Friday, July 31, 2009

The Lion King of Steaks

I’ve been slacking on the Facebook friend pictures at the moment, I did one or two more since the last update but I’d rather post them in a batch of five or so than dedicate a post to each drawing individually. Even though its only a few days a week, the Onion has been taking a bit out of me between the train going into New York City and all but apart from that, I’m loving the work they have for me. I was able to get my background used on their Twitter page, so I’m already pretty satisfied, plus the guys I’m working for are all incredibly nice, and I’m not just saying it, I am surprised at just how friendly they come off as. Anyway, here’s a slightly less exciting life related blog post…

When it comes to Broadway, most of my experiences were with the more satirical plays. When it wasn’t rehashing quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spam-a-lot consisted of a lot of jabs at traditional Andrew Lloyd Weber, likewise while Avenue Q was not directly a satire, it was definitely a send-up of the coming of age story that often plagues the theater. Now, that I think of it, the only real traditional one I saw was Spring Awakening during Pratt’s 2007 orientation and I have a strong feeling that it was one of those love-it or hate-it kind of things (with my feelings leaning more towards the latter than the former).

So when my Pratt friend April wanted to watch The Lion King on Broadway, I was definitely excited due to the fact that I’ve been watching that DivX file of the Disney film on my Desktop for quite a few months (If that thing wasn’t in the wretched Disney Vault for so long, I’d probably even have the DVD of it) but I didn’t feel like it could outdo the film, not at all, especially given all the limitations of the Broadway format. Looking back however, I feel like the limitations were what made the Broadway adaptation so successful, they had to compensate with extra creative muscle, but I’ll get more into that later.

I got the tickets for the thing about a month and a half in advance and decided to come in at around 1 PM or so to have some time to hang out before the 8 PM show. This involved a run over to some of my favorite places, including familiar spots like Forbidden Planet and what would have been the Virgin Megastore (totally closed down), followed by some Bubble Tea at Saint Alp’s by Astor Place and then a stroll through the delightfully bizarre but all too brief Toy Tokyo.

On the way there, I passed by 99 Miles to Philly, which was a restaurant I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I read a post about it on Philly based animator Bryan Brinkman’s Twitter. Consequently, I wound up eating there for lunch and I can safely say that my “Steak wit Wiz” was definitely on par with the sandwich I’ve had in Philly and it was miles ahead of my own cheese steaks I’d make at home. I think I’ll heat up the cheese whiz a bit more and get even thinner steaks for my consequent attempts. The place was a good deal though, for ten bucks they gave you a sickly foot long greasy cheese steak with some waffle fries and a coke, for a non-chain in New York City, this is a pretty good deal.

Factor in some hanging out in Times Square and a relatively fancy pizza place and it was time for the 8 o’clock showing of Lion King. My initial impressions of the theater were incredibly favorable. They had some of the fancy African wood costumes behind the glass and a few fairly extensive gift shops throughout. Seeing all the merchandise, I should have been disgusted but for some reason I was impressed by the amount of detail and attention they put towards the effort, I could totally understand how the show had legs on Las Vegas whereas efforts like Avenue Q could only strive in New York City.

Our cheaper $60 tickets were literally against the wall in the highest mezzanine so we got a pretty decent view of the crowd going there. I was surprised that only about half the crowd consisted of families, while the rest were just Average Joes and middle-aged tourists going in to take a show. This could be because I was seeing it on a Thursday night and that is less than ideal for most families, especially ones with young children to see it, but I’d like to tell myself its because The Lion King is as synonymous with Broadway as Phantom of the Opera.

Watching Lion King on Broadway was an incredibly nostalgic experience for me, often I’d get chills down my spine, not too different from the chills I got when I first saw WALL-E, from something being so perfect its depressing and from it hitting an emotional chord with me. Especially when this was paired with a room full of people cheering and clapping incredibly loudly at every joke, punch line and dance sequence. Its weird, it was almost comforting to be around so many people that were that taken into the show.

While I’m pretty sure much of the praise for the show has already been said and much better than I possibly could write about it over the past 11 years of its run, I was completely taken away from the imagery, especially the dancers which would represent things as direct as giraffes and elephants, all the way to the more abstract such as blades of grass. The show kept things classy, even by Disney standards and the African art direction never came off as forced as it seemed in the commercials for the play. A lot of the more difficult sequences were pulled off in silhouette or with shadow puppets, while some of the characters were controlled by Avenue Q style puppetry with other objects being portrayed with kites and streamers, further making the play feel like some weird African themed Kabuki theater of sorts.

I was particularly impressed with the set for the show, which was rigged full of steam powered jets and was fully movable with trap doors and a lot of the pieces being on wheels. Absolutely every scene from the Disney movie was pulled off on the set, from the stampede all the way over to the climatic fight sequence off the cliff of Pride Rock. It was all a visual overload of sorts and I feel it goes without saying that the music was incredibly strong as well, like even topping the phenomenal score from Elton John and Hans Zimmer for the feature film.

When it ended the entire packed theater gave the thing a standing ovation, which is something I’ve never seen for a Broadway play. My only real complaint with the thing was that I haven’t seen it earlier, particularly when the thing was new to Broadway. Had I known I’d like the thing this much, I would have put the thing a lot higher on my priorities list.

…and no, I have not sold out to the Disney corporation…but I totally would...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the quickest way to lose all your friends part 6: creepy animé fetish edition

I thought it was impossible but I've almost caught up with every request I've had on my Facebook album for a drawing. While I have skipped a couple of people, namely the ones that I've never seen since Middle School, I've gotten most of them in and all of the ones in the massive avalanche of comments during the first day I've uploaded it. Here are the next batch of five...

While I've already covered Adam Dreifus earlier, Nikki wanted a drawing but is one of the few college aged students I know without a Facebook account, she also wants to stay relatively anonymous on the internet. Nikki was in practically all my foundation classes in Freshmen year and I virtually hung out with her every day to do homework after that. There was a bit less hanging out in sophomore year, but I've still played 8 hour marathons of Rock Band on occasion and ate an incredibly suspicious looking bacon wrapped torpedo meat product with her when her roommate made it. Nikki is into science, grammar and anatomy too and is an avid comic buff, the comic above is a reference to her creepy obsession with eroguro art. Eroguro stuff is pretty disgusting, I wouldn't recommend doing a Google search for it...

Frances was also in all my foundation classes. One of her movies that she made in her 4D class involved me as a street thug robbing a girl on the street, only to get tackled by a cop. It was possibly the greatest film of all time and it had a huge response in class, if you've been reading this blog for ahwhile, the chances are you've seen it.

James is a painting major at Pratt and was one of my classmates in Animation 101 class and was a fan of Robo-Nader since the first time I mentioned the idea passing him. He does some pretty cool experimental stuff, I wish he had an account on Vimeo or something so I could link you guys to his work, I went to the opening for his paintings at Pratt as well, its all VERY cool.

Ben has a cool last name that rhymes with Ravioli, so that makes him a pretty cool cat in my book. He also knows Griffin Newman a funny guy I met during a summer animation program at Tisch, its weird in a 6 degrees of separation kind of way...

And last but not least, here's Marc Freundlich, he sat at my lunch table in high school every day and would often be the one commandeering the mini-Chess in a Tin matches going on. We'd also play cards occasionally, that is, before the school ruled "card games" as "gambling" and practically outlawed every game of "BS" we'd play...'tis a shame. More recently, Marc went with me to the screenings of Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl over the past couple of years, he's obsessed with the New York Asian Film Festival and plans on volunteering at the festival next year so he could get into all fifty of their movies for free.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the quickest way to lose all your friends part 5: attack of the clones

This batch comes a few days before I get back my Red Ringed Xbox 360 in the mail, its currently in Massachusetts coming back from its three week long pilgrimage to Texas. Which means I had to keep myself busy doing something besides watching a ton of movies (which I did a lot of mind you), this week's batch comes in a slightly more comic style, though there are still a few simple standing ones too.

Lyla starts this batch out, she was one of the few other animation majors (albeit she was a traditional animation major while I was CG) I met at Pratt's accepted student open house. At that time she had purple-ish hair and was way into unicycles. We've hung out a few times and discussed our hatred for the Shrek movies (and this was before Shrek the Third) as well as our love for crude humor and MTV2's short lived sketch comedy series, Wonder Showzen. I also had her in my Animation 101 class where one of our discussions on the ratty old couch in the traditional animation room lead to the inspiration for the piece above.

Daisy was one of the crucial members of Pratt's Super Smash Bros. community last year which started in the smaller Cannoneer dorm and ultimately spread to huge popularity in my Pantas dormitory. The group of players were much more tight-knit in the Can as most of the students played the game on the same TV, while most of the players in Pantas would often hang out in my room or a few other places (like the HDTV in the lobby), I recall. I used to actually skip lunch just to get in 2 hours of Smash Bros. in between classes and I went from 70 hours on my Melee save to 210 hours, while the sequel Super Smash Bros. Brawl reached the 180 hour playtime mark within the couple of months I had to play it at Pratt. Daisy was good with Jigglypuff, so was my roommate...those Jigglypuff players are tricky I tells ya...

Julian was a year younger than me in high school but I got to knew him fairly well between AIM and lunch antics. He's one of the few people that I know apart from myself that still watches Heroes and is a great person to vent all my Tim Kring related frustrations to. He has pretty awesome tastes in movies, games and anime as well and anyone with the guts to set their Google Chat status as "black McLovin" for 10 months is cool in my book. I watched the rather disappointing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with him and played him a few times in Soul Calibur IV as well, he thinks my play style with Sophitia is cheap...I have to agree.

Matt is a fan of my drawings, I'm a fan of my drawings too! how could I possibly deny his request? :)

During the last semester in High School, the administration forced a "senior project" on our grade, while the requirements were nothing more than a scant twenty or thirty slide Powerpoint presentation on ANY subject you can possibly think of with a few slides dedicated to how it ties into what you learned in high school, the very thought of additional work set my entire senior class up in arms.

One of the more intriguing senior projects came from Greg Farenga where he wrote around 30 slides about how its like to drive a truck, which was inspired by all the questions he receives every day when he parks at the school. The Powerpoint served as an FAQ of sorts and had a hilarious Tootsie Pop commercial tone going on throughout. Greg was a very tall guy and the teachers gave him the nickname "Tiny", he was one of the nicest guys I've met in high school which was funny considering that he could have easily been cast as a bully in a John Hughes comedy in the '80s, and I mean this is the most sincere way possible.

Asking the fated question is Marc, he was another person who requested a drawing on Facebook and was in both my Russian History/Economics class senior year as well as the pathetically easy Survey of Computers in my Freshman year. His Xbox Live Gamertag is "ROLF u Got SARS" which often leads to parent related confusion every time they see the notifier when he signs on while I'm watching a movie.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the quickest way to lose all your friends part 4

The series continues in this McG directed installment featuring, none other than Christian Bale as John Connor...there is no way this could possibly go wrong. Last week I hinted at having a job interview at a certain vegetable related satirical newspaper, well the place was The Onion, I got the web intern job and I'm absolutely ecstatic to start my work there. The current batch of drawings continues below...

In my senior year of high school Paul was in a handful of classes with me, including AP English, Russian History, Economics and Video class, he may have been in more but after two years high school is a bit of a blur. The image above relates to a debate in English class on Death of a Salesman; in the class room I was the only student who felt that the character Happy was selfish for ignoring the needs of his family despite being completely ignored as a child. The class was heated in debate over this issue and the teacher seemed to be enjoying the surprisingly on-topic classroom discussion. Since then, I still had a few opportunities to debate this with Paul. He was in a band called "Punt the Baby" during high school, they broke up...he's probably in a new band now but I doubt the name is nearly as perfect...

Paul was also the guy representing Team X-Blades in my final dumb little High School short, Dragon Ball Zebra Slash Brink 2 which has received such rave reviews on YouTube such as "the gayest video i've ever seen"...I'm honored.

Mike Banom was practically in all of my classes foundation year, save for maybe 4D and the second semester of Art History. He is a drummer which may explain the large arms and a devout fan of blink-182 and Alkaline Trio. At the end of the first semester drawing class we drank some of that weird Mountain Dew Game Fuel, no one else in the class wanted to brave its flavor. He has a sick sense of humor as well so we got along quite fine.

Vikki was in practically all my classes sophomore year and I hung out with both her and her roommate April (you can see her in tons of posts here) quite extensively the second half of last year. Vikki is a huge fan of cute things and has the tendency to let that out in her animations which include the likes of ghosts with orange shaped heads. I'd often abbreviate her name as V-Ken, because I'm incredibly fond of making horrendous nicknames for people and that would probably explain the reason why I have her performing a signature Street Fighter move in the drawing above...

Craig is a good way. I had him in my Video Editing class and he tends to have a creepy presence that follows him in just about everything he does and I mean this in the most sincere way possible, you can get an idea from seeing his YouTube channel which includes videos of his friends vomiting to the carnival style music of Beetlejuice. With that being said he loves most things related to Tim Burton and has a sick hand at graffiti art.

Rachel is a self-proclaimed "ditzy girl with big boobs", with that in mind, I think I came pretty close with this one. Rachel was one of my floor mates on the "Healthy Choices Floor" at Pratt first year. I've played scrabble with her a couple of times and commented on a couple of her things on Facebook. She is prone to draw characters that she calls "Miltons" who's name comes from the character in Office Space, one of her Milton paintings was featured in an art gallery in Brooklyn, I believe.

Jess was another one of my classmates foundation year and is perhaps even more crass and sarcastic than me; which is a fairly admirable feat I may add. In one of her videos for 4D design class she dressed up as an old lady and danced to Snoop Dogg, Unk's "Walk it Out", or Li'l Wayne, or something, I'm not entirely sure. During the first few days of sophomore year I watched both the Power Rangers movie and one of the direct-to-DVD Little Mermaid prequels with her, it takes a certain level of sarcasm to be able to not just walk-out halfway through.