Phil Robinson

 Posted by on January 28, 2015  Colleagues, Friends
Jan 282015
 

A beloved longtime member of the Bay Area animation community, has finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer after battling it bravely for over 3 years. Phil Robinson will be greatly missed by his loving wife Jennifer, and his many friends from around the world, me amongst them.

Phil_desk

Phil came to the Bay Area in the early 1980s but I first met him in January 1991 when I’d just arrived from France and started working at Colossal Pictures. My contact on the project I was hired for was out of town when I arrived, so I was put in a big, freezing, empty room with two other artists assigned to the same show. The 3 of us didn’t know each other and toiled away on our respective tasks in anxious silence. I wasn’t even sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing anyway. Then one of the other guys cracked a joke– a wry observation about the ludicrouness of our situation, that made it clear he felt the same as I– we all 3 burst out laughing, the tension and anxiety melted away, and we all became friends on the spot. The cheeky joker was Phil Robinson and the other equally hilarious fellow was Dave Gordon. I wish I could remember exactly what Phil said to make us all laugh so hard, but as is often the case with the really good jokes, I was too busy belly-laughing to remember. What I’m left with is the feeling of that moment; the unmistakable knowledge that I’d made some amazing and irreplaceable friends.

Phil was one of the two directors on that first project I ever worked on in America (John Hays being the other) and because of that particular crew I fell in love with San Francisco and made it my home after many years of wandering hither and thither, and I’ve been here ever since. Phil Robinson was a huge part of my decision to stay, and was my constant friend and colleague for the past 24 years. The only time in my long career that I ever conceived of a project myself, Phil did the voice of the titular character, which was one of my few mini-triumphs in making it, and I remember that aspect of the otherwise benighted project with great fondness to this very day. I happily worked on several commercials he directed at Colossal Pictures before Phil, John Hays and Jeff Fino split off in 1994 to found Wild Brain, that great little Bay Area studio that gave so many people their start in the biz, and I worked with him many times there too.

He was an interesting mixture of things. Phil was endlessly patient and a fantastic mentor and teacher to a generation of artists in the Bay Area animation community in the 1990s and 2000s, but there was definitely a ’stroppy’ side to him that you’d see sometimes. Perhaps it was his old punk soul, but he couldn’t ignore pretentiousness, the putting-on of airs, or the brandishing of authority for its own sake. Then you’d see what John Stevenson called the ’strunty little Welsh git’ step out from the skin of the otherwise warm and silly fellow. I remember being in a bar with Phil late at night, when the two of us got to bickering about the finer points of something or other— when Phil had an issue between his teeth he wouldn’t let it go, and I guess I have that streak in me too— and our argument (and the beer) flowed till the bar was about to close. The bouncer (utterly massive in that style the Samoans do so well) came our way and told us in no uncertain uncertain terms to shut it all down and move on, pronto. Picture a fiercely growling Doberman confronting a tiny Jack Russell Terrier– but the Jack Russell scares the bejejus out the Doberman with a show of terrier-steel, causing the Doberman to hastilly skeedadle– and that would sum up what happened next. Phil and I finished our ‘debate’ at our leisure, and left in our own good time.

Even though I knew that a day might come when Phil could lose his fight with cancer– he was diagnosed way back in late 2011– it still managed to be a savage kick in my stomach when that day came. It was more of a shock than when other loved ones had been overwhelmed by cancer before, and I wondered why this might be so… I think it’s because I’d felt that if anybody could possibly beat pancreatic cancer it’d be the mighty Phil Robinson, and despite his terrible odds I thought he actually would. Right up until a few weeks ago he looked fine and healthy, had a full head of hair, a bounce in his step, a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye, and you’d have no idea to look at him that he was in the midst of a tenacious battle with a type of cancer that has one of the lowest survival rates of all. I’d ask him how he was doing, and he’d cheerfully admit that he felt “like crap” but he honestly seemed like he’d battle on forever. He was a tough little bugger with the constitution of an ox, and he put up one hell of a fight, but in the end, the cancer won (although, I like to think Phil gave his cancer a few savage, pub-style head-butts of his own, and made its victory really hurt). What a wonderful soul he was– witty, wry, considerate, silly, generous, talented, patient and strong– and what a great loss to Jennifer, his loved ones, his friends, his Bay Area animation community, and the human race, Phil’s leaving us will be.

Phil Robinson– you utterly splendid human being, you– you will be missed, but not forgotten.

The Bullet Train

 Posted by on January 13, 2015  Drawings, Friends, JourneyMan, Travel
Jan 132015
 
The Bullet Train

In late 1996 I was in a mood to travel. There was an impasse in my life and, as with similar confusing junctions before and since, I hit the road, spending Christmas in Britain with friends, planning to head to Paris in the New Year, by way of the train through the CHUNNEL. Nobody was riding the EUROSTAR [..READ MORE..]

Sketch Trek: THE NEXT GENERATION

 Posted by on January 2, 2015  Film/TV, Lefties
Jan 022015
 
Sketch Trek: THE NEXT GENERATION

As a follow up to some Star Trek TV sketching we did months ago, Julia and I did more sketch nights of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a favourite of Julia’s that I wasn’t so familiar with. When Star Trek: TNG was first broadcast, in the late 1980s, I was working in Asia and Europe; countries where I couldn’t understand television anyway and [..READ MORE..]

Happy CHRISTMAS 2014!

 Posted by on December 25, 2014  Pencil-Jockey, Updates
Dec 252014
 
Happy CHRISTMAS 2014!

Happy Christmas to you all (please insert whatever holiday you prefer, religious, or secular) and I hope you gather with your loved ones today. Speaking of good company; two years ago, before I got sick, I was surrounded by dear friends as we worked together on a TV Christmas special; “The Toy Story that Time forgot.” It’s most [..READ MORE..]

Space FLiK

 Posted by on December 5, 2014  Baker's Dozen, Childhood art, Drawings, Thoughts
Dec 052014
 
Space FLiK

Recently, I found a small cardboard box that contains all the artwork, and the super-8 film spool of a movie I made when I was 15/16, for my final high school HSC art exam. This celluloid masterpiece was called SPACE FLiK, and was a hopelessly crude parody of Star Wars in the style of Mad magazine (two things [..READ MORE..]

Kid Kalimari

 Posted by on November 27, 2014  Drawings, Sephilina, Updates
Nov 272014
 
Kid Kalimari

This guy here is called KID KALIMARI, a comics character that I never did much with. He is related to another one of my characters that I have actually followed through on publishing; SEPHILINA.  He lives in the city of SAN FIASCO, and ends up becoming a pal of ROCKET & the PROFESSOR. In the back of my [..READ MORE..]

Here Be Monsters

 Posted by on October 10, 2014  Drawings, JourneyMan, VisDev
Oct 102014
 
Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters is a book illustrated and written by Alan Snow that inspired the animated film, The Boxtrolls. The book is a rambling grab-bag of fun ideas, seemingly every idea that Alan Snow ever had up till that point. It is a very enjoyable read, but presented a problem to adapt into a 90 minute movie. There [..READ MORE..]

The Boxtrolls

 Posted by on September 26, 2014  Film/TV, JourneyMan, Pencil-Jockey
Sep 262014
 
The Boxtrolls

I’ve admired the films of Laika for years, and now I’m pleased to say that I’ve been involved in one; THE BOXTROLLS. From 2008-2012 I worked on this film, and to make this an extra special experience for me, it was directed by my dear friend of many years, Tony Stacchi, and Graham Annabel, a new friend made [..READ MORE..]

Flower Car

 Posted by on September 9, 2014  Drawings, Lefties
Sep 092014
 
Flower Car

Last weekend Julia and I went to Flora Grubb nursery  to buy some plants. I had heard of this cool place before, but had not realised that it was over by the area where I used to work when I first came to San Francisco. It was a dodgy neighbourhood back then, when I worked for Colossal Pictures [..READ MORE..]

The Time Trickster

 Posted by on September 1, 2014  Baker's Dozen, Film/TV, Lefties
Sep 012014
 
The Time Trickster

Old plot details (and fan-enthusiasm!) refreshed by a Netflix marathon, we recently watched the theatrical, big screen debut of the 12th (or is it 13th?) actor to play DR WHO- that alien space/time traveller in the big blue box. As with last year’s 50th Birthday episode, likewise screened in movie theatres worldwide, this feature-length episode, entitled ‘Deep Breath’, [..READ MORE..]