Despite the fact that it has produced some of the most successful animated films of all time (the Ice Age franchise, Robots, Horton Hears a Who and Rio), Blue Sky Studios has toiled in relative anonymity compared to it's giant cousins, Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney. For whatever reason, 20th Century Fox, Blue Sky's mothership, has chosen not to showcase the Blue Sky "brand". But maybe with the advent of a well deserved retrospective at the Norman Rockwell Museum, they are finally changing their minds.
The show will include samples of work from every step of the process that goes into making a digitally animated feature, from the early sketchy stages of development to the highly burnished, finished animation that appears on screen. On the walls and on monitors throughout the exhibition will be examples of early character designs, sculptures and watercolor studies many of which were created using traditional materials. And of course, the technical wizardry will be on full display as well, deconstructed for the viewer to help convey both the imagination and complexity that goes into the epic undertaking that is an animated feature film.
For me though, the main purpose of a show like this is to finally reveal to the public the individual geniuses that contribute to make these films what they are. For instance, by the time the film appeared on the screen, the gorgeous watercolor story-moments created for Robotsby Greg Couch (see above) three years before, were only a fleeting memory and only to those who were directly involved in the production. But anyway, it's a slippery slope for me to try and list the individual talents because virtually everyone who works on a Blue Sky film is indispensable. And though they may be lost in the all too brisk credit scroll, at least now there will be a chance to freeze the frame and savor their work at your leisure. Bewildering as it is, there has only been one Art of book dedicated to a Blue Sky film and that was for Robots. Short of that, this will be the very best way to get a true overview of what makes Blue Sky the great animation studio that it is.
Incidentally, the Norman Rockwell Museum is well worth the visit even without the lure of a Blue Sky show. It is situated just outside the town of Stockbridge, Mass., an absurdly picturesque hamlet that Rockwell made his home and which was the subject of many of his paintings. The museum is a world class venue and has a constantly revolving display of many of the finest paintings and drawings Rockwell ever created. And though not in it's original location, Rockwell's original studio/barn has been transplanted to one of the rolling hills that make up the estate upon which the museum sits.
From the Ice Age to the Digital Age-The Art of Blue Sky Studios opens on June 11th. For more info, go here.