ASIFA-Hollywood held a free screening of Beowulf tonight in San Francisco. We sat in the theater for 25 minutes while the projectionist attempted to focus the projector and get the 3D print to work. We then sat through the first 20 minutes of the film in broken 3D, where everything was misaligned and quickly gave me a headache. Eventually everyone in the audience got fed up and walked out and they shut the film off because they couldn't figure out the problem. I wonder how many other theaters around the country this is going to happen at. Funny how they seemed to have a handle on this technology back in the 1950's, but now it's much more difficult to get working! What I saw of Beowulf was ugly, raunchy, and extremely boring. Facial expressions were lifeless and the CG animation made the movie a joke...had it been real actors, I may have taken it more seriously. I will admit I saw a small portion of the film, but there's no way I'm paying to see it in the theater.
Sad news today. One of the best (and most down to Earth) professors at RIT has died of lung cancer. I had Jeff Jones for Scriptwriting for Animation and had a great time in his class. There was a whole lot more to him than I realized. He will be sorely missed at RIT, I'm sure.
As I was surfing through Digg today, I came across this clip from The Adventures of Mark Twain...a Will Vinton claymation film from the 80's. One of my professors from RIT, Tom Gasek, worked on this film back in the day. This particular clip always freaked me out and is definitely worth a watch.
Definitely not for little kids! You would never see something this interesting and frightening in an animated film today. Thanks for doing something different, Will Vinton! The surprising part is that this clip has over 655,000 hits, 5,000 comments, and has been favorited almost 10,000 times. Who knew this film was so popular?
Dancing cats! This is a piece for an upcoming benefit auction in Berkeley this November. (For an animal shelter.) I am working on two more (smaller) pieces that will also be for sale. More info on the auction to come soon. Acrylic on paper, 11x11".
The new Robert Zemeckis mo-cap adventure flick has posted a trailer over on Apple. The CG humans hold up decently for about...3 seconds. Then it suffers from Final Fantasy-itis, where all the characters look slightly too perfect and move just a little bit off. I love Zemeckis and Neil Gaiman wrote the script...I just wish it was made with real people. (I wonder how people will feel about a hot naked CG Angelina Jolie...why not the real thing, huh??) What's with making actors over in CG anyway? Yes, its Anthony Hopkins voice...does the character have to BE Anthony Hopkins? The official site says that the film will be shown in IMAX 3D and Digital 3D - sounds like the only option is 3D. If they could come up with a way to show 3D movies that didn't involve glasses, and didn't feel like a gimmick that took me out of the film...I might enjoy it.
The Sword in the Stone is one of my favorite Disney films. Well, that's a lie...I really only like certain parts of it. Namely, the part with the squirrels, the part where Merlin packs his house into a bag, and this part...the wizard's duel. I found this at a flea market on the Cape a few months ago and snatched it up for the awesome illustrations inside. I've created a .pdf of the book and uploaded it to Scribd. That site is awesome! As you can see, (I hope), it allows you to share documents easily. I would like to start some sort of animation library on there, much like a Flickr pool, except for documents and books. So scroll through the pages, then if you like you can download the .pdf through Scribd. (When you open it in Acrobat, or FoxIt as I prefer, you can view two pages side by side, just as the book intended.)
I unfortunately missed last week's topic of 'twist' because I was finishing up this painting for the Narnia Fan Art Contest...which is by far one of the more geeky things I've done lately. It's a scene from the book "Prince Caspian"...when Lucy first sees Aslan in the forest. The contest had some ridiculous rules about not including human likenesses...I hope I can get away with tree people.
(Apologies to pascal and ian for blatantly trying to emulate their awesomeness.) And for anyone who hasn't seen it yet...Ratatouille opens tomorrow!! Victor Haboush calls it "the best animated film since Pinnochio." And that's coming from a guy who worked on Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmations. Damn!
This is huge news. Amazing awesome news. Doug TenNapel's masterpiece of claymation interactive fun is being turned into a feature film, written and directed by TenNapel himself. Frederator will be producing the film (along with a new feature film adaptation of Samurai Jack!) Hooray Frederator! Your coolness factor just shot up about 1000% in my book.
For the uninitiated, The Neverhood was a PC game released in 1996 through Dreamworks Interactive. (This was back when Dreamworks took a chance on cool new ideas, rather than just making sequel after sequel...interesting that Frederator is making this film and not Dreamworks!) Check out some footage from the game:
Read the official Variety press release. Funny that the title claims "indie studio develops 2D animated films"...when the Neverhood is obviously claymation. I guess when it's not made on a computer people forget that it's 3D? Also, you can read more about The Neverhood on Wikipedia. Looks like a copy of The Neverhood will run ya about $40-60 on eBay...hopefully it still plays correctly on the systems we've got running eleven years later. On a side note, I met Doug TenNapel a couple years ago when he spoke at RIT (I even sat next to him at dinner!) and I got him to autograph my copy of the game. Maybe it'll be worth more now that there's the film coming out...and I can only hope this means another game too!
So after being hounded by fellow animators I caught a matinee of Surf's Up today. Wow! What a surprise! When I first saw the previews and posters for this film I had zero interest in seeing it. MORE penguins?? But to even try to compare it to Happy Feet is ridiculous. This film had everything Happy Feet was missing - character designs, a great story, fun music, actual animation done by real animators with a ton of personality...If you are thinking about seeing it, you should. You won't be sorry. (There were a couple of poop jokes in there that were unnecessary, but they DID get big laughs from the kids.) As Brittney said, it has a whole lot of heart in it. (Something Happy Feet was also lacking.) Now the film to really compare it to would be next week's Ratatouille. I have seen both films, and honestly I think they are both great and worth seeing. Ratatouille was a little more appealing to me right off the bat, and I think it has some really impressive performances and animation. Surf's Up was consistently funny and really made me feel for the characters...see them both! Now!
And while you're at it, go check out some of the sweet pics Marcelo Vignali has been posting on his blog. Marcelo was one of the designers on the film and he is great! He also worked on Open Season. If Sony continues to get better and better (this film was waaaay better than Open Season, imho) I think they just might give Pixar a run for their money.
So today at work, Josh told me about this strange Andy Panda cartoon he saw when he was a kid. It featured a devil character and Andy Panda going to hell and being forced to eat apples. Ofcourse it is on Youtube, (in Portuguese?!) so here you can all see it. It starts out kind of strange, but really hits it's stride around 5:30. Gah.
I just returned from a sneak preview of Pixar's new film Ratatouille. What can I say? It was amazing. Brad Bird has done it again. This is probably the most interesting and hilarious Pixar film ever made. EVERYTHING is spot on - the voices, the acting, the animation, the RENDERING...holy crap everything looks so real! But not in a creepy Final Fantasy way. In a beautiful dream world sort of way. The audience reaction to the film was terrific. (Though I did see it at Bay St. theater, which is about a mile from Pixar...so there may have been some slightly bias folks there.) Seriously, if you see one animated film this year, make it Ratatouille. And once you do, tell your friends to see it too. I can't get over it. I'm in animation heaven right now.
As some of you may know, my previous job was at Fisher-Price, working on a direct-to-DVD animated show called "Planet Heroes." It was a 9 month project and we produced a 27 minute episode that will be packaged with a new line of toys coming out this fall. (Or summer? I'm really not sure.) It centers on a set of heroes culled from each planet of our solar system. And half-way through production Pluto was deemed no longer a planet! That was fun. (We had to keep him in, we just added jokes about how he was tiny and a dwarf planet...let's see how many short people get mad about that.) I was a designer, modeler, texture painter, lighter, animator, and compositor on this. The only things I never touched were rigging and sound. And now there's is a great website for the product that you can access here. On the site you can watch a trailer for the episode and download the theme song MP3 and a comic book and coloring book pages, etc. You can even order a copy of the DVD for free! Here's a screencap from the site:
I painted that matte painting of the city in the clouds. Hopefully once the DVD's been out for a while I can post some of my concept art for it and no one will mind. Also, I searched YouTube for an embeddable trailer but all I found was a video some mother had made of her kid's reactions to the Planet Heroes episode. (I would post it here but it was really boring.) They were two young boys and one of them liked "the skateboard race" and the character of Ace. (The hero from Earth.) And the other liked "the hot one" which would be Dazzle, from Venus. (She is not bad looking, but I assume he meant her fire-powers.)
I was looking around for something old that might apply to this week's topic when I was suddenly hit with inspiration. I like books and I like quiet...so my paradise would be reading books in space. (Also, I liked being 5 years old?)
Also, if you are just stopping through Illustration Friday, take a look around my blog! If you're feeling crazy you might even add it to your RSS reader! I have some neat projects coming up that I'll be posting so come back soon.
Forced myself to go to figure drawing again this week. I wish I could find a group of animators who do this sort of thing. I might just have to start one...except I have no space for it. I wonder if Three Rings would go for a nude model in the office...
ALSO: I have lots of things I am thinking about doing with the blog here...like scans from a different vintage kid's book each week, fun links and stuff...but I'm not really sure it's worth it. When I post stuff to Illustration Friday it seems to get lots of comments, but otherwise I don't know if anyone's actually reading this blog. In which case I'm just wasting my...fingers? (I was going to say breath, but not really appropriate.) If anyone out there has an opinion, let me know.
Well it only took a year, but I finally posted my thesis on Youtube. "Love at First Roach" is the result of over 9 months of grueling work. My advisor on the project was Disney vet Nancy Beiman, and I have to say I learned an incredible amount working with her. Rigging was done by Greg Smith, who now works at Laika. The original idea for this film was very different, but I do like how it turned out. I needed about a year to distance myself from it, and now I can watch it without cringing so much, haha. I haven't spent too much time on sending it out to festivals, though I probably should. It did screen at Tony White's "2D or Not 2D Festival in Washington state. Let me know what you think in the comments!
So I'm wandering around Golden Gate Park today with my newfound friend Michelle, and we hear some loud music and see people dancing. Turns out they weren't dancing, they were rollerskating! There was a whole bunch of em. Apparently Sunday is "no car day" in the park and they can take over the road and blast their music and go at it. Some of them were pretty good too. ALL of them were characters. (Especially fuzzy boots-skates guy and big hair man.)
I finally checked out an open figure drawing place in San Francisco. It was a small studio and we had a great model. A lot of other people, mostly pretty friendly. This is the first figure drawing I've done for many months. I am still looking for a group that focuses on gesture drawing (probably made up of other animators) and possible uses costumes as well. Any other Bay Area people know of such a thing? Or would like to start one up?
Holy. Crap. Universal is creating a Harry Potter theme park (actually just a section of their "Islands of Adventure" park) that will open in 2009. They even hired Stuart Craig, the production designer from all the films, to oversee the design of the park. They also have J.K. Rowling on board, which makes fans happy. Coincidentally, I got to see Stuart Craig give a great talk at The Dryden theater in Rochester about a year ago. He had a lot of interesting things to say about working on the Harry Potter films. Now would probably be a good time for me to dig up my moleskine and let you in on his anecdotes and advice:
Craig started out by comparing film and theater. He has a theater background and complained that film has a horrible tonal range compared to real life. (There is no black in film unfortunately.)
He added that theater is often more powerful than film simply because the performer and audience share the same physical space. (I tend to disagree - I am often more aware that I am watching actors when I am seeing a play. Also I miss the closeups.)
A film like Harry Potter must be tangible. Craig was in charge of building a recognizable world, with some exaggeration. He based his ideas of Hogwarts Castle on Westminster Abbey, Christ Church College, and referenced Oxford for the Great Hall. (Good thing they got a British designer, eh?) As Craig said, "Steal from the best and heighten reality." (This certainly applies to production design in animation as well!) He also mentioned Durham, Canterbury Cathedral, and Gloucester as sources of inspiration/shooting locations.
On the first few movies a lot was shot on location. For the fifth movie they have moved to building EVERYTHING on set. He says this allows more control over silhouette and composition...what he called, "Fantasy, but not Tim Burton." (haha.)
He also mentioned that Hagrid's Hut, the bridge, and the pumpkin patch were the only sets in the third movie to be built on location in Scotland. Everything else is on a sound stage. These ext. sets were seen as an "escape" from the Cathedral/Hogwarts Castle.
Craig says, "A production designer's job is to sell the image."
He also talked briefly about directors: Mike Newell (HP4) was the most concerned with spectacle - he was always looking for something dynamic. Alfonso Cuaron (Hp3) was "brilliant at telling a story in pictures." (Very true indeed...if you haven't seen Hp3 or Children of Men...do it.)
Craig explained that only the production designer is looking at EVERYTHING beyond the actor. He also said that filmmakers often deliver a better film than the studio wants. (Hard to believe.)
Craig also gave a rundown of his working methods:
1. Research: The real world is too complicated (and dull, and boring) to reproduce exactly. Try to point out what is telling the story. Exaggerate profiles/silhouette. (Animators should all know this.) He mentioned it in regard to the Durmstrang ship in the 4th film. He said it had to be, "the shippiest of all ship-shapes." As in, it had to read as a massive ship immediately.
2. Create a rough plan to scale. Technical drawings with measurements and angles can be used for 3D models (in the computer or practical.)
3. Incorporate your shots. Most directors direct TEXT, not IMAGES. Also, the production designer should have some say in the lighting of the scene. He mentioned that 3/4 back lighting is most appealing. Go for the widest shot possible, at the most dynamic angle. (Good advice for all artists!)
Craig also compared cinema in America to cinema in England. In America it is about the "boldness of expression." In England it is more meager, more austere. They enjoy restraint for it's own sake.
He also talked a little about the huge amount of visual effects. Apparently there was only one virtual set in HP4. (You listening George Lucas?) You can tell! The film is beautiful and feels real. (Because it is.) Craig mentioned going back to the earlier artists for inspiration. Don't look at Frazetta (sorry John K), look at Frazetta's influences...people like Albert Whitlock and Vermeer. (mmm...Vermeer.) He said something along the lines of "CG artists bastardize things" (I may be paraphrasing here) and that we need to blend the old crafts better with the new software. I couldn't agree more.
Also, going back to the theme park, someone in the article I read mentioned that they would go to a Harry Potter park over Disney world...I agree. But as much as I want to roam the corridors of Hogwarts and the streets of Hogsmeade...I don't want to see crumpled napkins and melting ice cream next to a screaming child in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Maybe I'm a little too attached to the material. ;]
And just to make this ridiculously long post longer, I was just watching an interview with this amazing 9-year old girl named Adora, who had first book published when she was only 7. She's got a mad crazy vocabulary and is witty and intelligent and types 80 words a minute. (She started writing longhand when she was 4, and typing on a laptop when she was 6.) She continues to write and now lectures and teaches! She left the audience with the message to go out and dream big and use your imagination and that we can all accomplish big things. And just how did this all start? What books where her parents reading to her that she loved so much as a kid? That's right, Harry Potter.
P.S. Book 7 is coming out so soon I think my head might asplode.
Here's one you wouldn't see in a Pixar movie about cars. (Though it might have been interesting if it had been in there...) I was thinking along the lines of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks. (I am the king of bad puns!!)
Funny thing about this week's topic is that I was really uninspired by it and cranked this out really fast...but I actually like it more than anything I've done in a while! I should work faster and care less about stuff in the future. Also, the car is a '56 Ford Fairlane.
Honore Daumier was a master of caricature. While moving across the country I stopped in Chicago for a couple days and was able to visit the Art Institute there. What a beautiful museum! Probably one of my favorites that I've ever been to. I found this tiny room tucked away in a corner, full of Daumier sculptures and a couple drawings. These sculptures are relatively rare, as they were used mostly for reference in drawings, not as final art pieces to be sold. I love the exagerration and rough quality of the bronze casts. I searched the gift shop for a book with these sculptures in them but I don't think they are anywhere in print. So enjoy them here!
Of course when he did a self-portrait he was a little more forgiving: