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Ruminations: E-ville: More than just a hobby

Ruminations: E-ville: More than just a hobby

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If you have ever seen one of the films from Pixar Animation Studios, then you know that there is a very talented bunch of folks behind the magic that brings those tales to the screen. A lot of hard work (long hours, too) and creativity goes into each one of those projects. But would it surprise you to learn that those kinds of efforts just don't stop once the day is done?

A good example of this is a group of Pixar artists who have formed their own little publishing enterprise. Appropriately enough, they decided on a name that reflects a shared location: E-ville Press. That is a play on Emeryville - the city where Pixar now has a large complex. Not too far from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, it sits on a site that was once a Del Monte Cannery. Please, no fruit cocktail jokes...

So... a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of these folks at a special signing event for E-ville's first titles. It was held at Super 7, a fine shop with a nice mixed bag of merchandise, located in San Francisco's Japantown.


The postcard to promote the E-ville evening

Seems that that postcard and the word of mouth did the trick as Super 7 was full of people that evening. It even overflowed onto the sidewalk outside. Lot of friends stopped by as well as customers with lots of copies of the books and more sold. Plenty of those ended up being signed, too. There was a lot going on that night and I was fortunate to spend a few moments with some of these artists.


Yes, sir. A busy event

I even managed to finally meet up with Alex Woo, the director of the award winning animated short film, "Rex Steele - Nazi Smasher". Alex has gone on to join the crew at Lucasfilm, where he is working on storyboards for the upcoming Star Wars animated series. Another "Rex" alumni, Pixar story artist and E-ville Press artist who was there that evening was Bill Pressing. You may recall that I interviewed Bill last year. Since then, he's been hard at work on the (so-far) ultimate Rex Steele graphic novel. It combines all of the previous chapters in one fine volume. A must have for any "Rex" fan! I saw plenty of those autographed that evening.


Bill Pressing (left) and Alex Woo (right) at Super 7

Meanwhile, back to E-ville Press... Currently, there are five books that E-ville Press has available. They are:

Afterworks - A collection of seven short stories by Robert Kondo, Kevin O'Brien, Louis Gonzales, Simon Dunsdon, Nathan Stanton, Sanjay Patel and Max Brace.

Colossus - Mark Andrews weaves a compelling tale in this story of a knight whose soul is trapped inside a metal monster called Colossus.

Rose and Isabel - Ted Mahot offers a different look at the Civil War from two sisters whose lives are changed forever when their brothers leave to join the Union cause.

Little India - Sanjay Patel describes it as "Hinduism made EASY!"

Dumping Grounds - Louis Gonzales shares 72 pages of drawings that "used to live only in my sketch books until now."


The covers of these five books

So, if you worked all day long on the latest projects at Pixar, what would make you come home and pick up that pencil or stylus (at the Wacom tablet) and go to work on your own project?

Simon Dunsdon had a perfect answer to that question. There were two things that attracted him to this kind of effort. The first was a chance to have a project that they (the individual artists) had control over. In their every day work, that isn't always the case. The second was the chance to work together with friends to produce something. For him, as a technical director he works on the computer side of things; specifically previsualization and CG camera - on such movies as "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles." His story for Afterworks, "The Champion" was a chance to do things he doesn't get to do as part of that role at Pixar. He admits to having a soft spots for Sci-fi and Film Noir. When he was young he was a fan of "Flash Gordon" and "King of the Rocketmen" on BBC2. By making a comic that used some of those same ideas he made some of the ideas that may seem a bit goofy by todays standards, cool to him again just as they were when he was 8 years old. And having no prior comic book experience, it was of course something new to try out. With an art college background that was very traditional related to theatrical design, this was a great opportunity.

Sanjay Patel took inspiration from his own heritage and combined it with a cute look that echoes the style of Mary Blair. He admits that isn't a surprise as he graduated from Cal Arts and finds that the work of many Disney artists has been a big influence. At Pixar (having been involved in projects since "a bug's life"), he is an animator and storyboard artist. Check out this little look at some of his work in their Artists Corner.

Kevin O'Brien is another story artist having worked on "The Incredibles." Some of the projects he worked on before coming to Pixar were Iron Giant, Ice Age and Ray Gunn (unfinished). His project, "Blip Atomic" is part of the Afterworks project. It is something that can trace a tangled trail back to his high school days. He described it as a "back burner doodle" that he would do on post-its while he drew storyboards all day. A kind of "fantastic escapism", if you will. The project gave Kevin a chance to step back to those roots as a high school newspaper cartoonist. With influences such as Moebius, Sergio Aragones and Wally Wood, it is no wonder that he has enjoyed it as much as he did.

Nathan Stanton did a story for Afterworks called "The Visit". As a Story Board Artist at Pixar, he has worked on "a bug's life," "Toy Story 2," "Monsters Inc." and "Finding Nemo." As to the particular inspiration that led to the content of his project? He had this to say:

"For me there was the work that Enrico Casarosa and Ronnie del Carmen have been putting out for years that really inspired me to get my act together and put out my own comic. both of them were very supportive to all of us in getting our work done and helping with the details of where to get stuff printed and how to deal with selling stuff at COMIC CON. One comic in particular that really got me going was a recent one by Sam Hiti, called LOS TIEMPOS FINALES, a brilliant piece of work that was a big inspiration for me while I was working on my story THE VISIT.

I've had no experience really in doing comics, other than doing my own stuff here and there. the only printed material I worked on was a small anthology comic from my college days at CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS (1988 - 1992).

In terms of comics I was raised on a steady diet of mainly Marvel titles, and it was the artist that determined what titles I followed. I loved and still am inspired by the work of John Byrne and Michael Golden, and fellow marvel artists Frank Miller and John Buscema also. the more recent artists that I have been following are Jim Woodring, Dave Cooper, Mike Mignola and Charles Burns. outside of the comic world my biggest influence is a German artist from the early 1900's, Heinrich Kley . His work is something else, just beautiful stuff, I could stare at it all day."

So, what's in the future for E-ville? I asked Nathan what is coming next from E-ville".

"For sure there will be an AFTERWORKS 2, which will be in color this time. we will have some of the original cast, but some new people will join the anthology this time, including Jeff Pidgeon. there will also be a ROSE AND ISABEL : PART 2, which Ted Mathot is currently hard at work on. Other than that, I'm not sure, but be certain there will be more titles coming next year!"

So there you have it. A look at what these folks do for something to stretch themselves in ways beyond what they do there at the pixel works.

But they aren't alone in looking for something to do outside of Pixar. For a final example, how about John Lasseter? They day after the Super 7 event, I found him down in the San Joaquin Valley at a convention for Grand Scale Railroading. Not only was he the speaker at the event banquet, he was out offering rides on his own steam train. You may recall the "Marie E." was once the project of Disney animator Ollie Johnston. Restored to operation by the folks who were hosting this convention, it was a very popular part of the event.


Engineer Lasseter at the throttle

Who knows what other hobbies those folks from Pixar enjoy? Hmm... seems like another topic for another day!

Earlier this year, you all generously helped out by supporting the efforts toward relief of the victims of the Tsunami. If you can see your way to doing so again, the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita now face many of the same daily challenges for basic necessities. The need is every bit as real and as serious. Consider a donation to the American Red Cross if you can. Every bit helps, even more now...

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  • Well then i guess these remunirations are good considering that they are provided for help with assignment and i think that on a more upscale level it would go well too, so think abot that prospect too !!

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