Friday, 19 May 2017

CG Toolkit Submission


Film Review: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) is an American 3D stop-motion animation about a young boy called Kubo, who, after his mother dies saving him, goes on a journey to find his father's armour, with the help of a snow monkey and humanoid beetle he meets on his travels. The film is made by Laika, a stop-motion animation studio famous for films such as Coraline (2009) and The Boxtrolls (2014), and directed by Travis Knight.
Fig. 2: Kubo's mother.

The film begins with Kubo's mother in a boat (fig. 2). It is clear she is attempting to escape something, and uses a magical shamisen (traditional Japanese instrument) to guide her way safely to land. In her relief at finally seeing land, she forgets to watch for waves, and becomes submerged, hitting her head on the rocks below the water. Her body is washed to shore, where she finds her baby, Kubo. His missing eye, stolen by his grandfather the Moon King, has been bandaged over. The film skips several years, and we meet an older Kubo, now caring for his mother who goes into a dissociative state during daylight, and is unable to eat or look after herself without Kubo's help. Kubo sits her at the mouth of the cave in which they live, before running down to the nearby town, where he uses the shamisen and his own magical abilities to create origami figures that come to life to tell his stories. Kubo returns to his mother before nightfall, and as the sun sets, she becomes her lively self, and tells Kubo stories of his father, which he will later tell to the people in the town. The audience learns that Kubo mustn't remain outside the cave at night, as his grandfather and two aunts are looking for him to take his other eye, and his mother can't protect him if he's not with her.

Fig. 3: Kubo's aunts.
As is typical of these stories, Kubo eventually stays out until nightfall, and on his way back to the cave is found by his aunts (fig. 3). His mother finds him before they catch him, and uses the last of her magic to send Kubo far away, with only his shamisen and monkey totem, which is brought to life by his mother to protect him. After Monkey, as she is referred to, explains to Kubo he needs his father's armour to protect himself from his grandfather, the two take a short rest before setting off, before finding Beetle. Beetle believes Kubo's father, Hanzo, was his master, and wishes to help Kubo find the armour. "The trio's scenes go from rip-roaring to breathless with a fluidity brought to life by the deployment of real-life puppets; with utmost care applied to every shot, the adults will be marvelling as much as the youngsters." (Stolworthy, 2016). As the film goes on, the three develop a family-like dynamic, and it is later discovered that Kubo's mother trapped her own soul within Monkey to look after Kubo, and Beetle is his father, who was transformed into his beetle-like form and had his memory wiped by Kubo's aunts, who wished to punish him for taking their sister away. Until this point, it was believed Kubo's father had died. But the happiness they have with each other is short-lived, as Kubo ends up alone once again after finding the final piece of armour. With the armour, and now stringless shamisen, Kubo confronts his grandfather back at the town he grew up near, and rather than defeat him, uses his magic to make him a mortal old man with no memory. Kubo and the townspeople convince him he was always a kindly old man, and he accepts it.
Fig. 4: Kubo, Monkey and Beetle.
Many of Laika's films seem to miss the mark when it comes to story, as they often require the audience to stretch their imagination a little further than others. However, the films are made with such obvious love and care, as well as excruciating attention to detail. The film does not shy away from it's scarier elements, which could be considered potentially terrifying to adults and children alike; "The script... has faith that kids can handle such tough stuff and never talks down to them. But Knight and his massive team of animators have packaged these weighty, complex themes within visuals that are just jaw-dropping in both their beauty and craftsmanship." (Lemire, 2016). Overall, the film is very family orientated, and could easily be enjoyed by anyone, whether their interests lie in stories or art. "it explores unexpectedly profound ideas of rebirth and destiny rewritten, like origami paper sheets refolded into another form." (Ide, 2016).
Fig. 5: Kubo's expressions.

Figure 1. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) [poster] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 2. Kubo's Mother (2016) From: Kubo and the Two Strings. Directed by: Travis Knight [Film still] United States: Laika. At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Figure 3. Kubo's Aunts (2016) From: Kubo and the Two Strings. Directed by: Travis Knight [Film still] United States: Laika. At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Figure 4. Kubo, Monkey and Beetle. (2016) From: Kubo and the Two Strings. Directed by: Travis Knight [Film still] United States: Laika. At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Figure 5. Kubo's expressions. (2016) From: Kubo and the Two Strings. Directed by: Travis Knight [Film still] United States: Laika. At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Stolworthy, J. (2016) 'Kubo and the Two Strings, review: 'A marvellous adventure for both adults and children''. In: The Independent 09.09.2016 [online] (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Ide, W. (2016) 'Kubo and the Two Strings review – lyrical stop-motion tale'. In: The Guardian 11.09.2016 [online] At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Lemire, C. (2016) 'KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS'. In: 19.08.2016 [online] At: (Accessed on: 19.05.2017)

Maya Tutorial: Jetpack Jones - Body Progress

Maya Tutorial: Physical Sun & Sky

This tutorial was going well up until turning the light towards the camera, then it didn't seem to be working. I'll go over it during the summer.

Film Review: Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

Fig. 1: Sita Sings the Blues Poster (2008)
Sita Sings the Blues (2008) was written, produced, directed and animated by American cartoonist and animator Nina Paley. The story combines the Ramayana -- an ancient Indian poem which tells the story of the divine prince Rama's struggle to rescue his wife, Sita, from the demon king Ravana -- with events from Nina's own life. The story is told from Sita's perspective, using music by 1930s singer Annette Hanshaw, and combining several different art styles for the animation, which was mostly created using Flash. 
Fig. 2: Sita.
The film is a combination of different episodes, each using a different art style to separate them from each other. Episodes telling the story of the Ramayana use painted figures that resemble 18th century Indian Rajput painting (fig. 3). Musical episodes, featuring the voice of Annette Hanshaw, use vector graphic animation, with extremely stylised versions of the characters (fig. 4) "This music also provides an unlikely but seductive accompaniment to the main story" (Scott, 2009). Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally, and Manish Acharya provide voices for three shadow puppets in episodes that detail and discuss the story of the Ramayana as the three recall it from their childhoods; "Paley adds a hilarious level of narration: Three voice-over modern Indians, Desis, ad-libbing as they try to get the story straight. Was Sita wearing jewelry or not? How long was she a prisoner in exile? How did the rescue monkey come into the picture? These voices are as funny as an SNL skit, and the Indian accent gives them charm" (Ebert, 2009). Their discussions are visualised in the form of an info-graphic behind the puppets (fig. 5). The modern day episodes, drawn in a similar style to Nina Paley's cartoons (fig. 6), contrasts Sita's story with Nina's own life experiences. 
Fig. 3: The Ramayana.
Fig. 4: Song episodes.
Fig. 5: Shadow Puppets.
Fig. 6: Modern day.
Despite the creator being American, the film is a clear attempt to embrace and celebrate an Indian story in an artistic way, though Paley faced some critique for her portrayals of characters, -- "there are Hindus who find “Sita Sings the Blues” offensive... I have heard reasoned, intelligent arguments against the point of view it puts forward." (Haas, 2011) -- as well as trouble with copyright issues which eventually resulted in the film being available to watch for free.

Overall, the film is charming, and the decision to include three people as shadow puppets allows an intriguing commentary and critique of the Ramayana. Though, it's questionable whether or not Paley was the right person to tell the story this way, the film is still beautiful, a work of art throughout, and it's clear a lot of love and research went into creating it.

Figure 1. Sita Sings the Blues (2008) [poster] At: (Accessed on: 16.02.2017)

Figure 2. Sita. (2008) From: Sita Sings the Blues. Directed by: Nina Paley [Film still] United States. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 3. The Ramayana. (2008) From: Sita Sings the Blues. Directed by: Nina Paley [Film still] United States. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 4. Song episodes. (2008) From: Sita Sings the Blues. Directed by: Nina Paley [Film still] United States. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 5. Shadow puppets(2008) From: Sita Sings the Blues. Directed by: Nina Paley [Film still] United States. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 6. Modern day. (2008) From: Sita Sings the Blues. Directed by: Nina Paley [Film still] United States. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)


Ebert, R. (2009) 'SITA SINGS THE BLUES'. In: 29.08.2009 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Haas, S. A. (2011) '‘Sita Sings the Blues’ Brings out the Bullies'. In: Huffpost 25.07.2011 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Scott, A. O. (2009) 'Legendary Breakups: Good (Animated) Women Done Wrong in India' In: The Telegraph 24.12.2009 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Film Review: Mary and Max (2009)

Fig. 1: Mary and Max Poster (2009)
Mary and Max (2009), written and directed by Adam Elliot, is a stop motion animated comedy with two main characters; Mary Daisy Dinkle and Max Horowitz. Mary is a shy, lonely child, who lives in Australia with her distant father, Noel, and her alcoholic mother, Vera. Max is a 44 year old morbidly obese man, who lives alone in an apartment in New York, and has trouble forming close bonds with other people due to Asperger syndrome and social anxiety. Mary, in a desperate search for a friend, finds Max's name in a phone book and writes to him. Though her first letter causes Max to have a severe anxiety attack, he eventually writes back, and the two become unlikely pen-friends. 
Fig. 2: Mary writing a letter to Max.
Throughout the film, the two write back and forth as their friendship grows stronger. They both have a child-like understanding of some aspects of life, but Max still uses his role as an adult figure in Mary's life to help her in varying ways, including telling Mary how to stop a boy from picking on her for her birthmark. Both Max and Mary are so distanced from other people, that it's no surprise, yet still somehow charming, how attached they become to one another. "We learn a lot about their overlapping enthusiams, including Max’s five favourite words... and the deep yearnings for companionship which make the successful delivery of each letter a heart-in-mouth business." (Robey, 2010).
Fig. 3: Max imagines him and Mary crossing paths.
The film contains a lot of dark humour, and ultimately the audience finds themselves laughing at two characters who lead very unfortunate lives. Character deaths, suicide, and mental illness are just a few of the things that the film portrays in comedic ways. Dark humour is considered to be typical of Australian humour in general, and it's the use of it in Mary and Max that makes the film inherently Australian. "You have to admire the ambition, even if Elliot doesn't always seem certain if he's laughing with or at his creations." (Pulver, 2010). Adam Elliot, the writer and director of the film, went to school in Mount Waverley; the same suburb where Mary lives, so it can be assumed that the setting and varying characters may be based on encounters Adam Elliot had growing up. In fact, the character of Max is based on Adam Elliot's own New York based pen-friend, whom he has been writing to for over 20 years. The film also contains several nods to Australian people and culture; a stamp bearing the likeness of Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage (who also narrates the film), references to Muriel's Wedding (1994), and references to Adam Elliot's previous works.
Fig. 4: Max after being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
The film, despite its themes and often grim subject matters, manages to be heart-warming and fun. Had it been a live-action film, it wouldn't have worked as well, but the over the top and usually grotesque looking characters are a reminder that the situations and people are not real, so the audience can sit back and laugh rather than feel like they're watching what is, in many ways, a very sad story of two unlikely friends. "It is a sad, whimsical, uncomfortably comic film, touching rather than tragic" (French, 2010).

Figure 1. Mary and Max Poster (2009) [image] At: (Accessed on: 16.02.2017)

Figure 2. Mary writing a letter to Max. (2009) From: Mary and Max. Directed by: Adam Elliot [Film still] Australia: Melodrama Pictures. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 3. Max imagines him and Mary crossing paths. (2009) From: Mary and Max. Directed by: Adam Elliot [Film still] Australia: Melodrama Pictures. At: on: 18.05.2017)

Figure 4. Max after being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. (2009) From: Mary and Max. Directed by: Adam Elliot [Film still] Australia: Melodrama Pictures. At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Pulver, A. (2010) 'Mary and Max – review'. In: The Guardian 21.10.2010 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Robey, T. (2010) 'Mary and Max, review'. In: The Telegraph 21.10.2010 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

French, P. (2010) 'Mary and Max – review'. In: The Guardian 24.10.2010 [online] At: (Accessed on: 18.05.2017)

Maya Tutorial: Final Gather

First render.
Low accuracy and density.
Increased secondary diffuse bounces.

Map visualiser enabled.
Directional light.
Glow effect.

Maya Tutorial: Samples and Quality Control

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Adaptation B: Post-Crit Reflection

Overall, I feel the crit went well. I received good feedback, and was able to present something I was happy with, despite having left very little time to finish it. I understand that I must work faster in future in order to produce my best work, and I can also see that I'm more capable than I previously thought, especially in programs like Maya, which I tend to avoid using as long as I can. I plan to continue working on my model into the summer, and hopefully add a voice-over that I may use in a video of my model. I recognise that my strengths lie in drawing, but with hard work and determination I can become just as skilled in other aspects of my work.

This project has been an eye-opener, as I was required to be far more independent with my work, and learned new and sometimes more complicated methods of bringing my work to life in 3D. I feel far more prepared for 3rd year, and look forward to coming back to challenge myself with new projects in September.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Adaptation B: Texturing Progress

@Alan: Unresponsive UV Editor

I'm having an issue with laying out the UV map for the branch wrapped around my model. I've laid out most of it but now the editor won't let me move anything. Other UV maps I've already done work fine and still allow me to move parts around, just this one suddenly won't. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Adaptation B: Further Modelling Progress

Now most of the body is done, I've began editing aspects of the model so she's not 100% symmetrical. This includes adding new thorns and changing the vines growing on her legs and arms. I've also coloured her dress to make sure her dress and skin isn't clipping. 

I'm hoping to add the head and other final touches to the model ASAP so I can begin texturing her.