A Pirates Masterpiece Monday


I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales which was a perfect addition to my absolute favourite film franchise and so I thought I’d make a Masterpiece Monday post about Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Today’s concept art is a early piece of costume design art for Jack Sparrow. It was most likely drawn by Penny Rose, who has been the costume designer for every film in the franchise. This costume design is obviously very different from Jack Sparrow’s famous costume, much more romantic and less disheveled than in the final film. This is in large part because this design most likely came before Johnny Depp started to get involved in creating his costume. In fact Depp played a huge part in creating every aspect of Captain Jack Sparrow.

The creation of Jack Sparrow’s costume was very much a collaborative process between Penny Rose and Johnny Depp. The main part of the process was a hour long fitting session. Rose provided dozens of options for each part of Jack’s costume and Depp chose what he felt fit his character best, making instructions for alterations when necessary.  Depp carefully selected each of Jack’s accessories with a story for the character in mind. For example, Jack wears a piece of Spanish lace tied around his wrist that is meant to be a trophy he took from a woman he once slept with. This also applies to Jack’s many rings. He has one designed after the rings that Spanish widows wore, another souvenir from a conquest. Another of his rings is modeled after a real Greco-Roman ring owned by a friend of Johnny’s and is meant to be a piece of ancient treasure picked up in one of Jack’s travels. He also has a jade ring with a dragon on it, from one of his many visits to Singapore. Depp even provided some of his own accessories to be used in the film, including a ring he picked up at a thrift-shop in the 80s. Jack’s dread-locks with little bits and bobbles tied in was entirely Depp’s idea. It was based on the hairstyle of his good friend Keith Richards, who was constantly tying souvenirs of his travels into his hair. These hair accessories were also hand-selected by Depp with various stories in mind. Two particular favorite’s of Depp’s was the long shin-bone of a reindeer and a pretty blue crystal. Even Jack’s hat was hand selected by Depp. Penny Rose presented him a number of hats at the end of their fitting, and Depp immediately selected the one in the film as the perfect hat for Jack and refused to try on any others. Jack Sparrow was very much a part of Depp and he knew exactly what the character should look like.

Jack Sparrow was very much Johnny Depp’s creation in a number of other ways. As you can see from this costume design art, Jack was originally imagined as a more romanticized stereotypical swashbuckler. Depp didn’t want to go that way with the character as he felt that he had seen that in films far too many times before. Instead, he pictured Jack as a 18th century rock-star of the sea. So he based his characters personality and mannerisms after Keith Richards. He also took some of the character’s mannerisms and manner of speaking from the cartoon skunk, Pepe la Pew. While this drawing depicts a very traditionally handsome pirate, Depp actually wanted his character to look unattractive. He had some pretty crazy ideas for ways in which to do this. One of his earliest ideas for the character was for him to have had his nose cut off in battle and poorly stitched back on. This would have given him an ugly blue nose, and would have led to bits of comedy with Jack having sneezing fits that lead to his nose falling off. The director felt this idea to be a little too outrageous and rejected it. Depp’s next idea was to give Jack a mouth completely full of gold teeth, and this made it all the way until filming when it was discovered that the teeth appeared blindingly bright on camera. The gold teeth were then reduced to just a few, some of which actually belonged to Depp. In the end Depp got some of the disheveled rock-star pirate he was imagining in Jack Sparrow, a far cry from the handsome leading man in this drawing.

Hope you enjoyed this look at Penny Rose and Johnny Depp’s creation of Jack Sparrow for Pirated of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I know today’s article was very different than my typical animation articles, but I just had to show some love for my absolute favorite film.


Image Credit: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: 2 Disc Collectors Edition



A Mermaid Masterpiece Monday

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You may have heard that throughout social media that the month of May is being referred to as “Mermay”  to celebrate mermaids. In honour of Mermay I thought  I’d write another post all about everyone’s favorite Disney mermaid, Ariel from The Little Mermaid. This artwork is a character design drawing of Ariel in her mermaid form by an studio artist who’s name I have unfortunately been unable to track down. While in my last Ariel post I focused on how the animators made the important decision of what colour Ariel’s hair and tail should be, today with this black and white drawing I want to focus on how real teenage girls influenced the teenage mermaid’s design.

One of my passions in my research and writing is uncovering the untold stories of the many real woman and girls who inspired and contributed to the design of the Disney princesses. There were several woman who contributed to Ariel’s look, and many of them were young ordinary women. Everyone knows that Broadway actress Jodi Benson provided the mermaid’s speaking and singing voice, and animators also studied footage of her recording sessions to gain inspiration for Ariel’s expressions. Like Snow White, Cinderella, and so many others, a live action reference model was also filmed acting out Ariel’s role in footage used as a guideline for the animators. This model was Sherri Stoner, an expressive and silly improv comedian whose thin 5′ 2″ frame inspired Ariel’s own super thin teenage body. Many of Ariel’s teenage mannerisms were also taken from the footage of Stoner, including her frequent biting of her lip and her habit of blowing her hair out of her face. For the design of Ariel’s face, supervising animator Glen Keane looked to a source very close to home, his wife. He also studied pictures of a young starlet who he felt epitomized the 1980s teenage spirit, Alyssa Milano star of Who’s the Boss? . It was very important to the animators that Ariel looked like a typical teenage girl, despite her mermaid tail.

Ariel has so much contemporary fame that I think many forget that she is very much a product of the 1980s. That is why I chose this particular drawing, as it really highlights how much the era influenced Ariel’s design. Just look at the frizzy ’80s pigtails she has in this drawing and the giant flower hair accessory. Her heavy makeup is a clear reflection of the trends of the era as well. Although Ariel’s final look toned down this trendiness, her hair and makeup are still clearly 80s inspired. Her human clothes are even more a product of the era, just look at the leg-o-mutton sleeves on her wedding dress that were lifted straight from Princess Diana’s own wedding dress. Her personality is also based upon the concerns of a typical ’80s teenager. She’s a rebellious teenager eager to be considered an adult and be free to make her own choices, while still being “daddy’s little girl”, a clear contrast from Cinderella and Aurora in the ’50s. Ariel’s strong athletic swimming ability also makes her stand out from past princesses, while reflecting the exercise craze of the 1980s. While Ariel may still be the favourite of many  little girls today, she really is the embodiment of a 1980s teenager.

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at Ariel from The Little Mermaid and the real young women of the 1980s who inspired her. Happy Mermay!

Image Credit: The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition





A Big Hero 6 Masterpiece Monday


Today’s post is the first in a series of Masterpiece Monday posts I hope to create periodically throughout the summer. I love Big Hero 6 and I am super excited for the new Big Hero 6: The Series  that comes out this Fall so I want to do one post featuring a piece of concept art of each member of the team before the show premieres. Today’s concept art is an early character design for Gogo Tomago by the film’s lead character designer Shiyoon Kim. This is actually part of a set of very dark character designs done by Kim that I have been in love with since I first saw them (I’m a big Gorillaz fan and I swear Gogo looks like she came straight from one of their music videos in this piece). If you’d like to see the rest of the set you can find them on his webpage. I love imagining what this darker version of the super hero team would have been like.

As the film is based on a comic book set in Tokyo, much of the film’s art style takes its inspiration from Japanese culture, especially from Japanese manga and anime. The idea of East meets West was also center-most to all of the artists in the film was epitomized in the film’s setting, the fictional city of San Fransokyo, a San Francisco rebuilt by Japanese immigrants after the 1906 earthquake. This design concept can be seen in this drawing of Gogo, where Western military gear meets clothing inspired by Japanese ninjas.  In incorporating East-Asian elements to the character designs it helped that the lead character designer was Korean-American artist Shiyoon Kim, who was very proud to incorporate some of his culture into the character designs.

Gogo was conceived as the tough adrenaline junkie of the team. Animators referred to her as a female Cline Eastwood type, effortlessly cool and silently stoic. Gogo is Disney’s first Korean character, and was a bit of a pet project for Shiyoon Kim because of this. He designed her with Korean “tough girl” stereotypes in mind and studied female Korean speed skaters for inspiration. He also gave her a shorter and stockier body type than is typical for animated Disney women, basing her on a very specific kind of korean body-type called “radish legs”.  Keeping with the East meets West inspiration, Kim also based his designs of Gogo on female San Francisco  bike messangers, in particular their style of dressing and their many tattoos. You can see that this particular concept art of Gogo depicts some of these potential tattoos, although they did not make it to her final design. In the end, it was Shiyoon Kim’s drawings like this one that I feel most contributed to Gogo’s design.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a rejected design for Gogo Tomago from Big Hero 6. Although I love the design of her real supersuit, its fascinating to look at this concept art and imagine what a darker and grittier version would have been like.

Image Credit: http://www.shiyoonkim.com

A Hunchback of Notre Dame Masterpiece Monday



Today’s artwork may seem a bit odd compared to my normal posts, because I am featuring a type of art work I have never talked about before. This piece from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a type of art called a colour key. It is one of the most important tools used by the background art department of an animated film. I have not been able to positively track down the artist for this particular piece, but it was most likely created by Lisa Keene, the Background Supervisor for the film, or one of the many background painters that worked on her team. I have been wanting to write a post discussing the importance of the background department and color keys for a long time, and I felt The Hunchback of Notre Dame  was the perfect film to do so with because of its breathtaking backgrounds. This colour key in particular depicts one of the most stunning shots in the final film and had a huge role to play in making the final shot look as dramatic as it does.

The term background art department might seem a bit self-explanatory, its the department that creates the background paintings for hand drawn animated films, but actually. there are  two departments that create  the background.  The first is the layout department, which is a complex entity in itself. For the context of this post, they’re sort of the set designers, they draw out all the backgrounds for an animated film. The background art department is a combination of set painters and lighting designers, they paint the fleshed out version of the background that the layout department draws. They choose what style each background is painted in, whether it be the medieval tapestry style of Eyvind Earle or the quirky modernist style of Mary Blair. This includes choosing what colour to use for each and every part of each background. This may be one of the most important parts of their job, because color creates the lighting, and by extension the mood of each shot. Background artists for animated films have more freedom than any lighting designer for a live-action film. They don’t have to rely on realism or nature, but can easily use their paints to give a sad scene all blue tones or a tense scene all red tones, thus heightening the mood of each sequence. It is this power that makes the background art departments one of the most subtly important departments in animation.

Colour keys are small concept paintings that help the background artists plan these colours and create the lighting and the mood. The background artists will make one colour key painting for ever sequence in the film, plus some extras for any strong changes in tone mid-sequence. Then they’ll  pin all the paintings up next to each other so that the Background Supervisor and the Directors can get an overall picture of the colour scheme of the film and how the mood changes from scene to scene. You’ll notice from this particular colour key  that people and objects are often just represented by simple shapes, and that details are vague or missing all together. That’s because the role of the colour key is focused on the bold, the colours and moods of a shot. This The Hunchback of Notre Dame colour key expresses this purpose incredibly well. Its focus is on the bright orange lighting coming from the blazing fires within the scene as well as the deep shadows surrounding Quasimodo and Esmeralda. Later on in the production process this colour key was used by the background artists  to create the dramatic background paintings of Notre Dame in the final version of this climatic scene.

So now you know a little more about the Background Art Department and how they used colour keys like this one to set the mood of this thrilling scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Image Credit: http://livlily.blogspot.com/2012/07/hunchback-of-notre-dame-1996-character_08.html


An Inside Out Masterpiece Monday


I realised recently that I’ve featured hardy any Pixar films on my blog so far, so I decided to change that today by writing a little about one of my favourite Pixar films Inside Out. This piece of character design concept art for Joy was created by Albert Lozano the character art director for the film. What I like about this particular drawing is it does a lot to express the unique qualities that make Joy and the other emotions different from most other animated characters. It also illustrates many of the specific qualities the character designers gave Joy so that she would better express her particular emotion and be an interesting and likable main character.

One of the most noticeable aspects of this piece of concept art are the small energy particles that radiate off Joy’s skin. When designing Joy the artists kept thinking of her as a little ball of energy and comparing her to sparklers and champagne bubbles. To reflect this inner quality of Joy’s the artists were constantly depicting her with a little aura of bubbles and sparks surrounding her. The technical side of the animation team knew that this aura of particles would be difficult and expensive to create, but director Pete Docter liked the idea, so he told them to try and if it got too expensive they’d cut it from the film. When John Lasseter saw the tests of Joy’s animation, he loved the particle aura and ordered it to be used on all the emotion characters. He felt this would give them a abstract “electro-chemical” quality. You’ll also notice that in this image Joy’s limbs bend in a cartoonish noodley way. This was another animation choice that was made for all the emotions in the film. As the embodiement of emotions they were allowed to bend and stretch in exaggerated caricature-like ways, something Pixar had never done before. All of these choices were made to clearly separate the emotions from the film’s human characters.

As an individual character Joy came with her own challanges. You’ll notice that Joy’s skin in this concept art gives off a bio-luminescent light. The character designers felt that since joy the emotion was associated with light, Joy the character ought to have a glow to her. Again the animators on the technical side of the film thought portraying this light in CG animation would be nearly impossible, but with a lot of hard work they did it. They made her glow a sort of replacement for her shadow, so that she was constantly shining light on the settings and places around her. Another unique quality about Joy is the star shape to her body, created by her very long limbs and spikey hair. This was the result of an effort from the character designers to have even the very shapes of each character’s body reflect ideas sorrunding that emotion as a concept. One of the few major differences between this drawing of Joy and the final character is her outfit. Here she wears a sort of  play suit meant to make her seem like a more childish character, as Joy was also seen as the embodiment of childhood by the character designers. In the end, they had her wear her green dress instead, but kept her with bare feet to give a sense of childish freedom to the character.

Hope you enjoyed this look at a concept drawing of Joy and all the challenges involved in bringing the emotional characters of Inside Out to life.

Image Credit:https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2015/06/18/pixar-inside-out-making-the-emotions-characters/28648779/