Storyboards

The training I received at Sullivan Bluth Burbank was invaluable. There I learned the principles of animation, being an assistant in both character animation and special effects. When the studio shut down in 1992, John Cawley and Vincent Davis hired me to do storyboard revisions on Garfield & Friends—my first step into a larger world. My experience at Bluth came in handy, as I was able to apply that knowledge to the most efficient—and economical—way of staging action. From there I went on to do full boards at Hyperion for Itsy Bitsy Spider, working alongside CalArts talents Conrad Vernon, Craig Kellman, Mike Mitchell and Steve Anderson. After that I would hop back and forth as a board artist, or FX animator, or a designer depending on the project. The following boards (click on the illustration) are just a few of the many I’ve done over the years. Note the diversity of style in these series. To be successful in the animation industry, one has to be versatile.

“K is for Kibble” puts the spotlight on Spot, a chicken who investigates Cruella de Vil in the guise of detective Marlowe. Cruella catches Marlowe on her premises and calamity ensues. When Cruella splashes into the pool, note that I applied a secondary splash—knowledge that I had gained from doing effects. My director was Skip Jones, one of Don Bluth’s top animators. 101 Dalmatians © Disney.

The pups have more than one de Vil to worry about. Cruella’s niece gives Spot and the pups a ride for their lives. Trivia note: The cop is modeled after a famous, and extremely talented, Bluth animator. Click here for Part Two, in which Ivy succeeds in framing the pups. Much angst in this one. 101 Dalmatians © Disney.

I served as Storyboard Supervisor on the first season of Courage the Cowardly Dog. On “Hothead,” I boarded the middle third of the episode. Eustace Bagge, the Farmer, buys a hair tonic that has an unfortunate side effect. Whenever he becomes outraged, things blow up real good. Fun! Courage was created and directed by John Dilworth and produced by Robert Winthrop. Courage the Cowardly Dog © Cartoon Network.

As a freelancer, I boarded the second half of “Moving On,” a third season episode of the whimsical PBS series, Dragon Tales. Cassie misses her sister Sophie, so it’s up to the Dragon Tales gang to cheer her up. I used this portion of the board to demonstrate storyboarding on a Los Angeles PBS affiliate, KLCS. See the video section for the links to this presentation. Dragon Tales © Sony and Sesame Workshop.

On Megas XLR, I served as Storyboard Supervisor during its two seasons. I boarded Act I and the first bit in Act II of “Ultra Chicks,” a parody of Sailor Moon. This was directed by Kelsey Mann, who plussed the girl’s funny transformation sequence. Megas XLR © Cartoon Network.

Say It with Noddy interstitials were added to the Make Way for Noddy CG series. It introduced Whizz the robot, who encouraged viewers to say foreign words with Noddy. I served as Storyboard Supervisor for the interstitials, and boarded several. This is the interstitial for the episode, “The Great Goblin Giveaway.” The job was also my introduction to boarding for CG animation. Noddy © Chorion PLC.

This interstitial was for “Don’t Be Scared, Noddy,” which encouraged viewers to say the foreign equivalent to the word “shadow.” By the way, my producer/director was John Grusd, the man who built little W1K1 for Jason of Star Command. Noddy © Chorion PLC.

Ponyville has a problem: A precocious unicorn named Rarity. All she wants to do is have fun. I boarded this section just from the script, without music or lyrics. I’m told that once Hasbro saw the board, they changed the song they had in mind to a new one that accommodated my visuals. It’s a cute song. I like it. My director was Vic Dal Chele. The animatic of this board can be viewed in the video section. My Little Pony © Hasbro.

Alien Racers, a CG action series, featured interstitials during the race, called “Bio-Stats,” which served as commercials for the characters and mecha. This one spotlights the 3XJ, the vehicle driven by Jax. Producer was Davis Doi; director was Larry Houston. Alien Racers © MGA Entertainment, Inc.

This Bio-Stat features the ravenous Kreff. Animation for the Bio-Stats had to be minimalto reduce production costs, so most of the movement came from the camera. Only three episodes aired in the United States, on Fox. Alien Racers was produced at SD Entertainment, as was Noddy and My Little Pony: “The Runaway Rainbow”. Alien Racers © MGA Entertainment, Inc.

Ozzy and Drix was a spinoff series from the movie Osmosis Jones, lasting for two seasons. I worked for two directors: Barry Caldwell, the only story artist who also worked on the movie, and Byron Vaughns, with whom I worked on Dumb and Dumber at Hanna-Barbera and The Lionhearts at MGM. This board is from the episode “Ozzy Jr.,” in which our blue hero is infected with a virus and he becomes … pregnant. Ozzy and Drix © Warner Bros.

For this direct-to-video, producer Davis Doi assigned me a very special section: The new Scooby Doo gang meets the old Scooby Doo gang in a cyber world. And I was allowed to do the gag where Scooby sniffs himself. He is a dog, after all. Scooby Doo © Warner Bros.

I storyboarded the couch gag and Act I of Season 11, Episode #248 of The Simpsons: “Behind the Laughter.” Director Mark Kirkland can attest that I predicted it would win an Emmy—and it did. I simply figured it was that kind of episode that would appeal to the Academy. And it was an absolute pleasure working for Mark. This was the first episode for which I won an Emmy certificate. The Simpsons © Fox.

“Apocalypse Cow,” directed by Nancy Kruse. Bart visits a 4-H ranch and raises a calf, who is destined for the slaughterhouse. I storyboarded Act I. The opening spoofs Transformers with “Trans-Clown-O-Morphs.” I wanted to stage it more anime-style, but this is The Simpsons, not Cowboy Bebop. The Simpsons © Fox.

What a joy it was to board action for Scrat, guest-starring on The Simpsons. (Why not? Fox owns Blue Sky as well.) “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind” was directed by Chuck Sheetz, and wouldn’t you know it, it won an Emmy, and I got my second Emmy certificate. I storyboarded Act I. And it was great to work with Chuck again. (The first time was boarding on the episode “Alone Again, Natura-Diddlily.”) The Simpsons © Fox.

I boarded Act III of “The Debarted” for director Matt Nastuk, and it was a great experience. A parody of The Departed, Bart learns new schoolkid Donny is a spy planted by Principal Skinner. The trap is sprung, but Skinner finds that he is no match for a pallet full of Mentos. This episode was nominated for Best Writing by the Writers Guild of America and ASIFA-Hollywood’s Annie Awards. The Simpsons © Fox.

Lisa is tempted by smoking ballerina dancers in “Smoke on the Daughter.” Act III was heavily revised, which meant it had to be heavily reboarded. I also did the couch gag featuring Wile E. Coyote. Directed by the talented Lance Kramer. The Simpsons © Fox.

The first time I boarded with Flash animation in mind was when I was Creative Director at Cornerstone Animation, working on “Your Child” for Focus on the Family and the Larryboy series for Big Idea. I wrote and boarded most of the gags for this short, “Fly By Might,” produced entirely inhouse. Click here for Part Two. I co-wrote and boarded a second short, “A Polar Pickle,” starring some penguins. Larry Whitaker was co-writer and director. Larryboy © Big Idea.

Another Flash experience was Spaceballs: The Animated Series for the episode “Grand Theft Starship.” I staged the action to economize character animation as much as feasible, pretty much like an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Such was the limited budget, I was the defacto director, as well as story artist, on Act II. It was great to work with producer John Cawley again. Spaceballs © MGM.

This is a sample board for theatrical animation. This one I call “Dragon Attack.” The visuals tell the story; no dialogue is necessary. © 2000 W. R. Miller.

This is a trial board I did for Rich Animation for their feature film, Feathertop. A mouse and an enchanted broom fly to the aid of their friend, an enchanted scarecrow. Design and story © Rich Animation.