Monday, November 10, 2014

SESAME STREET _ 45th Birthday Easter Eggs

Today is brought to you by the number 45, as in, the 45th Anniversary of Sesame Street.



It's not an overstatement to say that I wouldn't be the artist, and person, I am today without Sesame Street. As a kid I was a twice a day viewer and early on I identified Jim Henson as my first artistic idol.

This has been a dream job to follow and walk alongside all of the great talents that have had a hand in making the show what it is.

Over the last few years, I've hidden a number of Easter Egg references to classic skits inside spots that I've art directed. They're nods to other fans, tributes to creators, and generally continuing the visual legacy of the show.

I've shared the King of 8's castle HERE and some Star Wars-themed guest appearances HERE but below are a few more along with their original inspirations to honor the occasion.

PINBALL COUNT SERIES



The insanely catchy animated classic is referenced in the "Sesame Kinect" game as a wall clock and as the animated graphic behind Elmo in the "Dance, Dance, Revolution" parody in "Elmo's Alphabet Adventure."




FURRY POTTER



The main hall of the "Crumby Pictures" Harry Potter parody is loaded with Sesame references, including the Dragon as gargoyles, Elmo and Abby in their World of Wordcraft costumes as statues, paintings of the Amazing Mumford, Herry Monster, and the witch from Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree, as well as house banners featuring semi-retired Sesame characters Sammy the Snake (Slytherin), Chicago the Lion (Gryffindor), and Little Bird (Ravenclaw).


Here's Herry Monster in action counting with John John, one of my favorite kid moments on Sesame.



SUPER GROVER 2.0

Super Grover 2.0 was the first regular segment that Magnetic Dreams Studio worked on for Sesame, providing full computer-generated environments and some characters. This season was the first time I got to design for the segment as well. Two of them have already aired, including this one with a super cute duckling.



But, it's an upcoming episode where I added these references to two of the most memorable clips, including:

 The slightly unnerving Operatic Orange






and the oh so 70s "I Can Remember"




Thursday, September 25, 2014

STAR S'MORES _ Art Direction


The 45th Season of Sesame Street premiered last week and with it came the 2nd Season of COOKIE'S CRUMBY PICTURES, a show within the show that features Cookie Monster parodies of popular films.

It's a continuation of Magnetic Dreams Studios' work on various Sesame projects and another chance for us to do farcical recreations of movies that inspire us. None of them elicited more enthusiasm and creativity from our team than the Star Wars spoof, STAR S'MORES!





Below are some pieces of concept art and finished frames. As Art Director, I create the initial brainstorming pieces with Sesame and Creative Director, Rickey Boyd. 

Determining the nature of our dessert-based "Death Star."

Once it was confirmed that it would be mechanical, I incorporated baking-themed hardware (muffin trays, spoons, waffle irons) into the interior design.


From there, I'll do rough photo plate work-ups as reference for backgrounds that will be fully modeled by our CG dept. There's usually one per episode but we ended up with 4 for this one.

My rough concept for a graham cracker and kitchen cockpit for the "S'morellennium Falcon."

And... the final model by Brad Applebaum with additional lighting, color, and effects by our Compositors. 


Finally, I'm responsible for any of the 2D assets: photo plates, logos, graphics, and any puppeted characters.

A closer look at my 2D Tatooine and our cameos of a "Banthalupagus" and "R2-PU."

With stellar writing, performances, and source material to work from, these have been a blast to develop. We're currently in production on the recently-announced Avengers and Jurassic Park spoofs and here's a sneak preview of a few more upcoming episodes this season...




Monday, September 22, 2014

THE SHOWING _ Poster Illustration

I got to illustrate this poster for S/Lang Entertainment's stellar short film,
THE SHOWING.


It's dreamy material and I had a beautifully shot still and "Hitchcock blonde" lead actress Katie Morrison to work from.

It was also my first time doing digital watercolor, abetted by Kyle T. Webster's extremely natural and responsive brushes.

The film will drop this fall, trailer below and an IMDb profile has been added HERE:


The Showing Trailer from S/Lang Entertainment on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

NINJA TURTLES _ Color Supervisor

The Bay-ification of The Ninja Turtles has hit movie theaters, noses and all. These characters have been realized in so many iterations across every medium but I still enjoy that such an oddball concept can continue to have such cultural currency. The impending release resulted in a little reminiscing with color artist Emilio Lopez and director Roy Burdine about our time working on the 4Kids' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series in the early 00s. 

The series ran closer to the action roots of the comic book than the popular pizza eating version of the 80s. Aesthetically, the characters had an angular athleticism and the backgrounds were built around large swaths of black.




I wrote about the cinematic approach we had to color HERE but here are two more of my paintings, the first featuring one of my favorite places on the planet (the blue whale room of the Museum of Natural History in NYC).




By the end of the series, the Turtles visited dark alternate futures and went on an epic adventure tracing the origins of the original Shredder. There was the episode, Insane in the Membrane, that didn't originally air in America. Although it's notable for delving into Baxter Stockman's back story, his decomposing clone body gets his jaw kicked off by April O' Neil (!). And, another show had its plug pulled before we completed production because it featured the back alley surgery of conjoined infants who become two of the Turtles greatest enemies. Yeesh.



Going after a lighter tone, the network sent the team to the future and rebooted the show as Fast Forward in 2003.




A flatter, brighter palette accentuated the change and I had the opportunity to develop the color for the core cast and vehicles:





I mean, really bright. I originally colored the "Dark Turtles" skin tones in off shades of green before they landed on something closer to their corresponding bandanna colors.




And, with their future swank penthouse headquarters and training dojo, here are a few of the Fast Forward Turtle backgrounds I painted:





PART I HERE

Saturday, November 2, 2013

DETONATOR _ Movie Poster Design

DETONATOR is a killer first feature film by bud Damon Maulucci and his co-creator Keir Politz. Even though I'm biased, this tale resonated with me in its conflict of art, big dreams, big business, and the responsibilities of adult domesticity. Here's the rub:
Sully fights to hold on to his family when a toxic friend resurfaces. In this gritty thriller, Sully, former frontman of a once prominent punk band, anxiously trudges toward a new world in order to remain in his young son’s daily life when ex-bandmate, Mick, catches him mid-stride with a promise to make good on an old debt. In one hellish night that stretches till dawn, Sully chases Mick through the recesses of Philadelphia.
I had the chance to help the filmmakers work up a poster for their showing at the Indie Memphis Film Festival this weekend. The subject matter begged for a lo-fi photocopied concert flier treatment. After a few iterations, we arrived at the following image based on a flier they did for a local screening and with my hand lettering for the credits.



And, here's a look at some earlier roughs (with dummy copy as credits).








Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CRUMBY PICTURES _ Art Direction for Sesame Street


Long time, no blog.

I'm finally able to open the oven on CRUMBY PICTURES, the Cookie Monster movie trailer parody series that premiered on Season 44 ( ! ) of Sesame Street this week. Rather than a classroom curriculum of math or literacy, these shorts teach executive functions (self-control, patience, delayed gratification) by having the impetuous monster face personal challenges as the star of famous flicks (including Lord of the Rings, Life of Pi, and Hunger Games).

MAGNETIC DREAMS has worked with Sesame Workshop for years now (Elmo the Musical, shorts like Birdwalk Empire, Super Grover 2.0) creating computer-generated characters and backgrounds to accompany Muppet performances shot on green screen.

For Crumby Pictures, the goal was to make the production feel as much like the original movies as possible from little Easter Egg details to overall polish.

In classic Muppet fashion, the opening starts with a bang. A send-up of the Universal logo animation, one bite into a chocolate chip planet results in an exploding crumby debris field (rigged by Benjamin Rodriguez). Below is an alternate snazzier version of the logo I had proposed.


THE BISCOTTI KID (parody of The Karate Kid) was the first to air as a sneak preview on the internet. After the video are my logo and some still frames (Creative Director, Rickey Boyd and Comp Director, Rhea Borzak). A lot of great in-jokes in the script and I threw in some recognizable objects like the handheld drum from Karate Kid 2.





THE SPY WHO LOVED COOKIES (parody of both the old and new Bond movies, including the song "Cookie Fall") was essentially our pilot episode of the series. Most episodes contain a single full CG set (here, Ladyfinger's lair as concept art by me, final model by Brad Applebaum) and photocomp plates that I create and are thoroughly embellished by our compositing team.



Below are my backplate for the vista outside Ladyfinger's Lair and unused backgrounds for scenes in M's office and Q's lab that were cut for time.





Sunday, July 14, 2013

"NOBODY CARES" _ An Update


At the end of last year, I helped a group of local Nashville students create an artwork that expressed the violence in their neighborhood. It's called "Nobody Cares." For more detailed information, go HERE.

They depicted themselves as piƱatas, burst open and spilling traits on paper that would be their eulogies, those qualities the world would lose in their passing. But the piece wouldn't be finished until the public was able to interact with it at the Frist Center gallery in the entrance hall this April. Now, only a few months later, the artwork is literally overwhelmed with the red and pink accounts of violence the viewers have experienced and of the lives they mourn. 

And, here's feedback from the Associate Educator at the museum:

"NOBODY CARES has really filled out and is a vibrant shock to the viewing public as a whole. Many responses have been shared to the point we are having to regulate the weight of the paper messages so other can continue to add to the piece."

Today's a day to remember the deceased, celebrate the living, and denounce those who choose to bring more violence into the world by their own hand.