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Surf's Up Academy Award Nomination!

Today I just found out that Surf's Up was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Woo-hoo, now that was a pleasant surprise.

Chances of getting this award are slim because last year another animated penguin movie won, and it would be hard pressed for the Academy to vote two penguin movies back to back. Nonetheless, it was great to have the nomination, and there's always a chance.

Here's a drawing I did for Surf's Up in order to work out what we expected from the water effects. In this drawing I tried to draw every aspect of what we needed from our CG bretheren, Rob Bredow and the rest of the guys at Imageworks. I called out each of the individual components we needed to see, from the swell, plunging wave, rolling foam, soup and shoreline foam. There were about 25 different variables I had called out.

Still, this makes a pretty drawing, so I thought I'd post it. It also has a Vignali penguin standing on the shore. You can also find this drawing in the Making-Of book. (This image is nice and big! Enjoy.)



Pengu Map

The reality about working on animated pictures is that it is not all pretty pictures and fun conceptualizing. Once the project moves into "production" the job entails that we solve location problems, come up with cost effective design solutions, control sightline placement, or provide for the overall structure or mechanics of ANY given object.

A virtual world is still a world, and so it must be thought of in terms of 3D -- THE ENTIRE WORLD must be thought of as a real physical place.

In this case I had to design Pengu Island, I took it upon myself to work this out. Granted, we never see a top down vantage point in the film, but still the design had to be made to have the 3D modelers create the island.

With every new location, I tried to imagine the most effective way of communicating my designs or art direction to everyone on the project. We had already done several drawings of the beaches, the whale landing station, Reggie’s trinket bazaar, the stage and the Big Z Memorial. Now we had to tie it all together, I thought perhaps an elevation map would be the best way in this case.

The foreground areas marked in color are those areas we modeled, for the rest we used lower res models and matt paintings.

This drawing shows the topography, with added layers of elements for placement -- such as rocks and other various locations. Each new element had its own layer. Ultimately, there were other layers with bush placement, tree placement and prop placement. The drawings were then put into a design package and delivered to the modeling department in a presentation.


Surf's Up Rough Character Design

When we started the Surf's Up project, there was no script, directors or character designers. Regardless, we knew this was going to be our next project and so began the task of fleshing out this world.

One of the inherent problems that penguins have is that they all look a like. So, I thought it would be interesting to play with the patterning of the penguins to make them more distinctive and interesting. I began exploring patterning that would reflect the tattoo patterns that surfers today wear. Here's one of my rough concept sketches for my idea.

When the directors came on board, they liked this idea of tattoo patterning and so it stuck. Later on, Sylvain Deboissy became our character designer and did a fantastic job creating the various patterning you see in the final character designs.

This drawing is pen and magic marker. No...heh-heh...magic marker is not a computer program.