Monday, September 16, 2013

Michel Gagne’s The Saga Of Rex

Remember how I brought up Mike Nguyen’s “My Little World” as a project I wanted to see created and fully realized? Well, here’s another such project done by another animator who has had a TON of experience in the field, Michel Gagne.

This is an artist from Canada who has provided both character animation and special effects animation for Don Bluth’s productions and has provided effects animation for Warner Bros. Animation, (Quest For Camelot, The Iron Giant, and Osmosis Jones,) as well as the occasional work for Disney and Pixar, providing visual effects for Ratatouille (the taste visualization sequences) and Brave.

Some of his effects work:

Quest For Camelot

Ruber's Death
(Say what you will about the overall film and ESPECIALLY the Deus Ex Machina nature of this scene, but you gotta admit this is some awesome effects work and a cool way to kill off the villain...)

Osmosis Jones

(...but nowhere as cool as THIS death...)

The Iron Giant


To read more about these and other effects animation he's done, click here: Michel Gagne's Effects Animation

He’s also had a ton of independent experience as well, both as animator and illustrator. His 1995 short film, Prelude To Eden was given an Annie Award nomination.

The making of the short can be found here: The Making Of Michel Gagne's "Prelude To Eden"
And here's some on the music of the short (something that should interest my brother greatly): Shirley Walker And The Music Of "Prelude To Eden"

He’s also created a video game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, and a comic book series, ZED, which was finished and released as a trade paperback by Image Comics as ZED: A Cosmic Tale in 2013, which I own a copy of. And speaking of comics, that brings us to The Saga Of Rex.

The little fox, Rex, first appeared in Gagne’s self-published 1998 book, A Search For Meaning: The Story Of Rex. Gagne would later return to the character with The Saga Of Rex, which was serialized in volumes 2-7 of the brilliant comic anthology series, Flight, and later published by Image Comics as a complete graphic novel in 2010, the same year volume 7 of Flight was released.

Needless to say, what I’ve seen of Gagne’s work, I LOVE it. It’s creative, it’s bizarre, and it’s fascinating and full of intrigue. Purely inspired and inspiring work.

So why do I bring all this up, you ask? Well, not too long ago, the animation news site, Cartoon Brew, released an article (Michael Gagne Speaks About His New Short "The Saga Of Rex") that brought Michel Gagne and The Saga Of Rex back to my mind. Last year, Gagne got the idea to make The Saga Of Rex into a full-length classically hand drawn independent animated feature, and started a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a 4-minute short to serve as the first installment for the film. The article was made to announce the short’s recent release and to have Michel Gagne talk about the creation of the animation. Of particular note is this statement he gave to Cartoon Brew about traditional hand-drawn animation:

“I would like to believe that there are still some people out there who want to see good old 2D classical animation being done. I know that my big donors love this type of animation and want to see it continue. We can’t rely on the big studios to keep the art of 2D full-animation going, so it’s up to us.”

As someone who has grown tired of CGI’s prominence in the animation realm and also would love to work in the classical animation field one day, I agree with what he has to say. If the big studios aren’t willing to support 2D full-animation, then at the moment, it’s up to the independent creators and the people willing to support the medium to bring it back to prominence as an animation art form, and with projects like this, "My Little World," Ralph Bakshi's "Last Days Of Coney Island," and Tony White's "Spirit Of The Game," (Spirit Of The Game) created by people who are passionate about the art of traditional animation and are wanting to take it in new directions to show that there is still a future in the medium, I certainly hope they succeed. 

And as someone who has read “The Saga of Rex” comics from the Flight books and enjoyed them, I would really love to see this story created into an animated feature, because of how much drama, action, adventure, heart, imagination, beauty, creativity and charm are contained in these silent comics. Bill Plympton has proven that you could completely ax the dialogue in a full-length animated film and still have the visuals, music, and sound carry the story and make it all work, as was demonstrated in his great film “Idiots And Angels,” so I don’t see why “The Saga Of Rex” couldn’t do similarly.

Like My Little World, I see a lot of potential with this project and hope it’s a successful creation. The animation world deserves fresh, creative animated projects, but not all of them have to be in CGI. It's my belief that there should be balance when it comes to the three big mediums of animation: hand-drawn, stop-motion, and CGI, and right now, the prominence and popularity of CGI is sadly outweighing this balance and not allowing the other two mediums to thrive and prosper as much as they should. I'm still hoping that one day, balance will come at last, and the tide will turn in favor of hand-drawn animation and stop-motion animation gaining prominence and popularity with audiences. While I do love a lot of what CGI animation has produced and what it's capable of, I feel that it should NEVER be seen as a replacement for the other mediums and instead coexist with them, as all three are capable of creating wonderful animated projects, regardless of what they're made with, and if projects like The Saga Of Rex can help create demand for hand-drawn animated films, there is still hope for the industry and a hope for balance.

So, to sign off, if you haven't seen the short already, here it is in all of its creative glory: