I've recently been interviewed a couple of times on the Internets about this and that, from animation to books and everything in-between. Read or listen for my latest projects, favorite things and excessive verbosity.
Here is the newest animation from kids I taught at our annual Imagine That Summer Arts Camp. There are two films. There is an evil army of Gummi Bears, ghost zombies and lots of destroyed cities. You have been warned.
This year for my annual animation workshop at Imagine That Summer Arts Camp, we tried animation with LEGO, and the results are here in two amazing short films, stories written/sets built/animated by kids age 6-8 and 9-13.
Posted on the 30th Anniversary of the release of "The NeverEnding Story" (July 20th, 2014)
1984. I was 9-years-old, sitting in a dark Michigan theater with my dad and a bag of Twizzlers, and before me on the screen was a story that would begin to speak to me...and literally never end.
As a young boy who was not only obsessed with what the '80s brought to the world for fantasy cinema (stuff like The Dark Crystal, E.T and Ghostbusters), but also loved to read books and write my own stories, this strange German production of The NeverEnding Story touched a nerve with me like many others I know who grew up with it.
Exactly one year later, my family bought our first VCR and this was one of the first movies we "recorded" off ShowTime on cable TV. (On the same video cassette were The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Last Starfighter.) To this day I vividly remember laying on my stomach on the carpet of our family cottage in the woods "up north" in Michigan, and re-watching those opening scenes of the Rock Biter in the Howling Forest with its brooding musical score as he spoke about The Nothing. Meanwhile, a thunderstorm literally began brewing outside and a warm summer breeze rolled in through the screen door.
Posted on the 30th Anniversary of the release of "The Last Starfighter" (July 13th, 2014)
Any boy who grew up in the 1970s or 80s understands the impact that Star Wars had on our generation and the way we lived. For us, the school playground at recess and the backyards & basements of our homes were not merely steel structures, expanses of grass and cement or cozy rooms, but were in fact the corridors of the Death Star, the forest of Endor in the summer and the icy sprawl of Hoth in winter. That fictional universe somehow meshed with ours and we played and lived in it as if it were as real as the gravel beneath our size-5 shoes. It seemed to call us to a sense of adventure beyond our reality, but we reached out for anyway and pulled it close.
So it was, in the context of this frame of mind for me as a 9-year-old boy in 1984 that another little story captured my imagination as well. This one was different, in that it didn't take place exclusively in a galaxy far, far away, but brought that other galaxy and our own planet, the Heavens and the Earth as it were, together. By telling the tale of a boy who lives in a trailer park on Earth and is carried off to outer space and back again, it also showed how these two worlds depended on each other, and brought the adventure home. It suggested the reality of that other world was not as far away as it seemed. That story was told in The Last Starfighter, which I first saw in a tiny theater with my dad in Traverse City, Michigan, one hot summer day in 1984 with a bag of Twizzlers in my hand. It blew me away, and 30 years later, it's still one of those films that found its way into my DNA and stayed there.
I was on an airplane en route to New Zealand when I finally arrived at the conclusion to Jeffrey Overstreet's fantasy novel series The Auralia Thread. As I looked out my window after reading the final sentence of the last book The Ale Boy's Feast, I just happened to be coming out of a misty white fog similar to that which was described in the book, and the beautiful green shores of the North Island were just coming into view. It was breathtaking, and my spirit was uplifted by the perfect timing of these two journeys. Upon settling in Auckland, I found it fitting to celebrate with a good dinner at a restaurant called "The Shakespeare," for as the king in Hamlet called out "Give me some light!" I felt this is exactly what The Auralia Thread had done.