Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: A Year in Review

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had fun and exciting holidays. I can't believe how quickly 2011 went by! I've run into so many people I haven't seen in a while over the past few weeks, and everyone asks, "So, what have you been up to?" Well, here is a quick review of exactly what went down at the BarnYard last year...

Photo 1: A year ago, everybody here was working 7 days a week, pulling an inhuman number of all-nighters getting ready for our upcoming productions. We needed a break. Marissa Cuevas's 18th birthday was the perfect excuse to have the party of the century! You only get to turn 18 once, so I tried to make it a party worth remembering. And, trust me, no one will soon forget! We had rollerskating, laser tag, Disney princess. We also had broken bones and concussions! It was legendary. Ginny McQueen made these pterodactyl PJs for Marissa though, so birthday wishes were a success.

Photo 2: Since neither Marissa nor I actually broke any bones at the party, we spent Christmas in London.
Photo 3: And New Years in Paris!

Photo 4: It was a great holiday, but I had to get back to work straight away! Dragon Age: Redemption, filmed under the code name "DAGGERS", was only a week from shooting, and there was still lots to be done.

Photo 5: Felicia Day came to me with a bare bones outline of the project when she first began writing so I could start figuring out how to bring BioWare's fantasy world to reality. It was a dream project, and I begged her to let me helm all of the physical visual aspects. I designed the sets, props, make-up effects, and Felicia's Tallis costume. I am honored to have been nominated for two IAWTV Awards for DA:R, Best Production Design, and Best Make-up Effects.

Photo 6: I worked with Sandeep Parikh on a Super Bowl commercial. I built this dinosaur puppet, and he directed the sequence. If you watched the game, you saw the commercial, but not the dino! The additional sequence was ultimately cut from the spot.

Photo 7: I made a bunch of random small hand props last year, too. For some reason I always get the snow globe jobs, like this prop for an episode of Happy Endings.

Photo 8: And because no year is complete without an 8-bit project, I painted the Tempest Free Running Academy to look like Mario World.

Photo 9: The thing I love the most about my job is the diversity. One minute I'm painting a gym for real life Spider-men, and the next I building a full size tree for a permanent installation in a Melrose store window.

Photo 10: I LOVED Voltron - Defender of the Universe as a kid. Apparently, so did Alex Albrecht. I designed Alex's directing debut in 2010, and I was ecstatic when he asked me to realize the interior cockpit of the Red Lion for his second film.

Photo 11: After we filmed the live action interior, I created a miniature of the exterior Red Lion with Kevin "Amish" Ivers. I'm ready to build the other four lions any time you are, Alex!

Photo 12: There was only about two weeks time between wrapping DA:R and going into full prep on Rock Jocks, a sci-fi comedy I produced with my Dog & Rooster Productions partner, Sheri Bryant. I did the production design and make-up effects on this one, too. Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment. As is my friend Felicia Day! She came along for the ride, joining cast members Jason Mewes, Andrew Bowen, Jerry Bedknob, Justin Chon, and KevJumba.

Photo 13: Random Rock Jocks prop: Space Shuttle bong! If it makes you laugh now, wait till you see the movie!

Photo 14: This is kind of a secret, but Doug Jones joined the cast, making this the second project we worked on together for 2011. And it was only March!

Photo 15: I don't get a lot of time to paint for fun, but when things are stressful, painting sooths me. I had just finished the first milestone of a HUGE project, as lead designer on a Michael Jackson MMO, and I needed a break. It was director Sean Becker's birthday, so I decided to paint him a Boba Fett jacket. The gift was a big hit. The MJ MMO ultimately shut down, and sadly I cannot show any of the great stuff we created. Maybe next time!

Photo 16: I am an artist. This statement might not surprise you, but it is something I used to be uncomfortable saying! Maybe it was my Jersey upbringing, were I was always told I that if I wanted to "be an artist", I needed a "serious back-up plan" so I could actually have a career. It's safe to say, now, that I don't really have any other place in society but to be an artist. But in my mind there were still certain landmarks I need to achieve to be a "real" artist. 2011 brought me to achieve one of those goals with my very first museum exhibition.

Photo 17: The exhibit is called, "They Can't Protect Themselves." It's a collection of pieces I designed and created to support the SurfRider Foundation. I made suits of armor for endangered marine animals. The idea is that, for every environmental hazard that man creates, we devise a way to protect ourselves from it. Imagine a world where animals could do the same.

The collection is travelling around the country to help raise awareness for the need to protect our ocean environments. They printed these giant posters of each of my sculptures to post around the cities on the tour, and seeing those was the first time I actually felt, well, like an artist!

The show is prepping for a full run, and you can find out were it is going at if you would like to see them in person!

Photo 18: It took months to create all of the armored animals, but not every project has the luxury of time! My team had to finish this giant football in 2 days for the "Hall of Game" awards show on Cartoon Network. Red 5 swore that she never wanted to see Bondo again!

Photo 19: Felicia is always on the move, and I'm so glad that I got to join in The Guild: Season Five. Honestly, I think it's her best work yet! For the whole team, actually. The script was amazing, the directing and cinematography were on par with ANY network television show, the acting was at an all time high, and the sheer volume of what we created was astounding. You completely forget that The Guild is a web show...

Photo 20: And the Season 5 cameos! Nathan Fillion, Grant Imahara, Bonnie Burton, Dichen Lachman, Erin Gray, Doug Jones (of course! Project #3), too many favorites to mention them all. It was a thrill to work with each of them, but without a doubt, the highlight for me was filming Stan Lee's cameo AT the BarnYard. My art career started by studying the drawings in How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way before I could even read, so to have the man himself standing in my studio was beyond words. Stan even signed my original sculpture for the Legends in 3D Spiderman, which he had once called his "favorite sculpture of the web-crawler!"

Photo 21: Other iconic personalities I worked with last year included Fabio for his Old Spice commercial series. I carved the mountain that he climbs out of!

Photo 22: You barely see it in the commercial, but the art director had requested a ten foot tall mountain! 41 Sets built a steel frame and covered it in rigid foam. I was brought in to carve it into a realistic rock. The scale changed a few times in the process, from being a whole mountain that Fabio would pop out of like a giant, to merely being an actual sized rock he was hiding in. The rigid foam ended up being TOO rigid, and I had to recruit the use of a chainsaw in order to carve in enough texture fast enough to get the finished product to set.

Photo 23: I'm kind of going in order of the year, so this brings us to about May. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Greg Benson of Mediocre Films made a few movie parody commecials to celebrate the holiday, and asked me to help out. We put together this New York alley set at the BarnYard, and I got to make this awesome Stay Puft Marshmellow Man pinata, which ranks up there as one of my favorite props ever!

Photo 24: The other spot was inspired by Back to the Future, where Marty gets the Delorean up to 88MPH to send a pinata, well, back to the future! Naturally, it was a perfect excuse for me to drive my car as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I had to act, too. Put it this way: if you had to chose between having me act or making a pinata, you would want the pinata!

Photo 25: Of course, there are certain occasions where bad acting is acceptable, like my portrayal of the cheesy 50's alien for Team Unicorn's "Alien Beach Crashers!" I made this mask as a tribute to all the crazy creatures I love from the silver age of Hollywood Sci-Fi.

Photo 26: The Unicorns mashed up the 50s and 60s for ABC. The sci-fi factor was very The Day the Earth Stood Still , and the summer aspect was very "Beach Blanket Bingo". The first order of business, of course, was to find a filmable beach! We were self-funded, so the state and private beaches were way too pricey. I proposed building a beach!

What you see in this video is actually Clare Grant's under-construction house in the Hollywood hills that I painted and decorated to look like a beach house. We got a few tons of construction grade sand dumped onto the driveway, and after a day of weeding and raking, we had a beach!

Photo 27: This piece only took a few hours, so I don't really consider it a "project". But as I went through my photos, it jumped out at me, so I thought I would share. My buddy Zack Ward made his directing debut last year, and he needed an oversized chicken embryo for the opening titles. I had no choice but to do it in fear of Zack sticking my tongue to a frozen metal pole!

Photo 28: On a much more pleasant note, things were much more cheery on the set of HUSBANDS. This wonderful web series was created by Cheeks and Jane Espenson, who is one of my writing idols. It was great to be on set and watch her process. It was also a refreshing to dress existing places with surreal items, but not have to really build anything crazy! If you haven't seen this show, go watch it now. It's really just perfect.

Photo 29: I wanted the steampunk booth in The Guild Season 5 to be spectacular, but, as usual, we were extreamely short on time AND funds. Luckily, Shawn Stryder and the gang from Labrynth of Jareth costume ball had plenty of incredible steampunk fixtures to loan me as a favor. In return, I repaid them with my sculpting services and created this rather large dragon head for one of the stage shows during the annual ball. Hopefully they will let me elaborate on the creature this year!

Photo 30: The most amazing costumes at LOJ were those of Team Unicorn! Rileah Vanderbilt, Milynn Sarley, Michelle Boyd, and Clare Grant are cosplay aficionados. I helped them out with a few projects last year, including their appearance as the Night Sisters for the Lucasfilm Clone Wars panel at San Diego Comicon. I made the laser bows and blades based off of top secret drawings from Skywalker Ranch. It kind of made my comicon!

Photo 31: That wasn't the only Star Wars cosplay I helped with for that con. I made Brian Kameoka's Nien Nunb head. It's a fiberglass shell with a foam latex lower lip, and tinted eyes. Bryan loved it so much he never broke character for the entire weekend. Give the man respect, he DID blow up a Death Star, after all!

Photo 32: The cosplay list was long for San Diego last year. I ordinarily never have time to help people with costumes, but so many of my friends had great ideas last summer, and they all do so much for me, I was happy to squeeze the projects in. Kenny Mittleider is a perfect example. This blog wouldn't exist without him! Making him Hobbit feet for his dream cosplay was the least I could do!

Photo 33: Combining the multiple projects I had going for work with all the side projects for comicon had me pretty worn out by the time I got to San Diego. But once I got there, the party mode kicked in! I went crazy with Justin and Kev. We drank caffeinated colas and stayed out till like 10:30pm!

Photo 34: After comicon, things got serious. I was finally back in the director's chair, which is my favorite place to be. I helmed the experimental pilot, WHITE ROOM: 02B3 for Roddenberry Entertainment.

Photo 35: What made the project so unique was that we shot it in 360. This crazy Probe Droid looking device is actually an array of nine 4K cameras that shoot in sync to create a full wrap around image. One version of the film has no edits, my all star cast, including Breckin Meyer, Tamlyn Tomita, David Blue, Rachel True, Tony Janning, and Milynn Sarley, had to perform as if they were on a live stage! The project also guessed it...Mr. Doug Jones! That's number 4!

Photo 36: Last year almost had the sense of working in an office, in that every project somehow included people from all of the other projects I did during the year. It made things very fun, and very easy, since everyone knew each other and how to get the most out of every day. The Geek of the Week trading card kick starter video was one of those projects. I loaned them my Jabba the Hutt, and made the shocker collars out of velcro and spray painted water bottle twist spouts! I couldn't stay for filming, but they sent me this photo. If I was going to be locked up in a house, that would be the group I'd want to be trapped with! The "original trilogy vs. prequels" argument could go on so long we would never even know we were prisoners!

Photo 37: Grant may be the robot master, but I bet he never built a lady magnet like this one! I pulled an all-nighter to create this tin parody of a robot for my friend Ilya's Blue cigarette commercial. It was a love story. Pro tip: DO NOT stay up all night and then wear a metal suit all day in mid summer.

Photo 38: I got to get some more Guild street cred by painting the cover for the Dark Horse Clara one-shot. I chose to show Clara's Frost Mage skills with a collection of her guildies sculpted in ice.

Photo 39: There is a long list of personal projects that I attempt to chip away at in my spare time, and there is usually never any of that! But in the wee hours of the night, or while I'm on conference calls, I whittle away at little things that make my inner geek smile. Always at the top of the list: Star Wars! I am helplessly addicted. I could be working on an original prop for a Spielberg movie, but completely daydreaming about recreating ANY prop from Star Wars. I try to at least make original pieces of art that are SW influenced. I have been dreaming about a full collection of Star Wars Smurfs since I was a kid, and this year I finally started started showing pictures of what I've created. There will be many more to come, plus a few other Star Wars inspired projects in 2012. If I can find the time...

Photo 40: I didn't get to travel too much mid year, but the few trips I made were very entertaining. I went to Wizard World Chicago, were Felicia and I premiered the trailer for Rock Jocks during a panel. I was happily surprised that people actually had a few questions for me during the Q&A. Felicia could be on a panel with the President of the United States, and people would still address all their questions to her!

Photo 41: Of course, you don't need to travel much when you have friends like James Kyson Lee. He brings a world of excitement right to your home. He asked if he could film a "quick video" at the BarnYard, and the next thing I knew I had a houseful of burlesque dancers and muscle cars. James loves my Delorean, so it still got center stage. Note Team Unicorn's life guard stand. Everything gets recycled around here!

Photo 42: Like Star Wars, there were several movies that triggered my imagination as a child and helped define who I am today. Even with a Delorean, it's impossible to go back in time to be involved with them, and it is very rare that you ever get an opportunity to re-create your favorite elements from them as part of your job. Last year, I got to bring one of my favorites back to life from scratch. I created a full size, fully articulated E.T. for a new project that comes out this year. I can't say what it is yet, but I got permission to show my favorite extra-terrestrial.

Photo 43: This was not a project, but definitely a major highlight of my year! I got to have dinner at the infamous Club 33 at Disneyland. It's a members only club hidden in the middle of New Orleans Square, and all of the furnishings were personally hand picked by Walt Disney and his wife. Kim Evey, Greg Benson, Sean Becker, and myself were all guest for this once in a lifetime meal.

Photo 44: Always the curse of blogging, so many projects I did last year are still in production, so I can't actually disclose any information about them. I can, however, mention that I did three pilots with one of my comedy heroes, Bob Odenkirk. What does Bob think is funny? My dog, Art!

Photo 45: I'll tell you what's not funny: working on a crime reenactment show. My friend needed some help on set, and I had a few light days. Usually I can separate script from reality, but knowing that all of these scenes were 100% accurate representations of actual crimes made for a really depressing week. At one point, as the actress was screaming for help as an actor was fake stabbing her, even the director had to yell, "Please, stop. We have enough."

Photo 46: On the completely opposite side of the spectrum, I took over Production Design duties for the second round of Brent Spiner's Fresh Hell. Again, I can't talk about what we did, but I can say that we made some pretty cool sets and props, and there are some amazing cameos. We shot about a third of the season at the BarnYard, so the pups got lots of celebrity attention.

Photo 47: We did a few trade shows along the way, too. I got to work with famed photographers, the Bui Brothers, to create the .TV booth for BlogWorld. We made it like a talk show set, and the Buis filmed a live stream of the booth activity all weekend.

Photo 48: Vu Bui and I put our heads together a few weeks later to create a real world version of MineCraft for Mojang's Las Vegas convention to officially launch the game. We created over 40 pieces in 12 days, including a 40' EnderDragon and a photo op cave complete with a Creeper and cave spider!

Photo 49: I'm not really in jail, but I AM at the scene of a crime! Charlie Murphy was filming a pilot for his new comedy show, and the production was having some art department trouble. A good friend of mine recommended me to take over and get everything back on track. I brought my crew and a truck load of sets and props. We worked around the clock to get everything on schedule for the first day of filming, building a warehouse full of sets, including this jail cell. Unfortunately, the production had to shut down after the first week of filming, and before I was even notified, someone swept in and took all of my property!

Photo 50: I lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff, but what hurt the most is this painting of my dog, Print. Guild fans might recognize it: I painted this overnite during the season 5 shoot, after Sean Becker asked my to bring the most random painting I could think of to hang in the hotel room set. People seemed to love the painting, and I decided to make it a thing to see how many sets I could hang it in. You may catch a glimpse of it in a few others, including Husbands. Charlie loved the idea of having the painting featured in an office set, so I loaned it out. Now it is gone with the rest of my stuff. I usually don't "dish dirt" like this on my blog, but I am desperate to get this original piece of art back If anyone has any information on its whereabouts, it would mean the world to me!

Photo 51: One pilot I designed that turned to a full series was The Tommy Wi-Show. With Brock LaBorde producing, Payman Benz directing, and Chris Darnell shooting, I knew this show was destined to be special. We shot the first half of the season on my soundstage, but I had another production in there for the second round, so we recreated the set at the BarnYard to shoot.

Photo 52: As the year started coming to a close, hockey season started up. The LA Kings had some new people in charge, and they wanted to change things up a bit. They asked me to repaint the King's Castle I made a few seasons ago to match the new jerseys. Huh, I said New Jersey.

Photo 53: And finally, I closed the year with the official launch of my new collectible company, Floppets. Tiny PVC characters clasped onto velcro tethers so you can attach them anywhere you want! I started the venture with two dear friends, Rich and Ilyse, and we have our sights set on making our collectible pets the next big thing! Help us out and grab some for you and your friends at!

Photo 53: So that is a brief paddle through my 2011 workflow! Of course, there were several other major projects that I couldn't even hint at, but at least I will have something to blog about this year once those things go public! Although, the next few months are already booked up, so I'm not worried about new things to show you. As you can see from the above photo, we have a few "big" things in the works here at the BarnYard!

Make sure to follow me on twitter @gregaronowitz and become a member of this blog to get more posts about future projects. Or past projects! There were a bunch of things in this review that I didn't get to blog about over the course of the year. Anything you would like to see an expanded post about? Let me know in the comments below, and please tell your friends to come check out my blog!

And so we begin 2012...


  1. It would drive me absolutely crazy to put so much work into a project only to have it cancelled and never seen by anyone. How do you psychologically deal with that? Does your satisfaction come from the PROCESS of making the art and not the actual results? Or are you able to completely let go emotionally once the object is finished, so what becomes of it doesn't bother you?

  2. Epic post!

    Thanks for mentioning HUSBANDS. I just went and watched the entire series. So CUTE!!!!