Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Art of Blue Sky

... the studio, not the atmosphere above our aging earth.

Before 2002, the Connecticut-based Blue Sky Studios was best known for its commercials and visual effects. Started by animator and Tron veteran Chris Wedge and a tiny group of co-founders in 1987, the studio created simple animated logos and everyday objects (such as a time-release pill for a pharmaceutical ad) before creating more complex, character-based work for clients such as M&Ms and Nickelodeon.

The Art Of Blue Sky Studios covers the company’s output to date, with writer Jake S Friedman leading us, film by film, through such films as Robots, Horton Hears A Who, Rio and Epic, as well as the Ice Age series, with contributions from the artists involved in bringing them to the screen. ...

This Art Of focuses almost exclusively on the concept art and character sketches created by such artists as Kyle Macnaughton, Greg Couch and Peter de Seve - much of it produced either with traditional pencils, pens and paints or with a graphics tablet. What this means is that, as you turn each page, you’re confronted by wildly different textures and techniques, from early, abandoned character designs for Ice Age, quickly etched out with bold pencil strokes, to bold and often quite beautiful landscapes picked out in fresh, shimmering colors. ...

A veteran of the first Ice Age tells me that the studio's pivot away from the "boutique studio" mind-set of commercials and short films was not painless. Staffers were used to working by themselves on individual pieces: separate lighting, separate designs, separate shots.

But this method of working wasn't feasible for a long-form feature, and Blue Sky artists had to become more collaborative, work as a team. Clearly they succeeded, but there was a bit of angst before the new methods took hold.


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