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Forging The Film's Wild Design
As MEET THE ROBINSONS jets off into an electrifying sci-fi vision of an out-of-this-world future, the filmmakers faced the exciting challenge of making that future an animated reality. In coming up with an overall artistic vision for the film, director Steve Anderson wove together many influences: "It all started with the beautiful images and great characters from William Joyce's book, then with the equally creative script, then with all the great ideas that came out of the storyboarding process, followed by the incredible contributions of our design team,” he explains. "Every step of the way, the creativity just kept flowing, and we just kept pushing forward. What came out of it all is an incredible array of designs that have a real child-like point of view.

They realize a lot of childhood dreams. I mean, who wouldn't want to float around in bubbles flying through the air, or who wouldn't want to wear a propeller hat or have a family robot who can do all kinds of cool things? This is a world I think anybody would love to visit.”

Anderson and the design team began by forging distinct design rules for each of the three different time periods of the story: The Present, The Good Future and The Evil Future. The director explains: "We knew that we needed the future where Lewis meets the Robinsons to stand out in bold contrast with where Lewis is right now, so the present is filled only with boxy, rectangular shapes and lots of sharp angles and edges, whereas the Robinsons' future is all curves and circles, inspired by the very soft, rounded and comforting images in William Joyce's book. And, contrasting with both of these, the Evil Future is very, very bad indeed.”

In coming up with a driving aesthetic, Anderson and his team were especially inspired by the Futurism seen in the industrial design movement of the 1930s and '40s. "We all loved the optimism and the complete and total commitment to creating something greater that you see in those images,” Anderson explains. "We took a lot of our cues from that and from the curving forms of the 1930s architectural style known as Streamline Moderne—so this exciting future also has a kind of fun, retro feel to it. This really resonates with the theme of the story, because we were constantly looking back to the past to build the picture of the future.”

Equally influential on the design was the forward-thinking vision of Walt Disney himself. The film even pays homage to Walt Disney's own take on the future, "Tomorrowland,” with its fun twist of "Todayland.”

The visually invigorating mix of retro and futuristic also extended to the film's non-stop assemblage of inventions—ranging from Lewis' ragtag Memory Scanner, pieced together out of a mélange of scrap parts, and his Peanut Butter and Jelly Making Machine of the present world to the moving sidewalks, monorails, travel tubes and insta-skyscrapers of the Robinsons' futuristic world.

To create the film's endlessly innovative sets and props, Anderson worked closely with art director Robh Ruppel, who previously served as production designer on the traditionally animated "Brother Bear.” Ruppel, who began his career as an industrial design major at Art Center College in Pasadena (where he has also served as a teacher), had a blast taking off into the future with digital tools at his disposal. "Robh really took every element of the film's design to another level,” says Anderson.

Ruppel knew immediately that MEET THE ROBINSONS would be the creative challenge of a lifetime. "There are so many different looks and elements and palettes to this story,” he muses. "No matter where you are in the story, there's always something visually exciting going on.”

Ruppel and Anderson agreed right off the bat that one of the most visually interesting elements of the present had to be<

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