Friday, March 29, 2013

Pop Quiz

Q: What's better than pizza and a movie on a Friday night?

A: Pizza that’s THEMED to a movie on a Friday night!


Fan Art Friday

Today's first piece of fan art is from Yami-shinen. It's so PRETTY...and PLAYFUL...and PRESONALITY-PACKED... (Help! I'm running out of positive P-words, and this pleasant portrait deserves PLENTY!) I love the little moment captured here. The affection that these three characters have for one another really shines through. I also adore the way that the watercolor pencils enhance the texture of the paper. It gives Yami-shinen's picture a very classy, old-timey, children's book feel, don't you think?

To view more of Yami-shinen's art, click here.

Next up, The Croods' critters by PatchLamb. There is nothing I am more envious of than an artist who can strip a design down to its essential elements, yet still retain all of the character and cuteness of the original. Yes, PatchLamb, I'm talking about YOU here. PatchLamb's version of the bearowl is a masterpiece of symmetry and simplicity. It reminds me of the work of famed graphic artist, Charley Harper. I also admire the inspired choices she made for the feathers surrounding its face and its devilishly crooked grin. IT'S GREAT! And then, as if that weren't enough, PatchLamb goes and includes a super-cute version of Chunky the Death Cat. Look at the cleverness of the curled pose. Those perfectly placed polka-dots. And AGAIN with the stylish simplicity. WHY CAN'T I DO THAT?!

To view more of PatchLamb's art, click here.

Lovely. DELIGHTFUL. Delicate. DREAMY. These are just a few of the words that popped into my head the first time I saw TheTeaMaker's drawing of Eep. It also made me think of the shojo comics of Naoko Takeuchi (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon). Both Takeuchi and TheTeaMaker have a flair for imbuing their characters with an elegant femininity and youthful self-assurance. The bold, pop-art background only enhances the piece, bringing out Eep's orange hair and emerald-colored eyes. If DreamWorks ever decides to release a Croods manga, TheTeaMaker should get first crack at the character designs!

To view more of TheTeaMaker's art, click here.

While we're on the subject of making comics, allow me to introduce you to the work of fourteen year old comic book creator, Arion D. Rashad. Yes, you read that right: Arion is the FOURTEEN YEARS OLD and the creator of EIGHT self-published comic books. Makes you feel kinda lazy, don't it? But hey, don't hold that against Arion. Judging from his drawing of the Croods, the kid is BURSTING with style, energy, and a GREAT sense of humor. I mean, just look at poor Grug. While he runs around screaming in pain, his daughters are cracking up laughing! Cruel? Yes. But also HILARIOUS!

To view more of Arion's art, click here.
To peruse and/or purchase Arion's comic books, click here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Richard Bensam Just Got Back From Seeing The Croods!

When noted comic book critic Richard Bensam decided to follow-up my "scrambled thoughts" review with one of his own, I knew I had to add it to the main page. I mean, this is the guy who put together the DEFINITIVE collection of essays on Alan Moore's masterpiece, Watchmen. And now he's left a Croods review in the comments section of my ENTIRELY UNOFFICIAL blog? I'd be a fool NOT to make a post out of it!

So here it is. Richard Bensam on The Croods:

You have no idea how long the past five days were. Well, unless you own a calendar, in which case you could make an informed guess. But it wasn't until today that I finally saw the film and can resume reading this blog without feeling guilty as if I was reading it under false pretenses.

To add to your observations [...], there were some things that surprised me even after all the advance coverage. For one thing, the characters were all better actors than I was expecting, in the animation sense of the word. So much of the narrative was sold through their utterly convincing facial expressions. We've never seen this much subtlety of performance in a computer animated film before. Forget the Uncanny Valley; the whole cast jumps over it and reaches the other side with no problem.

Another thing I wasn't expecting was how strongly the film endorses learning and exploration and scientific inquiry. It's not the slightest bit equivocal on that point: the film says, our world can and must be understood, survival depends on learning about the world and how it works and inventing ways of coping with it. It would have been so easy for a dumber film to give Guy a comeuppance, to have him be a smartass who "learns the error of his ways" and comes to follow the alpha male in a cautionary tale about not getting arrogant. There are loads of films like that, and in other hands this might have been one of them. But it isn't. Guy is not the stupid person's idea of what a smart person is like. If anything, he's the smart person's idea of what he or she wants to be like. He's not condescending, he's full of excitement and just wants to share these amazing things in his head with other people.

Also, while Guy has been thinking about this stuff longer so he's ahead of the others, his conception of the world is flawed too (like his disappointment when they fail to reach the sun) and the others aren't far behind him once they've seen his example. It's not some elitist story about a know-it-all genius surrounded by morons. All of them have the potential to learn and be smarter if they're willing to try. I'm cool with kids getting that message.

Damn you, Richard Bensam. You one-upped me on my own turf. I feel like the Grug to your Guy. That said, I certainly do appreciate the review. Thank-you for sharing it!

Related: Richard Bensam on the 'Special Event' Poster

Chris Sanders Sketches: Eep

For more of Chris Sanders' art, visit his OFFICIAL website!

Related: Chris Sanders Sketches: Halloween & Christmas

Craving More Croods Merch? Head Overseas!

You've bought the books. You've rounded up the plush critters. You even went ahead and purchased those ho-hum Mattel toys because...well, y'know, just cuz -- YET YOU STILL CRAVE MORE?! Well, dust off your passport, because if you're looking to purchase the rest of the 'official' Croods merch, you've got some cross-continental traveling to do.

First stop, Australia. Don't forget to pack a few rolls of Tums, because you're going to be eating a lot of McDonalds food if you intend to get all TEN HAPPY MEAL TOYS in the expanded Aussie line. Then it's off to dreary olde England! That's where you'll enter to win the CROODS PRIZE PACK containing the maze game, door hangers, bouncy ball, magnets, keyring, digital watch, alarm clock and skateboard.

If all of that doesn't tide you over 'til the sequel, I fear your next trip will be here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Christophe Lautrette Sketches: The Croods

More great art unleashed! This time it's from Croods production designer Christophe Lautrette. I did my first Croods Crew profile on Lautrette way back in February of 2012. I'd tried to interview him for it, but got stonewalled by DreamWorks' strict lips-zipped policy. So that profile piece? It ended up being just a bunch of info I'd read on IMDB, along with some guesswork and unsubstantiated imaginings. Didn't matter. Folks loved Lautrette's art so much that it instantly became one of this blog's most popular posts!

Fast-forward thirteen months. DreamWorks has called off their Croods crew gag orders. I'm posting this in hopes that Lautrette will see it and email me about finally doing that interview. (Hey, if Twitter can start and stop political uprisings, the least that Blogger can do is act as my Croods-themed Craigslist.) Until then, folks can quell their Lautrette longings via his blog, Les dessins de Lautrette. It's a mini museum of his super-cartoony art.

A Random Assortment of Loose Links

NBC Latino has a nice profile piece on The Croods' lead lighting artist, William Arias. In it, Arias describes the responsibilities of a lead lighting artist, his favorite part of making The Croods, and the 1982 film that inspired him to work in animation. Click here for the juicy details.

Chris Sanders has posted a video chronicling the 'round-the-world recording of the song Smash & Grab from The Croods. Not only will you get to watch the world famous USC marching band in action, you'll take a nice, long walk through Abbey Road Studios. Click!

Speaking of The Croods' score, Cinenerd has the FIRST review of the soundtrack. He gives the it an enthusiastic thumbs-up, singling out the tracks Piranhakeets, Turkey Fish Follies and Smash & Grab as especially good. Cinenerd also gives a brief bio of The Croods' composer, Alan Silvestri, who he obviously adores.

Studio System News has a GRRREAT interview with The Croods' producers, Jane Hartwell and Kristine Belson. The svelte Hollywood heavyweights share insights and anecdotes about everything from The Croods' conception to its casting to the last-minute video game tie-ins.
If you only click one link, make it this one. delivers what is EASILY the most educational and erudite article about The Croods thus far. Heck, just look at the title: The Science Of  The Croods: How Dreamworks Brings Mathematical Efficiency To The Creative Business Of Filmmaking. Yeah, and subheading isn't any less intimidating: "Former Oxford Professor Lincoln Wallen discusses how algorithms and process protocols are used in the creative world of animated filmmaking." That said, if my Croodacious-era cranium can make its way through the article, yours can, too.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

James Baxter Teaches YOU To Draw The Croods!

This is the sort of opportunity that animation fans only dream of. A series of one-on-one art lessons from James Baxter -- the pencil behind Belle! In this heaven-sent set of tutorials, Baxter takes you step-by-step through his drawing process for Eep, Grug, Gran, Guy, Ugga, Thunk and Belt.

That's right. You'll learn to draw SEVEN separate Croods characters from one of the most talented animators EVER. Even if you’re not planning to draw along, they're worth watching just to hear some art advice from an animation maestro.

Gather your pencils and paper, then click the 'Read More' link for the videos.

The Art of The Croods Comes Out Today!

Just a quick heads-up to let you know that Noela Hueso's The Art of The Croods is being released TODAY. According to Amazon, the book is the #1 Best Seller in Animation Graphic Design!

Oh, and here's something else that I noticed on Amazon's listing

My words are being used as the 'official' review! Not too shabby for the illiterate son of an immigrant share-cropper from the wrong side of the track-marks.

If you haven't read my review of it yet, click here. (Spoilers: I kinda loved it.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Gal Mishka On: The Cave Paintings

"I really liked the scene where Grug is painting his family. [...] It gave a sense of the 'life' that every artist sees in their work. Even something as simple as a stick figure becomes evocative of something powerful and real."

Yep, that's why I ♥ her.

The Croods Crew Is Unleashing Their Art!

Now that The Croods has been released, DreamWorks' contractual gag orders are null and void. What does this mean for you and me? Lots and lots of ludicrously lovely artwork is being let loose upon the internet!

Wanna see the evolution of a preproduction painting? Then go to Arthur Fong's blog and watch the magic unfold!

Howzabout some early ideas for the opening hunt scene? Leighton Hickman posted a couple of paintings he did for that.

Do you remember that moment near the end of The Croods where everyone is floating downstream in a giant tortoise shell? Nicolas Weis has a BEAUTIFUL painting of it that you'll want to see full size.

You say unreleased stuff is more to your liking? Then head on over to Jason Sheier's blog. He's got some art from an insane-looking 'bug zapper' scene that never made the final film.

This is a GREAT time to be a Croods fan, eh?

Congratulations To The Croods Crew!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

You Were Warned...

Lilo & Stitch (2002): Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois’ silly little alien cartoon that is actually a HEARTBREAKING ODE to the FRAGILITY OF FAMILY.

How To Train Your Dragon (2010): Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois’ silly little dragon cartoon that is actually a HEARTBREAKING ODE to the FRAGILITY OF FAMILY.

The Croods (2012): Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco’s silly little cavemen cartoon that is actually…

…yeah, you better bring some Kleenex.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Just Got Back From Seeing The Croods!

Here are my scrambled thoughts, in no particular order:


It's funnier than we've been led to believe.

Yes, there are plenty of the "I call them..." jokes from the trailers, but there are also a lot of smaller, sometimes silent jokes that are EVEN BETTER. Everything with Sandy is an A+. Eep's facial expressions (both in favor of Guy and in frustration with her father) are hilarious -- cartoonishly exaggerated, yet wholly relatable. Guy is the PERFECT comedic 'straight man.' He spends much of the film flinching, ducking and trying to hide his fear and confusion with his new found companions. Sure, he's cool and stylish and intelligent, but whenever he's surrounded by (or trapped by) (or having the life squeezed out of him by) the Croods clan, he's reduced to a wiggly, twitchy, uncomfortable ball of raw nerves.

It's more emotional than we've been led to believe.

Remember the first trailer? The one that was all awe and spectacle? Remember how emotionally engaging that was, how it put a lump in your throat and a pit in your stomach and some helium in your head? Well, the actual film is like that...times a hundred. The Croods is not afraid to go serious, to go sad, to go downright heart-wrenching. There are three moments near the end of the film where you or someone with you will cry. THREE! Don't get me wrong. The Croods also has plenty of incredibly uplifting moments. There's a whole montage made up of nothing but the Croods' happy, new experiences that will have you smiling from ear to ear. And the tender moments? The ones between Grug and Eep, Grug and Ugga, and Eep and Gran? They will make you reach out and hold the hand of the loved one sitting beside you. Sure, they're cartoon characters. But the emotions being portrayed, the familial struggles being enacted, the love and loss and fear and desire -- they are all palpably real.


Small clips and trailer snippets will do little to prepare you for the stunning scenery on display in The Croods. Animated films usually fit into one of two categories: Capital-A Artistic or super-duper-silly. You've got your Studio Ghibli, and you've got your Looney Tunes. The Croods is both. I already told you how funny it was. But my goodness -- it's GORGEOUS. Every new environment that the Croods enter is an eye-popping display of rainbow colors and unleashed imaginations. This is a fast-paced movie, one that doesn't linger on any one thing for too long. But if the filmmakers had wanted to, they could have easily sat for half the film in any one of these vibrant vistas and the audience would have never gotten bored by what was onscreen. You know how a lot of times there is a huge gap between the preproduction art and the stuff that finally makes it up onto the screen? Not so with the backgrounds in this film. What's in the movie is every bit as stunning as what's in The Art of The Croods.

Chunky the Death Cat is just as adorable as you'd imagined.

In fact, one of my few gripes with the film is that there should have been MORE CHUNKY in it. Then again, I once spent a week eating nothing but Lucky Charms, so maybe I'm not all that rational when it comes to rationing out the good stuff.

Nic Cage is PERFECT.

Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders -- they're all wonderful in respective voice roles. But Nic Cage is exceptionally good. So good, in fact, that you'll rarely (if ever) find yourself thinking that it's even Nic Cage! He gives a seamless, selfless performance, imbuing the character of Grug with every possible emotional nuance, while doing nothing that would call attention to the Hollywood star behind the mic. You believe in Grug immediately and without interruption. Nic Cage is hilarious and heart-breaking in the role, and I could not imagine anyone else doing it half as well.

Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco did NOT disappoint.

Congratulations, Chris and Kirk (and everyone else involved)! You did it! You made a magical, memorable, I-can't-wait-to-rewatch-it-as-soon-as-possible film. Me and my gal, Mishka, repeatedly laughed, gasped, and cried while watching it. We had a half hour drive coming home from the theater, and we talked about nothing else the entire time. Hell, we were still talking about it as we entered the house! After spending thirteen months blogging about the film, I had some pretty high expectations. As the film's release date drew near, I even began to get a little scared -- What if The Croods doesn't do it for me? I am delighted (and relieved!) to say that THE CROODS IS WONDERFUL. Truly, truly wonderful. This past year has been full of Croods-related highs for me. Seeing the film was yet another.


A few of my favorite moments:

The long, silent scene of Eep chasing the flame.

Sandy picking up Belt and holding him like a puppy.

Sandy's 'shoes.'

Ugga thanking Guy.

The sadness and self-doubt in Grug's face as he eavesdrops on his wife attempting to defend him.

Absolutely EVERYTHING that Grug says while stuck in the tarpit.

Grug painting the picture of his family.

Grug: "Hey, I know that guy!"

Gran and Eep's moment on the edge of the cliff.

Eep jumping into her father's arms and shouting, "I love you!" (Yeah, I teared up just typing that!)

Well, What Did You Think?

As soon as you've seen The Croods, please let me know what you thought of it via the comments section of this post. What did you love? What didn't you love? Who were your favorite characters? Which combo-critter is now your dream-pet? Did you laugh out loud? Did you shed any tears? Say something. SAY ANYTHING. I just want to know what you thought!

Warning: Thar be spoilers ahead!

Stuffed Critters & Characters Now On Sale!

Coinciding with today's release of The Croods is this limited line of Croods stuffed toys! As of this writing, they're only for sale on Amazon via an outside seller. You may want to act fact, though. SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED.

CLICK HERE to purchase Chunky the Macawnivore.

CLICK HERE to purchase Belt the Sloth.

CLICK HERE to purchase the Punch Monkey.

CLICK HERE to purchase the Bear Pear.

CLICK HERE to purchase the Mousephant.

CLICK HERE to purchase Eep.

CLICK HERE to purchase Sandy.

Fan Art Friday

Today's first piece of fan art comes from James Lien. It's his hyper-stylized take on Eep. While the simplified shapes, 'flat' coloring, and blocky pose are reminiscent of the classic UPA cartoons, James also managed to bring a futuristic flair to this drawing with his subtle use of CG shading.

I really dig the rawness of his Eep. James is one of the few artists who made the wild and dangerous cavegirl look like...well, a wild and dangerous cavegirl! Oh, and Eep's crooked eyes and exaggerated overbite? They make this one unforgettable image!

To see more of James' art, click here.

Next up, a delightfully loose drawing of Chunky the macawnivore by Kendra Meder. This pic has got it all -- great colors, a perfect pose, a fanciful facial expression and a wholly unique drawing style. Still, what wows me most about this pic is what it DOESN'T display, yet somehow IMPLIES. It's that ever-elusive bit of artistic magic that even the grand masters sometimes missed: While looking at Kendra's drawing of Chunky, you find yourself imagining what the macawnivore is thinking. On some sub-conscious level, Kendra's made you believe that a DRAWING of a MAKE-BELIEVE CRITTER is alive and capable of rational thought! Utterly amazing.

To see more of Kendra's art, click here.

This next sketch is a best-selling beach towel waiting to be printed. Think about it. Wouldn't it be cool to walk up and down the beach with this wrapped around your waist? I AGREE!

Artist Kiersten Toye has distilled EVERYTHING that is adorable about Belt into this one deceptively simple drawing. Look at that stripped-down shape. Those complimentary colors. That shaggy fur. Those GLISTENING GREEN EYES. It's all too cute! Nice, nice, nice.

To see more of Kiersten's art, click here.

Okay, so this is kismet. I couldn't have planned it any better. Today's last piece of fan art -- i.e. THE LAST PIECE OF FAN ART THAT I WILL BE POSTING BEFORE I SEE THE CROODS -- is by the same gal who contributed the FIRST piece of fan art to this blog's FIRST Fan Art Friday post: Cody the Maverick. Cody's animated 'favicon' of Chunky the macawnivore has graced this blog's tab for over a year. I LOVE IT. And now...gosh, I'm getting a little emotional just posting this...well, this morning Cody sent me the above drawing with following comment:

"I drew you a Chunky for this special day!"

"Special day," indeed! Thanks, Cody. That was incredibly sweet!

To see more of Cody's art (and her obsession with Wreck-It Ralph), click here.

FREE Instant Sandy Costume

Remember on Monday when I promised to post a FREE piece of 'official' Croods paper craft every day this week? Well, I messed up. I neglected to count the number of paper crafts 'officially' released by DreamWorks. I assumed there would be at least five. Turns out, there are only four.

What ever would I do?

Quicker'n you can say, 'Cross-dressing cosplay,' I grabbed some scrap paper and magic markers and created this -- the INSTANT SANDY COSTUME kit!

To print the full size INSTANT SANDY COSTUME, click the 'Read More' link below.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Countdown(s) Continue

Perhaps you've noticed the Croods countdown clock on the right side of this blog. When I embedded it two months ago, it seemed like a great idea. Now I hate it. Watching that thing slowly ticking away the hours...the minutes...the seconds... IT'S MASOCHISTIC!

Then, the other day, DreamWorks dropped a huge Croods logo in front of Stonehenge. Now I have the world's most famous alien clock/calendar counting down to The Croods. This has -- of course -- only added to my anxiousness and anticipation.

So I figure, why not throw all sanity to the wind and add a THIRD countdown to mix? A countdown of Croods-related links! It's a waste of time (like watching that countdown clock), and it's hastily assembled (like Stonehenge), but hey -- at least it fits in.

10.'s The First 10 Minutes of The Croods (the game, NOT the film)

9. Wired Magazine's 9 Reasons to See The Croods

8.'s awkwardly titled 8 Clips from The Croods Featuring the Voices

7. Funny Or Die's 7 Things About Nic Cage (That Remind Us Why We Love Nic Cage)

6. The OFFICIAL Croods Facebook page's The Croods Survival Tip #6

5. The Norfolk Daily News' 5 animated films attached to Chris Sanders

4. Yahoo News' 5 things you probably didn't know about Neanderthals (Skip thing #1, it's hella creepy. That leaves only '4 things you probably didn't know...' and that fits my needs PERFECTLY!)

3. The recently released The Croods in 3D movie poster

2. My 2 part interview with Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco

1. My very 1st post on this here blog

Now, quick -- look at the countdown clock. How much time has passed?

Not nearly enough?

I totally agree.

Hold On...Just A Little Longer...Almost There...


That's the day we finally get to see The Croods. I am SUPER EXCITED. For the past few days, I've noticed my left leg bouncing involuntarily whenever I'm reading some new Coods news. You know what that means? I'M FIENDING. How about you? Are you exhibiting any signs of out-of-control anticipation? Don't be embarrassed. It's EXHILARATING to get this wrapped up in waiting for something. And we're just the audience! Can you imagine the electricity in the air at DreamWorks? The mood must be MANIC.

First off, they've got the corporate concerns. 'What are the opening weekend estimates?' 'How are the foreign markets looking?' 'Has the film leaked to the internet yet?'

Marketing has its own laundry list of worries. 'How is it tracking among young males aged 14-24?' 'What's the Tumblr buzz among tween-aged girls?' 'Have we locked down the coveted transgender senior citizen market yet?'

Then there are the creative uncertainties. Starting with Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco and fanning outwards in every possible direction, you've got the very basic, very real worries of 'Will folks go see it?' 'Will those folks like it?' and 'Is our movie really as good as we think it is?'

We've all sat through the closing credits of an animated feature while waiting for the not-so-secret bonus scene at the end. Try and imagine even HALF of those names as actual people fidgeting furiously in their ergonomic office chairs, gnawing on their fingernails and lower lips, anxiously awaiting the world's response to a film that they have devoted YEARS of their lives to. Hell, expecting mothers only carry their babies for nine months, and you know how precious and protective they are about them. Artists are even more tired, irritable and emotionally unstable. The Croods crew must be going NUTS!

Me? I'm just eager. And excited. And a little greedy. While I have zero financial stake in the final outcome (or income) of The Croods, I definitely have some...well, 'emotional investments' that I would like to see yield a return. I mean, I've spent the last thirteen months blogging about the film, anticipating the film and imagining the film. This has left me with some EXTREMELY heightened and self-centered expectations for the film. How extreme? Brace yourselves.

I'm hoping for an hour and a half of top quality cartoon comedy and adventure, complete with a handful of powerful emotional truths and one or two honest-to-God moments of personal revelation.

And that's not all!

I want to feel the adrenaline rush that you feel when a truly great movie ends, the one that forces you and your gal to run back into the lobby to buy two more tickets -- to the very next show -- so you can experience it all over again, a.s.a.p. I want to walk out of the theater unconsciously imitating Grug's lumbering slouch, Eep's effortless leaps and Sandy's feral snarl. I want to drive home with my head buzzing with new ideas, silly sight gags and endlessly repeatable one-liners. I want to be inspired by it. Affected by it. INFECTED by it. I want it to change my life forever and for the better.


I WARNED YOU that my expectations were a li'l extreme. But are they unreasonable? I'm not so sure.

After all, this is CHRIS SANDERS' NEW FILM. Chris Sanders is the whimsical wizard who created the capital-C Classic, Lilo & Stitch. The genial genius who left us in awe and awww with How To Train Your Dragon. And now he's got Kirk DeMicco sharing the director duties! The results should be TWICE as amazing, right?

Well, we'll know in one more day. Or twenty-four excruciatingly long and torturous hours, depending on your personal anticipation level and affinity for delayed gratification.


Awaiting The Croods: The Agony & The Ecstasy
Awaiting The Croods: Great Expectations

FREE Chunky Papercraft

Until DreamWorks finally releases a large, plush version of Chunky, this small papercraft will have to suffice.

Warning: Cuddling may cause paper cuts!

For the templates and directions, click the 'Read More' link below.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Chris Sanders Quote & Some Concept Art

“We wanted the moment where the Croods step into this new world to be reminiscent of the moment where Dorothy leaves Kansas and steps into Oz.”
-- Chris Sanders, via Animated Views

FREE Punch Monkey Door Hangers

Don't knock on your bedroom door -- PUNCH IT!

No, wait. That can't be the intended message behind this FREE piece of paper craft.

'Respect the privacy of others.'

'Please knock before entering.'

'Mommy loves you -- she'll always love you -- but right now she needs some serious alone time!'

Are these any better? I don't know. Oh, well. Too late now...

To download and print the 2 PUNCH MONKEY DOOR HANGERS, click the 'Read More' link below.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Croods Crew: Margaret Wuller

The first time I saw visual development artist Margaret Wuller's name, it was in connection with those stripped-down, 2D caricatures of the Croods.* I was instantly a fan. "I think I prefer these designs to the 'official' ones," I announced to no one in particular, "and I can't wait to see how they will be used in the future." Clearly, I wasn't the only one. They are now being used in Arthur Fong's 'OFFICIAL Croods Comics', as well as both video games.

The next time I noticed Wuller's name was while reading Noela Hueso's The Art of The Croods. Wuller has a bunch of BEAUTIFUL landscape paintings in there, as well as a number of SUPER-CUTE critter collaborations with Takao Noguchi. DEX +1, CHA +1, WIS +1.

But the REAL moment of oh-my-god-who-is-this-gal? came when I was talking to Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco about the 'Private Event' poster featuring Grug and the cave painting.** I knew that I adored that poster. I knew that this blog's readership had really responded to it, too. But Chris and Kirk? THEY EFFING LOVED IT.

Chris Sanders: We didn't come up to her and say, 'This is it, Margaret. You better come up with an image that's gonna change our lives.' But she did. It was just one of those things. She was creating cave paintings, creating designs, and one of the designs that she submitted one day, amongst a bunch of other ones, was that beautiful image of Grug with his arms around his family. And we knew...first of all, we knew we'd found the image for the movie.

Kirk De Micco: It was iconic. [...] That would be the emotion of the film, for sure.

That's pretty high praise. Pretty high praise, indeed. To think that everyone from the directors on down to me were so moved by this one image...well, that was what finally pushed me to track down Wuller for an email interview. I'm glad I did. She's AWESOME.

Me: Hello, Margaret. Let's pretend I'm the sort of interviewer that does little to no preparation. (Keep in mind, WE'RE PRETENDING. I've already completed two drafts of your unofficial biography. I'm just curious to hear your side of your story.) Would you please tell us a bit of your background? Where did you grow up? Was your family full of artists, or were you the lone wolf in the pack?

Margaret Wuller: I grew up in Manhattan Beach CA. My mom is a creative type ... she can do anything from watercolor to cake decorating, stained glass window design to jewelry design, all while strumming on a guitar with one hand and quilting with the other. My dad is a theoretical nuclear physicist.... so clearly, artistic skills must stem from my mom. Though, I'd like to think that I successfully apply my father's analytic thinking to the art & design process. I always enjoyed art as a child and my parents strongly supported my interests

Me: When did you first become 'serious' about art? Not so much, 'When did you start wearing a beret and practicing your signature,' but when did drawing become less a time-killer and more an obsession? Did you take art classes as a child? Did you attend a capital-A Art school? If so, where did you go and what was your primary focus there?

M.W.: I did not take "art as a career" seriously until my senior year of high school. Until then, I had always taken many art classes, but wanted to study Astronomy or Archaeology (I still love these things which made working on The Croods such an awesome job). As the pressure of choosing a college got closer, I realized that what I loved most was 'looking' at things. It sounds simplistic, but with that most basic realization, art became the clear choice. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in Animation and Illustration.

Me: Who were/are some of your artistic inspirations?

M.W.: Artistic Inspiration #1 is nature. I've had the privilege of traveling to some very, very beautiful places on this planet and they are unbeatable. Artist wise, I love graphic art like David Weidman and Evan Hecox. N.C. Wyeth is also a favorite.

Me: What was your first job in the animation industry? Was it 'everything you'd ever dreamed of' or an entirely unexpected experience?

M.W.: My first job in animation was at Curious Pictures in New York. I was an intern there and they asked me to draw pen & watercolor backgrounds for an animated Barbie commercial. I remember being so excited just looking at the storyboards for the commercial.... people were actually paying me for this! They later hired me on consecutive projects and "Barbie" paid my rent for a few years.

Me: When most folks think, "I wanna work in animation," they're thinking of...well, ANIMATING. What made you decide to become a visual development artist instead?

M.W.: I actually never wanted to be an animator. I always wanted to create the worlds & environments that the characters inhabited. I felt like there was more freedom and more to design in the world than in the character. Plus, being able to make a character come alive is a rare and unique talent, best left to the REAL animators. ;)

Me: Did you have anyone who acted as a mentor for you as a visual development artist?

M.W.: I learned a lot from Pierre Olivier Vincent - the art director on How to Train Your Dragon. He is the first art director at Dreamworks that I worked with. He is a master and I still can't figure out how he gets it all done. Patrick Hanenberger also influenced me creatively. I've always admired his work and his ability to design so eloquently from concept to final execution. (ps. Patrick later became my husband!)

Me: Of all of the projects that you've worked on thus far, which one(s) were the most fun? Which were the most difficult? Which taught you the most and/or caused you to take a gigantic artistic leap forward?

M.W.: I love How to Train Your Dragon and I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work on it. It remains a favorite of mine. With that said, working on The Croods was really one of my most formative experiences. I worked with a ton of talented people on The Croods, but there was a time in the production when the art crew got scaled back to just four people: Christophe Lautrette (production designer), Paul Duncan (art director), Arthur Fong and myself. There was so much work to do! I really owe a lot to Christophe Lautrette for giving me the opportunity remain on the crew until the end, put my skills to the test and try my hand at so many different types of art & design challenges on the film.

Me: Do you have any passion projects currently in the works (or a dream project you long to work on)?

M.W.: My passion project is a non-profit foundation I co-founded with my friend and colleague Rachel Tiep-Daniels called The Picture Book Project Foundation. This takes a lot of my free time, but it is very fulfilling. Our goal is to bring the animation art community together to help & inspire children in need. We just finished creating a coloring book this year, illustrated by 66 different artists, to donate to children at orphanages in Ghana, Mexico and Cambodia.

Me: What words of wisdom can you share with our readers hoping to make art their life?

M.W.: Words of Wisdom: If you want to do it, do it. Don't let anyone including yourself, discourage you. There will always be someone out there who can do it better; let them be your inspiration.

Me: Would you share one small, unforgettable moment of magic that you've experienced while working on The Croods? 

M.W.: As I mentioned earlier, I used to want to be an archaeologist. A dream job would have been to work for the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. (I even applied for a part time position once - to be someone who builds the displays - I didn't get the job needless to say.) Fast-forward to 2013, The Croods crew wrap party was held at the Natural History Museum. The event decorators projected the many cave paintings I made for Croods all over every wall in the museum. It was overwhelming. I thought to myself, "I did it! I finally made it into the Natural History Museum!" My 6th grade self was so psyched.

Me: One last question and you're free: When you read all of the gushing praise that Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco lavished over your picture of Grug's cave painting, what was your reaction? (Note: Tears of joy can best be expressed using emoticons.)

M.W.: I am humbled to say the least. Someone said to me in passing that Chis Sanders wanted to get that image tattooed on him. I don't know whether they were just tying to convey his level enthusiasm to me or whether Chris actually joked about that aloud. Either way, I am so beyond thrilled that this cave painting resonated so deeply with Chis and Kirk. When I watch the movie, even though I know exactly what Grug is going to draw in that cave, I still get teary eyed when I see it. Chris and Kirk are masters of these special 'moments'. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with them.

My all-caps THANKS to Margaret Wuller for answering so damned many questions. (She didn't skip a single one!) I'd like to give a second plug to her non-profit project, The Picture Book Project. If you're a fan of ANY of the DreamWorks artists, it'd be worth your while to click that link. Chances are, they contributed a drawing. Not only that, but the coloring book that they created is only $15. That's $15 for a book full of monsters, mutants and dragons -- DREAMWORKS DRAGONS! Good art for a good cause. Everybody wins!

*The original 2D re-designs were done by Joe Moshier. Their final look was designed by Wuller.
**Wuller designed and painted the cave painting. Paul Duncan painted the image for the poster.
***Margaret Wuller's photo was taken by Khali MacIntyre
All of these asterixed credit listings? Margaret's idea. Homegirl is HUMBLE.