Jun 102015

INSIDE OUT is an unusual film for a big studio to make; it is very ambitious and abstract. I worked on the story team from 2010 to late 2012, and everyone was excited about the idea, but dramatising that idea was at times quite challenging. I finally saw the film at a crew Wrap Party screening last month, and I’m very pleased to say that it has come out wonderfully well.


While enjoying the screening of INSIDE OUT, many conflicting and complicated feelings bubbled to the surface for me. Not long after wrestling with the challenges of dramatising the inner workings of the human mind, as part of the INSIDE OUT story team, a blood vessel burst in my head, and I was trapped inside my own mind for quite some time, as my body dealt with the effects of a swollen and ruptured brain. I’ve had a very rocky few years, and seeing the film reminded me of my own struggles; locked inside my own mind and struggling like crazy to get out.

So understandably, this film will always have personal significance for me, and perhaps I’m unable to be unbiased when I watch it. Even under less dramatic circumstances, working on these things means that it’s hard to know how other people will respond. Sometimes the general public likes a film more than me, sometimes less. Will my own feelings about this film be typical?

An early INSIDE OUT Story Crew lunch in 2011.

But for whatever my biased (and emotionally charged) opinion is worth, I feel that this is one of the great Pixar movies, and Pete Docter and his team have once again made a film to make people sit up and take notice. It is deep, and heartfelt, but funny and imaginative, and takes you to places that only an animated film can go. It’s a real return to form for the studio.

I hope with all my heart that this isn’t my last film as a pro story artist (I’m currently pushing hard on physical therapy and left-handed drawing practise to get back in the game) but if it is to be my career epitaph, at least I’ll be ending on a very high note and a movie to be proud of.


The entire story team at the recent wrap party.

INSIDE OUT opens across the USA next week, on June 19th. Please go see it. I think you’ll like it.

Jan 242011

Last weekend I attended my very first SKETCHCRAWL here in San Francisco and had a wonderful time out and about sketching and socialising with friends.

Over the past year or so, I have been trying very hard to re-acquire the habit of going out and sketching in the real world. I used to do this often, once upon a time, but then fell into the habit of filling books solely with doodles from my imagination.

I still enjoy doodling, but it has been a goal of mine to work on my observation and speed-drawing skills, so SKETCHCRAWL #30 is JUST what the doctor ordered.

About 60 artists met at a cafe near San Francisco’s JAPANTOWN and then split up to draw whatever stuck their fancy in the surrounding area. At day’s end, there was a regroup where artists showed each-other what they had drawn and I was BLOWN AWAY at the quality of the sketchbooks that I saw.

All in all, a very fun and inspiring day. I definitely plan to do another Sketchcrawl sometime in the future. Thanks so much to RONNIE & ENRICO for starting this wonderful event and shepherding it through 30 different crawls to the point where it is now a world-wide phenomenon.

Aug 122010

Not so long ago Ronnie organised a re-union lunch for the story team that had worked on UP, where we were finally introduced to THE GOLDEN BOY. It was a very pleasant afternoon, reconnecting with some people I had not seen in ages and a wonderful way to commemorate the project that is definitely the film I am most proud to have worked on so far.

Later, we posed for several team photos with the golden guest of honour, all of us sporting semi-formal neckties and white shirts, (“HOUSTON CONTROL” style) while standing beneath the Caricature Wall (which is a “who’s who” of story department history).

I spoiled this “serious faces” group shot by smiling. I couldn’t help myself. tee hee

Apr 292009

Last weekend, I was back in the Bay Area for a preview screening of UP, the 10th feature film from Pixar. The studio always puts on a good show at their WRAP PARTIES and it is a delight to see co-workers aglow in the joy of watching what they have worked so hard to make, while partying in fancy finery; evening gowns and tuxedos, even top hats and tails.

The film is fantastic, and watching it was extra fun for me because a good amount of my work actually made it into the final film; not always the case when you work only at the very beginning of the process, which was the case for me here. I am philosophical about having most (if not all) of my work cut out of projects because, after all, that exploration and opportunity to revise is what storyboarding is all about. So it was a special treat to see a lot of my work in the film. I very much enjoyed the working on this project with a crew that was full of gracious people, all the way UP to the directors themselves. However, all those good vibes didn’t make it a cake walk; I worked harder on this film than any other!


The most gratifying part of it all is to see the finished film. It came out wonderfully. This film has a blend of madcap silliness and yet emotional realism that is difficult to strike, but one of the things I most enjoyed about it. I have never seen a story like this before and I think it is one of the best that Pixar has ever done (though I clearly have my own bias on that score) but I can state with absolute conviction that it is certainly my favourite film that I have worked on thus far. I hope that you all like it too. It opens everywhere on May 29th.

Oct 022007

One of my favourite things to do over the past few years has been to participate in the MAVERIX STUDIOS ART AUCTIONS. They have all been held to raise money for worthy causes, and the satisfaction in being part of one is many-fold. First of all, they are a fantastic prompt to make some original artwork that has nothing to do whatsoever with working for “the man”. Secondly, they are great social gatherings and gallery shows where I can see artwork made by my friends. Thirdly, If I get my check-book out and wield it wisely and boldy, I get to take home some of that inspiring artwork at bargain prices. Fourthly, they are wonderful ways to raise money for charity and the knowledge that I am part of that process creates a rosy glow that lasts for weeks. Lastly, because of all of the points raised above and more factors besides, they are one hell of a lot of fun to attend.

Initially, the choice of beneficiary charities for each auction, and the ensuing preparations, were made by Maverix Studios members themselves, but recently Maverix has been approached by friends to host auctions for charities that they have some connection to. Enrico Casarosa instigated the EMERGENCY auction held earlier this year and this most recent auction was initiated by Esther Pearl and Nate Stanton, and then organised by them and Maverix to raise money for the Alzheimers Association. Amazingly, the preparations for this show were done in a mere 4 weeks and yet the auction raised a staggering $13,842.

You just got walked on by Maverix Studios
Maybe as much as $6,000 of that total was raised in the live-auction. A Maverix Studios auction is silent for most of the 3 hours, whereby bidders write down their bids beneath each art piece. However, Maverix reserves the right to pull a few of the most contested pieces off the wall and use them in the live auction BIG BID BATTLE at the end of the night. So, even though you’ve secured the winning bid on paper, you may be obliged to battle it out even further LIVE. As auctioneer MIKE MURNANE hilariously explained to the first such thwarted paper-bidder, “You thought you’d already won this piece but you just got WALKED ON by Maverix Studios.” Thereafter followed a series of cut-throat bid battles.

The drama and hilarity of the BIG BID BATTLES has become one of my favourite parts of these auctions, and a large part of the reason for that fact is the MIGHTY MIKE MURNANE. Mikey is a natural born button pusher and his skills at goading are nowhere put to better use than at these events. He surely gouged another several thou out of the crowd last Saturday. It is also fitting that Mike be the auctioneer at these shows, seeing as how he was the beneficiary of the very first Maverix Auction held in 2004, to raise money for his eye surgery.

Bidding for FULL QUENCH
I had it in mind to finally secure myself a Rhode Montijo original. Even though I had won a Rhode painting at the very first Maverix auction, I soon after gave that painting to Mike as a gift and have been in dire need of replacement Rhode pic ever since. However, this time around, there a was a giddy frenzy of bidding the likes of which I’d not seen before. I bid on a SWEET Rhode piece in the live auction, battling one-on-one with Bosco, each of us topping each other’s bid by $25, until the price was almost $200 more than the paper bid, which had been held by Bosco. Then Ronnie del Carmen blind-sided BOTH of us; he jacked the bidding up by $75 to $500 (which was my secret top price) and secured the pic for himself!

Ronnie’s bold bidding strategy got a huge round of applause, from Bosco and I no less than anyone else, and I think his boldness set the tone for bids to come, because thereafter bidders really pulled out all the stops. Luis battled Vaughn neck and neck for Patrick Awa’s GUITAR WOLF piece and, with the bidding at around the $750 mark, Luis blew the opposition away by bidding $1000, to a HUGE cheer from the assembled crowd.

Brenda Chapman made the room gasp as she bid against a woman called JUDY, taking the bids from $400 all the way up to the dizzy heights of $3,500, for a beautiful painting by Steve Purcell, who sadly wasn’t there in person and therefore missed out on the massive ego-stoke of seeing two women fighting over him so passionately. The crowd loved the theatre of this battle, and Brenda had a huge smile on her face as the victor, even though she wound up paying a few thousand more for a picture she’d already won on paper.

I have to point out here that even these “high” prices are actually bargains for the quality of the work on auction. A mere fraction of what you would pay at a gallery.

Thwarted for a good cause
Last time I walked home with a huge swag of goodies, whereas this time I was beat out on most of the stuff I bid on. I was tipped to be one of the people to pull the bid-sheets off the wall, and in doing so I wasn’t as able to defend my bids on a few pieces elsewhere in the room, and the last 5 minutes are everything in the silent bidding. However, I was able to win a great print by Sho Murase, and I was very happy with the fact that my donated pieces raised a lot more money than any of my submissions to prior auctions.

Plus, even though I was denied in gaining many of the things that I had wanted, I was happy in the knowledge that I was thwarted for a good cause and my bids had at least forced someone else to pay some extra money to charity in order to be the winner. There are no sad faces at the end of a Maverix Studios auction. And if there was any sense of having to lick my wounds, I took that vibe with me to Mitchell’s Ice Cream and instead licked a chocolate dipped Mexican Chocolate Ice cream, served in a chocolate waffle cone.

(thanks to Carlos, Rhode and Ronnie for the photos seen here).

If you like the idea of this kind of auction but don’t live in the Bay Area, then why not organise an art-auction charity fundraiser for the holiday season this year? Scoop up some of the holiday purchasing budget in your community for a good cause, and walk away with some great artwork that you can give to friends and family over the gift giving season!


A chronology of the Maverix Studios Auctions:
#1. AUGUST 19TH, 2004: For the Love of MIKE: $6000 raised for Mike Murnane’s eye surgery.

#2. FEBRUARY 4TH 2005: TSUNAMI RELIEF: $22,955.60 raised for the victims of the Asian Tsunami, with donations given to UNICEF, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY and SAVE THE CHILDREN. Participation by 80 artists who donated 220 pieces sold at the auction night and on a follow-up Ebay auction.


#4. DECEMBER 15TH, 2005. EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: $12,000 raised for the victims of the Earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir, with donations given to the PAKISTAN RED CRESCENT SOCIETY and DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS.

Over $40,000 was raised in 2005 at 3 auctions, and perhaps due to exhaustion there was an auction hiatus in 2006.


#6. SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2007. $13,842 raised for the ALZHEIMERS SOCIETY.

May 202007

Yet another Maverix Studios art-auction fund-raiser has come and gone and I think this may have been one of their best yet. I certainly had a very good time. You can see here the 5 pieces that I won in the bidding (From top to bottom: Ted Mathot, Ronnie Del Carmen, Mike Murnane, Louis Gonzales, and Bill Presing). I am VERY happy to own each of these, and I certainly wasn’t the only person grinning from ear to ear while clutching recently acquired artwork, at the end of the night.

Despite being on the same day as the famous Bay To Breakers Marathon, the auction was well attended, and there were a great number of quality art donations, which inspired some pretty heated bidding over certain pieces. I have no idea of the amount of money raised (they were still adding it all up when I left) but I predict that it may have been one of the more financially successful Auctions that Maverix has yet held.

Most of the artwork was sold to whoever had written the highest bid on the bid-sheets beneath each piece. However, a few hot-properties were selected for the BIG BID-BATTLE SHOWDOWN at the end of the event; a live auction hilariously adjudicated by Auctioneer extraordinare, the mighty Mike Murnane. Being a natural born button-pusher well qualified Mike for the task of needling a few extra dollars out of bidders who had their sights set on the most contested pieces, which in this case were by Rhode Montijo, Patrick Awa, Tadahiro Uesugi and Steve Purcell.

But these shows aren’t only about the artwork and the fundraising, they are also for having fun, socialising and meeting new people. This time I got to meet someone who I had only known before as his avatar in online forums and through his blog; mr John Hoffman (AKA MonkeyFeather). He had done one of the art pieces that I had targeted, but in that case I was out-gunned by some other lucky bidder.

To make a great night even better, someone suggested going to Mitchell’s Ice Cream in the Mission District. Their tasty, exotically flavoured ice cream is made on the premises and they are open till 11pm. Despite it being a chilly Sunday night, plenty of other people had the same idea, and there was a line out the door (you should see the line at Mitchell’s on a HOT day). I have a pathological dread of waiting in line, but I will make an exception for Mitchell’s, only because Mexican Chocolate ice cream served in a chocolate-dipped, nut-encrusted waffle-cone is just such a civilized way to end the day.