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.


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 patreon funding page and struck out on his own as a full-time freelancer. We've 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.

'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!

Sideshow’s H.R Giger Alien Space Jockey Maquette

Hans Rudolf Giger, better known as H.R. Giger, would have turned 75 years old this past Thursday. A surrealist painter and sculptor infamous for his macabre sexually-infused subject matter, Giger's most iconic work was for Ridley Scott's seminal space-horror series Alien; The titular antagonist of the film being inspired by the night-terror fueled painting Necronom IV.

Along with acting as the film's most prominent visual set designer, his second great creation is that of the colloquially-named Space Jockey, the mummified pilot of the derelict spacecraft where Ripley and her crew discover the lair of the Alien. Though he had long since retired from painting, trading in the color pallets and night terrors for floral-patterned crocs and prime-time television up until his death, Giger's dark and brooding legacy hang low and heavy on the visual language of science-fiction horror today.

That's where Sideshow Collectibles comes in with their painstakingly-rendered Space Jockey Maquette. Sized at 21" high, 18" wide and 23" long, the Space Jockey is currently priced at a whompin' $600 USD and is expected to ship anywhere between December 2015 and February 2016. Pre-orders are available now through Sideshow's personal store-front.  Check out some killer pictures of the statuette just below the break!

Feb 2, 2015

The Art of Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowski's latest major sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending releases this friday, and the lackluster promotional campaign leading through this last week is worrisome to say the least. The film's premise was already a gamble to begin with; A galaxy-hopping-DNA-wolf-elf-assassin-princess-space-opera starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum? Hell, stranger things have found success. Though it also doesn't help that Warner Bros.' final trailer for Jupiter commits the cardinal sin of revealing that your movie can be adequately condensed into the space of three-minutes.
Original production schematics of the "Abrasax Clipper"
No matter how you feel (or don't feel) about the film's premise or promotion, one thing that  is unquestionably awesome about it is it's superbly audacious art direction (sort of like Syd Mead meets Final Fantasy) speared by a team of the Wachowski's long-time collaborators and a host of other industry professionals (many of whom have worked previously on such films as Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Man of Steel).

Warner Bros. knows the selling point of the film's release is going to be visuals; that's why they've launched this miniature online gallery showcasing some of the film's production art and costume designs. Check below the break for some of the choicest images from the selection and drop by the site itself to see the rest!

Play Art's Kai Variant Iron Man Three-Point-Lands This June

Square Enix, besides being the studio of flamboyant JRPG staple Final Fantasy and the equally iconic Dragon Quest series, are also the manufacturers of some of the most thoroughly bad-ass collectibles around with their Play Arts Kai line of licensed action-figures.

We've had nothing but mad love for their runs of Metal Gear Solid and Nolan Bat-verse before, and this Iron Man variant does nothing to buck that trend. Announced at last year's Comic-Con, The Play Arts Kai Variant Iron Man is the first in a series of redesigned Marvel superheroes re-imagined by Tetsuya Nomura himself! The figure, which comes with multiple interchangeable hands, leg missile attachments, exhaust pieces, and a figure stand, is set for release this June and is priced at 9,080 Yen (roughly $77 USD).

This certainly isn't the craziest figure they've come out with (i.e Nomura-san's Batman variant), but it is one that could actually see myself purchasing. The inverted-color pallet works extraordinarily well with this figure, so much so I wish this costume would see an appearance in either the comics or live-action movie universe.

The figure's coloring and stature evoke  nostalgic memories of watching the Sentai knock-off show Superhuman Samurai Sybersquad as a kid, so that could also be a reason behind its appeal. Check past the break for more awesome pics!

Worth Checking Out - Apotheon

I stumbled across the trailer for Apotheon this morning and immediately went hunting for a pre-order. Alientrap's 2D platforming RPG is styled after the black figure era of Greecian pottery artwork and follows an acolyte solider as he must battle the capricious Olympian Gods and save his homeland. The game comes out tomorrow(!) on both PS4 and PC, so if the trailer scratches your itch for mythological-god-and-monster-slaying, follow the link to Alientrap's website and go grab a copy yourself!