2008 has definitely been a year of ups and downs. I had the privilege of working alongside some of the most innovative and brilliant artistic minds on the planet and being a part of one of my favorite films of the year, Wall-E. I also lost one of my best friends, Justin Wright, to whom the film was dedicated. Justin would definitely be stoked to see how many people loved his story work on both Wall-E and Presto, and to see that justice had finally been done to one of his favorite superheroes, Ironman. So this year, as I join friends and family to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I'm particularly mindful of all amazing people God's brought into my life, including all of you who check this blog for the most recent dinosaur news or Chades Challenges. Whatever holiday you celebrate this season, I wish you a ridiculous amount of joy and merry-making, and more pie and chocolate than you can shake a stick at! Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, see you in '09!
"There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries." ~W.J. Cameron
My apocryphal rock band, Sly Orange, went on tour through Portland and Seattle last Independence Day. Our hotel-thrashing drummer, Vi, started compiling the video that we shot for our bass-player, Ben, who unfortunately couldn't make the tour. Most of the conversations are out of context, and make little sense. You'll hear me talking about 'future surgeries' which is me talking to the camera as if it is my future-self watching the video like a time capsule. I'm not sure if that makes more or less sense. Anyway, Vi did a great job editing this little teaser, and it features my fantastic singing voice, so I thought I'd share it. Make sure to look for The O-dyssey in record stores and on iTunes this Christmas!
In other music news, President-Elect Obama has officially tapped John Williams to compose/conduct a piece of music for his inauguration. Talk about getting started on the right foot, I can't think of a better person to set the stage for a historical moment. I think there's only one piece suitable for such an occasion. It certainly wouldn't be the first Star Wars/Obama mash-up.
Everyone loves John Williams, but a much more polarizing figure appearing at the inauguration is Pastor Rick Warren. I've read his book, A Purpose Driven Life, twice, once with my late buddy, Justin Wright. Justin and I hardly agreed with each other on every issue, and we certainly didn't agree with everything Pastor Warren had to say in his book, but it definitely challenged us both to think about what it means to live a life of purpose. Before anyone gets angry about Pastor Warren giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration, I'd challenge them to watch his talk at the TED conference. You may not agree with everything the man has to say (if you don't, you may find Dan Dennett's TED talk more to your liking), but Pastor Warren's certainly not a "fear mongerer," and I'm personally not interested in hearing an invocation from anyone who agrees with everybody, anyway.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." --Rick Warren
According to Science Daily, two new species of prehistoric animals were found in the Sahara this week, a pterosaur and a sauropod (the long-necked dinosaurs). Scientists believe that the Sahara used to be an expansive grassland dotted with lakes and ponds like a prehistoric Shire. Perfect stomping grounds for a sauropod (and sauropods did an awful lot of stomping). This marks the most exciting find to come out of Africa in nearly fifty years and some great news for us sauropod fans. Finding a new dinosaur on a dig is quite a feat, finding two entirely new species is astounding!
Nizar Ibrahim (pictured above), the palaeontologist leading the study, will spend the next six months examining all of the fossils and writing about them for his thesis. I thought we were lucky at CalArts to be able to make films for our thesis, but studying new dinosaur species to earn your PhD might be even cooler. Thanks to by brother, Andy, and Michelle for sending me the article! In other, even more exciting news, scientists at Penn State lead by Webb Miller and Stephan C. Schuster have made a genetic break-through mapping the first genome of a prehistoric animal--the woolly mammoth! Schuster says, "Our dataset is 100 times more extensive than any other published dataset for an extinct species, demonstrating that ancient DNA studies can be brought up to the same level as modern genome projects."
A lot of people may question whether or not we should be playing God, and we've certainly seen the effects of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but who doesn't want to ride a woolly mammoth? Read more about the break-through in the article here. What do you guys think? Should we bring back prehistoric animals or leave 'em alone?
It's no secret that my favorite superhero is Batman. But in junior high, when my career goals were somewhere between ILM and Image comics, my favorite was definitely Spawn. Todd McFarlane was my first artistic hero, aside from my dad and brother, and McFarlane's version of Spiderman is still my favorite. So it's about time that I put up some fan art. Violator is right up there with Joker and Venom as one of my favorite comic villains. Like Joker, he's got a morbid sense of humor, which makes him fun to read, and like Venom he's got the physical menace to back it up, which makes him fun to draw!
addendum 12.15.08 I just found a website with a gallery of all the Spawn covers. I remember seeing this one, in particular, on the shelf. How awesome is that drawing? There's just something about a hero from Hell who refuses to serve his master that's intrinsically badass. Why can't they make a good movie out of this? Mr. McFarlane, if you're reading this, give me a call! I will help you make this film!
Speaking of comics that would make great movies and amazing covers, this is probably the greatest comic cover (and series) of all-time. Someone needs to get Spielberg and Williams on this. I mean honestly, would you rather see Tintin or Superman destroying congress??
The people have spoken! From the very limited selection of 'best pets ever' you guys have chosen Tyrannosaurus Rex. A wise decision. Don't get me wrong, ewoks are great, but I know who I'd rather have protecting my yard from burglars.
In other AustinTranslation news, Chades Challenge XIX is cough-up. As in, the substance that comes up when you cough. This is the first Chades Challenge that doesn't follow the adjective/noun guidelines, but it should make an interesting challenge. Reminder, this is a character design challenge. Cough-up as a sympathetic character...is it possible? As one Alaskan governor I know always says, "You betcha!"
Alright, Stephan, I'll cough up some background...
These are characters from a pirate-era RPG that my friend Everett Downing is gearing up. Finn and Sean Berry (played by Emma Coats and myself, respectively) are teenage brothers from a large Irish-Catholic family who joined the legendary Lt. Robert Maynard in his quest to hunt down the pirate baron Blackbeard. Finn (the red-head) is a hot-headed scrapper, and Sean (who I assume is the older of the two) is a more dignified, voice-of-reason sort of fellow. The two are a lot like Sansa and Arya, for those of you who follow George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (soon to be an HBO series--woo hoo!); two siblings who couldn't be any different, come close to hatred at times, yet act as a pretty powerful team.
RPGs can be a great exercise in character development and collaborative story-telling. I highly recommend them to any artists, writers, or filmmakers out there. Below arecharacter studies drawn by the glorious Emma Coats.
Master Josh Billings has tagged me, so I've got to jot down seven facts about myself, and tag seven others to do the same. Here goes!
I. My screen name, Munchanka, comes from a clan my friends and I formed in Sunday school of the most wise and courageous fourth graders (all three of us).
II. I've been a coffee drinker since fourth grade, the sign of a true Munchanka.
III. My favorite artist in any medium of all-time is John Williams, and my favorite work of his is the score for A New Hope, though his best single track has to be the Jurassic Park Suite.
IV. I cut in line for housing three of my four years at CalArts, unfairly depriving students of dormitory housing (not very Munchanka-like behavior).
V. I've had teeth knocked loose on several occasions, once when hit by a car and once while dressed in full Darth Maul attire.
VI. I didn't get my driver's license until the ripe old age of twenty-two because I took animation courses instead of driver's training in high school and mooched rides off of friends through college.
VII. The greatest gifts I've ever received were a Jurassic Park gate that my brother made for me out of scrap wood and fireplace matchsticks (it was much better quality than it sounds like) and a pair of animation cels from the Mr. DNA sequence in the actual film.
Now that you know more about me, it's time to get to know a few of my friends! Hmm, who to tag...
This day in history, exactly ten years ago, Pixar released A Bug's Life. Of all Pixar's films, this has to be the most underrated, there's some brilliant animation on Hopper, and Tuck and Roll are just plain hilarious. Now everyone at Pixar's hard at work on the upcoming Pete Docter film. You can check out the new trailer here. Happy 10th Anniversary to A Bug's Life, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone else!
I'd like to see how Clark Kent explains showing up for work with a broken arm the same day Jimmy Olsen turns in this photograph for the front page of the Daily Planet.
That's assuming Clark Kent shows up for work ever again...
I had a lot of fun drawing Zod. Some friends and I are going to take another week to explore him and his goons, Ursa and Non. Let me know if you have a version of the Kryptonian rebels that you'd like to share.
I started doing these pseudo-comic covers for a DnD campaign I'm running to get the players pumped up for each game. Here's the 'cover' for our second gaming session:
The dark of night holds many secrets,
The dark of night tells many lies, Beware the things that shimmer there, They may be friends, they may be spies
More cool art at Dungeons and Shenanigans. For you gamers out there looking for good, atmospheric music--check out E.S. Posthumous. You may recognize some of his tunes from trailers, but the full unedited songs are really epic, intense, and all-around top notch!
Someone was kind enough to set up a wikipedia page for my good friend Justin Wright, who passed away earlier this year. Aside from being one of my best friends, I owe a lot of what I know about story and filmmaking to Justin, and it's great to see his legacy living on. There are links to Pacific Union College, CalArts, Pixar, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation from his page, so I am sure his story will inspire and empower others. If you're ever on a wikipedia binge, please swing by Justin's page and give it a read!
"It's funny out there, make sure to laugh." --Justin Wright
Tied at a measly five votes each, Gandalf and Professor X are the top contenders for fictional President of the United States. Personally, I'd vote for Santa Claus--the guy can traverse the entire planet in just one night and knows where all the naughty people live. Bin Laden: check!
But the people have spoken and these our your candidates! Will it be the telepathic genius whose platform is tolerance and education, or the powerful wizard known to work across the aisles to unite many races against a common foe? Get back to that poll and make your fictional voice heard!
While I'm on the topic, a belated condemocratulations to President-elect Obama! Whether you support his policies or not, it's exciting to live in a nation where opportunity is truly available for all. It's also pretty fantastic experiencing in one of those positive-feeling "Where were you when...?" moments I've heard about all my life. God bless America!
If you know me, you know that my favorite film of all-time is Jurassic Park. Aside from Star Wars, I'd say Jurassic Park is the main reason I wanted to become a filmmaker. Steven Spielberg's directing, Stan Winston's dinosaurs, Gary Rydstrom's sound, and Dennis Muren's effects are all astounding, but Jurassic Park would be nothing had it not been for the imagination and scientific curiosity of Michael Crichton.
I remember reading the book in third grade and being absolutely scared out of my gourde. The way Mr. Crichton spelled out the science behind bringing dinosaurs back from life and his descriptions of the theropods' predatory behavior, it was very clear that these weren't monsters or mutants, but actual animals--very real, and very dangerous! I recall having to periodically glance up from the book just to remind myself that I wasn't being stalked by voracious Velociraptors through the black jungles of Isla Nublar. I haven't read as thrilling of a story since!
It's heart-breaking to hear of Mr. Crichton's sudden passing from a private struggle with cancer. Sixty-six is fairly young, and he was still very active as an author, filmmaker, and speaker. I am grateful for the amazing worlds he gave us and the way his stories would tantalize the imagination of the right side of our brains while challenging scientific assumptions of the left side of our brain. As a scientist and an artist, Michael Crichton was quite a human being, and it is the least I can do to salute him on this blog.
So for all of you artists and filmmakers out there, please take an interest in science; it will only inform and inspire your work. And for all you scientists, remember to let your imagine challenge your preconceptions about the world around you. Finally, for Mr. Crichton, thanks for the magnificent scares, sir, and please say hi to Tyrannosaurus rex for me!
top: Sonoko Konishi as Alec the Bunny, Mach Kobayashi as the G.I. bottom: still of Alec from Presto, a Pixar animated short by Doug Sweetland
below: commandos stormed the Pixar costume contest stage this year in an effort to save John Lasseter from a sniper. Unfortunately, they were picked off one after another by said assassin. It was up to John to pry a rocket launcher from the cold, dead hands of one of the commandos and destroy the sniper himself. Below are the brave soldiers lost under enemy fire. from left; me, Dovi Anderson, Emma Coats, and Mach "The Pitbull" Kobayashi.
Happy Halloween, everybody! Make sure to scare the crap out of all of your friends. Also, a little reminder for everyone to get out there and vote! As the clown prince of crime himself once said, "Think about the future!"
Speaking of politics, here's my version of Gotham's tragic district attorney. As a fan of the original Burton films, I was always disappointed that we didn't get to see Billy Dee Williams' take on Two-Face. In The Empire Strikes Back, he shows a great capacity for portraying the key attributes of the character: ambition, confliction, and charm.
You put one troll up on your blog and the next day, the dwarves show up--belligerent little sods. This particular ruffian is Bofo of Bolduum, elf-crusher and forger of sharp things.
Continuing my mythological-tangent, this is Ulla, a valkyrie, and her theme song. Ecstacy of Gold was fantastic in The Good the Bad, and the Ugly, but I always thought it sounded more like an ancient call-to-arms than a western show down.
Snapple fact: Valkyries fly over combat, escorting fallen warriors to Val Halla. These battle maidens are often depicted as riding winged horses, but according to Wikipedia (or as I call it, Brain Number Two), 'norse horse' was an Icelandic term for a wolf. So these babes soar over battles on giant friggin wolves, clad in shimmering armor, bringing glory to the fallen. That's pretty epic.
Chades Challenge XVIII: Hostile Troll My troll is s sea-side cliff-dweller that rides a mutated coconut crab. That's pretty hostile. The drawing lacks clarity due to the dense line mileage and lack of color or tone. Anyone want to do a color pass on this baby? I'll post all of the applicants! I could do another week of these! Anyone else got any?
Monster Mash Part I It's always fun to draw monsters, but Halloween sets the atmosphere particularly well. Looking for vampire reference, I stumbled upon this eerie little fellow. The critter's an aye aye,the world's largest nocturnal primate (unless, of course, you count the animator). I think the real thing's still more caricatured than my design!