Friday, August 28, 2015

'Noir' architecture L.A.

More exploring Los Angeles with paint. I had 2 architectural targets this weekend: first the 'Spadena House' or 'Witch's House' in Beverly Hills, another example of 'storybook' architecture. 
A quick sketch to familiarize myself with the architecture and figure out any tough perspective problems. I'm also looking for detail: both to include and exclude. The property has a very interesting garden but I had to pare down the detail to the fence, the bridge and some choice flora and foliage.

I've noticed the curb markers in Los Angeles and this address has an apt design.

 Leaving Beverly Hills I wound up Sunset Blvd into the Hollywood hills to find the 'Dietrichson House' from Billy Wilder's 'Double Indemnity'. "It was one of those California-Spanish houses everyone was nuts about ten or fifteen years ago; this one must've cost somebody about thirty-thousand bucks...that is, if he ever finished paying for it." - Walter Neff

I made a quick sketch of the building to wrap my head around the architecture. There are some tricky planes and decorative elements in this one. It also makes me focus mentally on the colour choices I might make; taking note of the multiple greens in the shrubbery, what colour may work for the shadow area, the accent of the painted window frames etc. 

A resident told me the house opposite was where James Dean lived before he died. I made a quick sketch before heading home. I'll come back to paint that one again. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Original Force

It has been a crazy week with a third screening of our film in progress 'Duck, Duck, Goose' AND an official announcement to the media of the studio's upcoming slate of films. The Los Angeles based studio feels like a small 'start-up' company but its backed by the 1000 strong Original Force studio in Nanjing. I've been drawing ducks and geese for the past nine months and helping to craft a small story that we hope will reach a big audience in a couple of years.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Since storyboarding is now done digitally these days I have no production sequences saved on paper. In the flurry of activity that is the day-to-day race to draw sequences for looming deadlines thousands of drawings disappear into 'the system' never to be seen again. It's not really company policy to allow that material out of the building anyway. All I have are scans of paper thumbnail sketches I made when figuring out how to approach the staging and acting for some sequences. I did some early work on the 'Abstract Thought' sequence and you'll see below that the Train of Thought passed through it at one stage. Here Joy is separated from Sadness and, with Bing Bong, escapes Mind Construction Workers by hitching a ride aboard the Train of Thought . . .

After a briefing from the directors where I make notes directly on the script page I'll start scribbling down small thumbnail sketches of any visuals or staging that spring to mind immediately.

These are more like 'beat boards' exploring a Brainstorm, Abstract Thought and the Train of Thought.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Plein Air

The fine weather and light of Los Angeles is inspiring me to paint on location more this year. There are so many beautiful spots down the coast and hidden architectural gems within the city. These are pretty quick sketches - no more than 40 mins each.

'El Segundo'

'Point Vicente Lighthouse' Watercolour sketch below and gouache study above



  The Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence, Culver City

Hutchison Ave, Helms District

Two angles of a modernist home on Helms Avenue.

'Fay Street'

'El Baron on Washington'

'Baldwin Hills Oil Field'

Modern beach-front house on 'Venice Beach'

 The 'Samitaur' building in the Hayden Tract designed by architect Eric Owen Moss (Culver City).

I stopped on the way home at Marina Del Rey and found this fishing boat just returned -at least it smelled like a fishing boat. Its crew were swabbing the deck which attracted a mob of gulls and small pelicans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Untitled Pixar film that takes you inside the Mind!

Having lived in France for a couple of years I was aware that animated films are often given interesting new titles; 'Up' was 'La Haut', 'Brave' became 'Rebelle'. Racking our brains for suggestions of what 'The Untitled Pixar film that takes you inside the Mind' might be I suggested 'La Joie de Vivre' which the editorial team amusingly used at the head of one of the rough assembly screenings. Naming this film was thrown open to the entire crew by producer Jonas Rivera. A list was drawn up that everyone contributed to eg. 'Mind Blown', 'BrainTrust', 'Joyless', 'Out of Mind', 'Emotional Rescue' etc.

I started with a 'mood board' tracking films with similar titles to some we had in mind. I collated images with colours that suggested emotions and Saul Bass style fonts. Potential titles must be checked against existing properties by the legal dept. There are several 'Inside Out' films but there was deemed no conflict of interest with Pixar's film.

I think visually and have loved designing fonts and logos since childhood. My Dad is a sign-maker and I was fascinated by a Letraset book he had. I'd help him design signs and he had great technical pens I'd use to draw. I studied graphic design later at school and always relish the opportunity to do some thinking on movie logos.
'Life of Riley' was deemed too trite early on. I don't know who came up with 'Inside Out' ultimately but it was on a short list that John Lasseter chose from. Once again the French title is more interesting and whimsical 'Vice-Versa'.
 'HQ!' could've been fun. I thought perhaps using the name of the true main character of the film (but it looks like David O. Russell took that one).

The Story team are often tasked with generating ideas for teaser trailers.  These are very rough thumbnails where I'm just thinking my way through ideas. I love movie trailers that used to 'tease', that left the audience intrigued. I thought of something that would use simple abstract shapes animated on screen with relevant sound effects. 

I thought about Joy presenting the team in a 'Psychology Lesson'

(Above) 'The Emotional States of Riley' or even something more mysterious . . .
Pete even tasked us with coming up with graphic 'emoticons' that could be used on the control panel displays. This page above is what Pete showed to Dacher Keltner at Berkeley's Psychology lab which led to me helping them develop the 'Finch' animated emoticon for Facebook.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


With 'INSIDE OUT' taking over the world I'm dredging the memory bank for some of the multitude of ideas that didn't get into the final version of the story. For every idea in the movie there must be a hundred that remained on the story room floor. These are a fraction of the visual thoughts generated not only by the Story team but the Art Dept. would follow up with countless designs and suggestions.

This is a VERY early visualization of 'Headquarters' (late 2010) where I was playing with the Emotions literally plugged into Riley's Mind as they monitor her physical state. That purple figure was Pride who was the fifth emotion before Disgust came into the picture instead.

 More early Headquarters beat boards where I was trying out the physiological controls and a control room similar to the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek.

This next one I called 'Emote Control'. You can see Anger was a blocky, little square from day one and Joy was always more humanoid with a wisp of hair like a flame. Sadness was much bigger, like a large, lumbering mattress. She gradually shrunk over the production and gained hair and glasses (and clothing!). Fear was always a slender, worm-like form. Hope kind of merged with Sadness while Pride was dropped altogether.

What would a 'flood of emotion' look like?

How does 'memory recall' work?

In the early days of story development we had Short Term memory and Long Term memory. Below I envisioned all 6 emotions encountering a clerk or librarian who organized memories and sends them up a vacuum shoot.
 Short Term was for sorting and Long Term was for storage. Long Term memory held deep, important memories from Riley's life. Here I was playing with floating memory 'boxes' or display cabinets.

In an early version of the story Joy and BingBong originally entered the film-set or 'Dream Productions' through a back door and passed through a warehouse where all the props that made Riley's dreams were stored.

 Joy and Bing Bong enter the 'Center for Boy Research' - my attempt to incorporate some Freudian symbolism.

 This must have been a riff on BingBong's 'bottomless' backpack. 'Core memories' started out in the film as 'golden memories' and BB was hiding them . . . somewhere . . .

In his earliest incarnation BingBong was more of a fugitive, on the run from 'Mind-Police'. I imagined his arrest photos.

Existential angst . . . 

Joy and BingBong being chased by the 'Mind' police.

Joy and Bing Bong disguise themselves to evade capture or sneak into different parts of the Mind.

Having retrieved all the golden memories Joy climbs out of the Memory Pit like Robert DeNiro in 'The Mission'!

The structure of 'The Mind' was constantly re-thought; should it be vertical, horizontal? Should Joy's journey be down or up? At one point it was depicted as a fantastic city.

Here I was thinking of multiple 'Trains of Thought' that might converge in a cerebral cortex 'Grand Central Station'.

There was some exploration of areas in the Mind that were more like natural environments; the Frozen Forest of Amnesia, the swamp of Inner Demons etc.

We considered musical instruments as a way of expressing emotion. Sadness would obviously have a harp or violin but I imagined Anger dwarfed by a giant percussive/organ instrument - like a one man band!

If I remember correctly this was an assignment to see if we could give the memory balls some of the attributes of the characters; big, HEAVY sad memories; skittish little fear memories, disgusting memories etc.

The Mind's Eye -a kind of mobile CCTV - 'always watching. . .'

Below: Doodles of Blue Sky Thinking, a Train of Thought and a Brainstorm.

I found Joy rather hard to draw, especially that elven hairstyle that was brushed down and up. She was more humanoid than the basic shapes of the other Emotions (even Disgust was a triangle in an early incarnation). The others artists like Domee naturally had great appeal in their drawings of Joy but I struggled. In an effort to capture her spirit better I once had one of our Gesture models assume poses that were relevant to the story and drew her (or him, I can't remember) as Joy.