Thursday, February 28, 2013

Joinin' Jamaroos!

It's funny...when I switched from 3D animation to technical development at Reel FX several years ago, I was pretty much ready to just let animation go and never do it again.  Even though several friends and colleagues responded to this change with comments like, "Once an animator, always an animator," I wasn't convinced.  I mean, animation at that time had sorta become an artsy synonym for "stress" in my book.  Why on earth would I want to pick it up again?

I bet you know where this is going.

Yup.  I'm animating again.

You know what else?

It's fun again!

Zap the zebra from Jamaroos
Early last week I sat down with Dale Carman, one of the co-founders of Reel FX, who had approached me about possibly contributing both creatively and technically to a side project of his called Jamaroos.  It's a series of interactive books for the iPhone and iPad (and related iDevices) that aims to entertain and engage young readers with fun stories and characters.  The first book in the series, Z is for Zap, is already available for the iPad on the iOS app store, with an iPhone version coming soon.

I quickly became interested in the project, and joined the Jamaroos team as a freelance animator/developer.  For now I'm helping to complete animation on the next book in the series, J is for Jag, but I hope to get a taste of the development side of things in the future.  And yes, I'll probably do a little voice work as well.  :)

So what makes animating on Jamaroos so fun?  After working on it for the past week or so, I think it has to do with simplicity: the characters are very simply designed and drawn, and the animation tool we're using has very simple controls for animating them.  This forces us to keep our animation simple, but don't think that simple means boring.  These books are all about rewarding kids' touches on the screen with entertaining moments, and I'm blessed to be creating these moments alongside my friend Barrett Lewis, one of my former Reel FX compadres and a creative lead on the Jamaroos project.  We're constantly throwing ideas back and forth, and are pouring all of our animation knowledge into these characters to make their performances as lively and whimsical as possible while working within the constraints of the animation tool.  I'm constantly amazed at what we're able to come up with using nothing but 2D images assembled into simple hierarchies, and animated mostly using position, rotation, and scale.  It's forcing us to think much more creatively, which just adds to the fun of it all once we see what we can actually pull off.

So yeah, I'm animating again, and I'm having a blast doing it.  What's more, I'm only doing it part-time, so I can do other work as well, like VO and acting...

...and maybe teaching?

More on that later.  ;)


gcastro3d said...

what's the name of the animation tool?

Justin S Barrett said...

It's called CocosBuilder. It's related to the cocos2D framework that we're using to build the books.