This year i have to produce just one animated film. This animation will showcase all the skills i have learnt so far and will exhibit my understanding of the animation production process from start to finish.
In making this film i will work through the full animation development process from initial concept to final fully-rendered finished animated film. With the aim of submitting the completed film to animation festivals raising exposure and developing my reputation across the professional animation community in the hopes of becoming employed in the industry!
The animation production will allow me to showcase my storytelling skills, artistic styles, understanding of effective pipeline management, planning and scheduling of animation production. It is my time to shine! Finally I will have to learn everything there is to know about submitting my final film to animation festivals, and produce everything that accompanies promoting my film to them as well.
We have four weeks until we pitch our idea, and then a further four weeks to complete all pre-production material. Then we have eighteen weeks of animation production and finally seven weeks of post-production. Thats a total of thirty-three weeks to complete everything needed for this thesis film from start to finish, and each week must be accounted for!
First i need to identify what i need to do for pre-production, production, and then post-production once it is completed. I need to plan everything out ahead of time so i know exactly what i am doing and can have it all organised, so in this post i will begin to make a start with that.
The film should be about 3 minutes long. At 24 frames per second that would be 4320 frames in total.
- Fully-formed/imagined idea
- Character designs
- Character Turnaround
- Character sheets
- Colour board
- Shot list
- 3D models, props, environments, Textures
- Create checklist for absolutely everything i need to do, pin it up at my workstation and tick it off as i complete each item on it.
- Animation roughed
- Animation cleaned up
- Sound design (foley, voice recording)
- Titles and credits
- Animation blocking (stepped)
- Cleaned up (splined)
- Lighting Set-up
- Render tests for each shot
- Sound design (foley, voice recording)
- Titles and credits
- Fully-rendered final animation with sound, titles and credits
- Self-promotional material – edited reel, high-quality stills(character designs, etc), cover letter, cv…
- Promotional materials for final film = poster, trailer, etc…
Week 1 – Mon 2nd Oct – Developing idea and pre-production work
Finalise idea – Outline – Script – Characters & design – environment ideas
Look at different styles i want to use and develop mood/colour boards.
Week 2 – Mon 9th Oct – Developing idea and pre-production work
Storyboard – record dialogue (can be rough working version) – Animatic
Week 3 – Mon 16th Oct – Developing idea and pre-production work
Animatic – character sheets and turnarounds – environments sketched out
Week 4 – Mon 23rd Oct – Developing idea and pre-production work
2D asset designs
Friday 27th Oct – Pitch Animation idea
Week 5 – Mon 30th Oct – Developing idea and pre-production work
Model 3d characters and environment
Week 6 – Mon 6th Nov – Developing idea and pre-production work
Rig 3D characters
Week 7 – Mon 13th Nov – Developing idea and pre-production work
Record final dialogue – foley
Week 8 – Mon 20th Nov – Developing idea and pre-production work
Finish off anything that needs finishing off ready for animating. If complete early then begin animating – or doing tests with 3D modelled characters.
Fri 24th Nov – Final Submission of idea along with all pre-production material
(Storyboard, animatic, character designs, colour board, background, environments, shot list, schedule, script, 3d models, etc…)
Week 9 – Mon 27th Nov – Animating (18 WEEKS OF ANIMATING – PRODUCTION)
Once i have the story and can properly break it down into scenes it will be easier to plan the actual weeks out for how long i will want to set aside for 2d and 3d etc.
Week 10 – Mon 4th Dec – Animating
Week 11 – Mon 11th Dec – Animating
Week 12 – Mon 18th Dec – Animating
Week 13 – Mon 25th Dec – Animating
Week 14 – Mon 1st Jan – Animating
Week 15 – Mon 8th Jan – Animating
Week 16 – Mon 15th Jan – Animating
Week 17 – Mon 22nd Jan – Animating
Week 18 – Mon 29th Jan – Animating
Week 19 – Mon 5th Feb – Animating
Week 20 – Mon 12th Feb – Animating
Week 21 – Mon 19th Feb – Animating
Week 22 – Mon 26th Feb – Animating
Week 23 – Mon 5th Mar – Animating
Week 24 – Mon 12th Mar – Animating
Week 25 – Mon 19th Mar – Animating
Week 26 – Mon 26th Mar – Animating
Fri 30th Mar – Final Submission of finished Animation
(edited reel of work, final edit of film, stills,etc)
- The final edit of your film with finished sound, titles and credits @ 24FPS, format MP4 H264 file format @ 1280×720 (minimum) for festival submission needs to be 1920×1080
- 4 X High Resolution Stills in .PDF format 896mm High x 843mm Wide @ 150DPI (That is: Pixels 5292 High x 4979 Pixels Wide)
- An active ‘Withoutabox’ account including all promotional materials required (If submitting to festivals) (Poster, trailer…)
Week 27 – Mon 2nd Apr
Week 28 – Mon 9th Apr
Week 29 – Mon 16th Apr
Week 30 – Mon 23rd Apr
Week 31 – Mon 30th Apr
Week 32 – Mon 7th May
Week 33 – Mon 14th May
Fri 19th May – Final Submission of Post Production material
(self-promotional material- trailer/posters/etc, edited final reel, cover letter, cv)
- Project book (an illustrated printed book that documents my thesis film, production process, design, research practice and development).
- Vimeo account and/or website
- Business cards
Week 34 – Mon 21st May
Week 35 – Mon 28th May – Final Feedback Assessment
Learning outcomes (and my quick basic understanding of them).
- Demonstrate an ability to analyse and utilize a designed and informed visual aesthetic to the evolution and making of animated content appropriate to the narrative. (Make it look good, make sense visually and consistently).
- Demonstrate an ability to appraise and utilise a range of research methods and employ them to the fashion and knowledge base of my work. (Use relevant sources effectively).
- Demonstrate an ability to evaluate and utilise a range of appropriate animation practices and professional specialisations to enhance career progression. (Be able to animate, and then promote myself).
- Exhibit evidence of the ability to investigate roles and ethical responsibilities of an originator of animated content within an international context. (Know what an animator has to know).
- Submit work that demonstrates an ability to employ interdisciplinary thinking to create hybrid animation. (Show an understanding of different kinds of animation and how they are produced)
- Submit work that demonstrates an ability to critically investigate and utilise animations relationship with its audience. (Identify target audience).
- Demonstrate the ability to effectively utilise discourse to communicate and explore ideas and narratives. (Be able to write about what you’ve done so others understand why you did it).
- Demonstrate the ability within the context of international animation to weigh a range of evidence to build sound arguments and express relevant decision making. (Be able to express/explain yourself).
- Demonstrate the ability to self-manage learning and development in relation to animation workflow and project planning. (Be able to plan and carry out your plan effectively).
- Exhibit the ability to employ sophisticated practical animation skills in the making and showing of animated work. (Animate good).
- Exhibit the ability to anticipate production changes and adapt the animation workflow accordingly. (When plans change for whatever reason, change the plans, write it down and plan it out).
- Exhibit evidence of the ability to utilise appropriate research methods in the making and contextualisation of my work. (Use sources appropriately to help me with my animation).
- Exhibit the ability to identify problems within the animation toolset, workflow and dissemination of animated work. (Identify issues that can arise from making an animation and promoting it to the world).
- Demonstrate the ability to utilise collaboration within the animation studio environment to generate and refine innovative ideas and narratives. (Pitch your stuff to peers and take feedback on board – market research).
- Demonstrate an ability to establish appropriate resource management, planning and implementation within animated project workflow. (Be realistic about what you can do with what you have in the given timeframe).
- Exhibit evidence of the ability to convey ideas and work effectively to audiences in a range of situation through appropriate methods and media. (Be able to tell a story that people can follow with your animation).
Narrative is sandwiched in between story and expression.
- The story is made up of the events, characters, settings; what is happening and then the why it’s happening, which is processed by the creators cultural/moral codes.
- Expression is how that story is manifested, how it looks, feels and is transmitted to the audience.
There are different balances that can be struck between story and expression. In Oskar Fischinger’s famous optical poem from 1938 the expression is more important than the story. The titles at the beginning of the film set up the story, and then you are treated to a visual delight accompanied to music which audiences can derive different meanings and feelings from.
Love and theft by Andreas Hykade is another example of a piece of art which focuses more on discourse than story. The story is subjective and each viewer will take something different away. It features popular culture references to different characters which morph into each other in different ways to the music. Abstract animated music videos are often good examples of narratives that the discourse is where the artist has focused a lot of their attention.
JOnathan Hodgson’s Night Club from 1983 strikes a balance between the two. It tells the story of its namesake, about a nightclub and its inhabitants. The viewer follows a group into the nightclub, then we see different patrons and areas within the club and leave with a couple at the end. The story isn’t incredibly sophisticated but its there. The visual aesthetic of Night Club is a hand-drawn and painted style that is very stylised and while cohesive to the piece it is packed with substance. Each new characters scene flows into the next, and each shot frames the action in a thoughtful way. It changes and does not follow an obvious formula that becomes rigid, as it takes the viewer on an adventure through the beautifully handmade animation.
Tv shows like the Simpsons register a style and discourse, and then the story is what changes and is the focus of attention. Each week you follow the same characters in the same place, but what happens to them and why is different every time. How it looks and sounds and feels stays much the same week to week.
Although the latest Bob’s Burgers animated episode (called Bob’s Fart [fan art]) subverted this idea and was in many different animated styles. Sixty-two different animators helped to bring the episode to life, with the art style dramatically changing scene to scene. The story was changed but so was almost everything about the expression of this normally familiar art. I cant remember which episode but the Simpsons did it when the family become live-action characters, amongst other animation styles and its a way to inject some new life into something that is never-changing in that department, so audiences are kept on their toes. A conversation could be had about the story suffering in later seasons and working on the expressive side of things is a way to counter the lack of good content.
Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty exquisite corpse short animation did the same thing as a promotional piece for the new season.
The network promo’d the return of the cult hit with this acid-fueled frenzy created by 22 animators lead by Titmouse director Matt Taylor. 
Mainstream audiences can enjoy these more artistic approaches within a usually one-style show. The It can be explained or can be for the sake of it, but it can be a great way to showcase different styles and individual animators! I personally was really excited to see something different from a worlds i had becomes used to, and which I wasn’t actually expecting. The story took a back seat to the form and substance of the expression, and it worked on me to get me excited about the new season.
With my story i have to know who the characters are, where they are, and why they are there and doing what they are doing.
What is the film about?
I want to produce an animation that will have both 2D and 3D parts, but with the same characters for both. This will be more challenging than simply sticking to one discipline, but the benefit of that is i can show that i am capable of producing both 2d and 3d work.
I want to have a story within a story. What i mean by that is the characters in my story will start off as 3D characters and will be talking about events, and they will have different ideas about what happens, which will be portrayed in 2D. The story will cut back and forth between 2D and 3D during their conversation.
The story they are discussing will be fantastical, and they will argue about the particulars of what happens and how it happens. They will be sort of one-upping each other adding to the story as it changes; and so too will the 2D animated version of the story – sometimes cutting back to a changed scene, but sometimes morphing in the scene as well. The back and forth between the two characters is what drives the story, as the imagery adapts to each character’s new additions or adaptations.
- Titles (a spaceship is floating aimlessly through space as titles appear)
- Character 1 turns off the TV that character 2 was watching (titles were on TV).
- Character 1 turns on stereo and tries to get character 2 to do a dance workout with them.
- Character 2 doesn’t want to and is grumpy about it.
- Character 1 keeps on doing it and annoying character 2 about it so character 2 says: “Quick turn off the music! Don’t you know what will happen?!”
- Character 1 turns off the music in a hurry and asks what will happen?!
- Character 2 explains that if they dancercise then the world could change as we know it!
- Character 1 asks, how could it?
- Character 2 explains that it could…
e.g. attract the dangerous monsters from under the bed, and there’s no escape from them we would surely be dead!
- Character 1 decides that’s unlikely and they would probably be friendly and have a good time.
- And so on.
- In the end character 1 is convinced and gives up, and they decide to just sit down and watch TV together so that those things don’t happen.
- We pull back to reveal the exterior of the spaceship they are in, and see that there are loads of other spaceships floating around at equal distances from each other.
So what is the film about?
The main character is unmotivated and appears to be unwilling to move around or do much of anything. They are happy to wallow, floating through space, alone.
The second character is not willing to let them do that and tries to inject some life back into them. (Is the second character actually real, or is he a part of the main character that doesn’t want to give up completely but ultimately doesn’t have the power to really motivate them. )
On the surface it’s a grumpy character who tries to get out of getting up and doing anything, by creating imaginative reasons why they shouldn’t, and an upbeat goofball does their best to counter those reasons with their own equally interesting ideas.
So what is it actually about?
It is about our own inner demons and struggles with motivation. It is about our mental health and how we treat ourselves and each other.
Its also about the beauty of imagination. The side of it that flirts with insanity and then the other side that is funny, odd and playful. Imagination is powerful, good, bad, dangerous and enlightening.
(I’m not sure at this point how dark i want to go with it. Whether the character will become really shouty and angry and try to really shut down the other character, as i’m writing the script at the moment i’m going to play around with that a bit and see what i think works and feels right. In many ways i want it to be a light-hearted portrayal. Maybe the character is alone, and it shows that the second character was never there, or were they real at all – they go dark and stop answering and the other guy is left there on their own, to contemplate things. Then it cuts away from them so we don’t know if that helped or happened outside of their head or what. Then we see they are isolated and wonder if they, like so many others, are just alone with their thoughts and not doing anything about it. As a positive note at the end – after the credits the spaceship engines turn on and it begins to move, to represent the character finding that motivation. Then cut to black.)
Character 1 (the figment of character twos imagination)
Character 2 (the unmotivated main character)
Equilibrium – Character is relaxing, being lazy.
Disruption – Other character interrupts their relaxation and tries to make them do some exercise! They come up with fantastical stories of why they cant do that.
New equilibrium – They go back to being lazy. (Or do they…)
Reasons they are unable to dancercise
- Back hurts, would pull a muscle, could trip and fall, etc.
- Being transported to the scary unknown
- Gaining powers you cannot control and destroying the world
- Becoming corrupted by evil
- Being eaten (and then broken down into stomach acid and ceasing to be
- Being torn in half
- Being worn out and being unable to defend yourself from monsters
- Doing dance moves which unlock a portal to another realm and being sucked into the portal and terrible things happening
- Loving dance so much it would become addictive and never being able to stop!
- The dancing will attract cool cats who will successfully peer pressure us into doing something we don’t want to do, and we will end up out of our heads.
- Might transform into something else!
- I could dieeeee!
- It may well destroy the very universe as we know it!
- BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO OK! STOP ASKING ME IM NOT GOING TO DANCE WITH YOU. JUST LEAVE ME ALONE! (swear words?)
e.g. back and forth ideas…
- “Just imagine! The monsters from under the bed would be attracted by the dancing and come out to get us! And everyone knows there’s no escape from them and we would dieeeee!”
- “But the monsters might dance with us instead which would be awesome!”
- “But then the monsters could destroy the house with their dancing!”
- “Or they might transport us to a magical land through a magical portal!”
- “But the magical land might be super dangerous and full of scary things!”
- “Or it could be made out of candy and give us magic powers! And i could fly around and shoot lasers pew pew!”
- “But the powers might go out of control and end up causing all kinds of mayhem!”
- “Hmm you’re right, that could be troublesome. But then probably the monsters would save us right?”
- “Or they might eat us!”
- “Then we would live inside their bellies and have parties with whatever they eat!”
- “We would be dissolved by their stomach acid probably! Do you want to become stomach acid?”
- “I don’t know, i’ve never been stomach acid before, it might be quite nice actually!”
- “I dont think you can do very much as stomach acid, and you would probably cease to be! Do you want to cease to be?”
The characters are in a place with a TV.
It could be a living room, as is traditional, and it could look like a very average living room. That was my first instinct, but I want it to be on a spaceship, so that could (should) inform the design and style as well. In many ways it would be great to have the environment be this very space-shippy environment, in contrast to the objects and characters in it. But at the same time i dont want it to obviously be a spaceship, so the audience doesn;t immediately realise the spaceship from the beginning is the one we are now seeing. I want that realisation to come about later, or that connection to be made, so i’m going to have to think about that a bit more.
The room could be cluttered with various objects (the more objects the more things need to be modelled) or pretty sparse. Cluttered would represent the characters cluttered brain, with lots of things on their mind – which makes some sense, but on the other hand a minimalistic room with little in it would represent a character which has given up on worry and thinking about many different things, and is focused solely on the tv, or hasn’t got a lot to think about in general representing a lonely space as well – so no distractions from what happens beyond the doors to the room they are in.
Symbolically both follow the narrative just fine, so i just have to come up with some concept drawing and work from there.
This is set in their shared imaginations. Bringing their ideas to life for the audience and for each other.
My idea for this would be the things in the scene are the focus and the backgrounds are patterns, or colours and not really anything conceptual unless its mentioned by the characters, then it appears, or the camera pans over to it or whatever.
Character design ideas:
Handheld Gaming Device Guy! The game device that is alive! Whether thats because of magic, a freak accident or someone imbuing him with sentience and questionable intelligence, he’s alive and that’s all that matters!
So this guy is the character that could be a figment of the others imagination. The audience is left to decide if thats the case of not, but they are positively lovely and the opposite of the main character in many ways.
The screen is his face, which is made up of green lights. He can express some really interesting expressions as a result of this, grow and shrink his face and move his face across the screen!
He has flexible robot arms and simple hands and feet but he wont be super flexible, as his body is pretty rigid, (one solid piece) but that just means he has to move in different ways to express himself properly and move around – in contrast to the other main character of the story. Will he be able to bend his body around a little bit – unlike hard-plastic handheld gaming devices in reality?
I wanted to make this character an inanimate object. Something retro and something i haven’t done before. It looks like a knock-off version of the classic nintendo game boy device. I liked the idea a character made from something technological, with a computer robot face. This is also in contrast to the organic main character who is still in development.
He has four buttons on his chest, in the primary colours because its traditional, and should have a start button, maybe a select button as well. He also has a couple of holes for speakers, just like he would in real life!
Grumpy Guy Character:
3D style inspiration
Each of these 3d examples are similar styles. They are not hyper-realistic 3D works, instead opting for a more stylistic approach, which i really like. Meet Buck is a bit different in that it has a painted texture to it, giving it a really unique/unusual 3D look. The characters in all three videos are cartoony in style.
2D style inspiration
Cuphead (video game)
I wanted to include this classic style in this modern incarnation because it’s new and on my mind at the moment. It is a really cool style of movement, all bouncy and stretchy and stuff, and the cartoony character design is great, so i thought i would take a look at it anyway.
This new video game is in a classic 1930’s hand-drawn animation style and stays pretty well true to that animation design. From each character’s look and design to their rubber-hose style movements, the game has absolutely nailed the animation style from that era and been getting a lot of deserved recognition for its retro look. There is a certain familiar outlandish surreal nature to the animation style that embodies the spirit of classic animators like iwerks and fleisher. The character designs are simple and immediately iconic, with bold outlines and solid colours against beautifully painted backgrounds. The use of intertitles in the advertising for the game (and possibly in the game but i haven’t played it through so am not sure) hark back to that same era and keep a consistent art style that plays homage to the classic animated style, and gives people a taste of the consistent style they should expect. Somehow they’ve manages to make it modern, with really clean lines and yet it looks like it could have easily been from that forgotten age – bringing an old art style to a whole new generation. It seems a shame to think that the classic animations I grew up with are figuratively gathering dust, no longer shown on television they must be sought out to be watched and don’t reach the same mainstream audience, which is a shame because they are still, for the most part, fantastic and enjoyable animated shows. Cuphead could well breath some life back into them and make them somewhat relevant again.
Studio MDHR’s Jake Clark explains his design and animation processes for the game Cuphead, and shares practical ideas and tips for 2D animation. [From the video description]
What makes a 1930’s design?
- Solid Shapes – which can be turned in 3D space easier.
- ‘Rubber Hose’ – bendy, squashy and stretchy.
- Limited features
Will the 2D style stay consistent or will it change each time we cut back to 3D? If it did that would allow me to showcase a few different styles of 2D animation and design. This would be great if it still feels connected. Maybe there could be two distinct styles, one for each character! That way the audience knows which is which. The two styles would be directly interacting with each other on screen at the same time. Once i have finalised the dialogue and exact scenarios, and begin storyboarding, in can play around with the styles and see what i think works.
When it comes to audience I have to make the choice to aim for something mainstream (tried and tested), or try and do something more arty and experimental. I think that i would want to try and strike a balance between the two. Every artist has a certain kind of style, or styles that they use and have developed and can be recognisable to them (auteur). Don Hertzfeldt comes to mind as a singular animator that produces a highly recognisable style of animation, and popular animated tv shows make an effort to have an immediately recognisable style, simpsons yellow characters and perfectly round eyes for example. The styles should remain cohesive, but don’t necessarily have to stay rigidly consistent as long as the story can be followed and understood by the audience.
The 2D parts are representing imagination, so they can flow and change and have a looser feel to them. Whereas the 3D style will remain consistent throughout.
Making something more mainstream that can be enjoyed by a wider demographic is what i would want to aim for, so prospective employers can immediately see that i am capable of producing professional, popular styles of animation. But i also want to make something that isn’t just a carbon-copy of what already exists in the mainstream – although looking at more indy animations reveals a plethora of styles that is both inspiring and scarily daunting.
Another thing to consider for target audience is exactly who is the desired demographic? Due to the contrasts of mediums and styles, i am being quite broad – not to appeal to a wider demographic, because thats not necessarily going to happen – if anything by doing so it could limit the potential market for my animation.
What i can identify at the moment is that it will be suitable for all audiences, in that it wont have any swearing or adult themes that are unsuitable for younger audiences.
References & Stuff
Tv turning off visual effect:
Dance aerobics video:
Just some amazing moves for inspiration from the 1988 Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship Opening.
Key and Peele National aerobics championships spoof:
Richard Simmons aerobics reference:
Things to note:
- Counting. 126.96.36.199!
- Says what he’s doing – Side. To Side. Lift. And Lift.
- Oh yeah we’re going to shake it up!
- Super positive! Hone it! Come on Hone it!
- Ooooooh! Ooooooh!
 – https://www.awn.com/blog/trippin-through-rick-and-morty-exquisite-corpse-animation