Ca­reer Ad­vice

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

Prac­ti­cal an­swers to real ques­tions from read­ers about tak­ing the next step in the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try.

The short an­swer is, you can’t. But thank­fully, you don’t have to. Don’t feel the need to lower your stan­dards and your fee just to get work. All this does is cause un­told headaches for you and low­ers the bar for the en­tire in­dus­try. Truth be told, there is an abun­dance of work to be found by well-pay­ing clients all over the globe. You just have to find them and do what it takes for them to be able to find you. Once found, you need to of­fer them a ben­e­fit they can’t get any­where else. Find your niche and your dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tors and shout them from the moun­tain top. I say let the bot­tom feed­ers feed on the bot­tom. It is your duty as a pro­fes­sional (not a “free­lancer”) to el­e­vate your brand — not drop it in the mud — by work­ing only with other pro­fes­sion­als that value your ex­per­tise and what you have to of­fer. Take the time you would have spent work­ing for peanuts with a toxic client, which would have only taken you fur­ther down the rab­bit hole, and in­stead use that to find qual­ity clients.

I think a good place to start would be to make an ob­jec­tive list of things that are prob­lem­atic and con­tribut­ing to your temp­ta­tion to throw in the towel. Are you work­ing too much but mak­ing too lit­tle? Try rais­ing your rates. Not work­ing enough? Try dou­bling your mar­ket­ing ef­forts or even hir­ing some­one to help with sales. Does money come too in­con­sis­tently for your com­fort? Fo­cus on find­ing more clients and check­ing with ex­ist­ing clients for more op­por­tu­ni­ties. Of­fer pay­ment plans for cer­tain clients so money comes in con­sis­tently over a pe­riod of time in­stead of all at once in a sin­gle check. The good news is, if you are truly passionate and de­ter­mined to make a go at the in­de­pen­dent lifestyle, all of your ob­sta­cles can be hur­dled, crawled un­der, or sim­ply walked around. Also, you should for­ever re­tire the word “free­lancer” from your dic­tionary and re­place it with “pro­fes­sional.” To best an­swer this ques­tion I think the most im­por­tant thing to con­sider is your pas­sion. Not hav­ing worked in the field at this point, it may be dif­fi­cult for you to know ex­actly what you want to do, but for starters you can pose this gut-check ques­tion: Am I most in­ter­ested in fo­cus­ing on one as­pect of an­i­ma­tion (such as char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion, mod­el­ing, light­ing, etc.), or am I more in­ter­ested in hav­ing a broader range of ex­pe­ri­ences?

Larger com­pa­nies tend to fill po­si­tions based on spe­cific, spe­cial­ized pro­duc­tion needs more so than small stu­dios. For ex­am­ple, they may be look­ing for a 3D land­scape mod­eler. When you ap­ply for and sub­se­quently land this job, you can be cer­tain that al­most ev­ery mo­ment of your ten­ure at this stu­dio will be mod­el­ing 3D land­scapes. If you re­ally like the sound of spe­cial­iz­ing in one area and be­com­ing very adept at it, and hav­ing your name in the cred­its for ma­jor films and games, then a larger stu­dio may be the best fit for you. Plus, larger stu­dios tend to have deeper pock­et­books and can af­ford big­ger and bet­ter toys, i.e. cus­tom soft­ware, in-house mo­tion-cap­ture rigs, sound stages, and more.

On the other hand, if you en­joy hav­ing a broader range of ex­pe­ri­ences and would like to con­trib­ute in mul­ti­ple ar­eas of pro­duc­tion and have your cre­ative in­put on projects more likely heard, your best bet is find­ing a small but rep­utable stu­dio to hang your hat for a while. A smaller stu­dio is more like a close-knit fam­ily where ev­ery­one knows each other. While there are usu­ally more op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment and con­tri­bu­tion on mul­ti­ple lev­els in a small stu­dio, you may not see your name in the cred­its of a sum­mer block­buster film, but if no­to­ri­ety on a global scale is not your mo­ti­va­tion, a small stu­dio might be just the place for you. Martin Gre­bing is pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion and can be reached via­ny­bonean­i­ma­

With Doc­tor Strange, Marvel Stu­dios en­ters a su­per­nat­u­ral realm that re­quires a new set of visual ef­fects tricks. The film­mak­ers not only found in­spi­ra­tion in comic-book artist Steve Ditko’s psy­che­delic tropes but also in Christo­pher Nolan’s Os­car-win­ning In­cep­tion ef­fect of bend­ing and fold­ing build­ings.

“For di­rec­tor Scott (Der­rick­son), it was about cre­at­ing new worlds and magic,” says VFX pro­duc­tion su­per­vi­sor Stephane Ceretti. “And there’s a huge range of magic, go­ing from the sim­ple ring shields to por­tals open­ing to other di­men­sions to en­tire cities be­ing bent to time go­ing back­wards.”

There are three ma­jor di­men­sional worlds — Mir­ror Di­men­sion, Dark Di­men­sion and As­tral Realm — each re­quir­ing dif­fer­ent looks. And Stephen Strange’s in­tro­duc­tion was called “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour” (with VFX cre­ated by Method), a film within the film’s psy­che­delic jour­ney, where Strange (played by Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch) gets pushed out of his body into worm holes and var­i­ous kalei­do­scopic shapes. The se­quence was heav­ily in­spired by the comic-book art­work of Ditko, who co-cre­ated Doc­tor Strange with Stan Lee in 1963.

“Charles Wood, the pro­duc­tion de­signer, came up with key points, which we did with con­cepts and pre­vis (by The Third Floor),” Ceretti says. “And Scott re­sponded to con­stantly evolv­ing and mov­ing worlds al­most as one long shot, in­spired by frac­tal worlds, macro pho­tog­ra­phy and kalei­do­scopic an­i­ma­tion.”

Bend­ing New York But the big­gest set piece — the most vis­ually com­plex in any Marvel movie thus far — is a con­fronta­tion be­tween Strange and Kae­cil­ius (Mads Mikkelsen) in New York, which was in­spired by M.C. Escher, who also in­spired In­cep­tion.

“We looked at ( In­cep­tion)

says. “We were try­ing to con­vey a cat-and­mouse chase where the frac­tal en­vi­ron­ment serves as the mouse­trap.”

ILM cre­ated a 3D city, mir­rored the edges and then ro­tated them 360 de­grees to put the au­di­ence in the cen­ter of a tube where all the walls were mir­rored ver­sions of a New York City. Marvel pushed the no­tion of mir­rored im- agery, which, com­bined with kalei­do­scopes, re­sulted in a visual de­sign lan­guage for the rapidly chang­ing fight­ing arena. Fully An­i­mated En­vi­ron­ments

Frame­store, mean­while, worked on the com­plex, kalei­do­scopic Man­del­brot de­sign of sets (led by an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Nathan McCon­nell), among other VFX.

Be­cause of the quan­tity of move­ment within the whole set, nearly ev­ery­thing needed to be an­i­mated. Even if Frame­store didn’t strictly need to an­i­mate a prop, they had to make it avail­able to the an­i­ma­tors in case cer­tain sur­round­ing el­e­ments within the scene needed to move in a dif­fer­ent way.

A new pipe­line was in­tro­duced to pro­vide the an­i­ma­tion team with a rig­ging tool of its own. This tool in­cluded all of the lev­els of move­ment and piv­ots. The an­i­ma­tors were able to rig ev­ery­thing them­selves, and had the power to du­pli­cate the ge­om­e­try if needed.

Once an­i­ma­tion had all of the as­sets, the ef­fects team then placed ad­di­tional Man­del­brot sponge frac­tal pat­terns in­side it, us­ing Hou­dini to drive a pro­pri­etary Arnold pro­ce­dural sur­face shader at ren­der time to give math­e­mat­i­cal or­ganic growth. The ef­fects artists changed pa­ram­e­ters for each ob­ject in­di­vid­u­ally, and com­bined dif­fer­ent sur­faces in one scene.

“The process was very dif­fi­cult,” Ceretti said. “We had less than six months to do the post on this film. But it’s like Guardians of the Galaxy, which I also worked on. There is so much in the Marvel uni­verse and the gen­res that we can play with.” Bill De­sowitz is crafts ed­i­tor of IndieWire ( and the au­thor of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­

J.K. Rowl­ing’s stand­alone Harry Pot­ter pre­quel, Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in­tro­duces au­di­ences to the ad­ven­tures of Min­istry of Magic Ma­g­i­zo­ol­o­gist Newt Sca­man­der (Ed­die Red­mayne) in New York’s se­cret com­mu­nity of witches and wizards in 1926.

Di­rected by Pot­ter vet­eran David Yates, the fan­tasy con­tains an as­sort­ment of col­or­ful char­ac­ters that escape from Sca­man­der’s suit­case, an­i­mated by Frame­store (based in Mon­treal and Lon­don), Dou­ble Neg­a­tive (Lon­don), MPC (Mon­treal), Im­age En­gine and oth­ers, over­seen by pro­duc­tion VFX su­per­vi­sors Chris­tian Manz and Tim Burke.

Yates wanted the crea­tures to be re­lat­able and only slightly an­thro­po­mor­phic, so they re­lied on dis­tinct an­i­mal ref­er­ence for in­spi­ra­tion.

Ini­tially, the su­per­vi­sors thought of en­vi­ron­ments for each crea­ture in­side the case, but Rowl­ing sug­gested that Sca­man­der would have to be as pow­er­ful as Volde­mort to pull that off, so they scaled it way back, but that gave them a good im­pe­tus for es­cap­ing.

Un­usual Crit­ters The Nif­fler, a badger-like crea­ture with a pen­chant for steal­ing trea­sure, was done by Frame­store. “He was al­ways go­ing to be a cheeky char­ac­ter that’s al­ways try­ing to get out to steal stuff and em­bar­rass Newt,” says Manz.

“We knew he was go­ing to rob a bank and a jew­elry store, but it was com­ing up with col­or­ful and in­ven­tive ways,” says Manz. “He’s feath­ered and we found great ref­er­ence of a honey badger raid­ing some­body’s house for food on the in­ter­net and that in­sa­tiable, an­i­mal­is­tic be­hav­ior be­came a great in­spi­ra­tion. And like a lot of the crea­tures on set, we had pup­peteers led by Robin Guiver, who was part of the team that did Grav­ity and the War Horse stage play.”

The Erumpent, also from Frame­store, is an enor­mous beast that re­sem­bles a rhino. Al-

though she was nailed early dur­ing the de­sign phase, the di­rec­tor wanted her re-worked be­cause she looked too dull. Un­for­tu­nately, she then be­came too fan­tas­ti­cal, so they went back to the orig­i­nal de­sign.

“It was im­por­tant that all of the crea­tures had to be be­liev­able,” says Burke. “Ref­er­enc­ing bi­son, ac­tu­ally, she be­came a fun thing to an­i­mate, with the in­ter­nal flow of her (lethal) fluid light­ing that gets more and more in­tense be­cause she’s in heat, and get­ting the jig­gle to work with elas­tic­ity.”

Im­age En­gine’s Swoop­ing Evil is a large bat-like crea­ture that re­sem­bles a but­ter­fly with blue and green wings. “The chal­lenge was first com­ing up with the look and tex­ture of the co­coon and then, when fully grown, the iri­des­cent, thin wings and the skull for a head,” Manz says. “And there again, it was about com­ing up with a chore­ographed rhythm of its swoops in pre­vis and postvis by The Third Floor. It had to wrap its way around peo­ple’s heads and suck peo­ple’s brains out, so we de­signed some­thing for the pur­pose it had to do.”

Blend­ing In MPC was re­spon­si­ble for the Demigu­ise, a cross be­tween an orangutan and a sloth with long sil­ver hair that can be­come in­vis­i­ble (and serves as the ba­sis for Pot­ter’s In­vis­i­bil­ity Cloak); the dragon-like Oc­camy, which can ex­pand or shrink it­self; and the Bil­ly­wig, a fast Aus­tralian in­sect with its wings at­tached to its head.

“We looked at an artist called Ver­uschka, who paints peo­ple so they dis­ap­pear into the en­vi­ron­ment ... a wall or the front of a shop,” Burke says. “So we de­vel­oped this idea how he could turn from solid to in­vis­i­ble. And David’s in­spi­ra­tion for the Demigu­ise is that he’s a wise, lit­tle, old man like Jim Broad­bent, who chat­ters away to him­self.

“When they get to the at­tic they dis­cover that he’s been babysit­ting the Oc­camy. The tricky thing of the Oc­camy was the de­sign of her body, which was part ser­pent, part bird. We found a pic­ture of a hum­ming­bird with in­di­vid­ual feath­ers that when fit to­gether al­most form a ser­pent-like pat­tern, so MPC used that as their in­spi­ra­tion. It was a mas­sive dig­i­tal set, so she was an­i­mated in pieces.”

Frame­store’s Bowtruckle, a tiny tree dweller used for mak­ing wands, is the only crea­ture that lives in­side Sca­man­der’s pocket. They went through 200 dif­fer­ent de­signs be­fore the di­rec­tor was pleased. “We orig­i­nally made him older but David wanted him young, who wants to be with Newt,” Manz says. “He has a lot of char­ac­ter without a lot of ex­pres­sion and we got to play with his phys­i­cal­ity.”

It took five VFX fa­cil­i­ties to cre­ate the elab­o­rate goblin ac­tion se­quence in­side The Blind Pig speakeasy (de­signed by Stu­art Craig, in­clud­ing jazz band in­stru­ments), high­lighted by gang­ster Gnarlak (voiced by Ron Perl­man and an­i­mated by Frame­store).

“It was a real group ef­fort to come up with some­thing new and unique for the Pot­ter uni­verse,” says Manz. Bill De­sowitz is crafts ed­i­tor of IndieWire ( and the au­thor of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­

An­i­ma­tion vet Eric Dar­nell re­veals the in­spi­ra­tion and ex­e­cu­tion be­hind Baobab Stu­dios’ hit VR an­i­mated film. By Trevor Hogg.

After di­rect­ing Antz and the Mada­gas­car fran­chise, Eric Dar­nell had a fate­ful en­counter with Mau­reen Fan, VP of games for Zynga. “Mau­reen had a VR head­set with her, and I put it on,” he says. “It blew me away. It was some­thing sim­ple, like un­der­wa­ter fish swim­ming around you. I just knew that VR had huge po­ten­tial.”

Dar­nell and Fan co-founded in 2015 Baobab Stu­dios, where he is chief cre­ative of­fi­cer and she is CEO. The VR startup raised $6 mil­lion for a se­ries of projects. “Our main fo­cus is cre­at­ing orig­i­nal con­tent and sto­ry­telling in VR,” says Dar­nell. “At the same time, we want to cre­ate sto­ries and char­ac­ters that peo­ple love and want to come back to, and have value that could ex­tend beyond a short six-minute movie like In­va­sion! If that leads to other things, like a book, then great, be­cause that’s where we ul­ti­mately see the value of the com­pany com­ing from.”

Baobab’s first VR an­i­mated film, In­va­sion!, was re­leased in July and has suc­cess­fully screened at the Cannes mar­ket, Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and Tribeca Film Fes­ti­val, and yielded a part­ner­ship with Roth Kirschen- baum Films for a big-screen adap­ta­tion.

In­va­sion! re­volves around a bunny named Chloe who en­coun­ters two alien in­vaders on a frozen lake.

“The whole idea of the story came from me watch­ing the orig­i­nal The War of the Worlds (1953),” says Dar­nell. “This great, un­stop­pable force goes up against the tini­est liv­ing things on the planet and the tini­est things win! I said, ‘We’ll do some­thing like that and up­grade the tiny things to fluffy bun­nies and down­grade the aliens into car­toon car­i­ca­tures.’”

Mac and Cheze were the names af­fec­tion­ately given to the hap­less blue space in­vaders. “I thought of the two char­ac­ters as Lau­rel and Hardy be­cause, de­spite all of their screw-ups and ar­gu­ments with one another, they were al­ways a team,” says Dar­nell. “I wanted to keep them sim­ple and lik­able, and find ways to dis­tin­guish them. One is a lit­tle shorter. One is more like a leader.”

An or­ganic qual­ity was re­quired for the oth­er­worldly mode of trans­porta­tion. “I just told the de­signer to imag­ine that the ship wasn’t built in a fac­tory but grown in a vat. So we ended up with this great big av­o­cado,” says Dar­nell.

Bunny Changes “For those who saw the teaser, the bunny wasn’t nearly as ap­peal­ing as the one that ended up ap­pear­ing in the fi­nal piece,” says Dar­nell. “We did things with the eyes to get the high­lights work­ing, as well as the iris and pupil. For the sur­face of the bunny we didn’t have a way to make her lit­er­ally furry.”

Fa­mous Dis­ney an­i­ma­tor and com­pany ad­viser Glen Keane of­fered this ad­vice: You have to an­i­mate the bunny soft. The so­lu­tion was de­rived from the mo­tion of the crea­ture, which ap­par­ently knows karate.

De­spite the light-heart­ed­ness, Mac and Cheze had to ap­pear as a real threat, which is re­flected in a shot where a bird is dis­in­te­grated into a mass of flut­ter­ing feath­ers.

“What helps with that is the hawk tried to kill the bunny ear­lier, so in a way the hawk gets its come­up­pance for its ar­ro­gance,” says Dar­nell, who orig­i­nally showed a trailer at Ocu­lus Con­nect in which the preda­tor sud­denly swoops in and flies off with its prey.

That con­cept was al­tered after an en­counter with a viewer at a con­fer­ence. “She said, ‘That was great, but I would never show this to my 5-year-old

Red Gi­ant is known for its ar­ray of com­posit­ing tool suites for After Ef­fects, Premiere, Fi­nal Cut and Avid, pro­vid­ing tools for gen­er­at­ing ef­fects, keys, par­ti­cles ... and color grad­ing through the Magic Bul­let Suite.

The lat­est re­lease has a bunch of cool new things, but the big­gest and best is that the en­tire suite has been rewrit­ten to take ad­van­tage of the GPU on your video card to ac­cel­er­ate the cal­cu­la­tions. And, on Adobe prod­ucts, Magic Bul­let taps into the OpenCL code driv­ing the Mer­cury Play­back for near real-time feed­back (de­pend­ing on the power of your card, of course).

Magic Bul­let Looks, the tool to quickly dial in dif­fer­ent grades for your footage, makes au­di­tion­ing dif­fer­ent looks even faster and quickly saves fa­vorites and cus­tom pre­sets (on top of the mul­ti­tude of pack­aged pre­sets). You can lit­er­ally slide your mouse over the sam­ple and view the re­sults. And if you sort of like the look, but maybe it’s a bit too heavy, you can ad­just a univer­sal slider to tame down the en­tire look.

Colorista pro­vides tools from a pro­fes­sional grad­ing suite, but in case you aren’t an ex­pert col­orist, there is a guided color process to take you through the tried and true stages to get you where you need to go. But even though less ex­pe­ri­enced users can use it, the pro stuff isn’t ex­cluded. Colorista will im­port LUTs (LUT Buddy will be phased out), and al­low for point-con­trolled RGB curves. But most sig­nif­i­cant, in my opin­ion, is that Colorista sup­ports Log col­orspace, and the tools ad­just their ef­fect to be­have ap­pro­pri­ately.

Magic Bul­let has al­ways had Denoiser for re­mov­ing grain from film and noise from dig­i­tal sources. Like ev­ery­thing else, the Denoiser has been rewrit­ten from scratch to use the GPU and is pow­ered by tech de­vel­oped by wrnch — a game/com­puter vi­sion/AR startup funded by Mark Cuban. But that’s not the best part. New to the suite, Renoiser, puts grain back into the footage to pro­vide a con­trolled film look with a small set of pre­sets that I’m sure will grow.

Mojo, which is kind of a stream­lined mash-up of Looks and Colorista, gets your footage to “Hol­ly­wood”-style grades faster with fewer con­trols (and con­se­quently less con­trol). Along with pre­sets and a few new con­trols like vi­gnette, tem­per­a­ture, tint and a univer­sal strength, Mojo still abides by the color sci­ence un­der the hood and ad­justs its math for Log or Flat footage.

Cosmo also has been sped up along with get­ting bet­ter re­sults to smooth out and “beau­tify” your ac­tors. An up­dated skin sam­pler acts as a keyer to iden­tify and iso­late skin tones so that you can con­trol those fea­tures without af­fect­ing the other as­pects of the frame.

Ev­ery­thing is re­vamped. And what’s kinda cool is that you can use each in iso­la­tion as their own plug­ins, or you can use them within Looks to bun­dle them to­gether as a pre­set that you can re­trieve and reap­ply. The whole suite is pretty fan­tas­tic to add punch to your footage, and I’d say es­sen­tial for those bud­ding film­mak­ers who don’t have a bud­get

Since its de­but in 1998, Yoshi­hiro To­gashi’s manga Hunter X Hunter has en­joyed a de­voted fol­low­ing: The 33 vol­umes have sold more than 65 mil­lion books in Ja­pan alone. To­gashi, who had scored a big hit with Yu Yu Hakusho, claimed he came up with the name Hunter X Hunter while watch­ing the pop­u­lar TV va­ri­ety show Down­town. The hosts would re­peat their lines to pro­voke laughs from the au­di­ence, so To­gashi says the “X” in the ti­tle is silent.

Hunter X Hunter was first adapted to an­i­ma­tion in a 62-episode broad­cast se­ries by Nip­pon in 1999, fol­lowed by 30 episodes of OAVs, two an­i­mated fea­tures, sev­eral video games and two mu­si­cals. VIZ is re­leas­ing the highly praised sec­ond an­i­mated ver­sion (148 episodes) that Mad­house pro­duced in 2011.

Twelve-year-old Gon (pro­nounced “Gohn” with a long “o”), the ir­re­press­ible hero of the se­ries, wants to fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps and be­come a Hunter, an ex­cit­ing po­si­tion that can lead to ad­ven­ture, trea­sure and dis­cov­er­ies. To ob­tain the nec­es­sary li­cense, Gon (voice by Erica Men­dez) and thou­sands of oth­ers must un­dergo a chal­leng­ing and po­ten­tially deadly se­ries of tests. Only a tiny frac­tion of the ap­pli­cants will suc­ceed.

What Gon lacks in phys­i­cal size, he makes up in speed, good­will and en­thu­si­asm. While on the ship to the test­ing site, he risks his life to res­cue a sailor swept away in a storm. Two other ap­pli­cants grab his legs to keep him from go­ing over­board, and Gon makes his first friends. Med­i­cal stu­dent Le­o­rio (Matthew Mercer) is con­sid­er­ably older. Volatile and im­pa­tient, he yells and fusses; but he also pro­vides ex­pert first aid when any­one needs it. Ku­rapika (Erika Har­lacher) is the same age as Gon, but much qui­eter. In­tel­li­gent and an­a­lyt­i­cal, he sizes up the sit­u­a­tion and fer­rets out tricks. They’re soon joined by the in­no­cent-look­ing but deadly Kil­lua (Cristina Vee), the scion of a clan of elite as­sas­sins.

While Gon is ex­cited about the ad­ven­tures the life of a Hunter of­fers — and the chance to fol­low his fa­ther’s ex­am­ple, Le­o­rio wants the money the job brings so he can fin­ish med­i­cal school. Ku­rapika wants to bring the gang that killed his fam­ily to jus­tice; Kil­lua is on the outs with his fam­ily and wants to take ac­tion against them.

A Fa­mil­iar Hero With his spiky hair, wide eyes and out­sized boots, Gon em­bod­ies the ea­ger half-pint who ap­pears in many manga and anime se­ries — Shoyo Hi­nata in Haikyuu!!, Nag­isa in Free!: Eter­nal Sum­mer or even Ash Ketchum in Poké­mon. From some an­gles, he even looks a bit like Astro Boy. But there’s more to Gon than meets the eye.

As the qual­i­fy­ing exam be­gins, an old woman tells Gon, Le­o­rio and Ku­rapika they have a few sec­onds to an­swer a ques­tion cor­rectly: If your son and daugh­ter had both been kid­napped and there was only time to res­cue one, which one would you save? Out­raged, Le­o­rio shouts that it’s not a fair ques­tion and there is no right an­swer. Ku­rapika tells him to shut up: he’s solved the puz­zle — there is no cor­rect an­swer — so stay silent.

When the woman replies Ku­rapika is right and they can pro­ceed, Gon re­mains deep in thought. He re­al­izes that al­though the ques­tion is hy­po­thet­i­cal, a Hunter might face a com­pa­ra­ble eth­i­cal dilemma in the real world: He needs to be pre­pared to deal with prob­lems that have no easy an­swers. This moral sen­si­tiv­ity gives Gon an ap­peal­ing depth his re­lent­lessly up­beat coun­ter­parts lack.

The first episodes in the se­ries fol­low the manga very closely. Gon bids farewell to the aunt who raised him after his fa­ther dis­ap­peared and sets out for the test­ing site. The chal­lenges he faces with his new friends range from the silly — catch­ing and cook­ing enough gi­ant wild boars to sat­isfy an ex­am­iner built like a gi­gan­tic Sumo wrestler — to a grim se­ries of one-onone matches against a cadre of hard­ened crim­i­nals.

Di­rec­tor Hiroshi Kou­jina keeps the ac­tion mov­ing while slowly de­vel­op­ing each of the four main char­ac­ters. Hunter X Hunter may not be a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing or ground-break­ing se­ries, but it’s an en­ter­tain­ing ad­ven­ture. Any­one look­ing for a hol­i­day gift for an el­e­men­tary school boy can be sure of get­ting “ex­cel­lent rel­a­tive” points with this set. The lim­ited edi­tion comes in a tin box with an as­sort­ment of post­cards from lo­ca­tions Gon and his friends visit. [

De­vel­oped and pro­duced by Warner An­i­ma­tion Group with sparkling CG an­i­ma­tion from Image­works, Ni­cholas Stoller and Doug Sweet­land’s crowd pleaser rein­vents the age old ques­tion “Where do ba­bies come from?” In this era, storks de­liver in­ter­net or­ders in­stead of in­fants. But

ILM used frac­tals to bend cityscapes and cre­ate oth­er­worldly di­men­sions for Doc­tor Strange.

The goblin Gnarlak was voiced by Ron Perl­man and an­i­mated by Frame­store for Warner Bros.’

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