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Feature FilmIllustration

“The Croods” Print By Chris Sanders

A few thousand copies of this Croods print drawn by Chris Sanders and painted by Arthur Fong were handed out at Comic-Con last week. The charm and vitality of Sanders’ sinuous line artwork will inevitably be lost in the transition to CGI so enjoy this little taste of what the film could have been. (Click on the image for a bigger version.)

(via The Croods blog)

  • Tim Hodge

    Not all of the charm and vitality will be lost. If you’ve seen Chris’ sculptures, you are undoubtedly aware that his work translates well into three dimensions.

    Thanx for posting this beautiful piece for all of us who didn’t make it to the Con!

    • A frozen sculpture ≠ CG animated film

      • wever

        All CG models for animated feature films start out as sculptures. They’re used to trace into the computer for the modeler to use as a base. Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky all do this. I fail to see how a sculpture does not influence how a character appears in a film!

    • Mac

      He’s not saying the film is 3D and the drawings aren’t 3D. He’s saying that the production process will result in an image that won’t have any of the charm unique to the drawing. The film could have had the charm of its directors powerful, appealing, and particular drawing style, but it won’t.

      Amid, are you suggesting it could be better CG, that they do a years long process like in Tangled, to formulate their own vision of the perfect transcendent translation of a 2D process, to copy Sanders’ drawings charm through to the end of the CG production process to create a 3D film that looks better and different than a vinyl toy, or that you wish it was 2D? The latter seems a bit pie in the sky at this point for Dreamworks.

      • I’m suggesting that CG shouldn’t be a pedantic exercise in mimicking traditional art techniques. That’s a creative dead-end, whether it’s Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Sony or Disney. You may be able to make Sanders’ drawings look good in CG, but what are you trying to achieve? Sanders’ original expression is beautiful and elegant because it was designed as a drawing.

        This is really the core issue whenever you hear the common complaint that the artwork in the CG ‘making-of’ books was better than what appeared on the screen. It’s because the original artwork was an authentic expression created for a different technique.

        It’s akin to using a violin to recreate the sound of a piano. You may be able to achieve a reasonable facsimile, but that’s probably not the best use of a violin. It will be truly exciting when visionary directors create CG theatrical features where the imagery isn’t rooted in traditional drawing and can only be created through digital means, like these.

      • Tim Hodge

        I think in my attempt to be brief, I may have been misunderstood. I realize that different mediums have different properties and cannot mimic one another. After all, a ballerina painting by Degas does not look like his bronze ballerina. The subtlety of a daub of paint cannot be captured the same way in metal. Like you assert, each medium brings its own flavor to the subject. However, both works of art have the same fingerprints.

        (And on a side note, I prefer the look of a simple line to delineate fur, like on Baloo, or Beast, rather than the ultra realistic offerings in current cinema. I work on CG films, but I prefer the look of drawings come to life.)

        I think we’re coming at this from similar directions. What I meant to say was that Chris Sanders is overseeing the design of his film. No, it will not look like his line art. But it will be beautiful. Different, yes, but beautiful. Let’s wait and see.

        Now, it’s your article and your blog. You may have the last word.

      • dig

        I don’t think you understand how artistic innovation works. It is precisely mimicry that results in originality. Chuck Berry was trying to copy the piano licks of his bandmate Johnny Johnson– and inadvertently created a guitar style that generations of players in turn, copied themselves. Including Jimi Hendrix!

        Trying to translate drawings, paintings, and other tactile visual art into the CG medium is exactly what artists SHOULD be doing. No great artist or art form started from scratch. Every one and every style has shamelessly and fearlessly ripped off something before it.

        The CG examples you cite are interesting, but are in fact an emotional dead end. They lack the most important aspect of filmmaking, the story. Most stories are about characters, and most characters, ones we can relate to anyway, need to be designed. The most efficient way to design characters is with a 2d medium, by someone with talent, which brings us back around to translating Chis Sanders’ designs into CG.

        That is all.

      • Michael Sheehan

        Indeed, I breathlessly await the first feature with a narrative based on the interactions of shimmering fractal triangles. An adaptation of “Flatland” or perhaps, what the hell, an advanced calculus textbook.

        Dig is right on the money. Saying characters that originate as sketches and aend up fully developed in CG are lifeless is about as accurate as saying characters iin a sequence that’s developed first as thumbnails, then as a storyboard and then executed in live action is similarly lifeless. And it’s silly even on the face of it to assert that CG characters are charmless because they’re CG.

      • dig

        By the way, my comment was for Amid.

      • burymylovely

        “This is really the core issue whenever you hear the common complaint that the artwork in the CG ‘making-of’ books was better than what appeared on the screen. It’s because the original artwork was an authentic expression created for a different technique.”

        CG itself is not why the art book always looks better. Preproduction stuff almost always looks cooler no matter how it was made (drawing, painting, sculpture, 3D) because it is not constrained by budget or time. For all movies, 2D, 3D, live action or whatever, the process of making 90+ minutes of footage requires tamping down on the awesome in everyone’s imagination.

        There are 2d films for which the still art work has shadows and line weight and texture that I would kill to see in a moving picture. And except for a few small shorts, it almost never happens. So really, most 2D films don’t live up to their potential either. Its not a problem inherent to 3D.

        Also these films don’t start as drawings because that’s what they really want to do but they have to use 3D to do it. They start as drawings because its the fastest way to work. I can’t imagine starting from just models. You’d be there forever.

  • Pedro Nakama

    “so enjoy this little taste of what the film could have been”

    What does this mean?

    • Optimist

      I think it means “…if it had been drawn instead of done in CG”.

      • burymylovely

        Which in all honesty is a ridiculous notion because there’s no way ANY feature length 2D movie would look like that ever. Variable line weight, water color shading and such never get translated to 2D features. Also Chris Sanders can’t draw a whole feature by himself, so I’m not really sure how his sinuous lines could make it in anyways.

        • JG

          Someone somewhere goes: “Challenge accepted.”

      • Luke

        “Variable line weight, water color shading and such never get translated to 2D features”

        never? I’d say Miyazaki at the helm of any of the great Studio Ghibli films certainly retains a lot of that traditional media charm.

      • burymylovely

        Certainly Ghibli’s works are beautiful on many levels and there’s a lot of lovely watercolor work on their backgrounds. I was referring to watercolor shading as a possibility on characters in a movie, which I’ve yet to see. The most ornate they can get is for each shape to have one flat main color and maybe a shadow or a highlight. But that gorgeous blue to green gradation on the tiger just isn’t possible.

        Sorry for the vagueness of my post.

      • b’ini

        What about “Secret of Kells” – very stylized but with beautiful watercolor, varied line weight and rich, ornate imagery.

  • Dont get your hopes up

    If you’ve seen the models that come out of Dreamworks… can be assured that they’ll take all the visual appeal out of the drawings, and give you a truly generic 3D ‘character’.
    But I’m sure it was all made in a very cost effective and timely manner.

    • Optimist

      That’s really an incredibly ignorant & insulting thing to say. You’re certainly not giving any credit to the director or animators at all.

      I’m not suggesting you have to like Dreamworks’ various productions(obviously, you don’t), but when you yank any credit for effort from anyone working on the films you’re simply-wrong.

    • James

      I don’t know, Sanders’ dragon designs for HTTYD seemed to have held up pretty well during the conversion to 3D.

      • Funkybat

        The dragon designs, maybe. But the rest of that movie did not look anything like a “typical” Chris Sanders film. That said, there is no reason Chris Sanders shouldn’t be allowed to do different things than his “signature style,” but I think a lot of people miss seeing his 2D stuff animated. Lilo and Stitch was such a fantastic-looking movie, unlike any other Disney film. It is kind of heartbreaking to think it will likely be Sanders’ only 2D feature, just as much as it is to think that Iron Giant will probably be Brad Bird’s only 2D feature.

      • optimist

        Chris designed one dragon only-Toothless. All the rest of the dragons were already rigged and ready, and designed by Nico Marlet. Remember, he and Dean took over the film from another director with about 18 months to go. The design of all the characters had been done before they got on the project.

  • Alissa

    That tiger is darling! And the little bunny-bat and bird. At this point the only reason I have to see The Croods is the monster designs, and that’ll probably be enough for me!

    • James

      The only worry I have with this is that the overall plot (that we know of) is a bit too similar to “The Land Before Time” and “Ice Age,” though it’s pretty hard to avoid considering pre-history was all about survival.

      Still, I’m very interested on how the bizarre creatures are going to be integrated onto the movie. There is a far more fanciful approach to their design compared to Ice Age, not to mention they will actually be animals instead of the usual “funny talking animal” approach. Also, I’m interested to see how the movie handles the caveman characterizations and overall interactions.

      • Funkybat

        I’m pretty confident that “The Croods” will be more visually interesting than “Ice Age”, and considering Dreamworks recent track record, I am hoping if not entirely confident that the characters and story will be stronger as well. I just hope Nic Cage’s voice doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb like it did in that “Astroboy” movie.

  • Schultz!!!!!

    Chris has been at each of the last 5 or 6 cons with his own booth – and stays there a large percentage of the time so fans, like me, can actually see and talk to him. Something very unusual with big name talent.

  • Hank

    Meh. Looks like everything else from DW. At least they are getting help from Dean D., so at least the film will make sense. God knows Sandersc can’t tell a story.

    • Joel

      I’d say Chris Sanders is a fine storyteller.

      • tredlow

        I was JUST going to link to that! You can definitely recognize his style!

      • Adam

        If you ever heard the original pitch to American Dog, you’d know he needs all the help he can get.

      • beamish13

        I’m sure Sanders’ original pitch was still better than the homogenized final product we ended up with.

      • Heynow

        @beamish13: It wasn’t.

      • Hank

        the original pitch for american dog was laugh out loud awful. The resulting film–while not great–is far superior.

    • Chris can’t tell a story? You reveal your ignorance with this comment.

      • Bud

        I’d have to agree with the comment above, although with a slight tweak. He can’t tell a coherent story for a feature film. Good for ideas, but stringing them together into something that makes sense to an audience, less so. He needs a strong director like Dean to structure him. It’s not a slam, just a reality.

      • Hey now

        Hank is correct. And anyone who saw “American Dog” knows Hank’s statement is correct. Sanders needs DeBlois to keep things remotely coherent.

  • Michael Sheehan

    Yeah, because Toothless had no charm or appeal in “Dragon.” Right.

    • Hank

      I’d say that as about right.

  • victoria

    One of the best things I got at SDCC (including Derpy) and it was free!

  • wever

    “…will inevitably be lost”– Amid. Called it.

  • Amid said
    “This is really the core issue whenever you hear the common complaint that the artwork in the CG ‘making-of’ books was better than what appeared on the screen. It’s because the original artwork was an authentic expression created for a different technique.”

    I hear the same complaints abut traditional animated films, same goes for when they see animation before it gets cleaned up and colored. I think that’s what Glen Keane was talking about in his latest interview.

    At least there is some great artists trying to influence the final look of the film.

  • So…why did Andreas Deja and Glen Keane leave Disney Animation?

    • Hank


    • Justin

      There was nothing they wanted to work on.

  • Wow Amid. Way to take a charming poster and put a negative spin on it. You haven’t even seen the movie yet. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised but, sometimes the lengths you go to take a swipe at DW are pretty amazing.

    • John S – I’m a fan of Chris Sanders’ artwork. If you read my subsequent comment in this thread, you’ll see that my criticism isn’t directed at DreamWorks specifically, but at the medium of theatrical CG animation in general. For the record, I don’t think ANY CG animation studio could do justice to Sanders’ drawings, just as no CG studio could do justice to the drawings of Daumier, Goya or Degas, nor would any such attempts make sense to begin with.

  • SKent.

    Regardless of the medium, big studio animated films never live up to the best of their concept art. It’s always the way.

    • axolotl

      You said something there. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at an ‘Art of’ book and thought ‘Man, why couldn’t they have made THAT movie.’ Fiscal caution is truly the enemy of awesome.

  • Sarah J

    Those are some lovely designs! The dragon in How to Train Your Dragon made the 3D transition well, so I have hope that these will too, but I still wish traditionally animated films would make a comeback…

  • Richard

    Not to spoil the party, but that drawing is not that great. What is she standing on, for example? I love his stuff, but this drawing is not one of his best.

  • Joes

    Ehh. Sanders is a pretty good artist, but most of his art look exactly the same to me. Kind of wish he’d experiment more with shapes and proportions.

    The Croods posters look awful, though. Totally take the appeal out of Sander’s drawings, and just look awkward.

  • Danny R. Santos

    I think many people are missing the big picture here, not about wether if Crood would look good in 3D or 2D. Computer programs are still in it’s infancy. One day they will develop a program that will mimic Chris’s drawing line, watercolors etc. and every CG and 2D animator wouldn’t have to debate, because the unthinkable could happen. The CG look could sit along with the 2D look and be part of many countles s looks, imagine a movie completly reimagined in Monet painting style.

    • Heynow

      ^ They already have perfected the technology to mimic Chris’ drawing line, Danny. They perfected it 50 years ago.

      • CJ

        Imagine if every artist, inventor, or sculpture said “we already have this one style and way of animating, what’s the needs for tweaking, finding, and exploring new styles?!” Just some food for thought. ;) Although I would much prefer this in 2D.

    • Joes

      >major CG films experimenting with animation


      There’s Rango, Meatballs and Genndy’s new movie, but I doubt anyone outside of Sony is going to risk making a CG film that looks different.

    • Anb

      With the right team and a lot of work, celshading can mimic Sanders line, And although the first attempts wouldn’t be perfect, it would be much more faithful to the original drawings than 3d. Cel shading is in its infancy but when you see what japan or europe can already do with it, I think a studio ready to go for a lot of R&D could push it extremely close to Sanders style. But as long as artists and fans will be the only ones asking for that 2d line/2d feel in the end result, I dont think we’ll ever see that coming.

      • Hank

        But no one would care.

  • …what’s going on with her hand?

    (Great art by the way – I wish I was as excited by the posters for the actual film as I am by these drawings)

  • Gray64

    The high-concept description of this film didn’t make me at all interested…but if Chris Sanders is involved, I might just have to give it a look…

  • Chris Sander’s art style is so fluid yet so inspiring. Nothing wrong with How to train your Dragon(that movie is one of the good movies that are animated from Dreamworks), its just seeing Sander’s art style screams more for 2D animation over CGI. I wish that Dreamworks would allow Sanders to create a 2D animated film if “Me and My Shadow” is a success. Even though this wont happen anytime soon, I would love it if Chris Sanders would make an R rated hand-drawn animated cartoon of his sexy girls he always draws. That would be the project of the lifetime as well as being as funny as Naked Beach Frenzy.

  • Me2

    Eeeh, nope. We did not create physical sculptures on The Croods (and not every movie does it, and most don’t scan them either).

    You’ll see the design process explained in the art of book.

    The final character design was very much based on what works well in the film medium, focused on the style of animation and look of the final image. You’ll have to wait for the trailer to judge it, and the final film to truly appreciate it.

    A blurb from the tease at Comic Con

  • James

    Any one else see Lilo and Stitch in this picture?