Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back from Florida

The Moose is still going strong eight years or so since my last pilgrimage: I had a nice week with family rocketing to Mars (with "spin"), soaring over California in hang gliders, stumbling across the Beatles in a tucked-away British courtyard, and surviving the ferocious attacks of a Yeti... several times consecutively. We stayed at the new Animal Kingdom Lodge, where guests become accustomed to having giraffes stroll by their rooms six times a day, and chat with authentic African guides equipped with night-vision goggles for moonlight safari spotting.

For any Pixarians reading, the Silver Pass worked magic in some places, but left me and a skeptical waiter/cashier running through scenes from Night at the Roxbury in others; substituting Disney Dollars in this case: "Maybe you know my friend, Geoooorge Washington? Or his friend, Donald Duck? Or his friend... Donald... Duck?"

The pixie dust was perhaps strongest with American Airlines, which volunteered a bonus round of waiting times, sudden drops, and cockpit comedy routines on Sunday night that ultimately got me home to Oakland a mere 4 hours behind schedule. I had expected to catch the last BART train of the evening out of SFO at 11:30PM, but oh, those peanut-juggling jokers got me home just in time to catch the first BART at 4:07AM of the next morning! A summary of events:

- Sunday, 4:30PM (EST) :: Family arrives at MCO/Orlando airport, say our goodbyes, and head to our respective terminals. I print out my boarding pass, which notes a 7pm departure instead of the 6:30PM as purchased. I'll have a connecting flight to catch in Dallas, but this shouldn't be a big deal.
- 7:45PM :: We board the plane 1:15 late, but no worries: the whole system is running behind an hour tonight. Everything will be okay, so they claim...
- 9:45PM (CT) :: After a collective-gasp-inducing takeoff and a thankfully calm flight after that initial ascent we land, but another plane has our gate. 25 or so minutes later, transfers like me scramble out across DFW airport to catch connecting flights. No time for dinner...
- 10:30PM :: "Good evening folks, this is the Captain speaking... Welcome aboard Flight 1575 with direct service to San Francisco. We know we're one hour behind schedule tonight and we do apoloqize for those delays, but we're just going to wait just a few more minutes for some more connecting passengers to make their way across the airport." Fair enough - I could relate...
- 10:45PM :: "Captain speaking again... It seems one of the seats up here in first class has been soiled, apparently by a baby on the last flight. We apologize for the delay but we're going to be just a few more minutes while maintenance finds us a new one."
- 11:00PM :: "Looks like we're all set to pull out of the gate. We'll try to make up for lost time in the air to get you to California as fast as possible..." [cue safety demonstration... take one]
- 11:20PM, taxiing :: "Folks, we have a medical emergency aboard the plane and will need to return to the gate at this time. We're sure you understand - please sit tight."
- 11:45PM :: "The young woman who experienced an asthma attack is okay and her family has arrived to take her home. We'll be taxiing to the runway now" [commence safety demo, take two.]
- 12:30AM :: We've been sitting off to the side of the runway for 20 minutes. The engines periodically whine and taper. Trouble brewing. Finally: "Good evening folks, this is the Captain speaking. It seems we're experiencing some engine problems. We'll be heading back to the gate at this time..."
- 12:45AM :: "...misfiring cabin-pressurizing machinery should take about a half-hour to replace."

Things are getting a little testy at this time. A handful of passengers get off the plane, cell phones are clicked open to distraught voices... I am surrounded by a large company of foreign travelers who now inform me of just how obnoxious their cacophonous language can sound. Their six-year old is naturally right behind me, kicking my seat. The crew has no blankets or food to pass out. A stewardess tries to lighten the mood by offering to announce the academy award winners, but some jackasses ask that their TiVo recordings not be spoiled.

- 1:15AM :: "This is still flight 1575 to San Francisco. Unfortunately it seems we've burned up quite a bit of fuel taxiing around the runway tonight, and the fuel truck is unable to reach us at this time to refill... We apologize for the delays and we're doing everything we can to get you to San Francisco safely and as quickly as possible."
- 1:30AM :: We take off four hours behind schedule, roughly at the same time we were scheduled to be landing at SFO. I could swear they ran a third safety demo, but at that point I was too exhausted to care.
- 3:30AM (PST) :: Fortunately, the flight itself was smooth and I even got a few minutes of sleep. Couldn't find a Shuttle that would drive to the East Bay at that hour, so I caught up on some reading at the BART entrance and waited for the first train of the morning instead.

- 5:05AM :: All Taxi companies listed at the Rockridge BART decline to send a cab my way. For a half hour I've been sitting on College Avenue with my bags, waiting in a cool drizzle as early commuters stumble into the station... I go into a haze of sleep deprivation, curiously reminding me of an early scene from The Empire Strikes Back... Should I just start walking to Karen and Joey's? They might be up by the time I walk across Rockridge... how far is home from here? ... Then, out of the fog... Ben?... a Tauntaun? No, wait - a Veteran's Cab taxi!
- 5:15AM :: I must have tipped the cabbie double the fare to share the luck, and he thanks me several times. Finally home, with lesson learned... somewhere..... in... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Friday, February 16, 2007


Two and a half years, two teams, too many character models to count, five-hundred-something rig and animsim fixes, a 2006 in which I scheduled just four scattered vacation days, and today I finally wrap from my second Pixar film, Ratatouille. I'll provide some details on my contributions as the June 29 release approaches; my next assignment will be with the character team on the mysterious WALL-E (2008). As fortunate as I feel to have helped create a great film like Rat, I'm excited to be moving on.

Things have been a little quiet on the drawing front lately as I've been busy finishing up at work, taking care of some errands, reading a lot (more later), and skipping my usual drawing routine in favor of some basic Python training. Next week I'll be out of town on a sentimental pilgrimage to see the Moose with family, so look for me to return at the end of the month.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Finally a Car Owner!

Just sent off the check to buy out my Mazda 3, making it the first car I've ever owned! She's still a baby of 22k miles, in search of the road trip that will earn her a name.

Thanks to George for giving me a ride all the way out to Putnam the day I picked up the car 3 years ago, and for some risky picture-snapping on the way home!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Early Ratatouille Test Animation Posted

Having worked on the characters in this film for two and a half years (wrapping next week!), I'll make the disclaimer that the clip you're about to see is a very old test, featuring a model that has been greatly improved since its appearance here... but it's also amusing, so enjoy!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Animation Show Highlights

James and I stopped by the Animation Show when it came through Berkeley last Sunday. A couple of our favorites were on YouTube: