Joseph Crockett is an award-winning animator currently residing in San Francisco. His first animation (ca. 1990) was a choose-your-own-adventure flip book made from a co-opted notepad. Ever since, Joseph has been breathing life into characters and concepts with 3D and 2D animation, film and video editing, motion graphics and interactive media. His passion for visual storytelling has taken him from haunted diners to imperial Russia, from roller derby jams to Baltimore City schools. Past projects include independent animated shorts, major motion pictures and educational documentaries. Although his works are often cerebral and mind-bendingly surreal, Joseph is allowed and encouraged to work with children. He is always eager for new challenges and projects.

Ikon's Flight

is an animated short that tells the story of the Russian Empire’s final moments. Here, as with all stories, what is presented might differ from what the history books describe. All animators are patient, detail-oriented people, and Joseph is no exception. He created Ikon’s Flight singlehandedly over the course of several months, using a variety of tools ranging from the professional software package Maya to blue sticky tack.

For the curious, this page is a look into the making of Ikon’s Flight.



Concept art sets the tone for the project and promotes consistency.




Character designs are referenced when constructing 3D models.




During production design, a consistent look is established. Velvety purple and reflective gold show the opulence of royalty.




A storyboard shapes the film’s timing and informs how long each shot or motion will take. Illustrations can be rearranged to alter the sequence of events.




Everything that appears on screen must be modeled in three dimensions. The imperial bedroom is filled with fragile porcelain and baroque accents, making it precious and vulnerable.




Polygons are used to define form. Complex math determines where each appears in a virtual space.




Textures are applied to the models, like wrapping paper around objects. This texture is destined for a peasant’s boot—the grimier the better.




These guides show how a glove texture will be applied to a soldier’s hand. Holes and dirt convey the character’s brutishness.




Art deco accents on the carpet of the Tsar's personal train car are a purposeful anachronism.




Lighting plays a significant role in setting the mood. This slide—and the magic lantern used to view it—evoke animation's roots in photography.




For characters and animals, an invisible skeletal system controls movement. This ant’s colorful “bones” influence how it will scurry.




The two-dimensional sequence is inspired by cut-paper animations from the Soviet era.




During the rendering process, the computer traces light as it bounces around the virtual space. For a complex scene, a single frame can take several minutes to render. The hands of this clock are set to the Ides of March in the Julian calendar.




Finally, separate layers controlling shadows and highlights are tweaked to perfection. The result is a completed animation.