Concept Art For “Flushed Away”

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Interior, Kensington apartment
(Surely some mistake in the mirror reflections and the light on the floor here?)

The Animation World Network (AWN) and Dreamworks have teamed up to make a microsite for the release of Aardman’s “Flushed Away”.

There are articles, interviews, trailers and photos and “featurettes” on the site.
I’d like to focus here on the pictures of the film’s concept art.

Have a close look at these. There’s an amazing amount of delightfully inventive and ingenious detail in the design of these environment and props designs.

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Underground World

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Underground World

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Underground World

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The Boat Chase

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Props Design: The Jammy Dodger

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Underground World

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Props Design: Tower Bridge

Can you spot the bicycle parts?

Here’s the Link again.

The film will be released on November the 3rd in the USA, and on the 1st of December here in the UK

Mind Your Eyeballs, It’s Autumn

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Just Peachy‘s photos of a Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

Just Peachy says:

Portland’s Japanese Garden is located in Washington Park, at the western edge of downtown.

It is a beautiful and tranquil place encompassing five different garden areas that include ponds, streams, waterfalls, sand, stones, trees, and flowers.

Famously, when Nobuo Matsunaga, Ambassador from Japan to the United States, visited this garden in 1988, he proclaimed it to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”

Feast your eyes!
(Click the thumbnails to enlarge)

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There must have been a frost or two in Portland, to turn the leaves.

Here in the South of the UK we are still waiting for the first frosts. The maples (in my garden at least) have yet to show their brilliant autumn tints.

(Via Plep. )

Minuscule Website Goes Live Today.

The official Minuscule website has now been launched.

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You might remember my post about Minuscule in early September.

Although I have only seen the first teaser episode, I’m already a big fan of the show.

What makes it so appealing for me must be the mix of :-

    anarchic characters who have not been over designed or over stylised,
    the complete absence of dialogue that means all the gags are visual gags,
    the genius idea of using live action backgrounds, with an amazingly well engineered soundtrack,
    and last but not least, the superbly timed storyline.

Phew! Enough of the adulation, on with the pictures!
(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

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A quick tour of the website shows that there are a few areas that are still awaiting content.
The site has been constructed using Flash, (so the usual complaints apply).

I’d advise you to hover over the right hand navigation blobs longer than usual, to allow the text indicators to appear.

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As I say, you really do have to dig around on the site to find the characters, wallpapers, icons, and so on.

When you get to it, it’s worth viewing the first teaser episode again because the soundtrack sounds so much better than the YouTube version.

The originators of the series, FutureIkon, manage to hide Minuscule pretty well on their website, and the only text I could find was locked into an image.
Here’s a transcript:

Minuscule revolves around the day-to-day existence of insects.

Although the series calls to mind a wildlife documentary, it’s a documentary in which the insects are presented in burlesque situations, with a fair amount of philosophical contemplation thrown in.

You might call it a cross between Tex Avery and Microcosmos, or grassroots slapstick. Or a docu-cartoon series.

The characters are modelled in 3D, then incorporated into live footage.

This technique serves to create an authentic cartoon atmosphere while maintaining the naturalistic flavour of documentaries.

Episodes are to be highly visual and devoid of commentary and intelligible dialogue (except for highly expressive buzzing and chirping), so no dubbing will be necessary.

They will be put together in then way Warner Bros cartoons from the 50’s were, i.e. essentially at the storyboard stage, with synopses providing a mere rough outline.

This approach should give us ample leeway to introduce visual gags.

The style of the series represents a constant trade-off between realism and cartoon.

The idea is to depict bugs acting ridiculous – or poetic – in a natural setting of undergrowth or well-mown lawn.

Although sound will be used in an unconventional, tongue in cheek fashion, we won’t be rehashing old cartoon stereotypes. For example, some of the insects will be accompanied by realistic helicopter sound effects.

There’s so much to look forward to in this series of 78 X six minute shorts.

Link to the Minuscule website.

Daniel Cacouault Website Updated

I don’t know how many visitors follow the links in the left sidebar, but I hope that if you do click on them, you find my recommendations worthwhile.

I check them once in a while for linkrot, etc., and I’m really chuffed when I find one of the static websites has updated.

This time it’s Daniel Cacouault (pronounced Ca-Coo-Oh) who has updated his site.

Here are some beautiful visuals done for Gorillaz:

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Gorillaz Windmill Island

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Gorillaz Cloudscape

(I can’t provide direct links to these pages because the site uses frames.)

I guess this one is for a commercial:

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An acrylic concept sketch:

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A watercolour:

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Pink – Blue

From a TV commercial:

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Daewoo #8

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Puss In Boots

You’ll probably want to look at everything on Daniel’s site. Take your time, it’s gorgeous work, all of it.

Painters I Should Have Known About (007) Jacques Majorelle

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Louis Majorelle by Jacques Majorelle, 1908

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fathom the reasons why one hasn’t heard of an artist who might be well known by other people.

In the case of Jacques Majorelle, I guess that my reason for not knowing him is that the majority of information about him is in French, and that his work is now so widely dispersed that it has yet to be brought together for a major retrospective exhibition, although there has been a book published about him (in French) since his death in 1962.

In other words, he’s stayed just below my radar.

The picture above provides another reason why Jacques Majorelle is less well known than he might be.

He had a very famous father: Louis Majorelle. To call Majorelle pere a furniture designer would be almost slanderous. He is much better and more exotically described by the French term: ebeniste. Louis was a prominent member of a group of designers who specialised in the Art Nouveau, and although much of his work was with furniture, he produced many other decorative objects from lamps to textile designs. Here’s an Artcyclopedia search link.

Oddly enough, even when you do know a little about Jacques Majorelle, it is frustrating trying to research him and his work. There’s a site called Insecula that allows you to search through all the major museums of France. If you look for “Majorelle”, it’s only his father, Louis, that turns up in the results.

Jacques was born in the town of Nancy, France in 1886. Here he is at the age of 4:

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Jacques Majorelle aged 4, by Victor Emmanuel Prouve.

He went to l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, then later moved to Paris where he studied at the Academie Julian. This atelier was a true nexus for the revolutionary upsurge in French painting in the second half of the 19th Century.

By 1908, Majorelle was travelling and painting in Spain and Italy, and then in 1910 he had his first encounter with the Arab world when he landed in Egypt.

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The Nile Near Luxor

Majorelle felt irresistibly drawn to the Arab world and returned to Egypt every year until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. He was invalided out of the army with pulmonary problems and arrived in Morocco for the first time in 1917.

He was completely smitten by his exotic surroundings, and effectively spent the rest of his life in Morocco, based in Marrakech, initially as a painter and later as a gardener.

Majorelle is sometimes classed as an Orientalist, but strictly speaking although his subject matter was the Arabic speaking people and the places of North Africa, he was more of an Occidentalist, because he was painting in the far western extreme of the Islamic world.

Majorelle returned periodically to Nancy and Paris where he enjoyed several successful exhibitions of his prodigious output of paintings showing the markets (Souks) and fortified towns (Casbahs) of the Morooccan interior.

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Anemiter circa 1939

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Casbah, Anemiter

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Southern Market Town

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On the Rooftops of Tagoudat, 1949

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Le Souk des Tapis, Marrakech, 1924

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Puppets, Allemats

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The Souk at El-Khemis

Over the years, Majorelle’s style became flatter and increasingly decorative.
He happily changed from one medium to another. One can find works in oils as well as pastel, gouache and even distemper enhanced with gold dust.

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Travel Poster, Tangiers

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Sunset, Granada

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Tree Ferns These were probably painted in his garden.  Recent research reveals that Tree Ferns was painted in the Ivory Coast near Mont Tonkui.

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The Water Carrier

Between 1945 and 1952 Majorelle made several forays further afield in Africa, his palette increasing in brilliance and hue.

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Women of Guinea 1948

All the while that Majorelle was painting his vivid images of Morocco and further afield, he was at work on what was to become his chef d’oeuvre, which is nowadays much more famous than his paintings.

He bought a ten acre plot of land in the date palm groves on the outskirts of Marrakech, and built himself a house in the “International Style” that was also his studio.

In the grounds of this large villa he planted an impressive array of cacti, succulents, bamboos, bananas, tree ferns, and over 400 varieties of palms. This was serious gardening.

What made the whole composition of house and garden extraordinary however was Majorelle’s choice of colour for the walls of the house, as well as for the pots, planters, pools, walls and just about every possible paintable surface on the property.

He invented, if that’s the right word, a new and very intense shade of blue which he modestly named ‘Majorelle Blue’, and even went to the trouble of trademarking it.

You can see it here:

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Majorelle Blue

His later years were dogged by a car crash in 1955 that resulted in the amputation of one of his feet, and in the following year he was divorced, remarrying in 1961. One year later he was badly injured in another car crash, this time breaking his femur.

He was repatriated to France to recover, but died on the 14th of October 1962

The fabulous garden fell into disrepair after his death, but was discovered by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, who bought the house and restored the gardens.

The house now contains a museum of Islamic Art, and some paintings by Majorelle.

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Here’s the only book about him that I could find available online:
Les orientalistes – Jacques Majorelle by Félix Marcilhac, ACR Editions 1995, ISBN: 2867700779
288 pages at the rather eye watering price of £80 from Amazon

And lastly, a small personal anecdote about my ignorance of Majorelle…

Winston Churchill met Majorelle in 1946 during one of his many stays at the world famous Mamounia hotel. Churchill was a painter, too. He persuaded the management of the hotel to commission a mural by Majorelle, which he executed on the ceiling of the fabulous dining room.

In 1965 I sat under that very mural, and I even remember staring up at it, but because of my tender years I was filled more with amazement than any curiosity about the artist, so I failed to register it as my first sight of a Majorelle.

I guess you only see things when you are ready…..

Cartoon Network Starting a Development Studio in London

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Here’s the announcement:


Storyboard Artists/Character Designers

There’s now a brand new creative powerhouse opening right in the heart of Soho – Cartoon Network Europe’s very own development studio.

This is a unique opportunity to be part of a small team responsible for developing the hit shows of the future. With the focus on storyboard-driven comedy animation series for Kids aged 6-11, your role will be to develop projects from initial pitches to series bibles, and ultimately storyboards and final animatics. These projects will then be put forward for series consideration.

For you it offers the opportunity to pitch your own concepts and, if you’re successful, we’ll progress you to ‘show creator’. An understanding of programming for our target age group is essential, as is a broad understanding of the U.K. and international animation industry.

If you have the skills and creative vision we’re looking for and want to be part of this exciting new venture, please send examples of your work along with a summary of your career to date and salary expectations to Natalie Francis, International Recruitment, Time Warner, Time Warner House, 44 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JL or email:

Closing date: 30 November 2006.

(Via Skwigly.)

Banksy starts to rake it in.

The five works that Banksy had on sale at Sotheby’s two days ago all achieved prices two to four times their estimates.

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Kate Moss 6 colour screen prints, 2005

Estimate: £10 – 15,000. Hammer price: £50,400

Andy would have loved it!

Link to Banksy at Sotheby’s. Update: Image no longer visible on the Sotheby’s site (16th June 2008), but click the small image at the top of this post for a pretty good sized enlargement.

Urbicande, The Obscure Cities

Urbicande is a series of BD graphic novels published by Casterman

Illustrated by Belgians Francois Schuiten and written by Benoit Peeters, the 22 volumes in the series have built up an imaginary mysterious world since the first book’s appearance in 1982.

(Click the thumbnails to enlarge the images)

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Because the series constructs an enigma wrapped up in a mystery surrounded by a puzzle cloaked in a conundrum hidden by an intrigue, it’s a little difficult to be precise in describing the type of universe these volumes portray.

So I’ll leave it to the author of one of the many fan sites to introduce the strange world of The Obscure Cities.

Les Cités Obscures is one of the best BD ever made. Franà §ois Schuiten and Benoà ®t Peeters describe an incredibly rich world, striking by its diversity, coherence and organization. And beauty.

Their books can be read in several degrees of depth.

We can read just one or two books by themselves, we can just follow the stories and the nice drawings, or we can start making connections between the different books and between the books and our world. One of the most interesting things is the way the authors mix invention and reality.

As an example there are many passages between the two worlds (the ones known to date are listed in the official site of the series).

There are also many symbols and literary references present in the books, whose study gives some hints to understand the meaning of the obscure world…

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I get strong resonances of Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo, Max Ernst’s Semaine De Bonte, and another famous Belgian: Rene Magritte.

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Amazing draughtsmanship on display here. You can actually download several issues of the ficticious The City Echo. (I’ve lost the link in the wilderness of mirrors that surrounds Urbicande!)

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Here are the creators of Urbicande, who have known each other snce their early schooldays.

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There are some beautiful visual ideas frolicking in the univers of Urbicande.

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There’s even a map to help you orient yourself through the series.

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UPDATE: You can find updates on Schuiten & Peeters work here.