In March of this year, I was contacted by the Art Director of Fablevision Studios, Bob Flynn, to visit and see what the studio was like. There I met with Bob and Hannah O’Neal, one of the Flash animators. They were wondering what I was up to regarding my situation with Irrational Games disbanding and what my thoughts are for the future.
The small studio in South Boston, is an outstanding example of a creative environment – something I haven’t seen since my days in the treehouse at Blue Sky – and overflowing with creative energy. For example, upon walking in the front door, there is an entire wall dedicated to childhood nostalgia. Books, toys and other trinkets and what-not make up what they have properly deemed “The Wall Of Inspiration”.
Bob explained that Fablevision, in being a primarily Flash-based animation company, was interested in my animation skills because of my background, but was wondering if I had any Flash experience. I had messed around with Flash in the past, but never anything beyond book tutorials to satisfy my curiosity – certainly not on a professional level. I explained this to Bob and we discussed an OTJ training scenario consisting of me learning Flash on my own and coming into the studio to basically learn Flash for a few days.
I was overwhelmed and excited. I had always done pencil-tests for my shots in the past, but never anything completely polished. I went home and messed around with it a bit, but there was a huge disconnect. Flash isn’t exactly what you would describe a user-friendly or accessibly software.
I was headed up to PAX East on a Friday and Bob invited me to come by, since the studio was right up the street. I met Bob and animator Didi Hatcher who graciously spent the remaining part of their day explaining how the studio approaches animating in Flash. It clicked. I went home with a new-found understanding and played around with a Walrus playing piano and singing an old Procol Harum song. It’s nothing great by any stretch, but it was a fun way to dive in and figure things out. It’s incomplete, but I’ll share it with you regardless:
A couple weeks later, I was asked to fill in for an employee going on maternity leave, so I jumped on it. By now, I felt confident enough in Flash to the point where I would be able to contribute, so I showed up the following Monday morning, ready to do some 2D animation.
I was almost immediately brought into a meeting for an iPhone game in production called Solar Skate – a educational, runner game that was being contracted to Fablevision by Florida Virtual School. At the time, the hand-drawn character felt disconnected with the 3D environments, so the idea was to try using a low-poly, 3D character instead. They asked me my opinion and I agreed that would be the best move forward. Then they asked what I would be able to contribute and I replied “all of it”.
My 2D adventure quickly became a 3D character-building endeavor. I modeled, rigged and animated a pre-designed character named Ollie to work with Unity. Everyone was happy with the 3D Ollie, so we moved forward with it and the game remained in production for almost my entire time at Fablevision. Solar Skate was released on July 13th and you can download it for iOS here. I will be posting animations a bit later.
BTW, my son is WAY better at it than I am. :)
When the character animation for Ollie was finished up, I was assigned to help develop a webpage for the educational web series Umigo, which would all be created in Flash. I hadn’t opened Flash in at least a month, so I was scared out of my wits. Luckily for me, I was sitting next to the incredibly patient Lead Artist, Renee Kurilla. She really helped me with Flash-isms that would fluster me and would sing along to yacht rock playlists with me, when others wouldn’t. :) The Umigo prototype site went livea few weeks. I was responsible for animating the opening video and the character animation in the parallax site. I’d like to think it’s not too bad for it being my first professional Flash project.
I worked on a handful of other projects that I will share once they go live.
To say that my time at Fablevision was creative and fun would be an understatement. I haven’t had that much fun going to work in years and the folks at the studio helped to remind me why I got into the animation business in the first place.