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Pandemic Progress

Remember March 2020? The world was in perfect harmony. Birds sang and wine was given away free to minors. The comedy of Jeff Foxworthy and the Puppy Bowl were all we needed, and we had plenty. It was an idyllic time.

Then the shit hit the fan. Of course we’ve all blocked it out from our collective memories, but it was something like… let me see…  a global lockdown, working from home while small children ran in circles around us, extreme job insecurity, and a few riots thrown in for good measure. I think the Evil President was replaced by the Nice President also but I was too frightened to notice.

Of course, it led to big changes. My job at Disney ping-ponged around like a ping-pong ball in a pinball machine next to a Pong machine. First I worked from home. Then I was furloughed. Then I was brought back. Then I was let go. This dragged out over the course of nine months, so it was an extremely slow car crash. Anxiety over money and the state of the world, combined with uncertainty over my kids’ education and a fear of death modifier, led to very strange panic attacks. This then led to even worse anxiety about having panic attacks. (?) I had anxiety about anxiety. While I felt super normal within myself, I’d go as far as to say even say brave enough to deal with the apocalypse (fuck yeah!), my stupid body was dumping adrenaline into my system in large quantities. So much so that I couldn’t leave the house without wanting to crap my pants. Which is not ideal. All this to say, I asked for help and was prescribed Lexapro to level things out, and it did the trick and pants were not crapped, touch wood.

And then there’s the good news. I got another job right away. Three offers in fact, which was a confidence boost. So now I work at Warner Bros. and I’m extremely relieved and grateful about that.

Okay. We’re two years into this nonsense. So how was my creative output? Scripts and pitches and all that? It was not good. Not good at all. I consciously hit the pause button for a while, stepped back from my writing group, and just chilled the “heck” out. It was the right move. Nothing worse than trying to force something you’re not feeling, or adding pressure for no reason. Again, I’m lucky I can be in that position, but it’s a shame to lose two years of progress in the blink of an eye. Small beans in the scheme of things, BUT STILL. I can grumble about it if I want.

Things seem no better now with regards to the pandemic, but I’m hankering to start up a few projects, so I will saddle up that old horse we call “the biz” and ride into pitch meetings and contests. I have been taking notes for two years (plus I learned Blender), so I have a few new tricks up my sleeve. Might help, might not. We’ll see.

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The Mandalorian

It’s no secret that The Mandalorian is a great show, but what is a secret is the Galaxy of Adventures figure of Mando slaps hard. The latest Galaxy of Adventures figures have all been exceptional, but this one goes above and beyond.

Great articulation, clean lines, slightly animated proportions (but not too much), and awesome build quality. I know people give Hasbro a lot of crap for their performance with Star Wars over the years, but credit where credit’s due.

Anyway, this concludes the updates from the desk of the world’s lamest Star Wars fan (me).

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TWINS

When you and your wife are pregnant and going to your second ultrasound scan at 12 weeks, the last thing you want to hear is unexpected news. Me and Lakshmi were worried. We’ve never been through anything like this before, and we didn’t even know if we were mature enough to handle having a child.

We had an uneasy sense that day, even as we left the apartment. Sure enough, halfway there, a clicking sound started coming from the car. I couldn’t ignore it, even if it meant being late to our appointment. I pulled into a gas station and had a look at the front left wheel. A huge spike had gone into the tire, and the only thing stopping it for going all the way in was a washer around it. It was cleanly embedded, so I thought we could limp to the hospital and figure something out afterwards.

We were running late, but not too late considering what had happened. Arriving at the hospital, we got in the elevator to the 8th floor. It got stuck between the 6th and 7th. We looked at each other. Yup. Of course. Some other people in the elevator laughed and played around with the buttons, and soon it continued up to the 7th floor and the doors opened. Everybody got out.

Next we found ourselves taking the fire escape stairs (slowly, remember. One of us is pregnant) to the doctor’s office. I felt like we were either sneaking in, or being evacuated, and neither made me feel too relaxed.

They saw us right away. We were prepared for… something. But everything was fine. The baby looked healthy. No complications, apart from massive bouts of morning sickness for the mother. The doctor had finished, and told us to come back in four weeks. I don’t know why, but then she wanted to check things one more time. She had another look around.

“Did we know there were two in there?”

I can still remember Lakshmi and I looking at each other and just start laughing. What else are you going to do? Okay, twins it is. Sure, we’ll have two. It’s not like we know what we’re doing anyway. Hell, make it three. (The doctor actually checked.) We’ll have a whole litter of them.

So that was that. We got the car fixed, had a nice lunch, and then went home and called our families to tell them the news.

Cut to a year later. Emily and Leela are here and they are perfect, as far as I can tell. Leela likes screeching, bouncing and throwing Lamby on the floor. Emily would rather sit down with a good book and laugh her head off. I can’t wait to tell them this story.

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Flavor Jockey

My friend made this. There are no words.

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Phase 3

Like Marvel Studios, we all need a convoluted yet impressive sounding plan. I have completed the first two phases (Phase 1: don’t be lazy. Phase 2: Pay credit card on time) so now it’s time to shift up a gear and enter Phase 3: make stuff. And as I’m working on separate projects, I need to update my online presence to reflect that. Going to break it up like this:

jameshutchinson.la = Screenwriting stuff

crashlanderstudios.com = Design portfolio

ionwolf.com  = Games

baconspacehorse.tumblr.com = Character Design

Hail Hydra.

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Open letter to Nien Nunb

niennunbDear Nien,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today I have been procrastinating at work and dodging Photoshop and I have been thinking about your role in RETURN OF THE JEDI and the impact your actions will have on people. You don’t get much screen time but you certainly make a big impression with your minge face and blinky eyes. Not only that, but your skills as a pilot must be pretty great to get that job as second-in-command on the leading attack ship in a biggest space battle since BBY.

So why the jokey attitude? You don’t seem to be taking a daring raid against a superior enemy very seriously. I mean, it’s intergalactic war and you’re giggling in your little pilot suit. C’mon, cut that shit out.

I don’t know if it’s some Sullustan thing, but let me tell you those in charge don’t find your behaviour funny. They can’t even understand you. No one can. And yet you continue your mission to distract those around you with reactions of extreme surprise, total confusion or basic amusement. That is not the correct tone to set for the rest of the  Rebel pilots.

For example, the ship you were co-piloting, the Millennium Falcon, had a close brush with disaster inside the bowels of the second Death Star when it sheared off its communications dish at high speed. Going ‘WHHAA!’ does not solve the situation nor make it better. You could have avoided that collision if you were concentrating and not trying so hard to impress. And believe me, those crew mates, they don’t give an ounce of shit. They’re more focussed on A) not burning to death and B) saving the lives of their loved ones from a lifetime of tyranny.

I’m sure you know this. You don’t get put next to General Calrissian on a whim. You’re a talented pilot. People look up to you. And it’s your job to set the tone in that cockpit. Drop the facade and get down to the business of zero gravity ship-to-ship close combat.

Your friend,

James

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Technically, this makes me and George Lucas colleagues

Speaking of Disney, I heard this week I will be doing some work on a pilot at Disney Junior! It’s created by a very funny person (Canadian), and I feel pretty lucky to be asked to help. (Also, something is going down at Cartoon Network 4 REALZ, but more on that later.)

Anyway, George better keep his shit together, I demand excellence from my co-workers.

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John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

This was a seriously amazing night. John Williams and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. That’s one hell of a venue. I found mysef eating a picnic as the sun was setting, the crickets starting chirping and a full moon came out. I got a serious Close Encounters chill vibe, which was very apt. Johnny (to his friends) played some serious stuff in the first half (Olympics, War Horse, Schindler’s List, er… Tintin.) and the second half was all crowd pleasers. Superman, Raiders, Star Wars, the whole last reel of E.T.

It was unforgettable. And I saw a shooting star. Nice touch.

(Image credit: Michael Giacchino – twitter.com/m_giacchino)

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Licence to Drive

I learned to drive.

This is quite amazing if you account for the fact that I have spent the last twenty years not knowing how to drive at all. Sure, I had some lessons when I was at college, with a man called ‘Fat Stan’, beloved of many learner drivers in Woodley, Berkshire and beyond. But Fat Stan and I did not get along. I would try to make light-hearted jokes which he refused to acknowledge just happened (very uncomfortable) and his instruction technique consisted of getting me to drive him from one fish & chip shop to another so he could feed his face on a constant basis. On one occasion I was tasked with driving Fat Stan to his home, where he disappeared inside for twenty minutes (taking a dump), returning to the car with a piping hot Pot Noodle, which he ate as I was (trying) to learn how to operate a moving vehicle. So that didn’t work out. And after that amount of trauma, I was never compelled to learn for many years – until now.

I had three lessons and passed first time. Eat it, Fat Stan.

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My Disney Day

The day before I moved to LA, I got a call out of the blue from Disney Junior asking if I was interested in doing some character design work. Apparently they’d seen my characters on the Lamington Facebook page and thought my style would suit a project they have. Talk about good timing. A meeting was booked and, after a few pushbacks (it’s the Hollywood way), I got to go to Burbank and talk cartoons, which is essentially the best way you can spend your morning. The overwhelming impression I got is that people at Disney are mega nice. It’s brilliant. Do you think people work there because they’re so nice already or do they become nice after working there, through some kind of nice osmosis? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, hopefully I will be doing some designs for a preschool show, which is ace.

After that, in the evening, we went to see BRAVE at the El Capitan. Man, I was not prepared for the onslaught of WTF I was about to experience. All I knew is that Disney owned the theater and ran it right. The El Capitan is actually a venerable old theater – it’s where they premiered CITIZEN KANE – and it has one of those gorgeous interiors that looks like the Muppet Show should be happening any second. Well, I wasn’t far off – when I saw the guy playing a massive Wurlitzer organ, I knew something was different. He ran through all the Disney classics, even a rendition of The Circle of Life which is always welcome. Then he sank into the ground and about fifteen curtains swiped in from different directions. Only these weren’t ordinary curtains, these were laser-curtains, containing about a million lights each. They proceeded to put on a light show that would make Stanley Kubrick blush, and then they parted for some 3D trailers. Don’t know what 3D system they are running there, but it was snazzy as hell, as was the Dolby Atmos sound which is just ridiculously powerful.

The trailers ended. So now it’s time to watch BRAVE, right? Wrong. The screen itself lifted, revealing a huge stage with two people who started singing and dancing. Naturally, this was the beginning of a full-scale song and dance spectacular, featuring a cast of dozens, with people dressed up as Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Snow White, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Daisy, etc. Parents were clapping, kids were screaming at their favorite characters, streamers were falling from the ceiling, general mayhem in the aisles, until the finale bought the house down. The whole thing took like an hour.

Then we watched BRAVE. It was okay!

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