‘Ice Age’ To The Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios

Scrat from “Ice Age,” TM & ©2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

On View June 11 through October 31, 2011 at Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA, March 16, 2011–A prehistoric squirrel scampers across an icy landscape, desperately clinging to his beloved acorn; a creative, young robot leaves his small town, with dreams of making it as a successful inventor; a rare, blue macaw travels to the exotic land of Rio de Janeiro in search of true love and adventure– in movies an intriguing story is essential, but how do these memorable characters and scenes become so animated? From “Ice Age” to “Rio,” this summer Norman Rockwell Museum shines a light on the creative process of one of today’s biggest computer animation studios–“’Ice Age’ To the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios” will be on view at the Museum from June 11 through October 31, 2011.

A unique interactive exhibition, “’Ice Age’ To The Digital Age” looks at the creative work of Blue Sky Studios, a leader in the animation industry for over 20 years. Creators of such blockbuster films as the “Ice Age” series, “Robots,” “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” and the upcoming Brazilian adventure “Rio” (opening April 2011), the studio prides itself on technical innovation, while retaining a strong narrative heart.

Blue Sky Studio’s VP of Creative, Chris Wedge, who co-founded the company in 1987, believes that the secret to the studio’s success is in its inventive process; “Every film starts with an idea, which gets refined–that really is the magic. This process is similar to architecture, in that you can only find creativity through exploration—that is the key.”

“Much like illustrator Norman Rockwell, Blue Sky Studios excels in both technical skill and storytelling,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Chief Curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. “In addition to their rich characters and themes, Blue Sky films stand out through their amazing use of radiosity, which makes lighting appear much more natural than it normally appears in computer rendering. We are excited to be able to share this behind-the-scenes look at the artistry of one of the most influential animation studios around today.” “’Ice Age’ to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios” has been made possible in part through the support of Greylock Federal Credit Union.

Blue Sky Studios specializes in photo-realistic, high resolution, computer generated image (CGI) animation and rendering that brings stunning dimensionality to their films. Every object that we see around us has a third dimension, making it possible to rotate it and observe it from a variety of angles. That sense of volume and realism is brought to the company’s animation through a complex digital process in which characters are built, or modeled, on computer monitors, and rigged with virtual skeletons that allow them to move through space.

“’Ice Age’ to the Digital Age” will guide visitors through Blue Sky’s entire process of creating computer animated films: from initial concepts, storyboards, characters and background art, to 3D and digital modeling. In addition to final movie clips, the exhibition will feature rarely-seen original concept drawings, character illustrations, storyboards, background paintings, sculptural models (or maquettes), props and digital stills. Interactive stations will allow visitors to try their hand at manipulating CGI images, in order to better understand this innovative marriage of science and the arts.

“From overall design to modeling in clay, modeling in the computer, skin color, hair texture, suggestions on how characters might move, everything is considered,” says illustrator Peter de Sève, the lead character designer for the “Ice Age” series. Starting with scriptwriting, story and character development, the process is then turned over to departments dedicated to rigging (a sort of computerized skeleton for the characters), lighting, materials (including clothes and fur), special effects, and a complex computer rendering farm using Blue Sky’s proprietary CGI Studio software, which transforms the animators’ virtual 3D world into an final motion picture. This extensive creative process has given birth to such colorful characters as Bunny, Sid the Sloth, Manny the Mammoth, Diego The Saber-toothed Tiger, Robot Rodney Copperbottom and his buddy Fender, and Blu, the Minnesota Macaw–rendered by computer, but developed through the soul of artists and storytellers.

In co-founder Chris Wedge’s view, the art challenges technology and technology inspires the art. “The only limit to what can be accomplished in this world is our ability to imagine what is possible. This is the Blue Sky idea, and I promise you that it works.”

About Blue Sky Studios

Blue Sky Studios is the Academy Award©-winning, feature CG animation studio behind the wildly successful “Ice Age” franchise. Using their propriety rendering software, CGI Studio©, Blue Sky creates photo-realistic, high-resolution, computer-generated character animation and rendering to create timeless stories for children of all ages. Blue Sky is the studio behind “Ice Age” (2002), “Robots” (2005), “Ice Age: The Meltdown” (2006), “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” (2008), “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (2009) and the upcoming comedy-adventure, “Rio,” in theaters April 15, 2011. Blue Sky Studios is wholly owned by Twentieth Century Fox.

Exhibition-Related Programs and Events

EXHIBITION OPENING WEEKEND

Animazing Exhibition Preview Party
Friday, June 10

Join us for a special evening in honor of award-winning artist and Blue Sky Studios character designer Peter de Sève. In addition to his work in animation, the artist’s elegant drawings grace the covers and pages of “The New Yorker,” and appear in many illustrated books, including “Mark Twain’s A Murder, A Mystery, and A Marriage;” “The Duchess of Whimsy” by Randall de Sève; “Fin McCoul” by Brian Gleeson, among others. The evening will include a cocktail buffet and private preview tours. Ticket prices start at $125– call 413.298.4100, ext. 221 for more details and to make reservations.

Exhibition Opening Celebration
Saturday, June 11, 6 to 8 p.m.
Celebrate the art of animation with a first-ever look behind the scenes at Blue Sky Studios, where cutting-edge creativity and technique brings imaginative characters and stories to life.
Meet members of the Blue Sky creative team, with commentary by award-winning illustrator and “Ice Age” character designer Peter de Sève at 6:30 p.m. A festive reception and party will follow (think Hollywood premiere crossed with a Berkshire-style family picnic!).

Blue Sky Studios specializes in photo-realistic, high resolution, computer generated animation and rendering. Critically acclaimed for their animated films “Ice Age” and its popular sequels, “Robots,” and Rio,” as well as special effects and animation work for “TRON,” “Alien Resurrection,” “Star Trek: Insurrection,” “Joe’s Apartment” and numerous others. Rarely-seen conceptual drawings, character illustrations and expression sheets, 3D models, story boards, and background paintings illuminate the years of development behind the films. Admission to the exhibition opening costs $40 per person, or $100 per family. Admission for Museum members costs $20 per person, or $50 per family.

Animation Festival Day!
Sunday, June 12, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Learn about the creative and technical process of computer animation, and create your own character designs and habitats in two and three-dimensions. free for members, or with Museum admission.

About Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell Museum is the preeminent museum of American illustration art. Dedicated to art education and art appreciation inspired by the enduring legacy of Norman Rockwell, the Museum stewards the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell art, and presents the works of contemporary and past masters of illustration. The Museum’s holdings include Rockwell’s last studio, moved from its original location to the Museum grounds, and the Norman Rockwell Archives, a 200,000-object collection undergoing digital preservation through ProjectNORMAN, “A Save America’s Treasures Project.” The Museum is also home to the new Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the nation’s first research institute devoted to the art of illustration. In 2008, Norman Rockwell Museum became the first-ever museum recipient of the National Humanities Medal, America’s highest honor in the field.

Norman Rockwell Museum is located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life. The Museum is open year-round. From May through October, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; from November through April, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Rockwell’s studio is open May through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum admission is $16, $14.50 for seniors, $10 for students, $5 for kids and teens 6 to 18, and free for children 5 and under. Visit the Museum online at http://www.nrm.org.

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