Developing a story and storyboards

(This is just a draft poster, similar to how the movie poster would look)


In my process, the story and characters developed around each other. A basic storyline came first, a single sentence — a world renowned jewel theif seeks to redeem herself and finally goes after the one that got away. Then questions like, “what’s the time period?” Or “What’s the fashion fad of that time?” help in building the characters. I get a feel for how they would interact with their world.

Developing this story was not unlike other stories I’ve come up with. I often draw my stories from life and this one has an interesting background. I was doing what I do most weekends — numbing my mind with television — when I came across a cool story with an even cooler lead.

This is Doris Payne. She is a real life jewel thief.

Long story short, Payne lived most of her adult life traveling the world, making off with thousands of dollars worth of jewels that she would steal from the most expensive shops only to sell them to pawn shops. She’s also spent a lot of time in jail for her crimes.

But one of the most interesting legends that came from the life of Doris Payne and the tale that inspired my story, was when she had pulled off a heist in Paris. The heat was hot on her trail and followed her to her hotel room, demanding that she answer their questions about a $500,000 diamong that had went missing. By now, authorities weren’t finally catching up to her but even then she managed to keep her cool, even as Parisian police tore through her luggage. Payne claims that they even demanded that she disrobe, so they could check her dress— her well known hiding spot. Payne abided but the jewel was never found.

Payne had cleverly hid the jewel in her mouth. She even describes how it cut her cheeks as the police searched her person. She left Paris, pawned the diamond and it has never been seen again.

That is where I came up with the title of my mock movie and it’s lead— Diamond Mouth.

Of course my story is more fantastical than the real life dramas of Doris Payne, but choosing her as inspiration has really allowed me to explore themes I never had before, one with dealing with an elderly lead. In terms of animation, how do old people walk? How do they talk, how far can they run and jump? What are their interactions with young people, how do they sound. As a younger person  it’s simple for me to imagine how someone like me would deal with all of those things.

More on Doris Payne. Totally real, totally BAMF:

Final-ish Products- What did I learn?

Opentoonz– Is it worth the hype?

Yes and no.

The nice thing about Opentoonz is that it’s professional grade software, for free. It’s super customizable, and straightforward.

However, it’s dated. The UI isn’t friendly whatsoever. And apparently, it’s been that way since, well, forever. Professionals who have used before, as much as ten years ago, have said that nothing’s changed. Which isn’t really good. Another thing I didn’t appreciate was the fact that “used by Studio Ghibli” was the selling point but because the software is so customizable, the studio has played with the software to meet their needs. So is this really the same Opentoonz used by an internationally recognized studio? Probably not.

Once again, sound escapes me.

Developing characters

So part of this semester’s project is to develop a cast of characters set in their own world. The bigger picture for my narrative resembles an imaginary feature length movie but my characters will appear in different scenes, wrapped in a trailer for said movie. In order to make this as cool as possible, I researched traditional methods of character and world creation. After getting a basic idea of what sort of character they are building, concept artists start off with simple sketches and designs. One of my favorite animation studios Studio Ghibli (Ugh, yes I know, yet another Ghibli wannabe but let me live, alright?) experiments with color in their character designs. They also dress their characters in different outfits, to get an idea of that character’s personality. I decided to try the same with the 3 main characters in my story.

Diamond, also known as Legendary Diamond Mouth. She is the protagonist of the story.

Cynthia, Cyn for short.

She is the deuteragonist of the story.

And finally, Marqo the tritagonist.

As you can see, I started out with more detailed designs in the initial stages of development. But I thought more about the exaggerated world I wanted to present. I wanted to focus on their heads without the restraints of necks. I thought it would also add a fantastical and humorous element

I rather like how the designs turned out and it was fun seeing how the style developed through out the process.


WIP #1: Gifs

This week I made my first ever gifs. Being my first attempt, they are a little low quality. But that’s okay; doing this help me put some the principles I’m learning into practice. The principle that seems the hardest to grasp for me is “inbetweening, the shots between key poses. At first glance it seems like a basic grasp on physics is needed, which is probably true, but after actually drawing it out, I find that “tweening” is more about common sense then physics. Another big factor is spacing.

The first gif seems like a juvenile excuse to show of my drawing and coloring skills (which it is) but I gauging where I stand in displaying weight and solidness in flat 2D drawings. While I think I might’ve failed at it (ie. my drawings look flat), I think adding 1 or 2 inbetweens would add a little more depth, and in turn would look more 3D.

One of my story’s main characters. I’ll be putting up character sheets soon.

The next gif is my very first walk cycle — ever. I broke protocol. Everyone starts with the ball drop — and I probably need to. But due to circumstances, I didn’t have the time so I jumped right in. You know that means? It means it’s all wrong and I need to do it again. And I will. At first glance I can see all my mistakes. At a second, deeper glance, I see all my mistakes. Despite all that, I’m pleased with myself. I mean, walk cycles are scary. And hard. I pity the fools (like me) who pshaw at the walk cycle; “I mean, I walk everyday! How hard can it be?”

How naive.

I won’t bore you with the logistics, but know this: walk cycles are important. There are millions of different walks but every walk has it’s 4 main poses:

the contact

the down

the passing

and the up

And then, of course, the reverse, or the other leg. One walk cycle has 12 poses + 1 last contact, otherwise known as the “Rest” but the Rest can be anything from sitting down to falling over.

A good walk cycle, no matter what kind of walk it is, makes a good character. It’s the first step to actually building a plausible character — cartoony or realistic. So I know, when I master the walk (and run), everything else should be, you know, a piece of cake.

Theoretically, speaking of course.

First walk cycle ever! I tried adding a little personality. I definitely need to add more inbetweens between the down and passing poses.




Formal Thesis for 415

Animation has long been used a tool to tell a story, express a narrative, and create a new world. The use of time and motion artfully activate an illusion that draws the audience in. With the software, Open Toonz, I will explore the concepts of time, motion, and story telling through 2D animation to generate an illustrative narrative and illusion.

Semiotic Square

Okay, so perhaps my first post wasn’t completely true; 415 isn’t about complete and toatal independence. There will still be a schedule and deadlines and activties meant to guide us to our ultimate objectives. One of those activities came in the form of a square. A semiotic square.

The dictionary definition of a semiotic square is  is a tool used in structural analysis of the relationships between semiotic signs through the opposition of concepts. In other words, it’s a bunch of words and oppoiste words all linked together til they form a square. It’s easier said then done. The point of the square is to find concepts and find the connections between them. For example, a square can include the concepts, of round-not round, light-dark, etc. The point of our semiotic squares in 415 was to help locate where we stand on the aritst spectrum in relation to the class.

In other words, where are you (artisitically) and what do you want to do?

I admit, I at first I didn’t understand the purpose of the square. I already know where I am – like to hand draw – and what I want to do — I want to 2D anminate! Duh. But after completing the square I relalized I wanted more than that. I want to use my animations to engage my audience in a story, an illusion. That’s where I fall on the spectrum. Not that I don’t wnat to do other things; I do. But now I have a clear starting goal and frame of reference.

So here is my square (click on image):

And on this square I fall into the illusion category. But as I said before, that doesn’t mean that I will not be incorporting the other concepts, like narrative ans symbols into my work; I will! But will this square my objective feel a little more clear.