Wednesday, July 29, 2009

That's right, folks, The Chades (Character Design) Challenge is back! Mostly because Vi and I are excited about Tim Burton's upcoming Alice in Wonderland and we're inspired to do our own versions of our favorite character, the Cheshire Cat. If you're also feeling creative, post your own design this Friday on your blog. Let me know once you have, and I'll put up links to everyone's designs.

Bonus points if you also draw Alice.

Aww, Steve, now I have to forgive you for Crystal Skull.
Part Four of The Jurassic Journals

I'm not much of a journaler. In fact, I've never kept an on-going journal in my entire life (other than reading journals required in English class). However, my memory is lousy and extremely unreliable, and I wanted to remember everything about my first dino trip. So, I decided to keep a journal of my adventure into fossil country. My sketchbook doubled quite nicely as a dino-diary and I was able to catalogue, not only all of my frustrations of finding nothing but dirt for hours on end, but also great quotes from my fellow diggers.

One fella in particular, a fellow newbie named David Bourke, had the greatest quotes and stories. His anecdotes would start with these amazing hooks like, "So I was drinking moonshine at a fiddler's convention..." My favorite quote of David's was when he and I were talking about Disney's Fantasia:

David: "Fantasia was one that I went back and saw in the sixties in a whole different light."

Me: "Because of your appreciation for music?"

David nods, thoughtfully.

David: "Plus I was really high."

The nearly illegible notes on this spread are from a conversation I had with Pete Larson about whether or not dinosaurs reached REM state of sleep and were capable of dreaming. Pete reckons they could based on the fact that birds do.

Most of these sketches are me copying out of Robert Bakker's book The Dinosaur Heresies in an attempt to learn actual dinosaur anatomy.

And, just for fun, here's a picture of a female wolf spider covered with her babies taken by my buddy and fellow digger, Amar Dosanj. Sorta brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In case you haven't heard, Toy Story 1 and 2 are being rereleased theatrically in 3D this October. Just in time for my mom's birthday; I guess I know what I'm doing with her this year. I've got to say, Toy Story is still my favorite Pixar film, I'm looking forward to enjoying it in a whole extra dimension.

Check out the trailer here!

Instructed by storyman extraordinaire Nick Sung.

Geez, I'm gettin' rusty.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Part Three of The Jurassic Journals

Tuesday, July 7
After our short stop at Devil's Tower, Greg, Chuck, Zack, and I high-tailed it on down to Hulett, WY where we were to make our fortunes as bona fide paleontologists at the Waugh Dig.

The first thing that struck me about the dig was the scenery, and in particular the greenery. I expected a dinosaur dig to look a bit more like the one's I'd seen on Jurassic Park and Nova specials: dusty, dry, and treeless. The Waugh ranch, however, was beautiful. Because it sat on a hill, we had a fantastic view of the unspoiled region that spread for miles in each direction. The ponderosas filled the air with the fresh smell of pine and, more importantly, provided ample shade for diggers who needed a break from the heat.

Our mess hall, which quickly became my favorite area of the dig since it meant food and shade.

Here's our camp, which one of the diggers affectionately named "Pixar Plaza."

After Zack had set up his tent, Chuck noticed this little beauty nestled in her hole, just a meter away from his tent-opening. She's a funnel-web, the species of spider Return of the King's monster Schelob is modeled after.

Here's the head of the dig, master dinosaur hunter Pete Larson. You may remember Pete's brother Neil in the first installment of The Jurassic Journals. Fossil hunting runs in the Larson family, Neil's two sons Tim and Matt are also seasoned paleontologists and BHI staff members. We calculated our arrival at the ranch to co-incide with lunchtime, so we got to know Pete and the other diggers for a while before they put us to work for the afternoon.

Our first day of work consisted of training our eyes to spot fossils. Not all of them are as clearly defined as this gorgeous Allosaur tooth (one of many found throughout the week by our new friend, Bob Lindsey). We were assigned to dig through the talus piles (mounds of excess dirt set aside by other diggers) for any fossils the previous diggers might have missed. As you can see, fossils are darker than the dirt around them. They're also smoother, and often have imprints of fibrous marrow-like texture.

Here's a look at the skull this Allosaur tooth belongs to:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Part Two of The Jurassic Journals

Tuesday, July 7
After spending a day at the BHI, consuming some delicious Moose Drool (my new favorite beer), and a good night's sleep, we were ready to start our adventure. We headed out from Hill City along the dusty roads that led into Wyoming. Along the way, we passed Devil's Tower, the famous monument from Close Encounters. Zack and I had a religious experience, blasting John Williams music from our SUV. It was like we had journeyed to the nerd mecca. Pictured above are Greg, Zack, and I, marvelling at the natural wonder of igneous intrusion.

Me with Chuck Waite, a man never short of a funny accent or clever remark.

Greg, Chuck, and Zack soaking in the majesty.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Emma Coats...I don't know how she does it! All I had to do last weekend was sit in a car and recite the same few lines of dialogue every hour or so, and I thought that was exhausting. This lady was running around for fifteen straight hours setting up and tearing down lights, trouble-shooting pesky rear-projection screens, and patiently listening to me butcher the same few lines of dialogue every hour or so. The key to good direction is having an artistic vision and the ability to communicate that vision to the rest of the crew. Emma seemed to have a complete roadmap of the film in her head, I imagine an Indiana Jones-esque red dotted line jetting from scene to scene across the narrative ground plan untill each sequence was complete and the story was told.

Makes me want to jump in the director's chair and give it a go. In fact, I have an idea or two up my sleeve...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Part One of The Jurassic Journals

The photos from this month's dinosaur dig are finally rolling in. What an amazing adventure, I never thought I could gain an even deeper appreciation for prehistoric life.

Monday, July 6
Zack Keller and I fresh from the plane, ready to hunt some dinosaurs.

Inside the Black Hills Institute's (BHI's) skeleton-building workshop, aptly named Rex Hall.

Pixar sculptor/paleontologist Greg Dykstra with Triceratops skull and newly-printed scan from said skull. The three-dimensional plastic "print-out" is the first of it's kind and a great aid to paleontologists and paleo-artists alike.

The tyrant lizard king, accept no substitutes.

Greg and paleontologist/BHI staffer Neil Larson talk shop.