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Elwood H. Smith
Mondo Luigi
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Elwood & Brian's Luigi
When I was in the early stages of learning the 2D animation software, "Toon Boom Studio", several users on the Toon Boom User Forum came to my rescue. One of them, Brian Hoard, was particularly helpful and he generously took the time to execute the final edit on my overlong and somewhat stilted first attempt, "Hatman Serenade". Brian, a tech wizard and a talented, generous human being, continued to help me out over the next couple of years when I foundered with other software, like Macromedia Flash. In 2004, I asked Brian if he'd be interested in driving up to Canada to attend the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He rented a fancy car with a GPS Vehicle Navigation System (boy, was that a treat!) and drove up from the Washington area. We headed up to the festival early the next morning. We had a great time. Excited and inspired, we decided on the way back home to work together on a short animated movie. Brian had been using Maya (3D animation software) at work and wanted to apply (and expand) his skills on his own personal project.

I suggested a project I had begun, but put aside to work on my current project, "DRoM". Brian loved "Mondo Luigi" and, sometime later, we began our collaboration. We wanted our 3D animation to look a little different from the more polished Pixar-type films. We also hoped to merge the 3D look with elements of my style and the look of the more flat Clay-on-Glass style used in films like "Rex the Runt".

My idea was to have an old Italian guy remembering his dear cat, Luigi. I wanted live-action film for the narrator and 2D animation to convey his recollections. I engaged an old friend living in Cold Spring, NY, Claudio Marzollo, to read the part of the narrator. His father, Dick Marzollo, a highly respected opera coach, spoke very little English, so Claudio grew up speaking both English and Italian. Claudio exceeded my expectations. I was an amateur filmmaker & Claudio an amateur actor so, with raging ignorance as our ally, we filmed all 11 scenes in a single afternoon using my Sony digital camcorder.

Scene 5 is the only scene Brian and I have in a more or less finished form. Brian shoulders the lion's share of the work, creating all the 3D models from my sketches, rigging them and working out the entire animation. Early on, I wrote Claudio's dialog and created the main characters, but as we progress, I create new characters as needed, work up storyboards and create the music. But it's Brian who's logging the hours on weekends and evenings to bring this cat's tale to life. Bravo, Brian!

Since animation is a long, tedious process, we wanted to share a little of what we've completed so far. This scene may be tweaked once we've completed the others, but it comes pretty close to our vision. As this project progresses, we'll probably offer more glimpses if you're interested. Keep in mind that the QuickTime movie is compressed, so color, detail and sound quality all suffer.

Click Here for Mondo Lugi Scene 5

Some additional thoughts after reading some feedback:

Thanks, fellers, for your comments.

In the 50's I played electric guitar. I stopped playing music for a few years and, upon discovering the joys of Renaissance music, I built a clavichord that I never learned to play and got a lute I did learn to play. I turned to bluegrass music, playing acoustic guitar and mandolin. Along the way, classical music became my music of choice. Then, about a year ago, I became enamoured with the idea of mixing it up--I fell in love with music that overlayed electronic music, nature sounds, sound effects, drones, symphonic music and all kinds of pop music.

I like the digital art of J. Otto Siebold as well as the organic linocuts of Randy Enos. In an earlier post, I let Drawgers know that one of my top animators is Gianluigi Toccafondo, another is Chris Hinton, both organic drawers and painters within the medium. But I love "The Incredibles", a completely 3D digital animation.

For me, it's not the medium, though there are some I don't like, it's what the artist has achieved using his/her tools. I'd hate a world that had only (one of my favorites) Ed Sorel, but took away (another favorite) Digital Bob Staake. Ed uses the same tools I use, but Digital Bob uses digital tools. Doesn't matter one iota to me.

Randy, you seem to indicate a concern that something is lost when my work is morphed from ink and watercolor to 3D digital modeling. I only see it as something changing. I love the grit of ink and pigment on watercolor paper--what else woud account for my using it for some 35 years. But I don't ever want to be a slave to anything. I want to use every tool I can find if that tool will help me grow as an artist, stretch my imagination.

Some friends wonder at my using GarageBand, seeing it as a toy, worrying that I may have abandoned my roots. But I haven't. I like it all. Or, not all, but my range of artistic enjoyment is vast. I wallow on The Stanley Brothers and Gustav Mahler and Les Paul and Shostakovich. My favorite painter is Francis Bacon, but I equally enjoy George Herriman.

As always, I'm long-winded. My apologies. I am delighted with Brian's interpretation of my art and I don't think it hurts my story. It would work either way. I could have done it in a similar style to Little Green Monkey (on my website), but I don't think it would be one whit better than it is. I like the contrast between the live footage of Claudio narrating and the "slick" 2D animation. I shot the movie of Claudio in color, but I knew from the start that I'd change it to sepia. The idea is that I found old footage of this old Italian man who had a story to tell. Once we move from his narration to the visual storytelling, it is no longer then, it is NOW.

Of course, you are only seeing this one clip, Scene 5, so it might make more sense when the movie is completed. But, either way, I am holding firm to my concept because I think I'm right. And I am right because I'm doing it for me. No editors, no art directors, no deadlines, just the pure joy of making something up and seeing it come alive.

However, I do appreciate the honest input and concern. It's fun to get feedback. Even if I am a stubborn son of a bitch.

-E

PS: Randy, I'm playing a vintage 4-string banjo, not a 5-string and it's tuned like an octave mandolin.
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