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The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios on View at Norman Rockwell Museum
Maquette sculpture of Scrat from "Ice Age" by Michael De Feo. TM & ©Twentieth Century Fox Films Corporation. All rights reserved.

STOCKBRIDGE, MA.- A prehistoric squirrel scampers across an icy landscape, desperately clinging to his beloved acorn; a creative, young robot leaves his small town, with dreams of making it as a successful inventor; a rare, blue macaw travels to the exotic land of Rio de Janeiro in search of true love and adventure--in movies an intriguing story is essential, but how do these memorable characters and scenes become so animated? From “Ice Age” to “Rio,” this summer Norman Rockwell Museum shines a light on the creative process of one of today’s biggest computer animation studios--”’Ice Age’ To the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios” is on view at the Museum from June 11 through October 31, 2011.

A unique interactive exhibition, “’Ice Age’ To The Digital Age” looks at the creative work of Blue Sky Studios, a leader in the animation industry for over 20 years. Creators of such blockbuster films as the “Ice Age” series, “Robots,” “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” and the recent hit “Rio,” the studio prides itself on technical innovation, while retaining a strong narrative heart.

Blue Sky Studio’s VP of Creative Chris Wedge, who co-founded the company in 1987, believes that the secret to the studio’s success is in its inventive process; “Every film starts with an idea, which gets refined--that really is the magic. This process is similar to architecture, in that you can only find creativity through exploration--that is the key.”

“Much like illustrator Norman Rockwell, Blue Sky Studios excels in both technical skill and storytelling,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Chief Curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. “In addition to their rich characters and themes, Blue Sky films stand out through their amazing use of radiosity, which makes lighting appear much more natural than it normally appears in computer rendering. We are excited to be able to share this behind-the-scenes look at the artistry of one of the most influential animation studios around today.” “’Ice Age’ to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios” has been made possible in part through the support of Greylock Federal Credit Union, Wacom Technology Corporation, and Pixologic, Inc.

Blue Sky Studios specializes in photo-realistic, high resolution, computer generated image (CGI) animation and rendering that brings stunning dimensionality to their films. Every object that we see around us has a third dimension, making it possible to rotate it and observe it from a variety of angles. That sense of volume and realism is brought to the company’s animation through a complex digital process in which characters are built, or modeled, on computer monitors, and rigged with virtual skeletons that allow them to move through space.

“’Ice Age’ to the Digital Age” will guide visitors through Blue Sky’s entire process of creating computer animated films: from initial concepts, storyboards, characters and background art, to 3D and digital modeling. In addition to final movie clips, the exhibition features rarely-seen original concept drawings, character illustrations, storyboards, background paintings, sculptural models (or maquettes), props and digital stills. Interactive stations allow visitors to try their hand at manipulating CGI images, in order to better understand this innovative marriage of science and the arts.

“From overall design to modeling in clay, modeling in the computer, skin color, hair texture, suggestions on how characters might move, everything is considered,” says illustrator Peter de Sève, the lead character designer for the “Ice Age” series. Starting with scriptwriting, story and character development, the process is then turned over to departments dedicated to rigging (a sort of computerized skeleton for the characters), lighting, materials (including clothes and fur), special effects, and a complex computer rendering farm using Blue Sky’s proprietary CGI Studio software, which transforms the animators’ virtual 3D world into an final motion picture. This extensive creative process has given birth to such colorful characters as Bunny, Sid the Sloth, Manny the Mammoth, Diego The Saber-toothed Tiger, Robot Rodney Copperbottom and his buddy Fender, and Blu, the Minnesota Macaw--rendered by computer, but developed through the soul of artists and storytellers. In co-founder Chris Wedge’s view, the art challenges technology and technology inspires the art. “The only limit to what can be accomplished in this world is our ability to imagine what is possible. This is the Blue Sky idea, and I promise you that it works.”

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