Last week, Curator of Archival Collections Corry Kanzenberg and I had the pleasure of visiting with award-winning illustrator Peter de Sève in preparation for our upcoming exhibition, Ice Age to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios, which will open with a bang at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, June 11, 2011. 

Pictured here in his parlor under a vibrant, colorful likeness of the artist by Philip Burke, de Sève is an outstanding draftsman and the lead character designer for the blockbuster animated film, Ice Age, and its popular sequels, The Meltdown and Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Scrat, Sid, Manny, Diego, and Ellie are just a few of the many Ice Age characters that have been imagined in his fluid, emotive drawings, as has Rodney, the beloved protagonist in Robots, another film by Blue Sky/20th Century Fox, directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha.

Recognized for his many New Yorker cover illustrations, which feature all manner of lovable creatures (human and otherwise), de Sève has also created character designs for Mulan, A Bug’s Life, Tarzan, and Finding Nemo. A member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, he is working closely with us and other members of the Blue Sky creative team to develop an installation that inspires appreciation and understanding of the artistic and technical aspects of the digital animation process. From June through October, visitors will be invited to enter re-created animator work stations and a sculpture studio where maquettes for animated films are designed, inspired by actual spaces at Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, Connecticut. Rarely-seen storyboards, character illustrations, and background paintings by de Sève and other Blue Sky artists are at the heart of the narrative process, and are sure to inspire.

“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 de Sève. Starting with scriptwriters and character designers, things are then turned over to departments dedicated to rigging (a sort of computerized skeleton for the characters), lighting, materials (including feathers, cloth and fur), special effects, and a complex render farm using Blue Sky’s proprietary CGI Studio software, which transforms the animators’ virtual 3D world into an final motion picture. In Blue Sky co-founder Chris Wedge’s view, art challenges technology and technology inspires 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.”

More on this exciting project soon – we look forward to seeing you in June, and hopefully, before!

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