Geoff Cook lives an animated life. His life is full of interesting people and stories, some that make him bust up laughing and some that can bring him to tears. His roots are in Africa and the US East Coast. Both his parents, Dr. Don and Elaine Cook lived in Africa, teaching at the Oil Companies School. They lived in North Africa in Tripoli, Libya, where he spent the early years of his life. His parents traveled. Asia, Africa and Europe were among their destinations. He grew up with family stories about these travels which allowed his imagination to expand beyond the world he lived in.
As a kid, he loved the cartoons of his time, including He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers and all the animated eccentricity that radiates from the television on Saturday mornings. Now, as a parent, he is heavily involved in his kids’ lives and watched cartoons with them among which Ben 10, League of Super Evil, 6Teen and all the other action packed and hilarious cartoons on TV.
Cartoons bring laughter to his kids and he loves to hear them laugh! He also loves to make his own. He has been working on animation scripts for years now and he can see how his origins run deep within him even into his animation.
Really, my proudest accomplishment is having my family. My wife Julie is a fun-loving beautiful woman and an inspiration in my life. She and I have three kids together, Fox, Max and Rainy. Julie wanted to name our first born daughter Rainy, as a tribute to her childhood friend who died of cancer at age 13. Julie and I have been through some difficult times, however as our daughter, Rainy was born very sick. In anticipation of Rainy’s arrival, we prayed that it would rain that day. When Rainy finally arrived, it did not rain. It poured. The trees, roof tops and streets were covered in the liquid truth that Rainy had arrived. Our joy of Rainy’s arrival was short lived as we learned that there would be difficult times ahead.
I noticed that my daughter had a small lump on the back of her head. I had no idea that this was the first look at what would plague her life with pain and suffering from that point on. Several doctor visits and one MRI later it was determined that the small lump on the back of Rainy's head was a condition known as Encephalocele. Encephalocele is a rare neural tube defect that results in portions of the brain pushing through openings in the skull. The lump was part of her brain tissue covered only by skin. Further medical investigation into her condition revealed an even more dangerous anomaly; she has an arachnoid cyst growing through the center of her brain like roots of a tree. It is inoperable. From the very beginning of her life the doctors and nurses involved with Rainy's medical treatments have told us to cherish the time we have with Rainy, which we believe is good advice for every parent, not just parents whose kids are sick. We cherish our time with her as we know that her condition affects her ability to live a normal life and it may someday take her away from us. Due to all of the complications from the brain diseases Rainy will need ongoing medical attention for the rest of her natural life. Julie and I treasure every moment we have with Rainy and her brothers, Fox and Max. Many prayers and our love of laughter have kept us focused on the joy that life has to offer.
My second most important accomplishment is landing my current job. About six years ago I found myself without a job in a new house with a sick infant daughter. I was out of options and had agreed to climb billboards to get some food on the table. I had a considerable challenge in front of me. Yes, I had climbed many trees as a kid, but the last several years were spent behind a customer service counter. But my lack of experience and desk job physique were no match for my ambition. I took the job and was set up to train with the only guy I’ve ever seen touch the same hot wires twice. These were the days when they used glue and paper on billboards. Oh, sure, the tail end of an industrial era and I’m in it up to my elbows. It is only in the past few years that new glueless technology has become the standard. So, I basically climbed a ladder with a dripping sack full of glue and paper and plastered them to a billboard face eight or ten times a day. After a long, glue soaked day under the sun, my arms became a peeling flaky mess of dried up glue. I looked like I was shedding my skin. Lucky for me, a desk job opened up and my boss knew I had a college degree. It helps to mention these things frequently and at random. Within one year of my hire, I had all too literally climbed my way to the top. I took over as Real Estate Manager for Lamar and have been there ever since. My ambition has not slowed yet.
Part of my work as Real Estate Manager requires me to develop new billboard sites to be constructed. This involves knowing city and state regulations, negotiating with landowners and speaking in front of City Council. I had no experience in any of these things, but with effort, enthusiasm and hard work I have developed a series of new sign locations including a digital billboard network for Topeka. I actually received a call from the mayor’s office, expressing how beautiful the latest digital billboard is. My computer skills and graphics background have been utilized to create spreadsheets, diagrams and proposals key to developing these new billboard sites. My excitement about the new digital media is no secret. On conference calls, I am always the one to bring up new ideas about how this new media could be utilized and marketed. When a new system for managing our media was being developed, I was chosen to represent my region for the development meeting held in Baton Rouge. It is very satisfying to see how much I can accomplish through sheer effort and ambition. Because when it comes down to it, that’s really what it takes!
My third most important accomplishment would have to be the animated series that I am currently creating, Star Commander. I think what makes this an accomplishment for me is that my usual attention span of seven or eight seconds has been expanded for this project to last years. Several years back, I had an idea for a show about a group of diverse and interesting characters that are sent on fantastic missions in a wooden spaceship that is held together with duct tape. The characters are unique and funny, I have lots of fun working on the show. I am challenged by the diverse set of skills this type of production requires. When I started writing the show, my scripts were funny, but I could see that I had weaknesses in writing. Information found on the internet was helpful in developing skills to create new story lines, keep the audience interested and develop my characters. I already had the humor and one liners down. Like I said, I have no attention span, so focusing on short quips is easy for me. I have been writing episodes of Star Commander for about four years now and I have some of my favorites uploaded to www.writing.com/authors/geoffcook If you’ve got a quirky sense of humor, it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.
Using Toon Boom Studio, I have been able to make my characters come to life in a way I never could have before. I am so excited as I am currently storyboarding the first episode of Star Commander and have many of the characters and backgrounds constructed and drawn in Toon Boom Studio. If you’d like to see my latest Toon Boom Studio work, go to www.youtube.com/StarC0mmander and please subscribe! I hope you find it as fun to watch as it is to make!
I’m still a bit of a NOOB at Toon Boom Studio. I received the software in September of last year, hopping on it whenever possible. Everyone that knew me knew I wanted to animate in Toon Boom Studio. So, during my quest to raise finances to get the software, hardware and a computer capable of bringing my scripts to life, I picked up a sketch pad. I worked on my drawing skills, put together animatics of my scenes and created characters designed to work using Toon Boom Studio’s peg system. When the day finally came and I had all of my equipment together, I traversed the packing peanut infested office, climbed the mountain of computer boxes, arriving at my desk, which was covered in old computer parts. Then, as I lay the golden disk (OK, so it’s orange) into the CD tray, Toon Boom Studio transformed my office into a full scale animation studio. I immediately hopped on and created 2 seconds of what has to be the worst animation in the history of cartoons. But hey, I had never used a tablet either, so give me a break! The important thing is that the character that I created was made easily using the drawing tools. The character also functioned using the peg system as I had hoped. Toon Boom Studio allows you to make working animation within an hour of opening the box. I was very pleased that I was able to sufficiently understand the program right away and it opened the door to endless animation possibilities that I am now in control of.
Basically, yes. I use Toon Boom Studio to draw the artwork based on scanned in pencil sketches, create character hierarchies, and animate the final product. So all of the animation you see at www.youtube.com/StarC0mmander is done in Toon Boom Studio. I had put some thought into using After Effects for some of the lasers, explosions, smoke and other special effects in the show. I had also considered designing some 3D backgrounds, but I am very satisfied with what I am able to produce with Toon Boom Studio and have been using it as a complete animation studio by itself. I like the “true cartoon” look that I get by using Toon Boom Studio as my all-in-one studio. Everything is crisp, clear and colorful. I see the cartoons I am making and am very happy with the look and feel of them. I have 2D simplicity in a 3D workspace; Toon Boom Studio truly is state of the art animation software.
I use an old version of Adobe Premiere to capture sound. It is so old, it actually prompts OS9 on my Mac G4 titanium. I plan to record final voice talent in a local sound studio. I also used Windows Movie Maker to compile and edit animation clips. When I have several Star Commander scenes rendered, I will probably work with an editor using Final Cut Pro to compile the work and I may use After Effects to do some of the special effects. That was the original plan, however I have been able to do some really cool laser beams, holographic weapons, smoke, explosions and other effects using Toon Boom Studio. Also, using Toon Boom Studio for effects keeps everything looking consistent and not like it was quilted together from ten different studios with ten different ideas.
Accessibility. I’d love to say that my studio was designed by a team of technical advisors and is operated by the best and the brightest of Disney’s veteran animators, but I’d actually settle for the equipment these guys would throw out. I use what I have access to and nothing extra. I bought Adobe Premiere years ago and it does a great job capturing audio. I use the video editing software that came with my computer for splicing clips and adding sound. As the show progresses, I will need to look into upgrading equipment and software to maintain the production quality that Star Commander deserves. But for right now, Toon Boom Studio provides the heart of the show’s production and all the other programs needed were easily available to me.
My window is filled to the brim with tools and pallets. On the left are my drawing and animating tools, which help me quickly go from drawing to animating in one screen – Awesome! I never have to guess if a drawing will work with the rest of the animation because it is drawn right into the scene. The side view and top view windows, which are the key to 3D movement, sit just to the right of the drawing window, on top of the timeline. The Timeline it tabbed with the Function Editor and covers the bottom Third of the screen. The next window over from the drawing window has Cells, Properties and Exposure Sheet as tabs in one window so that I can quickly change drawing names, choose cells and when I’m animating, transition from cell to cell quickly. To the right of that are my text tools, line thickness and color palettes, also set as tabs in one window. This gives me the ability to fine tune the size and color of the brush or line tool and add titles with a couple of clicks of the mouse.