Monday, 7 January 2013

The Christmas break

As well as a visit from Santa, eating lots of food and wearing numerous jumpers, this Christmas I made sure I spent time catching up with work missed, as well as doing various things which class as personal development on the course.

First off I made the New Year's resolution to watch more films. May sound silly for a film student to do, but I suck big time when it comes to watching 'popular' films such as the 'LOTR' series or 'Star Wars', or any major blockbuster for that matter. So I made a list, a long one at that, of all the films I should really have seen, and a few I personally want to see, as well as other suggestions from friends. I have my work cut out to see all of these this year, but if I see a large section of them I will be happy!! I have also written down a few TV series' I enjoy watching and some anime series' which I have started and need to continue watching online.

Santa also gave me a helping hand this year on my quest to become an aspiring animator and got me a few goodies which should help me on my way. The first, was a book which I have been longing for since I first heard it existed a year ago, 'The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. From just a flick through I knew that this book would give me inspiration for decades, and is definitely a good book to have in my collection, as it is so full of history, let alone the fact it is my favourite Disney film (followed very closely by Bambi).

The second gift I had was the DVD of Pixar's latest feature film 'Brave'. Having seen it in the cinema with Chris at the end of summer, I have been anxiously awaiting its release on DVD to watch it all over again (and again... and again...), it was truly beautiful.

Another DVD I was given this Christmas was 'Tintin', which I have still yet to see properly (having only briefly watched the beginning of the film). Hopefully I will be just as enticed watching it as I was with Brave, as I often find it difficult to be fully gripped with full 3D animated films.

From my sister I was given a Bambi mug, although this won't help me directly become an animator (bare with me...), I will look down as my mug whilst drinking endless amounts of coffee late into the night working, and I will remember where I want to be, and that the time and effort to learn the skills and the time and effort actually creating the animation will be worth it.

My main gift this year from my parents was something really unexpected, a trip in June to Birmingham, but not just any old trip (as I live in Telford, with Birmingham being the closest city, it wouldn't have been the most exciting present to receive..!), a trip to the Birmingham Hippodrome to see the West End performance of 'The Lion King', yet again Disney related! I have wanted to see this production for years, and never had the chance (or the money) to go to London to see it, so I am really excited, especially to look at the costume and set design, and how they have adapted a well loved animation into a theatrical piece for on stage.

Another thing that happens usually in the Christmas period is watching TV, and lots of it. As it's cold outside, this is usually what happens in the Frampton household, with the odd dog walk to run my crazy Dalmatians energy off (yet another reminder of Walt Disney, however I only have one, not quite the impressive 101!). This year has been no exception....

My sister and I decided that we would re-watch the Harry Potter series in the evenings, fitting around the day time TV. I am still astounded by the visual effects in all of the films, and how progressively they have got better and better! Little did I know that one of my uncle's old school friend (who also went to my Dad's school) played a part in making the films so remarkable. You can visit his IMDb here and faint with ore like I did, not to mention he works at Double Negative now. Which then brought my attention to how they actually made the films, and was shown these VFX reels by Chris which again makes the films that bit more impressive for me.

On Christmas Eve the well awaited short film 'The Snowman and the Snowdog' had its TV premiere, however I wasn't blown away by it at all. Just from the advert I knew that I would have my reservations about the film, and was slightly dreading watching it (which may sound rather strange). As a massive lover of 2D animation as an art form, and also a huge fan of the original 'Snowman' film as I grew up watching it on video most years if not every year, I was worried it wouldn't live up to my expectations. They did retain the beautiful style and medium, but the actual animation movement wise was just not up to scratch, especially when it came to the walk of the young boy when he came out of the car (it made me cringe it was that jaunty, and the timing and positioning of the legs looked unnatural and off-putting to watch) and the flying of the same boy with the snowman and snow dog (with the strange 360 degree view of them where the looked to be staying still but the scenery was flying past, it just looked as if it hadn't been thought about, especially in comparison to the epic flying scene in the original film). As a sequel too, it lacked in a well thought out narrative I found, and the story itself was far too rushed, when a few extra minutes may have made the timings of emotion more realistic to watch. However saying this, the rest of my family seemed to enjoy it, especially my Mum who was also a fan of the original film, so maybe it is just me being too critical? It was good to see one original character in the film (The Snowman of course), and the snow dog character was also a cute addition, and fitted in with the character style of the previous films. Overall I was disappointed by the film, but who am I to judge! Here is another review on the film, with a slightly more positive outloook on the film! (Either way, LONG LIVE 2D!)

Even after all of that, I still found watching this making of video really inspiring, that so many people with so much talent came together to create something which would entertain so many. I also found it especially interesting that they used AfterEffects, a program which I enjoy using and want to learn more about, as a key part of the animation process.

On Christmas day itself I begged and begged to keep the TV free at 4.30. Although no one else was particularly bothered with watching 'Room on the Broom', I was stupendously excited, especially after the beautifully animated versions of 'The Gruffalo' and 'The Gruffalo's Child' from previous Christmas' by the same animation team. As 3D animation goes, these guys in my opinion are the icing on the cake (with Pixar nicking the place of the cherry on top). It looks so beautiful, and almost like puppets as the aesthetic is to look as hand crafted as possible. As the film has only just been realised there are no 'making of' websites or videos yet, but I shall keep my eyes very well pealed!

you can visit the films lovely website here:

On Boxing Day I finally got the chance to see 'How to Train Your Dragon', however I unfortunately missed a big chunk of the beginning so hopefully I will be able to watch it again but the whole way through! Having seen some of the behind the scenes work with the character development and 3D modelling process of Toothless the dragon (a rather beautiful one at that) at Canterbury's Anifest, I was glued to the TV when the scenes shown then were on, as all the things I had seen before all came back to me. I absolutely adore the character and charm a supposedly horrifying creature can have, and the expression in his eyes. This heart warming tale really did warm my heart (how cheesy), and I genuinely felt excited at the idea of learning how to animate in 3D (which although I love Pixar and Magic Light Pictures, I was never fully inspired to learn how to animate in 3D and instead took the aesthetic of the character development and the narrative on in my head, rather than the animated style. Where as after this filmed I wanted to 'Know how to do that, in that way', which is a massive step for me).

During the break I also was able to watch 'Shrek Forever After', the final instalment of the 'Shrek' series of films. Having seen the previous three films, I was interested to see how this story line would differ, and if the fundamental elements of character and environment would change or progress much from the earlier films. As mentioned before I'm not the greatest fan when it comes to 3D animation, but somehow Shrek still manages to grab my attention throughout (the third film sadly didn't as much though, so I was intrigued to see if the forth could) and even made me have a little cry at the end (I need to man up a little and stop crying at every animation I watch! Have of the crying was because the story-line was sad, half was because I want to be able to animate well!!!) Overall I was glad I caught the film just as it was starting, and took the time to watch it, as usually I would have turned it over, but it was a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Arrietty was a film I desperately wanted to see, but never have been able to, and I was lucky enough that it was shown on TV over christmas. As a massive Ghibli fan I was interested to see how this would compare to their other films, especially as it is based around 'The Borrowers', one of my favourite films growing up. The environment design didn't let me down at all, and the character design was just as lovely; however I felt that the story line wasn't quite as I hoped and was a bit too basic (especially when I am used to cat shaped buses coming out of nowhere).

I was really interested to find some of the concept art and initial drawings, and these two were my favourite, as I love the limited colour and focus on lighting in the first image, and the use of water colour and vivid colour in the second.

On the last full day at home, my parents decided to take us out to the cinema to see Life of Pi, a film I wasn't particularly bothered about watching, simply as I knew nothing about the narrative. I thought from the advert that it looked visually interesting, but I didn't realise that it would be quite so breathtaking. Although I have no real interest in working with CGI, I can appreciate the skill and time it must have taken to create such a beautiful film. I will be talking about it in further detail in another post.

Another major thing I have discussed about over this holiday was travelling. As I haven't had the chance to go to many places in the UK or outside, I have decided to try and go to as many animation festivals (if the line up is good...) and exhibitions as possible this year, as well as general travelling and exploring to open up my mind to new ideas.

The last thing I will leave you with in this post is this lovely how to train your dragon christmas short! It is really nicely done, with another lovely storyline, which made me fall in love with Toothless even more!

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