Another animatic to present:

The PONG was my idea. Cuz I’m old.

This was from the TV series called STOKED. It was a Flash Animation series produced by Elliot Animation in Toronto.

One of the big challenges that I find with Flash shows are finding ways to try and not make them repetitive looking and visually dull. The biggest challenge on Stoked was the studio mandate that the board artists were to use the backgrounds provided and we were not to create new angles. Ok, not a big problem, but a challenge to try and not allow things to start looking like it’s the same angles over and over and over.

You may notice that the backgrounds, more or less, were all actual designs supplied to me rather than me hand drawing them. Sometimes I did, but mostly I just used the design files provided.

One thing I liked to do was move the camera a lot and keep the camera movement as snappy as I could. In the animatics, I don’t typically time shots very specifically, but I do time the camera movements to the speed I want them at (Whether anyone down the line followed what I indicated is another matter).

I did the storyboard for the entire episode 26. If you watch the actual finished episode (Search YouTube) and compare it to the animatic, you’ll see changes have been made between this animatic (unrevised pur Steve) and the final show.


Stoked is © Elliott Animation, Fresh TV or both.

Handy Manny

In the summer of 2010, I storyboarded a couple Handy Manny stories for Nelvana Ltd.

Up to that point, I’d only done a couple of storyboards using digital tools and was still trying to figure out a comfortable work flow. More importantly, I was still trying to find a way for my drawing to look like my drawings: my line look like my line: my style, etc. I’m still working on that.

I came to the conclusion that I have two styles: my style (pencil and paper or ink on paper) and my DIGITAL style (drawing digitally). There is a difference if one takes a good look. For me, I prefer the look of my style on paper, but the co-ordinator on Handy Manny said she could tell it was my storyboard right away based on the art, so maybe I’m closer to my goal than I think. Hmmm...

The story for this one: Manny and the Tools co. go camping. I only did the second half of this episode. I have no idea who did the first part.

There is no sound because that part takes place after I’m on to the next storyboard and I don’t get access to the sound files.

I will be posting more animatics and storyboard materials in the near future. Print storyboards I will post as it seems appropriate, but animatics will have to wait until the actual episode airs. I figure its only proper. That means that all animatics will likely be at least a year old by the time they show up here.

However, while you are waiting...

The new page (pg 44) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the pose down preview of this week’s action to get more comics! FLEX!!
Handy Manny is copyright whomever owns it. I claim no ownership.


Well, another Happy New Year to everyone. Will we all be around to say that one more time? Were the Mayans correct? Only time will tell.

I am celebrating the start of a new year with the traditional CRUCH TIME activity of trying to finish another storyboard. This year, I celebrate with BABAR: The Adventures of Badou. I’ve managed to watch a few rough cuts (completed rough animation) of several of the episodes I storyboarded in 2011. I have to say that I’m quite happy with what I saw. The animation looks pretty snappy for a TV show (Usually, the finished episodes of anything rarely meet my expectations of what I see in my mind’s eye when I am doing a storyboard). It truly was a pleasant surprise to see the episodes turning out so well! I fully expect that they’ll be even better once the animation is fully rendered and sound is added.

I’m not sure when this season is airing, but I plan to post some video of my animatics or of something after the shows start to air.

With any luck, my CRUNCH TIME will end at the end of this week. I’ll be posting some video in my next post.

In the meantime...

The new page (pg 43) has been posted over at HIMcomic. No preview picture, this week. SUSPENSE!!

One Man's Gander is Another's Goose

Another storyboard artist story:

I learned very early in my career that whom one works with and how that person’s personal taste jives with yours is pretty essential to a harmonious and productive relationship on any given creative project. Butting heads can work, but only if there is serious mutual respect for each other’s abilities. In most cases, being in the same chapter of the stylistic book is usually enough for everything to be smooth. That said...

A long long time ago, when I was just starting out as a Storyboard Artist (less than a year into it and maybe having done only 10 or 11 partial storyboards) I was out of work and looking. I’d just finished working on The TICK season 3 and feeling pretty good about my abilities. The TICK people seemed to like what I was doing and I had gained some confidence from that experience: I realized that I knew what I was doing so long as I was working for people who liked the kind of storyboarding esthetic I leaned towards (I can do many different styles, but my personal taste still comes into play regardless of series style). By contrast, when I worked with someone whose sensibilities ran counter to mine, the storyboard experience was a disaster.

One quick example: After handing in a rough storyboard for approval, the Director said of it, “You are like the Orson Welles of animation”. He then proceeded to shred the storyboard into what no longer could be called my work and was 99% all his. I guess he didn’t think much of Orson Welles’ work. It’s a good thing Welles didn’t work in animation.

I won’t mention any names for the rest of this story as it doesn’t really matter towards the moral of the story.

I knew of someone in Toronto who had a storyboard contract with a big L.A. studio to provide said studio with storyboards that would be produced in Toronto. It was an action show with realistic (animation realistic) characters and I really wanted to do more of that kind of show after having done The TICK. I arranged to meet with the subcontractor to show him my work. I brought along my best TICK storyboard which was the first act of The Tick VS. Prehistory. After looking over the board I was politely told that I wasn’t right for the series. I was pretty bummed about that. After all, The TICK people seemed to really like my work. Needless to say that my fragile newbie storyboard artist’s ego took a big hit that afternoon. Luckily for me, I managed to pick something else up, that day, so I wasn’t out of work, I just wasn’t working on the series I wanted to take part in and it was because I wasn’t good enough. Wah.

My section starts after the opening at 00:30 and ends at 07:32. The sound is off in the video and I can’t take credit for any timing or animation issues, but I can take credit for the highs and lows of the storyboard. I don’t detect any changes from what I did.

About a week later, I got a call from a studio in L.A. saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ms. L.A. Animation from Big L.A. Studio. Producer from Sunbow said you are good and reliable. I was wondering if you were free to work on Action Show for us?” It was the same series I was trying to work on for the subcontractor in Toronto. Only now it was the original studio offering me the job. No meetings, no samples, no fuss and no muss. Of course I agreed to work on the series. I was only supposed to do one episode to help them out of a jam, but the L.A. people were very happy with my work and they asked me to help them with one more before the season finished.

Needless to say, I was extremely happy about this turn of events and fortune and I learned another important lesson: although one must always listen and process the feedback one gets, there are times when it isn’t “you”, it’s “them” and that’s fine because that’s just the way subjective art is. Some people will think you are amazing and some will think you stink. It’s up to oneself to decide if the feedback you get is valid. Opinion factors in heavily when it comes to art and one man’s Orson Welles is another’s “Orson Welles”. I wasn’t good enough for the subcontractor studio, but just wonderful for the studio hiring the subcontractor to do the very job I was rejected for. Go know.

The upside to my ego being crushed for a week was that the L.A. studio payed more than the Toronto studio was going to. So... I learned something important, got to work on the series after all, and I got paid better than I would have had I got the job from the subcontractor in the first place. Not a bad deal at all. Just goes to show that nothing is good or bad: it’s were the good or bad leads you.

My wisdom is endless.


The new page (pg 35) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the cover insisting preview of this week’s action to get more comics! AA-AA-AA!

No, I Wasn't Kidding and I'm Still Not

Since my wisdom has been said to be “endless” (By me), I thought I would play Storyboard Guru for a day by telling a true tale of animation history: mine.

I was at a function, a long while back, seated with a group of animation colleagues. At some point in the evening, a couple of them were telling me how they were either just starting to storyboard or were thinking about it and they asked me what I thought was a good TV series for them to study from to help learn storyboard. Without hesitation and with a deadpan delivery I said, “Pokemon”.

pokemon 101

They both smiled and started to laugh all while waiting for me to join them in the joke, me being the funster I usually am, and then tell them something more serious. I held my ground until their smiles and laughter morphed to utter bewilderment. Once they had been reduced to blank stares with crickets chirping in the background, I elaborated, “I’m not kidding.” I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but when it comes to work, I’m usually pretty serious about it. In my opinion, at that time, there wasn’t a TV series airing in Canada that could hold a candle to Pokemon, at least as far as storyboarding was concerned.


I explained to my audience that Pokemon storyboards consistently told the stories well in an entertaining manner with constantly interesting and inventive shots that, at the same time, were not overly difficult to pull off for the animators and thus didn’t cost the studio a lot of money (Money is a fact of life in TV animation). In other words, they were expertly storyboarded to get the most bang for the limited budget’s buck. As a result, Pokemon maintained a consistent quality standard and looked more expensive that it really was. It did a lot of fun tricks to save money and yet be interesting. When it did action, it was exciting. When it did drama, it was dramatic. When it did comedy, it was funny. What more could anyone want? At the time, Pokemon had just made the cover of Time Magazine, or was just about to, and it wasn’t because no one liked it: it was a massive hit and it was popular because it was a solid show that told good stories well and you can’t tell a good story well, in animation, without a good storyboard. Even a weak episode of Pokemon was solidly storyboarded and worth study. The best episodes were inspiring.

None of the above pictures are an example of anything particular. Just adding some colour to my nonsense. Although, this shot of Pikachu is simple and effective. Having the overlay of out of focus (or maybe it’s in focus. Hard to tell in this pic) grass adds a lot of zip to the shot and is simple enough to do.

I am reminded of this because I just saw a new episode on TV, yesterday, and the standard after almost 20 years of the series is still very high. I still recommend it as a study show for anyone who wants to learn TV storyboarding for animation. Even if the show one is working on is a Flash or 3D animation series, there is still a lot one can learn and use in any animation medium.

My wisdom is endless.


It Happens

Every once in a while I manage to do a drawing that I’m amused by. I present the following:

This is Monroe from Babar: The Adventures of Badou.

This is from an episode I storyboarded a couple of short sequences from, over the usual full story I’d normally do. Since this particular episode was a bit of a rush job/short schedule, I didn’t really have time to wait for missing designs to show up. So, for designs that could easily be substituted, I just made something up. If it was decided that my design was reasonably good, fine. If not, they, the studio, could just use whatever they like and tell someone down the pipeline to ignore mine. This is my design for Monroe as Pageboy of the Savanna: which consists of my giving him a necklace and a Jimsy (from Future Boy Conan) haircut. Works for me.

What amuses me most is how accurately this drawing reflects my demeanor when I was a child. My hairstyle wasn’t all that different, then, either.


Total Drama Steve

The weather has cooled off and I’m a happy happy man for it. No one likes heat less than I.

All this good weather and I’m going to be chained to my desk for a week drawing Babar. On the up side, I had the chance to watch the first three episodes I storyboarded for Babar, in Rough Cut form, and they look pretty good! I was only going to watch one, but I found myself entertained and watched all three. I even laughed a couple of times (Which is no mean feat for someone whose seen and worked on as many cartoons as I have). All that and the animation is really quite good.

So, I may be chained to my desk for the next several days, but at least it is for a good cause.

Round about the time this season is supposed to air, I’ll post the names of the episodes I had something to do with.

Speaking of things I had something to do with: it’s the new fall season and a new season of TOTAL DRAMA has begin (I think). The forth season is called TOTAL DRAMA: REVENGE OF THE ISLAND and it features a new cast on the old island. Well, I drew a small stack of storyboards for this season and here’s the ones I did (In episode order):

“A Mine is a Terrible...” Act 2 only (The part after the commercial break in the middle of the show)

“Up, Up and Away in my Pitiful Balloon”
Act 2 only

“The Enchanted Franken-Forest”
Entire episode

“Brains vs. Brawn”
Entire episode

Generally, I had quite a lot of fun on this series. My favorite episode to storyboard was easily “Brains vs. Brawn”. It was the final episode of the season and it had all kinds of stuff I love to draw: fighting, fun, frolic, monsters and clubs with nails spiking the end of it. What more could a fella want?

It was also one of my favorites because I drew the entire storyboard (complete episode) and I always prefer to draw and entire 22 minute show rather than a half. Overall, I think the work is better for it and I feel happier, too.

I’d post some pictures from the storyboards, but I figure I should wait until a particular episode airs before I post anything just in case someone would rather I don’t post them in advance. So, I’ll post this instead...

This has nothing to do with TOTAL DRAMA, but I like it.

Hopefully this season will do well so TOTAL DRAMA can return for another year. I’d be quite happy to return to it, myself.


I guess I really should post some storyboards somewhere on this site, sometime. Hmm...

20 Years?

Hard to believe, but I’ve been in the animation business for 20 years. 20 YEARS!!

I was hired by Nelvana Ltd. as a Layout Artist in January of 1991 while I was in my final year (3rd year) attending the Classical Animation course at Sheridan College. I went freelance in 1993 and so here I am as I am, today. That’s the short of it.

There are plenty of stories and anecdotes I could write about (Like: how I was hired for my first job, or rather how I wasn’t really hired and just showed up for work, sort of), but that’s for another time, if anyone is actually interested, that is. I’m not sure why anyone would be.

As an exercise out of personal interest, I had the idea to list all the different shows I have worked on in the past 20 years. They run the range of styles from stick figures (That’s called “easy money” in the business) to UPA to typical cartooning to typical adventure style to psudo-Anime. The mediums included: traditional 2D hand drawn cel art, 3D animation and Flash style animation. I’m still partial to traditional 2D, but alas, there is less and less of that being done in North America.

I started my career as a Layout Artist (Setting up the shots by drawing the full sized background and character poses that would be given to the animators and background painters) and became a Storyboard artist in 1995 or maybe 1996 and am still drawing storyboards to this day. What can I say, it’s a good job.

Ok, so here is the list of shows I’ve worked on, in chronological order (as best I can remember):

Rupert - Nelvana Ltd.
Beetlejuice - Nelvana Ltd.
Dog City - Nelvana Ltd.
Pink Panther - Pheonix Animation
Magic Schoolbus - Nelvana Ltd.
Eek the Cat - Nelvana Ltd.
Little Bear - Nelvana Ltd.
Pippi Longstocking - direct to video movie - Nelvana Ltd. (I also did location design for my own scenes)

The Terrible Thunderlizards - Nelvana Ltd. (This was a part of the Eek show)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective - Nelvana Ltd.
Blazing Dragons - Nelvana Ltd.
The Tick - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Stinkin’ Around - Nelvana Ltd.
Wing Commander Academy - Universal Studios
The Busy World of Richard Scarry - Cinar
Mummies Alive - DIC via Pictor
Magic Schoolbus - Nelvana Ltd. (Also served as Storyboard Supervisor on the final season)
Pippi Longstocking - TV series - Nelvana Ltd.
Salty’s Lighthouse - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Anatole - Nelvana Ltd.
Birdz - Nelvana Ltd.
Brother’s Flub - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Franklin - Nelvana Ltd.
Rollie Pollie Ollie - Nelvana Ltd.
Fat Dog Mendoza - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Braceface - Nelvana Ltd.
Generation O! - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Timothy Goes to School - Nelvana Ltd.
Cramp Twins - Sunbow Entertainment/ Sony Wonder
Berenstain Bears - Nelvana Ltd.
Cyberchase - Nelvana Ltd.
Di-Gata Defenders - Nelvana Ltd.
God Of Dance [radio edit] - promo - Independent (I didn’t do the actual storyboard, but I directed the thing and so I had a hand in its creation. I just didn’t give myself credit)
Grossology - Nelvana Ltd.
Hot Wheels: Battle Force Five - Nerdcorp
Stoked - Elliott Animation
Bolts and Blip - ToonBox
Total Drama Reloaded - Elliott Animation
Handy Manny - Nelvana Ltd.
Detentionaire - Nelvana Ltd.
Babar: The Adventures of Badou - Nelvana Ltd.

If I have left anything out, it is because my involvement was quite minor (fixing a storyboard or helping out on a show for a week or some other small task) or I simply have forgotten about it.

The thing I’m most happy with was God of Dance. I was able to have pretty much total creative control over it and I was very pleased with the end result. It was also great fun to put together at all stages. Even the all-nighter I spent scrambling to approve the final footage so the promo could be delivered for presentation. Actually, the making of story behind this promo is interesting. Maybe I’ll write about that, next time.

So... To sum up:

When I started in the animation business, I would meet guys who’d been around for 20 years and was amazed that they’d been ‘in’ so long; now, I’m one of them. I guess if you live long enough, it is inevitable that you become one of “them”, whomever “them” may be.




If a picture speaks a thousand words, than that picture should have gotten your attention.

That scene was from an episode of the Nelvana Ltd. TV series BRACEFACE. It was a show about a girl who had braces. It tried to be topical from time to time and address real teen issues, or as real as one can have on a Saturday morning show for kids.

For my part, as much as I could as a storyboard artist, I tried to push and play up the drama. The series lent itself to drama more than most, and I consider drama to be one of my stronger points as a storyboard artist. If someone cried on the show, chances are that part of the show was storyboarded by me and I added the tears (Tears are, in my experience, rarely scripted. For some reason, the act of adding tears into scripts and extreme feeling (such as crying or real anger) seems to be avoided. I have no idea why). At the same time, if there was comedy, I tried to push it as far as I could take it and milk the gag for all it was worth. Well, one day a ripe plum dropped on my desk in the form of a script called “Busted”.

I do not recall who wrote this script or whose story it came from, but when I read it, I was gob smacked and more than amused that the studio was going to make a show like this. What was it about? Sharon, the blonde main character, wanted attention from a boy, but felt her bust line was too small. Since she wanted this boy to notice her, she decided to buy an inflatable bra in order to increase her good noticeability. Things start to go wrong at a school dance (at the mall?) and the bra doesn’t stop growing. Now, if tears are usually avoided in animation, breasts are... a-hem... untouchable.

There was plenty of broad comedy I could play up and also some solid drama at the end, so I dig in and tried to push this material for all I could. I handed in the storyboard and that was the last I ever saw of it. I never even saw the finished episode, until last week.

Someone posted a bunch of episodes on YouTube and I finally got to see it. Although the director took out a couple of panels where I knowingly went too far with the material (Oh, like you wouldn’t?): funny and clean breast gags, but certainly stuff that wouldn’t make it on TV. eg. If I remember correctly, in the pictured scene below, I think I ended the cut with a gag of having the breasts grow smack into Maria’s (The Asian girl) hands (in a ‘don’t panic’ gesture) as she is trying to calm Sharon down. Then, we’d cut to the next sequence. I never expected that gag to make it in to the show (and it didn’t); however, so much was left in that I’m just amazed. Remember, this was a kids show... in animation!
I don’t know if this episode offended anyone or not or caused any kind of controversy anywhere. The YouTube comments seem to suggest that people thought it was funny and/or tragic and that’s all it was supposed to be.

Here is the the video of the final third of the episode with the naughty bits on display. I storyboarded all this (I probably storyboarded the last 11 minutes or so of this episode) and I really must tip my hat to the director for leaving in as much of what I added into the actual scripted show.

I still can’t believe this made it on air in a kids show.


The Tick vs. HIM (Part Three)

The Tick vs. HIM
Part Three: The Tick vs. Steve Remen

By the time December had rolled around, I actually managed to get into storyboarding for the animation studio I was working for so I had a few episodes under my belt. So, I called Ben Edlund up to see if they needed any storyboard artists for the third season of The Tick animated series. He told me they did and to call Hank Tucker at Sunbow Productions, in L.A.

Being the sort of chap I am, I called Hank Tucker, who was the series Director, and he agreed to give me some work. I really didn’t expect it to be so easy as I was accustomed to being asked for samples of my work. So, I offered to send some sample storyboards to Hank and he said I didn’t need to send any. The exchange when like this…

Steve: “Do you want me to send you some storyboard samples?”
Hank: “No. You have experience, right?”
Steve: “Yeah.”
Hank: “And Ben says you can draw, so it’s ok.”

Within a couple of days I had a script and the designs and I was working on season 3 of The Tick. Very cool!

The first episode I worked on was the third act of “The Tick vs. Dot and Neil’s Wedding”. It was the first time an animation script made me laugh out loud. The Tick’s line “I wrestled his tongue!” made me laugh. It was a great script and I was thrilled to be on the show. It was clearly going to be fun to draw and storyboard and… it was.

The only comment Hank had about my first storyboard was, “Don’t make it so flat”. My training in storyboard was standard animation cutting and staging, which means like a stage play or a 1970s episode of… well… anything. Real dull stuff. Hank’s comment to me motivated myself to just forget about what I was told was the “correct way” to tell a story and design a storyboard and just do whatever I thought was best and not over think things too much. It was the best Director’s note I ever got and my work improved 100%, almost overnight, as a result. I can not thank Hank Tucker enough for that.

The other two I storyboarded were “The Tick vs. Filth” (I did the stuff in Sewer Urchin’s lair leading up to the commercial break where the Sewer Czar is revving up his troops) and the first act of “The Tick vs. Prehistory” from the start, where the cave man is transported into the present day and runs around Tick’s apartment, up to the first commercial break.

After the series finished, I took a trip to New York and visited the Sunbow offices and was treated real nice by everyone. I was shown around and later taken out to dinner to a fantastic Indian restaurant by Chris McCulloch, also known by the pseudonym Jackson Publick (creator of The Venture Bros.), who was writing for the show and drawing storyboards.

The Sunbow staff in New York and L.A. were simply a great group of people who couldn’t have been more fun to work for and with. I did work for them, on and off, for several years after The Tick until the studio closed. It’s a shame they folded because it was a great place.

If a DVD set of The Tick 3rd season ever sees the light of day, you can see some of my work for it and even my name in the credits; however, these episodes have been posted on YouTube, so there ya go.

Needles to say, I had a blast on The Tick while it lasted.

One last thing: One day, a package arrived at my door from Sunbow. I wasn’t working for them, at the time, and had no idea what it could be. I did the logical thing and opened the envelope (I’m like Sherlock Holmes, that way). To my great surprise, I pulled out an animation cel of The Tick holding a block of wood, that he would eventually carve Little Wooden Boy out of. Didn’t I say the Sunbow people were a great group?



Shameless self-promotion isn’t complete without mentioning what I’m working on.

For the past few months, and for the next many, I have been, am and will be drawing storyboards on BABAR and the Adventures of Badou from the fine folks at Nelvana Ltd. First season is already on air and it is the second season that I’m currently working on. Do look for it wherever TV programs are found.
This is actually my second encounter with Babar. The first was when I was still in collage finishing my final year. I drew a layout test for Nelvana, trying to get a job in, of all departments, Layout. The test was to draw a few scenes from the then cel animation Babar cartoon. Despite what had to have been an amazingly weak test submission, if my memory serves me well, I was hired for my first job in animation as a Layout Artist.

Interestingly, a few years later, someone found a pile of old Babar layout tests in the studio. As much I wanted to see my test, it was missing. There can only be two possibly reasons for its absence: Someone swiped it to later sell on Ebay for a couple of bucks, having the foresight to see value in those dodgy drawings (not to mention the existence of Ebay, well before the internet was anything a common person knew anything about) or they burned it for the artistic abomination it must have been. I suspect the latter is more likely and I’d probably agree with their logic.

If you see it on Ebay, please let me know. I’d kill to see it again.

Over at HIMcomic, I have created a new section called ComHIMtary. It is a page by page commentary talking about this and that, bits and bites and assorted whatnots regarding the pages themselves. That section will be updated whenever I have something to say about a particular page.

Criswell speaks, “I predict that this new section will be a hit of Titanic proportions or it will not. Can you prove me wrong? Impossible.”