Cycling, visually, is a beautiful sport. Having spent 10 days cycling from the Indian Ocean, across the southern inverted pyramidal landmass of South Africa, to the Atlantic -- from Mossel Bay in the East to Langebaan, north of Cape Town, in the West - I've been thrilled by the pictures I have seen. During those 850 kilometers, the faces, the places, the poetry of pictures as seen from a bicycle is unspeakably exciting. Since people write Open Letters to the President, how about an Open Letter to Pixar (specifically John Lasseter)? It's about what has delighted my inner child, and I call it: "Simon and the Cyclopede."
The Cyclopede, first of all, is the first animation of the peloton. Yes, you heard right. It's simply a bunch of cyclists meandering across a country or urban road. Well, it may be a simple thought, but the reality, and the rendering of it, is utterly utterly complex, and quite beautiful.
First of all, there's the sound. A giant snake on wheels? A rolling, whispering forest? A steaming flock of color. If you have ever participated in a rapidly moving peloton, or even watched the Tour de France, it's easy to appreciate the colors and lines involved in the creature we could call "The Cyclopede." It's the human equivalent of flying in formation. The film also provides an opportunity to demonstrate, in a way only animators can, how the chain slides over its gears, how the frame flexes, how the wind buffers more against the rider than on the lightweight apparatus under him.
Simon, of course, is the young cyclist who learns not only the delight of his carbon fibre machine (propelled using clean, human power, and one of the most efficient forms of energy in the universe), but he also learns about the value and power of the Cyclopede.
Joining the Cyclopede means saving his energy, finding safety from the cold, hard wind and belonging to a group that takes care of its own members. And in the same way that ships were not built for harbors, Simon (and his friends) must learn when to work with the Cyclopede, and when to abandon it in search of personal victory.There's that, of course, and then there is a yellow bus, marked U.N. Special Youth Group that breaks down in the countryside, not far from the small town where Simon and his friends, Lance, Duff, his sister Swan and rival, Harry live. All the teenagers in the bus, heading for a debate at the U.N. on Energy Conservation, must catch a flight over the next two days to attend the conference...
The bicycle store in the little town of Amsterdam is a big one. Enough to supply all 15 candidates with bicycles. Now it is up to the 5 strong riders, to teach the others how to ride as a Cyclopede.The same rules apply in life as they do in cycling. For how long do you stick together as a group, in the safety and security of friends, and when do you decide to break away?The first group of 5 arrogantly ride off right in the beginning. They quickly disappear, but hours later are exhausted. Another group, struggling to control their nerves, suffer punctures, crashes and cramps. The third group, one that manages to concentrate, trust their companions, and stay calm, manages to make it in time to catch their flight, and report to the U.N. on how human beings and machines can co-operate against the wind and weather to save energy in many interesting and innovative ways.
At the conference they apply lessons learned on the bike to other industries, saying: Think of Boeings, cars etc, flying and driving in slipstreams.
The team time trial should provide plenty of visual clues and inspiration for the Cyclopede Effect, pixie helmets and booties lined up with a rolling countryside whisking, whirling, opening up and collapsing stupendous views.Lance Armstrong can provide a cameo as the bus driver. France, New Zealand or South Africa can provide the background terrain. Simon and the Cyclopede:Together We Can Do More