Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apple vs. Flash

I have gotten a few e-mails this morning asking what we think about Steve Jobs's Flash manifesto from yesterday. While I don't want to publicly speak out against Apple, lest they kick our doors in, here are some other folks speaking up on the topic.

The Business Insider had some interesting things to say about the Apple vs. Flash battle.

Testing some of what Jobs has said.


Powerhouse Animation is the animation studio that animates most of the syndicated comics for Ringtales that are hosted online. We have animated over 400 strips and they appear on youtube, i-tunes and Babelgum. I wanted to see how Babelgum's embed functionality works so here are few to check out:

Bruce Tinnin: The Art of Business

Bruce Tinnin, the animation studios' COO and one of the co-founders of the animation studio was a featured artist at "The Art of Business" event.

The event was held at Laguna Gloria. The idea for the Austin Museum of Art and HBMG event is an art show of work done by c-level and senior executives at companies in the Austin area. The pieces are part of a silent auction and the proceeds are all given to charity.

Here are some pics from the event.

They had peacocks on the grounds at the museum.

Bruce with his painting.

Brad, Bruce and Jason at the event.

You can learn more about it at and check out more of Bruce's work at:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friends of the Studio 1: Kevin Smith

We are going to start doing a post every now and then about people who are "friends of the studio." Powerhouse has had the opportunity to work with some great people, Stephen Silver, Frank Cho, Rachel Griffiths, Norman Lear...

But the most obvious person to start this off with would be director and all-around great guy, Kevin Smith, without whom the animation studio might not exist at all.

In 2002, Powerhouse animated a short called Heroes that Brad Graeber had written for a contest that parodied Marvel Comics:

It might be a little hard to watch now, but keep in mind this was 2002 and we were working in Flash 3.

It was fun to work on. We all did voices. It was also a break from some pretty lean times. Due to the recent downturn in traditional feature film and television animation work, there wasn't a lot of work coming into the studio and we had not paid ourselves in quite a while.

According to animation studio mythology, Frank Gabriel sent it to a friend to see it before we submitted it to contest just to see what he thought. That friend sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend and so on and so forth. And somehow it made it all the way to Joe Quesada, EIC at Marvel.

The next morning when we came in we had several phone calls and e-mails from our internet service provider. We were a small studio and we only had an entry level website. We had gone 2GBs over our bandwidth allocation. The fines were terribly high for each MB we went over the limit. We were feverishly taking down the site and trying to figure out what happened. The fines were certainly not in our budget. Then the phone rang. It was Kevin Smith. At first we thought it was a joke, but it wasn't. It was the start of a relationship that lasted for several years and could not have happened at a better time.

The first thing we did was animate a commercial that was never produced for the film Dogma called Hosties.

At the time, we had also made a MAME cabinet that ran off of Flash. Due the previously mentioned "lean times" we were trying to sell the idea to companies to make arcade machines that played Flash games and demo reels for their lobbies. We even made an online commercial to promote it:

Mr. Smith had seen this and asked if we could make a version for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as a wrap party present for the film Jersey Girl. We wrote a proposal, which Kevin then took and added a bunch of gags and inside jokes and developed the script. We also sent ideas for a Dogma game and a game based off of the Clerks animated series. We had 8 weeks till the wrap of the film, where Kevin wanted to give the arcade machine to them.

We worked most of the hours of those 8 weeks. We were still programming the game when we drove it straight from Austin to New York City in a U-haul attached to Brad's jeep. We took turns working, sleeping, and driving in shifts. We presented the arcade machine on the last night of shooting, with paparazzi everywhere ruining multiple takes of the final scene. We installed the machine in the couples' apartment. That part is pretty hazy, I personally only remember that the refrigerator was 100% full of diet-caffeine-free cokes, and showing a bodyguard how to play Frogger on the machine.

The machines before we left for New York

Frank Gabriel, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Brad Graeber and Stephen Parker.

After NY we installed the other machine in the Jay and Silent Bob Secret Stash store in Red Bank. We met with Kevin, and for the first time started talking about the animated film. We got swag to take to the people back at the studio, Kevin signed a book "next stop feature film." It was pretty exciting.

Kevin Smith with his machine at the Secret Stash in Red Bank.

When we got back from the trip, if I remember correctly we slept for a couple of days. Then we had a barrage of calls and requests from press outlets. Here are some clips from that:

We talked budget for a film with Kevin and Scott Mosier, and did a 35mm test for the film to be produced in Flash. This was kind of a new idea at the time so they wanted to see what it would look like. Jason Mewes was not available at the time to do voice work, so we used audio from the Flying Car piece mixed with audio from the Empire Strikes back.

The piece might have some issues, but we are still proud that it was done in a few weeks by 4 guys out of pieced together audio.

We had the footage put to 35mm film and sent to LA, and we flew out and watched it at the Miramax lot with Kevin, Scott Mosier, and by Chris Bailey who had directed the cartoon series.

Phil Benson, Kevin Smith, Bruce Tinnin, Chris Bailey, Frank Gabriel, Scott Mosier, and Brad Graeber

We next wrote some more budgets for the flick but things stalled. We don't know if it was due to the test or if anybody else saw the 35mm print. We went to a couple of comic conventions with Kevin and co. and showed Heroes, Hosties, and the film test to throngs of Kevin's fans. We got to meet folks like Ming, Brian O'Halloran,Bob Chapman, and Jason Mewes. Kevin really surrounds himself with good people, and though we were definitely on the periphery of the circle, it was a great group of people to be around.

Jason Mewes watching Heroes from the stage at the Dallas Wizard Comic Convention

Next we animated the Lost Scene for the Clerks X dvd. I don't know if is some weird universal constant for View Askew projects, but we had 8 weeks on this project as well...which was 8 minutes of animation. Despite the tight timeline, we worked more with Kevin, Phil, and Scott, going over gags and boards which made the piece even more enjoyable to work on. Rolling Stone said the piece was the "best bonus feature of 2004"

Over the next few years we would run into Kevin in events here in Austin. Brad flew to New York to attend a pre-screening of Clerks 2 and his Captain Capitalism cartoons ran on Kevin's Moviepoopshoot site. We took the studio to see Clerks 2 at SXSW when Kevin came and gave a talk. We attended a midnight screening of House Party II with Kevin at the Alamo. We met with Kevin's agent at Endeavour to talk about the film and possibly doing shorts. We wrote several budgets and would pitch ideas to Kevin and co. on how we could possibly do things. We heard that there were issues with the Clerks cartoon and Disney and Miramax due to the split.

Eventually things fizzled out. We have not heard from Kevin for a while.

We don't know what happened to the Jen Saves Ben arcade machine. And yes, people ask us that every time.

That being said, it was those jobs in the beginning and the recognition that they gave us that allowed a 5 person studio to survive a time when traditional animation was almost dead. It allowed us to become the successful 30+ people studio that we are today. For that we will always be indebted to Kevin Smith.

So, much love and props to Kevin Smith...and, sir, if you ever want to pick that flick up or those characters in shorts again, please do give us a call. We got more folks now, you should see what we can do in 8 weeks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

RISK Reviews

Powerhouse Animation has been working with Electronic Arts to create in-game animation and video game cinemas for their new XBOX Live Game RISK: FACTIONS.

Powerhouse is very excited to be working with EA, and had a great time being the animation studio on this project.

Here are some links to some of the reviews:

And here are some of the videos they have released:

We love working on video game cinemas and have a few others we are working on for some other console games. Unfortunately, it is too early to talk about them, but stay tuned.

PHA Anniversary Party

Powerhouse Animation just celebrated the animation studio's 9th birthday!!
To celebrate we held a shindig that had the theme of a 9-year-olds birthday party (Rachel Citron's idea).
Apropos to the theme we had a pin-the-tail on the donkey game.

At our party the donkey was actually a mule. Jasper the Mule to be exact. The game was an homage to one of our favorite current projects, a series of DVDs starring the eponymous equine. It was only fitting that the Director of those pieces, Doug Beck, was the winner.

And took home the trophy...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bloodsnake's Wedding

Powerhouse Animation's very own supervising animator Shane "Bloodsnake" Minshew took the plunge into wedded bliss a couple weeks back. Most of the folks from the animation studio made it out to the Salt Lick Pavilion to share in the ceremonies. It was a great time!

Mr. and Mrs. Minshew are introduced for the first time to the tune of "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky.

Powerhouse COO and Co-founder Bruce Tinnin and Leslie Gabriel.

Director Doug Beck and Supervising Animator Louie Granda.

Ryan Cullen and the Brothers Deats.

Powerhouse CCO and Co-founder Frank Gabriel and his wife Leslie.

Rachel Citron, Megan Kluck, Mandy Graeber, and Stephanie McCrea.

Sam Deats and Jason Williams.

We also have some video of the crew dancing...but we'll just leave that to the reader's imagination.

Image of the Week: Commerce Bank-- Penny Arcade

Here is a screen shot from 2004. Powerhouse Animation created the animation for the "Penny Arcade" coin counter for Commerce Bank. These touch screen machines were in Commerce Bank branches all across the northeast. When one of us made it to New York we would try to get a picture of one, but apparently banks frown on taking pictures inside them :-(.

Here is our animation studio's very own Jason Williams with one of the machines. Jason lived and worked for Powerhouse from New York for 6 months in 2006.

Commerce is now TD Bank, and Powerhouse retooled the animation for the coin counters and for the TD Bank Wowzone.

Powerhouse seems to have a weird relationship with the phrase Penny Arcade, which we imagine does not come up that often in other people's lives.

Penny Arcade Cinemas Episode 1

Penny Arcade Cinemas Episode 2

Luck of the Draw

At Powerhouse Animation we have a weekly excercise to help keep our design skills in shape. Every week at the animation studio we all create a design based on the same topic and at 5:30 on Friday we share them on the conference room big screen. We call it "Luck of the Draw."

We started out as doing caricatures of our fellow employees:

Here a some links to some of the roasts. CAUTION: theses are full of inside jokes: Frank Gabriel, Brad Graeber, Bruce Tinnin, Doug Beck, Jason Williams, Krishna Jain, Sam Deats, Megan Kluck, Ronnie Williford, Cindy Crowell, Louie Granda, Shane Minshew, Ryan Cullen, Charles Kohlmeyer, Micah Lincoln, Rachel Citron, Patrick Quiring, Ed Booth, Jessie Pyles, Sam Lotfi, Stephanie McCrea, Adam Deats, Mary Brown, Jeff Freeman, Chris Beaver, Aaron Romo, Phil Knoll.

Eventually, we ran out of employees so we bought a raffle drum and everyone threw in a topic.

Some of the topics we have had so far are:

Robots Performing Menial Tasks, Flamingoes Throughout History, Geometric Celebrities, Powerhouse Smurfs, Bizarro Powerhouse!, Bowling Alley Animations, Animal Evolution, 90s Sitcom, Alternative Media Animals, Mythological Creatures in Mundane Context.

Most of the work we do is traditional animation or Flash animation. We find that this really helps people experiment with styles, new media, and stretch their design muscles when doing character design. At an animation studio, sometimes you end up working on a project and drawing the same thing for weeks, months, even years. This gives us a chance to keep everybody sharp.

You can check out more of the Luck of the Draws as we do them on the employee-run “Phetchblog”, where you can also see other sketches our folks are doing in their spare time

Friday, April 9, 2010

Our first blog post

Powerhouse Animation Studios, Inc. is proud to announce the opening of our new blog. We are just getting things set up, but be sure to bookmark it and come check out things soon.

It might have taken us 9 years to get here, but better late than never, right?

We have been keeping a news section at the website if you want to learn more about the animation studio.