Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Margaret Keane, of all things.

Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction, and Tim Burton is making another movie based on one of these stories.  The first, was the fairly accurate historically and visually, "Ed Wood", about Hollywood's worse filmmaker, Edward D. Wood Jr.

Now, comes "Big Eyes", the improbable but true story of those god awful pictures that were immensely popular when I was growing up.  Passed off as the work of Walter Keane, these kitschy, garish, sentimental paintings of sad children with abnormally big eyes, were actually the work of his wife, Margaret.  She was locked in a room and made to paint, from dawn to dusk, in order to fill all the orders from adoring collectors.

To keep the franchise fresh, sad kittens with big eyes were added to the repertory, and then later, children with big eyes holding pets with big eyes were painted. 

I won't give anymore away, but I will say I've always found these paintings rather feminine, concluding that Walter was Gay.  Now, I know he just knew a good thing when he saw it, and wanted to ride that 'gravy train'.

I wouldn't mind a piece of that action so I'm reviving the Big Eye craze with this offering.

.
  

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Artist's Work Space


Fellow blogger, and animation artist, Eddie Fitzgerald has recently posted on his inspirational “Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner”, an article about artists work spaces, (link provided here: http://uncleeddiestheorycorner.blogspot.com/), which I liked very much and responded to.  He offered an invitation for me to show my space if I cared to, so here it goes.

As I mentioned my wife hates clutter because her mother was a messy artist, and she had to clean the house around her moms work area, which also spilled over into their living space.  Well, my mother was a messy artist as well, and we lived in what she called 'creative clutter', which I loved! 

Wanting to keep a happy wife and an inspirational environment,  we have managed a pretty good compromise.  I can’t show you our entire house, which is an eclectic mix of styles and cultures, but I can show my work spaces and touch on a little of how I work and what inspires me.

My office is pretty digitally oriented for computer animation and this over-view picture kind of shows the contained chaos.  I have my messy bookshelf, walls of pictures, musical instruments and my sculptures and toys.  Some of the details are an unfinished portrait of my daughter begun by my late mother, which hangs above my desk, and a picture of my brother in period clothing that mom did, on another wall.  I also have paintings my mother-in-law did, and our mothers’ works are hung through out our house.

Downstairs I have a man cave with all my toys put in a wet bar, and movie posters on the walls.  This leads to my other work desk reserved for messy things like sculpture, or painting.  We have a cement floor in this part as it is also the laundry room, so I can drops brushes or cast plaster molds if I want. 

There it is.  I’m very thankful for what I have.  Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!  


Daughter by my mother
Brother in period costume by my mother
Wind chime (hung inside)


Another wall hanging
Shelve in office, (note the Vinton box for floppy disks!)
Rug hung on wall
Wall hanging
Book case with sculptures I've done





Wet bar with collectable toys (sorry about the glare)


Basement desk for messy work, (portrait of grand-kids on easel started for Christmas, don't tell!)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Duet

There is a non-interactive version of Glen Keanes animated short "Duet" which is up for an Oscar this year:

 

And here is a little video by Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group about the making  of the interactive version for the mobile device to create an interactive mobile-specific storytelling experience, done at 60 frames per second:

 

It is beautiful to see that traditional animation is not dead and is in fact evolving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Childhood Subverted


I’ve been noticing a trend that takes beloved stories we’ve grown familiar with, and twisting them in a subversive fashion until we don’t recognize the original message any longer.

I think I first became aware of this after reading the book, which later became the musical, “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire.  Now, we've known different interpretations of the classics such as “The Wiz”, and all the Disneyfications (is that a word?) on the known fairytales. These took liberties with the story to make them more contemporary, yet still kept the original storyline pretty much intact.  But, here was a re-imaging of The Wizard of Oz that told the back-story of how the wicked witch of the West became wicked.  Those we perceived as good guys were in actuality the bad guys and their behavior eventually led to the good witch becoming the wicked witch.



Another example is the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty in Disney’s “Maleficent”.  Again, the actions of others turned a good spirit into the evil persona, Maleficent, who is misunderstood by everyone.  We are made to feel compassion for a character we’ve always taken to be pure evil. And now, I understand a new retelling of Cinderella is underway at Disney for a 2015 release. 

So, what are the children to think after hearing or watching these stories for the first time, and then seeing these alternative versions?   Is it confusing for them?  Will they learn tolerance from it?  Will they try to be more compassionate and to understand the other persons situation? Or will it cause a feeling of distrust and insecurity where they never know who can be trusted, who is a friend, who is an enemy, what is true and what is false? 

I personally feel children are too immature to understand the complexities of human nature and, just as adults, may never have all the information to reach a fair conclusion.  It's probably why our fairy tales and children's stories are so clearly defined as to who is good and who is bad, so that kids may hopefully have a standard to aim towards.  These shades of gray may be too sophisticated for impressionable minds.

I don’t have an answer, and I suppose it’s up to the parents to talk about these things, although I doubt if parents are even aware or care about this.  
   
 
UPDATE:  Here is an article about Neil Gaiman's new book, "The Sleeper and the Spindle", where he talks about the current trend of re-writing fairy-tales: 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11243761/Neil-Gaiman-Disneys-Sleeping-Beauty.html

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Peanuts Movie

Somewhere on this blog, I mentioned early influences, and Charles Schulz was at the forefront, along with Disney and some others in shaping my psyche.  I read Peanuts and learned much about the world and the cruelty we inflict on one another caused by selfishness and bigotry.  Pretty heavy stuff for a comic strip, but that was the key to good old Charlie Brown, he was an optimist, a kind of pessimistic optimist, but one none the less.  Children were used as a foil to talk about adult situations and Charlie was usually the brunt of many indignations, yet he persevered and his integrity to do the right thing in the face of adversity was a powerful lesson to me.

Now, I have said all this so I can say how excited I am by the sneak previews of Blue Sky Studios 2015 Christmas release of their Peanuts feature.  They have managed to nail the look of the strip and I can only hope the writing with be as good as the TV specials that were penned by Charles Schulz himself.

Have a  look at these stills and trailer and see what you think.


       

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's Voodoo!

http://www.cgmeetup.net/home/rhythm-hues-oscar-winning-technology-voodoo/

Above is a link to the astonishingly robust and mind blowing power of Rhythm & Hues proprietary software Voodoo.

So many movies owe a debt of thanks to R&H, and it's unfortunate and ironic that the same year "Life of Pi", won the Oscar in 2012, R&H shut it's doors due to bankruptcy.

Many other studios closed that year, but that's another story.  For now, watch the video on Voodoo and think about what movies would look like without computer effects.

 

    

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Stop Motion in the Digital Age #03

The last post focused on the evolution of replacement animation and the advancement of using rapid prototyping technology to create hard copy color face replacements.

Now, CINEFEX blog has run a nice comprehensive article on LAIKA's latest film "The Boxtrolls" that explains the mixing of traditional stop-motion and computer imagery.

The piece has several examples showing the process of rig removal, integration of effects, and the additions of background characters and entire backgrounds.  

Check it out here:  http://cinefex.com/blog/boxtrolls/ 

Update:   Director/Animator Jim Clark sent me this information about Laika's evolution of rapid prototyping  having originated with him.  Here is what Jim says:

This is probably the most creative, simple and best use of this technology+art I've seen in years. I was the first artist to adopt 3D printers for stop-motion - way back in 1999, so I have a special appreciation for it. Wow, the technology has come soo far and I love, love, love this piece!

In mid 1999, I printed my first 3D CG character in plaster and the use for stop-motion struck me, but it was still to early and expensive. In 2004 I convinced my then-employeer to purchase an early-model 3D plastic extrusion printer for our use in stop-motion production. We initially used it extensively on an HP Flea commercial to create all of our detailed set pieces. After, we printed the self-aligning replacement faces for an animated Anti-Smoking campaign, then we used it to create glow-in-the-dark stop-mo tracking heads for a hybrid animated commercial for Lux Soap where we replaced the practical head with a matching CG head in post. The uses go on and on.

My fabrication team eventually went to Laika, adopted the process and further refined it on Coraline. They have since perfected the methodology on Paranorman and The Box Trolls with 3D printed full-color faces. Rad!

I really enjoy seeing my original idea and influence adopted and further developed in this art form, after all these years.