Thursday, 23 August 2012


For those of you who haven't been eaten by lions (see "The Human Side of Character Design" post) I would like to personally congratulate you on your survival skills and perseverance for reading this blog when your life might be in African-predator peril. To reward you, I am going to talk a bit about the storyboarding process for the film.

I personally like to see storyboarding as drawing a comic, with the additional constraint of using words only to caption the pictures. Being able to capture the story with only the art is particularly important, and I often like to help express character movement, actions and camera pans with some swish lines, arrows, and other little graphics. For this film I am working in pencil and then pen, but a good alternative would be to work on a computer to create a storyboard. That way, you are able to use the same backgrounds for a shot that runs over multiple frames without painstakingly having to reproduce or simply omitting them entirely. On the whole  though the most important thing I find is to get the thing feeling right or expressing what's happening in the shot well.

The usual process I go through starts with the director telling me what part of the script she would like worked on, along with any rough drawings or storyboards she has made herself. A simple storyboard might be suffice for some films but the director stated that she liked a fuller storyboard for this project, which is a decent idea as it will be given in a PDF format to the backers of our Pledgeme cause. So I do a few small thumbnails to get a basic idea of what I want, then jump into pencils and pens once I feel more confident. Sometimes I am given free rein over the possibilities for the layout of the shot which makes me think about it for a while, but if I'm given a small storyboard then it tends to go faster. After that I'll show the work to the director and see if she approves of what I've done or if there should be more done or changed. For this project I have been given a long leash and trusted enough to put a few of my own ideas in there, which has been met with good reception. After that the director would show it to the armature builders and modellers to get an idea about what sort of actions to expect of the models.

Although the sky is the limit when you're drawing, at the end of the day the images have to translate into a shot of real-life models and taken by a camera, so you have to keep a little down to earth about it. In my case I've probably worried too much about how it's going to be made at the end of the day, probably from having prior animation experience. I don't think the cat model could tie itself in knots, even if I wanted it to. A thousand cars in a buzzing city street with 1000 doves exploding out of a window sounds awesome, but not practical. Or even in the script.  But despite that, a storyboard is good for inspiring and pushing people to greater limits, so keep it real, but not too real.

I'm afraid I don't have an example to show you of my work. It got eaten by panthers, and taken by directors, but someone might edit this later and embarrass me with my work.

Hope that was informative. My greatest apologies if this blog distracted you from the cheetahs coming to flank you. Hope you survive to read another blog entry.


Saturday, 28 July 2012


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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Interview with Hao-Tin and Wen Wen

Hao-Tin and Wen Wen are the set conceptual artist.
They work on the exterior and interior art of all the buildings that are later built into the sets that the movie is going to be shot in

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Making a story into a script

First you must have a story. The Royal Analostan is based of a short story called Slum Cat by Ernest Thompson Seton it was written in 1905 (go to to read the story) the story was read to me by my grandmother, when i was little, and i fell in love with it. It came to me as a very unique story to all the other children story's that were out there. 
It was about a cat not in a fantasy land, not talking, just a simple cat set in a real world in a realistic environment. It sounds boring when you put it that way, but the cat's home is a junk yard in a dingy alley way. Which already sounds a bit more adventurous. This means the cat doesn't live a normal life (well not normal for humans but probably normal for the cats) its adventurous yet dangerous and life is harsh and cruel. But even though the story is about a cat this still relates to people, the harshness and the emotions that she has to go through every person experienced at some point in their life: A loss of a loved one, poverty, rejection, usage, sadness etc. And those are the qualities that attracted me to the story, the fact that it tells a realistic story about life but through a cats perspective.   

At first, I thought that it wouldn't be so hard to write a script from the story since its already written. I was wrong. When you hear about a script being written for months or years do not smirk at it and say the writer is lazy... Making a good script takes hard work but also breaks to step back and see what is in front of you. You cannot just simply write a script and think its finished, there are a lot of things you must look at first; structure, story-line, characters, language, rewrites, more of structure. The structure of the story is the first thing you must look at, the basic structure that every script should have; theme stated, set up, catalyst, debate, break into two, B story, "fun and games", mid point, bad guy close in, all is lost, break into 3, finale, final image. This structure really helped me to figure out the storyline for the film. I would suggest one good book that thought me this structure its called "Save the Cat" funny enough by Blake Snyder, it is an amazing book simple, everything to the point and everything you need to know about script writing. It is aiming more towards a Hollywood style films and how to make a script that you could sell but in between that it has some fantastic tricks and tips on how to write a good script.

Adapting already a story into a script was not easy. The story has a lot of details and characters that are perfect for a story but not necessarily in a film. Have you ever wondered why Harry Potter movies had never put you favourite side character or scene from the book into the film? well of course the first answer is time, and time is money... and they couldn't make a 5 hour Harry Potter, not for the general audience. But also storyline! it most likely did not flow with the A storyline, too many characters, side stories can make one big bad film. This why you have to first focus on the main characters and the main story and put it down on paper, ones you got that sorted you can add or subtract scenes and characters that wont harm your overall story and film. And it took me a long time to get that right, because in the original short story it had so many characters so many set ups that when you read it, its fine but when you try and imagine it as a film it would have been a huge big mess. So I worked with wonderful people who helped me to figure it out and we decided on 3 main locations, 2 main cats and 2 main humans. We had to keep in mind the budget, which from a producing perspective is the number one problem, there is always something that you as a director want to add but time is money and you have to adapt everything around that. 


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Friday, 6 July 2012

The feline side of character design

I was given the task to design the main cat characters for The Royal Analostan animated film. While I am used to designing human characters animals as characters was something new to me. Both in terms of character design the same principals apply. However with animal character design depending on what style you are going for a degree of anthropomorphosis is needed because humans relate better to human or human-like creatures. How you go about that anthropomorphosis can be easier or more difficult depending on how stylised your film is going to be. Here are various forms of the main  character with differing levels of stylisation.

The director wanted a more realistic look for the cats. So in order to sell the cat characters better I realised I needed to brush up on my cat anatomy. Here are some of my studies:

While most creatures have similar bones and muscles (yes cats have pecs and biceps too) each creature has its own set of proportions. During the designing of the cat characters I had a few ups and downs with cat anatomy as you may be able to see in the pictures in this post.

On the rendering side of things I had to figure out a good way to draw fur and how it reacts with light (though I'm not sure if this was necessary as real fur is not going to be used on the final models as far as I know)

Work on the other main cats followed a similar process and had similar challenges.

Black Tom...
The director also wanted a more cared fore fluffy version, for the latter half of the story and a kitten version for the beginning of the story.

Fluffy Kitty...
Kitten Kitty...

I hope that was insightful,

Have fun,


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Human Side of Character Design

Although the film would be focused on the hero cat, a few human beings would significantly impact on our feline's life and would be important figures in the telling of the story. As such the two main ones, a pet shop owner called Jap, and his assistant Sam, required special attention and at the beginning of the year concept art revolved around them in addition to a secondary character, the Meatman, who would feature at the start of the film.

In addition to the descriptions given in the book of these characters, the director had a very particular view on how the characters should look. The concept artists at the start of the year were given reference to old Russian cartoons and films such as Disney's The Aristocats. Maggie wanted a careful balanced between a stylized and realistic look, a stimulating visual that could be taken seriously. I was drawn to the painterly watercolour backgrounds of the reference material, and my key piece of concept art was rendered with this effect over my original penciling.

Each character presented their own challenges beyond the descriptions provided within the book, as Maggie had an eye for subtle details within the characters and there were also time period considerations to take into account. Jap was originally and briefly described as a money-pinching cockney with a face round enough to turn his eyes to slits, but over the arc of the concept work the director was drawn closer towards a man with a greedy look in his eyes and a block-ish head. This makes him easier to recognize as a man not to be trusted with your welfare, or at least that of your cat! Although there isn't a definite mention of him being fat, one certainly gets the impression of a large character.

Sam was to contrast Jap's wide size with a tall and thin frame, and needed to look somewhat simple yet kind, and clearly in the beneath the former in terms of status. His clothing is a labourmans, whilst Jap wore something a little smarter for business and the like. Although Sam's body was firmly established in the first few drawings, his facial features and head shape needed a lot of work to get looking the way the director wanted.

The Meatman, finally, was based on a picture that Maggie liked which was originally intended to be Jap, but suited this character more. In the original picture the Meatman is plump and fat, closer akin to a stereotypical butcher. Upon request we tried a version of him as almost emaciated, and we found that this wizened image worked better for the man who could remember every cat he ever met and which ones he was supposed to give food to.

After this a character sheet of each character was given to the sculptors to work with. A few other parts of concept art followed this, such as props relating to the characters and a clothing change for Sam. Although I am still doing a bit of the concept art for props, my main attention has now turned to storyboarding for the film. There's still quite a bit to do, but I'm sure that's a post for another time.

Thanks for reading! Peace out, and avoid getting eaten by lions.

~ Julien

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Welcome to making of a stop motion animation!

Well making a stop motion animation is hard... even harder making it about a cat...s.

It all started with a short story call "Slum Cat" by Ernest Thompson Seton. It is a story about the life of an alley cat. It takes you on an emotional role coaster because of its brutal reality of life. Because of that it is not only for kids but for adults as well. 

I felt the need to tell this story through a medium and stop motion animation just felt the natural way to go. But even though its a short film it still is a big production and an ambitious film to make which I needed the help of talented people.

The first people to come into the project were Julien Le Cocq (character designer, storyboard artist and animator) and Peter Sharp (character designer) who i worked with previously on a short 3d animation. 

I must say first things that you need, especially for a stop motion film, is of course an idea, a script, but also very pretty pictures XD. 

Concept art is the first job in the beginning of a film, it portrays the physical environment and also the feel of the environment so if you are a director who struggles to describe the environment through words just whip out the beautiful concept art and everyone will get it.

~Maggie (director/producer/writer)

More updates in the near future from the rest of the crew

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