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'Ice Age to the Digital Age' Coming to Katonah Museum

The new exhibit brings the animation of Blue Sky Studios to the Katonah Museum of Art, offered through a partnership with the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.

What do a wooly mammoth with a sensitive streak, a nurturing elephant and a romantic blue macaw have in common?

They're all animated characters—otherwise known as Manny, Horton and Blu— brought to life by Blue Sky Studios, and they're about to be featured in a big way through the Katonah Museum of Art's newest exhibition,  “Ice Age” to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios," opening on Sept. 16.

The exhibit unpacks the process of animation from A-Z through workshops, gallery talks and family activities that include professional animators and filmmakers from Blue Sky Studios collaborating with participants at both the Katonah Museum and the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.

"I think this is an exhibition that can inspire kids to become animators–it can have a huge impact and change a kid's life," said Allison Chernow, director of development at the "Everyone's perspective and view of animation will be deeper—plus it's just going to be a lot of fun."

There's a special home-town connection for the exhibit as well—Blue Sky Studios co-founder and creative vice president Chris Wedge has been a Katonah resident for over 20 years. Wedge directed the first Ice Age film, released in 2002, which spawned one of the highest grossing film series of all time. Blue Sky Studios also produced Robots, Rio and Horton Hears a Who, among its other projects.

(Check back with Patch next week for our interview with Wedge).

The exhibit plays to the strengths of both the museum, where the artistic process is emphasized, and the Jacob Burns Film Center, which educates audiences through film. Special programming will give museum-goers a reason to come back again and again to get something new out of the exhibit each time, Chernow said.

For example, day-long "Here and There" immersion workshops will be offered, during which youth start their experience at the museum with Blue Sky artists, developing stories and characters, then take the train to Jacob Burns where they'll bring their art to life in the film center's media arts lab.

Each child will end up with a short animated project.

In addition, the museum will offer gallery talks with Blue Sky artists and directors discussing the ins and outs of making animated feature films, a story hour with Wedge, plus an evening with the director and cinematographers for Rio. Further programming at JBFC includes film screenings of Horton Hears a Who, and workshops in voice acting and storyboarding, among other activities.

The museum became interested in bringing the exhibit to Katonah after seeing it at the Normal Rockwell Museum last year in Stockbridge, MA.

"We knew in five minutes it was perfect for our audiences here," said Ellen Keiter, curator of contemporary art at the museum and part of the exhibit selection committee.

"It interested us in terms of the art involved with the films, and also because even though the films are computer-generated and have highly realistic imagery, they all start with simple drawings on pencil and paper," said Keiter.

Keiter said the exhibit itself will have many interactive elements, including two light tables, where visitors can draw sequential scenes from Blue Sky films. Age. 

Museum-goers can manipulate computer imagery at computer tablet stations that are designed to simulate the experience one part of the work done by Blue Sky animators.

In addition, she said, the Learning Center will feature original character studies of Peter deSevé, one of the lead character designers for Blue Sky Studios.

"The exhibit will appeal to all audiences," said Keiter. "People will develop an appreciation for the amount of work that goes into these films, which can have up to 130,000 individual frames and take three years to complete."

For more information about the exhibit, visit the museum's website.

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