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Book Review: 'Kevin Dart’s Looks That Kill' by Elizabeth Ito

Fred Patten reviews Dart's unusual but delightful first in the Yuki 7 Gadget Girls series that combines an original secret-agent novel with a Flash-animation “complete movie trailer” DVD.

Kevin Dart’s Looks That Kill, by Elizabeth Ito. Yuki 7 and the Gadget Girls is a registered trademark of Kevin Dart and Fleet Street Scandal. All images: Copyright © 2010. All rights reserved.

Kevin Dart’s Looks That Kill, by Elizabeth Ito.

Los Angeles, Fleet Street Scandal, July 2011, 978-0-982339-11-4, trade paperback (72 pages) & DVD $30.00.

Here is an unusual but delightful item, the first in Dart’s Yuki 7 Gadget Girls series that combines an original secret-agent novel with a Flash-animation “complete movie trailer” DVD.

According to Dart’s website publicity, the Los Angeles-based freelance commercial illustrator, who has interned at Pixar, got the idea to create this early-‘60s James Bond-esque novel + Flash-animation movie trailer series in 2008.  He put together his own studio by e.mail, consisting of story artist/author Elizabeth Ito, London animation director Stéphane Coëdel, Paris jazz composer Cyrille Marchesseau, and himself plus 14 other artists including Meg Hunt, Matthew Lyons, and Horia Dociu; all working in their spare time around their regular work. 

Their first work as Fleet Street Scandal included a Flash-animation faux-1964 theatrical trailer and appropriate theatrical posters for the imaginary Cinemascope thriller A Kiss from Tokyo, in which secret agent Yuki 7 pursues the femme fatale Diamond Eye who is killing top scientists and building a missile in her volcanic lair.  (http://www.artofthetitle.com/2009/07/13/a-kiss-from-tokyo/)  The faux trailer was a promo for, and included with, Dart’s first book, Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7, by Ada Cole; 72 pages describing the mythical 1960s spy film series starring Yuki 7 (limited edition, printed for Fleet Street Scandal by Global PSD, an international art-house publisher, July 2009, including faux movie posters, behind-the-scenes stories, promotional art, production stills, soundtrack album covers, etc., $25.00; now sold out).  Now here comes the first “novel” in the Yuki 7 Gadget Girls series, in which Yuki 7 is the leader of the Tokyo-based team of Gadget Girl Sophie, Gadget Girl Vogue, Gadget Girl Lili, Gadget Girl Cici, and Gadget Girl Nadya (plus Gadget Dog).

The 9” x 12” Looks That Kill paperback includes a transparent thick acetate dust jacket, and the DVD with the Flash-animation trailers for both the Looks That Kill and A Kiss from Tokyo movies, plus bonus features: the animatics for both movies, dance animation progression, painting progression, production sketches, and two alternate scenes.  The Cartoon Brew published an announcement (May 31, 2011) of the book a month before its release, naturally concentrating upon the animation DVD (which doubles as an excellent music video, with Marchesseau’s rich ‘60s-ish movie jazz score).  It included a brief statement from co-director Coëdel in which he said that the 2 ½ minute faux movie trailer was produced entirely in After Effects using Drum’s artwork. “Our goal here was to upgrade the overall quality compared to the previous film A Kiss from Tokyo. To move away from a pure tribute to movies and TV series from the 60s and develop Yuki’s world. Graphics are less sketchy, the animation smoother and we’ve got rid of all the vintage FX (film jump, retro projected backgrounds, etc…). We worked on this film during the little spare time we had, so the production spread out over a year. But the real effective time spent making it was more or less 2 and a half months.”  Kevin Dart described their working process from his viewpoint on his online blog:  “The way our process worked, I would paint an entire scene in Photoshop, making sure to keep all the different elements like characters, props, and backgrounds on separate layers so that Stef could animate them in AfterFX. We were pretty familiar with the process, having worked together on two previous projects already. I kept things pretty flat and simple to leave room for Stephane to add as much dynamic lighting and effects to the scenes as he wanted.”

The Yuki 7 animated pseudo-trailers have been posted on several commercial-art websites; Art of the Title, Gallery Nucleus, and Grain Edit, to name three.  Their Comments sections include the opinions of many professional animators, which can be read to see informally what the animation industry thinks of this saucy retro-‘60s project and its animation technique.

Since this is a review primarily of the animated DVD, I am giving short shrift to the very-heavily-illustrated 72-page “novel”. Briefly, the plot pits Yuki and her Gadget Girls against beauteous but deadly Twilight Diva (an agent of Diamond Eye’s evil FOXXY international organization), who is out to “retrieve a special pair of panties that would render its possessor the most fashionable and powerful person in the world.” However, I will say that I grew up in the ‘60s with Ian Fleming’s novels and the original paperback spinoffs of such TV series as The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, etc., and I was not disappointed a bit in Looks That Kill.

Dart’s Fleet Street Scandal also offers stylish Yuki 7 art prints, T-shirts, handbags, stationery sets, earrings, and more.

I can’t wait for the next book + DVD in Kevin Dart’s series!

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Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatricalrerelease of Pinocchio (1945).  He co-founded the first American fanclub for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-ConInternational's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to Americanfandom.  He began writing about anime for Animation WorldMagazine since its #5, August 1996.  A major stroke in 2005 sidelinedhim for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at fredpatten@earthlink.net.

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