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Puss In Books

Never judge a book by its cover – especially the one pictured at left. The artwork inside is more like the fantastic painting above. I haven’t seen the new Puss In Boots movie yet, but two books in particular are being released this month, tying into the Dreamworks feature, that are seriously worthy of your bookshelf space. Puss In Boots: The Cat. The Boots. The Legend, adapted by Tina Gallo and illustrated by character designer/story artist Ovi Nedelcu, is a delightful children’s book made moreso by Nedelcu’s appealing images. This 24-page book is part of Simon & Shuster’s Spotlight line (their equivalent of Little Golden Books) and it only costs $3.99. Wanna see more? Check out all the cool art on Ovi’s blog.

Never judge a movie spin-off by its preceding Shrek connections, nor how good its “Art-of” book looks – but once again the concept art connected to a new Dreamworks film looks amazing. My friend Ramin Zahed has penned an informative text to accompany the gorgeous inspirational pieces (Richard Daskas, Ronald A. Kurniawan, Guillaume Aretos, etc.), character designs (Patrick Maté), storyboards (Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, Bob Persichetti), color script (Nate Wragg), and all the paintings, paintings, paintings (by Nathan Fowkes, Dominique Louis, Kirsten Kawamura and so many others) collected in the new The Art of Puss In Boots. I just got a copy and highly recommend it – a worthy addition to the collection. Now, let’s hope the film lives up to all this great visual material.

  • Mister Twister

    I am interested.

  • Daniel

    the film will always look worse then the visdev pieces because all the production people down the line just aren’t artists. The CG supervisors kill and waterdown anything that had life in the work and the art director and director too scared to defend it.

    People wonder for years why the film doesn’t live up to the artwork. In my opinion it’s CG supervisors and people who work in CG that water it down every inch of the process which makes it more and more generic, complicated, clumsy, akward, and dull.

    It seems like the people that go in to CG are the artists in art school that never made it as a artist… (just look at the artwork on their blogs!!) yet they hold the responsibility of giving you the final image on screen..

    The complete opposite seems to happen in stop motion, where designs look like they are getting better and better each step of the way..

    • M. V.

      I think that’s an oversimplification. Not to mention condescending

      A painting or a drawing is usually the work of a single artist. Even when interpreting someone else work. There’s a unity and harmony to a piece of good art because its one hand and one mind.

      But a film is the result of a large number of people with radically different disciplines. particularly in 3D where there you have a mix of artist, technicians, programmers etc that all have to create a different piece of the same puzzle. As “art by committee” goes I think the current cg pipeline is a marvel to behold

      • daniel

        A good film is not the result of a large number of people with different disciplines.. ask anyone that works in the industry, their job is to service the directors vision of his film.. they are director-driven.. all the best films were done that way.. from chaplin to kurosawa to tarkovsky.. one vision

        The fact that cg films are design by comitee, is the very reason why the films all look tacky and horrible.. the frame stills always look like a big mix of bad tastes slopped together.. (usually because the cg production people seem to think by adding more and more to the image, it becomes more believable..

        The very structure of the pipeline of cg actually is keeping any cinematography from the process.. case in point

        There are three elements that make a shot.. the lighting, the camera angle/movement, and the set design.. in cg, these departments work seperate from each other.. the layout department picks the camera angle without the lighting and sometimes the set.. it just seems idiotic to me that you would consider yourself as a filmmaker and not understand you can’t pick the camera angle without the lighting and cut it as a animatic and make a judgement on the timing and flow of a sequence..

        Obviously, whoever made this system, does not understamd filmmaking..

        What’s funny is that cg layout think themselves as cinematographers.. yet there no cinematographers in film that think without the set design and lighting in mind when they compose a image..

        The only saving grace for the medium is the animators…

    • Bud

      “the film will always look worse then the visdev pieces ”

      You’ve obviously never worked on a feature. And MV is right—it’s condescending. Many so-called “vis-dev” artists don’t know how, or have the patience or knowledge of how to put their designs on the screen. But it’s also true that many studios are not set up to allow this to happen. Under the best of circumstances, it’s a long term collaborative effort.

      Films like Madagascar (Kendall Cronkhite & Craig Kellman), Ratatouille (Harley Jessup), Tangled ((David Goetz), Up (Ricky Nierva), Kung Fu Panda (Ramond Zibach) have done a remarkable job of translating initial design work into compelling final frames, all the while dealing with the myriad of changes (story and otherwise) along the way.

      I’d like to see you do THAT!!

      • daniel

        We just have a different standard on what makes a good final film frame..all those films look pathetic compared to kurosawa, felliniI kubrick, even films like cinderella and fantasia..

        None of those films you mentioned would stand a chance at cannes.. its kind of sad..let me know when a cg film wins the bear or palm o deor .. they should stick to the sheltered isolated conditions of the annies..

        You mentioned ricky who never did a color script for UP, Ramond Zibach who hardly worked with the modelers for the sets and characters, craig kellman who doesn’t work inhouse at dreamworks, ..etc

        In my opinion, there are student films that are more well art directed and entertaining then those films! The reason is that most of these students have a lot more artistic drive and talent then 95% of people in cg..

      • Bud

        And by your standards:

        Walt Disney never directed an animated feature (although he did more than that), Kubrick never made a bad film (he did–plenty), Kurosawa’s films sucked because he didn’t act in all of them, or that Satyricon fell short of being Fellini’s greatest film because he couldn’t get Lindsey Lohan to star in it.

        There are plenty of beautiful student films, but only a few have compelling stories. After a few minutes, NO one cares what a film looks like if they’re not interested in the story they’re being told.

        It’s obvious your opinion stems from a lack of knowledge on the feature animation process. That doesn’t invalidate your opinion. But it does inform it.

      • daniel

        I’m clearly just stating how these artists couldn’t have been responsinble for translating the initial design into the final frame if:

        1. If they weren’t inside the studio
        2. Never worked with the character and set modelers
        3. Never did a color script to direct the style of lighting for the film

        The standard I am talking about is how good the final frame is.. in my opinion, a still frame of ratatouille looks pathetic next to a still frame from la dolche vida

        I still don’t understand what I wrote specifically is so obvious I have no knoweledge of the cg process.. do you disagree with the fact how lighting and layout processes avoid filmmaking just through the structure of the pipeline? To me, anyone that has some knowledge of the pipeline and cinematography knows this is a ongoing problem..

      • Daniel, you pretty much got yourself over a barrel with this argument. Good luck!

  • ovi


    thanks for the kind words and link to the book. much appreciated!


  • ovi

    ps. i would have loved to do the cover to this book.

  • Ovi is a fantastic artist, I can’t wait to read this.

  • Dominic

    Ovi is a very talented artist and I definitely look forward to getting this book.

  • The artwork does look really nice.

    I have a hard time trying to look forward to this film after the awful 3rd and 4th Shrek movies. I just hope this does better.

  • Man, that cover is terrible compared to the stuff inside. :(
    Such a shame!

  • Ovi’s work is consistently awesome.

  • You’re not quite in the picture, Daniel. In Live Action a set won’t be lit until the DoP knows which angles the director will shoot from. He then creates an overall lighting design which will be adjusted (sometimes drastically) on a shot by shot basis AFTER the camera has been positioned. Especially on close ups the lighting will be created once the camera is set up. Highlights, rim lights etc. are added and you can’t do any of that beforehand. It is very much like what happens in the CG process. Many Live Action directors plan their shots based on blue prints of a set design and later, in the unlit set, often while it is still being built. The lighting follows, usually until just seconds before the camera starts to roll. It isn’t always the director’s vision that is responsible for the look of the film. There are brilliant DoPs that have created some of the most iconic imagery. A Live Action director might have the bigger Ego but it is very much a team effort to create movies, in Live Action too, not just in animation.

    And as to production design for animated movies, many artist’s styles are wonderful and work as still images. They are used as overall inspiration for a scene. If one was to literally translate them, the style wouldn’t necessarily work for an entire movie. A good example is the first still above. A great image and wonderful colours, all done in a sort of cut-out, half graphic, half painted style. But would that work in CG? And would it then retain its charm? Wouldn’t an image like that work better as an animated 2D film rather than pushing the style into a world where it doesn’t belong?

    When it comes to stop motion films we seem to accept that we are looking at 3dimensional characters that act in sets. We accept that the look of those films depends on the set design and character design and the lighting. Not many seem to complain about those films looking the same, even though most of the bigger budget ones do.

  • Daniel

    Hey Uli,

    What you describe isn’t what’s happening in the CG process. You are right, the DOP does have a overall lighting design, but in the layout department they usually just stage the action without a thought on the overall lighting design for a sequence. The difference between live action and CG is that in live action it is a constant fluid relationship between the camera angle, set design, and lighting which is adjusted last minutes before it’s shot. In CG, it is more like a assembly line between the different departments and since it is organized that way, it is almost impossible to add any overall sense of camera and lighting design unless it is planned in the storyboard process. Which is why hardly any CG films have a sense of lighting design or camera, and they have the feeling of the rough storyboard reels… Let me know if you know any CG films that are comparable to live action films in terms of lighting and camera, and I’ll be proven wrong!

    My favorite cinematographers like Roger Deakins and his mentor Conrad Hall favor deciding the actual shots after the sets are built, the rough lighting setups are there, and the actors are rehearsing their performance. They specifically try to plan for this, so that the actual process of the photography is loose and organic, much like shooting a documentary film. Which is why their compositions have a sense of realism and naturalism to them! I would love to know which iconic films that you liked that used that process you described ..

    On Dragons, Roger was influential in the fact that he was able to give notes on all three departments and in a way made them work like live action, which I heard ruffled a few feathers…

    Another big difference between live action and CG, is that layout edits and cuts a rough reel of a sequence, before it’s lit, the performance isn’t there, and the sets are not set up. This just doesn’t happen in live action editing, and a big part of cutting between shots is the relationship of how the lighting cuts from shot to shot. In hand-drawn animated films like Fantasia and Cinderella, they would workbook out all the shots with the tonals so graphically they would cut well. There was also thought put in how the overall lighting design would cut shot to shot, unlike CG films.

    As for production design for animated movies, especially character design, the problem isn’t usually a 2D film pushing a style into a world it doesnt belong, but it’s the taste and skill level of the modeling department that drops the ball. Time and time again, you watch drawings that are wonderful being translated into weaker designs. The easiest answer they give is that the drawing works as a drawing but doesn’t work in CG, but…

    1. Kent Milton or any clay sculptors don’t have this problem.. While most modelers need to be hand held through the whole process, Kent and many clay sculptors like him can get one drawing and make it work in dimensions.. (for example Stop Motion films..)

    2. Usually the drawing style has more dimensions and form then realized but it’s the modeler who fails to see it in the drawing. Since they are already going into the drawing with the assumption that it’s a drawing, they fail to see any structure with what they are given.

    3. The taste level between people working in CG (lighters, riggers, modelers..etc) are vastly different from those working in the story, animation, and design departments.. Think of mashing Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters with StarWars.. You have the comedy and design that works in a Charles Schulz comic strip with the rendering and detail that goes into a StarWars live-action piece.. a big mess!! What happens in the CG process though, the people that designed and did the stories for the productions (who are more Schulz-orientated) are left out of the pipeline, and it’s only a handful designers against a whole army of outspoken StarWars orientated CG supervisors!

    I actually wish to be proven wrong, but I still have yet to see a hollywood CG film that is on the level of what’s already happened in live action, hand-drawn, and stop motion.. I’m also guessing most people wouldn’t know the difference either, since we are living in a culture that we are more and more comfortable with horrible CG images while drawings and cartoons are left to die in the story department..

    • mito

      No. We are living in a culture where it is hip to have a negative opinion on everything, and pretend to be an expert without having the slightest idea what the eff you are talking about. It is sooooo easy to do this, sitting anonymously in front of your internets. Carry on – I know you will.

  • Daniel

    “He then creates an overall lighting design which will be adjusted (sometimes drastically) on a shot by shot basis AFTER the camera has been positioned. Especially on close ups the lighting will be created once the camera is set up. Highlights, rim lights etc. are added and you can’t do any of that beforehand. It is very much like what happens in the CG process. Many Live Action directors plan their shots based on blue prints of a set design and later, in the unlit set, often while it is still being built. The lighting follows, usually until just seconds before the camera starts to roll. It isn’t always the director’s vision that is responsible for the look of the film.”

    You miss the second part of my sentence…

    “…without the lighting and cut it as a animatic and make a judgement on the timing and flow of a sequence..”

    Just the nature of live action, the editor is already working with the final images of the movie so he can make a clearer judgement on a cut, yet the layout department is timing out sequences that they have no idea what the impact of the tonal design is juxtaposed between each other..

    I am not just talking about the job of a D.o.P. because the layout department has a mix of responsibilities of a D.o.P. and a editor.. And since the lighting and sets are not fully done(as well as the performance), they are making uninformed decisions on how the shots cut next to each other, the rhythm and timing of the shots, and significant opportunities to support the script through those means!

    just watch yori norstein’s early directing debute films like The Battle of Algiers and enjoy the beauty of editing and composition! or any of the Russian masters, beautiful and meaningful cutting~ It’s still light years ahead of any CG films now..

  • Daniel

    Hey Uli,

    this is a exact quote from Roger Deakins:

    “.. obviously in a live action set, basically I’m doing both (layout and lighting) things at the same time.. obviously it’s a balance between the scene and where you put the camera and the way the natural daylight’s working.. it’s like a ballet between lighting and camera I find (cg) it’s a slight disconnect between the two.. and the more we can get some kind of rough lighting in some program to get a rough idea that goes through the chain (cg pipeline)…”

    obviously Roger believes in having a rough lighting setup while the shots are being decided, and also feels that the two departments need to actually work together instead of this assembly line since in the current pipeline..

    and Roger is probably the most well known D.o.P. in the business

    • The Brewmasters

      Daniel – Seven of the twenty-one posts in this topic are yours. We ask that readers don’t drown out others by repeatedly posting. Please, take five.

  • Martin Bell

    I’m shocked – a Cartoon Brew reader with a dislike for CG? Well, I never.