Ice Age1

Ice Age: How Blue Skies Studios Creates Movie Magic

Ice Age1

Did you ever wonder how the creative folks behind movies like the hugely popular Ice Age come up with all those ideas and conceive such memorable characters like Buck the weasel or Scrat, the frustrated squirrel who can’t quite seem to hold onto his acorn. Take a day trip to the Katonah Museum of Art in northern Westchester and visit its brand new interactive exhibit, Ice Age to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios. It’s a wonderfully varied collection of storyboards, character designs, from the initial concept stage to the final result. See how the beautifully drawn birds come to life in the movie Rio, and hear how the designers decided to draw Sid the sloth in Ice Age, or Rodney, the robot in Robots. And see the early drawings, and how they morphed into the characters we know and love.

We learn what provided inspiration for key scenes like how the image of actor Martin Sheen emerging from the water in the movie Apocalypse Now was the inspiration for a scene in Ice Age, and we see the painstaking time and effort that went into drawing characters that walked and flew like the real thing. While it seems like a lengthy and difficult process, executive producer/production designer William Joyce describes the making of Robots this way “…even the darkest and most tedious days on Robots were leavened with a sort of crazy, creative delirium that bordered on bliss.”

View the original storyboards (complete with smudges), and read about the animation process. Watch recorded interviews with key Blue Sky design staff that describes in detail how a key scene in Rio – when Blu, the macaw from Minnesota takes his first flight in the along the stunningly colorful coastline of Rio de Janeiro – was developed; we can’t help but marvel at the creative genius. A section of the tour is dedicated to the sculptures created for the movies, so the directors could see the body from all angles, ensuring that Scrat, for example, would move like a squirrel. Computer monitors allow visitors the opportunity to create their own 3D computer-generated sculptures and torsos using a variety of controls that push, pull and pinch the virtual clay.

To make this exhibit fun for even the youngest visitor, the museum staff has created a game so kids can find things in the exhibit, or imitate the sounds of characters, or ponder questions like, “what would you bring to a tropical place like Rio?” Rest yourselves after in the screening room where a 70-minute montage of clips from early Blue Sky films to Ice Age and Robots runs throughout the day.

And for those who truly want to immerse their families in the creative process, there’s a “Family Animation Day,” scheduled for Sunday, October 14 from noon to 5 p.m. for an additional fee. There will be opportunities to create an animated video, make a flip book, and listen to Blue Sky story artist, Bill Frake, discuss the art of drawing animated characters (1:30 p.m. and 3:30 pm).

And don’t miss the Tree Figures, which have to be seen to be believed. They’re tall figures sculpted out of trees, and like giants, they stand guard in the museum garden, with one fellow greeting visitors in the parking lot. Created by Vermont sculptor, Joseph Wheelwright, they will elicit a lively conversation of what the sculptures mean, and whether or not they can actually move. It’s a great day for the family, and Fall is a great time of year to head north.

Metro North and the museum have collaborated with this day trip package that includes a discount round-trip rail ticket to Katonah Station, discount admission to the Museum, and a discount at the Katonah Restaurant.

From GCT/Harlem-125th Street: adults, $22.75; seniors, persons with disabilities and individuals receiving Medicare, $17; children 5-11, $4.50; children under 5, free. Purchase your package ticket from any Metro-North ticket office or full-service ticket vending machine (excluding Katonah Station).

Take the Harlem Line to Katonah Station.  Take a short taxi ride to the Museum (cost is approximately $4-$6).

Ice Age to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios runs to January 20, 2013. For more information, visit the website for the Katonah Museum of Art.

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