Thursday, 27 March 2014

Zombies ate my students

It's no secret to a lot of people that I'm a fan of zombie-related films, games and shows, not for the zombies themselves (though they are admittedly fun to draw), but for the survivors and how they interact and develop. So, in celebration of this, and also as part of a joke with a few of my friends, I caricatured us in the garb of characters from "The Walking Dead: The Game"

I even got a bit carried away and made a fake poster.

Here's all the individual images just so you can see them without the mass of angry zombie arms.

I really think I've come a long way regarding anatomy (namely hands, which were always a struggle) and expressions.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Gator takes a look at...Studio B Productions (now DHX Media/Vancouver)

As promised, we take a look at a company from across the big blue sea, a company who has inspired me for it's use of digital animation.
Click here to go to the DHX website
Click here to go to the DHX website

Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a gander at Studio B Productions.

Founded in Vancouver, Canada in 1988, Studio B productions was acquired by DHX Media in 2007, before becoming re-branded under the name DHX Media/Vancouver in 2010. Merging with one of the most recognized headquarters for children's entertainment, the studio also gained the ability to use many character brands, one of which leading to, arguably, their most popular show to date...but we'll get to that in a moment.

Now this company has a diverse past, their earliest recorded work being the layouts and pre-production of shows such as "Where on earth is Carmen Sandiego" and "Timon and Pumbaa." However over time, namely after 1999, they moved on to become the main production company behind amazing shows such as "Yvon of the Yukon" (2000), "The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers" (2006), "Kid vs Kat", "Martha Speaks" (2008) and the still outrageously popular "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" series (2010-present).

Yes, I couldn't talk about this company without bringing up their work on Lauren Faust's re-imagining of the multi-coloured horses now, could I? Now you're going to have to forgive me when it comes to examples here, as this show may dominate; but this is not a sign that the other shows are in any way less notable, that is far from true, it's merely because I believe this program to provide the best sources for my discussion (being held in such high regard means plenty of image/video sources). It was the animation in this series which re-introduced me to the work of DHX after all, and reminded me of just how many amazing shows they had given life; as well as exactly why I respected them so much in the first place.

When given assignments in university, I found that one of the more interesting pieces was animating entirely in symbols as opposed to the free-hand and traditional approach which I was so used to.
I bring this up as, while completing these assignments and researching how this technique was used, I discovered many flash animations are often given a bad wrap as being inexpressive and simplistic compared to the hand-drawn style.

Trust DHX to prove everybody utterly wrong.

...Excuse me, is that a beautifully crafted chimera vector leaping onto a deeply atmospheric backdrop? Well colour me impressed!

The primary reason why I adore this company is it's ability to take the digital format and create incredibly dense, fantastical environments which make you feel like the established world has a genuine vastness. Even the desolate Yukon in the show of the same name feels open and grand, giving you a sense of the characters isolation. I've always appreciated a sense of grandness not just regarding depth of field, but the entire world the characters dominate, and DHX master that.

As for the characters, I have to tip my hat to just how expressive and elastic they seem to move and speak. The wide array of facial expressions and erratic gestures of each shows cast gives the characters a fluid, human-like feel, which is perfect when we want to relate to a non-human character.
I also have a real admiration for how they aren't afraid to push the limits when it comes to exaggeration of the features, Characters can pull the most grotesque of expressions and it really adds to the rubbery style each character possesses.
The same goes for pushing for disgusting imagery, a feature Yvon is probably best known for.

As I stated when talking about Cartoon Saloon, there is something I adore about animation, combining two mediums. Yet unlike Cartoon Saloon, DHX combines the principles of two animation styles to create amazing animation. Digitally animated characters cavorting about the screen as if they have the physics of a traditionally animated creation. This allows the characters to be utterly unlimited in what they can do and just how caricatured their delivery can be.

To illustrate my point, here's a couple of excerpts from two of MLP's more recent episodes, featuring three characters who fully take advantage of being boundless.

 So there you have it, a studio that truly elevates the strengths of digital animation to a whole new level. I thank them deeply for inspiring me to expand my knowledge of this particular style.

Next time, we come back to the UK to look at a blast from the past.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Gator takes a look at...Cartoon Saloon

As an animation student, someone who is striving to be the best I can be in my chosen field, it comes with the territory that I look up to companies (and individuals) for inspiration and motivation. So, why not celebrate those who introduced me to the animated world and keep me going with the idea that, some day, I may join them.

Across the coming weeks I will be shedding a little light onto 5 different animation studios (and possibly 2-3 individuals afterwards in an extra post, as my way of saying thanks) and what brought them to where they are today.

So let's kick of with a studio relatively close to home.
Click the logo to go to their website!

Cartoon Saloon is an animation studio based primarily in Ireland; Kilkenny to be specific. The saloon was founded by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, Ross Murray and Nora Twomey in 1999, an informal partnership founded in their final year of Ballyfermot College. This flourished into a fully-fledged studio which has worked alongside the likes of Disney, Cartoon Network and the BBC and produces a wide variety of animated media; from commercials and graphic novels to television shows and films (both short and feature length). In fact, you may recognise one of them from the Oscars a few years ago.

Property of Cartoon Saloon

Property of Cartoon Saloon

That's right! These are the creative minds behind "The Secret of Kells" (one of my favorite films by the way) as well as the upcoming feature "Song of the Sea" (Both of which are directed by Tomm Moore). But it's their television work and animated shorts which first introduced me to Cartoon Saloon, namely their 2002 short "From Darkness" and the 2007 series "Skunk Fu!"

Property of Cartoon Saloon

Property of Cartoon Saloon

This studio has always been a huge inspiration to me, namely for the gorgeous designs of the backgrounds and the fluid animation of the characters, which truly immerses you in the lush, fantastical worlds they build. Everything is bursting with detail, and perfectly reflects the feel of the narrative. I am also deeply fond of their use of curved shapes and crisp lines, it makes the character movement all the more compelling and gives it a "storybook" feel.

Property of Cartoon Saloon

But most of all I love their combination of traditional and digital. While their TV products lean more towards the digital side, Their feature films have combined both hand-drawn animation and digital media, creating free-flowing movement while also utilizing new software to enhance the footage with rich colours and effects.

Here is an example of the rough animation in "Secret of Kells" (animated by somebody who is also named Alessandra, now isn't that interesting). Alessandra Sorrentino!

To me, this is animation at it's best. I am fond of many different approaches and styles, but I think the medium truly shines when you combine elements from all different corners of the industry. Now I'm not a whiny old fool who will complain "back in my day...", I am a true fan of the evolving world of digital animation, and would love to be a part of it, but I also don't forget that there are certain features and benefits that come with the traditional approach, and Cartoon Saloon are living proof that mixing the two can lead to an amazing concoction indeed.

Property of Cartoon Saloon

See what I did there?

Next time Gator takes a look, we'll be traveling across the pond to look at somewhere that truly leans to the digital side.

Until then!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

La Cucaracha

A surprise post before my usual weekly post! So that would make this a double post...what does it mean?

I coloured in this sketch a few days ago (with what was apparently a sprained wrist, though at the time I thought it was just RSI or something...ouch).

A new member of my animal crew (who I am now starting to call Kit's crew, even though she isn't the captain...logic). Rick Gageson, engineer and general grease, roach.

I had a tonne of fun adding texture and shading this time, namely on that boiler suit of his, though those antenna could do with a bit of work, as well as the goggles.

After surviving a rather nasty explosion when he was young, Rick's fallen under the false assumption that he's indestructible, and so has a cocky attitude towards anything dangerous, which is valuable when living on a ship that's falling apart, but not so much when it comes to social situations. His general lack of care for danger and boundaries means he can come across as insensitive and creepy towards those who haven't known him for very long.

Both he and Kit are highly protective of the ship and incredibly doubtful of each others treatment of it. Kit yelling at Rick to avoid it exploding while Rick criticizes her drink driving and how it'll cause them to crash. Though he's probably the closest to the pilot, what with Silas finding him vulgar, Trigger finding him idiotic, and Legs constantly falling victim to Ricks frat-boy bullying

Only the captain and Trigger left to finalize, and then I'll draw all of the crew in the same way I have drawn this fella.