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Cool Stuff: Red Dragon

Today’s Cool Stuff was created by Mike Kelly and features what I like to call 100% unadulterated awesomeness. It’s a flipbook animation of a fight sequence featuring Bruce Lee titled, Red Dragon. The animation, which was was not rotoscoped, is nice and fluid. His Bruce Lee moves like Bruce Lee. The key poses are dynamic. The choices of shots clearly had thought put into them. Put that all together and you’ve got an exciting fight sequence.

In 1972, Mike discovered the wonder of Kung Fu movies, began studying Karate and was introduced to flipbook animation. He became a fan of Bruce Lee, in 1973, with the U.S. debut of Enter the Dragon

Mike interned at and was hired by New Genesis Animation Productions in 1980. They helped him to make his first demo reel, which featured a scene from Enter the Dragon. After showing his flipbooks and demo reel to Animation Director, Bob Godfrey, Kelly was hired in 1983 as an apprentice animator on a Bruce Lee animated film produced out of Hong Kong. Additionally, he was the live-action actor used for the rotoscoped animation of Bruce Lee in the film. In 1983, Mike interviewed at Ruby-Spears. After showing his Green Hornet and Kato reel, he was rejected and told he couldn’t draw by a gentleman who proceded to pull out work being done for Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos (Video | Show Info).

Kelly decided to attend the Motion Screen Cartoonist Union in 1985 (now The Animation Guild), but didn’t feel that his style of animation fit in. This prompted a slight career detour, allowing him to pursue his fantasy of becoming a martial arts movie icon. Mike has worked in live-action as an actor in Heroes Three (a.k.a. Hunted in Hong Kong), Sakura Killers (1987) and The Dying Game (IMDB Credits). The trivia section of his IMDB says, “He had such an adoration for Bruce Lee that he would seem to be ‘embodied’ by Lee’s essence when he was shooting movies.”

In 2000, Mike sat down and animated the Red Dragon fight sequence in the flipbook format. He then enlarged the art using a Xerox machine, scanned it, imported it into Avid Media Composer and then added sound and music. The sound effects were borrowed from Enter the Dragon, with some additional yells being supplied by Mike himself.

He has since invested in Toon Boom 3.0 software and a Wacom tablet and is currently working on a recreation of the “Saw in the Head” sequence from The Big Boss. If you’d like to learn more about Mike Kelly and his process, check out this User Story on the Toon Boom Animation software site and his YouTube channel.

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