The Art of Blue Sky Studios
forwa rd thinking Discover how this plucky group of CGI geeks became one of the biggest animation studios in Hollywood
ounded in 1987 by six
F partners, animation company Blue Sky Studios has always wanted to push the boundaries of the form. It was the first studio to develop ray tracing so that light interacted with virtual objects as it should, rather than requiring artists to paint it in later. This opened up the way that CG could be used to create images and animation, and changed it from a geeky cinematic sideshow to a dazzling new way to create animation and entertainment.
As the Art of Blue Sky Studios reveals, the company’s projects were small-scale to start with. Yet it steadily moved up the CGI ranks, from talking M&Ms adverts, to singing cockroaches in cult movie Joe’s Apartment, to photorealistic effects sequences in big films such as Alien: Resurrection.
In 2002, the studio tackled its first movie: Ice Age. It was a challenge for Blue Sky studios to make, especially when ensuring that the snowy landscape didn’t look like a big white backdrop. Looking through the book it becomes clear that Blue Sky Studios’ solution was to fill the film with swathes of colour, with candle-lit caves, swirling northern lights and blue icy tundras.
Blue Sky Studios didn’t limit itself to the Ice Age, though. Robots takes place in a bizarre world populated by automatons; Horton Hears a Who brings Dr Seuss’ vivid imagination to life; Rio adds talking birds to the real world and Epic takes place in a microcosmic woodland world. It all bodes well for the studio’s future take on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters.
As an art book The Art of Blue Sky Studios is stunning. It’s remarkable that watery, vague concepts can suddenly pop to life when it’s rendered in a computer, and character breakdowns show just how many iterations were exhausted before final designs were settled on. There’s a fascinating discussion of how the studio employed an 85 per cent realistic and 15 per cent cartoony look for Rio, which kept things grounded while adding character.
If CG movies are your bag, and you can afford the £35 asking price, then you should look no further than this amazing tome, which is packed to the rafters with amazing art and brilliant ideas. It also tells the fascinating story of one of the most unfairly overlooked animation studios in Hollywood, which has forever lived in the shadow of Pixar.
In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the hairy heroes experience new dangers in a lush jungle environment.
This Greg Couch sketch from Robots shows how detailed the character design process was.