James Gurney


Tavern vintage conversation with James Gurney. Who's responsible for creating the world of Dinatale Topa? Let's reflect and look inside the mind of this creator of this fantastic dino world. The first question I think to ask you is. Did you think back in one thousand, nine, hundred, eighty two Tokyo would become what it is today. No, I had no idea at all. In fact when I was doing the paintings for Dino Topa I was doing pictures that I was intentionally doing to make impossible to make a live action. I knew that in the Star Wars era was hard to do the water. Water effects and to do people riding creatures, those are always the toughest thing to do so I, deliberately planned these big epic scenes of Waterfall City and parade dinosaurs, because this will never be made into live action, and just about then of course, the digital revolution was starting to happen, and and I realized that maybe it would be possible took a long time, but I think that hallmark entertainment is really. Gone all out to make Dina Topi translate to the screen. As very exciting and actually to kind of go back to your work, and we'll definitely cover the miniseries as well but I. Think what impressed me to the amount of research that you do on on diagnosing it looking at fossils and things to get the dinosaurs at the correct scale. You know I spoken to Actually Dean Foster one time and I know he's travelled a bit, and you do as well to kind of get that look of the city, the city of Dining Topi as well. Yeah it kind of specializes in artist in painting. Realistic scenes of things that can't be photographed whether it's a historical scene from National Geographic. Or fantasy scene of something that we know must exist out there, but no one has ever seen I end to do that means getting a lot of models and elements and people in Costume, and whatever it takes to essentially do almost like a single frame from a from a cease obt, male movie, and the fun thing about being an artist. Is that working away in your studio? You can do? All those things can be the writer and the director and the lighting person, and and put the whole thing together. Which one is your favorite dinosaur to draw? I'm. Like stegosaurus because it's the most outlandish dinosaur, and when you spend a lot of time coming up with alien design, and the thing about nature, is it? There are things in the fossil record that have far weirder than anything you could imagine and Stegosaurus one, although it's a bear to dry, stegosaurus is tough, because all those different plates are in different angles, and you have to just keep racing it and redrawing it to get it right, but nevertheless that's one of my favorite dinosaurs. Was this a boyhood something that you liked as a boy? The dinosaurs right for me I got into because of a gentleman named Harry Housing. I did love dinosaurs as a kid, and of course in those days they were seen as cold, blooded reptiles who lived in the swamp and I remember the picture in the time life book had the brackish source with the whole body underwater, because and just ahead sticking out because they said well, we can't hold up its own weight. It could never do that and it wasn't. Until I became an adult that the new theories came along presenting dinosaurs as dynamic and warm blooded and intelligent, and just recently in the last few years. The bird dinosaur connection has really solidified so that we realized that dinosaurs. Behaviors and mannerisms, and even looked a lot like birds, instead of like reptiles, that science dinosaurs is very very much a part of dining Topi. and. Talking to paleontologists about the wave of popular interest very often, they follow these renaissance periods of discoveries, which word still in and Topi is just one way of playing without idea. What if dinosaurs are bird like dynamic and intelligent? What if we? If. They were smart if they were wise and could. Benefit, US, somehow speaking of that, I'm sure you've seen the famous. I think even the Museum of Natural History New York area here with the T. Rex, standing up almost fully erect, and obviously we've found out that hey might not be that way. Part of what I love about. Dinosaurs is what we don't know about them. We know what this structure of their bones looks like. We know we have a few skin impressions, but we don't know how. They sounded a really how they moved or what color they were for a while. People were saying the. The Tarantula could run forty miles an hour, and now article comes out a couple of weeks ago. They'd say now they could just walk about ten miles an hour at the most and and who knows but being artist you talk to all the scientists and let them make their case to you and then paint what what seems to feel right, and what what fits with the latest discoveries, so that aspect of them as creatures of fantasy as it were, I love because we know they were real, but they require are match to bring them into. into being again and win the digital revolution happening nearly ninety, nine, hundred, ninety, one, for example, I guess Terminator Two is the one that kind of blew it all out of the box and then geographic park was that when you first started the suspected? Maybe Dina. Topi can make a big screen or small screen transition. Yeah, I saw a few test footage. Experiments even before Jurassic Park and made friends with some of the guys who are working on. That had a chance to see the full size animatronic for really impressive, beautifully sculpted great mechanics, but But they were all standing around. I remember in the sound stage after a day shooting in the jungle Andrew Park, and they said you know all these animatronic are going to become obsolete in five years, because digital will do everything, and we'll still have work, but it'll be a different world in in in a way they're right. There's still is there's room for animatronic and great work being done in those, but in the case of the dining topiary film we had two animatronic for the smaller creatures. You're actually holding. What is a tremendous amount of physical? Between, the the actors and the dinosaurs, there's no substitute for that, but for almost everything else. The the digital revolution makes it seamless chance to to create creatures that are closely interacting in the case of Dan. Topi production, even playing Ping Pong with the human character. I was really amazed by that scene. Just really all the amount of work that went into this shot at one of my favorite studios in England being James Bond Fan Pinewood studios which. The Superman film there years ago. great place to to build the city, and they actually build one of the key cities and dinatale waterfall city. Yet they built on the back of the Pinewood lot of five Acre full-size set of waterfall city with the canals and the boats and sixty foot high archways. I had a chance to visit out there driving by all the James Bond sets. and. Walking through the archway. They had tremendous rain storms the most rain they'd had in England in about sixty years and puddles everywhere, and they were supposed to be shooting all these scenes with hundreds of extras, and they had to wait for a clear spot, and now as they're finishing up to production in London, doing the digital effects. They're dealing with played photography where. In one scene it might be sunny in the next scene. Cloudy and to try to tile together is is a nightmare, but. It'll. It'll having a real set really. Makes a difference because you can tell when you're watching it that you're actually looking real walls and real surfaces rather than a model or a digital background. And actually this takes place in modern time where they find Dina Topi. If I recall from the books, actually takes place I. Think in the eighteen. I'd almost like Jules Verne type of time periods correct. Yes, things don't change in Topi that much, but we can enter it in different points on the shoreline geographically or in different points in history and one of the books, that I did is a prequel. It goes back a couple thousand years in the expands the the concept backward in time and the hallmark miniseries. With some characters from the present day, so as you can imagine for it for a TV, script writers, we're looking for a way to to bring a somewhat more contemporary perspective to the story in it and I think it's. A NEAT way to to develop diner Topi into the modern day, but it's still it's still the same kind of dining topa with. One kid told me everyone wears baggy clothes, right? That's the idea. The dinosaurs are. Not all of them talk some of them. Communicate in different ways, but there is. A six foot tall dinosaur named ZIPPO WHO's A. Standard Ikea source or a Atro- Don is basically the one of the most intelligent dinosaurs who follows the characters on their adventures. He's awesome. I mean some of the things that we mentioned the Ping Pong game. I think he's the one playing ping pong, and not only that just you know, I think in the in the library of dining topa and I was just amazed how well he interacted with the human characters I can imagine wouldn't challenge. It must have been for them. That was pretty awesome and I was very impressed that people make doing the affects. Walking with dinosaurs as well doing the dyno's yes, the same team that did walking with dinosaurs, and when you look at scenes like that the dinosaurs walking through the library, and all of the scales are shimmering right as as he turns around, and not only the movement of the creature himself, but the shadows that are cast on all the bookcases. Had to be carefully planned and plotted so that they they looked really three dimensional, so it was. It was a real job for them to sell some of those shots into. For the actors to act these scenes where the dinosaurs didn't exist. Of course they were just talking to blank space or to a ping pong ball the end of a pole. That so it's. Was a fine job of acting there, too, and you mentioned. The ONYX and there's one characteristic becoming a favorite of mine, because I've seen him today number twenty six. I think he's a cute little. I and I know that was done by the Jim Henson creature shop, which fans will know from other hallmark productions, but also farscape which I. do a great job on there, too. And I was really amazed all the work that went into him. You know, but you said you held him and you kind of so how he worked. What was that experience like to see a creation of yours like that kind of come to life and do all these things that. Independent of you sort of speak. Well I, visiting the waterfall city set was something like waking and a dream waking up in a dream, because I have been working for many years imagining all of this and draw pictures on paper, but to actually go through the archway, and out suddenly be indicted. Topi was really thrilling to see I watched a little bit of principal photography and then. went to the edge of a sound stage where these guys handed me this hatchlings dinosaur, and they said don't drop it cost one hundred thousand dollars in, and I'm holding this creature about the size and weight of watermelon or so and a baby Sarah Thompson Dinosaur. She turns her head and looks up at me and moves or pause, and wags her tail, and blinks and licks her lips, and are selects the Beacon I. Could swear as holding a living creature. And, then I looked up and there these two guys in the shadows with Radio Control Setsu wiggling these all these dials and controls, and I realized they were doing the whole thing, but it was. When you take the skin off of that creature and look what's inside. Being the son of a mechanical engineer, and building a of gadgets as a kid I have great admiration for what it took to to make all the subtle movements on the surface, and you have a great cast David twelfths from. Dr Real One of my favorite actresses Alice, Krieger who was fans remember from the Board Queen from Star Trek. The next generation and she's terrific and some great young actors twos. I think they'll. People will have characters. They can relate to yeah I think so, and I think it's A. Pretty big team because you've got all the principal characters and a huge cast of extras that are that are moving around in the background, not just humans, but also dinosaurs that are thrown in as texture. You know in the background. A QUEST STORY THAT Follows the two brothers one is kind of a rabble, rouser and troublemaker. He's not. He doesn't like that and toby too much at first, and he doesn't have much of a sensitive side. And of course he gets assigned to the hatchery to raise. hatchlings, the other guy has a fear of heights, and he's kind of bookish fellow, and he gets assigned to be a sky box writer. He's not sure he likes heights at all. But? They go through their course of their adventures, looking for their father who's lost and both of them fall in love with a diner. Topi and girly Marian, so it's it's quite an epic. Can develop characters for the full six hours of the miniseries. You one thing I do want to add is Karl Marx, such great series. I've loved Gulliver's travels. Rabian nights and I was very thrilled and even Jason and the argonauts that was thrilled that they were behind this. They did they approach you about this? Or how did this come about in that sense? Data Topi a was optioned with a major motion picture company in Hollywood for several years in a great team was put together behind it with Ken Ralston, of Lamb and image works, which was really formed around. Doing the dining topiary effects, and they did tremendous amount of work, storyboarding and screenplay. It's been about four million on it, but the plug got pulled at the from the executives with the change of Administration at Columbia, and at that point, the rights came back to us, and we were looking around at other studios at hallmark entertainment came in and I never really thought of them because I don't own a TV and so I had never seen any of the production, so we rented a TV VCR, set us all the tapes and I I watched the whole the whole hallmark series. And was really impressed with. Not only the fact that they were faithful to stories, but when they did make changes they. Had some creative ideas to bring to the material and I knew that men risk for Dino Topa because I knew that changes had to be made to make it work on the screen, but they were concerned about keeping it faithful to the spirit of the original story. And also to to doing something on television that really is intended for family audiences, and and doesn't introduce something in a diner. That doesn't belong no I think. It's GonNa be awesome and I wanted to ask you to. What's what you have I? Know you during a great slide presentation. You gave here Luna Con- you previewed some new Dina Topi that you're working about a new city. Can you kind of tease your fans about that a little bit? The new book that I'm starting on all I, really say about it as it involves an adventure story from Arthur dennison's journals based on a new journal that was just recently discovered about his. Adventures to the eastern coast into the fabled city of Dara. Something like the story of Marco Polo's journeys across the continent to China. And the first couple of paintings, the big ones for for this one will be featured in Washington at a show of dining Topi art. They will be at the Smithsonian. Starting in late April and going all the way through till September, so if anyone wants to see the art from the first three books that I've done and some of the models that went into it as well as some of the material from the hallmark miniseries lobby down there. started the end of April I've been to that museum there. They do great job presenting things like this. So that's going to be awesome I have families. I think I'll go down there. Definitely. Check that out well. I, really WANNA. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me I think I'd been long. Admire of your work since I saw the first book and just little boy me just went cool. Take Care Tony Tomato until next time.

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