Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Art of The Croods: Book Signings & Signed Books

Gallery Nucleus posted a half dozen photos from their recent The Art of The Croods event. Shown above are two. To see the rest, click here.

Speaking of signed copies of The Art of The Croods, check out this photo of directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco hard at work in their autograph sweatshop. This photo was swiped from the Facebook page of Stuart Ng Books. Ng is currently selling signed copies of The Art of The Croods for only $50 -- and they're signed by ELEVEN members of the Croods crew! We're talking Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Christophe Lautrette, Paul Duncan, Arthur Fong, Dominique Louis, Joe Moshier, Takao Noguchi, Margaret Wuller, Jakob Jensen and Gabriele Pennacchioli. ELEVEN SIGNATURES! That's insane! Click here to purchase a copy. (Or do nothing and live in regret.)

Related: Book Review: The Art of The Croods

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chris Sanders On: Emotional Endings

Entertainment Weekly: Without giving anything away, there is a somewhat dark scene toward the end [of The Croods. Did you feel] it was important to push the envelope just a bit to get the emotional payoff?

Chris Sanders: It’s something that my very favorite movies did. […] I worked on Beauty and the Beast and we worked on that last scene very hard, specifically to make it look as if they’d gone too far and there’s no way this was going to work out. So we timed the moment when the Beast said I love you to come right before the last petal fell off the rose. So technically he said it but we still went to the rose and saw the petals fall off because we wanted to convince the audience that all was lost. And my very favorite movies always went as far as they could.

Related: Chris Sanders Sketches: Beauty and the Beast

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fan Art Friday

Via The Lazy Lion:

Some art for the recent movie The Croods. Absolutely loved it, probably my favorite from Dreamworks.

To see more art from Todd Rad (a.k.a. The Lazy Lion), click here.

Via stawwi:

Wild child is my favorite character!

To see more of stawwi's adorable fan art, click here.

Via Five On The:

This movie was so dang gorgeous. These two were so precious omg;; That and the whole family relationship was so touching and I just loved the whole movie. I highly recommend it! So here's my fan art for the appreciation of The Croods! ^^

To see more anime-inspired art from Joelin (a.k.a. Five On The), click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Croods Crew: Steven MacLeod

This interview was a real treat. I'd been secretly stalking Steven MacLeod for a while now, ever since I first heard he was a story artist on The Croods. When I found out he was responsible for the colorful, critter-crazy, teaser poster, I was HOOKED. Then, when he started posting the rough drafts from that poster and the big, blue, standing-on-the-edge-of-the-cliff poster, that was it. I was OFFICIALLY a salivating fanboy.

MacLeod's art is my favorite style -- seemingly simple, yet chock full o' action and emotion. This seems to be a hallmark of the best storyboard artists, Chris Sanders included. As you read through this interview, pay special attention to the storyboards scattered throughout. It's amazing how much information MacLeod is able to express in one small sketch.

Me: Hey, Steven. Imagine I'm NOT stalking you via your blog (Clockroom), your other blog (Framefilter), your Tumblr (Clockroom), your other Tumblr (Pile of Graphite), and the tiny cameras I installed in the left eyes of all of your teddy bears. Would you please tell me a bit about your background? Where are you from? Was your family full of artists, or were you the sole scribbler?

Steven MacLeod: I was born and raised in Southern California, mostly in the Mojave desert just north of LA. I grew up in a very creative family. My father is a musician and carpenter and his mother was a painter. I also have a brother who does all things creative as well. I also grew up watching loads and loads of movies with my mother which were usually black and white classics or romantic comedies.

Me: When did you first become 'serious' about art? Not so much, "When did you start fetishizing fonts and calling naked women 'nudes'?," as "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?

S.M.: Yeah, I drew a lot as a kid and it was one of the only things I excelled at, so that was my 'thing' growing up. All I did was draw, draw, draw. I didn't have formal art training until I was 16 years old, through the Ryman Program. I attended C.S.S.S.A. after that and from there decided I wanted to go to CalArts and study animation.

Me: Growing up, who were some of your artistic inspirations?

S.M.: Growing up, my walls were always covered with images of comic book characters, anime posters, movie posters. I liked Jim Lee, Norman Rockwell, Alphonse Mucha, Steven Spielberg, and loads more. I liked cutting out images from magazines as well and pinning them up for inspiration.

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

S.M.: DreamWorks is the only placed I've ever worked at professionally and I've been there since 2007, which was just before the release of Bee Movie and Kung Fu Panda. I was super thrilled to go to the same place as a couple of my closest friends. I eventually worked along side many heroes and teachers of mine. It was definitely more than I had ever dreamed of.

Me: I read that you did an 'animation internship' with James Baxter. As Baxter is one of my all-time favorite animators, would you please tell me a bit about that experience?

S.M.: It was an amazing summer! I don't even know where to begin. I was a total animation nerd so this was a dream come true for me. There was a small group of us and we were each given a space with a desk at his studio in Pasadena. We animated dialogue tests using classic Disney characters and James would give us feedback. There were so many mind blowing experiences that I can't even get into, but suffice to say that it was a fantasy summer to remember.

Me: The first time I ever heard your name, it was in connection with your student film, My Little Obsessive Compulsive Friend. On that film, you served as the writer, animator and director. (Diva alert!) With all of those illustrious credits at your disposal, what made you choose a career in the Story Dept.? (Or: Seriously, Steven -- do you have allergies to money, fame and groupies?)

S.M.: Haha, well, I only put those credits on the IMDB page for show. At most art schools everyone does every job on their student films. I actually interned with James the summer after making that film and then my next film was very focused on performance and animation. The next summer is when I did a story internship at Pixar. I ended up focusing more on story after that, but I still love to animate and bring things to life.

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

S.M.: Well, I started on Croods in 2007, then went on to How to Train Your Dragon, then back to Croods. It was neat to basically run a marathon (Croods) and also run a sprint (Dragons). I definitely came back from Dragons having learned a ton, but I think every sequence on any movie teaches me something new and I strive to get better with each one. I am shocked looking back at my first scenes for Croods and then looking at my last ones. Shocking.

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

S.M.: Yes, haha. I think all artists have images and stories that we are hoarding away and we all wish we had time to develop them. And most of them are...secrets ;) And there's a humongous list of artists I'd love to collaborate with one day.

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

S.M.: Draw, draw, draw. It is really hard to get across the importance of constant drawing, but it really is the key to improvement. You can improve so much within a 6 month period if you work really hard. Just like a professional athlete, you have to do something over and over and over again to get good at it. I also tell people that if they don't like the conditioning/practicing that are required to improve, then they should consider doing a different job. I compare it to the first few weeks of learning an instrument. If you can get past all of those sour notes (i.e. bad drawings) then you have what it takes to improve.

Me: Would you mind sharing one unforgettable moment of magic that you experienced while working on The Croods?

S.M.: Well, it is hard to pick just one. I was on it a long time and there were so many 'moments'. I remember one of the first magical moments was when I was still a trainee (2007) and I wasn't assigned to a movie yet. A few of us were asking Chris about Crood Awakenings and what it was about and he described a moment between Grug and Wimmet (Guy's original name) that was very powerful and magical. It was basically the heart to heart moment that became the tar pit scene in the final film. It had more to do with Grug's heart versus Wimmet's brain, and how it would take both of them for man to survive. It was just an amazing verbal pitch at lunch while sitting at a table in broad daylight. You could tell he could see it in his head and it sounded like the most powerful and profound moment and I couldn't wait to see it.

Thank-you so much for doing this interview, Steven! The story department is one of my favorite aspects of an animated film's creation, so it was really cool to hear from someone who works in it. And as for all of those Sandy & Belt gifs? I LOVE 'EM! Thanks for sharing them!

Psst, readers: I can't stress enough how much I think you're going to enjoy poking around Steven's online outposts. First off, there's MacLeod's main blog, Clockroom (the blog and the Tumblr). Clockroom covers MacLeod's work at DreamWorks, drawings from his continuing art education, and random doodles of everything from desert ghosts to robots fighting superheros. Next up is Pile of Graphite, a recently launched Tumblr showcasing some of MacLeod's pencil sketches. In it, you'll find snowy, National Geographic-looking vistas of faraway places, as well as a storybook-ready sketch of a giant squid demolishing an old wooden ship. Lastly, there's Framefilter. This blog is dedicated to the art of cinematography, and is jam-packed with sumptuous screengrabs from a wide variety of films. While Framefilter is the blog that MacLeod uses for his inspiration, I'd recommend Clockroom and Pile of Graphite to any young artist looking for a quick hit of inspirational adrenaline. Enjoy!

Related: Croods Crew: Margaret Wuller & Shane Prigmore

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Arthur Fong Artwork!

Regular readers of this blog already know of my obsession with Fong's art. In my review of The Art of The Croods, I unguardedly gushed:

As for Arthur Fong, well, his art just hits me in my sweet spot. The way babies smile at symmetry and circles, my inner infant gurgles and drools over Fong's cartoon canvases. They're the perfect blend of widescreen composition, candy colored everything, and the easy-to-read cartoon characters placed therein. 

Yikes. I know, right? And that was only HALF of my embarrassing outpouring of appreciation and adoration. (To read the whole, humiliating thing, click the link above!) Anyway, let's get to the reason we're all here: NEW ART FROM ART!

Like I said, the perfect blend of widescreen compositions, candy colors, and the easy-to-read cartoon characters placed therein.

For more of Fong's art (and less of my nonsense), visit his blog.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wanna Win A Copy Of The Croods Comic Book?

'Tis easy as pie. To enter, simply WRITE SOMETHING -- ANYTHING -- IN THE COMMENTS SECTION of this post. A winner will be randomly chosen on 4/28 at 11:59pm. It could be you!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fan Art Friday

Via sky665:

Saw The Croods again today. Remembered what first told me how I knew this was going to be a good movie. 

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

Via Killigan Krunch:

Sorry about the fanfart, I kinda had to. This movie was a lot of fun!

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

Via Nightlight-Vixin:

EEEeee~ My first Guy and Eep fanart, FINISHED.

This one was…incredibly challenging since their designs are so neat. The shape of their faces and Eep’s wonderfully unique physique is going to take some getting used to but it was so fun!
Took a bit longer because I coloured it differently than usual. :3

and Eep hair! It’s so pouffy!

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

 Via Sam King:

Oh my gosh guys, GO SEE THE CROODS. I have never been so pleasantly surprised by a film. It’s laugh out funny and heartwarming. I cried once or twice. Go see it in theaters!!!

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chris Sanders & Nic Cage On: The Sequel!

Embedded above is a small section of the looong Croods cast and crew press conference held at the Berlinale Film Festival this past February. The first question?

Could this be the start of another franchise for DreamWorks? Could the story continue? Could we see the Croods again?

Chris Sanders: Oh, golly. You know what? The nature of this film was a road trip. The most important change that goes on in this is the change within the characters' family. And so to get them to go through that change, we could take them almost anywhere we wanted because it's all, the most important changes are internal. So this, of all the films I've ever worked on, this was the most heavily storyboarded and written film. We have -- I can't even tell you how many sequences we didn't really end up putting in the film. So if we did have to make another one, we could glue it together with lots of spare parts right now. We have lots of good stuff left over.

Nic Cage: Yes, I would like to see another adventure with the Croods.

Kristine Belson On: Belt

"Belt became a breakout character. He eventually evolved into the smartest member of the cast. He’s like Snoopy, another character that was always way more sophisticated than the humans around him."

--The Croods’ producer, Kristine Belson

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If It Was Inevitable, Why Am I So Excited?!

Via THR:

‘Croods’ Sequel in the Works From DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks Animation has greenlighted a sequel to its caveman hit The Croods.

Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, who wrote and directed the original, are back in their respective capacities for the follow-up.

And DWA is in negotiations with key voice stars to return as well.

At Last -- A New Interview With New Info!

Here's a really great interview with Chris Sanders that I just came across. The interviewer is High School newspaper reporter, Lauren Pettit, and she asks quite a few questions that I've never heard the answers to before. Among them:

Which film of yours is your favorite to re-watch?

(I would NEVER have guessed his answer!)

You've directed, done character design and headed up story departments. Do you ever want to, well, ANIMATE?


Also discussed in this interview: Sanders' time on The Muppet Babies, his newspaper work, and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing past. Well done, Lauren!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chris Sanders On: The Scene That Inspired Him To Become An Animator!

"I was watching The Wonderful World of Disney, and they showed a [...] sequence called The Three Caballeros where Donald Duck sings a song with two other birds. The stuff that they do is amazing. It's pure animation. When I finished watching that sequence, I wanted to be in animation. The vibrant color, the fast action, the freedom of the whole thing. It's like watching a magic show."

-- Chris Sanders, via

Related: Breaking News: Croods Castmember Arrested!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fan Art Friday

This vibrant portrait of Chunky comes courtesy of Kiwiboob. I l-o-v-e the way Kiwiboob subtly bleeds her colors into one another, making your vision blur as your heart melts. That wide smile...that confident tilt of the head...that upward curl of the tail...every bit of this drawing was perfectly conceived for MAXIMUM CUTENESS! The Japanese invented a word specifically for stuff like this. That word is 'KAWAII.'

To view more of Kiwiboob's colorful creations, click here.

This next example of all-caps CUTE comes from Zeaeevee. It's easily my favorite interpretation of the mousephant thus far! It looks like an illustration from one of those lovely, 1940s Little Golden Books, yet is also reminiscent of the classic cartooning that adorned the Knock Down Dolls (a.k.a. 'Punks') in the fairgrounds of old. The shy, smiling pose and large, black eyes only enhance this mousephant's antique aura and UNDENIABLE ADORABLENESS. Delightful!

To view more of Zeaeevee's purty pictures, click here.

Oh, dear. This one's a heart-breaker, innit? Mia's Eep is so full of charm and personality, it brings a smile to my face every time I see it. Just look at that pose. The way Eep is holding her own hand? ENDEARING. The way she's balancing her body on her tippy toes? INSPIRED. The way her head is slightly lowered, yet her eyes and eyebrows are raised in such a way that accentuates her shy smile? ENCHANTING. And then there's the hair and the freckles and the solid copper eyes and the slightly reddened nose and the blue word bubble that just says, "EEP!"? Honestly, what's NOT to love?

To view more o' Mia's masterpieces, click here.

Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders On: Collaboration

Kirk De Micco: I would very much prefer to be working with somebody, especially in animation, because there’s so much to do. It’s good to have an extra set of eyes on things, but it’s also good for energy because along the way you run into some brick walls. So it’s good to have somebody else that, after everyone else is done, that you can go into a room with and talk things out with. To kinda go, ‘Where are we?’ Because I wouldn’t know how to do that in a mirror.

Chris Sanders (laughing, and in a pseudo-therapeutic tone): You could express your frustrations.

Kirk (also laughing): Yeah.

Chris: Rather than just bottling them up and exploding…

Kirk: …You have somebody to vent with!

This is an excerpt from My Half Hour Chat with Chris & Kirk. Photo by Kye R. Lee.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Croods Toy Designer Shares Her Sketches

Designer and illustrator June Shieh recently posted some design sketches she did for the limited line of Croods plush toys. While I'm glad the manufacturer gave the mousephant back his trunk (hey, that almost sounds like one of Aesop's fables!), I sure wish Shieh's version of Crispy Bear made it into stores.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chris Sanders Sketches: Beauty and the Beast

New Croods news is slowing to a crawl. Until the DVD is released, it's probably going to stay that way. Unwilling to give up this blog and get on with my life, I've devised a number of slightly off-topic posts intended to keeping things popping. This is the first.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, Chris Sanders worked as a story artist on Beauty and the Beast. For those of you unfamiliar with the term 'story artist,' here's a job description nicked from a recent Disney recruiting ad:

Story Artist Job Responsibilities:

Translate story ideas into visual sequences based on notes and meetings with the Director and other members of the story team

Work closely with Director, Head of Story, Art Director and other members of the production team to develop the cinematography and staging; choosing initial camera placement and angles; defining action and camera movement

Convey the essence of story line, scene structure, character emotion and create action and humor in alignment with the overall direction of the film

Solve story and structure problems -- punch up scenes

In short, they do a bit of everything. While this rigorous regimen no doubt wrecked havoc on the young Sanders' psyche, it proved a windfall for his fans. After all, we wouldn't have nearly this much art to ogle if he'd been assigned to a less demanding department.

So here it is, every bit of Chris Sanders' Beauty and the Beast art that I've been able to scrounge up. If you know of any more, please leave me a link in the comments section. I simply cannot get enough.

Sanders' early concept sketches of the Beast show a pre-Croods affinity for critter-combos. They're also a little reminiscent of Captain Gantu from Sanders' Lilo & Stitch.

From the 1995 edition of Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney:

The Beast is a formidable creation, but Belle...is a worthy match for him. [...] Dark and faintly exotic-looking (story artist Chris Sanders contributed much to her final appearance), she is addicted to books but...we understand that she is also has a solid, practical streak.

Yes, you read that right. CHRIS SANDERS HELPED DESIGN BELLE! How had I never heard this before?!

Before Chris Sanders drew this sketch, Cogsworth was going to be a tall, rococo grandfather clock that rarely interacted with the other servants. After this sketch, Cogsworth was magically transformed into one of the film's lead characters.

Waitaminute -- doesn't that make Chris Sanders a...a WITCH?!

Here's a sketch of the finalized Cogsworth, along with Lumière and Mrs. Potts.

I wanted you to enjoy that extended storyboard sequence uninterrupted. But now that we've reached the end of it, PREPARE FOR ASIDES.

First off, here's some storyboarding advice Chris Sanders shared via his website:

If you are inclined to be a board artist there are some things to make note of. I learned a few things from Disney board artist Burny Mattinson that help the legibility of these panels. Burny taught me to fade background lines away when they collide with a character -- this helps the character read against the background, boosting the clarity and keeping the image from being too busy. When the character is actually in contact with something, [...] then its okay to have all the lines connect. The other trick Burny would use is shading places and elements you need to pay attention to. [...] Your eye will always travel to the point of highest contrast. 

Regarding the scene shown above, allow me to quote from Charles Solomon's Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making Of Beauty and the Beast:

Chris winces when he describes working on the "escape from the castle" sequence. Terrified by the Beast's wrath when she has violated the privacy of his lair in the West Wing, Belle decides to break her promise and flee. Chris was intrigued by the situation and imaginied a long, perilous journey: "How will she escape from a building where the very walls have ears?

"She opened up her wardrobe and got her stuff. She stepped over the little stool that was actually the dog, and she went down the hall: it was at least two or three stories long -- really big," he recalls. "When Burny Mattinson stopped by my office, I pitched him the whole sequence, and I was so excited. Burny went to the first board, pointed at maybe the fifth drawing, and said, 'I think you could cut from here...to...' His finger traced every line of the first board, then the second board, and stopped about two drawings from the end of the third board. And he said, '...to here.' And that's exactly what we did. Belle says, 'Promise or no promise, I'm leaving.' She throws on her shawl, you cut to the outside of the castle, and she's riding away. Because nobody wants to see her make her way through all these hallways, stepping over sleeping furniture. He was right. And that's what hurt."

Do you remember this frightening scene from Beauty and the Beast? It's nighttime and a blizzard is raging in the forest. While fleeing a vicious pack of wolves, Belle's horse falls through the ice, tossing her to the ground. As she struggles to stand, the wolves surround her. Their snarls grow louder. Their lips curl, dripping saliva, revealing their long, sharp teeth. Belle tries her best to fend them off, but it's obvious that she's outnumbered. Suddenly, out of the shadows appears the Beast! He leaps in front of Belle, growling ferociously and slashing his claws at the wolves! Belle is saved!

You see what just happened there? What took me almost ONE HUNDRED WORDS to describe, Chris Sanders got across in THREE STORYBOARDS. Not only that, Sanders' storyboards are far more emotionally expressive and packed with detail that my screenplay-inspired summation. It all goes back to that old cliche: A picture is worth a thousand words. Or, to put it another way: One word = one word. (Bad news for us bloggers!)

I'd always assumed that Stitch introducing his 'broken' family to the Grand Councilwoman was the first time that Chris Sanders reduced me to a blubbering mess of snot and tears. Turns out, he actually achieved that way back in 1991 with the death scene in Beauty and the Beast. Sanders describes storyboarding this beautiful moment in Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast:

"Of all the memories I have of the Disney Studio, working on Beast's death and resurrection is one of the most vivid. If you can be aware that you're doing something important, that would be one of the few times I was. [...] Linda [Woolverton] had written the scene, and I had gone through it putting lines through all the extraneous things. I brought it down to the moment where Beast says, 'You came back' and touches her face. It struck me that the whole movie was in that moment."

I'd say he nailed it. How about you?

To purchase Beauty and the Beast, CLICK HERE.