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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mondragon Plaza

Designing Mondragon Plaza

My first design assignment on The Book of Life production was developing Mondragon Plaza based on a sketch of the plaza done by Production Designer, Simon Varella

Plaza Gazebo - Simon Varella (Prod Designer)

Simon had done a gorgeous charcoal rendering of the plaza, but the action took place on the opposite end and no designs had been done for that location. 

My first step was to do a thumbnail sketch of the area so I had a good understanding of the staging and architecture to show the director, Jorge Gutierrez and Simon.  

Mondragon Plaza (Thumbnail Design)

Once they signed off on the concept, I started designing the focal point of the location, General Mondragon's statue and fountain. The rest of the plaza buildings would be a secondary visual read to the statue. The characters would populate the area between the fountain and the building facades. 

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1805)  by Jaques-Louis David

Statue of Pancho Villa at top of Cerro de La Bufa

Statue of Panch Villa, Zacatecas, Mexico

Marionette joints

The statue was based on a painting of Napoleon on his horse and a bronze statue of Pancho Villa. Because the characters in our film were puppets, I had to incorporate the joints and mechanics of a marionette into the character design of the statue. Jorge (director of BOL) was also the lead character designer for the male characters in the film. He gave me a series of notes and a rough design for General Mondragon (Joaquin's father). 

General Mondragon designs

 I wanted Mondragon's horse to be as intense as he was, depicting Mondragon in the middle of a battle (perhaps his last), out of bullets, chopping heads with 2 swords and holding the reigns in his teeth. The reigns in Mondragon's teeth was too distracting for the statue! 

This is my favorite part of designing for film! Being able to tell the back story  or history of a character with a single design is very rewarding. It also gives the audience a reason to go back and watch the film again and absorb the visual story beyond the dialogue or script.

Mondragon fountain designs

Mondragon Fountain design

Mondragon's Horse design variations

By the time these drawings were done, many story sequences started to incorporate the fountain design into the staging. (notice the name of the film at this point is still Day of the Dead)

Mondragon Fountain (storyboard panel)