Monday, July 14, 2014


The whole demolition thing is pretty frightening. Smashing down something that somebody else built, maybe you even built. Just ramming a big heavy ball into it to tumble it down, to pull it down with explosives or a backhoe. It's not like just letting something tumble down, letting nature grow cracks in it and gravity take its time guiding that wall back into the ground. It's taking complete control over time, it's lining architecture up with a firing squad, it's loud and it's dusty and it shakes the whole ground.
Passing by a demolition site, seeing an old building revealed of all its veins and its floors, seeing the insides released to the outside, seeing it as a skeleton that can be shaken into pieces, that's what puts a pit in my stomach. I can almost imagine the painted signs themselves shrieking out in pain. I can almost hear the building wonder why, trying to justify that it was strong enough, that it had good bricks, that it's only being torn down because something unpleasant was once associated with it, but that unpleasant idea can clear like an odor and you're still tearing it down.

Friday, July 11, 2014

30 Minutes!

Today I just barely passed the 30 minute mark. I have created 30 minutes of animation for Demolition Dreaming. Whether all of that makes it into the final film is yet to be seen, but that is a major milestone.
I'm not even sure exactly how long I have been working on this. Serious work started just over two years ago, when I came up with the first elements of the story. Or maybe that is more like two decades ago, when I had the first parts of the story. Two years ago I wrote up a treatment that helped to get me a Jerome Grant in late 2012 that made this project seem much more serious to me. I started the animation work in December of 2012 or January of 2013. Also in January of 2013 I got laid off from my job of twenty years, which both gave me some time to devote to the animation but also put me a little off track because the work of figuring out what I was going to do to make a living took time and energy.
So in a little over a year and a half I have made 30 minutes of animation. I'm pretty far into the story. Heavy Steve is seeing hallucinations on the sides of buildings. That's what I made today.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gateway photos

My first step in re-creating the long lost Minneapolis Gateway District was to see what it really looked like. I visited the Minneapolis Collection in the Special Collections room on the 4th floor of the Minneapolis Central Library, and the staff there had several books and notebooks and clipping files to look through. One scrapbook had several pages of photos of bedbugs that were taken in the rooming houses of the district.
There was a special folder of photos that I hadn't seen before. They were taken in 1959 and showed the district just a few years before it was all gone. They were taken on a day that looked like a hot summer day. The streets were fairly empty. It looked like the buildings were just buildings. When I drew my ink drawings of the buildings to recreate the district, I based them mostly on these photographs. Something was changing here and the life was being drained, or was changing into something else.
What I did with all these photos is find interesting buildings and draw them individually. I would then put them all together in whatever order I felt like to build my own version of the Gateway District.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Okay, just one more post today, because I am kind of catching up. But thinking about buildings being torn down for parking, that is what really happened in the Gateway District. When people started needing to take one ton metal machines with them wherever they went, they needed a place to put them, so they had to start tearing down the tightly configured buildings that made a great environment for walking transportation so they could have places to store their cars when they went somewhere. To me this all seems very absurd, but it's how we live and most people accept this completely.
Today I read an editorial in the paper written by someone from a conservative think tank who was disputing a study that said that the trend now is that people are wanting to move back into dense urban environments. Throughout the piece he used the word "congestion," talking about how people don't really want to live in congested environments, they want to live on big lots and in big houses. After a while I realized that what he was calling congestion is what I might call community, the experience of living close to other people and sharing space and place with them. This is completely how the dense compact environment of the Gateway District worked. It was a place that made community happen everyday, because everybody was out on the street walking and had to say hi and maybe talk to each other. This happens to me when I walk around my neighborhood. It's just very different from the car-based neighborhood, which needs so much space for car-storage, and all those places take away from the dense fabric that makes community happen.
The Gateway District was turned into one big parking lot for the rest of downtown.

Drawing Buildings

I know that animators are supposed to practice their craft by drawing people, and I do like to draw people, but maybe I like to draw buildings even more. I get a little self-conscious drawing people, and buildings can be as full of life and interest as people can be. Buildings reflect the people who built them and used them and adapted them over the years.
Like this morning I drew this building, which my neighborhood co-op wants to tear down to expand their parking lot and expand their building. It's a house with a commercial building built in the front of it that has several styles mixed together, including a Southwest stucco, tile room thing on the other side. None of the windows on the house side seem to line up and the commercial building, with straighter room lines, has its own eccentricities, like something that may have been a window once and is not plastered all over, and the tall chimney that rises from it. This is really a building that grew and changed over its life, and its life may nearly be over, so it might have a death just like a person, though that death, like all the buildings of the Gateway District, might be pre-mature.
So I'm drawing buildings, and I'm drawing lots of buildings to make my Gateway District come back to life in at least my imagination.

Standing on air

It's kind of hard to believe that so much can change. The Gateway area of Minneapolis looks completely different from how it looked in the 1950's and earlier. The view from the Metropolitan Building that my characters got is completely impossible, because the Metropolitan Building was torn down and the building that eventually replaced it is eight stories shorter than what was there. Today my characters would be standing on the air, but I made them stand on stone.
In animation I can re-create the Gateway District. It is something completely in my head, but something that is based on research.
In the Minneapolis Collection room of the Minneapolis Central public library, up on the fourth floor, there are many resources, photographs, lists of addresses, and very friendly staff who want to help you. I looked at city directories to see how crowded together the buildings were and I scanned photographs that I could base my drawings on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Metropolitan Building

For a time it was the tallest building west of Chicago. It might have been the most beautiful building ever built in Minneapolis. It stood from the 1880's until 1962, when it was demolished because it was where it was. At the time of its demolition, it was full of tenants and still in good shape, but because it was in the Gateway Renewal district, it was to be demolished.
There was some fuss about it, but the building's fate was sealed. Before the demolition, the building was open for tours. My mother toured it, and I was born the next year. So maybe I once was inside the Metropolitan Building, but only in a dream. Here is my dream of it, my dream of its size and its outside and its inside and the view from the top. This is what I am working on today.