Picking up from where I left off from the previous post, I went back to researching and eventually came across the Wokou, who were groups of Japanese pirates that raided the coastlines of Korea and China in the 13th century. I pitched again to Bill and he really responded to the idea of setting Peter Pan in this era, in this part of the world. Yes!
Since I was still playing Captain Hook as someone who protected Neverland, I found this military general, Qi Jiguang. Who apparently was a bad ass and fought off the Wokou pirates!
I felt like Hook could have qualities, and started to do a few crummy sketches based off of Qi Jiguang.
And continued to do more research on the Wokou...
Bill had me play a bit more with caricature and proportion (and make it look a little less like Mulan), so I did these variants of what Hook could look like. The mentors like the last one of the group was most iconic, so I went in that direction.
And started to explore different face possibilities...
Continued on with research for costumes...
I read that the purpose of the extravagant transformational makeup of Kabuki is to "generate the suspension of disbelief in the audience so that they can accept the convention that they are in the presence of supernatural beings."
We decided that this was the way Hook gets others to follow him, by convincing everyone he is a supernatural deity. Although we know that he is as human as they come. He had an explosive temperament, he was bi-polar, but he was also a romantic. He was in love with someone who loved his enemy, which led him to spend many a night on deck writing drunken power ballads.
Refining the design after Bill's draw overs, on the right. Emphasizing a volcano shape. Cory had the great idea of using Kanji to dictate the shape of his hook.
He became this massive, mountain of a man, and I started to reference Mr. Bardem's character in No Country for Old Men.
I fleshed out Smee and the rest of the pirate crew. It was also at this time I became obsessed with Ikea monkey, so he had to be in there.
A volcano that only erupted when it came to Peter Pan.
The Lost Boys exploited the Pirates' superstitious nature and used this fear to their advantage.
I was fortunate to be sitting next to a story trainee named Mike Hererra, who helped me so much with these layouts.
And this was one more of Hook years before, and his fateful encounter with the Crocodile.
This is a small slice, but pretty good summary of my Tal Dev experience. Tons of research, lots of back and forth. Developing the rest of our world and cast marked the halfway point of the program. After the Peter Pan project, during the second half, we got to work with directors on 2 different projects that were super early in development! That itself was incredibly challenging , and they were filled with the hardest weeks of the program for me, but I feel like I grew the most during these months.
Make sure to check out the work of the other trainees as well, they did some amaaaazing work:
Starting the program back in October, we met our mentors, and our assignment for the first 3 months was to design our own take on a popular story. We had a few choices, and 3 of us chose Peter Pan.
Excited to start , I was initially thinking my twist would be to tell the story from Captain Hook's point of view. I had just seen Wicked in NYC that summer, was inspired by it, and I thought it'd be cool to tell the story of how Hook came to be the Hook we all knew. I pitched it as Wicked meets Darth Vader ! Haha, um.
Playing extremes, what if initially Hook was a public figure who everyone loved? Someone who swashbuckled pirates and was a celebrity folk hero of sorts? Like this guy.
Horatio Hornblower. Great name, or GREATEST NAME? I don't even know how I found him.
But maybe Hook was insanely decorated and universally celebrated? Who knows right?
Maybe he was a one-man law enforcement, Robocop style.
Dashing, like the Ryan Gosling of his day. Or McDreamy.
Saved ALL of the cats in England.
The ladies loved him.
Active in the community.
A role model for all ages.
I had this convoluted backstory, that you don't have to stick around and listen to, but it went something like, Captain Hook eventually falls in love with a fairy named Tinkerbell. Who unfortunately only had eyes for Peter Pan. So a rivalry was already-a-brewin!
One day Peter Pan, being the self-centered, 80's movie-arrogant, mischievous trouble maker, found himself in some serious trouble with the likes of a giant crocodile. On his ship, Captain Hook came to his aid and saved Peter from danger. Peter fled without gratitude or returning the favor, (with Tinkerbell on his arm , for some convenient reason) and Hook was left to fend for himself. The outcome wasn't so good. Hook ended up losing his arm and a leg, and fell into an even deeper pit of darkness. He lost his ship, his crew, and the woman he loved. Damn. All because of Peter Pan, whom he swore revenge against. He became more and more obsessed and physically became more wretched and sinister. Like this messed up dude:
"I'll get you Peter Pan. Hyyuururrrrrm."
I guess it's obvious now why I didn't pursue screenwriting, but I was excited and I went to pitch these ideas to my mentor Bill. He was, only lukewarm to them, if that. His strongest point was that , while it was a different take on Hook, it still was still in the same ball park as the Hook we all know. The mustached, Englishy villain. We've seen that already, it just wasn't different enough. An art director here told me that if you give audiences something they've seen before, they'll be bored stiff. Oof, tough but fair. Bill suggested I go back and keep doing more research, and hold off on the drawing for now. To just explore ideas that were different. Does it have to be in England? Can it be from a different time period? What if they were modern Somali pirates as an example? Why was I drawing so soon? I was in love with the first idea that I had!
I gotta admit I was stuck, how do you do you own spin on a story that is so iconic and people know so well? Everything has been done right?! That's where the research comes in. Taking the time do dig for new ideas and finding out what else is out there. There were pirates in so many different cultures and time periods. That's when I started to really understand the importance of research, as a means to find something fresh. This was a important lesson for me and getting shot down was the best thing that could've happened.
And at some point, someone facebooked this quote that was perfectly timed for me:
"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
-Wernher Von Braun.
So if you're ever in a situation where you feel stuck for ideas, just go off and do some research, some study, even if you don't have a clear target. You'll stumble upon one thing, that will lead to another, and that will lead to another. Keep going until you have something that inspires you.
Note: "Wicked meets Darth Vader" though. Great tagline, or GREATEST TAGLINE?
I've updated my design portfolio with a few select works I completed during the Talent Development Program! The watermarked work represents about half of what we did, we also got to work with 2 directors in early production but obviously can't show the work for that just yet=). I've also tried to include any and all research I did for the characters, since so much of our time was spent doing it. I also plan to update here to show a lot of the other sketches, roads not taken, etc.
Much gratitude to my mentors Bill Schwab, Minkyu Lee and the rest of the mentor team, Cory Loftis, Helen Chen, and Ryan Lang for such a wonderful experience. I've learned so much and plan to continue down this path. But for now, next week I'm fortunate enough to be joining our amazing animation team for Frozen!