It All Started With A Chicken…
… for me, anyway! It was late 2010 and I was finishing up on a video game in New York called Homefront. The renowned visual-effects company Digital Domain was opening a new facility in Florida and I was given the opportunity to join them – the plan was to begin making original animated films. When I arrived, we didn’t even have any offices yet! There was actually two groups of artists: the Story group (creating amazing concept art of five different movie ideas) and the CG group, myself included, that was renting space at a local college.
Since we had no movie to create just yet, the twelve of us decided to create our own animated short. It was tentatively called The Chicken Show – an underground, night-time “Fight Club” in a farm house starring chickens. The image on the right is the champion Bruiser (rooster) and his brave challenger Fluffy – concept arkwork by the amazing Aaron Blaise.
We actually got pretty far just winging it ourselves- storyboards were tightened up, assets and models were underway and layout/feather tech was in full swing. Sadly, actual work interrupted (Amazin’, Heads-Up Display and The Ball Unleashed) and we had to abandon our short. The only two surviving elements in my possession are the first model I did for Digital Domain (the tractor) and my concept art for an establishing shot (the old barn). Here’s to hoping the Chicken Show will rise again!
An Elephant Is Born
Enter The Legend of Tembo. Of the five or so movies in development, it was decided this would be Digital Domain’s kick-off feature. Tembo is the story of a young African elephant who is carried off far from home, grows up to find himself in strange lands and conflicts and maintains his ideals through it all.
One of the possible one-sheet posters is on the left, again by the talented Arron Blaise (who also served as Director through the production).
I’ll let Aaron speak to these fantastic images in his own words:
These images are from a film I was co-directing called The Legend of Tembo. I am always deeply involved in the design of the films I am directing. I try to create the images that I am trying to explain to people on the crew. I feel it is much better to show than to explain. It gives a clearer picture to the Art Director, modelers, lighters, and animators. This cuts down tremendously on the number of iterations needed to achieve whatever it is we are shooting for this in turn eases the impact on the budget of the film. – courtesy of his website.
As I was crewed to the VFX projects, I was honored to be brought on the Tembo team as well. Plans were made to create a Sizzle Reel– basically, a short, fully-realized animated segment that would serve as a teaser for the film. I contributed in the Texture Department and the Hair and Fur Department, using Digital Domain’s proprietary hair system called Samson.
The elephant in the battle armor and broken tusk to the right is one of the fantastic models from the production- a warlike elephant named Sarge (artist is unknown). If anyone knows who created this fierce fella, please let me know!
The teaser, shown below, is just a small indication of the magic that could have been.
As a bonus, I thought I would add the video below which gives a behind-the-scenes peek at the facility we had down here in Florida, as well as hear from some Directors and Producers thoughts on what the overall plan was for this ambitious undertaking.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite concept art from Aaron Blaise – these images are not only technically brilliant, but really convey the mood, emotion and adventure of The Legend of Tembo. The whole cast of characters may currently be asleep, but I’m confident when it’s their time to rejoin us, it’ll be worth the wait!