Friday, May 31, 2013

Fan Art Friday

Chunky the Death Cat has become the multicolored muse for a multitude of Croods fan artists. Shown below are a few of my favorite portraits of the furry, feral feline.

These three(!) DELIGHTFUL digital depictions of Chunky are all from the same amazing artist: USMC-Raven. Her work ethic -- and range of skills -- certainly puts mine to shame. To view more of USMC's art, click here and here.

Check out the ADORABLE smile on JadeWolfbane's sleeping Chunky. You can almost hear him purring as he dreams of large balls of yarn and tasty, tar-covered piranakeets. To see more of JadeWolfbane's art, click here.

This last one's from a gal by the name of Tabbytooner, and it's a sweet one. SUPER SWEET. Thank your lucky stars that our eyes don't get cavities, or we'd all be visiting the optomedentist in the morning. To view more of Tabbytooner's cartooning, click here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Great GIF

Today's GIF is a long-lasting, gut-busting, nail-biting thrill-ride. Hate hyphenated hyperbole? It's actually an animatic of an alternate version of the opening scene from The Croods. Or, as DreamWorks' storyboard artist Radford Sechrist put it:

"I only worked on Croods for a few weeks between projects. Just did this one scene."

And what a scene it is!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dreamiest Croods GIF Ever!

This gorgeous GIF was made by Tumblrite completelytwitterpated, using two pieces of Croods production art by Arthur Fong. I swear, if this thing came in a larger size, I'd use it as my screensaver!

Related: Eff E-Cards. Gifs As Gifts -- That's The Future!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fan Art Friday

This week's fan art is the work of one VERY talented artist, AriellaMay. I posted a pic of hers a while back (the Chunky and Stitch sketch re-posted below), and was casually browsing her deviantART account again recently when I noticed that she'd done MORE Chunky pics -- LOTS more. And they were are SO COOL! How could I possibly resist posting them? Answer: I could not.

Here it is. Chunky and Stitch. The drawing that first brought AriellaMay's art to The Croods blog. Holds up nicely, doesn't it?

Up next: Toothless and Chunky! Hiccup and Eep! Okay, so not only has AriellaMay mastered ALL of Chris Sanders' critters, she's rubbing it in our faces that she draws HUMANS perfectly, too. IT'S NOT FAIR!

Aw, this one's sweet. A solo Chunky. Waitaminute -- where did that feather come from? And where is the critter it used to be attached to? And why does Chunky's belly look so full?!

Something tells me we are now short one bearowl.

I think I saved the best for last, don't you? AriellaMay's delightful 'run cycle' for Chunky. SO, SO CUTE!

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chris Sanders Sketches: Mulan

Fun fact: Chris Sanders worked as head of story on Disney's Mulan.

Not-so-fun fact: There ain't much of Sander's Mulan-related artwork available in books or on the internet.
Fun fact: Most of what is available are storyboards. 12 out of 13, to be exact. This is actually pretty great, as the art in Sanders' storyboards is better than the art found in most finished cartoons.

F**k yeah fact: The one piece of art that is not a storyboard (a.k.a. the final sketch in this post, the one of the adult, head-holding Mulan) wasn't even made during the production of the film. It was a gift from Sanders to cartoonist Tom Bancroft. And it's STUNNING. ICONIC. All-caps AMAZING. You ask me, that pic alone justifies this entire post.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Congratulations, Croods!

Two months after its March 22 release date, The Croods is STILL in the Top 5. TWO MONTHS! This is a truly remarkable achievement. While some industry insiders claim that this is due to a lack of any other "kids' flicks" in the marketplace, there's clearly something more at work here. Simply put, THE CROODS CONTINUES TO CONNECT.

Eight weeks after its release, folks are still buying tickets to The Croods. Many of these folks are seeing it for the second or third time. In an industry rife with illegal online streams and downloads, the fact that fans are repeatedly PAYING to see it (gasp!) is just about the most positive review a film can get.

Here's another hard-to-wrap-my-head-around concept: Eight weeks after its release, some folks are seeing The Croods for THE FIRST TIME. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. In a month that has seen the release of THREE summer blockbusters (Iron Man Three, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby), this is clearly NOT a ticket bought out of desperation or apathy. No, these folks are CHOOSING to see The Croods because of its enduring and overwhelming positive word of mouth. Its reputation as a funny, beautiful, exciting and emotional film continues to grow, and the ONLY WAY that happens is if audiences MAKE IT HAPPEN.

You know what? I want to take back what I said at the end of the second paragraph. The most positive review a film can get is this: People are recommending the film to their friends and family. They want to SHARE THE EXPERIENCE. This is...this is PHENOMENAL.

Congratulations, Kirk and Chris and Jeffrey and the rest of the Croods crew. You not only made a funny, beautiful, exciting and emotional movie, you made a movie that AUDIENCES ADORE.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fan Art Friday

Today's theme: Mash-ups!

This cute and colorful combination of The Croods and Adventure Time comes from shine-your-way-to-tomorrow.

To see more of shine-your-way-to-tomorrow's art, click here.

Next up is mistrel-fox's re-working of the Croods clan. The Croods + Kimpossible = CARTOON NIRVANA!!!

To see more of mistrel-fox's art, click here.

Closing things out today is Heart-Berry's super-sweet My Little Pony-meets-The Croods pic. Would it be unbearably punny of me to say that I HEART this BERRY much? It would? Yeah, I sorta figured...

To see more of Heart-Berry's art, click here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Croods Crew: Jennifer Harlow

(Note: The following boldface quotes come from Animation Insider's exhaustive interview with Jennifer Harlow. It's a treasure trove of talking points, and you could probably save yourself a lot of eye strain and alliteration by simply skipping the rest of this blog post and heading over there. That said, DON'T YOU EVEN CONSIDER CLICKING AWAY! This blog is like Spanish Fly when it comes to water cooler conversation. You miss even a DAY of it, and you risk living your life lonely and unloved. Consider yourself warned.)

Most of us aren't foolish enough to believe that we could be the next Chris Sanders or Kirk De Micco -- superstar directors with big budget productions, signature art styles, and multiple deviantART fan clubs. Yet most of us ARE delusional enough to think that we could someday see our names in the long list of credits at the end of our favorite animated films. Sadly -- statistically -- this is also pretty unlikely. BUT THERE'S HOPE. Take DreamWorks animator Jennifer Harlow. Harlow whiles away her days animating anthropomorphic animals in front of fat-ass flat-screens at one of Hollywood's hottest animation studios. Homegirl is LIVING THE DREAM, and all she had to do was locate that ever-elusive, near-mythical, possibly metaphorical secret to 'breaking into the biz.'

And do you know what that secret is?

Me either.

But I think I know where we can find it. Using nothing but this cut-and-paste profile piece, we can retrace the steps that took Ms. Harlow from crayon-carrying scamp to up-and-coming animator. Using her unique journey as our template, we'll chart an obstacle-free, can't lose career path for all aspiring animators (and beleaguered bloggers) to follow. The good life is within reach. We're gonna be rich!


So where do we begin? A noted English thespian was once quoted as singing, "Let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start." Sounds sensible to me. In this case, let's start with Harlow's childhood. What makes a seemingly normal child decide to devote her life to the aberrant art form of animation?

Jennifer Harlow: I always drew as a kid, even before I can really remember. My Mom likes to tell this story about how she found me in the living room drawing with a big red crayon on the white carpet right in front of the fireplace. Instead of getting mad at me, she saw how proud I was of my piece and just made sure to keep a giant supply of paper in front of me. All family road trips usually involved me in the back seat drawing up a storm, even at the risk of making myself extremely carsick. I also loved to watch cartoons. My brother and I would always tune in for our favorite Warner Brothers and Disney shorts on Saturday mornings (big fan of any Chuck Jones short). We also enjoyed the classic Disney feature films as well.

However, I never thought of a career in animation or even art in general. For the longest time I wanted to be a veterinarian. [...] I even spent a few years between middle-school and high school volunteering at a couple clinics, attending surgeries, etc. At 15 though, my interest started to fade, a lot of a vet’s schedule was spent spaying, neutering, or having putting a beloved family’s pet to sleep. I eventually decided to pursue my other interest, drawing.

Well, seeing as how Harlow's career choices were either killing cats or animating them, it's easy to see why she'd choose 'toons. (It's reassuring, too. It's proof positive that she's not a psychopath!) Now let's take a look at Harlow's education. What sort of schooling is required of a career cartoonist?

J.H.: I left high school early to continue my education at Rogue Community College and later, Southern Oregon University where I was able to take life-drawing classes and build up my portfolio to apply to CalArts.

To re-cap: Drop out of high school. Sketch some naughty bits. Get accepted into the same school that taught most of America's animation elite. It's as simple as 1, 2, 3!

J.H.: I was rejected [by CalArts] on my first try... 

Wait, what?

J.H.: ...but was accepted on round two.

Correction. It's as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4.

J.H.: Once at CalArts, it was literally 24/7 animation boot-camp for 3.5 years. I animated with both 2D and 3D tools during my attendance, and had a blast—even during the rough days when a Maya file would corrupt losing hours of work, or having an especially bad drawing day. I learned so much throughout the good and tougher times and met so many wonderful people that were there by my side during the heat of crunch-time, overall it was an absolutely amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. During my third year, I completed my film called, “Bothered Bot” that led to the exciting opportunity to be a part of a summer internship at Pixar. I had a wonderful, and intense 11 weeks there where I learned so much! I returned to CalArts, where I graduated in December 2010, and in January 2011, I started working at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale.

So becoming an animator takes time, perseverance and a lot of hard work, huh?  You know, I think euthanizing small animals provides an important service to the community. And while I hate seeing puppies limp or kitties cry, I'm not that comfortable with rejection or rigorous work schedules, either.

But maybe the workload relaxes a little once you're one of the Katzenberg's kids?

J.H.: I usually arrive to work by 8:30 a.m, grab a little breakfast from the commissary, and head up to my desk. I start animating by 9 a.m. and continue working until 11:30 when I join my co-worker buddies for lunch. Lunch usually wraps up by 12:30 and I’m back at my desk animating until about 6 pm. Depending on how my shot is coming along, my day could be spent entirely at my desk or spending more of my time meeting with supervisors and attending dailies/various meetings that might pop-up during the day.

I work on DreamWorks’ proprietary animation software. But also use pencil and paper to plan out an idea. At CalArts, I worked with Maya, but also After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, and of course pencil and paper.

Seriously, Jen, you're doing a terrible job of making this sound like an easily attainable, cushy-soft dream job.

You know what? I'm gonna go ahead and paste the next quote from Harlow's interview with Animation Insider a.s.a.p. In it, she shares some of the high points of the job.

J.H.: Early days on a shot are usually the most fun, when the sky is the limit. It’s always exciting getting to brainstorm the best way to convey the directors’ vision, and using a variety of methods to plan out the best way to communicate the goal in a shot. When I’m just starting a shot, I definitely spend time planning out the actions, whether thumbnailing it out on paper, pulling online reference, or shooting my own reference—those early stages on a shot usually take a good amount of time before I start moving a character around. It’s extremely nerve wracking showing my shot for the very first time and hoping that I hit the right nerve and meet everyone’s expectations, but the reward of getting that reaction whether it’s one person or 30 is a great feeling.

Ah, a feeling of personal success and the praise of others. I'm totally cool with that! Now, quickly, before I accidentally remember how much time and effort it took Harlow to get to where she is, let's close this thing out with some words of advice that she shared with Animation Insider.

J.H.: The best advice I can think of is to pursue what you truly enjoy doing and to not get discouraged along the way. Just because one door closes, doesn’t mean another one won’t open. The industry is very challenging and getting accepted into a school (CalArts or otherwise), is just the first step and definitely doesn’t mean you’re set for life. I’m always pushing myself to work harder, and those whose work I admire the most, all seem to do the same thing of constantly pushing themselves. I’m always learning a new technique or how to avoid making a mistake again. It’s a hard field of work, but I really enjoy it.

There's that damned w-word again. Oh, well. Here kitty-kitty...


Jennifer Harlow has not one, but TWO blogs featuring her art. The first one, Jen's Animation Blog, details her life while attending CalArts. It's full of old sketches, animation tests, personal anecdotes and a glimpse at her summer internship at Pixar. The second blog, Sketchy Observations, is her current outlet for internet self-expression. This blog has lots of new sketches, with a heavy emphasis on the most deadly tool in her artistic arsenal: caricature. Simultaneously goofy and grotesque, Harlow's caricatures would've made the original MAD Magazine crew proud. Take a look at the five examples I included below. They're simply seething with personality.

One last word of thanks to Animation Insider for not bad-mouthing me up and down the internet for all of the quotes that I "borrowed" for this post. I linked to you four times (five!) in an effort to make amends, but in all honesty, a link from me is sorta like that whole 'if a tree falls in the woods' thing. I should've probably given you some sort of co-writing credit, but really, you don't want to sully your resume with the likes of this blog, do you? Anyway, keep up the great work. I'll click on your banner ads daily!

Related: Croods Crew: M. Wuller, S. Prigmore, S. MacLeod & C. Goodrich

All art and photos used in this post are property of Jennifer Harlow. Here's hoping she's not the litigious type. 

This post originally appeared on 9/19/12.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Thoughtful Review from The Express Tribune

It's been a while since I've read a Croods review that stressed themes and emotions over CG and 3D. Samra Aamir's piece in the Pakistani paper, The Express Tribune, is one such review. Pasted below are the first three paragraphs of her insightful piece:

In theory we want our children to grow up to be fearless and adventurous. We wish we had a little more spunk and didn’t scare so easy ourselves. A film like The Croods reminds us of those noble aspirations in a time when the instinct of Pakistani parents to protect their children keeps them from discovering the world.

At the centre of this animated 3D comedy is the feisty broad-faced girl Eep (Emma Stone), whose character is worlds apart from the stereotype of the slender heroine with a well-coiffed do. Eep’s thirst for adventure sets her at odds with her father Grug (Nicholas Cage) who puts safety at the top of his family’s needs — no one leaves the cave or does anything new.

As history has taught us, this philosophy of life worked in prehistoric times, which has been lusciously recreated by the team at DreamWorks who worked with writer-directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DiMicco. The problem is that your comfort zone can become a cage.

"Your comfort zone can become a cage." Great line, eh?

To read Aamir's full review, click here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Pitch-Perfect Pencil Sketches of Nicolas Weis

Via Weis' wondrous website:

Here is a series of layouts I did for the reveal scene at the end of the first act, when the dark and dusty canyon opens onto a huge, lush landscape. All these drawings were made with pencil, sweat and an electric eraser. They are roughly 25 centimeters long.

For more examples of Weis' graphite grandeur, click here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fan Art Friday

Fan art comics! I love fan art comics! Heck, I've even MADE fan art comics! (Wanna see 'em? Click here, here, here and here. SHAMELESS!) I am sooo happy to see my fellow Croods fans using their impressive skills to make comics. If you feel the same, click the artists' links and let 'em know!

Guy's fans are gonna LOVE this super-cute comic by 0Enigma13. Not only does it showcase the character's sweetness and silliness, it gives a definitive answer to that age old question: Boxers or briefs?

To see more of 0Enigma13's art, click here.

Next up, more humiliation-based hilarity! In Pawprints & Snowflakes' beautifully drawn comic strip, it's Eep who is causing Guy the embarrassment -- and all because he wanted to kiss her! Poor Guy. This is just not his day. :(

To see more of Pawprints & Snowflakes' art, click here.

Last up, a rather somber comic by Avanna K. This sad, silent, tone poem illustrates Guy's tragic back-story. Gosh darn you, Avanna -- you nearly made me cry!

To see more of Avanna K's art, click here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Croods Crew: Carter Goodrich

Character designer Carter Goodrich has been working in the animation industry for eighteen years. Stupid me only discovered him recently, though, via Noela Hueso's The Art of The Croods. His drawings in that book blew me away. I was instantly a fan. Enjoy, if you will, this embarrassingly effusive excerpt from my review:

Carter Goodrich seems to work mostly in pencil. Scribbling layer upon layer of loose, lyrical lines, Goodrich creates gloriously grotesque caricatures teeming with body hair and a Pigpen-like aura of filth. His work is textbook timeless. It wouldn't look out of place in a 1960's underground comic, yet it could also be featured in a 2023 exhibition of experimental animation. Think of the most metal kid in your junior high school. Give him the drawing ability of Da Vinci circa The Vitruvian Man. Now let him scrawl all over your math book for the duration of detention. The end result would look something like Goodrich's deliriously devilish doodles.

Yeah, I kinda loved what dude was doing. In fact, I loved it so much I immediately began searching the net for more of Goodrich's work. Lucky for me, there was TONS. Turns out, he'd done character designs for everything from Shrek to Despicable Me to Brave. When I found out Goodrich had his own website, I was in HEAVEN. Not only did it provide me with lots of great, grimy art, it gave me a way to ask him for an interview.

Me: Imagine I'm NOT the last animation fan in the world to discover you and your wonderful work. (Just IMAGINE!) Would you please tell me a bit of your background? Where did you grow up? Was your family full of artists, or were you the sole scribbler?

Carter Goodrich: I grew up in Washington DC. My father was a painter, and his two closest friends were painters too. It was as though I had three fathers, and they were all artists. Couldn't ask for a better childhood. I used to draw on everything I could get my hands on. The cardboard that was slipped inside shirts that came back from the dry cleaner was my most readily available drawing paper. My father had a great studio and I loved just hanging out in it. The smell of oil paint and turpentine. All the wonderful art books. But most of all, the quiet atmosphere of invention and creation.

Me: When did you first become 'serious' about art? Not so much, 'When did you start wearing berets 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?

C.G.: I was obsessed with drawing from day one. It was, to me, this incredible device that could supply me with anything I wanted. Anything I could dream up. If I wanted a castle, I could draw a castle. If I wanted a motorcycle, I could draw a motorcycle. The images helped grow my imagination, and my imagination helped grow the images. When I was in junior high school, I was given an opportunity to study under the internationally renowned sculptor, Constantine Seferlis. He was a wonderful man, and a tremendous artist. He was uncomfortable receiving payment, so I had to secretly slip the envelope onto his desk. Later on I attended RISD, and studied illustration. It was a lot of fun, but quite frankly I'm not sure that I believe in art school. It instills confidence, I suppose, and puts young artistic students in a community of like minded souls, but beyond that I think it's a waste of money.

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

C.G.: Mostly the great illustrators N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, and Gustaf Tenggren. I loved having stories they'd illustrated read to me by my father. He'd allow me to study their images, and they were like movies to me. They brought the stories to life and beyond. They worked my own imagination in a way that today's explosion of digital this and digital that, can't. By that I mean, nothing is left to the imagination anymore. Nothing is asked of the viewer.

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

C.G.: Unexpected. I never had any dreams about working in animation. I was a freelance editorial illustrator, working in NYC, looking forward to the day I might be able to paint for myself. I didn't know anything about the visual development part of the animation process until I was called by DreamWorks to work on Prince Of Egypt.

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/character designer instead? 

C.G.: That's what I was asked to do when I got that first call. Design characters. It was really just an extension of what I was already doing for magazines and books. I came out to LA for a while and worked on that picture, with no intention of staying on or continuing to work in animation. As things turned out, I made a lot of friends, and one project led to another, and before I knew it I was buying a house out here and making character design the lion's share of my work.

Me: Out of all of the movies 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?

C.G.: That's hard to answer. Every project has its merits. I think it's really been the people that I've worked with; the other artists that have taught me so much. I began to think in much more workable three dimensional terms. Like an engineer. I've learned a lot from having worked with Carlos Grangel and Nico Marlet. Not only have they become great friends of mine, but they've taught me a great deal, both in terms of design and the importance of maintaining a genuine passion for what really matters; art over commerce.

Me: Your work is immediately identifiable and wholly your own. No traces of the tried and true 'Pixar style' or the 'DreamWorks face' are apparent in your character designs, yet both of these companies have called upon you repeatedly to help them find the look of their characters. What do you think it is about your work that keeps them coming back for more?

C.G.: I think every director wants to find a new look for the world they're creating. There are an infinite number of different ways to design characters. So much ground yet to be broken. To rehash old designs seems like a waste of time. Whatever it is they see in my work has kept me in the game, which I'm extremely grateful for. My good friend Sandy Rabins, who was producing Open Season when I was working on it, told me that I "designed characters from the inside out". I like that. What a tremendous compliment. I'd like to think it's true.

Me: In addition to the TWELVE major motion pictures you've worked on(!), you've done SIX kids' books(!!) and SEVENTEEN covers for The New Yorker(!!!). It almost scares me to ask this, you have any other passion projects currently in the works?

C.G.: Right now I'm working on another book with Simon & Schuster called We Forgot Brock! I also just finished the third book in the series about the two dogs, Zorro and Mister Bud, called Mister Bud Wears The Cone. I have two more manuscripts I'm working on, and right now I'm putting together work for a show in Paris. I'd love to be involved with creating a story for either a short or feature length animated movie.

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

C.G.: Allow your work to take you somewhere unplanned. Don't box yourself in with specific goals.

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

C.G.: I remember there was this absolutely beautiful young lady who walked by my table while I was having coffee at DreamWorks. She was heartbreakingly lovely. The finest design in the world is a woman. What other design can you never get enough of?

Crave more of Carter Goodrich's deliriously devilish doodles? Click here

Related: Croods Crew: Margaret Wuller, Shane Prigmore & Steven MacLeod