One Day...yesterday

Once upon a time there was a boy. A boy with a dream. A dream which came to fruit. A fruit that was eaten by a boy (with a dream...fruit, blah, blah)...and that boy became a man.

That man calls himself "L" (don't get me started on the lack of teaching of proper spelling and grammar in schools nowadays...) but his true name is Laurent "Carbon Footprint" Rossi.

And this was his dream...which came to fruit...and was eaten by him...and he became a man.

Over on L "Carbon Footprint" Rossi's blog you can see the journey he went on, also known as a "making of"...not "making out"...there are many other sites on the internet for that, but Carbon Footprint's is not one of them.

How's that L? Epic enough? Do I win now?

All joking aside, I've known Laurent for a number of years now (we both studied animation under the greatness that is known simply as "PARR") and he's been aching to study at L'Ecole Gobelins for most of that time...and now he has done it, so congrats to him! Go show him some love!



So I touched on this briefly last post...the fabled trip to Bodie 2.0. After the failure of last year, intrepid explorer Matt and myself headed out into the high sierras to find the historic ghost town of Bodie.

After putting the Mustang through its paces (that car has POWER) and spending the night in a hotel with a lady who seemed to be permanently high...

...we made it to the end of the road. However Bodie was still about 6 miles away. Separating us from the goal was possibly the worlds bumpiest dirt track. I can only assume it was kept in the same state of arrested decay as the town. Every really slow vehicle we had sped past on the way now caught up and over took us. Note to travellers: Sports cars are not the cars to travel to Bodie in.

After a short while of bone shaking, we finally saw what we had come for...a town described by all the tourist guides as "in a state of arrested decay"...basically no one has lived there since the forties and all the buildings are still the same, with most of them dating to the 1880's.

And it's true! In the old saloon there are still chips on the table from the last game of poker played there. It's like everyone just got up and left. In the morning before I started sketching I waited by the church for the ranger to give his daily speech about the history of Bodie. Turns out that the man whom the town is named after is W.S Bodey...which is an alternate spelling of my surname (Boddy) and both derive from the same, although the former is pronounced Boe-dee not Body, which is why they changed the spelling of the town so that people didn't mis-pronounce it...much like many do with my last name. Unfortunately for him, he was never able to see the town that bears his namesake. Legend has it (actually this is pretty accurate...it just sounds better starting "Legend has it") that he decided to brave the winter on his claim but upon returning from collecting supplies in the nearby town of Mono, one days walk that way, Bodey and his partner found themselves lost on the way back to the cabin. A storm set in and conditions became blinding. The pair wandered aimlessly (in a kind of "Hmmm. I recognise this tree...WE'RE GOING IN CIRCLES" way) for hours until Bodey, his energy sapped, fell to the snow. His partner wrapped him in a blanket and vowed to come back for him once he found the cabin. After more fruitless searching (it's the same bloody tree!) he decided to go back to Mono. Bodey was claimed by the storm. They found his body in the spring after the snow had melted...300 yards from the cabin. Then they began digging and found millions of dollars of gold.

But that's not all they found. Nope. They also found...

...an awesome place for sketching.

I spent a good few hours wandering around. A particular highlight was the stroll down Maiden Lane and Virgin Alley in the old wild end of town. Except it all burned down in a fire so, essentially, I was wandering through a field of grass where many people once had sex.
If you are interested in seeing more sketches of Bodie, you should probably head over to the blog of Mr. Jones. He made some enjoyable observations of the other history tourists.

Right before we started the drive back to San Francisco, a lightning storm kicked off. It was at this point in the day that we witnessed an event...nay...a miracle. I call it "THE MOSES MOMENT"

Now this wasn't the only event of what was to prove an epic return leg. One especially memorable moment happened when we were driving the Tioga trail through Yosemite...

I wish I could draw the next one but it involved one horse doing something to another horse and the line "look at the size of that thing". I think it's best left to people imaginations.

And I'd also prefer to never be stuck in a car with 17 miles to go until the next Carl's Jr...only to miss it and have to drive another 6 miles. I didn't know what Carl's Jr was. It was the person in the passenger seat doing the "I can't believe you missed it! Your GPS is crap. I'm using my iPhone to find it...go left here". I didn't miss the next one and was rewarded with the biggest cup (bucket) of Coca-Cola ever.

Anyway, I'm starting to natter on a bit so I'll wrap in up. In conclusion - Bodie = cool, Trees = fire, Mountain Lions = Danger and Carl's Jr = Heart attack in five years.


Back to the Bay

Hello blog.

It's been a topsy turvy few months recently which has seen me go home to Hong Kong and also back in the US...exciting stuff and a welcome break after 15 months with no time off...except 3 days at Christmas...and the the odd bank hol. As a result my Xbox live gamerscore has remained static.

Top Left: The Village Gates
Top Right: Queens Road, Central
Left: The Bank of China
Middle Right: The HSBC through the Botanical Gdns
Bottom Right: Small Bamboo, Big Bamboo

Anyway...the US. I made a return journey to the west coast, determined to conquer the Pacific Coast Highway (Damn you Cruickshank Trail landslide of 2011!) and not only conquer it but do so in style. So I hired a Ford Mustang convertible and set the road straight. Ash = 1, PCH...also = 1.


This time around I used San Francisco as my base of operations and toured around from there. Napa was interesting...nice drive but you can't sample the wine. However, I did find a rather entertaining hen party at the Hess Gallery and vineyard. That kind of made up for a spectacular breakdown in communications. Warning to travellers to the US. You will be able to text people but no one will be able to text you back...or even call you.

After failing to make the trip to Bodie last time due to 8ft snowdrifts, (Damn you summer snows!) I attempted the journey again. WIth fellow expat Matt Jones in tow we managed to avoid any miraculously unseasonal snowfall...although there were some other miracles on said journey...but that's another story. Anyway...Ash = 1, Bodie...again, also = 1.

I also did a whistle stop trip to LA to catchup with people down there. I noticed some particularly interesting human behaviour around Hollywood Blvd (Highly recommend driving down it with the roof down and music on LOUD...SoaD "Lost in Hollywood" was an apt choice) where it appears a number of the populous take photographs of their feet and also kneel down to place their hands on the concrete whilst friends take pictures of them in said prostrate position.

Various Folk

The phrase "Only in America" springs to mind. On a serious note, the Getty has a Klimt exhibition on at the moment. Excellent and if anyone finds themselves out that way, definitely worth a visit. Oh...I also stayed at a lovely Hotel located near Third and Alvarado. Only after I checked in did I figure out I was in the middle of "The Rampart"...a lovely neighbourhood that amongst other achievements, was once able to boast a higher murder rate per 100,000 than Johannesburg or Sao Paulo! And I survived! Ash = 1, Rampart = 0! I win! And the view of downtown was excellent as were the complimentary donuts for breakfast.

Top Left: View of downtown from "Rampart"
Bottom Left: Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Right: The Roosevelt on Hollywood Blvd

After LA it was back to San Francisco and the delights that the city has to offer including (but not limited to) Breakfast at a diner; Dinner at a diner; Lunch at a Diner; Lobster where the Rat Pack used to eat lobster; Drinks in an old colonial french indochina setting; Drinks at a historical hotel bar on Nob hill; Drinks at Dave's flat up a really, really steep hill; Batman in IMAX; A really winding street; the realisation that Fisherman's Wharf is a lot further from where I had parked than I initially thought; Freezing up the top of Twin Peaks and still not being able to see the eye of Sauron...but I did get to see the famous San Francisco fog; Drinking in a cage; Mitchell's - The best Ice Cream in the city; Drinking in a Troll bar...uh...seeing a movie at the Castro theatre...and a host of other things. Now all I have to do is find a way to score a job out there...any American females fancy a Brit for a husband?
Top: Haight Ashbury
Middle: Fisherman's Wharf
Bottom: A lovely view of the Golden Gate bridge from Buena Vista Park...obscured
by tourists. Did you know "Facebook like" is the same in every language?


Hunter Six

A little portion of an image for something in the works. Whether or not any thing comes of it or not is another matter...not exactly flush with time at the moment as lots of other small bits and bobs taking priority!

Anyway, in answer to Laurent's question about how we made "The Pirates!", yes, there is a stage between the storyboards and when the animators bring it all to life. As "Pirates" was such an ambitious project from a technical standpoint (blending CG elements with stop motion) there was a Pre-Vis stage. Once the boards were done the Art Department finalised the set design...there was a fair amount of back and forth so we'd board something rough and they'd figure out a set design and it would come back to story to use as reference and then go back to them etc. As well as coming to story their designs were also built in low poly CG, creating a virtual replica of the set. The characters would get placed in and moved around to match the storyboards so that the camera work could be figured out and how much virtual set would be needed in the final shot. To an extent they could also plot out lights and what lenses would be used on the cameras, although the DOP's would do this on the set floor. One of the big benefits of the Pre-Vis stage was that with everything plotted out, a path could be programmed and sent to the motion control unit (big machines capable of replicating the exact same camera move down to the bloody nanometre) and hopefully it wouldn't hit any rigging! The pre-vis stage is one of those stages that the public misses out on though. In early test screenings audiences were shown a combination of storyboards, WIP animation (lots of Green) and also whatever finished shots were available!


The Pirates!

(The Pirates! Original US Poster...I designed it!!)
So..."The PIRATES! in an Adventure with Scientists" (or "Band of Misfits" if you're in the US) is finally out worldwide...which make this an apt time to post about it I guess. I don't often blog about work, so I guess this is a small glimpse into my life in the Aardman story department!

Working hard!

So...where to begin! The beginning I guess...I found out I was going to be working on "The Pirates!" back in December 2008, but didn't actually begin until Feb 2009 (had to finish up the season on "Shaun the Sheep") right after my 24th birthday and ended on July 1, 2011...so a good few years. I aged horribly and ended up looking like a hobo! It was also the first time I'd ever worked on a feature and I didn't have a clue what to expect! I remember being briefed for a sequence on my first morning for two reasons. One - Pete (Lord...How many people get to say they had Pete Lord as their first director?), the director, took a sharpie to the script and crossed out all the dialogue and told me to "make something up" and two - I really needed the toilet the whole time. Enough of that though.

Story Crew on the "Blood Island" set. (L-R) Mike Salter, Jonny Duddle, Rej Bourdages (Head of Story), Dave Vinicombe, ME!, Victoria Evans, Tara Knowles, JP Vine

The story crew on "Pirates" was great. We were quite a small crew (only a core of five - Rej, Mike, Dave, JP and myself) with other artists coming in occasionally to inject a bit of "je ne sais quoi". I was a little bit the odd one out. Rej is a legend that I'm sure people will sing about in years to come. I learned a huge amount from him...he has this strange knack of being able to make you feel really good about the fact that you have to redraw almost everything. Mike and Dave are the old Aardman stalwarts...it wouldn't be an Aardman film without them. And JP is...well he's JP really. If you know him then you'll get it. I suppose the best way to describe how it was for me, would be to say if you get put up to the swim class above and everyone else is better than you. So you either swim harder to catch up or sink trying. Hopefully I caught up a little but those guys are still light years ahead in terms of storytelling...to the point where two of the five were poached by Pixar! Three if you count Matt Jones...but he's welsh :) Anyway, I suppose you want to know what work was like...

Pitching to Pete!

Well...it was hard work! Lots of drawing (somewhere around the 80,000 mark...give or take a couple of thousand!)...

Queen Victoria seduces Charles Darwin...with an ulterior motive. 

...and like anything there were hard patches and bits that sometimes went wrong, but as always happens when you look back on it, you laugh. I very rarely got stressed out and there was always someone to have a chat with if you did have a problem. I went through a rough patch in October 2010 and Rej was brilliant...don't know if he knows it but he was...and there was a fold out bed under the sofa in story (for lunchtime naps)...plus pizza when you had to work late...the Bowl Inn (local Pub)...and curry nights. What you see on the 'making of' part of the DVD's is only half the amount of fun we have!!

Overall the film was a great experience. Can't wait for the next one (I'm currently working on "Shaun the Sheep" again!) and hopefully people enjoy "The Pirates!" and it's off the wall humour. If you haven't seen it yet, then do! It's hard to cram two and a half years into a small space, so if anyone has any questions just leave a comment!



How is it Easter already?

So...I've got a couple of blog posts in the draft stage. One is about Pirates! and a summary of the almost three years I spent on that film. Maybe insightful...probably not but I'll leave that up to you. No heckling please. And I recommend you go and see the film first as I may spoil some of it. I guess that post can wait until the US release on the twenty seventh of April in the year Twenty Twelve Anno Domini. "What?", I hear you Americans cry out (all the way from over here in England. I know...good hearing right?). "I didn't realise it was so soon!". Well now you do know so I also suggest you go and see it for a "Thouroughly British romp", as one of the press reports put it. "But it's so soon that I don't know what to wear. I'll have to get that dress dry cleaned, book the baby sitter, make an appointment at the hair stylist". Don't make excuses...just go and see it. I hear it's going to be rainy in LA that weekend anyway.

The other is about my broken (actually it was shattered - minor detail) hand. I tried to do a drawing of it but I couldn't...because my hand was broken. Just kidding. It was my left hand so all is good! (I'm not left handed...just to clear that up)

But this post is about that age old thing that I keep on trying to promote - "Tales of the Spiffing". To celebrate the release of Pirates! (AND the fact that the book is a year old...I LOVE book birthdays! Who doesn't?!?) I've stuck an offer on the online store where you get some money off!! 30% to be precise! That's five great british pounds sterling (which is like...USD$8...or a million Euro!) which you don't have to pay. All you have to do is put in the code AINTGOTNOBOOTY when you make the purchase (which, by the way, is signed by some people) and it can be yours! Forget pizza and movie night. Movie and BOOK night is where it is at. Anyway...I know what most of you read there was blah blah blah book, so at least you got the gist of the paragraph.

Oh...and there is a work in progress site for Spiffing Artists. I am still making it. It will be special. Some of the buttons already work. Why don't you take a look?