Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Powder & The Glory on PBS

This is a reminder to some (an anouncment to everyone else) that the documentary The Powder & the Glory will air nationally on PBS— Monday, March 23, 2009 at 10PM (check your local listings). You may remember that I created a number of animations for the film with the help of my super talented friends at FableVision. I'm very excited for the television premiere, especially for producers/creators Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman who put so much effort into making and promoting the film (who were incredible to work with!) They both have such an appreciation for animation.

Here's a brief synopsis direct from the film's website:

"The story of how two pioneering entrepreneurial women—Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein—created an industry, became global rivals and cultural icons, and changed the way we look at ourselves."

The documentary is a powerful narrative and has a great sense of humor about itself. I couldn't recommend it more. You can read more about it, and watch a preview (that contains one of my animations!) at this PBS website.

UPDATE: If you missed it on Monday, The Powder & the Glory continues to air throughout the week on some PBS stations. So check your local listings. For example: it airs on New Hampshire's WENH 11 tonight (Wednesday) at 10PM, Sacramento's KVIE 6 on Thursday (3/26), and San Diego's KPBS 15 on Sunday (3/29)

(you'll have to hop over to my blog if you're in Google Reader or the like)

Elizabeth Arden

Watch in full resolution.

Flappers and Lipstick

Watch in full resolution.

Helena Rubinstein

Watch in full resolution.

A Robbery!

Watch in full resolution.

Note that all these versions don't have final sound design.
Thanks for watching!

UPDATE 2: Special thanks to Cold Hard Flash and Michael Sporn for posting about the animations! (click links for mentions)

Related posts:

History, animated.
Flappers and Lipstick
Helena Rubinstein
A Robbery! (animated)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lure of the Labyrinth

My company, FableVision, recently launched an educational game called Lure of the Labyrinth in collaboration with MIT and Maryland Public Television. It's a story-based game grounded in logic puzzles where students work to find their lost pet and save the world from monsters. It's currently being tested in schools across the country, but it's also open to everyone online for FREE. And its super easy to sign up. Click on the link below to take it for a spin:

--> Lure of the Labyrinth

Okay, on to the post. I should apologize ahead of time because this is gonna be a huge dump of concept art I created for the game. One of the things that made this project so amazing is that we had a ton of time up front to hammer out the look and feel. My bud Keith Zulawnik and I spent a good month or two just drawing and experimenting. Which might not sound a lot, but we normally have to hit the ground running at FableVision. We knew the game would be full of monsters, so that's where we started. Here are some of my weirder concoctions.

As is the case with concept art, none of these made it into the game. Keith ended up taking the visual lead, so Labyrinth is not a cartoony landscape. It's more a dark fantasy dreamscape, which fits the story perfectly. Still, we drew a ton, and fed off each other.

Here is a monster I drew when one possible story arc involved monsters who secretly loved and cared for the kidnapped pets.

When we started getting more specific, character design was the next big thing to tackle. Iris is a mysterious fairy companion who you meet early in the game. She's someone you're not sure you can trust, but you don't have much of a choice.

Keith and I riffed off each other throughout the project. It was at this point in Iris's development that Keith made a significant breakthrough. I love his design.

I played a larger role defining the look of the comics in the game (as I was going to be the one drawing them). So, Keith's version needed to be translated into a comic book style that could be drawn in Flash.

We bounced around designs and concepts like this all the time. It was the perfect collaboration. Here's a case of another primary character, the Minotaur, in a very early sketch I drew up:

Followed by Keith's more complete designs:

And some comic pages of both the Minotaur and Iris that I drew:

In another instance, we needed a group of monsters of varying types and sizes for the Cafeteria game. Here's one line-up I created:

And here's where Keith landed for the final game design:

As we ramped up on production, we each plowed ahead in our own directions. I created a character called "Muck Thing" on my own, because Keith trusted my knack for grossness.

Here's the entrance pipe to the monster world I doodled with a brush pen on paper. It stuck, and made it into the comic.

Some of the comics I drew never made it into the final game...weren't even colored, for that matter. We decided early on that we needed to edit back the number of pages in the story so we could get it all done on time with some semblance of sanity. I really enjoyed drawing a "lunch lady" version of Medusa. These were supposed to appear after you beat each successive level of the Cafeteria game.

That's a good enough dump for now. Definitely check out the game when you get a chance. And be sure to hop on over to Keith's blog for more things Labyrinth-related.

Also, I've posted about Labyrinth before. Here are some related links:

Final Battle
Customized Comics
Dweebs and Guards

Monday, March 09, 2009

FlashTips: Questions Anyone?

It's been a couple months since my first tutorial on inking in Flash, which I followed by one on coloring. So I thought it would be a good time to ask everyone how you're doing and if you have any questions or suggestions for future tutorials. I've thought about doing a short demo on approaches to lipsyncing, but that gets more into animation (less drawing). Is anyone stuck on a certain aspect of drawing or coloring that I can answer? Are people interested in Flash as an animation tool as well? Do you want to know more about the guts of the program? The floor is open, just leave your questions or ideas as a comment. Let's just stay away from topics directly related to CS4 (where a lot of new features have been added). I'm still getting up to speed, myself.

I also wanted to mention you can now follow me on Twitter @bobjinx.

FlashTip #1: Drawing with a Brush
FlashTip #2: Approaches to Coloring

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Reed Gunther

A couple weeks ago Chris Houghton asked me if I'd be interested in doing a pin-up for his soon to be released comic named "Reed Gunther and the Steak Snacking Snake!" He recently posted some layouts on his blog. Simply put, its a story about a bear-riding cowboy named Reed Gunther. Chris sent me a bunch of amazing samples to work from, including these handy character sheets:

The task was to figure out how to put my own personal spin on the characters. I really like Chris's designs, so at first I didn't know how far I should go, or how much to deconstruct them. I figured I should start by making them a hair more cartoony, only slightly changing the proportions.

Then I really toyed with the proportions. Their heads got considerably bigger, and there are hints of the ole noodle arms sneaking into Reed's design.

So, I emailed these pencils to Chris, and while he liked them a lot, he pointed out that they weren't really in my "trademark" style (if there is such a thing). Especially the first one. So, he encouraged me to have even more fun with them—giving me the license to make them as cartoony as I wanted.

Moving forward, I took the latest round and punched up the cartoony factor even more, channeling the old-fashioned 20s and 30s cartoons I hold dear. Starla was the trickier one to work out. I landed on a bow-legged solution for her legs that makes for a fun pose—though admittedly less feminine—with a splash of Olive Oyl.

I decided to ink in Flash so I could make changes and tweak as needed.

It was amusing trying to translate a set of characters into my style. And an interesting process. From here I'll be adding a simple desert background and some typography for the finishing touches. Be sure to look for "Reed Gunther" come May!