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Ice Age series and The Peanuts Movie studio Blue Sky is shining in Paris, with a new exhibit dedicated to the animation house’s original works at the city’s Musee Art Ludique.
The expansive exhibit opened Saturday with over 800 sketches, paintings, models and other original works from over the past 20 years as the studio behind Rio and Robots has become an animation powerhouse.
The exhibit was developed over two years of talks between Blue Sky, Musee Art Ludique founder and curator Jean-Jacques Launier and Ice Age: The Meltdown and Rio director Carlos Saldanha and took months of digging through the archives stored at Fox Studios in Los Angeles.
“When we did Ice Age, we didn’t even know what archives were. I think stuff probably got lost along the way before Fox organized it,” said Saldanha. “This is just a fraction of what we have, but all of our favorites are pretty much here.”
The show also chronicles the technological changes over the years, from the first Ice Age sketches of characters Scrat and Sid through the more recent digital paintings that are now industry standard.
Those sketches from the first Ice Age — before digital conquered all in the animation world — were particularly poignant.
“Drawing gives you a little bit more room for imagination and room for exploration beyond what you see … you get the vibe and go from there,” said Saldanha. “It’s beautiful to see the drawing and the texture.”
Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Peanuts Movie director Steve Martino agreed: “There is something beautiful about the drawings, because in the sketches you can see the raw inspirations for the characters.”
Martino said that as animation moves into a completely computerized production world — even initial sketches are now done digitally — the challenge is to keep audiences from becoming saturated with a certain style. “If we keep delivering movies that look the same, [the audience] will get bored,” he said, adding that there are an increasing number of studios and animated films released each year. “Our challenge as an industry is to find a new way to express emotion and deliver something that doesn’t look like something that hasn’t been seen before. We need to pay attention to that or the industry will start to shrink.”
Along with Saldanha and Martino, the opening was attended by Oscar winner and studio founder Chris Wedge, Scrat creator Peter de Seve, Ice Age series producer Lori Forte, art director Thomas Cardone and story artist Karen Disher.
“The movies arrive all in one piece in front of an audience, and its reception is shaped by what is happening in the world at the time,” said Wedge. “But when you come [to the Paris exhibit], you can see it evolved in its own way years before it appeared and you get a sense of where the ideas came from and what the inspirations were. It gives you a glimpse behind the green curtain.
“It’s fairly obvious that in North America, animation is marketed to children first, and then to families to take the kids and if we’re lucky it will open to a broader audience,” continued Wedge, noting the particular interest in animation art and comics from the Gallic audience. “In France, it’s not necessarily children that are interested in comics, the ideas are talking to adults and I think that the main ingredient is the comedy. It’s about going to worlds we haven’t been to before and exploring fantasy that hopefully appeals to everybody.”
Citing the success of the 2013 Tim Burton exhibit at New York’s MoMA, de Seve said there is increasing interest in animation art in the U.S.: “The audience really enjoys this stuff. It’s contemporary art, and contemporary art that they can understand and enjoy. I think it’s not only about educating [the audience] but about going to a museum and seeing work that you can relate to.”
Martino added that sketches can often easily capture a moment or an emotion, as demonstrated in the recent viral sketches that have marked the global outpouring of sympathy after the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.
“There are things you can say in a drawing that you can’t say in the same way in words. There can be something communicated about what is going on in the world through a picture, and sometimes with the lack of words it can be all the more striking and powerful,” he said.
Blue Sky is currently working on completing Ferdinand, the story of a bull that refuses to fight and instead prefers flowers, which is set for release in 2017.
The exhibit at Musee Art Ludique will run until Sept. 25.
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