realistic cg

Still couldn’t finish anything new for today so here you go, another old art (2012). Ages ago I uploaded it on my old tumblr account too but yeah it’s a fresh start here (and a portfolio maybe?) so I’m uploading it again :) Enjoy ^_^

I honestly want to commend BioWare on their promotion of ME:A. Just about a month and a half until the game is released, and they’ve built this huge amount of hype using just a handful of trailers over the last two years. 

It’s also worth noting that those trailers consist of almost exclusively in-game cinematics and/or gameplay. They seem to be shying away from the hyper realistic CG trailers. Granted, there have been a couple of these types of trailers (like the E3 announcement trailer) but they’ve been fairly indicative of what the game’s cinematic moments seem to look like. I love the CGI trailers for Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age 2, and Dragon Age: Inquisition, but for some people it set the bar too high graphically.

And as we’re getting closer to the games release, they are teasing with small character details and gameplay showcases. No alternate tactics to build excitement. Just gameplay and genuinely interesting tidbits of lore given out through things like the Andromeda Initiative briefings and squad mate run-downs.

It’s just really nice to be excited about a game, and feel like I know exactly what type of product I’m going to receive.

9

Oh, no. It’s a rant.

I just finished reading the wonderful art book, Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong, The Disney Family Museum’s loving tribute to the master artist responsible for the ethereal look of Bambi’s backgrounds.

The book is a delight from start to finish, detailing Wong’s 106 year life (he’s still alive and creating art today!) and his many, many artistic pursuits. In addition to his brief tenure at Disney, Wong also worked as a production designer for Warner Bros. live action films, as a fine artist specializing in ceramics, paintings and pastels, and for the past few decades, as a premier maker of incredibly ornate kites.

My ONLY problem with Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong comes at the very end, and it’s not even the fault of the book. It’s in a chapter titled ‘Inspiration,’ and it is a series of quotes from various animation legends and luminaries, all of them describing how Wong’s misty, emotional, incredibly UN-detailed concept art for Bambi influenced the work they are doing today.

Awesome.

Except…

Except that there are quite a few of these quotes from Pixar people, up to and including John Lasseter. All of them describe how Wong’s “nearly abstract” (Pete Docter) approach to backgrounds effected Pixar’s approach to their films’ backgrounds.

Pixar production designer Ralph Eggleston even goes so far as to say that Finding Nemo is a “direct descendant of Ty’s incredible work on Bambi.” While Wong’s sumptuously hazy, pastel approach to concept art is definitely visible in Eggleston’s vis-dev work, it is all but lost in Nemo’s – and Pixar as a whole’s – photo-realistic approach to CG environments.

But perhaps the most jarring of these ‘Inspiration’ testimonials was Pixar CCO John Lasseter’s. Beside the now de rigueur photo of Lasseter standing in front of a bunch of Pixar merchandise wearing yet another Hawaiian shirt, Lasseter proclaims:

“What many people don’t realize…is how revolutionary [Bambi] was in its visual storytelling. When you look at most films of that era, you see that they were fairly straightforward in the way they depicted their backgrounds. Tyrus Wong took an entirely different approach with his styling on Bambi. […] Where other films were literal, using backgrounds that showed detailed objects and settings, Bambi was expressive and emotional. Tyrus painted feelings, not objects.”

This is 100% true. So why did reading it bother me so much?

Because Pixar has been almost single-handedly responsible for feature animation’s obsession with photo-realistic backgrounds – a trend I personally hate. While I totally concede that this weird need to make cartoons look less cartoony is entirely their right, that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch and moan about it every chance I get.

Please scroll up and take a look at the Tyrus Wong-influenced Bambi backgrounds (top four pics) vs. the photo-realistic backgrounds for Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur (the bottom four).

Which looks more beautiful to you?

Which looks like the product of an artist’s hand, and which looks like they may as well have just filmed a bunch of real-life locations and then dropped the cartoon characters on top à la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

And while I’m blathering on about the way the characters interact with their respective backgrounds, please look at those stills again. Aesthetically, the hand-drawn characters of Bambi ‘work’ with their hand-painted backgrounds faaar better than the CG characters of The Good Dinosaur and their CG, photo-realistic backgrounds. Don’t you agree?

I LOVE CARTOONS.

I REALLY LOVE CARTOONY CARTOONS.

If John Lasseter and co. prefer their cartoons to look like IMAX nature films with cartoon characters photo-shopped on top, that is entirely up to them. But I find it kind of gross to read them trying to attach their burgeoning legacies onto the artistic accomplishments of someone else in an effort to – I don’t know – give their work a greater depth or stronger sense of history or whatever.

Is that just me?

In closing:

Tyrus Wong’s groundbreaking work on Bambi has made him an indelible part of animation’s DNA. As such, I have no doubt that his influence and inspiration resides inside every artist employed at Pixar. That said, it is NOT apparent in the films Pixar is releasing these days. In fact, I’d say the background art in Pixar’s films resembles the polar opposite of Wong’s influence, hearkening back to the pre-Wong days of animation that John Lasseter himself described as being “literal” and “fairly straightforward.”

But there’s hope!

(Maybe.)

Now that Pixar has finally come up with the software for realistic water, wind, hair, etc., perhaps they’ll ease up a little on their Quixotic quest for CG photo-realism. Perhaps the powers-that-be at Pixar will allow a little bit of Tyrus Wong’s (and Pixar’s incredibly talented vis-dev artists’) “expressive and emotional” influence to seep into their pictures.

Perhaps.

Here’s hoping!

I really wish 2D animation would make a substantial comeback. Just imagine all the new techniques that studios have learned from CG animation being applied and (more seamlessly) combined with 2D. I also wish that stop motion would gain more than just a niche foothold, although it’s understandable why we don’t see as much of that since it takes so long to produce (but it is soooooo worth it). Don’t do away with CG animation by any means, but I think we live in a world where we could have both (or all three in an ideal world). It’s a shame so many studios only want to focus on CG though.