Blue Sky in Paris
Unbeknownst to me a few years ago a new museum opened in Paris by the name of Art Ludique Musée housed in the same building as the MoonRoof restaurant and the Mode et Design museum, you know the big crazy green thing on the Quai D’Austerlitz. If you’ve not yet been there it’s a hot bed of happenings including Wanderlust and Nuba restaurant, cocktail and nightclubs.
My very good friends Jeanne & Chris Wedge whom we known from back home in New York were attending a show in Chris’ honor at the Museum, a retrospective on his work at Blue Sky Studios the only East coast animation studio in the US. Despite the rainy week, we had Blue Sky in Paris.
He’s an academy award winning animation director and has directed such movies as Epic, Robots and the first of the five Ice Age movie. His studio has produced many more films. Some of the best animated work out there in the past 30 years was created Blue Sky Studios. The company that he created with a group of colleagues will turn 30 next year.
Of course I know Chris and Jeanne from long dinners in Katonah, from sailing and sipping wine or martinis amongst friends. They’ve hung out with us at our place in Bordeaux and we them at their home in Orient, Long Island. But you never really know beyond a word here or there what a genius this guy is because he is quite humble and chooses, unlike most people, not to talk about himself much.
He says it all with art. And that’s the point of this show and in the museum in general, to let people in on the artwork and illustration as well as the hundreds of hours of conception work that is done to create great animated movies. As a lover of film but someone who knows absolutely nothing about animation, getting the headphones at the museum was critical.
I learned so much in just an hour’s visit although yet one could spend quite a few hours at the show. It circles through about 6 or 7 rooms and includes several movies or shorts along with videos that explain in French and English the art of animation and the mechanics of the process.
A room full of digital paintings are shown backlit which were the precursors to the visual look created for the film Epic (2013), a movie about the secret world of miniature leaf men who live in the forest.
These ‘paintings’ leave no doubt in one’s mind at the level of sheer creative talent and artistry that it takes to create one of these feature length animated movies. The effect of that room in particular is absolutely stunning.
Another area shows how the lead character Rodney was created for Robots (2005) voiced by the great Robin Williams. In an illuminated plexiglass box you find Chris Wedge’s father’s old blue outboard engine, which acted as the inspiration in creating the trusty ‘good guy’ main character in the film.
In fact almost all of the characters in Robots were fashioned after old metal found objects, which enlightens the viewer to the vast world of creativity that takes places behind the scenes as the movie and the alternative universe that it lives in comes to life.
My favorite section was the essay written on the wall penned by a French philosopher from the Sorbonne that waxes poetically about the Ice Age character Scrat entitled “It all begins with Scrat”.
Wouldn’t you know that it would take a French philosophy professor to let us Americans in on the profound qualities of this long tooth creature that opens and ends each of the 5 Ice Age blockbusters. And its not Robin Williams or any of the other famous comedians who have been in so many of the Blue Sky films behind the great Squirrel-like philosopher, Scrat. It is none other than my friend Chris. Scrat’s philosophy? I’ll let you discover it yourself…at the museum.