Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Part 5. The Origins of Dinotopia: Treetown

Something I never got to do when I was a kid was to build a proper treehouse.

There were big trees in front of our house, and lots of scrap lumber in the garage. But my dad didn’t want me hammering nails into the living trees.

I think he was also afraid I’d drop stuff on people’s heads when they walked by on the sidewalk underneath. He was probably right. But I was determined to have my treehouse.

I tried propping loose boards in the branches of our tree and disguising them with bunches of leaves. The lack of nails made my tree platforms a bit dangerous.

Once a board fetched loose underfoot and half of my treehouse collapsed and fell fifteen feet down. I almost went down with it.

Even as an adult, I still wanted my ideal treehouse, so I had to build one in Dinotopia. I didn’t stop at just one treehouse. I made a whole town in a forest, with sleeping baskets and suspended bridges between the trees.

What would it feel like to live up there? I visited my friend Henry Wheeler, a Quaker farmer, who let me study the giant oak he had out in his back field. I climbed the tree and sketched the views from the upper branches.

I broke off small branches and and brought them into the studio to use as the basis for a reference maquette. I beefed up the trunk with modeling clay to make it thicker. Now I knew what it felt like to be in every part of Treetown.

I knew what the wind sounded like in the branches, how the whole structure groaned and moved in storms, and what the dry leaves smelled like in the autumn.

This series of essays is adapted from the illustrated afterword of the new Calla Edition 20th anniversary edition of Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time  Signed copies at this link--There's still time to get them there before Christmas.
Calla Editions
"Origins of Dinotopia" series on GurneyJourney:
Part 1: Childhood Dreams
Part 2: College Obsessions 
Part 3: Lost Empires
Part 4:  Dinosaurs
Part 5: Treetown
Part 6: The Illustrated Book
Part 7: Utopias 
Part 8: Building a World 
Part 9: Words and Pictures 
Part 10: Canyon Worlds 
Part 11: Putting it Together
Part 12: Book Launch


phiq said...

I remember seeing these for the first time. The tree houses in Dinotopia really had my six-year-old imagination fired up. This was where I wanted to live (still do, lol).

Unknown said...

Oh boy, I remember those, they were fantastic. A friend of mine's Dad was a Carpenter and they had the most magnificent tree house that I thought possible at the time.

It's a shame though, never in our wildest dreams could this be built nowadays. Not because it's impossible (Nothing is), but building regulations in my country would never allow it. Too dangerous. Someone might fall off and scrape their knee, or break a neck or two!

Also, hi Phiq! o/ I've seen you floating around CA, you're one of Murry's mates I think.

Andrey Koval said...

very cool! I love dinosaurs:)

Unknown said...

Love tree houses as well. There is something about them that is just magical. Although i also would have to find a away to do it without hammering the poor living creatures. :)

Great series too Mr Gurney.

Laura said...

How fondly I remember the hours I spent in trees as a child; daydreaming, pretending, observing, pondering...time well spent, I'd say.

Karen Ahlstrom said...

My dad built us a treehouse by hanging a platform from meathooks which went over the branches. There weren't any nails into the tree.