Wednesday, 30 April 2014

There be Monsters concept art-Willard

Now let's take a look at Audrey's father, Willard

Willard's design was finalized shortly after Audrey's, as I wanted them to appear relatively similar. Most of his colours when it comes to hair, skin and even eyes are muted versions of her own colour scheme. His body-shape, clothes and hairstyle on the other hand was heavily influenced by Seymour Krelborn from "Little Shop of Horrors" (which may explain his daughters name).

Of course, both his and Audrey's designs changed alongside the voices provided by their actors (a real-life father and daughter) such as Willard also wearing glasses and having a slightly more narrow face. His original design was much more angular and skeletal, which was incredibly unsettling, so having a voice to help me was a real advantage.

The intention was to have a character who seemed relatively reserved and "boring" to a child, but he was clearly exhausted from trying to keep his daughter under control.
That said, the short is merely a small part of a much larger story, and features such as the grey stripe and Willards seemingly nervous personality in the concept art has much greater significance in the bigger picture; which makes his rather calm attitude while discouraging his daughter a litle more suspicious in the grand sceme of things, but also strong enough as a stand-alone character trait in the short.

It was also while creating Willard that I came up with the idea of naming many of my characters after actors or characters within the horror genre, while also keeping their names canon within the films time period. Willard is named after the titular character of the 1971 film, Audrey, while primarily being named after my grandmother, is also a subtle reference to the "Little Shop of Horrors" character (both human and plant), and the four monsters Nicholas, Doug, Grace and Simon, share their names with the cenobite actors in "Hellraiser."

The only characters who break the trend are Gizzard (who is instead a reference to an organ, which I thought would reflect Audrey's strange personality if she named her pet something disgusting) and the largest monster, who I call "Big Bad," but in reality has no actual name as I felt keeping him nameless would give him a greater sens of mystery and fear.

Speaking of which, we'll take a look at the big bad tomorrow!

See you then!

Monday, 28 April 2014

There be Monster concept art-Gizzard

And now a look at the character model pack for the panicky pooch, Gizzard

Dogs are often the go-to animal sidekick for obvious resons. Man's best friend is a pack animal, so they're more inclined to follow and defend their owners (can you tell I'm a dog person?). So when it comes to a fantasy story where the protagonist is thrown into constant danger, it's fun to play around with this concept. On the one hand you have a genuine protector such as Jake the Dog, or you can have him be a coward such as Scooby Doo and Courage.

As for Gizzard, I decided to portray him as a devoted pet who is keeping Audrey out of danger for her own sake rather than his supposed cowardice. You get a sense that he's fully aware of the potential danger his owner keeps searching for, but is more afraid for her safety than the danger itself.

His design is based loosely on a beagle, which was the most common breed of dog owned in the 1950's (the time period which my film is set in). Though he isn't supposed to be any specific breed. I intended to have him share Audrey's scruffy appearance, but to indicate he's often received most of the damage, hence his battered ear and odd pupils (the hollow eye is also lazy, which you will see in the final film).

Gizzard appearance is also supposed to give the impression that there's, about him. His character clearly knows more than he is letting on, and to convey that his characteristics are out of the ordinary, so he isn't perceived as merely a nervous dog. It adds much more tension to the film when you see he clearly knows something Audrey doesn't.

Tomorrow (or later today if the fates allow), we'll take a look at Willard, Audrey's father.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

There be monsters concept art-Audrey

So my final film is about 3 weeks away from hand-in; so for your viewing pleasure, I will be posting the expressions, action, and turnaround pages for the 4 main characters (as well as the colour ref pages once again so they are all together).

First up, Audrey McMarro.
Audrey is a 9 year old girl with an obsession for all things frightening; often searching her room for the fabled monsters with her poor dog in tow!

I intended for Audrey's design to differ greatly from most child characters in film and television, to stand out (hence why I made her rather lanky and changed her color scheme to bright, complimenting colours). The primary reason I researched the portrayal of children in animated media for my dissertation was to benefit this, and I am incredibly satisfied with the final result.

I wanted her to look like a child who grew up in a town where she was expected to be a little lady, but is constantly exploring places she shouldn't, hence her rather messy hair and missing teeth. She's rather scrappy. Plus all those late nights staying up monster hunting has put a terrible strain on her eyes!

One of her biggest inspirations personality-wise was Finn the Human from "Adventure Time" (who also has a dog-sidekick oddly enough), because he's the prime example of a character who is out of the ordinary and "weird", but is still sociable, active, and has a sense for danger. I didn't want Audrey to fall into the stereotypes of the geek or the tomboy, when children can quite easily be both.

 Tomorrow we'll get a look at her animal accomplice, Gizzard

Friday, 18 April 2014

Gator takes a look at...Sandman Animation and Kieron Seamons

So we’ve been darting back and forth from the US and the UK on this studio exploration, so how about we end the trip somewhere completely different…China!

So let’s take a look at

Sandman Animations


THESE! Sandman Animations


Apologies in advance for the lack of images this time around, as much of the websites content does not show up on my blog. Of course all of their content is viewable from the link above.

Founded in 2006, Sandman Animations is actually the most recent company in my list, and is also one of the most impressive animation studios in Asia; specialising in 2D animation as well as CG.
At its helm is Kieron Seamons, the animation director, who you may recognise for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Balto” and “An American Tale 2 (among many other projects). The man is incredibly talented, with an incredibly diverse portfolio and it really shows with the work Sandman creates.

The studio has created series including “My Pet,” “Ra Ra,” “Little China” and has even worked on “Horrid Henry,” probably the most recognizable to my western readers.

Here's an example of their work:

And here's some of Kieron's work

As you can see, the studio has a great deal of skill behind all of its work, and understandably so; as the company strives to ensure that its 120+ employees are the best of the best. In fact, the Sandman Animations classes have been created to enhance the quality of animation all across China.
That’s the main reason why I admire this company so much, it strives to build on others pre-existing skills, and help them to improve to an even higher standard. Talented animators helping other talented animators, and everybody benefits as a result, and the animation industry in China becomes greater than before. They are determined to improve the market and that dedication and support is a wonderful quality to have.

They have even set up a DIP Studio to cope with the high demand, and are always adapting and evolving with the growing industry, another important trait in any successful animator.
Combine that with wonderful worlds, diverse, vibrant characters and raw talent; and it’s no surprise Sandman has done so well.

Good job everyone

Be sure to follow the link below to go to the studios youtube page, where you can see more of their work as well as Kieron's.

(I also want to leave a heartfelt thank you to Kieron Seamons, who took the time out of his day to answer a few of my animation questions a few months ago, and even browsing my blog to give me feedback on my work. It meant a great deal to me to have somebody respond to my email, especially from somebody I respect so much, and it further illustrates his studios support for new talent.)


And so with that, our animation exploration comes to an end. It’s been a blast, and I loved speaking about these studios.

Next time, we’ll be coming back to my own work, and I’ll give you another sneak peek into the artwork behind “There Be Monsters.”

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gator takes a look at...Cartoon Network Studios

Now let’s see a studio that has not only been around for several years, but came into being to provide content for one primary channel.
Cartoon Network Studios

 File:Cartoon Network Studios 5th logo.png

Founded in 1994, the studio was a division of Hanna-Barbera cartoons (also known as the people who created the "Flinstones," "Scooby Doo" and "Tom and Jerry") as well as a subsidiary of the Turner Broadcasting System (which now owns many popular American channels, including Adult Swim and CNN). 

Until 1997, the studio remained merged with Hanna-Barbera, before becoming a separate entity. The studio created such unique animations as “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Cow and Chicken” and “I am Weasel.” 


While much of their work created under the Hanna-Barbera name can be found on Boomerang, Cartoon Network is the main home for many of the studios productions (hence the name). 
Now free to create many different style of animation, breaking away from the limited animation Hanna-Barbera is known for, we were given (deep breath now, this is a long list).

“The Grim adventures of Billy and Mandy,” “Evil con Carne,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends,” “Camp Lazlo,” “Ben 10,” “Samurai Jack,” “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show” and “Steven Universe.” And that’s not even all of them!


I need a lie down.

So as you can see, the studio has clearly earned its stripes by creating such a large amount of content. But does quantity necessarily equal quality in this case? Well…yes…I mean, it’s on my list of top 5 influential companies, that…that was a silly question.

But yes, many of these shows are wonderfully done, and have a great deal of variety when it comes to story and target audience. “Ben 10” being more for the younger side, while “Regular Show” boasts a more mature feel. 


Well, mature in humour and style anyway.

The animations are incredibly versatile to boot; with “Fosters” and “Samurai Jack” boasting a cut-out, hand-crafted appearance, with Jack portraying it in a darker light while Fosters is more childish and bright; while “Camp Lazlo” and “Grim adventures” are a little more polished, with bold lines and buggy-eyed characters. 


But the main thing I love about this company is its dark, twisted approach to everything it does.  The character designs are incredibly caricatured and over the top, the worlds are bizarre and the humour can be especially grim. Everything has a rather…rough appearance. There are no pretty girls or muscle men (excluding Johnny Bravo!), it’s mostly children or strange creatures.


This company is the anti Cosgrove Hall to me; while the UK company gives its characters a sense of believability and realism, Cartoon Network strives to have its characters defy every law of logic they can. But of course, in order to keep us watching and to stop the characters from being random for the sake of random, they establish incredibly detailed worlds and scenarios which make them acceptable. The tone is light-hearted and fun, so the creepier moments and mature elements are a welcome surprise, whereas with Cosgrove, the tone is often darker and more sombre, so it makes sense to have the characters have a more realistic aura.


When you’re in a world where you know a vampire queen and an ice king are hanging out in a house practising music, while a human boy and a shape-shifting dog are outside, it’s a welcome pause from the madness to explore the more emotional side of the characters. We get a sense of how they are relatable, and that prevents them from losing the audience by being too farfetched. I believe Cartoon Network has mastered that balance.


I have to say, this company is the one which speaks to me the most regarding its style. Sticking to mostly 2D animation, which perfectly utilizes their limitless characters, and expands the possibilities of insanity they can achieve. Add frightening imagery and a crazy imagination and you have yourself one heck of a studio.


So, for the final entry, we’ll be travelling somewhere new and stopping off at a studio whose name sounds…oddly familiar.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Gator takes a look at...Cosgrove Hall Films/Entertainment

So, due to several delays in updates thanks to my Major film taking up all of my time, I’m hoping to make it up to you all by delivering the final 3 of my “Gator looks” series, as well as my small tribute to animation individuals and more "There be Monsters" work, once a day. 

So let’s return to the United Kingdom to take a look at another company close to home and my heart.

Cosgrove Hall Films/Cosgrove Hall Entertainment

This studio began as the former title, founded by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall (former co-workers at Granada Television) in 1976. Setting up home in Manchester, as a subsidiary animation studio to Thames Television (and later Anglia Television and finally ITV), they produced some of their most famous series; including “Danger Mouse” and “Count Duckula.” The studio even produced a feature-length animated adaptation of “The BFG;” one of the few Dahl adaptations that the original creator approved of. Now that wasn’t an easy feat!


Of course, they weren’t all 2D productions; there were also CG productions such as “Guess with Jess” and the multi award winning “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggly-Winks.”
And don’t forget the numerous stop-motion series such as “Oakie-Doke,” “Enjie Benjy,” and “The Wind in the Willows,” which also became a short film. Though on this front, I best remember them for “The Sandman,” a stop-motion short film which is best remembered for its beautifully stylized characters and the fact that it’s nerve-shreddingly terrifying.


...I for one am not sleeping tonight.

Now this studio is without a doubt the one that’s dearest to my heart. Cosgrove Hall produced many shows which were the backbone of my childhood entertainment. “Oakie-Doke,” “Danger Mouse” and “Wind in the Willows” were some of the first animated shows I ever watched; and the BFG is one of my favorite films to date. It’s one of the main films that motivated me to become an animator in the first place.  

 But nostalgia aside, let me explain why this studio really was so great.
First of all, there’s its diversity. The studio explored all three of the major animation styles and mastered them to create incredibly entertaining content. But what amazes me is that their style is so distinct that it can easily transfer across these mediums. I can look at Danger Mouse and see Wind in the Willows, or I could look at the BFG and see a resemblance to…that nightmare fuel



Anyway, as I was saying, their style and characters are instantly recognizable whether they are drawings, puppets or computer graphics. While the characters themselves are wildly diverse in personality and appearance, you could imagine them existing in the same world, the Cosgrove Hall world, and that takes an incredible amount of talent.

I’ve also loved how their animation feels rather real and grounded. Even in Danger Mouse and Duckula, shows which thrived on being ridiculous (you can’t make a vegetarian vampire duck serious; trust me you’re not going to be seeing “The Duck Knight Rises” any time soon). 


All the characters were animated with a genuine weight to them. The BFG felt genuinely large and lumbering, the animals of the Wind in the Willows felt small but grand in their mannerisms. It gave these vast, fantastical worlds a real sense of believability, and it made them much more convincing when I watched them as a child, even a little now when I know the mechanics. That shows you’re doing your job right. 


I guess that’s why Sandman still comes across as creepy to this day, because he leaps around with a very realistic presence, you could imagine that large blue vulture leaping around a child’s room. Take a look and judge for yourself. You’re welcome for introducing you to an incredible piece of work, but apologies in advance for the night terrors.

However, sadly, all good things must come to an end, and in 2008 the majority of the studios staff were made redundant, Cosgrove Hall finally closing its doors in 2009. All that was left was the legacy of fantastic animation and timeless characters they had left behind…

…UNTIL 2011!


Yes I wasn’t going to end on a sad note was I? In 2011 Cosgrove Hall Entertainment rose up from the ashes like a glorious animated phoenix. The studio is currently working on two brand new productions titled “Pip!” and “HeroGliffix,” and once again Brian Cosgrove is at the helm, this time with Simon Hall (Mark’s son) at his side after Mark Halls passing. Here’s to a bright future for the newly revived studio which brought us so much wonderful animation!


Next time, we’ll be traveling across the pond once again (this is like country table tennis) to see a studio that was also a huge part of my childhood.

…now all I have to do is try and get some rest without thinking about that Sand…


...oh dear