Wednesday, December 23, 2009


If I make a list of movies from my life time that have changed what the artform can do, it would be as follows: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, LOTR, and Avatar. It's a truly stunning piece of work. As a world designer I really, REALLY loved the attention to detail and consistency applied through all the designs. I love that they put as much love and attention into the plants as the animals. I was disappointed that they never attempted to explain the floating Hallelujah Mountains since everything else had a scientific approach, but the visuals outweighed that weakness.

The story was Dances with Wolves + Ferngully which would not have been a bad thing if not for the incredibly one-dimensional bad guys. Yes, Hollywood, we know you don't like big corporations or the military. But couldn't you just every once in a while give those characters some sort humanity? But speaking of humanity, Avatar features non-cartoon non-humans that are completely emotionally convincing. No dead eyes like Polar Express. No stilted movements like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. To be fair, I guess all the humans were done with real actors, so I guess my comparisons are unfair. Anyway, it truly is a seminal film and achieved what no other has done before. Every artist needs to see it.

As a world designer I had that sick-happy feeling when someone is doing what you hoped to be doing first, but they do it so well that it's worth the loss to your ego just to see it in front of you. I suppose part of the pain is seeing the influences that I pull creativity from getting used by others. (As Einstein said: “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”) This is the first extensive movie world design that draws heavily from video game art. Anyone who’s played the later Final Fantasy games or Folklore will instantly recognize many of the environment, creature, plant, and color designs.

I’ve had this vision for making movies this way for about 20 years now. When I first learned about motion capture technology and saw Jurassic Park I thought about how I could realize the world I’d been designing in film and games. And my future vision is almost exactly what Cameron did with Avatar. Real actors driving totally believable CG characters in a totally believable CG environment. I figure I’ve still got at least a decade before I’m starting to see my Big Dream start to come together, so I suppose it’s nice that all this groundbreaking is being done now, making my job easier.

Edit: Came across this clever comparison to Disney's Pocahontis.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Fun Debate

Over at Parchment and Pen. It's been going on a couple weeks now. It touches on a lot of subjects that are of interest to me. (If you read this blob they are probably of interest to you as well. It's basically a conservative Christin prof. from Dallas Theological Seminary complaining about why his students don't get a fair shake in the secular universities. But it's the comments that are really interesting. I've had my reading program just speak the text to me while I work. I can't imagine how anyone would have the time to read the near 500 comments posted now!