Our small team of artists, animators and assistants have re-formed ONCE AGAIN for a really fun - and unexpected - project.
|Look kinda familiar?|
Rough animation drawing by Neil Boyle.
If you would like to see the final piece, Click Here
Toward the end of 2013 Sylvain Chomet was approached to create a special one-off 'couch gag' for the opening titles of The Simpsons. To bring his ideas to life he turned to London-based production company th1ng, where he is represented as a commercials director.
Once Sylvain had written a script, and redesigned the Simpsons characters in his distinctive style, our small crew in London set to work.
|Model sheet by Sylvain Chomet.|
The shot was designed to work as a single, locked-off master shot, with each of the characters having their own moment in the spotlight as the gag progressed. In a long shot like this the hardest thing to keep control of is clarity: figuring out what happens, to whom, and when. The 'blocking' of a shot ensures that your eye is directed around the screen effortlessly, without everything descending into a confused muddle. Because the blocking needed to be so precise we decided against planning the film with static storyboards and instead I drew up full size animatic drawings on 15F paper, plotting the positioning and timing of each character on a line test machine.
|Neil Boyle at work on the animatic.|
Getting everything roughly posed and working harmoniously took me about a week and a half of sketching and shooting. But it was enormous fun: figuring out the blocking is one of my favourite parts of the film making process - a strange combination of performance, psychology, geometry, and general plate spinning.
|The animatic, plotting out the action in pose form.|
In the meantime Kirk Hendry set about creating the colour scheme for the Chomet-style Simpsons living room, as well as the overall lighting scheme: the lights going off, flickering back to life, and the ambient glow of the TV screen bathing the room in a bluish glow. He also created many moving shadow effects, and dozens of subtle optical effects to add extra texture to the shot.
|Kirk Hendry, creating lighting and textural atmosphere...|
|...as well as testing subtly different colour temperatures for|
the overall 'feel' of the shot.
When all this was approved by Sylvain Chomet and the Simpsons producers, we got to work on the animation itself. Because we had 'fenceposts' for the timing and positioning of the characters already blocked out in the animatic, it was easy to split the animation between myself and fellow animator Peter Dodd, knowing we wouldn't be obscuring or overlapping each other's work.
|Peter Dodd, animating Bart and Lisa locked in combat.|
As I've written in my recent posts here, the animatic system really helps keep things on course, while still allowing a great animator like Peter to improvise with his own creative touches.
|Inside the mind of a great animator: Peter Dodd's|
amazingly labyrinthine workings-out look like a work
of art unto themselves. But the end result looks effortless.
As each piece of animation was approved, the team of assistant animators leaped in, either doing touch-up and inbetween on the original roughs, or a full clean-up and inbetween, depending on what was required.
|Assistant animator Justine Waldie.|
|An emaciated Santa's Little Helper - my favourite part to animate.|
Animator Neil Boyle, assistant animator Justine Waldie.
|Assistant animator Aude Carpentier.|
|Aude Carpentier assisting Peter Dodd's animation of|
the goose, escaping its fois gras destiny.
It turned out to we created quite a mountain of paperwork: sixty seconds worth of animation, featuring seven characters (including the snail on the TV!) all of which were scanned and painted by Donna Spencer, before being seamlessly composited and lit by Kirk.
|Assistant animator Alan Henry|
|Assistant animator Angeline De Silva.|
|Kirk Hendry at work compositing; at this stage only Homer, Santa's Little|
Helper, the goose and the foreground snail are coloured and in place.
|Gerry Gallego simultaneously assisting, and growing|
a magnificent moustache for charity
|Assistant animator Katerina Kremasioti|
|Danny Atkinson adding the final grading touches at Th1ng.|
A really lovely job to work on, ably guided through in the sure hands of producer Ru Warner and Th1ng founder Dominic Buttimore.
It's rare you get to create a short piece of commercial animation that is not selling something, but is produced just for its own entertainment pleasure.