About 2ane Kohler
There were some tell tale signs along the way that told Zane was headed towards art and animation. Some of the early signs on more than one occasion were teachers writing in his progress report “he’s in his own world”. This world was something hard for teachers to take away because it was two main ingredients needed for school, a pencil and paper. It was in this world where he doodled on the sides of notes creating ideas and stories.
Zane has recently graduated from Animation Mentor which is an online animation school that has a focus on character animation.
Currently, Zane is working on a couple of freelance projects. These projects allow him to stay at some unknown location while being tied to a chair and fed giant spoonfuls of animation.
Current Book: Disney Archive: 9 Old Men Flip Books, Character Mentor, The Illusion of Life
Favorite Movie: Paranorman, Iron Giant , Incredibles, Pinochio, The Lion King (this list changes depending on the week)
Current Animated Project: Working on a project that has to remain under wraps for now as well as a cartoon for children called The Color Bunch Variety Show.
Q&A With Zane Kohler
When did you first know you wanted to do animation?
In an unusual way the idea of drawing with motion was kind of with me at a very early age. I would draw out stories by scribbling lines all around the page representing actions unfolding in real time. Back then it was less about art and more of a way to play and have fun. I think that enjoyment planted a seed.
The true single moment was when I was at the 1989 Spike and Mikes festival of animation in La Jolla. It really was like a magical awakening. So many things came to light that day. Not only being able to watch great animation but to see and hear first hand the audience reaction. I also was blown away to see such a variety in style, medium and story. There was Bill Plympton's One of Those days, John Lassetter's Tin Toy, and Juliet Stroud's Snookles to name just a few. I left feeling so inspired to do animation. I was determined to make an animated short.
Did you ever create flip books or attempt any animation as a result?
Yes, by that time I had already created a dozen or so flip books . Even a few inside some school workbooks which in hindsight probably was not a good idea.
However my first attempt at age 15 was a short called Astronut Riff and His Dog Rex. The vhs camera I used was not made for stop motion so It was a pretty messy end result.
At age 16 I came up with a
short called Catapult. I tried for a style like that of Bill Plympton.
Loose drawings with color pencils. After completing all the drawings I
bought a Super 8mm camera off a friend. Unfortunately while in mid
filming the camera broke. So production halted.
So you never finished it?
Ah, I did actually. 10 years later I came across the drawings going through old boxes. I scanned them all in and used Flash to animate it. It truly is an amateur piece of animation but I felt such a victory finally finishing it.
What previous education/training in animation or art had you done?
It started with some life drawing at a local college to build up a portfolio to try for Cal Arts. When I went up to Cal Arts for a preliminary meeting I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my portfolio was at a level for consideration. I was told it was mainly lacking in quick sketches. That led me to the Watts Atelier of the Arts. They had a course specialized in just quick sketch. In conjunction with that I was taking courses in basic 2d animation at Palomar college. Around that time the animation industry started to fall. Studios closing and animators getting laid off. Financially the timing and cost of attending Cal Arts did not seem very feasible for me. I was very impressed with the level of courses at Watts Atelier so it was an easy choice to continue on with them. I still try and take a course with them when time permits.
My job as a graphic designer had introduced me to Flash. Between work and a few online courses I really got used to working with it. Last but not certainly least is Animation Mentor which has truly been amazing. I can't praise it enough. It was tough but very rewarding. I learned so much not only through the lectures but the mentors as well. Getting face time to talk and ask almost any question that came to mind. Being taught by mentors that are in the industry and working at the best studios really added a ton of perspective.
Did you do any student films along the way?
I did, but most of the classes were about animation exercises like ball bounces and walk cycles. I did finish one called the Clicker. Another I ended up carrying around from class to class. It was called Intermission. I came up with the story with my cousin in a computer art class back in 1994. It was done on an old Amiga. Very primitive and took around 12 floppy disks to save it. However I decided to redo it when I got into my first traditional animation class. After class was over I continued working on it. Over the next years I would find myself restarting as my skills were growing faster than I could complete it. It was not until I moved the project into Flash when it really started moving forward. Then I took a devastating blow. I saw not one but two animated shorts in the same month with the same plot and idea. I felt crushed.
Did you end up finishing it as a personal victory?
No, production for Intermission is on hold indefinitely. I may yet return to it someday as I feel my version still has something to offer. However looking back I do feel a certain victory with everything that I learned along the way. It took awhile but I eventually realized that it was not all wasted time, but experience. I had written a script, drawn up character model sheets and boarded the whole thing. I learned a ton from all of it. When life gives you charcoal you make pencils and draw from it.
You mentioned Flash, did you create any shorts using that medium?
Yes, I have created some in flash. Going back I knew I wanted to do Intermission in Flash but my skills were just not there yet. So I decided to create a few shorts as test subjects. A few of them are out there at various animation portal websites. After I dropped Intermission I did a couple more including my most successful short to date Love at the Pond. It was originally created and played for a mobile phone film festival. In 2008 it was selected to be played at the Paper Bag Festival in the UK. It also has had a pretty good run on AniBoom.com.
What inspired you to learn animation?
It is frustrating to want to create with out the proper ability. I see amazing talent all over and get inspired to do the same. The only way that was going happen is to put on the hard hat and get to work learning.
Who is your favorite animator?
This is tough to choose just one. I would have to say it is between Brad Bird, Ollie Johnston, Bill Plympton and Chuck Jones. And if I may name drop I have met the latter two.
You got to meet Chuck Jones?
Oh yeah what an honor. It was at his gallery. He was really cool. I told him I was looking to go into animation and how he was a huge influence. He was very cool spouting out all kinds of advice. The one quote that he said that stuck with me was "Every person has about 8000 bad drawings in them, the sooner you can get through them the better you will be"
What is your favorite animated/CG scene of all time?
This changes all the time depending on my mood. Right now I will pick from the Iron Giant. There is a scene after the Giant gets shot down with Hogarth in his hands. After the crash he gets up to see Hogarth not moving. The Giant assumes he is dead and gives a very subtle yet emotional performance. Was pretty powerful.
You primarily have been 2d, how has the switch been to 3d and why now?
For the most part because that is the standard for Animation Mentor. With that said I have always been excited for 3d but just never got around to it until now. Over all It has been very smooth switching. There has been some difficulties in not knowing the program completely. Fighting with it in terms of knowing what the animation should look like vs what it is doing. Otherwise the principles are all the same irregardless of the tool. Even if I was to attempt a 2d animation now I know I could do a better job than prior to have starting the courses.
What are your plans for the future?
I have a couple things I hope for the future. One big one is to continue learning animation and get better as an animator and artist. All the while adding to my demo real and portfolio. The other is to start creating some of my own projects and start bringing my ideas to life!