Monday, November 26, 2012


All films go through many ideas, designs, scripts, etc.  Lots of stuff gets discarded along the way, but it's always fun to go back through the digital piles of artwork that stacked up on the hard drive over the course of production and see what got left behind.
An early sketch of Santa.  I like to keep character's shapes simple.  Probably because they are just easier to draw when they are less complicated.  I wanted to incorporate the image of a Christmas tree in the design of his beard and mustache, so I just carried it up into at point on his Russian hat.  If you squint it makes sense...kind of.

At one point, Man in the Moon was actually in the story as a full fledged character.  This was my sketch for what it would be like for the Guardians if he had suddenly transported them up to the moon and they got a chance to see the world they protect from his vantage point.
An idea I had for the Tooth Fairy Palace, inspired by a temple in Asia that looked like it was made of teeth by the way the stone was used.  Seems like a bit of this shape language stuck in the film's design of her realm.

Pitch, aka the BoogeyMan's design was always a bit unclear as to what people really imagined such an iconic bad guy should look like.  Just a few sketches; the top one where I imagined him ingesting Dreamsand and pouring back out nightmares.  I liked the idea of having tubes/spikes jutting out from him, a bit like some sort of sea creature.  Not sure why...oh yeah, it's gross.
We also toyed with an idea for Jack's backstory; he and Pitch could have been like brothers.  Since Jack is winter, and winter kind of equates to death or hibernation that maybe Jack had been a bad guy but he and Pitch had a fight which cost Jack his memory. This would have given the Guardians reason to not trust him. Of course this was years before Megamind, and Wreck it Ralph covered the same story idea.
A black and white mood sketch for "evil" Jack.
"Evil" Jack riding out on a cloud of nightmares to confront Santa's sleigh.
Another quick mood sketch from the interior of the destroyed Tooth Fairy palace as the Guardians arrive too late to stop it's destruction.

Another idea I had was for Pitch to use his nightmares to impersonate the Guardians to make children not want to believe in them.  This of course would power Pitch to greater strength.
The now monumentally strong Pitch trying to engulf Santa.  (-Just realized...I come up with some bat-shit crazy ideas!?!)
On a slightly lighter note, Santa meeting Bunny's egg minions...unsuccessfully.

I LOVE Sandman and the idea that he can create anything from his Dreamsand.  Top image is Sandman conjuring an army of sand-snowmen.  The next image is Bunny riding a sandwhale, machine-gunning out Easter eggs. 
This is my favorite image that I created while working on Guardians.  Not really sure why. It was from a sequence I worked on when Sandman had an Island of Dreams that was destroyed by Pitch.  The other Guardians brought Jack along on their quest to save Sandman.  It served as a crazy intro for Jack to this fantasy world and the stakes to the characters he was just introduced to, if Pitch were to succeed.  For me, it's really one of those rare instances where the sketch actually came out exactly like I'd envisioned it.  It feels fantastical, actiony, and kind of sweet all at the same time. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Way back in the summer of 2008 I came back to Dreamworks specifically to work on Guardians.  Total fantasy project for me and a genius concept.  It was super early days, no director, just lots of amazing development work being done.  It's when I met and became friends with Shannon Tindle, Andy Schuhler, Emil Mitev, etc...a wildly talented group. One of my favorite assignments was to explore the North Pole; what was it like, how is it different from versions we've seen.  I was informed that the Yeti's make the toys, not the elves so when I asked about the elves the response was; "Elves are stupid and for babies.  There will be no elves in this movie."  Pretty emphatic stuff.  I pointed out that if we go to the North Pole and don't address the elf issue, which is a HUGE part of the Santa mythology, we might end up with every kid seeing the movie asking where the elves are instead of watching the movie. With concepts like Santa there are certain expectations and even if you want to mix it up and show some crazy new take on the character you should kind of use the existing elements to your advantage, unless its that holiday classic Silent Night, Deadly Night, then all bets are off.  So, I took it upon myself to reinvent the elves not as toy makers, but as house attendants. They would be about 2 feet tall, not speak, look like living Santa hats and tend to your every need while you were at the North Pole. They would burst out secret panels in the walls, turn down your bed, light your fireplace, dish out cookies and milk on your nightstand, make sure all the presents were positioned under the requisite Christmas Tree in your room and after tucking you in for the night they would disappear back into the walls like they'd never been there.  The concept and design seems to have stuck even when the show leadership didn't.  I hope they end up as fun in the film as they were to create.

This was the very first sketch i made of the elves, standing by in Santa's study while he looks over his list.  The Globe of Good Children, as it was called, a kind of map for marking good and bad kids stands off in the background.

Elf escort.
 I designed the elf quarters to be like a giant bird house, the bells on their hats would stick out of bird house like entrances to their barracks.  When awoken, they'd slide down candy cane style firehouse poles...

The letters to Santa arrived..."magically"...through a giant nutcracker in Santa's image. It's up to the elves to then catch and file the letters accordingly.  They are not that bright, so when you don't get everything on your list, it's probably an elf's fault.

The elves also tend to the flying reindeer, which of course have a multi-level stable since they can fly, though I wouldn't want to have my pen on the ground floor.  


And of course, if you were lucky enough to stay at the North Pole for a night, your fantastical room would be tended to by the elves.  They really do like decorating for Christmas.
 Easter Bunny's room of course comes with bunny slippers...Santa's little joke.

 The last stop in the North Pole was the Globe Room, where Santa tracks the good/bad status of children.  The globe is Bill Joyce's concept.  I had the idea to put it in the center of a circular library of mezzanines that houses the "old school" book volumes of Santa's list.

Santa in lower right corner standing on the catwalk around the globe.
Jack Frost reading from one of the thousands of volumes of Santa's list...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


So, it's just a couple weeks until Rise of the Guardians will be in theaters.  Here's a little sampling of the copious amounts of development artwork I'll be bombarding the interwebs with in the coming weeks.  Very proud that my little elves are everywhere in the marketing of the film.  Their creation story to come...