A Closer Look Into Blue Sky’s Amazing Latest Animated Film “EPIC” – Austin Visuals Reports
This is a new release among the many full color and visually stunning art books that dives into the art of yet another major CGI animated film. The film Epic, produced by Blue Sky Studios and its partner 20th Century Fox Animation, opened in theaters everywhere on May 24th, 2013.
While the film is based on William Joyce’s children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs (Harper Collins, 1996), according to Tara Bennett, the author of The Art of Epic, says that the inspiration came from an art exhibit that both Joyce and the director of Epic, Chris Wedge saw together. “It was after visiting an exhibit of Victorian fantasy paintings at New York’s Frick Museum that both Wedge and Joyce(who was the film’s executive producer and production designer) began exploring the idea of bringing to life the fantastical and hidden, yet deeply imagined world in a film. Joyce had already seen a similar world in his book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, a story about the little “leaf men” that work to restore the balance of nature in an old garden. The idea that even these small warriors could be made into action heroes stirred in them as well as in executive producer James V. Hart, to start bringing to life a new original story.
The book The Art of Epic holds over three hundred images of concept art. Everything from storyboard images, to digital paintings to character sketches and everything in between, all of which include the name of the artist who either provided the illustration for a character or added the detail to the feature. This group of leading artists include production designer Greg Couch, art director Michael Knapp, set designer Sandeep Menon, lead character designer Sang Jun Lee, along with artists and animators BJ Crawford, Robert MacKenzie, Mike Lee, Tim Bowers, Jake Parker, Jim Jackson, Tyler Carter, Marceline Gagnon-Tanguay, Clayton Stilwell, Vicki Saulls, among many others.
The film’s lead characters include the eccentric scientist, Professor Bomba, his dog Ozzy, his daughter Mary Katherine, Ronin, leader of the Leafmen, a happy-go-lucky trooper named Nod, Queen Tara, ruler of the Jinn forest people, Mub & Grub, a comedic duo, a caterpillar savant named Nim Galuu, a bookie toad named Bufo and finally there’s the evil General Mandrake and his son Dagda of the Boggans. The main settings of the film include Professor Bomba’s house, the forest, Nim’s tree, Queen Tara’s Moonhaven, and the Boggans’ Wrathwood.
Director of Epic, Chris Wedge along with this group of artists discuss their thoughts and goals in the creation of Epic. Blue Sky Studios began with creating the films Robots, Rio and the Ice Age films by using computers to create images that were “bright and shiny”. With the film Epic, the idea was to create “natural-looking, beautiful yet complex forest scenes.” The team began with the character, Professor Bomba, set as the stereotypical comical, absent-minded professor who is obsessed with finding and proving that the tiny little warriors dwelling in the forest. It wasn’t until the team’s fourth outline of the story that the professor’s teenage daughter Mary Katherine started to step in as the character the audience is to identify with and the one who’s point of view the audience sees the story. The sweet child’s story of The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs of saving an old garden changed into “the story of an ongoing battle between good and evil deep within the forest.
About the film : In this film’s story, Professor Bomba has spent his entire life in his home on the edge of the forest searching for evidence of the tiny men he’s convinced live that live in the forest. This led to his wife leaving him, taking their daughter Mary Katherine with her. But by the time Mary Katherine becomes a teenager, her mother dies, leaving her with no one else to turn to except her father whom she loves, but doesn’t believe in. Then one day when her father is late returning home from the forest, Mary Katherine goes to look for him. Along the way, she sees glowing leaves drifting in the air and catches one, which causes her to shrink to the size of the tiny Jinn who lives in the forest. The Jinn range from fully human appearances, to half human and half plant hybrids, to anthropomorphized creatures including toads, insects, a slug and a snail. Mary Katherine soon meets Queen Tara and the leafmen army who ride hummingbirds and fight the evil Boggans to protect the Jinns’ home Moonhaven. “Epic tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who seek to destroy it. When a teenage girl is magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite brand of warriors and a comical group of larger-than-life characters, to save their world and ours”.
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