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Dick Van Dyke in-store


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  • Dick Van Dyke in-store

    Dick Van Dyke

    Diesel Bookstore
    3890 Cross Creek Road, Malibu

    The Malibu resident and beloved actor reads from
    "Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest," by Dan Farr.

    Dec. 10: 3 p.m.
    Price: Free.
    Information: 310-456-9961

    Story illustrates magic of giving
    Children's book creators found inspiration in actor and holiday

    By Carma Wadley
    Deseret Morning News
    When Dan Farr and Chris Creek met Dick Van Dyke at a computer graphics trade show in 1998, they had little idea that it would lead them on a Christmas adventure that would be years in the making.
    Daz Productions
    A little girl discovers a special chest in the book "Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest."

    "He's really into computer graphics as a hobby, and he was interested in some of our product," says Farr.
    After the show, and after Christmas that year, Farr and Creek got thinking that it would be fun to create an animated movie using Van Dyke as a central character. In February, they sent him a letter and got a reply back saying that Van Dyke was interested but would have to have the right story.
    For several years, they went back and forth, talking about ideas. "He would give us gentle feedback," says Farr. He didn't want anything that was too preachy. But he definitely wanted a spiritual element. He wanted something that was modern but that would also be classic. And he wanted whimsy.
    When Farr and Creek left the company they were working at to start their own, DAZ Productions, they took the project with them.
    Ideas continued to flow back and forth. Then, says Farr, "we decided to do the story first, do it as a book, and then move on to the movie." Van Dyke, who will turn 80 in December, is still a busy man and has hardly slowed down a bit. "He still is pitched a lot of products. But no one was pitching a book. He liked that idea."
    Finally, everything began to come together. "Last Christmas," says Farr, "we sent him a DVD with some of the images and a chest filled with trinkets. And he said, 'Let's do it!'
    "There can be a lot of red tape involved in a project like this, but he pushed it through and made things happen."
    The result is a children's book, "Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest" (Shadow Mountain, $19.95), featuring a story about a magical toymaker, based on Van Dyke, and illustrated with lavish computer-generated 3-D animation stills.
    Actor Dick Van Dyke is the model for the toymaker in the book. His image started with a clay model, then went to a plaster model with markings used to digitize his face onto a computer image, and finally a finished display piece.

    The story was written by Farr; Creek was in charge of the art direction, character design and modeling; Chad Smith supervised the computer graphics. "It was really a team project," says Farr. Of course, there were also e-mails, phone calls and personal visits with Van Dyke.
    The story tells of a little girl who, with the help of Mr. Finnegan and a special Christmas chest, discovers that the magic of Christmas comes from giving to others. "It's a solid little story," says Creek.
    The computer-animated art has both pluses and drawbacks as illustration material. It can be expensive and time-consuming. "If you're not planning on doing a movie, it's hardly the most cost-effective way to go," says Smith. But it also offers a lot of flexibility. "If you do an illustration the normal way, you make the design and commit to it. But we can change the lighting, the expression, the angles. At any stage in the process, we can make changes. It's a lot of fun."
    "I can't imagine a children's book out there with more man-hours in it," adds Farr. "But the look you get is worth every penny."
    Smith likes to watch the reaction of people as they look at the book. "It's fun to see them enjoy the depth and vibrancy of the art. It's a look that appeals to adults as well as kids."
    DAZ Productions has been involved in the creation of animation software on a number of different levels. The company's Web site,
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

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