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.

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