Mar 6, 2015

Five Knights Releases The Final Two Installments in the Kin Fables Trilogy



The first installment in Seb and Ben McKinnon's beautifully atmospheric multi-media project Kin Fables was an immensely satisfying and tantalizing glimpse into an alien world of myth back when we covered it in two years ago. In the time since then, Five Knights Productions (Ben's talented company of filmmakers) have been hard at work and the fruit of those labors is finally here in the form of the highly-anticipated release of the two-part finale to the Kin Fables trilogy.


Salvage opens with the shot of a starkly bright yellow bi-plane soaring across a vast ocean into a wall of storm clouds. The lone aviator pilot of the plane manages to survive a terrific crash along the shores of what we can presume to be the same mythic world of the previous film. What he discovers there may both save and invariably change his life forever.



Requiem presents a compelling new dimension into the true nature of the world of Kin and its inhabitants. The film opens with a close-up shot of the unconscious boy who was abducted (saved?) at the conclusion of the first film. An abrupt change in focus shifts our attention on who we presume to be the very same boy, now a grown man, waking up to a world seemingly indistinguishable from our own. What is the nature between these two, seemingly disparate realities? Nothing is as it seems.


Though this chapter of the Kin Fables story has reached its conclusion, the series' companion graphic novel is still in the works. and I'm all but certain that the McKinnon Brothers have more rapturously-moving installments up their sleeves. If not, I sincerely hope this will not be the last collaboration of Clann's sensational music with the Brother's incredible cinematography. Check out the project's website for more insights into the world and world behind the films, and be sure to follow Five Knights on facebook and twitter for more awesome shorts!

Mar 4, 2015

Brainstorm's Diablo Event Unleashes A Host of Horrors and Heroes

Lennart Verhoeff
The bad-ass artistic minds behind the Brainstorm collective knock it out of the park yet again with their month-long redesign challenge, this time reinterpreting the iconic imagery, classes and titular adversary of Blizzard Entertainment's classic dungeon-crawling series Diablo. Many of the results this past week impressively (if predictably) skew across the spectrum of sci-fi action, though a majority of the pieces submitted retain the distinctive gothic-horror flavor of the original.

Brainstorm mainstay Chen Nambiarooran (previously featured for his impressive 'Darth Vader' series) returns with some downright devilish-looking creature and class designs, joined by the likes of Luis Lashido, Tomaislav Jagnijc, and Lennart Verhoeff's impressively menacing profile portraits. It's all there and more, right after the break!

Baxter



We wrote on Ty Coyle's impressive graduation film Baxter when it was posted months ago, but we had to retract our post when the short mysteriously vanished from the web. Turns out, The film was nominated for the Student Academy Award and had to be withdrawn in order to comply with the contest's requirements. Now that the film's festival run is over, we're happy to repost it!


Baxter is a anal retentive raccoon who manages to make his way into Granny's Sweet Shop. But will his obsession for immaculate detail unwittingly set off his own downfall? Many thanks to Ty and the rest of the crew from the Savannah College of Art and Design for sending this back our way. Great job guys, can't wait to see more of your work in the future!

The Great Harlot and the Beast

The Great Harlot and the Beast is yet another terrific animated film from The Animation Workshop's graduating class of 2015. The short follows a naive marionette prince and his co-stars as they attempt to entertain their audience of children throughout the day. But what happens when night falls on the puppet theatre, and the weight of a new audience's expectations become too much for the prince to bear?  Can the prince and his princess manage to make it through their last performance without losing their dignity?


Wonderfully animated and thematically heart-wrenching; The Great Harlot and the Beast was a captivating short from start to finish. The short is a unflinching satire of popular entertainment and how the darker appetites of audience gratification can become ever more insatiable and cruel as the entertainers permit.

Laika's Coraline was an obvious design inspiration for the film's asymmetrical hand-made aesthetic; with an emphasis on sharp angles, grungy set colors, blocky silhouettes and disconcertingly cheerful expressions juxtaposed against base and darkly comedic indignities. Check out the film's official production blog for more awesome behind-the-scenes clips and making-of concept art!

Feb 25, 2015

Worth Checking Out - Toejam and Earl: Back In The Groove



I'm honestly at a loss for words for how ridiculously excited I was when I saw this pop up. Some of my fondest childhood video gaming memories were spawned from late night sessions playing ToeJam & Earl. The weirdness of the game's characters mixed with the ridiculously funky beats melded was an incredibly odd experience, but it worked and it was wonderful. The sequel, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, was an odd followup, but it still managed to capture the weirdness from the previous entry despite being a a 2D platformer.

After it's debut on the Sega Genesis, ToeJam & Earl vanished for nearly a decade, only to be revisited in the disappointing Xbox exclusive ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth which almost guaranteed the series' demise. Thankfully, we now live in a world where crowdsourcing exists giving us the chance to bring it back.


ToeJam & Earl: Back In The Groove is looking to bring back what fans loved from the original and give it a modern twist. It's hard to believe it's been over 20 years since the game originally debuted, but that cheese 90's hip hop factor is still there to remind you of it's roots.

The Kickstarted just started today and it's already sitting at a healthy $22,000. There's loads of information on the game and some awesome tiers of backer rewards to choose from. Check out the Kickstarter page over here to drop a few dollars on this 90's re-awakening

Kanye West, Macklemore and Tyler, the Creator Battle Illuminati Shamans in 'Hip-Hop RPG'



I've only just discovered Dominick Raburn's 'Hip-Hop RPG', and I can already say that it's hands-down one of the most bizarrely hilarious and entertaining web series' I've watched in a long while. The story follows a group of post-apocalyptic warriors who send a chosen soldier back in time to recruit their younger selves, change the course of history and avert the apocalypse. Sound familiar?

What if I told you the revolutionaries were a broadsword-toting Macklemore, an apothecary Drake, a mysteriously cloaked Kanye West with a reflective mask, and the chosen one was none other than Kendrick Lamar? It only gets crazier from here on out, with Kendrick performing limit breaks and Tyler the Creator transforming into a giant cockroach to battle Illuminati Shamans.

Kanye's got mad stats.
As a avid fan of the genre, It's immensely satisfying  to watch Raburn's combine of two things that, at least on their face, couldn't look to be farther apart (Hip-Hop and Old-School RPGs) into a mini-series that wears its self-awareness proudly and comes from such an obvious place of love and appreciation. Not since Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden have I seen or experienced such an off-beat marriage of two niche hobbies and art-forms.

Check out the rest of the episodes after the break, Stop by the series' dedicated subreddit for news of in-progress episodes, and go follow Dominick and give him a shout-out on twitter!

Roommate Wanted - Dead or Alive



'Roommate Wanted - Dead or Alive' is yet another graduation film from the venerable students of The Animation Workshop. The short opens with Adam, a financially-strapped medical student posting a desperately-worded roommate opening online.

Within minutes (as is the typical case for cartoons), Adam is greeted by Zack, the one and only response to his posting. Little did Adam suspect however that his plea for a roommate regardless of whether they possessed a pulse or not would yield a result for the latter. Can these two strangers manage to make it out together, and maybe even become friends along the way?
The Odd Couple
There's a lot to love about this short. What sets "Roommate Wanted" apart from the rest of the graduation films I've seen come out of the Workshop lately is that it is a purely physical, clay-mation puppet production as opposed to the 2D-3D animations we've seen up until this point.



It certainly wears its influences on its sleeve, with the exaggerated pantomimic gestures typically associated with Wallace and Gromite coupled with an over-the-top Vincent Price-esque narration rhyming throughout the short. I absolutely adore the intricate touches of detail,  the crooked xylophone-like grating of the radiator, the faded postcard stickers and leather of Zack's suitcase.
The slapstick tone of Composer Mathias Winum's score certainly is reminiscent of Frederic Bayco's iconic work. Check out more of the team's production work on their student Tumblr.

Vagabond


If there's one thing that can survive the suffocating hardships of the dystopian future, it's the love between a man and his dog. Vagabond follows the story of Dio, a homeless man whose unwavering resilience to save the life of his best friend leads him straight into the dark, uncaring industrial sprawl of a towering metropolis.

One of my (many) favorite shots from the film.
With a fascinating futuristic setting of an apparent working-class society, the border-less character-design, The ominious sharp-forking piping of the backgrounds, and the choice use of minimal spoken dialogue and atmospheric sound design, Vagabond is a student short with a strong core premise executed exceptionally.


That final full-shot of the city is spectacular, definitely conjuring up comparisons to Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack. Vagabond is the graduation project of a team of five animators and three computer graphic students of The Animation Workshop university based in Denmark. Check out more behind-the-scenes production art and bios on the students at the film's Tumblr!

Feb 24, 2015

'POWER/RANGERS' Drop-Kicks Your Childhood Right In The Face



What if the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers were ostensibly "child soldiers", recruited to fight in an intergalactic war of which they really had no stake in? And, on top of that, what would happen if the bad guys won? This is Joseph Khan's 'Power/Rangers', the latest in Adi Shankar's "Bootleg Universe" shorts that follow in the proud tradition of taking classic saturday-morning cartoons, comic books and action shows of the early-to-mid-nineties and dousing them in a gritty, gun-metal coat of hyper-seriousness.

The Machine Empire has won, the Power Rangers have been disbanded or integrated into the hyper-advanced totalitarian regime, and hope by all appearances is lost. However, perhaps there is one last soldier of Zordon left willing to fight the "good" fight. But who?

Am I watching Power Rangers or Endless Waltz?!
The production quality on this short is off-the-wall. We've got a brief but spectacular glimpse of Megazords going at it, Futuristic cityscapes, retractable metal morphing-suits, and those Ranger katanas are especially sick. Every thing about this film feels so straight-faced it pushes past the brink into self-parody. The upcoming Lionsgate remake has a high bar to live up to.

Feb 16, 2015

Fake Rayman Leak Might Be Most Elaborate Video Game Hoax Ever



Earlier on Saturday, a user claiming to have leaks from an industry contact began to drop images on 4chan's /v/ board. While video game "leaks" are rather sketchy, the more recent leaks for Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS have been more reliable than most, with images of characters leaking weeks before official release.

When the first image of Rayman dropped, the internet went nuts while still remaining somewhat skeptical of the images. It wasn't until later that day, when a (now deleted) video was released showing Ubisoft's mascot in-game, created the full-blown hype-train. 


I admit, I fell for the supposed leak, and I quickly joined the hype in anticipation for an official announcement on the character's inclusion. Unfortunately, the hopes and dreams of thousands of Smash players were quickly crushed the next day when YouTube user Artsy Omni released the above video showing how he faked it out.

It's quite an impressive feat to troll the internet to such an extent, and even more impressive watching the process of creating the fake leak. It's unfortunate to see the amount of hate Omni has received after the reveal (as seen by the venomous comments on YouTube), because this is an incredibly elaborate and well created hoax. If anything, Omni just proved once and for all that you should never believe anything you read on the internet. 

Feb 11, 2015

An Interview With Brandon Liao: Professional Concept Artist


Recently, I had the opportunity to correspond with Brandon Liao to talk about his recent Patreon success, career aspirations, advice to rising artists and his mecha combat-suit of choice. A professional concept-artist with just over three years of industry experience, Liao was until recently a contract artist for Riot Games' most successful (and only) title League of Legends.

After leaving the company in September of last year, he set up his own patreon funding page and struck out on his own as a full-time freelancer. We've has featured Liao's work in the past before, so it was a terrific privilege and opportunity to speak with the man behind the Cintiq. Enjoy the rest of the interview after the break!


Tell us a little about yourself! Also, If you could pilot any robot/mecha what would it be?

I was born in Pasadena, California but grew up a little closer to Long Beach. Art has always been a hobby and it wasn't until the end of high school that I decided to pursue art as a career. I've been working as a concept artist officially for about 2-3 years. It's been very educational; I've learned new skills that I never thought that I'd get the chance to practice such as 3D modeling and texturing. It's also been very rewarding. I've worked on both video games and a couple of short films and it's been quite the adventure experiencing the different work flows. If I had to pilot a mech, it would be Chamber from Suisei no Gargantia.

Tsunami



The second entry in The Animation Workshop's 2014 graduation films is Tsunami; the story of a man named Haru who, having managed to escape with his life from the onslaught of a devastating storm, returns to his ruined home. Gripped in the shock of denial, he attempts to eke out an ordinary life despite the gravity of what has occurred. When Haru encounters a magical sea Spirit who has taken up residence in his house, he must learn to deal with his loss through his encounters with this otherworldly presence.

“Tsunami” was made by a team of eight third-year Character Animation and CG Arts students at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. Check out the students’ blog to learn more about the talent that went behind the film!

'The Horse Raised By Spheres' is a Rabbit-Hole of Madness

It's not easy being a horse.
Two weeks ago, animator David O'Reilly posted the URL "THEHORSERAISEDBYSPHERES.COM" via his twitter feed. Seemingly in conjunction with a premiere event for this year's Sundance film festival, the address is an interactive text-based web portal to the titular short of a sentient talking horse haunted by his inability to make friends with the other "normal" talking horses grazing on the other side of a field. 

The portal also extends to five other previously unreleased shorts, each one more curiously unsettling than the last. Gaze into the deep, click past the break, and dive into the ineffable abyss that is "The Horse Raised by Spheres".

Feb 10, 2015

Simpsons Pixels



This is such a gorgeously-animated tribute opening to the landmark American sitcom that I wish it was in an actual episode. It's not like the series has had openers that weren't as crazy or awesome as this one. Simpsons Pixels is the brainchild of animators Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon, accompanied with music by composer Jeremy Dower.
Baby on board.
 It's a fair guess to make that if you frequent this site, you already know Robertson for his superbly intricate psychedelic pixel-art animations for Adult Swim and independent illustrations. This opener makes my heart yearn for a proper remake to the Simpsons Arcade game released in '91.

'Le Gouffre' is An Exhilarating Testament to Conquering the Impossible



Lightning Boy Studio's Le Gouffre (The Gulf) is an animated short that is thoroughly engrossing as it is visually spectacular. The film tells the story of two intrepid young explorers in their attempt to traverse the titular chasm of "Le Gouffre". Over many weeks, the friends not only manage to forge an death-defying suspension bridge across the expanse, but also forge a relationship with the small rural farmers who call the forested end of the valley their home. But when the leisurely effort quickly shifts into a battle against the elements, can they manage to make it across in time?


The project has amassed a terrific reaction following the overwhelming success of its Kickstarter campaign in 2013, which allowed the creators to finance the movie's post-production. I'd say the money went to good use. The fact that Lightning Boy is made up of no more than three friends who met in animation school is further proof to the point that great things come from small beginnings.
Check out the promotional site for more information about the studio and check paste the break for the equally fascinating behind the scenes video!

Feb 9, 2015

Chen Nambiarooran Transforms Darth Vader into a Cabal of Monstrosities


Remember that spotlight we did of over 30 Darth Vader illustrations from Brainstorm's fantastic January community event? Well, there's still one artist in-particular whose work from that event I wanted to feature and would be remiss in not highlighting. 

That artist would be London-based Chenthooran Nambiarooran, who went above and beyond painting one recreation of one of Star Wars' most iconic adversaries and instead chose to create an entire series of 30 illustrations depicting Vader in all his aspects as a legion aristocracy of cenobite centurions, limped-legged abominations, and eyeless flesh ghouls prowling the ridges of space to swipe out at any inkling of the light side of the Force.

Chen's paintings prompt an interesting What-if scenario; What if the name Darth Vader wasn't just the title adopted by the fallen and disfigured Anakin Skywalker, but rather an terrible and ancient honorific; Passed down throughout the annals of the Dark Side to be worn only by the most ruthless and tyrannical Sith Lords to roam the darkness of their times? Sort of like the members of Berserk's God-hand, only with midichlorians. Check out Chen's entire series below the break!