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

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Reviews - Au­thor Jake S Friedman Pub­lisher Ti­tan Books Price £35 Web www.ti­tan­books.com Avail­able Now

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.

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