Tuesday, November 4, 2014

PIG BROTHER Is Watching You: Animal Farm (1954)

Funded by CIA, animated in the United Kingdom (Halas and Batchelor).  George Orwell's anthropomorphic allegory for the Russian Revolution and the birth of the Bolshevik (Communist) government was brought to life in this powerful and haunting animated film.  Part of the USA's cultural offensive during the Cold War.    Very much worth viewing at least once.  (Link below)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Glenn Vilppu Tokyo Seminar August 16th and 17th 2014

"No rules just tools."  - Glenn Vilppu

Internationally renown Disney, Dreamworks and UCLA drawing instructor Glenn Vilppu will be giving a two day drawing seminar in Tokyo on August 16th and 17th.   

As a premier drawing instructor to the studios in Hollywood, Vilppu has taught the art of figure drawing for over 40 years and has done workshops around the world teaching principles and techniques of drawing to professionals in the animation industry such as Disney, Dreamworks and Warner Bros. 

In each 6-hour seminar, Vilppu will teach participants the master techniques of drawing the human figure as well as anatomy.   It will be an opportunity to receive instruction and feedback from a drawing master whose instruction has been coveted globally by artists and illustrators for generations.

Vilppu does not teach a style but teaches the tools to master drawing so that the artist to use them in any direction he or she wishes. 

The event will be held at Studio and Space IVVA in Harajuku, 12:00 to 18:00 on August 16th and 17th 2014.

To learn more about this event please visit:  http://studioandspaceivva.com/

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Man Does Not Create, He Discovers

These are the paraphrased words of Antoni Gaudi that will greet you entering the Mori Art Exhibition:: Takehiko Inoue Interprets Gaudi's Universe.  

It would be plain to say the works of both Gaudi and Takahiro Inoue's were impressive and compelling.

The greater thing to come away with from exhibition is the consideration of  artistic creation and expression come from.  We are moved and compelled by what we observe. Nature served a great part in influencing Gaudi's hand.  As for Inoue-san it seems that Gaudi, the man himself has compelled his hand rather than his expressive voice.  Indeed he has interpreted Gaudi in his own way -- interpreting his work with Gaudi's voice would be of course, just copying.

"The creation continues incessantly through the media of man. But man does not create, he discovers.  Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.  Copiers do not collaborate.  Because of this, originality consists in returning to the origin."  - Antoni Gaudi 

    Sunday, June 22, 2014

    The Making of Frazetta's and Bakshi's Fire and Ice (1983)

    Considering the buzz over the live action Robert Rodriguez Fire and Ice film in the works, and the resurrection of the Frank Frazetta museum, this was a nice find.  Enjoy and be inspired.

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    American Godzilla is a Fatty!! ゴジラでぶだよ!! OR Godzilla: God of War

    No matter what you do, some just won't be satisfied.  "Fat Godzilla"  was reaction I heard from a Japanese friend who just saw pictures of the revised Hollywood version of Godzilla.  A lot better than "Fake Godzilla".  A reference to the 1998 American attempt at Godzilla directed by Roland Emmerich.  Japanese Godzilla (or Gojira /ゴジラ in Japanese)  fans don't even acknowledge that version as it's referred to as "Zilla".    So, Hollywood must be making progress.

    Asking which was his favorite version of Godzilla, (there have been so many) I was surprised to hear, "The first Godzilla."  ゴジラ / Godzilla (Toho 1954).  He said that war was still fresh in the minds of Japanese in 1954, as World War II was only nine years before. 

    "Japanese see was war is a kind of monster. It is not controllable and it has a will of its own.  It comes unexpected wreaks havoc and then just leaves the same way.   (Kind of like this monster)  Those who are affected the most are innocent civilians who have no alternative but to evacuate or ride out the storm.  This is what Japanese had to endure during the Tokyo bombings. " 

    Imagine what it must of felt like seeing Godzilla in 1954, surviving the fire-raids of Tokyo only a few years before.  

    As a New Yorker who experienced the 9/11 attacks in 2001, I always had a feeling of discomfort seeing whole skyscrapers crashing down in films like Transformers and most recently,  Man of Steel.  It comes from being very aware of the devastation and that kind of  carnage (not action) creates.    (Makes me wonder if the 9/11 attacks were in Hollywood,  would they handle those kinds of visuals in the same way.)

    Word is that the new Godzilla is supposed to be an "Eco-Godzilla", punishing mankind for not going green.  Guess that's Hollywood's idea of what's relevant  or bringing gravity to the film.  We will see if  でぶゴジラ / Debu Gojira (Fat Godzilla)  will catch on with Japanese audiences.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

    Persistence of Vision: Aaron Blaise

    Apologies to Mr. Blaise for copping his title. How could someone not be inspired by this man?

    Aaron Blaise is an accomplished and amazing artist, animator and filmmaker who has been extremely generous in sharing his work, insights and advice on his website The Art of Aaron Blaise (www.creatureartteacher.com)   Aaron Blaise has produced beautiful work on films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan and Brother Bear which he directed. 

    All artists are always trying to learn, grow, build up on what they have spent years mastering.  Whatever motivates the artist,  there are always stumbles and outright obstacles.   Every now and then, the artist finds an oasis of information or inspiration that can help keep him/ her going.  Aaron's online advice is certainly one. 

    One of the most important things about the art process is that it's not so much "what you do" but "how you think" about your work.    This is one of the greatest areas of advice you will find on Aaron Blaise's website or Youtube channel

    His advice is clear, accessible and most important, sincere.   

    If you want to improve your knowledge of art, painting, composition, animation or filmmaking,  go to his website, you will not be disappointed. 

    The clip above left a considerable impression on me as it was a testament to the amazing things you can do when you find it in yourself to persist and keep moving forward.   There are good things in the world, there is magic that you, yourself can make.  It's there if you can persist. 

    "...persist.  Persist in your art, persist in life, persist in creating beauty for everyone else.  It's our job to make someone else's life better."   - Aaron Blaise

    Thank you for your efforts and inspiration, Aaron. 

    Friday, May 9, 2014

    Happy Birthday Saul Bass: Saul Bass On Titles

    Where would movie titles and design be today without Saul Bass? 
     Saul Bass On Titles.  Documentary Parts 1, 2 and 3.  

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    Takehiko Inoue Interprets Antoni Gaudi's Universe - ガウディ×井上雄彦

    Another inspiring exhibition is about to hit Tokyo.   Takahiko Inoue (井上雄彦) artist of the hugely popular Japanese manga titles "Slam Dunk" and "Vagabond" apparently has has been admirer of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi for some time.  So much so that it inspired him to tour Spain and record his travel memoirs, in his art book, "Pepita:  Inoue Meets Gaudi" .

    This tribute to  Gaudi, Spain and its people resulted in Inoue being awarded the honor of becoming Spain's goodwill ambassador.  

    All this is culminating in a final celebration of the 400th Anniversary of diplomacy between Japan and Spain. (400?!)   An exhibition at the Mori Arts Center in Tokyo's Roppongi Hills:  Takehiko Inoue Interprets Gaudi's Universe  will start July 12.  

    100 art pieces and works comprising of rough sketches, models and architectural designs related to Gaudi will be brought from Spain to Japan, along with 40 original illustrations by Inoue himself. 

    Takehiko Inoue is living what most certainly must be living a dream as he is currently living in Barcelona and working in a studio within Gaudi's very own Casa Mila.  

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

    Shigeo Fukuda (福田 繁雄) - Graphic Design: 30% Dignity, 20%, Beauty, 50% Absurdity

    A recent graphic design assignment has availed me to discover and rediscover some great artists in graphic design.  Shigeo Fukuda being one of them. 

    Victory 1945 is perhaps one of his best known works.  Awesome, simple and effective commentary.

    Fukuda has a very stark and compelling sense of design that could make someone say, "a Japanese Saul Bass"  but Fukuda takes it one step further.

    Using planes that are clearly flat and 2D with subjects which had undeniable weight and volume make them greatly appealing.

    Some his work compels the eye to travel so well the images border on being animated.

    Fukuda was quoted, "I believe that in design, 30% dignity, 20% beauty, and 50% absurdity are necessary.  Rather than catering to the design sensitivity of the general public, there is advancement in design if people are left to feel satisfied with their own superiority, by entrapping them with an optical illusion." 

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Translating Disney into Japanese

    One of the biggest differences between Japanese and American animation is that in Japan, voices are recorded after the animation is completed and the Japanese actors do their best to fit the animator's work.   The traditional "Disney-way" of animation records the voice performance of the actor first and the animators animate following the energy given by the professional voice actors.

    The result is an acting performance which is arguably more convincing.  The animator has the freedom to animate characters actually articulate what the character is expressing or emoting thusly creating a greater sense of believability.  There are few Japanese animation directors who animate in this style, "Akira"'s Katsuhiro Otomo being one of them.

    When Disney films come to Japan they are often retitled.  "Tangled" retitled (?)  to simply "The Tower of Rapunzel"(とうのうえのラプンツェル)  and "Frozen" was retitled to "Anna and the Snow Queen" (アナと雪の女王

    Titles you can get away with tweaking to fit your audience, but dubbing the voices isn't as easy.  Meanings can be completely lost easily and the clash of a foreign language on top of another performance from a completely different language can look and sound awkward.

    In the case of "Frozen"'s  "Let It Go", even if one could translate the meaning exactly to Japanese, it's highly unlikely the mouth articulation would match in English.  To the credit of the Japanese director and translator they were able to find the best match for the Japanese translation to the English mouth articulations.   So "Let It Go" becomes "Ari No Mama De"  ありのままで which roughly translates into "Be As You Are", but the title "Let It Go" remains the same. (Performed by Takako Matsu.  A Japanese translation can be found here.)

    In the past, films Disney films with song numbers in Japan would simply be played in English with Japanese subtitles below, but the rest of the film would be played out with a Japanese voice-over.

    To Disney's credit, during it's heyday during the 1990's translations were made for other countries way beforehand.  For example, the songs for Disney's Tarzan was distributed in over 30 different countries with Phil Collins doing versions in German, Spanish and French.    (The Japanese version was done by Masayuki Sakamoto)  In this case they were lucky as the songs were played over the action montages of the film.    No loincloth song and dance number for Tarzan.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    A Critique of Modern Art.

    "A writer should be able to write simple sentences before he tries to be a poet."   - Andy Rooney.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Why Does Japan Love Disney So Much?

    Matsuya Ginza department store is holding yet another Disney event on it's exhibition floor in Tokyo's Ginza district.   Disney's 90 Years of Dreams and Enchantment.  Definitely worth taking a look. 

    There is a story about Walt Disney who sat through a storyboard pitch for a cartoon involving Mickey, Donald and Goofy by one of his directors.  The director decided to take a different turn in the characteristic approach of what Disney's headline trio were known for.  I'm certain as in many cases the director was nervous about approval from Walt.  However during the pitch, Walt apparently couldn't restrain himself from laughing at the gags proposed in the cartoon.  Even to the point where Walt was in tears from the laughter.   Surely the director had a "hit" on his hands. 

    The director closed his pitch and likely waited for Walt to catch his breath and wipe the tears from his face before asking, "So you like it right?!"  

    "NO", Walt responded.  "You killed my characters!"  

    Despite the fact the fact it was funny it was a string of "gags" that likely could have been done with any character and it out of the context of the individual characteristics Mickey, Donald and Goofy were known and appreciated for.    

    The anecdote is because (and this is not a criticism) but you couldn't stand anywhere in the exhibition without hearing   Kawaiiiiiiiiiiii!  (Or, Cuuuuuuuute! In English) squealed  every 30 seconds by not just Japanese schoolgirls but greatly housewives and OL's (Office Lady).    Again it's no criticism because Disney characters ARE cute and appealing, but there was no further elaboration about what exactly is "cute" about them outside of how they are rendered.    I hope the greater appeal is in what they DO not just how they look.   

    (The Walt Disney anecdote above can be found in the volumes of Didier Ghez's, "Walt's People".)

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    Movie Programs Part 2: Movie Going Experience in Tokyo

    By my estimates there are two generations in the USA that have no idea what it's like to get a movie program at a theater.

    It's simple, give your audience something extra and they can take home and they will appreciate you for it.  In this age of virtual media, the value of tangible mementos is increasing as they become more and more scarce everyday.

    Going to the movies at one time was on par with going to a theatrical stage performance.  It was an experience.   It was a company presentation, complete with ushers standing in aisles (not just the ticket door), theater programs and even in some cases, intermissions.  Anyone remember those?

    Now that films are accessible on demand, literally in your pocket, downloadable to watch anywhere, there can be no argument its magical aspect has been lost.  Movies are cheap in terms of long term emotional value.

    The paper industry in Japan still has a considerable amount of power and leverage.  (Which is why Kindles and e-books have been having a tough time here)  So it's likely the future of movie programs is quite secure.

    I could be wrong but I feel that there is a higher level of "respect" given to movies in Japan.  Just about every time I go to the theater,  99% of the time NO ONE leaves the theater until the credits (in English, mind you) have completely scrolled up.  In the USA however, people are infamous for leaving their seats as the music crescendos at the movie climax.

    Leaving the theater with something tangible in hand definitely enhances the experience. American movie theaters and Hollywood would do well to take note.  Not only would it increase the gravity and appreciation of their films but they would make more money too.

    Saturday, March 1, 2014

    King ME...Adventures in Mascot and Logo Design

    Had the privilege of getting the assignment to design a mascot/ logo for the entertainment production company Young Lion Productions.  They are best known for producing the film, "The Harimaya Bridge" starring Danny Glover.    The client wanted something that was nostalgic of his youth.  In this case his high school's mascot.  So the mission was to turn this image:

    Into what you saw above.  While the original has some crude appeal, something more sophisticated was in order.    Designing a mascot or logo requires a lot of discussion and mediation as it should impact the viewer emotionally and psychologically.    Personally, I gravitate towards a '3D' and animation sense of design.  (I guess what is called the "Disney Style")  

    My first pass looked something like this:

    Looks like a distant cousin of the Exxon Tiger, haha.  But though the Exxon Tiger and characters like him in the old days had a lot of pencil milage and detail, they did have a certain kind of warmth in their appeal.  This is in contrast to minimalist design we see today which works essentially as a pictogram and has pure function in just communicating an idea-----but arguably can be "cold" to the viewer.  

    The client passed on this one as it lacked some of the impact the original design had with the oversized head.   This Young Lion perhaps wasn't young enough. 

    My next pass resulted in something like this:  

    Here I decided to be quite literal with redesigning the mascot but it's more of a refinement than anything.    I wanted to stick with the  "traditional animated" character look.  My argument was if Mickey, (the mouse of course)  can get away with being a corporate logo, why can't our little guy?  But,  more to learn.....

    Viola!  Here's our mascot/ logo in his final and inked form.  I did away with the tongue (perhaps not dignified for a king) and the tuft of chest hair as it basically interrupted the viewer's eye traveling along the figure.   Client was happy.  

    BUT..... This wont' be the final design.  While our little friend is big on appeal he might not be the best candidate for the company's main logo.  While I did my best to simplify the character, there might be problems reproducing it at very small proportions.  Of course everyone knows that a good logo should be able to be reduced to the size of a dime and still be recognized at six feet away.   It made me think...Mickey Mouse's ability with getting away with being so recognizable as logo goes beyond simply being three circles.  

    There are several versions of Mickey Mouse obviously. Some just for animation, some just for graphic illustration and some that are specifically for logos.  There are some Mickeys that at a reduced size work extremely well and look perfectly "normal"  but if you enlarged them, they would look grossly distorted and off model.  

    It's not the end our friend but will have to go back to the drawing board.

    Saturday, February 15, 2014