Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SESAME STREET _ Concept Art 02

Pop culture parodies are a staple of SESAME STREET. I art directed two recent bird-centric additions to the genre that appeared in the premiere week for Season 43: BIRDWALK EMPIRE and the PIZZA episode of ELMO THE MUSICAL (that stars a chicken in the guise of Darth Vader).


A send-up of the HBO Prohibition-Era crime drama set on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, NJ. Except this version is populated with gangs of chickens and ducks and adorned with birdhouses instead of the beachfront palaces. Although it was fun in itself to create designs to closely match the period-specific art direction, the real treat was designing for one of the few episodes that Muppet godfather Frank Oz performed in this season (he's Clucky Luciano).

Here it is:

(and in case you've never seen the opening to BOARDWALK EMPIRE)

The spot was produced for Magnetic Dreams by Julian Herrera and our editor Victor Albright shot the footage of saltine packs in the surf while on a trip. I'm especially proud of the opening and we heard through the grapevine that show's cinematographer dug our take on his work. You can get a closer look at my style frames that influenced the final CG models, below:


In this episode of Elmo the Musical, Elmo imagines he is a "Pizza Delivery Astronaut" who must face a chicken dressed as Darth Vader in order to deliver a pepperoni pie to the classic Muppet "Yip Yip" Martians.

Here's a clip, you can find the whole thing HERE:

The challenge for this one was creating an outer space that felt both iconic and new and retained our theatrical touches while exploiting special effects and 3D camera moves. Plus, with a script calling for Star Wars references, I wanted the designs to contain some pretty specific Easter Eggs.

Here's a look at some of my Photoshop style frame backgrounds, including the one featured in the clip above. The visual effects were achieved by the J-Team (Judd, Josh, and Joel) of our compositing department.

The script called for this specific Star Wars reference (modeled and lit by Brad Applebaum) but I also threw in some additional SW design shout-outs. The special effects for the ship were designed and animated by Abdel Pizarro. Notice too that the same chicken played "Clucky Luciano" and the villain here. On the Sesame set, they refer to him as "Stunt Chicken."

And here's a close-up of Elmo's dashboard, just because we barely see it in the episode.

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