Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mary and Max

Figure 1

Mary and Max is a clay animation telling the tale of two unlikely pen pals, eight year old Mary from the suburbs of Australia and middle-aged Max, an obese man suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome living in New York. Curious Mary begins the pen pal relationship which spans over twenty years as the two converses about their struggle with the people in their lives and their own problems.

Figure 2
The film at first is rather misleading, a style so soft and cutesy leading thoughts of childishness is instantly taken with the lead character questioning about their beliefs of where babies come from after Mary argues with a girl from school. Yet as the relationship continues between the two pen pals we learn more about their feelings of being alone, the discomfort they feel around people and the world and the comfort that each letter brings to the other. Robey writes “We learn a lot about their overlapping enthusiasms, including Max’s five favourite words (ointment, bumblebee, Vladivostock, banana and testicle, for the record), and the deep yearnings for companionship which make the successful delivery of each letter a heart-in-mouth business. Elliot is a talent eccentric enough to make Nick Park look like an office drone and the serious sadness underpinning his vision only makes the humour work better.” (Robey, 2010) With these sometimes wacky letters combined with visuals to tell the experiences of the characters it is a rather comic, heart warming and at times heartbreaking tale that entertains throughout.

Figure 3
The film being a claymation meant that the film would take a long time to shoot, 57 weeks in fact and despite a dreary colour palette with a splash of a clever use of red the films techniques stop it from becoming anything near boring. In an interview with Elliot his decision on the palette and red device is explained “...Mary’s world is brown, Max’s world is grey, we thought well, how often can we use colour as a device, I didn’t want the film to be just these two dreary colour palettes. I thought there must be another way to use colour to help accentuate the objects that they send to each other. The pompom was the first one, we made the pompom bright red to really stand out and draw attention to how important Max sees this little gift Mary sends him and then we started using this rule...” (Elliot, 2009) Accompanied with other wonderful techniques such as the clever animation of the characters expressions “Some touches are pristinely realistic and subtle, like the quivering of lips or the welling up of eyes on a face about to cry (there are quite a few tears shed too - an innovative use of sexual lubricant, a reported 2,400 teaspoons of which were used on set)” (Ivan, 2010)

Figure 4
What comes across as a childish and cute animation, Mary and Max has all the content and technique to really stand out. With a clever use of colour, brilliant choice of voice acting and dark comedy merged with a playful style which easily entertains, Mary and Max tells a heartbreaking and heart warming tale of two individuals struggling with their worlds.

References –

Text –
Elliot, Adam (2009) Interview: Adam Elliot for Maryand Max
Ivan, Sophie (2010) Mary and Max review
Robey, Tim (2010) Mary and Max Review

Figure 1 - http://www.rowthree.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/mary_and_max.jpg
Figure 2 - http://thekasen.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/mary-and-max.jpg
Figure 3 - http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lnb1y5sSDG1qdomqvo1_400.jpg
Figure 4 - http://www.allmovia.com/c/9883/9883_3.jpg

Research into Myth and Folklore

When I spoke to Phil he spoke about envisioning a season as a character in a game, what would that look like? Then spoke about doing the same for an element, in particular fire. Much like Phil said everything is derived from an idea such as Final Fantasy gain influence from myths and gods with their characters such as Ifrit/Efreet, Odin and countless others.

To begin with I started looking at the easiest and well know option which is Greek mythology. Interested in the element fire I looked at God's which were associated with the element and in Greek mythology that being Hades. Linking with fire being connected with Salamanders the name coming from the Greek for 'Fire Lizard' I thought at least one path to take with designing Hades would be to look at the idea of making him a big boss character of a game as a giant fire lizard or splice the humanistic depiction with a lizard.

I then looked into some Japanese folklore and came across Kitsune. This is the japanese word for fox which Japanese folklore tends to depict often with magical abilites and high intelligence. Some tales even depict them taking on human form when they age to 100 when they place reeds, broad leaf or a skull on their heads. They particularly took on the form of a beautiful women. I could take this idea one of two ways I believe, one the hero option or the villain option and make the fox more of a horrible character using the powers for their own greed.

Another idea has headed into fairy/faerie territory looking into an idea of designing a Will-o'-the-wisp fairy. One idea for this is to create it as a boss character for a game which is terrifying but beautiful something like a siren making wanderers stray from their path to a horrible death.

This Siren-like wisp could be influenced by the character Yunalesca (second form) from Final Fantasy X

  Another idea I have for the Will-o'-the-wisp is coming up with a more cute entity which I feel could branch into an animated short if I feel I can produce the work in the time limit. The idea being that the fairy is lonely and tricks a character to stray from their path so that she can gain a friend. However this leads to annoyance because the character cannot find their way back and then resents the fairy. The fairy becomes sad to which the character feels bad and they look for the path back together. I do like this idea and it would be a nice cute animation to do but I just don't know whether time will be on my side unfortunately. 

So this is where my mind is at so far I look forward to my meeting with Alan to talk through my ideas and get some encouraging feedback.

Transcription project

And so Transcription begins.....

We are asked to transcribe something of a narrative or body of investigation into a digital project, something like a novel to character design or music to music video. My initial thoughts on the project were very limited and I struggled to get any strong ideas forward. My first thoughts for this project were to transcribe the Richard Matheson book I Am Legend doing my best to stick with the explanations of the book rather than follow the film into either character design for a game or environment design for a game. I spoke to Phil yesterday and he quite rightly pointed out the faults with the idea in it being very limited in its art direction. I would be dressing a character in suitable clothes until he looked right, and if I chose the environments they would become renders of 1950's typical LA. This wouldn't particularly give me any chance to develop my skills much and agreeing with Phil I dropped the idea sharpish.

A second intitial idea spawned from a Two Steps From Hell track called Birth of a Hero.

This idea would entail an animation of a hero character training and throughout the animation he/she would age. Phil was again quick to point out the trouble with the idea in reminding me of the amount of time that I have, designing, modelling, rigging, skinning and animating say 5 different types of the same character would take a lot of time in order to accomplish this idea as I would want it to be. 10 weeks is no where near enough time.

Chatting with Phil was extremely helpful and he explained that this project is a way to work towards your future, or improve on things you feel you will want to improve on for your future. To take away with me Phil suggested the use of folklore or myths to take into account or some kind of elemental focus. As I'm interested in video games and character design is always something I have been interested in and would love to go into the industry doing. I know my previous introduction to character design was extremely weak and even if this project doesn't solely focus on just a character design I would like it to become a part of my work if i decide to slide into making a short animation.

There is much research to be done and after my chat with Phil and some quality and pleasing feedback today I am determined to prove myself.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Mustang Modelling Complete

Just a quick render using Justin's Mental ray techniques (thankyou :] ) the Mustang is complete. I will probably revisit this to add the details but I love the outcome of the tutorial.

Group Project work

 I have unfortunately neglected my blog throughout the group project so I'm going to post up my contribution to the group project

Character design -

Just the final idea for our 3 daring Astronauts


I Modelled the following scenes

Moon Station

The Walkway was the part I had trouble modelling with a help from Justin's texturing the scene was brought to life. Minor changes to the set up of this initial idea is the elevator shaft being sideon in the actual animation.


Not much to model just a sphere with an Earth texture. Over the top is an atmospheric sphere and over the top of that is the cloud layer which was set to a low transparency to view the ground below. The green tint is to give the impression of a slightly unnatural Earth to fit with our story.


Similar story for the moon, a sphere with a craterous moon texture over the top. This was then populated with the domes.


Using Orthographic images I found of a passenger plane I began to model the plane in order for it to be broken up and put into a scene.

Sleep Capsules

For the sleep capsules we liked the design of the Alien Hypersleep capsules but liked the Lost In Space idea of the characters being upright rather than laying down. The capsules are based off the Alien design.

The crashed plane scene

This scene I put together, UVing the plane and texturing it. I animated the characters for the trailer however due to pacing it had to be cut down to make sure we didn't lose any of the trailers momentum. I learnt a lot from this scene in terms of animating and rendering especially. Justin really knows his stuff when it comes to rendering and he definitely strengthened my knowledge of mental ray and passes in the animation, I'm really pleased as to how the renders turned out.


Using the characters and our scenes I created some promotional images. Posing the characters in different ways for the shots such as above and then also similar for the DVD Cover and Image

I had a little dabble with After Effects with the studio logo which features at the beginning of the animation, mainly using the mask tool to hide the sun until a certain point.

And finally some business cards put together to promote our studio

Our final trailer

After the 15-18 weeks of work I have learnt so much and had such an enjoyable experience. Thanks to Justin and Sasha who have made it enjoyable due to the easygoing nature and I think I have definitely learnt a lot, especially in terms of Maya modelling, texturing and rendering. I'm really pleased with the outcome of this project and I am raring to go for the transcription project.