Monday, June 27, 2011

Zee Fruits of Bad Writing

Recently I read a series of books that should have been amazing, but instead were kind of terrible.  It's called Kingdom Keepers and tells about a group of kids who are projected as holographic versions of themselves into the Disney theme parks while they're asleep as an effort by the Imagineers to prevent the baddies of the movies and attractions from taking over the world (or something).  The premise was pretty cool but the execution was sadly really bad.  The characters were flat and unpleasant, the plot meandered and didn't really make sense, and the technology and mythology didn't make sense and contradicted itself continually.  Worst of all, this book series referred often to characters who already exist in Disney films and rides such as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Chernabog from Fantasia, and any number of audio-animatronic pirates and small world dolls.  While this isn't inherently a problem, especially since the books take place in Disney parks, and it's sort of the idea, so you expect Disney characters to appear, the problem arises because the author evidently felt no need to stay true to the personalities of the characters that had already been painstakingly and expertly developed by filmmakers and authors and artists, and this lack of respect for others' creations extended to their physical descriptions.

So, I was reading along in the fourth book in the series when I came across the following passage (the background is that one of the characters has somehow "crossed over" into one of the Disney parks one night, even though there's supposed to have been a block preventing this from happening further):
        "Close zee ranks!" came a heavily accented Frenchman's voice.  Willa didn't see him at first; she was far more concerned with the circle of green Army Men tightening around her.
        Then she spotted him: a man in a red velvet dinner jacket, beneath which was a frilly white shirt and a bizarrely large black bow tie, the tails of which disappeared into the velvet.  His pants were three-quarter length, tight around the calf, and puffy on his upper legs, with hook-and-eye laced brown leather books spit-polished to gleaming.  He had long curly hair--a wig, perhaps--beneath an exaggerated hat like those worn by the Three Musketeers."
At this point I already had a really hard time picturing what this character looked like and who he could be, though I had my bewildered suspicions due to the cover art of the book.  And then came the next line:
"Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Like... you know, Frollo.  Then I had a really hard time reconciling the character I have known for the last 15 years and this description.  Not only that, how in the world would Willa have recognized him as Frollo when he is not at all how he appears in the movie or the parks??  I mean, besides it being way too much description writing-wise, can you possibly get that picture in your head from reading that paragraph?  It was such a bizarre thing to me that (at J's insistence), I just had to put the discrepancy down on paper.  It looks like this:
The tray of champagne and glasses was a personal touch, a suggestion from J.
So yes, how in the world is the man on the left supposed to pass as the man on the right?  Besides the obvious character differences that manifest themselves as the pages go by, including that ridiculous accent and invented background, the image is completely different in just about every way.  It just seemed kind of offensive and I had to do something about it.  You can't just mangle characters that people spent months and years creating and developing, even if you think you're creating a more period-accurate one (which is the only reason I can possibly think of for this nonsense).  This was just one example, but probably the most ridiculous.  J thinks I should post it somewhere online where I'm sure the author will see it, because authors who do stupid things, especially with well-known and well-loved properties, should be called on them.  We'll see.  I'm not ruling it out.

Don't read the books, by the way.  They're not at all as good as they should be with an idea like that, and not anywhere near as good as the fans deserve.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Half Shell Hero

I took a nature appreciation class in college, where I learned so many fascinating things about the animal world, past and present. In that class there was one of Those People who is always asking ridiculous questions. One day the topic was turtles and she raised her hand and asked, "So do they have, like, a little body in there? Can they crawl out of their shell and walk around?" No, young lass, real life is not Looney Tunes and turtles live in their shells. DUH.

The point of that story is that, well, turtles can't crawl out of their shells. But while we're talking about turtles, let's talk Ninja Turtles. They're my original favorite fandom, and I'm still a big fan. Now and then I like to draw the characters as they look in the latest movie (which I love). I use screen shots because, to be honest, I have always been confounded by drawing turtles freehand. Here is my latest TMNT effort:
I did this with my trusty mechanical pencil in my's fun to do something with pencil that isn't as involved or time consuming as M. Legolas. Maybe a little Raphael next...?

PS: It's Leonardo, for you people not in the know.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Noxons

Several months ago an old friend of mine and his wife tragically lost their twin sons due to complications of premature labor.  He asked me to do a drawing of their family as a surprise for his wife, and I really dragged my feet for a while--how could I approach such a personal and tender subject and give it the care and respect it deserved?  We talked back and forth several times about more complex concepts and other ideas, and finally his persistence paid off.  After a few drafts and a few abandoned ideas, we ended up with this:
The Noxons, Photoshop
Jeff has written a beautiful post on his own blog about the process, from inspiration and development to completion and delivery, which you can read here.  I'm so glad it turned out, and that this family was so pleased with the result.