Monday, 14 January 2013

Back to the Digging

At last! It's 2013 and I've had a bit more time to continue digging through the mighty paper mountain of Last Belle artwork. My digging muscles are rested, my eyeballs are refreshed and the hangover has finally worn off.

I always find it strange to look back on how a sequence, or even a single image, first came to life (if I hadn't kept the artwork I'd never remember any of this process). I don't know about you, but most of my ideas flicker into life during moments of almost-boredom; the morning rush-hour journey into work is a good place for daydreaming, crushed into a train with three times too many people, standing with my face sandwiched between a fellow passenger's rucksack and another's armpit... this is a good time to escape reality and let the imagination fly. Sometimes you get big conceptual ideas, sometimes just a small idea about how to stage a simple shot.

Here's a close-up composition of Rosie I scribbled years back, to go with a bit of her scripted dialogue:

I didn't even have a final design for Rosie at the time but I knew I wanted the shot to be blocked this way, in her bedroom doorway, holding her phone. A few years later I did the animatic drawings for this shot, and introduced a bit of business with a teapot for added interest (and in this case I was beginning to hunt around for colours to use in this sequence too so I did the animatic drawings with coloured pantone pens):

In developing the sequence it made storytelling-sense to show a passage of time so I drew Rosie as if she'd come from the shower, dressed in a robe and towel-turban. (Just an aside: I am endlessly fascinated by how it is that all girls seem to have learned to tie towel-turbans - is this knowledge ceremonially passed down from their mothers? It looks impossibly complicated to me. Whether or not it's difficult to tie towel-turbans in reality, it's certainly a pain in the backside to draw and then rotate them in perspective...)

Another year or two down the line I finally found the time to animate the shot and add the background design... as well as change the colour of the teapot to something more sympathetic to the colour scheme. Here's the final cel set-up:

On a specific point in the dialogue I wanted the camera to crash-zoom back into a wider view of her bedroom. Again, here's the initial idea scribbled down in haste:

And here's the final cel-setup against the background artwork, showing her bedroom stuffed full of possible outfits for her forthcoming date:

In this case nothing really changed between the initial idea and the final shots, bar a few minor details. But in other cases you ditch the initial idea and end up following a completely new path... or stranger still, you follow several new paths before realising that you've ended up back where you began, with your initial idea. You never can tell, right? Which is - I guess - what makes the creative process such endlessly unpredictable fun.

And such a frustration to the accountants.


  1. Thanks much for sharing how you developed your short.

    I look at those cels and I am floored. That background is just awesome and says a lot about the character how eager she is about the date.

    I dream of inking/painting my animation onto cels haha.

    1. Don't just dream it - live it! Seriously though, there will always be a time and a place for drawing and colouring onto either cel or paper - not for most commercial projects obviously, but it's another set of tools at our disposal. And these days the artwork can be shot with a digital stills camera using stop motion software like Dragonframe, meaning we don't have to have access to massive rostrum camera facilities any more! Go on, give it a go..! :-)

  2. Just wanted to ask two random questions. How much did the entire film cost to make? Whats the Film's running time? With that said, the Film looks Great from what's been posted online.

    1. In all honesty I can't tell you what the film cost... the work was done over 15 years between my official paid work, and many people working on it did stuff as favours or worked for smaller fees. It really was a labour of love for all concerned. But I can tell you the running length: 19 minutes and 40 seconds.