The visual effects studio Framestore is no stranger to creatures. The team has animated characters from Where the Wild Things Are, The Smurfs, and Dobby from the Harry Potter films. Now, Framestore has teamed up with Robert Paul Weston, author of The Creature Department, to illustrate the book and create animated versions of his characters. Zack Lydon, the book illustrator and lead designer on the project, called the collaboration a “breakthrough.” He told TFK, “This is the first an animation company and an author have collaborated to illustrate a book."
To find out more, TFK Kid Reporter Grace Clark met up with Lydon at Framestore’s New York City studio. She got a behind-the-scenes look at the illustration and animation process.
The Creature Department
The Creature Department tells the story of two friends, Elliot and Leslie, who discover the secrets inside the research and development department at DENKi-3000, an electronics company. The secret department is filled with creatures that are odd and eccentric, but likable. They vary from horned hobmongrels to winged fairy bats. When the factory faces the threat of shutting down, the kids must team up with the creatures to create a new invention that can save the Creature Department.
One of the main creatures is Gügor. TFK watched how this big handed, salamander-like creature got animated. The first step was making his body and moving it. Then the animators added texture to make it look real. Finally, they added backgrounds to tie it all together. Watch Gügor talk about creativity in the video below to see the eccentric creature come to life.
Illustrating the Ghoulish Creatures
Lydon has been working on the book since last October and finished in July. “Illustrating a book doesn’t work quite the way you think it would,” he told TFK. “You have to approach the book as a whole unit.” Lydon explained that he first did rough outlines for all 31 chapters. He then went back to fill them in and added finishing touches. Lydon illustrated using a Cintiq, a drawing screen that “works as well as paper.”
Following his “gut feeling” is a big part of Lydon’s technique. For this book, he looked at “a bunch of interestingly shaped characters that have oblong appearances and funny super-skinny appendages.” For the humans, Lydon said the dorky and friendly Elliot was inspired by musician Buddy Holly and even his own friend! The whole process was a dream come true for Lydon. "Illustrating a book is something I have dreamt about since I was a little kid," he said. To see Lydon’s work in print—including the book’s colorful glow-in-the-dark cover—pick up The Creature Department when it hits bookstores on November 5.