Monday, March 12, 2012


I've begun an in-depth exploration of a variety of ideas and approaches to this module. I started off debating whether to do the alien spaceship crash site or fairy tale environment design. I thought that the UFO crash site would offer more of a challenge as I generally prefer to work in an unrealistic, cartoon style so it would be an opportunity to practice a different method. Here were my initial brainstorms:

After working through various ideas I certainly felt more inspired and intrigued by what I could achieve with the fairytale setting, and I thought there were still plenty of interesting potential challenges, so in the end I've decided to work with that.

I was particularly drawn to the idea of doing some sort of Alice in Wonderland-inspired tea party, so I pulled together some images to help broaden my view on how to approach that. One of the main questions to keep in mind in the design process is what is the age of the target audience? It's possible to take an idea and either distort it so it falls under a gothic or horror theme/genre which fits a mature audience, or keep it colourful, bright and happy for a family-friendly audience.

But I didn't want to pinpoint an idea so soon in the process, and I was also debating on whether or not Alice in Wonderland is considered a fairytale. Technically 'fairytales' are considered as stories which originated orally long, long ago, and have come to be recognised as tales of folklore that are constantly reinvented and told in new fashions. Although originating relatively recently as a novel, Alice in Wonderland features many of the typical elements of a fairytale - talking animals, fantastic events, an evil Queen, and characters which could be recognised today as folklore such as the Cheshire cat. Lewis Carroll himself considered his story a fairytale, as is clear in letters that he wrote: "P.S. I should be very glad if you could help me in fixing on a name for my fairy-tale, which Mr. Tenniel (in consequence of your kind introduction) is now illustrating for me..."

But even so I had a look at other possibilites, including general fairytale cottage ideas. I really like how the proportions of the buildings in these images are contorted in a quirky, cartoon fashion. It hints at a world the design of which is grounded in what feels familiar and real, but is taken to a new level of eccentric fantasy.

I was drawn to the gingerbread house idea, and thought of the different ways I could go about that. The gingerbread images on my moodboard are typically colourful and child-friendly, but I thought I could incorporate the darker mood and design of the other houses for a contrasting effect. The tale of Hansel and Gretel, which is what the gingerbread house is most commonly associated with, is, like so many other fairytales, actually very sinister in nature, and I'd like to explore this.

I looked at some more gingerbread houses and created two final moodboards.

Here I desaturated the entire board in Photoshop to get an idea of how gloomy colours might look with the candy textures, and I quite like the effect. But there's a couple of ways to do this: It's possible to take the creepy/spooky theme and use a dark colour palette with moments of bright, neon colours like in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, which although is clearly in a gothic, macabre art style, still appeals to very young audiences with it's vibrant characters, colours and contrasting of Halloween Town and Christmas Town. 

So again I need to figure out the target audience and overall impression I wish to make with my design.

Whilst researching Hansel and Gretel I also came across the opera by Engelbirt Humperdinck, which since 2007 has been performed in a new production directed by Richard Jones for the Metropolitan Opera company. The production is characterised by a darkly comic style and offered a valuable insight into how the menace and unsettling nature of the story itself can be made apparent in it's design.

I'm hoping to watch this opera and take note of the elements that are used, and investigate other aspects of the Hansel and Gretel tale.

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