Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pirates! At the Oscars!

I spent four years working on Aardman's stop motion 'Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists!', or 'Pirates! band of Misfits!' for those of you in the USofA, and have been meaning to post some of my character designs for aaaages. And then yesterday I found out that the movie has been nominated for this year's Oscar Academy Awards, click here, and that seemed like a very good prompt indeed.

I started (on what was a very small team) in February 2008. I was having a tough time, following the death of my dad in a motorbike accident, and being asked to contribute to an Aardman project was a dream come true. My dad and I watched a lot of Aardman stuff a lot together, and both of us loved the humour, craftsmanship and attention to detail. I was shaking in my boots when I travelled down to Bristol to show the directors, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, my portfolio. The first thing I was asked to work on was a 'Very Big Pirate'. I think this was more of a test, to see whether my style would fit. This is the design I came up with...

And then a brilliant sculptor, Bloxy, came up with this...


I worked a few days each week during the first half of 2008, sometimes at home, sometimes at Aardman's Bristol studio, sketching and working on character designs. For most of this time, there were two character designers, me and a wonderful french artist called Zebe. Here's some early stuff...





In June 2008, I was asked to knock out some colour studies of the principal characters, to send to Sony Pictures, who funded the movie. These were done pretty quickly, over a few days...





 

For the next three years, I worked on and off for a few days each week, producing more detailed designs and turnarounds, for periods as the only character designer, after Zebe went off to work on 'Arthur Christmas'.







As well as character design, I spent quite a lot of time working in the set department, designing figurative elements in the backgrounds, from statues and figureheads to stuffed animal heads. This was really good fun!






There is a 'making of...' book available, which features quite a lot of my drawings. There are a few mistakes in the credits. A couple of the images above are credited to Michael Salter. I think the mistake came about because Mike came up with original design, and then I did a colour pass and a turnaround to tie it in with the other characters. Designing all the characters was a big team effort, with input from concept artists, story artists, sculptors and, of course, the directors, Peter and Jeff, so I'm sure it was difficult getting all the credits in the book bang on target. Here's an example of Mike's original design, re-drawn by me, and later becoming a colour study (above)...


And also, there are a lot of images credited to me that have colour, but I only ever did a black and white drawing!

For anyone interested in animation, and particularly stop-motion, the book is fantastic, and gives a great overview of the movie's development.

Working on 'Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!' was a wonderful job. I've never enjoyed doing concept art as much as I did on this movie. I'm hoping Aardman will have me back one day to work on something else... Or a sequel perhaps....

9 comments:

Aly Fell said...

Excellent Jonny! Fingers crossed for the 'Oscar'!

Badger said...

Lovely lovely work Jonny! So great to see.

jonny duddle said...

Thanks Aly! Thanks Josh!

Christian Schwager said...

Awesome stuff, I'm a big fan of your work!
Have to go look for that 'making of...' book now.

I already bought two copies of "The Pirate Cruncher", one for my nephew and one for myself :)

All the best, and good luck at the Oscars!

aylin kaplan said...

good luck at the Oscars!

Larry MacDougall said...

Fabulous work Jonny - very inspiring ! :)

Gillibean said...

Great post, thanks for sharing these Jonny. It's amazing how much the designs stayed true to your early colour passes from 2008.

Pirates is what introduced your work to me and I cant wait to see what else you do in animation as well as illustration!

best of luck and got my fingers crossed for you at the Oscars!

jonny duddle said...

Thank you Christian and aylin... I've got my fingers crossed for the oscars. i won't be there, but hopefully one days someone will make a movie of one of my books!

And thank you, Larry! Thanks for dropping in! I drop by your blog regularly, but I should comment!

Gillibean... Thank you! I'm hoping I'll do more work in animation. 'Pirates!' was really good fun... keep nosing at your artwork too!

Connie Walker said...

I found your page via Adam Rex's page via a comment you left there. I love your style! I was surprised to know you are key for character design on this fun movie. I find the process of how other people draw to be fascinating and inspiring. Great job!