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Pick Creates Apocalyptic Animation for Docudrama

Director Martyn Pick of th1ng, the mixed media and animation studio, has created a mix of live action and animation showing the effects of climate change for the upcoming docudrama THE AGE OF STUPID, which premieres in London's Leicester Square on March 15.

The film, hailed as the "new" AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, is a feature documentary from director Franny Armstrong about global warming starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite in U.K. cinemas starting March 20.

Click here to watch an excerpt of the animation.

The animation is used as the film's iconic background of global devastation and aims to visually express its powerful political content about changing climate. It provides an apocalyptic representation of how the world may look like in a few decades as reported by some mainstream scientific forecast. The animation brief involved creating a convincing unified look for the devastated world. Purposely, it had to be far from a notoriously familiar fantasy look but instead its aesthetic realistically needed to reflect a hard-edged documentary content.

The opening picture sees devastated London epitomized by the eerie sight of the London Eye abandoned in the overflowing River Thames. Las Vegas casinos disappear into a sandy wasteland and Sydney Opera House is engulfed in flames. In other shots, the Taj Mahal is ruined surrounded by a desert and the world's glaciers have melted.

Set in this 2055 world is the last man alive Postlethwaite, who looks back at the mistakes of a generation watching video archives from the past few decades. Rhetorically he asks himself, "Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?"

The main body of the animation is based on photographic sources given a strong overall color bias with a powerful graphic lighting design and painterly textures. This rare form of animation style distinctively exposes iconic picture power and involves small degree of movement set in an artistic composition.

With limited budget Pick masterminded a strong creative direction to achieve a maximum realistic look of the animation. This approach was needed to avoid the pitfalls of creating a product reminiscent of a budget version of an expensive CGI.

"Combining the painterly stylized elements of matte painted backgrounds, CGI and live action in a seamless transition helped create the desired effect of an iconic heightened reality," Pick said.

Unlike contemporary CGI projects Pick's animation sets itself apart owing to its photorealistic effect that incorporates a great deal of shadowing variations. Pick has also directed the film's opening title sequence echoing its original plot. In a dramatic flow of iconic images the sequence narrates the creation of universe from the Big Bang theory and life on Earth through to the devastated cities of 2055 and the arctic refugee camp where the film is set. The effect is juxtaposed with spinning time numerals to coincide with images that depict some well known historical or documented events.

Click here to watch an excerpt of the film's opening title sequence.

Pick also ensured that shots of Postlethwaite in a live-action location were lit and graded to match the CG and matte painting of the universe around him to achieve "blended" creative consistency. The look was applied to other cutaways in the film and to the final CG pullout at the very end.

"The challenge to innovate a filmic language in an independent movie to dramatize it was principally what attracted me to the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the creative complexity involved in the whole project and am particularly pleased with the successful incorporation of all elements of live action, CGI and animation in a seamless and distinctively artistic composition," said Pick.

The animation took six months to complete and utilized Photoshop and Corel Painter for developing background elements and After Effects for creating movement.

THE AGE OF STUPID is an independent production crowd-funded by individuals and various interest groups. It has now twice entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most eco film premiere and the biggest-ever film premiere.


Project: THE AGE OF STUPIDClient: Spanner FilmsWriter: Franny Armstrong/Martyn PickCGI/Visual Effects supervisor: Gregory McKneallyDigital painting: Martyn PickEditor: David G HillComposer: Chris BrierleyArt Director: Martyn PickDirector: Martyn PickProducer: Lizzie GillettExec Producer: John BattsekExposure: U.K. cinemas starting March 20