The Noble Approach FLIP interview

A great interview for Alex Williams of FLIP! regarding the making of Maurice Noble's design book " The Noble Approach." To check it out ... please click HERE.

Above: A few Maurice Noble images from the article.

"The Noble Approach; Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design" is available for pre-order at

Gulls of Jutland

With the book nearly complete I have had a bit more time each morning to stretch my wings ... so to speak... working up some sketches just for fun. These particular sketches are inspired by a field of Black Headed Gulls I pass on the way to the Animation Workshop where I've been teaching the last few weeks. The gulls of Denmark are quite a bit different than most of the birds we observe in Thailand and Wyoming. Fascinating critters.

Year 3

This year I made a sketch to commemorate our 3rd year anniversary, as well as On's birthday. I tried to hide a number of 3’s in the design, and chose a cockerel because of the beasts my father-in- law raises at our home in northern Thailand. We have many fond memories of them waking us up long before the crack of dawn. -tod

Noble Approaching

The Noble Approach is at last available for pre-order on Amazon!

May 31, 2013
This extraordinary volume examines the life and animation philosophy of Maurice Noble, the noted American animation background artist and layout designer whose contributions to the industry span more than 60 years and include such cartoon classics as Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th CenturyWhat's Opera, Doc?, and The Road Runner Show. Revered throughout the animation world, his work serves as a foundation and reference point for the current generation of animators, story artists, and designers. Written by Noble's longtime friend and colleague Tod Polson and based on the draft manuscript Noble worked on in the years before his death, this illuminating book passes on his approach to animation design from concept to final frame, illustrated with sketches and stunning original artwork spanning the full breadth of his career.

Shoot For the Stars

Not too long ago I was asked to put together a pitch for a commercial set in space. 

Above and Below: A few of my concept sketches for the pitch. I imagined  translucent layers of space dust... making space feel rich and deep. The art team at the studio then took these sketches and others that I had created... and used them as inspiration... experimenting with shape... color and form. But as in many projects ... I am unable to show most of the work that was done.

The character designs above were from the client... which we eventually re-designed to something more appealing. Ultimately the client decided to go in a different direction with the spot. Perhaps someday I'll get to play in space again.

ACMN- logo

-Recently On and I were asked to come up with some logo ideas for a new media group composed of members from various media organizations. The idea was that this group could share ideas and resources... taking on media projects that would be difficult to do on their own.

After submitting a few different ideas in thumbnail form, the group selected a bird image that I had roughed out... as seen above.

Then On did a color pass... trying to incorporate different ideas from group members. The jury is still out as far as I know as to which idea was chosen... if any... I'll be curious to see what direction the group goes.

Lego Design Week

Recently I was asked to hold a week long design workshop at Lego world headquarters in Denmark.

The crew I worked with were fantastic! A great group of people with some really interesting design challenges. Most of the work they were doing was top secret... so I was unable to photograph much...

One of the hi-lights of my trip was seeing some of Lego's original wooden toys... produced before they began selling their famous plastic blocks.

Above: A mold for the bricks.

All in all it was a good week... and I hope the designers found a few of the design philosophies I shared useful.

Escape of the Gingerbreadman!!! goes live!!!

After a great festival run Ginger is at last running on the net...

'Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!!' is a 12 minute short about a young storyteller who challenges the old master in a pub on the west coast of Ireland.

To see some of the pre-production artwork and tests for the film visit HERE.

This film was inspired in part by my experiences living and working in Ireland. The story is also inspired by legendary Irish storyteller Eddie Lenihan.

Jon Kenny stars as: the storyteller, Paul, and as "the monsters of Kerry"
Nora Twomey stars as Ms. Fox
Michael McGrath stars as The Gingerbread Man
Michael Polvani stars as Tommy

"Rattle The Boards" from Waterford, Ireland, arranged and performed the songs.
Mathias Winum provided the film score.

Produced at "The Monk Studios" Thailand by
Juck Somsaman and Nitipat Somsaman

co-produced by Tod Polson for NobleTales

co-produced by the "Animation Workshop" Denmark by
Tim Leborgne, Morten Thorning, and Michelle Nardone.

Directed, written, and designed by Tod Polson

This film was a labor of love, and I want to sincerely thank everyone who helped in putting it together.

All content © 2011 Tod Polson

A Pumpkin Pan

Over the last month or two we've been moving house back to the USA, and feverishly finishing up the text, and gathering image with the fine folks at Chronicle books for the upcoming "The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design." And thus have been unable to create many new posts. As of today, all the material is in the hands of the publisher... and the lights in our house turn on.

While unpacking I came across an old scene from one of my short films "The Pumpkin Of Nyefar."  I'd always wanted to try a super long pan of a countryside with sheep. Pumpkin provided the perfect opportunity. The above is a scan of a reference printout which is 2 inches (5.08 cm) tall... and 6 feet (182.9 cm) long.  The shot itself is a massive 3 seconds long.

The end of the pan goes from the fertile fields of the rich prince, to the more desolate dunes of his true love... Violet the Pumpkin. A three week trip to Turkey provided the main inspiration for the landscapes of the film.

Monkey Kingdom

 A while back I was asked to put together a pitch for a short film project set in a tropical jungle. The star of the film was to be a small monkey, who was to play on the lost "monkey" ruins.

A sort of mood pass on the environment... exploring texture... inspired by trips to Angkor Thom.

 An earlier pass on the environment... exploring shapes.

A rough 3D model was started... but we ran out of time to really hone it. Ultimately the job was awarded to another director... but there are things in this pitch that I really like.

Howl Testing

A while back I was working in Beijing, and was asked to make a test for a feature film about Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." This was a film to be directed by Oscar winners, Rob Epstein, and Jeffrey Friedman. The look was to be based on the art of illustrator Eric Drooker, who had known Ginsberg personally... illustrating his book "Illuminated Poems."

Above: An early test for "Howl."
A big thanks to Eric Drooker, and Jeffrey Friedman for allowing me to post this test.

The background art in the test is actually from one of Eric's paintings, which has been broken down into layers in photoshop. The character design was intended to give the feel of German expressionist sculpture. The animation, though a bit clunky in the test, was enough to prove to the directors that animation would work in illustrating the poem, and this test would be used to help raise finances for the film.

Above: My design for the character. Inspired by German expressionists such as Oswald Herzog.

After a few years, and a few false starts the animation for "Howl" was created at The Monk studio in Bangkok. I would go on to art direct the animation for the film with Eric, and supervise the production in Bangkok. With John Hays serving as the animation director. While the final film would have more bells and whistles than this test. There is something about the simplicity of this that I still like.

Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!! Pub Portraits

Posting a few rough portraits that graced the interior of the "Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!!" Pub. Thomas Moore, Yeats, and Guiness look down angrily at the main characters in the closing scenes of the film. Seen from a distance, they are barely noticeable, but add texture and atmosphere. The sort of small details we added throughout the film, that might not be noticed until viewed several times.

The Noble Approach in Thailand.

The Animation Workshop, where I've been teaching the last 6 years, has set up a series of professional animation master classes in Thailand.  The first will be a 5 day intensive course based on chapters from my upcoming book... "The Noble Approach." It will be set just north of Chiang Mai Thailand in the beautiful AWAY resort. 

The following is from the Official Animation Workshop page here.

The Noble Approach

5 day Design Workshop in Thailand

Based on Polson’s upcoming book The Noble Approach which discusses Oscar winning designer/director Maurice Noble’s approach to film design from start to finish. The five day workshop will explore Noble's philosophy, and techniques through work assignments and intensive talks on subjects such as; Visual Storytelling, Research and Inspiration, Value, Color and saturation, Compositional theories, Perspective and depth.

Participants will find a thorough yet essential design course from the angle of Maurice Noble, sprinkled with assignments, example works and talks, all professionally guided by Maurice's understudy Tod Polson; designer, author and director with extensive experience in projects for companies such as Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon.

Note: Participant fee includes superior double room, all meals, coffee breaks, and mineral water from arrival til end. Discount 50 usd pr person sharing same room. Transport between Chiang Mai city and the resort included. All resort facilities are at free disposal. One hour daily physical exercise with local trainer included. Drawing materials used in the assignments provided. Certificate and proof of participation, will be given all students, signed by all partner organizing schools and The Animation Workshop, Thailand.

Submission: This exclusive workshop is designed for advanced animation students, graduates and professionals. Enrollment is limited, so please attach short electronic curriculum

Practical details:
  • Instructor: Tod Polson
  • Location: Centara Away Resort, Chiang Mai
  • Start: Wednesday May 16. 9.00 am
  • Arrivals: Tuesday May 15.
  • End: Sunday May 20. 14.00 pm
  • Fee: 1200 usd / 36.000 bht
  • Schedule: 9.00 am - 12.00 pm // 14.00 - 17.30 pm
  • Count: 20
  • Contact: Thomas Eilertsen:
  • Deadline: May 1. 2012

Tod Polson on Maurice Noble:

"Maurice Noble was arguably one of animations greatest design/layout artists. His innovative use of color and design was integral to many of the greatest cartoons of the "Golden Age of Animation", from the classic Disney features “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “Bambi” and “Dumbo”, to more than sixty Warner Bros. cartoons with Chuck Jones. These include “What’s Opera Doc?”, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century”, and the “Road Runner” series. Maurice co-directed and was production designer for the Academy Award winning short “The Dot And The Line”. He also designed the Christmas classic “The Grinch That Stole Christmas." The influence of his work is still being felt today."

Historical Doll sketch

Recently I was asked to make some key-frames for a commercial based on a line of historic dolls. These key-frames were to show the client what I thought the final commercial might look like. From these the client would decide if they wanted to have us produce the commercial spot or not. These particular key-frames were art directed by me, and painted by my wife On, our friend Ton, and myself over an afternoon. Our pals at "The Monk" also did some other passes in a more cartoony style which I haven't posted here.

Above: A few variations on a theme.

I've been a huge fan of Aleksandr  Petrov for many years, and wanted to try something simple and poetic in his paint on glass style. Though we wouldn't actually be painting on glass in the commercial spot... we have been working on ways to get a similar effect digitally.

Above, An inspirational segment from Petrov's 2006 film "My Love." For those of you not familiar with Petrov's work, he paints the animation on glass with oil paint on his fingers. Much like finger painting. An incredible artist.

Animation Workshop Films 2012

It's that time again, when the Animation Workshop rolls out it's new line of fabulous student films. If you haven't seen them already please click the link below to watch.

I wasn't as involved with the films this year as in years past... but as always the creativity and  passion of the students is inspirational to me. I'm a fan! A big congratulation to all the new graduates!

Fibber Flats

Where I'm from in Wyoming, people have traditionally told each other stories to pass long dark winter days. Usually these stories were of things that had happened to them during the year. Though one could never be sure how much of something was the truth, and how much of it was a "tall tale." Many people I knew had not left our town in years, had the most amazing stories of things they had done, and things they had seen. Looking back now, I appreciate how wonderfully creative people in my community are. Some very good memories.

 Above: Some character presentation sketches for "Fibber Flats."

Inspired by my up bringing, a number of years back I developed a show idea based on the concept of a community that lived by the code of the "Tall Tale."  This was some time before Tim Burton's "Big Fish" came out. The title of the show was inspired by the name of the area where my family home is, "Poverty flats."  A modest ranching area, rich in creativity, and a wealth of interesting characters.

Children's Day

Children's day was this week. So, in celebration I decided to post a few of my kid sketches. These were made not too long ago as a test for a client who wanted a sort of "cute young boy with a big head."

Above: Some variations on the design the client liked most.

Above: A younger variation

Above: I rarely show my thumbnail and rough sketches, mostly because they aren't designs; they are thinking drawings. But thought it would be interesting to show a bit of my process. Using different ideas from these two sketches as a starting point, I was able to play with variation of shape and proportion in the above digital versions.

I've really wanted to post more over the last few months. But, it's been a crazy year... we've been moving house to Chiang Mai over the last month ... the hard drive that I store my backups died. The biggest task that has filled my every waking hour, has been finishing the text on Maurice Noble's design book. I've found that writing about design is a lot harder than actually designing. I turned in the latest draft of "The Noble Approach" last night, and over the next month will finalize the text with my editor at Chronicle. Pretty excited about it.