Thursday 23 February 2012

Grandad's Story - Final Storyboard

Final storyboard / animatic for my transcription project - "Grandad's Story".

@Phil - I did discuss Raymond Briggs with Alan in my first meeting. We talked about recreating the same tone and feeling he achieves in "When the Wind Blows". I hadn't thought about the pencil crayon / cross hatching look as the overall style. I originally wanted to give it a painterly feel reminiscent of Sylvain Chomet's the Illusionist. I think because Raymond Briggs' animations are 2D and illustrative, the thought hadn't crossed my mind, but I like it.
@Alan - Can we discuss how this would be achieved in 3D when you are next available? Would hand drawn texture maps be the way to go?

I've taken out the title sequence and the over-long cloud flying sequence. I have also (reluctantly) changed the music. I really, really wanted to keep "Michael Kamen's - Band of Brothers Suite One", I spent a long time calling people at Sony Music Classical, who put me onto NCPS and PPL to obtain a licence. They couldn't provide a joint licence which is required (apparently). However, they said if I speak to Sony Music Entertainment and seek permission from them it would be ok. Instead of going through all that hassle I found and paid for royalty free music and I'm pretty happy with it. I'm also in the process of getting a professional voice over done too.

Enough said, here it is...

Paprika - World Animation review (Japan)

Paprika - 2006
Director - Satoshi Kon

1. Paprika - Poster

Plot Summary / review:
Described as "a leading figure in the world of anime" (Cavalier. 2011:361), Satoshi Kon wrote and directed complex and cerebral movies. His most famous works Perfect Blue (1998), Millenium Actress (2001) and Tokyo Godfathers (2003) "used his trademark technique of segueing seamlessly between the reality of characters' lives and their memories, fantasies, dreams, and illusory worlds." (Cavalier. 2011:361). Paprika follows suit and was his last feature film before tragically dying of pancreatic cancer in August 2010.

Set in the near future, therapist Chiba Atsuko uses technology to enter her patients minds and record their dreams and fantasies. Under the guise of her avatar "Paprika", she explores and studies their psyches in an attempt to treat them. However, one day the technology is stolen and used to enter peoples minds when they are awake. Chaos ensues as peoples dreams and fantasies merge with reality. Atsuko and her colleagues are joined by one of her patients, Konakawa (a troubled detective) and go in search of the stolen technology and the perpetrator.

2. Paprika / Atsuko

The character animation in Paprika is a step back when compared with Katsuhiro Otomo's technical accomplishments in fluid movement and lip syncing achieved with Akira (1988). Perhaps due to budget or time constraints, the characters movements are frequently cycled. Scenes with extended dialogue often finds the characters frozen whilst only their mouths and eyes are animated. However, Kon more than makes up for this with the world they inhabit, seamlessly blending 2D and CG imagery. Leslie Felperin of Variety magazine reiterates, stating; "it looks pretty much par for the Japanese animation course, with simply drawn but expressive moving figures mixed with CGI-enhanced camera moves and richly rendered backgrounds, especially for the sequences featuring the eerie, confetti-strewn toy parade of invading dreams." (Felperin. 2004). 

3. Invading dreams

Kon rarely used CG in his previous features, it is however used to great affect in Paprika. The world and environments he created gleam with both gritty realism and Dali-esque surrealism, perfectly complimenting his reality / fantasy blurred narrative. Kon takes this concept further, multi-layering Paprika with nods and references to his previous work and other popular cinema icons. At the films outset, Detective Konakawa's dream passes through multiple genres from fantasy to noir. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice Kon actually places himself as a character with-in the movie. With so many references and innuendo's it can be argued that Paprika is the Directors love letter to the movie industry.

4. Movie references

Paprika is "a Freudian-Jungian-Felliniesque sci-fi thriller, and an outright challenge to American viewers, who may, in the face of its whirligig complexity, feel almost pea-brained". (Denby. 2007). Although the average movie goer might be lost to the multi layered references and in house nods, very few will not enjoy the unpredictable journey through Kon's vivid imagination. Although brave, innovative and exhilarating, Paprika is not regarded as his best work. However, just like one of the protagonists who buys a cinema ticket at the end of the film, those who take a chance with Paprika will certainly be entertained.


Cavalier, Stephen.(2011) The World History of Animation. Aurum Press Ltd. London.

Denby, David. New Yorker Review 21st May 2007 Accessed 23/02/2012

Felperin, Leslie. Variety Review 24 February 2004 Accessed 23/02/2012


1. Paprika - Poster Accessed 23/02/2012

2. Paprika / Atsuko Accessed 23/02/2012

3. Invading dreams Accessed 23/02/2012

4. Movie references Accessed 23/02/2012

Thursday 16 February 2012

Feedback required - Transcription Screenplay and Storyboard (70% complete)

Here is an update on my transcription project. I have written the screenplay and I have completed 70 % of the storyboard / animatic. I originally intended to include a narration at the beginning of the animation. When I was putting it together, I really liked it without a voice over. I added the narration and like that too. Therefore I need some feedback, both are embedded in this video..... WITH or WITHOUT the narration?

Grandad's Story Screenplay

Monday 13 February 2012

Maya Dynamics Basics (Part 2)

Transcription - Style and Visual inspiration

After my second meeting with Alan, we established the key to making this project a success was establishing a visual style. My goal is to make an animated short that is respectful of the source material and subject matter but is also aware it is animation. The visual style I am aiming for is somewhere in between real and caricature. I've been researching sources for inspiration:



Real life sources:

Other sources of inspiration:

Friday 10 February 2012

Akira - World Animation Review (Japan)

Akira - 1988
Director - Katsuhiro Otomo
1. Akira Poster

Plot summary / review:
Adapted from his own manga series of the same name, Katsuhiro Otomo's "Akira" is a landmark in Japanese animation and filmmaking. A brutal alternative to the works of Disney, Otomo's feature length animation is a reflection of a culture that has survived nuclear fallout.

Set in 2019, Neo-Tokyo has risen from the ashes of World War 3. Ruled by corrupt politicians and a powerful military leader, the city is writhe with violence from underground terrorist groups to teenage biker gangs. The post-apocalyptic world they inhabit is beautifully rendered. At the time of release, Janet Maslin of the New York Times notes, "Mr. Otomo invests this dark flowering of post-nuclear civilization with a clean, mean beauty. The drawings of Neo-Tokyo by night are so intricately detailed that all the individual windows of huge skyscrapers appear distinct." (Maslin. 1990). Otomo animates separate layers of the city at different rates, simulating a camera panning across a vast environment adding depth, perspective and realism.

2. Neo-Tokyo

Biker gang the "Capsules", lead by Kaneda and his long term friend Tetsuo, race through the streets defending their turf from rival gang the "Clowns." A chance encounter with Takeshi (a telekinetic child with a decrepit appearance), leaves Tetsuo hospitalized and the rest of his crew in handcuffs. 

 3. Kaneda attends to the injured Tetsuo

Colonel Shikishima and irresponsible scientist Doctor Onishi discover Tetsuo has similar powers to a deity called "Akira", believed to be the cause of the nuclear fallout 31 years ago. It is revealed Shikishima and Onishi have been experimenting on children with telekinetic abilities in an attempt to harness their power. They plan to continue their research on Tetsuo, who is struggling to control his new found abilities. 

Meanwhile, Kaneda becomes embroiled with Kei, a beautiful girl involved with anti-government activists intent on uncovering the truth about Akira. Kaneda helps them infiltrate the building holding Tetsuo, Takeshi and two other psychic children Kiyoko and Masaru. Tetsuo's unstable new power, coupled with his fierce nature stemming from a life of rejection and bullying begin to take its toll. He violently escapes from his captors and rampages through the city. Pursued by the Government, terrorists, psychics and former friends, Tetsuo seeks to confront Akira, whose in cryogenic suspension beneath the new Olympic Stadium. Tetsuo unearths his remains for an epic final showdown that includes body-horror images enough to make David Cronenberg squirm.

4. Rampaging Tetsuo

Otomo's masterpiece was reversed engineered, starting with conceiving the end of the film first. His Manga series officially ended in 1990, two years after the anime release. By writing the end of the film first, Otomo was able to figure out which Manga elements would make the cut of the film without making it too lengthy.

It's running time however is still over two hours, unusual and ambitious for an animated feature. To realize Otomo's epic vision took the combined effort of numerous Japanese entertainment companies. As a result they produced realistic motion and for the first time in a Japanese anime, lip-synced dialogue. Phelim O'Neil of the Guardian newspaper states it's "Style and substance run neck and neck in this thrilling, bold landmark film that just refuses to become dated." (O'Neil. 2011).

Otomo's "Akira" raised the bar for sci-fi storytelling not only in animation, but all feature film. It also highlights many misconceived perceptions of Manga as Kim Newman of Empire magazine explains. "For anyone who thinks manga is all about incomprehensible storylines, naked girls with no pubic hair and a myriad of monsters that invariably turn into giant penises, this will set you straight." (Newman. 2008).


Maslin, Janet. New York Times review. 19th October 1990 Accessed 08/02/12

Newman, Kim. Empire review. 10th March 2008 Accessed 08/02/12

O'Neill, Phelim. Guardian Review. 23rd June 2011 Accessed 08/02/12


1. Akira Poster Accessed 08/02/12

2. Neo-Tokyo Accessed 08/02/12

3. Kaneda attends to the injured Tetsuo Accessed 08/02/12

4. Rampaging Tetsuo Accessed 08/02/12

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Transcription Pipeline

After my first transcription tutorial with Alan, we established that transcribing the BBC pathe footage may not be the best route to take. As the subject matter is personal to me and my family, we agreed I should look further into the source material that set off the idea in the first place.

So I will be transcribing my fathers novel called "Dad's Story" into an Animated Short. My pipeline will be:


  • Project start: "Dad's Story"
  • Analysis: Filter out "key scenes" into a manageable 3 act structure between 1- 3 minutes long
  • 2D animatic: outlining basic storyline / camera angles
  • Visual research: 1940's architecture (British / German), birds eye view landscapes, Avro Lancaster B52 bomber, German anti aircraft weapons, RAF uniforms, pictures of Warrant Officer Harry Lavey DFM and other family photo's
  • Concept Art: Digital paintings of key scenes / environments. Character design turnarounds and orthographic views 

  • Modelling: Avro Lancaster B52 bomber, Environments, Character
  • UV mapping / texturing: Lancaster B52 bomber, Environments, Character
  • Rigging: Lancaster and character
  • Animation: Lancaster and character
  • Effects simulation: Clouds, Lancaster engine exhaust, bullet trails
  • Lighting: Key scene lighting
  • Rendering: Beauty, ambient occlusion, Z-depth
  • Compositing: Combining render passes, matte painting integration
  • Final edit / sound: Editing and exporting with sound
  • AFter effects: Camera shake, bullet trails
Seeing this in black and white seems quite daunting. At this stage I'm still reading the novel and deciding on what to put in and what to leave out. I understand it may look like I'm biting off more than I can chew, but when I start to finalize the basic structure I will refine this pipeline.

Games Modelling Head Progress

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Mary and Max - World Animation review (Australia)

Mary and Max - 2010
Director - Adam Elliot

1) Mary and Max Poster

Plot summary / review:
Australian director Adam Elliot follows up his Oscar winning short animation "Harvie Krumpet" (2004) with his first claymation feature film, "Mary and Max". Elliot's unique visual style rivals Nick Park of Aardman Animation and combines it with a dark narrative and black humour Tim Burton would be proud of. Alex Zane of The Sun newspaper notes, "while most animated movies are aimed at kids, this one deals with themes ranging from death and bullying to mental illness." (Zane. 2010). This bleak summary should not put off viewers as Zane goes on to say "this is one of the most life-affirming, feel-good movies of the year." (Zane. 2010).

In the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; eight year old Mary Daisy Dinkle is an outcast with an active imagination. With a birthmark on her forehead "the colour of poo", her only friends are replica figurines she has made of her favourite cartoon characters "The Noblets". Her father works in a factory (connecting the strings to tea bags), a recluse who confines himself to his shed to work on his hobby, taxidermy. Her mother is a house wife of sorts, interested only in baking cakes (badly), smoking, listening to the cricket results and constantly "testing" sherry.

2. Mary Daisy Dinkle

One day Mary accompany's her mother to the local post office and spots a telephone directory for New York. Fascinated with the funny sounding names, she randomly picks one and decides to send off a letter. The recipient is middle-aged, obese introvert Max Jerry Horowitz. The pair form an unlikely bond and correspond with each other over the next 20 years, discussing practically every topic that comes to mind. In that time, Mary grows into a young woman, attends university, falls in love and gradually connects with society. Similarly, Max comes out of his shell even after he is diagnosed with "Asperger syndrome". Their friendship blossoms but isn't always necessarily plain sailing. At one point Mary's over enthusiastic nature pushes Max's trust issues to the limit.

3. Max

Elliot has expertly realised the worlds his characters inhabit. He has clearly thought out every frame of every scene and demonstrates an excellent understanding of shot framing. Similarly, he has given careful thought to the visual style, using a muted colour palette to reflect Mary and Max's unhappy existence. Mary's Melbourne is a dull range of sepia reminiscent of her birthmark, whilst Max's New York is a stark contrast of black and white. Andrew Pulver of the Guardian newspaper reiterates, stating "All of this is rendered in almost completely monochromatic claymation – only occasional colours stand out, such as the red pompom Mary sends to Max." (Pulver. 2010). This selected splash of colour serves as a beautiful metaphor of Mary and Max's companionship and the joy it brings them.

4) Monochromatic Worlds

Given a 12 certificate in the UK, the simple but brave storyline maybe lost to the younger audience, but there is enough toilet humour to keep them amused. It is also layered with throwaway gags the mature viewer will understand confirming Elliot as "a talent eccentric enough to make Nick Park look like an office drone, and the serious sadness underpinning his vision only makes the humour work better." (Robey. 2010). His detailed environments will throw up new surprises with each viewing and his subtle casting brilliantly compliments the characters they voice. This includes Toni Collette as the older Mary; Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max; Barry Humphries (AKA Dame Edna) as the narrator and Mary's mother and Eric Bana as Mary's love interest Damian.

Andrew Pulver of the Guardian neatly summarises "Mary and Max", describing it as "a very odd, very unlikely animated film from Australia that manages to be sickly-cute, alarmingly grotesque, and right-on at the same time – often in the very same scene." (Pulver. 2010). It may not be to everyone's taste, however it has cult classic written all over it. 


Pulver, Andrew. The Guardian review 21st October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12

Robey, Tim. Daily Telegraph review 21st October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12

Zane, Alex. The Sun review 22nd October 2010 Accessed 01/02/12


1. Mary and Max Poster Accessed 01/02/12

2. Mary Accessed 01/02/12

3. Max Accessed 01/02/12

4. Monochromatic Worlds Accessed 01/02/12