Monsters
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  • NYFA Meets the Hollywood Monster Makers

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    Terminator

    On June 11th, the New York Film Academy Animation department hosted an anniversary screening of The Terminator (1984) to a full house. The film remains exciting as ever as evidenced by the thunderous applause during the end credits. After the film, co-chair of animation Mark Sawicki moderated a panel of artists who created the amazing effects for the film. Guest artists and Oscar nominees Shane Mahan and John Rosengrant were character creators and puppeteers of the Terminator robot for the film. The Terminator was the first film they worked on with the legendary Stan Winston. Upon Winston’s passing in 2008, Shane and John co-founded the Legacy studio to carry on the tradition of excellent character creation and practical effects work on such films as Aliens, Predator, Jurassic Park and Iron Man. Also joining the event was guest artist Ernest Farino who was responsible for the main title and graphics work on the picture. Mark Sawicki worked with Ernest as an optical consultant to help devise the look and procedures to generate the robot’s eye view or Termovision. Ernest is a two time Emmy winner for visual effects and is now directing.

    The group shared marvelous stories from the movie such as rubbing honey into the make up of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face to attract a freshly refrigerated fly as it woke from its frozen slumber. Another trick shared by Ernest was a shot of Arnold pushing his fist through the windshield of a moving car. This was accomplished with a stationary car with a mechanical battering ram in the shape of Arnold’s fist. The illusion of movement was created by having a truck drive by with a fake wall of plastic bricks attached to its side. The bricks moving quickly behind the stationary car made it appear that the car was moving quickly past a static wall as the fake hand shattered the windshield.

    Terminator posterBoth Shane and John emphasized the importance of story and sticking to reality to create believable effects. John said that to make a believable dinosaur you have to obey the laws of physics and have a two-ton dinosaur move with heft and weight and not fly around like a bumblebee.

    After an engaging discussion of trends and techniques, the panel was open to questions from the audience. Many students asked what it was that made older practical effects more appealing than today’s CGI. Shane suggested that in the past horror and fantasy films were overlooked as small pictures and the filmmakers had much more freedom to entertain happy accidents or try bold lighting and other techniques. Today’s multi million dollar blockbusters have a great deal at stake and much more input is given from not only the studios but other large franchises like McDonald’s who use movies as cross promotional vehicles. One student compared older effects to gleaming silver while CGI was more like polished steel. Mark mentioned that lighting is very difficult to mimic in a virtual environment and can create the impression the student mentioned but there are ways to improve upon it such as the use of HDRI imagery to light the CGI characters. John pointed out that CGI could be exceptional if done well with attention to detail and dedication to realism as exampled by Jurassic Park.

    There was a great deal of interest among students to either pursue the field as artists or make use of these tried and true techniques as directors in their own right.
    The event wrapped up with our guests receiving complimentary gift bags from NYFA as they graciously autographed their names to The Terminator poster that will soon adorn the halls of our school.

    Thank you Shane, John and Ernest for inspiring us all and reminding us all about the importance of story and characters!

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    June 13, 2014 • 3D Animation, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 4944

  • Kooky Kaiju: A Look at Some of Godzilla’s Most Outlandish Monsters

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    Godzilla and Momoko Kôchi on the set of Gojira

    When it was announced that the latest reboot of the Godzilla franchise would center around the film’s titular character battling other creatures, you could almost hear the collective shriek of excitement from fans around the world. After all, with the exception of the original 1954 Gojira and 1998’s unfortunate US version, Godzilla has tended to serve as an ally, albeit a destructive one, to the human populace against invading monsters. Over the past sixty years, Godzilla has encountered numerous foes and friends that have ranged from the imposing—King Ghidorah anyone?—to the downright silly.

    Gojira is a landmark film not only for its stark commentary on the effects of nuclear warfare—after all, it came out nearly a decade after the US dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima—but it also helped to usher in the modern disaster film. However, with the massive success of the original film, Toho Studios soon found themselves with a franchise that needed additional kaiju—the Japanese term for monsters—to entertain their increasingly young fan base. While Roland Emmerich’s critically-panned Godzilla sought to take the film back to its roots, old and new fans of the iconic kaiju were understandably elated with the announcement that Godzilla would be returning to the screen to combat a terrifying new species of kaiju known as M.U.T.O (which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and save humanity in the process.

    While the new film, which opens today, aims to amp up the intimidation factor of the new monsters as they appear in both eight-legged and winged incarnations, looking back at six decades of Godzilla movies reveals a veritable rogues gallery of often laughable kaiju whose campiness has only grown over time. To celebrate this return to form, we decided to take a look at some of the more outlandish characters that have crossed paths with the green monster.

    King Kong

    King Kong and Godzilla destroy building during battle

    In what was probably a no-brainer for Toho studio execs, Godzilla’s third outing featured the classic American monster super-sized to make a worthy opponent for his much larger enemy. While undeniably hokey, King Kong vs. Godzilla remains the most profitable Godzilla film in Japan.

    Mechagodzilla

    Mechagodzilla from the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

    First introduced in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, this robotic re-imagining of the green monster has made a number of appearances in subsequent films and is one of Godzilla’s most effective enemies, whose nearly indestructible “Space Titanium” outer shell and “Space Beam” laser has helped him win several battles.

    King Caesar

    King Caesar in a scene from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

    Also making his debut alongside Mechagodzilla, this unusual beast combines elements of a dog, lion, and reptilian flesh to create an ally that helped Godzilla defeat Mechagodzilla through his speed and fighting skills. Unfortunately, his corny costume is not one of his special abilities.

    Hedorah

    Godzilla battles Hedorah the smog monster

    Also known as the smog monster in 1971’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah, this nasty creature got its name from the Japanese word hedoro, which can translate as slime or vomit, an appropriate name given that this extraterrestrial kaiju derives its powers from pollution and attacks its opponent by spewing damaging sludge.

    SpaceGodzilla

    SpaceGodzilla in a scene from Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

    Not to be outdone by Mechagodzilla, this alien doppelganger somehow managed to best its predecessor in sheer silliness thanks to the awkward crystals protruding from its shoulders and dubious “space powers” that helped to make 1994’s Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla a camp classic.

    Baby Zillas

    Baby Zillas from Roland Emmerich's 1998 adaptation of Godzilla

    Wait, Godzilla can procreate? And his/her babies look like Jurassic Park’s velociraptors on steroids? Though previous films had featured the monster’s offspring, Emmerich’s sequel-baiting ending to his 1998 film was more of a nail in the coffin for any moviegoer to take the film seriously. Here’s hoping that the 2014 film avoids such cheap gimmicks.

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    May 16, 2014 • Filmmaking • Views: 4277