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

The Noble Approach in print

"The Noble Approach"- Maurice Noble's design book is one step closer to getting out into the world. This week I received a pre-view copy from my publisher, Chronicle Books. Everything is on track for the Oct. 1st publication date.

The book is available for pre-order HERE!


It's hard to believe that it's been exactly twenty years since I finished my undergraduate degree. My final film project was called "F," and explored the Asian American experience of the early 20th century. Hopefully one day I will be able to transfer the project to digital format.

Above: Exploratory ink sketches from the film... inspired by artists such as Lynd Ward, and Rockwell Kent. It was "F" that led to a job with Chuck Jones, and Maurice Noble. Unknown to me, Maurice was also a huge fan of woodcut artists from the 1930's... and had been looking to train young artists that had influences outside of animation.

all images copyright Tod Polson

AARP spot

A few years ago I was asked to create some concept art for an AARP commercial pitch. The agency wanted something with... "movement and vigor. Youthful... but not juvenile." So I worked up several approaches... including this one... "Bruce E Petrie... Rocket Man!"

El TIGRE Color: Episode 013

A number of years ago I worked on a show called "El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera" created by the multi-award winning husband and wife team of Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua. My main job on the show was creating the color scripts that would help guide the art team. 

Though all the episodes of "El Tigre" have a similar feel... I tried to give each episode a unique pass of color that would describe the story and emotions of the characters. Often I would give a "straight" color treatment that I thought would fit the story well... then try another pass of something a bit different. That was the case of episode 013.

This episode was in fact one of the most difficult to design... just for the reason that there were LOTS of characters. I was very fortunate to have directors that were willing to let me experiment. Most of the time these experiments lead to interesting ideas... and other times... well ... looking back I often wonder what I was thinking about. :)

At the time of this post I am working with "El Tigre" creators Jorge and Sandra (as well as "El Tigre" art director Roman Laney) on Jorge's feature film "The Book of Life." It's been a joy... and we are getting to do a lot of the things that weren't possible in TV.

To see more of my color scripts from El Tigre... please go HERE!

Phone Home

A few years ago I was asked to design and direct the animation on a TV ad for a friend in my home town. There was no real budget to speak of... so I kept everything simple and direct. I also wanted to keep things modular, so elements could be plugged into different live-action ads.
Above: Some rough designs of the "blocks" in the ad.

Above: A board with rough timing.
It wasn't clear how long the animated segments should be. So I only timed out the animation roughly, designing frames that could be held in editing to cover whatever dialogue there might be. 

Dallas International Film Festival Interview

"Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!!" is still running the festival circuit, and was recently invited to screen at the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival

I had a chance to chit-chat about the film, and about story in general with Chad Jones. You can read the interview HERE

For those that haven't seen the film, an online version can be seen HERE .

To "The Monk Studio," "The Animation Workshop" and everyone who helped bring Ginger to life... thank you!

Indian Paintbrush and the SMK exhibit

-Recently I was asked to participate in an exhibition at the Statens Museum for Kunst, part of the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. The show is called "Flowers and World Views"... For my subject I chose to paint the Wyoming state flower... the Indian Paintbrush. 

Please read more about the exhibit here

Above: I made several versions of the painting, inspired by the badlands near my house in Wyoming. The badlands are in fact an ancient seabed... and fossils of fish, turtles, and even crocodiles can be found way up in the mountains. Once I picked a bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers for my grandmother, not knowing they were endangered, and illegal to pick. Luckily she was kind enough not to turn me in to the authorities. I've not picked them since. -tod

Bumpers 1

Long ago, in my 21st year I went on a summer internship creating bumpers for a major network. Bumpers are of course the short pieces of film that often come before and after a commercial break. The agreement with the studio was to create five approved bumpers for my internship. I had already produced several bumpers for the TV show "Home Improvement" during my school days... So I figured these bumpers wouldn't be too difficult. 

The key phrase was "approved" bumpers. My fellow interns and I kept pumping out ideas and sketches... which of course were never approved... because the studio was going to get as many ideas out of us as possible. Days turned into weeks... and weeks into months. Soon the summer was over with dozens of good bumper ideas... but still no approvals... for any of us. We left.

Above: Quick concept sketches for a proposed action/horror theater. The character would turn to camera and under his breath.... whisper "FOX!" 

The above sketches were inspired by the great Italian comic artist Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri.  A style I was still trying to grasp at the time. This series was one of many, many looks I tried out that summer. More examples of those to come...  tod