Animated Idiom

The world makes us all feel a little like falling apart at the seams from time to time. It’s important to remember who is really in charge of everything in your life. Take a moment and listen to the echoes of those who came before, and remember who you are, and what you need to do.

The Golden Gap

As a “gap” project for my portfolio, I’ve decided to start on new character designs for my future holiday special, “The Golden Pinecone”.

Poppet Character sheet
Grampy Character sheet

Cut out animation

In my 2D animation class, we are exploring all kinds of techniques, and the master studies are great. Thanks to Lottie Reiniger and Terry Gilliam, last week’s unit was for cut out animation, but we cheated a little, using After Effects to edit them together. I wonder if Lottie would have even wanted technology that took that much of the process out of her hands -literally?

The theme was “Ridiculous Mishap”, so my goal was to use my short story about The Imp from Lodila Valley, but since the project called for only 20-30 seconds, I pared it down. I’ll tell the whole tale someday. For now, here is “The Imp”:

If you are not familiar with Lottie Reiniger or *gasp* Terry Gilliam, check out the clips below:

Lottie actually created the very first animated feature length film – before Disney. The most fascinating part is that she hand cut every piece and took every photo herself. Astounding genius! I think she will be the focus of my first podcast for my Podcasting class this semester, about women in animation.

Final Semester!

My senior semester at SMCC has begun, and it’s a doozy! I am taking 2D animation with AfterEffects, Podcasting, Advanced Digital Illustration, Senior Portfolio, AND a Capstone internship at Assuaged, Inc. as a character animator. I’d say I have my work cut out for me, but I also decided to make myself available as a tutor for the Communications and New Media department, so I’m really asking for it!

The great news is that, with all of these resources, I will graduate in January with an Associate’s degree, along with a full professional portfolio, resume, skills, and even some experience under my belt.

I’ll be posting my projects and WIP here throughout the semester, as well as on my Youtube channel, here: My first project for 2D Animation is a cut-out style, like Terry Gilliam’s work with Monty Python, and I’m really excited to do this one! I have often created cut-out animations with kids I nannied for, as winter projects, so it will be fun to make one all on my own.

Stay tuned…


Cybele of Lake Chitali

Cybele (si-bill-ee), named for an Anatolian goddess (also known as the Magna Mater, or “great mother”), is a genderless water creature that dwells in Lake Chitali, at the outskirts of the Land of Lo.

It is considered, like most Lodians, a hybrid of plant and animal, and cannot survive out of the water. It has three stages of transformation: pod (much like larva, attached to the parent), juvenile (free-floating), and parent (rooted).

Pods develop at the end of hundreds of tendrils protruding from the parent, and are released by the force of the next generation growing behind them. This gestation process takes seven years. The small size of a released pod increases the potential of being eaten by other water creatures, or other such demise.

Surviving free-floating Cybele (juvenile) continue to float on a 70-year long expedition to gain insight and knowledge that extends beyond any other creature in the Land of Lo. This is possible because each generation of pods absorbs the knowledge of the parent, and it continues through life only to add more. Not all water creatures in Lake Chitali are water-bound, and many bring tales of adventure from the shore. Assimilating those stories with its profound intuition, a juvenile Cybele develops vicarious experiences.

Mature Cybele end their journey after 70 years, by swallowing a large golden pearl created from the song of Ko the giant oyster, Claviger of Pearls, then sinking to the bottom. Fortified by the pearl’s energy, they take root, and sprout the tendrils that will start bearing their own pods. Once it becomes a parent, it creates thousands of offspring in the remainder of its lifetime.

Pods possess a strong incandescent light glow that changes colors according to emotions being transferred telepathically. Pink means love, green means confidence, red means fear, and so on. It is because of these translatable lights that adult Cybele are considered oracles. They are often visited by travelers on a quest to find meaning or guidance in their lives.

Seekers must swallow a pearl themselves in order to find the Cybele. To find a golden pearl, the only kind that allows the bearer access to the deep underwater realm of Lake Chitali, they must first find Nacre, the Mother of Pearls, who actually lives by a stream in Lodila Valley. She will bestow the proper “golden ticket” upon those she deems worthy, and give them precise instructions on how to find the oracle.

The seeker will follow those instructions, which includes swallowing the golden pearl, and finds the Cybele, presenting it with a question. At this time, the creature begins channeling emotion to provoke thoughts of logic and new perspective in the seeker. The Cybele then absorbs the life experience of the seeker, through a tendril that connects with the pearl in their body, and provides the “answer” they need, in exchange.

Once the pearl’s energy has been fully absorbed, and the seeker has reached revelation and epiphany, they are then released to float back to the surface, equipped with the new insight. Odis, the giant octopus, Claviger of Waves, ensures the floating seekers are returned safely to shore.

For example, a seeker may have lived an empty life of loneliness, never having experienced true contentment of genuine love from another, and may be consulting the Cybele oracle as a last hope for answers as to why this has happened to them. Upon approaching the Cybele, the large tendril will reach out to the seeker and touch its heart glow from the pearl they swallowed. The pods will then respond with pink glowing lights, and the seeker will experience pure and genuine love for the first time.

That emotion will provide a realization that they have not encountered before – perhaps a dear friend whose affections were dismissed is pointed out to them – and they will be released to float back, knowing they must embrace the love being offered, in order to feel that emotion again.

Someone who has lived a life of complacency and servitude may be provoked to feel anger, and be inspired to change their situation for the better, and so on. Anyone may seek answers, as often as they wish, as long as they have swallowed a pearl. The experience is quite intense, so most Lodians only need one to set their lives on the right course.


My father died in March. Due to the COVID restrictions at the time, his Celebration of Life gathering was held today, when folks are feeling freer to remove their masks, and the sun was shining bright over Two Lights.

My father was a deaf man, and his family and friends are largely part of the deaf or HOH community. Without anyone to speak ASL with me to keep it fresh in my mind, I lost my ability to talk to my father. We had a fairly estranged relationship, with my parents’ divorce at age 5 leaving me in full custody of my mother. I rarely saw him after that, and when I did, it was usually a surprise visit, resulting in an outing to a restaurant, being given money or gifts, and awkward communication. My mother would sometimes reveal her true feelings around how much I wanted to see him, in a slippery way that kept her clean. Theirs wasn’t a true love, it was two young people trying to perform roles they weren’t ready for. She made it clear that there was no love involved, on her part, ever.

I grew up being prevented from processing my feelings, so none of them ever went away. I was the “crybaby”. I sucked my thumb. I missed my father. He cried when he hugged me, for years. I remember loving him, I remember him teasing me, and I remember the day we left.

I was told to call my stepfather “Dad” in order to avoid confusing my new brother, when I was 10. My father became “Big Roland”, stripped of a father title entirely. My brother, Roland, who is the third, barely knew our father at all, and only knows the stories my mother has chosen to share. When my father did visit, my mother sat at the kitchen table and spoke with him, using ASL, and I never knew what they said. We were often shooed into the living room or to play outside, as if he had come to visit her, and not his children.

I believe my mother thought she was protecting us, but she was really still trying to protect herself. Trauma is a powerful experience that can change you forever, and whether or not is for the better is up to you. The important thing is to try not to traumatize others in your process. I lost the opportunity to have a real relationship with my father, who could have been a very good one. He was, to his other children. Hearing their stories, and seeing them with their own children, prove to me that he and their mother were loving parents. Only after he was gone was I able to really look back and reflect on what I knew of him, and the experiences I had with him, through my own eyes. He wanted to be with us. For this lifetime, I will focus on the best of the best memories, because I am only living my story. Maybe he was a bad guy in someone else’s. Maybe he was a hero to others. In mine, I really loved my daddy. That’s it.

At his Celebration of Life today, there was a hearty gathering of family and friends, some who didn’t even know I existed. Many remembered me from my childhood, and I was genuinely happy to see those I knew well. Though the awkward mask-wearing stage of COVID presented a different kind of anxiety, everyone was kind and shared love for my father, and for me just because of him. My own little family did a great job of coping with their personal social anxiety, with the kids all finding ways to play, and my Allison by my side, meeting the characters I have described so many times.

Nearly every encounter comprised of someone asking me how my mother was, or if she still lived in Bridgton, or if she still worked at the diner, or where is Roland III? I received stories about my father and how he knew each person, my uncle Ervin made sure I saw everyone, and knew who they were, and I got to meet my niece and one of my nephews for the first time. My oldest child carried around my brother’s youngest child like they had known each other always. I’m not sure anyone knows where I live, what I do in life, or anything about me, really, but it was still such a worthy time. I’m thankful for Vicki, my stepmother and the rest for organizing such a humble yet rich memorial for my father.

After we made it back home, I sat in the screen house in our back yard, overlooking the pond full of tympanic bullfrogs, and hung out with my wife and the small urn of my father’s ashes. The breeze brought sweet, cool air across the apple tree beside us, and the giant robin – a key player in our backyard activities – hopped around, grabbing all of the bugs and worms the freshly mown grass revealed. Reflecting on the day, with some rare idle chat, we took space together. My life is exactly as it was always meant to be, and don’t I know it. I am truly thankful.

Legends of Lodila

So I have been working on streamlining Pallo’s origin story this semester, making sure to incorporate my personal goals into every project, and my Writing for Visual Media course final was a script treatment for a movie. That one project really helped me figure out how to choose which elements to include in Pallo’s part of the Lodila Valley/Land of Lo series.

I have definitely increased my focus and intention on manifesting my animated films, and learning how to animate – even just as a beginner – has brought so much more to the surface! As of now, my plan is to create “Legends of Lodila – Claviger of Flowers” as an introductory film for a series. Here is my final slideshow…I found a perfect name for the character-formerly-known-as Frances Greenbaum, Pallo’s best friend – Putri! I’ll share the story of her name in another post.

Practice animations and character designs abound during this two week break before summer semester starts!