Archive for December, 2010

A short Holiday story begins.


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I’m sort of going to movies again. My 4 year old and I. We saw Tangled the other day. I know, I know, 4 is a little young to really get into a movie that’s about chasing your dreams…”Why would you chase a dream?”

It is a beautiful film. And here’s where I go all, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH about stuff I have no business blah, blah, Blahing about. But the music really ruined a great film.

First the good. It is a beautiful film. The art direction and layout ETC. all wonderful and amazing and man-oh-man can those folks draw and paint. Cool looking characters and a masterly designed, animated and rendered horse. Loved it all. The only character design issue I had was that in a few places Rapunzel seemed to go over the edge into the uncanny valley in a few shots. She starts to look like a radically deformed real human. Or not quite real human with inhuman size eyes. But they pull her back into being cartoon-cute just as it gets unsettling.

But I found the slavish devotion to the broadway musical form the most unsettling. How about a fairytale without the characters signing? I know, that’s what Shrek does. But how about not being a parody and cynical, but just telling the fairytale well – without the trappings and pacing of a Broadway musical? I mean, Broadway shows aren’t exactly setting the entertainment world on fire these days..these years, this decade, this century…But I suppose you can look to High School Musical as your guide to what works. But if you go down that path you may as well base your filming on The Cake Boss or one of the HGTV shows about selling crummy looking houses. Now that’s a movie!

The core filmaking is all A+ but then you get to what should be magical scenes (like watching the paper laterns floating into the air) and we get bombarded by a duet sung by the main characters. The scene isn’t allowed to live or breath for one second. No, we are being told – “NOW FEEL THIS”…”And buy the soundtrack album.”

I bet if you screen that scene with just a slight, magic-infused score (or nothing but the ambient sounds of nighttime) it is beautiful and strong. Instead we get a forgettable duet, blaring at us and the magic is killed, and we are reminded in only the way modern Disney can, that we aren’t really supposed to love the film that they made. Just love the ancillary product lines (and ancillary may be too kind of a word to use here). They don’t seem to believe in the story, the magic of what they delivered. The power of what they made. They had something good, they let it slip away under the hounding of some products division or another I suspect.

A touching moment-BAM! A magical, introspective story beat-BAM! Letting the amazing visuals carry the pathos of the scene-BAM! BAM!!! BAMMMMMMM! We are hit over the head with a ninety pound frying pan of instantly forgettable songs. OUCH! My head hurts, my ears hurt and I am crying. So something happened. I was assaulted.

It’s a very good film that is filled with brilliant art and design. Just turn off the music when you see it.

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My weekly trip to the library always brings a mixed bag of books. My daughter usually likes 2 or 3 of the 4 or 5 books we bring home. Below are some recent favorites.

Hattie the Bad.

My daughter loved it. I loved it even more. Wonderfully inspired illustration by Joe Berger.

I Love Bugs.

And my daughter currently does love bugs. She finds them fascinating and this book was great fun for us to read.

Monkey and Me.

My daughter enjoyed it enough to be one of the bedtime books for 3 nights. Which is a little better than average. I am not usually a fan of repeat/rhyme style books. But this was endearing. And while my daughter is none to sure about monkeys (she made sure we put the monkey christmas ornament high on the tree so it wouldn’t jump down and cause trouble at night) she still liked the book.

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I am finishing up illustrating The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot so I decided to finish working on a sculpture of the main characters. Well, I got one of them done, and I’m not sure I’ll have time to sculpt the other two.

This is one of the main characters. He’s definitely going to be the valedictorian of his class some day. I did kind of a ‘hero’ sculpt of him. It’s not a direct copy of a pose in the story. But he is holding a solar panel which he procures during the story. Creating the sculpture of the character definitely helped bring him to life for me.

About the Statue

It was done using sculpy clay and in order to stay as true as I could to the drawn character I had to sculpt it in two pieces. The characters legs are so thin and small they could not support his upper torso. Sculpy isn’t strong enough to support the upper half of his body until after you bake it. (sculpy is clay-like until you bake it for 30 minutes and then it firms up)

I baked the legs and base as a single piece and I built a stand with a wire armature to support the torso and baked that as a second element. I created a peg system so the bottom fit into and under the torso. His pants slipping under his long shirt/coat as you can see in the picture below.

Once they were cooked and cooled, I glued them together, did a little clean up with files and x-actos, painted him completely with white paint to get a uniform undercoat, then painted his colors using a mix of acrylics and animation cell paint.

And the Winner Gets –

I am planning on having some kind of contest on this blog when the book comes out and will give this statue out as the prize. So you will hear more about it before then. I’ll try and get the other two characters done before the book launches.

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