and inspirational illustrations for the project.

The Chuck Jones Show Opener

Years ago I art directed the opening of the "Chuck Jones Show" for Cartoon Network. The design style idea was to show the development of a cartoon from initial sketch to finished full color cartoon.

We had accidentally put the pencil in Chuck Jones left hand... and he was of course... right handed. Director, George Evelyn told us... "Chuck will never notice." Well... Chuck DID notice when he saw the animation. We ended up flipping the animation in parts, which sort of changed the composition.

My apologies for the quality of the video, it's something I found online recently... my copy lost to the ages. I will update this if I am able to find a better copy.

Aaron Sorensen directed the animation, with George Evelyn in the directors chair.

2010 Animation Workshop films

I have been fortunate enough to work the last few years with the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. As an artist, it has honestly been one of the most satisfying things I have ever been involved with. I have taught classes in layout, animation and design. And proudly served for two years as direction supervisor on the students final bachelor projects. Working side by side with Michelle Nardone, the head of the bachelor program, I have helped guide the students through the pre-production process... from concept design to final animatic. While Michelle and I worked closely with the groups, and freely gave our opinions, all the final creative decisions were left to the students.

Here are some links to some of the students work I have been involved with

Dave Thomas' Wilburville

Not so long ago, my pal Dave Thomas asked me to do some color sketches on a project he was developing. He liked the feel of "Mantelope", which of course we developed together years ago. He also liked the feel of some of my sketches from "John Deer". A concept that we also had originally started together, before life took us different ways.

Above: Some rough development ideas for the town of "Wilburville".
Dave wanted the town to have the feel of classic "Americana" with quirky differences. Here I am just exploring color and shape in broad strokes to give a general feel. The uniqueness, and details of the place would come from the characters that inhabitated it.
For example below, Daisy, a bird character, would live in a classic American house, that happens to be built for a bird.

Above: Color exploration for Daisy's bird house.

Dave is always coming up with cool, fun story ideas, and it's always a pleasure working with him. I wish him luck on his pitches, and hope to get the opportunity to help develop these visual ideas much further.

Space Sicle

A while back I was asked to make a commercial pitch for a popular type of ice cream. I basically was given an afternoon to come up with some character ideas... along with a general approach to the spot. I kept having visions of over-sugared children, and their over-sugared hyper dog. These particular sketches were the first thing to come out of my "pencil"... As there really wasn't time to develop the idea further. Unfortunately the studio didn't get the job... but there are something in the sketches here that I like.

Above: I am a big fan of Chesley Bonestall, and Robert MacCall's classic space illustrations. These guys really knew how to handle a brush! I submitted this page of paintings to the client as a general approach to the overall feel. I've always wanted to make a project with the feeling of these sorts of images, perhaps one day I will get the chance.


A big congratulations to Tomm, Paul, Nora, Stewie, Adrien and the gang at Cartoon Saloon for their Oscar, and Annie nominations!!! We all knew "The Secret of Kells" was a special film... and it's so nice that others have found out about it. It was nice to be involved... God speed to you all.

The official site is here.

The Secret of Kells - Disney Trailer from Cartoon Saloon on Vimeo.


This week I came across some old concept sketches, and color boards from a commercial I had been directing a number of years ago. Every year members of the Thai royal family put on a theatrical show in Bangkok. This spot was to be part of the advertising campaign for the show.

Many times I simply scan my storyboard, and put some loose color down to give the clients a feel for a project... as was the case here. From there I will develop the final art: BGs / character designs, based on the feedback I get. The client for this particular spot was wanting to capture the feel of Thailand in the 1940's and 50's. I had always wanted to make something with big band music... and this was the perfect opportunity. The client responded well to the initial sketches, and I began to plan the production.

I was experimenting with the idea of using cut-outs in Maya, mixing in elements of 2D animation. The first initial animation tests looked good, but everything came to a screeching halt when the clients son was killed in the tsunami. The whole country was in shock and mourning... the commercial spot, and the theatrical show were cancelled indefinitely.

My contract at the company I was working ended shortly after. But I have many fond memories of my first few years in Bangkok, and all the good friends I made there.

Jakata Tales

A while back, my friend Nat from Xhabition studios, approached me about helping her design a personal project based on the "Jakata" tales.

P'Nat liked the look and feel of the backgrounds on my short film "The Pumpkin of Nyefar"... and wanted something in a similar vein. I took "Pumpkin" as starting reference, then developed visual ideas that were more appropriate for "Jakata". The story takes place in India, so I wanted to use design elements from Southeast Asian art. For the background styling, my wife, On Krapook, and I would sketch the locations out in pencil... I would block the designs out in color, we would pass the designs back and forth for a while... then she would add the final finishing sparkle. It was fun to work back and forth this way on the designs.

Below: Some of my exploratory character sketches for the story. These inspirational sketches were then modeled in 3D.