18 January 2007

Teen Titans: Season 2: Underground

One thing universal among all the "Teen Titans" fans I've encountered was a disdain for Terra. Young and old viewers alike maintain a very strong reaction to her betrayal of the team, even post redemptive season two finale. During her introductory season, the Titan's Tower slowly sinks into an implausibly giant hole underground.

My job as the designer was to make this technological feat look at least passably possible. To cover the enormous space involved I drew this cutaway view, which does tweak the scale a little to keep it manageable for the storyboard artists to stage.

It all worked out well enough, but the overseas studio animating the show didn't get that the view was a cutaway and drew the ceiling exactly as I drew it. I probably should have made a clear note on the design.

Even with such extra effort to make everything clear, something always gets lost or altered in translation. Sometimes the changes can be for the better, but more often, the work suffers. Once it's out of your hands, all you can do is hope the damage is minimal and barely noticed like this instance.

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07 January 2007

Teen Titans: Prom Ship


So, one of the more fun and quintessential Glen Murakami "Teen Titans" ideas was that a villain, the ever dangerous Killer Moth, is threatening to destroy the city, if Robin doesn't agree to take his teenage daughter to prom. As it turned out, she was only trying to make her spider-headed boyfriend jealous. Another fun part of "Titans" was trying to revive the most obscure characters in DC Comics' along with the numerous insertions of names from the crew.

I designed this prom ship as a prop and BG, and at the time, it seemed to made sense to draw the whole ship in detail. As I went along, the drawing got bigger and bigger. I think the final drawing was about 3 feet wide and 18 inches tall. Fortunately, I still had some animation pan paper, so I was able to avoid dodging tape seams for the long continuous lines for the hull and deck.

As you can see, most of the action took place in the front deck, decorated with tables complete with moon and star balloons. The moons and stars were an allusion to the theme for the wedding invitations I designed for my friend, Chap Yaep, a director and storyboard artist on various shows I'd worked on, including "Teen Titans" and "The Batman". That, in turn, was alluding to a time, when Chap and his wife were dating and occasionally he'd sleep over instead of driving back home (50 miles from the office).

One of the letters, his then girlfriend (and now wife) wrote was filled with silvery confetti shaped like, you guessed it, moons and stars. Unaware of the letter's loose contents, Chap tore open the letter (as any enthusiastic member of a couple should) spilling the moons and stars all over the floor. Even after vacuuming up most of it, for years, I would occasionally find something clinging to the bottom of my foot and chuckle when it was one of those very moons or stars.

Perhaps, I haven't said much for my vacuuming skills (and probably not much about drawing either), but it's just funny how the littlest details and filter through years in your life and somehow find their way onto a nationally broadcast television show. Though I doubt anyone could have made the connection, save Chap and his wife (I can't recall if they did), I think it's those little things that not only make the drawing process fun, but add the layers of thought put into any labor of love that shine through directly and indirectly in the craftsmanship.

BTW, the ship's name is and ode to one of the show's longtime directors, Matt Youngberg.

04 January 2007

Teen Titans: Season Three: Tamaranian Palace

This is the Tamaranian Palace from "Bethrothed", Season Three. I'll see if I can get my hands on the colored version, so I can post that along with the incredible space shots Chu-Hui Song colored for the episode. Early on, I figured out that a dual sun or moon was easy shorthand for making the viewer aware of an alien setting, since of course, we only have one of each.

The design began as sort of a blend of Lawrence Alma-Tadema's "Spring" and Moebius, who's drawings always have hints of being alien and really ancient. "Spring" was really more for its festive mood and tone reflective of the emotional makeup of Starfire's people, because the Classic architecture is probably too staid and stoic.

Looking over the drawing now, it really bears little resemblance to the original inspirations, which is just as well, since I do't think I could have done either justice. I don't recall any design discussion of how stark the terrain should be, but I think that was necessitated more by the script calling for a precipitous drop to one side of the palace where a fleet of potentially hostile battle crafts was parked.

Something always bothered me about this drawing, and I think I finally see it. There are too many parallels along the stone walkway. Glen would always emphasize that parallels should be avoided unless you really need it. Especially in what should look more organic, those parallels make what was intended to look natural seem less so. Fortunately, color works like love on our drawings and covers over a multitude of mistakes like that.