Monday, 11 August 2014

Gopher Broke (Jeff Fowler) - [Blur Studio] - [2004]


Using a gopher as a lead animated character seemed like a potentially fun opportunity, one perhaps not handled in animation for a while. Fowler has memories of watching ‘Caddyshack’ and enjoyed the rivalry between the gopher and Bill Murray over control of the golf course. The ‘Gopher Broke’ story is built around one particular gopher’s scheme to rob the passing farm traffic of their vegetable harvests, hoping to get a free lunch in the process. 

While it appears as if his plans are going to be successful, fate steps in and deals him a series of cruel twists that sends circumstances spiralling out of his control. The action continues to build as the Gopher’s frustration intensifies, leading to a climatic ending and surprise confrontation. “If that sounds particularly vague”, Fowler chirps, “it’s because the film is only four and a half minutes and I desperately want to save some things for the viewing!”

Jeff Fowler sarcastically feels the team took a pretty big license with the design of the Gopher character in that they made him bipedal - he scampers around on two legs. “If you’ve ever seen a gopher run, you know they move on four legs.” From an animation standpoint, it freed them up to use his hands/arms to support a variety of different gestures; pointing, fist shaking, etc. “Our only concern was to keep him from looking like a man in a gopher costume—the kind you’d see run across the football field at halftime.

I sat down with Marlon Nowe, the animation supervisor on the project, and we agreed to keep an eye out for poses/animation that made him look particularly ‘human’. You’ll often see gophers go up on their hind legs and let their smaller forelegs hang down across their chest—which makes them look almost ineffectual, like T-Rex arms. So that was something we tried to work in to his mannerisms.

With all that in mind, two of Blur’s concept artists, Chuck Wojtkiewicz and Sean McNally stepped in and knocked out some really great concepts for the characters, props, and the environment.

As part of the film’s visual style, everything needed to have a dusty, worn down, and weathered feeling—especially in the case of the farm trucks. 

On the flip side, the vegetables needed to be handled in a way that made them almost unnaturally colorful and appealing, since they needed to have a practically hypnotic effect on the Gopher.”

Blur Studio is an American visual effects, animation and design company. Blur produces 3D character animation, motion design and visual effects for feature films and television, game cinematics and trailers, large format films, location-based entertainment, commercials and integrated media. The company is located in Culver City, California.[1]

Blur Studio was founded in 1995 by David Stinnett, Tim Miller and Cat Chapman.[2] In 2004, Blur was nominated for its first Academy Award for its original short film, Gopher Broke. This is one of five original films the studio has written, directed and created over a few years to develop original content and build a solid pipeline that can expand for feature film production. They have several projects in development, spanning all genres; sci-fi, action/adventure, fantasy as well as family features. And in addition to in-house development Blur has also joined forces with several accomplished directors and writers to develop feature films.
Recently, Blur created the opening title sequence for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and directed by David Fincher. The noir black on black abstract is a visual highlight of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, along with the rest of the Millennium Trilogy. Blur collaborated with director David Fincher on other numerous projects and was Fincher's only choice for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. His creative mandate to Blur consisted simply of "CG, very adult, super dark, leather, skin, blood, snow, breasts, vaginas, needles, piercings, motorcycles, vengeance." 'He wanted it to be like a fever dream, with a lot of abstract imagery'[3] while reinventing title sequence expectations. Blur co-founder, with the project’s creative director Tim Miller, the graphic design side of the team Jennifer Miller, and Fincher, selected key aspects of the Trilogy to translate into abstract imagery and visual metaphors. Additionally, Blur chose high-gloss, black on black concept art with a liquefied macabre style that provides a visual storyline, grabbing viewers from the initial frame and captivating them through an intensely provocative montage.[4]
Blur created all the space sequences in James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster film Avatar, and produced the trailers for LucasArtsStar Wars: The Old Republic and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. They were also responsible for the cinematic trailers of Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham Origins and Batman: Arkham Knight. On the commercial front, Blur is currently spearheading two large campaigns for Toshiba's new products and playful Goldfish Crackers for Pepperidge Farm. In large format films, Blur is working on a 3D ride experience in Dubai featuring immersive stereoscopic animation.

No comments: