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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Illustrated Beauty of The World We Don't See: Costume Design and Inspiration for the Animated Film 'Epic'


Remember that cartoon from the 80s, 'The Littles'?  They were the family of little mice people that lived in the wall of some kid's room.  What's remarkable is how they used things that are in our everyday households in completely unintended ways to suit their particular tiny needs.  A rubber band and clothespin helicopter, pencils as slides, dice as ottomans and buttons as chest plates/fasteners all brought to the forefront how a mouse may see our tiny everyday items as necessary life-size items for survival.  This interesting take on perspective was not only clever but also interesting to note the intricacies and the details of objects we often disregard.

This is the whole premise behind the ingenious costume designs for the upcoming animated film "Epic".  The film delves into the good and evil battle of the lives of tiny forest civilizations that use nature in ways that are relevant to their size.  What struck me as beautiful about the brief detailing of the film from a costume standpoint is the way in which the animators took inspiration as though the intricate colors, layers, shapes and textures of various plants, flowers, insects and birds were actually human-scale proportions.  What was created was an intricate story of print, color and texture that when broken down reveal the magnified intricacies of the tiny world we often see but ignore with just a blind eye.  

The way in which the animators approached the costuming for the animated characters was indeed inspiring and utterly beautiful.  To accomplish this they collaborated with designers such as the noted Chinese designer Han Feng and the Seattle-raised Chris Benz, who created a special gown inspired by one of the film's main characters.  Benz produced a fluid green gown symbolic of the nature of the films matriarch Queen Tara, whose gown was depicted as constructed of various orchid and lilly petals and stems.  Benz took the effortless movement of the gown and its connection to nature and merged it with a flowy green textured fabric with an underlayer of a delicately floral-printed fabric.  When the gown moves, both fabrics have their own drapes and movements but do so in a harmonious way similar to the delicate way Queen Tara's gown glides across the water from leaf to leaf in the film.


This is a wonderful pairing of a designer who loves color and expression with a film that wants the viewer to pay close attention to the detail.  The research done is refreshing in its accuracy and will make this a bar-raising film in the world of animation detail.  'Epic' opens in theaters on May 24.

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