Sunday, 24 April 2011

Thuggee Life micro animation production blog pt. 1 - The Idea

Earlier this evening I decided to challenge myself to create an animated cartoon - from concept to completion - in one week. Starting today (well, 6pm Saturday evening to be precise) I have 7 days to:

  1. create an idea from scratch
  2. develop that idea into some form of narrative
  3. take it through pre-production (storyboard, animatic, layout, design)
  4. break down all the shots for animation
  5. plan that animation
  6. animate it
  7. clean up and finalise the animation
  8. add colour
  9. put some music/sfx or voice work in
  10. deliver it on deadline! (in this case upload it to vimeo)

A tall order, no doubt about it. Here's what I've managed to do so far:


After a bit of pondering and chatting to my other half I came up with several ideas, the one I've chosen is a scene inspired by characters from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - one of my favourite films. I love that film coz it's so ridiculously ott. Anyway, the scene I came up with is essentially a one note gag involving two members of the Thuggee cult. The first thing I did was scamp out the idea in my pocket notebook:

(note: the frames read in columns top to bottom)


Drawn in a couple of minutes, scamping an idea out like this helps me see whether it is likely to work. If it doesn't work, at least I won't wasted too much time. Fortunately I felt this had potential but looking at the frames I realised a lot needed reworking (screen direction, choice of shots and framing are some glaring examples).


So I made another pass, this time thumbnailing with more thought to how things would work on screen:

(note: these frames read in rows left to right)


In this second attempt I was starting to flesh things out - especially with the characters themselves. Once I'd drawn these thumbnails and looked at how the action played out, I knew I needed to explore the characters a little more - particularly how their design could add to the story and help show their personalities on screen. So I made some very loose sketches exploring exactly that:



Although I only spent half an hour on them, these character sketches really helped me develop the personalities, which in turn helped me find the story beats I was looking for. It's a chicken and egg thing with story thumbnails and character sketches. It's always more effective to design characters that are doing something, or saying something or responding to something. As you can see from the ones I've marked with a red asterisk, drawing poses for a specific story purpose yields the best results.


Now armed with the character sketches and thumbnails as reference, I took a crack the storyboard - this time trying to nail all the staging, shots, story beats and key performance elements:

(note: these frames read in rows left to right)


Some of these storyboard frames could potentially serve as my thumbnails for character animation. We'll see if that's the case once I get to animating stuff.

I've decided to accept this as my final storyboard. I think the staging is pretty clear and story is engaging enough, besides, I'm out of time, got to move on to the next stage: the animatic!

I'm going to blog my progress for the next 7 days.....wish me luck!

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