Sunday, January 23, 2011


I recently asked/begged/pleaded Mr. J.J. Sedelmaier if he could dub me up some .mov files of the stuff I worked on during my tenure at his studio. The copies I made before I left are all on VHS and slowly rotting away in a closet. I don't even have a VCR-- I had to go to a neighbors house to watch the tapes to compile a list of what I needed!

The problem is-- I was at JJSP for FIVE YEARS and worked on a ton of spots, promos, commercials, interstitials, shows and assorted other stuff.

No easy feet and I know J.J. has way more important things to do than worrying about whether I have digital copies of everything I worked on.
Such a task would have killed a normal man, but somehow JJ got it done!
And what a blast it is seeing all that stuff!
Yes... some is painfully dated.
(commercials for Burger King, McGruff the crime dog...)

But others hold up despite their age!
(commercials for Celebrity Cruise Line designed by Gary Baseman, Slim Jim, Levi's, and an awesome Volkswagon commercial starring Speed Racer!)

One spot that holds a special place in my heart was for some Converse sneakers called Wild Things. There were three spots in total, one for each of the staff animators; David "The Raging Pencil" Wachtenheim, Dean "The Wizard of 1's" Lennert and plain ol' Tom "Where'd My Pencil Go?" Warburton.

The agency had some VERY rough 4 panel storyboards that showed a hornet, a snake and a spider that turned into sneakers.
I think.
It was hard to tell. But it was up to me and the guys to take those storyboards and make something awesome out of 'em!

Unlike working on a TV series, where you generally just do one thing (like designing characters or storyboarding), commercial work usually means doing a bit of everything from script to screen as a team. You storyboarded and then keyed, assisted and inbetweened the animation. You wrote your own exposure sheets. You shot your own animatics. Then you jumped right into production; xeroxing, painting and cleaning cels. And eventually you ran everything over to the cameraman late at night and prayed it would turn out all right.

Anyway... my spot was the one with the hornet and I loosely based its flying on the Flapters from Hayao Miyazaki's CASTLE OF LAPUTA:

Maybe you'll see the influence... maybe not. But here's the commercial:

Cool, right?

I remember pushing to make the hornet fly faster and faster. But looking at it now-- it looks sooooo slow!

I also remember tearing my hair out trying to draw that bicycle at such a low angle. It wasn't easy. But it was for fellow Sedelmaier inmate Gideon Kendall. I made him draw it for me.
He designed the look of these commercials so he had to help me.

Okay now... remember what happened to my Celebrity Cruise Line spot?


This commercial died, too. Converse pulled the plug on the sneakers before the spots aired.


Still, JJ put the spot in some festivals and it got some nice props from Animation Magazine:




Anonymous said...

Man, do you have any commercials that actually made it to the screen? I wanna see em! And how come all the awesome ones were trashed?

David B. Levy said...

Great post, Tom. I remember seeing the J.J. reel from 1997, when I interviewed there. The work was so superb that it was intimidating. And, rightly so for me. I didn't get the job! : )

J.J. Sedelmaier said...

. . .and don't forget that those "Wild Things" spots were all one level - ink, watercolor, everything on one level/drawing ! We also finished them in the wee hours of the night and drove them in to Daniel Esterman/Animus Films to get'em shot so they could make the deadline at Technicolor. . . still some of my faves !


and if you've never driven into the city with j.j. sedelmaier in the wee hours of the morning-- you haven't had 3 years scared off your life!

j.j. sedelmaier said...

Poor Gideon in the back of the Taurus station wagon. . . (urp*)