Monday, 31 October 2011

This week - Mid-way 'Pecha Kucha' Presentation

This week we were asked to produce a 'Pecha Kucha' presentation to display all of our work so far in picture-form.

The Pecha Kucha presentation is a format used to simplify and condense a presentation. You must have 20 slides, and each slide must only show pictures or images. Each slide is 20 seconds in length (which you can apply on the Powerpoint programme) so in total, each person has 6 minutes 40 seconds to talk through everything.

The first half of my presentation showed all the work posted here on this blog, including inspiration.

This week I have been focusing on style + design, animation tests, story development and other points of inspiration.

Style and Design:
As stated in a previous post, I want to use the work of Sara Ogilvie's illustrations as inspiration for my final film both in colour and style. I made a few more drawings to try and decipher a style for the character, Mollie, as I have not found a definite way to draw her. I aim to try and get a final design done this week.

Here are some head designs. The main area of difficulty I am having is in the side profile. The forehead, nose and chin are proving difficult to balance out. I am also trying out different hair styles. The short 'bob' seems to be sticking, as I drew it naturally in the first draft storyboard. I have tried a slightly longer and limp style too. It makes her look more realistic and more sad, though I like the 'bob' as it reads; "innocence". The 'bob' also works well in shots with the back of Mollie's head. The hair stops above the jaw/cheek line, to give the silhouette of her full cheeks and slender neck. This relates to the Penny reference as noted in a previous post.

I also did a quick colour test in Photoshop. I drew the image (an idea for a new scenario for when Mollie first meets Babbit) in pencil, scanned it, then brought it into Photoshop. I followed a simple tutorial online on how to select the lines to colour. Then I simply coloured the lines in bright colours (following the purple outline theme seen in Ogilvie's 'Rhinos Don't Eat Pancakes!' ) as well as other colours for the clothes and background items. These colours are by no means "finalised" but give a small indication as to what my final film could potentially look like once fully animated and coloured. For example, the job of colouring all the clothes in different colours on Mollie was a little fiddly, and may have to be toned down for the final film.

I presented this illustration in the Pecha Kucha presentation. I stated that it was quick and rough, but Caroline said she actually liked it like that which was reassuring. Leonie also noted I should definitely keep the style of the characters loose and not stylised like in Ogilvie's illustrations. I will apply the feedback to my work this week.

Animation Tests:
I began to animate a walk cycle for Mollie and Babbit a few weeks ago using Adobe Flash and my wacom tablet. This was simply an exercise to loosen up (animating walk cycles have always threw me). After this I then tried to animate on paper. The first attempt was terrible! I am still refining the second one, though I think I will start again and draw the characters from a different angle. The problems are mainly with Mollie, as I want to make her walk in a sad, lonely and child-like manner. Here is a thumbnail step-by-step walk through of what I want the walk cycle to look like:

I want to have the skipping rope trailing behind her, with her arms swinging perhaps. Her head must be looking down at the ground and her steps have to be heavy and slow. I will make her hair bob up and down gently to show her age/innocence.
Once I have properly line-tested these prelimanry tests, as well as new ones, I will put them together as a video and upload on here.

Story Development:
At the start of this week, after James' feedback session, I was also trying to sort out new ideas for the storyboard. There are several elements to my film that need changing and altering, and I began to plan some more ideas on how I could do this.

In the feedback session with James, one of his suggestions was to bring an actual "class pet rabbit" into the story right at the start. This could give the audience something to ponder over, as when the big babbit is revealed, the audience would have the question of whether the big babbit is actually the pet rabbit, or if Babbit is imaginary, etc. I liked the idea that there was a pet rabbit that Mollie coudl be pictured with at the start of the film.
This lead to the feedback from James saying that my story needed 3 "moments" that show Mollie in a "dramatic" situation where she would get embarassed and upset. He said the first of these 3 moments needed to be the "most" dramatic, to show what it is Mollie is so upset about. So here are the sketches that show my development from this feedback:

The first 8 thumbnails shows a part of the first "moment". Mollie is having to stand up infront of her school/class and read aloud. She is uncomfortable and starts to feel upset and very anxious. This would cut to Mollie sitting beside a rabbit hutch in an empty classroom, head in her arms, sittng very still. It would then cut back to Mollie standing infront of people, trying to talk, and getting increasingly red and embarassed. Mollie could be walking to sit down after the speech and trip up over her shoelaces, causing even more embarassment... By cutting back and forth, it forms a "flashback" of the (morning's) events. It shows how upset Mollie is over how embarassed she was, and perhaps her frustration as well at being so shy. Mollie, in the scenes by the hutch, would move slowly, lethargically. When the audience sees her face , it will be obvious that Mollie had been crying, possibly her eyes would be still wet, a troubled and tired look on her face. She could have a carrot nearby, and attempts to push it towards the cage, in hope that the rabbit inside the hutch will nibble at it.
Then, suddenly, a teacher will startle Mollie, and tell her to go outside (it's break-time). This next image shows the following scene idea which I will explain underneath...

After being told to go outside by the teacher, Mollie gets up and walks out the classroom door. She looks outside at the children running around, laughing, playing. Then, looking behind her to check if the teacher was out of sight, Mollie quickly jumps into the next room where everyone hangs up their coats and bags. She closes the door quietly and climbs onto the bench underneath her coat and hides herself in it. The door is then suddenly opened, Mollie freezes. A long, large shadow from the open door is silhouetted across the floor. Mollie stares wide-eyed. Then two long ears pop up from where the head of the shadow is. Mollie is perplexed, she leans out of her hiding place slightly to look at the door. A nose appears, twitching. It's a rabbit's nose. Then Babbit hops into the room. Mollie is completely startled. The rabbit will then hop over to Mollie to interact... (This scene is shown in the colour test above)
I want to keep the theme of Mollie tying her shoelaces as a metaphor for growing up, so at this point, Babbit could try and help her tie her shoelaces, and Mollie could feed him some of her lunch (carrots, an apple, etc...) to form their friendship.

I will be re-drafting my first storyboard this week, to be ready for next week's seminar again. Once I have really started the post-it note storyboarding process again, will I then post about new story development ideas...

I have also found inspiration this week in the illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard. Most reknowned for his orignial illustrations for A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" books, Shepard's illustrations are beautifully executed and have such a refined sensitivity, it is hard to not admire the amazing draughtsmanship and grace of his drawings. The clarity of his illustrations, the actions of the characters and the little though process' can be read by young and old alike. This is what makes his illustrations so enjoyable to look at and analyse, and is an element I want to keep in mind and refer to in my own film.

The story of the real Christopher Robin is a fascinating one too, and has a real charm. By searching around, I foun a charming photograph of the real Christopher Robin with a Winnie-the-Pooh teddy bear. It was such a lovely image that I recreated it with my characters, Mollie and Babbit.

This week's plan is to finish an animation walk cycle test for Mollie/and Babbit. If possible, I will try colouring them. I want to get some final designs down for Mollie, and I will start to re-draft the storyboard.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

First Storyboard Draft + Script + Feedback

  The first thing I did once I had received the feedback on my initial rough storyboard stills, was to finish a film script! At this stage, I realised that the script would still need a lot of alterations, and so would the storyboard, but I thought it was best to start, "to get the ball rolling", so to speak.

  I had changed my ideas from the previous script, so had new ones to write down and work at. Once I had the general moments I wanted, I started to draw the shots on wide post-it notes which I stuck on large pieces of paper. As I began to draw, the script fleshed out with every shot, and more story ideas came. After a day and a half of storyboarding, I had finished the first draft. Even as I finished it, already there were parts I was picking out that I didn't like; be it for story, composition, or any other reason. However, I wanted to keep it as I had written in the newest script so that when I had another feedback session I could really dive into parts I wanted to change as well as have my tutor and friends' opinions help shape new ideas and directions I could take.

So here is the first drafted storyboard:

And here is the script I wrote for this storyboard. Note that the script is much shorter compared to the first act of the script I wrote in the previous post. I wanted to get the main points down quickly and clearly, so felt I needed to focus on the actions more than the detailed descriptions at this point. Only once I've really got a solid direction for my story structure will I then re-write the script in a more detailed way.

In the school library. Mollie is looking out the window watching the kids running around and playing. She looks upset, lonely. She could be wearing her coat (as it is break-time).


Mollie turns around in surprise. The school librarian is there looking annoyed. She gestures for Mollie to go outside. Mollie walks past her and out the door.

A box full of tied up skipping ropes is placed into the shot. Hands grab the ropes quickly until only one is left. Mollie walks up to the box and picks the last one up and looks at the children skipping. She then looks down at the skipping rope in her hand and starts to skip, slowly, feeling embarrassed. As she does, she begins to speed up, until she trips and falls onto her knees. Mollie, ashamed, stands up quickly and runs off with the rope away from the playground.

Once she’s safely away from everyone, she starts to skip again along a path. As she nears the bench by the pond, she trips again and holds onto the bench for support. Angered and upset she throws the rope down and sits down on the bench and begins to cry. When she finishes sobbing she looks up, and wipes her tears from her face. Blurrily, she looks up. There is something big in her vision, though unclear. Mollie frowns and blinks more. A large white rabbit is sitting at the edge of the pond, lapping water. Mollie is surprised and scared, but curious. As she watches, the rabbit looks up and glances at Mollie. It’s ears flick, he blinks and his nose is twitching. Mollie turns her head, left and right, but noone is around. When she looks back at the rabbit, he starts to hop over gently. Mollie reels slightly into the bench, but remains inquisitive. When the rabbit stops, he is at Mollie’s feet. He rests his large head on Mollie’s lap, and continues to twitch his nose, and blink. Mollie breathes in and out, and relaxes with the rabbit’s calm and peaceful nature. She leans forward and strokes his nose. The rabbit closes his eyes in content. Mollie then leans further into the rabbit’s face, and hugs him. She has a quiet, lonely and forlorn look on her face, but the hug is reassuring her a lot. She continues to stroke him and the camera pans up and dissolves to show a day transition. 

A shot of the sky, morning. Birds fly past, flutter of wings and song. The sound of talking, children laughing and chattering starts, and we see Mollie at the end of a line, lining up for morning registration outside on the playground. She is on her own again, speaking to noone as they are all talking to the person next to them. Mollie’s head is down and she shifts awkwardly looking at her shoes. She glances to the (left) and looks across the playground. Her eyes widen, as she sees the large white rabbit again. Her face lightens, and she smiles shyly, giving a little wave, before she is ushered into the classroom. (Babbit gets a little smaller…not noticed much by the audience) Babbit watches and then continues to nibble at the grass. Birds flutter in a tree next to him, and go stand next to babbit, curious.

The bell rings, and Mollie runs outside and goes immediately to the pond and bench again. Babbit is there and Mollie smiles, patting him on the nose. The skipping rope is still there from the day before. Babbit reveals it and picks it up to give to Mollie. She looks anxiously at it and shakes her head looking down. Babbit urges Mollie to hold one end, so she does. Babbit stands back, with the other handle of the rope in his mouth and starts to swing it. Mollie joins in with the swinging and realises that Babbit wants Mollie to jump in. Mollie bites her lip, frowns and jumps in. She does it! And now she is skipping gleefully with babbit by her side. Babbit is happy. (babbit shrinks again….) Mollie notices Babbit’s height in the first “montage” scenario and looks confused. Babbit looks down at himself for a moment, but when he looks at Mollie happily, she doesn’t worry about it…Maybe as Babbit gets smaller, Mollie does worry, but Babbit continues to comfort her, being happy, so gradually, Mollie begins to accept that Babbit is changing and still being happy, and that means she can change and grow and be happy too.

Now there is a montage of lots of things showing Babbit helping Mollie. Hopscotch..Yo-yo-ing..Superhero.. Helping mollie tie her shoelaces could be a running theme..
Scene ideas: Mollie and Babbit eating lunch together..Mollie getting more confident and tickling him..

Then Mollie and Babbit are playing tag..As Mollie runs, she and Babbit both bound towards the playground. Mollie picks up speed and overtakes Babbit, running ahead. She smiles looking out onto the playground. She is bright and cheerful and knows she can be confident now. She looks around for Babbit, and doesn’t see him at first. She spots him sitting on the edge of the playground staring at something intently. Mollie turns to look in the direction of Babbit’s stare, and sees a younger boy sitting on a bench on his own, looking very sad. Mollie realises something and starts to walk towards Babbit. When she’s beside him, she kneels down and picks him up, lovingly. They look at each other, and Babbit looks once again at the boy. Mollie smiles and hugs Babbit and puts him back on the ground. She look one more time at Babbit, then turns and runs onto the playground again. The camera stays still as Mollie runs out of shot. Then slowly the camera will turn towards the bench. And there is Babbit, big again, beside the boy. The boy dries his eyes and puts his hand out to Babbit and strokes him softly. Babbit closes his eyes, and the boy rests his head on Babbit’s. 

The End.

Lecture and Feedback Seminar - 24/10/11

In the lecture today with Caroline we watched Michael Dudok de Wit's beautiful short animated film, "Father and Daughter". The lecture was aimed at trying to help all of us think a lot about interesting composition and pacing and shot construction for our films. We watched the film twice, so to analyze it thoroughly. It is a truly stunning piece, and I was really inspired to try and develop my own film with better shot construction, better pacing, more subtle and expressive animation as well as poignant and strong backgrounds and characters.

'Father and Daughter' - Michael Dudok de Wit

Today I received feedback from my friend, Bry, as well as my tutor, James.

Feedback from Bry:
-Babbit needs to be seen helping Mollie tie her shoelaces at their first meeting.  In the first draft, Mollie is seen to have untied shoes throughout the film, as I decided I wanted to keep this a theme and a metaphor of Mollie "growing up". Bry noted that there was no evidence of Babbit helping Mollie with this towards the start of the storyboard, and there needed to be if the audience were to understand that Mollie needed Babbit to help her at the beginning.
-Mollie needs to be seen interacting with the other children otherwise the audience won't understand why she is shy/unconfident/sad etc. This is something I really want to develop. I think it could make soemthing quite subtle but poignant if done cleverly. It needs to read clearly, the audience need to understand that Mollie is unconfident and shy amongst her classmates and the consequence of that.
- The first part of the storyboard needs more shots of Mollie in a big/lonely environment. The start of the film needs to show more depth and setting. I need to do some shots showing how big the world is compared to Mollie which would overwhelm her at first, but towards the middle/end, become something calming and pleasant.

Feedback from James:
- The story needs more structure and meaning. There needs to be 3 defined "moments" to the story. The first moment being the "crisis", ie: Mollie in the worst situation possible to make her upset. Then Babbit helping her through the next two "moments" until she feels confident and content again. At the moment my story has little parts/moments that are better than others. I just need to work out a proper structure and meaning, looking even more into the emotive thoughts and subtle acting/shot construction/expression I can use to portray certain scenes. The last "moment" must be dramatic to give the conflict right at the end.
- The start of the film could show Mollie in the school classroom (at break-time when she's supposed to be outside) feeding the class rabbit, possibly with a name-tag which says "Babbit" on it. I really liked this idea. This way, there is a "real" Babbit the audience can relate to immediately, and then there is the process of having the audience trying to work out whether the large rabbit who will appear is actually the class Babbit or just Mollies' Babbit. It could create a nice dynamic right at the start.
- Babbit could disappear/turn invisible when Mollie is not with him...? A suggestion from James that I will have to ponder. I can see how this could work, but I need to really sit down and work out more story ideas to fully try and potentially incorporate this idea into the script.
- As well as this, James then suggested I try and draw up a "Character Diamond" personality test for my character, Mollie. It is a device used by various people when defining a character's characteristics.
At one end of the diamond you note the character's Strengths, and the opposite end, you note their true feelings, and what they would liked to achieve. The other two ends are opposites too. One end you note the character's 'supporting trait" and the other, their 'fatal flaw'. As shown in an example diagram below:

I will draw up a character diamond in the next post...

Overall I was happy with the feedback session today. Even though I have to go back and change a lot, I feel that the story is going to move in a better direction because of it. I really want to explore the emotive and visually simple but expressive side of story-telling in animation. I want to really experiemnt a lot more with shots and simply telling thoughts and actions in a visually effective and engaging way. I want the audince to understand what is happening clearly, and I want them to empathize and care for Mollie and Babbit.

Back to the drawing board it is!!


Monday, 24 October 2011

Inspiration #2 - Penny from "The Rescuers"

   Disney's 1977 film "The Rescuers" features a little orphan girl named Penny, who is the source of my inspiration for my own character, Mollie.

   The first scene where we meet Penny for the first time is a very powerful and cleverly directed moment in the film. It is one that Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston talk about in detail in their book; "The Illusion of Life". When we first meet Penny, she is sitting alone in a large bedroom, with only the back of her head visible. Her head is facing downwards, which perfectly shows the mood of the character. She is sad and upset. Vance Gerry, who's list of Disney films he's worked on is by no means short, created many drawings to get to this moment. He worked with Frank and Ollie extensively to create the perfect angle to show Penny's thoughts instantly. The whole scene is beautifully done, and establishes Penny as a "real girl" who is sweet and innocent, but very unhappy.

This scene will help me with the process of developing my own character, Mollie, for my final film. I want the audience to empathize with her, and like her. She has to come across as shy, unconfident and unhappy. The notes on this scene from "The Illusion of Life" have helped me with the thought process behind creating an atmosphere for Mollie's character to be portrayed, and ideas of composition and direction.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Initial Idea/Storyboard and Script

We were asked to prepare an initial storyboard for the 17th October. I started writing the script and drawing the storyboard simultaneously. In retrospect, this was the wrong way to start, though I felt I had to be able to show something at the session on the 17th. By this point, I had done the first 1/3 of the script and storyboard and had a clear vision of what the ending would entail too. The difficult part was the middle section of the film, for which I had very little ideas on how to approach.

In this version, I was focusing on Mollie being bullied. She is scared to go outside and play because the bullies always tease and taunt her.

Here is the script written for the first 1/3 of the film:

Opens with a shot of Mollie sitting on a beanbag in the school library, her back to a wall of windows. Children are playing outside, it‘s break time. She is sat, reading, looking quiet and content. Her lunch bag is next to her.
    She suddenly hears voices she’s all too familiar with. The voices are those of her bullies, who run by the window. Mollie ducks, covering her book over her head in an effort to hide from them. She holds the book there for a few seconds before lowering it and glancing out the window with a worrying expression.
Off screen:            “EHEM.”

Mollie turns towards the noise, surprised.

An old woman librarian holding several books and looking grumpy stares across the room where Mollie is. She raises her arm and points towards the window, gesturing for Mollie to go outside. The shot stays on the librarian, and Mollie walks towards the door just beside the woman, and walks out. The woman glares and watches Mollie leave.

Mollie steps out a door to the outside, holding her lunch bag to her chest. She looks from side to side and starts to walk but freezes as she sees her bullies run past her. She pushes herself against a wall and watches them, holding her breath. They do not see her and run on. She breathes out, relieved and begins to walk away quickly.

Ext. A secluded area, the quiet area for pupils, with a large willow-ish tree and a tiny rectangle pond and two benches facing towards it. The pond is slightly lower, as the benches are on a slight incline. The tree shades the area and gives it a calm and peaceful ambience.

Mollie sits down across from the pond. She opens her lunch bag and pulls out an apple and begins to eat it silently. Out of nowhere someone throws a rock which smacks into Mollie’s face. The shock makes her jump up. Her apple flies out of her hand and her lunch falls on the ground. The apple rolls down the hill and splashes into the pond. She turns around, one red cheek flaring and tears beginning to well up.

Offscreen: The sound of running footsetps and laughing.

She looks for the culprit(s), but noone’s there. Her face turns into a frown, and angrily she cries as she kneels down to pick up her lunch from the ground, putting it back into her bag.
    She stands up and starts to make her way towards the pond for her apple when she stops suddenly. There is a large white rabbit, 8 feet tall, sitting next to the pond, lapping at the water. As it continues to drink, the rabbit glances at Mollie, before bending it’s head and drinking some more. It starts to get up and as it does, the Rabbit picks up Mollie’s apple from the pond and bounces softly over to her, placing the apple at her feet. Mollie is still stunned. She bends to pick up the apple, and looks at the rabbit again. She turns her head to look for somebody, anybody who could be witnessing this too. But she is the only one. She turns towards the rabbit and wipes her tears from her eyes before offering the apple to the rabbit to eat. Its ears prick up excitedly and the rabbit eats the apple quickly off her hand. Mollie laughs and begins to stroke the rabbits nose, hesitantly at first, but softly and lovingly as the rabbit lets her.
Off screen sound: A bell rings for the end of break-time.

These are the first storyboard drafts. As you can see, they are not complete, and so don't show the last few moments as described in the script. These were done using a tablet on Photoshop.

At the seminar on the 17th we were asked to pair up with someone whose story development we hadn't seen much yet. I paired up with Pablo, who was able to give me some great feedback on my initial storyboards. We talked about the "bullies" situation in the story. He pointed out that it would be difficult to show Mollie and Babbit overcoming these bullies in a 'good' way without Mollie and Babbit 'getting their own back' or something of the sort. It was a tricky one to try and figure out, and we both agreed it was too complicated to be able to fit into a 3 minute film.

This I had already encountered at the initial storyboarding stage too. I had cut a scene down considerably from the point when Mollie first arrives at the pond. In the scene, Mollie has just sat down and begins to eat an apple. She then turns around and freezes when a bully is sitting right next to her on the bench, leaving Mollie terrified and frozen in fear. The bully then starts to tease Mollie until she jumps and the bully smacks the apple out of Mollie's hand which results in the apple rolling down towards the pond. This was instead cut down to having the apple fall out of Mollie's hand by having a bully throw a rock at her (as seen in the storyboards above) Here are the sketches from the cut scene:

So instead of focusing on the 'bullies' situation, I suggested some ideas that I was still thinking about, in that Mollie would be unconfident because she couldnt skip very well and therefore couldn't play with her classmates for feeling shy and embarassed. She will have made herself a recluse, and by Babbit coming into her life and showing her how to be confident and how to grow, she would learn how be happy and play with her friends the way she'd always wanted to. Pablo also pointed out that he liked the simple one-tone colour scheme used in the storyboard. It is definitely an element I will have to test in future colour/background/character design experiments.

I then had a feedback session with our tutor, James, who looked through my storyboard quickly and told me to go back and finish the script and go about the process in a different way. As I was still having trouble with my story in the middle, he encouraged me to draw 10 images that defined my film to help me focus on the story points and the important moments in my film.

From left to right:
1 - Mollie is lonely, sad and unconfident.
2 - She wants to join in playing with her freinds and classmates but feels inadequate and very embarassed that she can't skip very well.
3 - Mollie starts to cry when every attempt at skipping fails.
4 - Babbit appears and offers Mollie a 'shoulder to cry on'. She is comforted and feels a little better.

5 - Babbit helps Mollie to skip.
6 - Babbit is urging Mollie to step forward and face her fears. Mollie is unsure at first, but with Babbit there, she feels she can start to move on and gain more confidence.
7 - Mollie looking out at the playground watching her classmates all playing together.
8 - Babbit grows smaller, and Mollie is standing with the skipping rope in hand, looking a lot more confident than before, but slightly worried about Babbit's shrinking habits.
9 - Babbit notices a little boy who is upset on a bench. Mollie and Babbit both know what to do. Mollie must say goodbye to Babbit and Babbit must move on and help this boy now.
10 - Babbit has grown big again and the boy is stroking his fur and leaning in to him. Babbit has his eyes closed in content.


Poster Task and another Story Direction.

In the lecture on Monday 10th October, our class were asked to create a poster design for our film. The exercise helped us all focus on layout which was helpful. We will be doing this task several times throughout this year, so we can all develop the right image for our films.

As it was only a short task, it was done loosely in pencil. I wanted to show Mollie sitting beside Babbit, back to back. Mollie is looking at Babbit in an inncoent way, making her looks as cute as possible. Babbit is shown smiling, and Mollie looks somewhat surprised, so this poster gives the clue that this will be Mollie's story of Babbit. Or at least, I hope that's what it says. As stated, this poster design will change within the next few weeks/months. I want to create a slightly more dramatic poster next time, perhaps not showing Mollie or Babbit's face at all, and play a bit with silhouettes and good posing of the characters to show a clear action/thought/inclination.

In the last post, I had just seen Leonie and had begun to develop a new story idea where Mollie is feeling lonely, sad and upset when a new baby brother comes along and the parents are too busy to pay much attention to Mollie. I drew a few more images..

 I was finding it hard however to really develop this story without having to bring in a sub-plot of the parents reacting to Mollie's loneliness. (Babbit was going to appear visible only to Mollie and the audience, but the twist at the end would reveal that Mollie's parents knew about Babbit the whole time and had asked him to look after Mollie/be there for Mollie...) This would put more strain on the film, as I wanted to keep the number of characters to a bare minimum, and with the parents and new baby as well as Mollie and Babbit, I really couldn't think of how I would be able to portray all of the relationships and story well without going over the recommended time of 3 minutes.

On Tuesday 11th October, a few friends on the course and I asked to meet with our tutor, Matt Gravelle, to go over our story ideas with him. Matt pointed out the difficulties I would have developing the story with so many main characters saying it would require a far more complex story, which I agreed with. He liked the idea that Babbit grew smaller as Mollie grew in confidence. He told me I should definitely focus on their relationship. Mollie needs Babbit. Matt suggested some ideas such as, Mollie is being bullied, or Mollie needs to win a contest of some sort and needs to build in confidence with Babbit's help. He also liked the picture books I bought for inspiration and wanted me to definitely keep to that style.

I liked the ideas that Matt suggested, so I then started developing ideas focused on Mollie and Babbit's relationship in a new situation.


Monday, 10 October 2011

New Inspiration, a new style...

After the feedback from the tutors on Monday (26th Sept) I had a few things to think about. I decided to gather more research in the form of children's books, as the tutors seemed to like the idea of the film in a "picture book" style. I ventured to Waterstone's and had a great time looking through lots of books in the kids' section. (I've always felt that the children's section is by far the most exciting place in any book shop anyway...)

It wasn't long before I found inspiration. Two books by author, Anna Kemp and illustrator, Sara Ogilvie, caught my eye instantly. Their first collaberated book; "Dogs Don't Do Ballet", and their second and most recent book; "Rhinos Don't Eat Pancakes" are fun, cleverly written and beautifully illustrated. The illustrations instantly had me hooked for their vibrancy and charming style. As I read the books there in the shop, I fell in love with them! I had to buy them!

As well as the illustration style, the stories also inspired me to change/alter my ideas for my film too. The feedback from the session with the tutors, had asked me to try not to think of the film too realistically, and to be more adventurous with the story.

So now, taking inspiration mainly from "Rhinos Don't Eat Pancakes", I decided to turn the toy Babbit into a large rabbit which Mollie befriends. I had the idea that as Mollie grows older, the large Babbit will grow smaller, as a metaphor for growing up, taking on new responsibilities and embracing life, but not altogether losing your sense of imagination. My first story ideas for this were centered around Mollie gradually growing up with Babbit, and with every year she grows (represented by Mollie's new shoes; ie: from slip ons, to velcro, to buckles, to shoelaces...) Babbit gets smaller as she learns to adapt to getting older. Mollie would realise her Babbit growing smaller, and vice/versa with Babbit realising too, and both would become confused and upset. Then Babbit would one day disappear at bed-time (as Mollie would always sleep beside Babbit at night-time) and she would stay up and look for him, until, exhausted, she would have to sleep in her parents room. When she awakens and returns to her own room, she would find a toy rabbit, and Mollie would then know that Babbit would always be with her.

I started by doing some quick life drawing sketches of rabbits from a google image search. I will need to do more research at a later stage.

So here are the first sketch development designs working in a style inspired by the books featured above:

Mollie is featured in a few illustrations in her school uniform, as this is the "climax" of the film, when Babbit really starts to grow smaller rapidly as he notices Mollie growing up fast. This is also when Mollie would really realise Babbit growing smaller... The illustration showing a woman fitting Mollie's new school uniform is an idea for a scene which would show both Babbit and Mollie being curious and unaware of what this uniform means to them at that point. But as the story would develop (with Mollie leaving home every weekday to go to school) Babbit would then really start to notice the change in Mollie, and the change in himself.


I had a one-on-one session with Leonie on Tuesday (4th October). She really liked the picture books I am using as inspiration, and liked the idea that the Babbit is now "big" and the idea that he grows smaller whilst Mollie grows bigger. She brought to my attention that the story still had no structure. She suggested trying to tell the story from anothers' point of view, either Babbit's or the parents'. She suggested that, as Babbit is there for Mollie because she NEEDS him, I should think of all the ways the parents could be "ignoring" Mollie therefore NEEDING Babbit to "fill in the gap". So this could include swimming, riding a bike, holding hands while crossing the road etc... Leonie also suggested I should develop my own style inspired from the books I have bought. And for a last resort (ie: if my story just doesnt get sorted out); that I could contact the author and illustrator of the books and ask if I could possibly animate one of their books.

I still need to brainstorm more ideas... Overall the session with Leonie was great and really got me thinking a little more about the structure the film's story could take.

Almost instantly after having the session, I thought of another structural story idea that could possibly carry the whole film. A new baby brother arrives and Mollie is feeling left out and ignored by her parents. The big Babbit keeps her company, helping her do things as well as allowing her to cause mischief (to get attention from her parents). The ending is still not worked out, as this was just a quick story structure idea, but from a comment that Leonie made, there could possibly be a "twist" ending in that Babbit actually interacts and helps Mollie's parents as well, which Mollie may or may not discover.... It's still just little ideas. I will need to have another session with either James or Leonie to sort out more ideas soon.



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mollie and Babbit

After going through many ideas as shown in the previous post, there was one concept that kept jumping to the front of my mind. I have three younger cousins (all siblings) that I am very close to. Watching them grow up has been so fantastic. Seeing what personalities they have, how they talk, how they act, etc. It's all fascinating, and I love them all to bits.

The final film idea I have chosen is based around the middle child, Mollie, and her toy; "Babbit". Mollie has always been a little different to her two siblings. Not in a bad way, not at all! She's much more introvert and quiet (well, sort of) and she has always been in her own little world. You never quite know what she's thinking and you never know what she's going to make of a situation. And Babbit has always been one step beside her! Babbit started life when Mollie was born, and has stayed as Mollie's security blanket since then. Mollie holds Babbit in a certain way too, left hand holds Babbit's head with one floppy ear covering the hand as Mollie sucks her thumb. There are a few sketches of Mollie like this in the sketches provided.

I felt that Mollie as a character would be really interesting and fun to portray, as I've always loved watching her play and speak and live. And Babbit, of course, is the centre of Mollie's world, so using these two as the two characters, gave me a good strating point to develop a story around.

I then produced a brainstorm of "Mollie" to put together all the traits I could think of for Mollie in sketch and word form.

 The idea of Mollie losing Babbit and not being able to find him arose quickly. In reality, Mollie is always losing Babbit. Not intentionally, obviously, it's more a case of forgetting where she has put Babbit. Babbit has been found in all manner of places. The most distressing times have been when out of the house; ie: in a supermarket, or on holiday.
   So I wrote down lots of the scenarios (provided by Mollie's mother, my aunt) to try and piece a few together to try and make a story. One of the most interesting scenarios that my aunt put forward was about if Mollie couldn't find Babbit at all. Ie; not having Babbit at bed-time. My aunt said that Mollie literally would not sleep and she would stay up as long as possible trying to find Babbit; and that if she still couldn't find him, Mollie would then go to sleep in her mum and dad's bed as she would not sleep in her bed alone without Babbit. I loved this little sceario, and I really want to try and put this as a little scene in my film.
  So story-wise, I would establish Mollie and Babbit at the start of the film as the best of friends. Babbit growing up with her, being there for important events in her life (first pair of shoes, first dentist appointment, etc) and possibly showing how Mollie would forget where she puts Babbit for a moment, but then finding him again. Then the story would follow another normal day for Mollie and Babbit; but this time, Mollie would leave and the audience would see where Babbit has fallen from view. As it nears bed-time, Mollie would suddenly realise she needs Babbit and would start to panic as she searched the house looking for him. After getting the help of her family, bed-time would be implemented by her parents and Mollie would start to become very distressed and emotional, resisting sleep. She would be trying to keep awake, looking for Babbit, eventually dozing off on the living-room sofa, and be put to bed in her parents' bed.
  After this, I still hadn't quite sorted out the story's conclusion. I had ideas for a dream sequence, where Mollie would dream about Babbit in a fantasy scenario. Ultimately waking up at sunrise and wandering around the house again...
  I hadn't identified a moral, or a character arc (among other things), so I still need to think of these in order to pursue any further with this story. But these are the "bare bones" of my story so far.
  I want to focus on good character perfromance animation. Something that would make the audience laugh or chuckle, but also make them empathize and really feel for the character.The nostalgic associations of childhood in one losing a treasured toy can probably associate with most people. There's always one toy that is special.

On the 26th September, we had our first presentations of the term. I presented my film ideas and designs and got feedback from the tutors. These are some of the points they presented:
- The story is not developed enough, so the plot at the moment has a "So what?" feel to it. I knew this point would come up, as the story is no where near developed at all. I need to think of story elements that will make the audience connect and care about the character.
- The character of Mollie is taken from real-life TOO much, it needs toning down a bit reality-wise. I understood the feedback for this, I WAS becoming too obsessed with animating Mollie as Mollie. I need to have a bit of creative freedom in order to really have fun with this film and not get weighed down with making her character as true to life as I was first envisioning.
- You need to think of the film as a whole. Backgrounds included. The whole thing needs to make sense, story-wise and visually. This was stated after I had said my plans on having a Shirley Hughes inspired background. I need to have them tie in with the animated images. I will need to try and put a "final frame" together (regardless of story at this point" for ideas on how I want to portray the backgrounds and the characters together.
- There is no story at the moment, the character needs a change, or a challenge that (she) must overcome, and there needs to be a moral. I will research more short films/animations etc on their morals and how the story arcs work. I will develop more ideas and gather more inspiration to work from.

Overall, I was expecting most of the feedback, as I knew my story was nowhere near complete/worked out. It's time to sit down and really think this over!  Time for a cup of tea...


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Summer Film Ideas

The idea for my final film came about after many many weeks of doodling and sketching. I had bought a new A5 sketchbook, and in it I would sketch any number of things that came to mind. So instead of diving straight into my chosen idea ("Babbit"), I want to also present my other ideas that didn't get built on, as I hope that they will still provide some helpful ideas for further story development in "Babbit".

Note: Apologies for the quality of some of the images uploaded. I will go through and re-upload A.S.A.P.


I attended the Annecy Animation Film Festival in June of this year for the first time. It was an incredible place, and I left feeling inspired and excited. During the visit, I visited the comic book shop in the main building almost every day. In the last few days I found a really beautiful graphic novel "Le Gout Du Chlore" (The Taste Of Chlorine) by Bastien Vives. It got me interested in showing this in animation. So lots of my very first ideas involve a swimming theme. 

Historical Era...

Some ideas involved characters in a Victorian/Edwardian time period. A maid servant stealing a child she believed she loved more than its real parents...... A brother/sister relationship as a young heiress to the throne deals with the pressures of growing up......... Another maid/ young princess relationship story....(etc)


Although I am no way near a dancer, I love the world of dance/ballet/etc - A film of dance would be a challenge. I would want to do something dynamic and powerful.


Taking from my own childhood, another ideas was to show a character discovering the world of the stage/theatre/musicals...Or..A girl who comes out of the theatre for the first time and then witnesses the world around her becoming a "show". (Inspired from the famous phrase; "All the world's a stage".)

Other Ideas... 

I had other ideas that were merely written down.. Here are some:

- A cake-shop baking rivalry. Two shops opposite each other try to out-bake one another, leading to disastrous/hilarious consequences!
- A young teenage school girl - shy, quiet - who bakes at school in break and lunch-times to get away from bullies...
- A series of different school-set homework projects (ie: Easter homework could be to decorate your own bonnet). The parents of the children become obsessed with making their children look good, so take over the projects, more competing against other children's parents than simply helping their child do their own homework. Costumes for fancy dress, cake sales etc... Hilarious consequences..!
- Animating an Opera song...
- A large woman....(no story decided..)
- "Bring Your Child To Work Day". Hilarious situations ensue...

So from these sketches and ideas, I can identify a few common features.. 
- Children feature heavily in my work. I love the world that children live in and I love theideas of emotional transitions and/or situations for children to deal with
- Something dynamic as well as funny, I want it to have strong animation which really plays with strong emotions, but I also want it to be light-hearted, charming and funny.

Next Post: "Babbit" sketches and ideas.